Dimmed but not Extinguished

It has been months since I touched my journal, and even longer since I could bear to open my bible. These two staples of my life that once brought healing, peace, and comfort have been collecting dust as my heart seemingly turns to ash.

It’s not for lack of desire, but an overwhelming sense of fear. It’s not for lack of content, but the presence of unanswered questions upon questions and a pervasive loathing and contempt for the person reflected in my own writing.

I am not who I once was and I am not who I want to be. The words of Paul echo in my mind “I do not do what I want to do, but the very things I do not want to do, I do.” Yes, Paul. I feel you. I am often selfish, impatient, cold, and hard-hearted. I have never seen the direct result of disregarding God’s presence reflected so strongly in my own life.

It’s been a bit more than a month since I started medication for my depression and anxiety. I’ve spent a lot of time hiding from the “darkest” emotions in my soul, which has (in my uneducated opinion) led me to this place where I struggle to see the light. It’s funny how something so tiny can represent hope.

Why do I even write? I’m not sure. Some people call it courageous (it doesn’t feel courageous). Others say I need the attention.  I think this is my way of reminding myself that I’m not alone in this darkness, and I suppose I hope to God that there is someone out there who resonates with my words and it brings them a glimmer of light in their darkness.  I once lived as a person who could simply “choose” to see the beauty, optimism, and good in every person and every situation. I’m realizing that I was incredibly blessed to have had that ability, and I’m thankful for this new understanding that I now grasp.  Life happens, things change. We learn through life, and we grow and are ever-changing. My greatest fear is that I will burn every bridge in this journey. Will God really still love me after my desertion? Is He really patient, faithful, and kind? Will my family still love me after I continually let them down in my selfishness? Will my friends?

I’m learning that I can believe something to be true despite how I feel. I still believe that the same beauty, optimism and good exists in the world, but that my sight has been clouded by a dark veil. The light has been dimmed in my soul, but it is not extinguished.

To my loved ones: I am not lost, I have only been diverted.

To my dear broken souls: We are not alone. You will be OK. We will be OK. Today may not be the day, nor tomorrow, but SOMEDAY WE WILL BE OK.

Your light is only dimmed, it is not extinguished.

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It’s Gone

I’ve never been ready. I’m still not ready. I don’t know how to express what’s inside and I’ve never been able to prepare myself for the responses I may receive. I’m still not prepared. This was an immensely difficult post to write and share, and my only request is that any responses could be thought out sensitively and lovingly. I’m battling this out the best way I can, and I fear that in sharing, I may retreat even further. I know that as soon as I share this, I will want to wither up into a ball. I will feel small, judged, useless, and far, far away from where I want to be. However, I also hope that in sharing, I leave some of this darkness behind. With that hope leading the way, here we go.

There are parts of my story that I just can’t talk about yet. This part of my story has been clawing its way out for a while now and I suppose the monster finally got out.   I’m sorry in advance, this is not an uplifting post. I know that this blog has served to bring light and love and hope to some, and that has always been my prayer and my purpose. More than that, I’ve always made it my purpose to be honest and genuine, no matter how raw it may be.  There is a gaping hole in my soul that can’t seem to be filled, and to keep it inside seems to be untrue to you and untrue to my journey.

I don’t know how to start, because the brokenness of my spirit seems so fragmented that I’m not sure I can.

The gaping hole? My faith. It’s gone. It wasn’t a decision. It can’t be forced back in. (Please, I beg of you not to try.) I’ve tried. I’m still trying.  Oh if I could only describe to you the desperation in which I have called out to God, the broken-hearted tears that I have sobbed, the emptiness in scouring the Bible for that glimmer of truth and light that used to always find me in the darkness.

The best way I can describe how I feel is as if someone has died; someone so dear to me that a piece of me died with them. I suppose that is true in a way.

I’ve had dark moments, but in those times- the light always shone in the window to guide me home. Today, I am lost in the woods and the candle has quit burning.

It’s not like I’ve become a drug addict, I’m not sleeping around, and I don’t party so hard that I don’t know what day it is (all things thought to lead to a lack of faith within the church world) My life looks the same.  I just. Don’t. Feel. God’s presence anymore. Surprisingly, life didn’t end there.

But I won’t sugar coat it either and try to tell you that everything is ok. I’m less patient, I’m less kind, and I’m less capable. My depression, which used to hit me hard somedays but always lifted shortly after, has become persistent, overbearing, and debilitating at times. I’m not going to deny that this isn’t a massive battle for my mental health as well as my spiritual life.

I am just a girl who has had some crappy things happen. In the midst of the pain I sought God’s comfort. I sought Biblical counsel. I desperately ran after healing. I busied myself with things that I love doing. I tried to do the right things and often failed, I’ll admit that. I tried to find meaning in the healing, and purpose in the journey. More and more, as the feelings of being lost, hopeless and the overwhelming desperation settled in, I felt myself floundering and often wondering why I was doing what I was doing, but I was just trying to survive. I still am.  I needed a break from feeling completely, and utterly broken. I think the worst part is having grown up in the church. I know all the answers that I could possibly hear:
1. I need to pray more.
2. I need to go to church more.
3. I need to just let God love me more.
4. I need more time in a community (which is effing hard when you are dealing with external and internal demons)
5. I’m probably making sinful choices that block me from sensing God’s love.
6. “Here are the top 10 verses when faith is hard.”
7. ETC…

(I even know that some people will be thinking, “no, you don’t do anything– it’s God who does the work”)

I would be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that I resented every word.  Songs that used to encourage now discourage. Quotes that used to inspire now breed hopelessness. I always wanted to be a better version of myself, because I was never good enough– and now I just wonder why I felt that way? Outside of the church, I have never felt more loved for my brokenness and struggles– loved Just as I am. Seem backwards to anyone else? Please hear me when I say that I don’t think it was the fault of any church body that I attended. I just wasn’t in a place where being at church seemed to help more than hinder. (I attended an amazing church for the past few years, I want to say that right now.) I  don’t understand how being in the midst of those people made me feel terrible, while being with non-christians felt more uplifting/less judgmental/more safe. I think it’s because so many people within the church seek to live honestly with their struggles, and I didn’t want to think about what I was going through, I didn’t want to be asked, I just wanted to hide from the pain.

Oh what I wouldn’t give to just love Jesus and walk with him like I used to. We were so close. He was my best friend. And now, I feel like He’s moved on. Like he was my imaginary friend and has decided to make me grow up from my childhood fantasies. I feel like I’m the desperate one post break-up who just doesn’t get why things had to end.

Right now, there are so many people who think I’m still the girl who loves and leads with a godly heart, and earnest faith. Oh if I could only just BE that person again. What I wouldn’t give to go back in time. There are moments, when I feel so lost. Because now, with all of these questions- if God isn’t real. If Jesus didn’t live and die for me. If my whole relationship with this “living” “loving” God has been a lie, then my whole life’s purpose has been shattered. I still live for love. I still live for people. I still believe every person is created/here with a purpose. I just don’t know what is at the root of that purpose anymore. And I’m not saying that I reject the idea that God exists either, I’m simply admitting that I struggle with it immensely. This is NOT where I wanted to be at 26 years old. This is NOT how I wanted to feel, and this is a faith journey/struggle that I NEVER expected, perhaps that was my problem: believing that this “Blessed Assurance” would never leave me.

I’ll leave you with my last journal entry, I think it really captures the internal battle that wages on. I can’t face the thoughts in my soul, but maybe someone else is struggling with this too. Power to you, my fellow desperate faith-vagabonds, my soul aches for you and with you and our journeys. I hope and pray (to anyOne who will listen and care) is that your souls find rest and peace.

December 14, 2015

I’m back. It’s been another long haul. I wish I could blame my silence on the fact that I can’t find my journal, but the fact of the matter is that I was avoiding the act of journalling. I didn’t want to self-reflect. I didn’t want to think about the things that have been consuming my mind– the questions and fears that I have been relentlessly pushing as far away as possible. There is a dark, ugly, black pit in the midst of my soul and I fear it grows everyday.

Doubt.

I lack faith in all regards. I lack it in a way that I have never known; In a way that terrifies me, yet brings me to a new horizon of true, honest questioning.

For the first time, I’m standing in an understanding of how calloused, insensitive, and ridiculous Christianity can sound to an unbelieving mind. Sadly, that is because I currently possess such a mind.

Although, most days, I still can’t admit it. It hurts too much.  I still possess all of the “Biblical, Apologetic knowlege”  that my hungry mind and eager soul has consumed over the years. My mind, when I allow it, is wrought with an internal struggle; an endless debate.  I desperately long for intimacy with Jesus, yet feel hopelessly lost in the thought that He might exist solely as an imaginary character that I have loved, cherished, and clung to all of these years because a religion enabled it. Simultaneously, my flaws are both embraced and disgraced. I love and hate myself because 1. God is love, yet 2. He “calls me to be Holy and Righteous, which are attributes far from how I would describe myself these days.  I celebrate and despise myself because we should love everyone, including ourselves but I still wonder how that lines up with conservative Christian opinions on many topics.

However, in the midst of this struggle, I have never felt more earnest, genuine, or willing to be unbiased in my questioning.  Is THAT love? Am I ignorant? Who is right? Can love and righteousness co-exist? How can/does love have limits? Can faith and science be reconciled? Where does faith come from?

For the first time in my entire life, no answers bring me peace.  Nothing makes me feel safe, nothing makes me feel sure of anything except that I am sure that I will never be the same. I will never fit in where I once did– and I will never fully understand any of the ideas that I currently question.

I say this out of desperation, not of arrogance– I’m not sure if there are any answers that exist that I haven’t heard, nor speeches that could help me in this journey. I’ve always been one to enjoy the journey of life, but this one can’t help but feel like a massive shackle that I will never shake. It all seems too big.

I still find myself talking to whom I used to call Jesus. I still call Him Jesus. Because I’m not prepared to give up on “It” being Him. He’s all I’ve ever known– But I can’t deny this growing knot inside. “What if I just needed Jesus to exist? What if I just believed that He is there so that I could feel more at peace about the unknowns in life? What if I want to be a Christian so that I can be the person that everyone has thought me to be?” I’m trying so hard. I only hope that if I’m totally wrong, and that the God I’ve loved and served with my whole heart for over 25 years is truly there listening and loving me- that He truly is as patient and kind as I always used to say that He was; As kind, and patient, and loving as I believe that He would be.

God, if you are real, I desperately need you to show me.  I don’t know how I go from believing with every fibre of my being that you love me and hear me and care for me, to this listless sense that I’ve been living a lie and talking to an imaginary being for my whole life.
What is happening? Why can’t I feel you? I know, I know.. it’s not you, it’s me, right? You’ve never left.. I’m the one who “turned away”, right? But why, when I’m turning and turning and turning around, I still don’t see you? I still don’t feel you?
Emotionally, everything inside of me wants you to be true; to be real; to not be a fairy tale.  But I can’t wish you into reality anymore than I could with a dragon. I want to be sure that you are real- that would be easier.  All I know is that my so-called faith as of late is nothing more that this: a desperate hope that you are true.  But for my lack of trust, I can’t help but feel as though I wouldn’t really deserve your love if it is there.

love ehjae

Why I was ashamed to be a Canadian

I think the best way to begin this is by telling you about my family history.
My father arrived to this beautiful country all by himself as a teenager. After finishing high school in Manitoba, he came to study at the University of Saskatchewan where he met my mother, received his two degrees and proceeded to work there for another two decades.

Over my entire lifetime, I have had to learn about ignorance because it wasn’t something that even existed to cross my mind as a child. My household was a literal example of cross-cultural acceptance.  I simply thought it was normal that people had different backgrounds and cultures. I learnt about Norwegian customs: we celebrated Christmas eve with Yule Bread, the Nativity scene, and lefse. I learnt about Chinese New Year: All of the superstitions, what the big meal meant, and how to get that red envelope from my elders 😉 Two of my great aunts spent several decades overseas, one in India and the other in Ethiopia, so we heard all kinds of stories about life across the globe and how differently people lived, yet how similarly we all love.

Most importantly, I learnt about how crucial it is to embrace people and make them feel like they are home. My mom has taught English as an Additional Language to immigrants, and my dad worked as a researcher out of the University for years. Through their jobs, we met several different people from all over the globe.  Over the years, on holidays and for different family events, we welcomed foreign students, new immigrants and some people who just couldn’t get all the way home for special holidays. I remember my dad once telling me that it was important to him to do so because so many people welcomed him and made him feel at home when he came to Canada. It never really was a question, if we knew someone would be alone for a holiday, they were to be invited to the Chan household.

Tonight I sat in shock as he recounted the following story to me. He has an assigned parking spot at the location where he has been working. When he came to park in that spot, he was surprised to find someone sitting in the spot. After pointing to indicate that it was his spot, the driver refused to move for him. After a bit of a standoff, he had to go back to work, so he got out of his car and asked the lady to move out of his parking spot. Her response still confuses me. “You’re trouble. You immigrants are the problem.” She then threatened to call the police and told him he was in trouble.

Ok, let me just stop there. I’m very confused by this statement. So, his immigration to Canada over 4 decades ago somehow relates to YOU parking in HIS spot HOW? This person repeated this phrase and sentences similar to it over and over again, somehow insulted by his simple request to park in the spot that he was entitled to.

In light of recent events around the world, the issue of immigration/refugees has garnered quite a lot of spotlight. Ignorant, rude, racist statements have been exchanged over social media and fear has somehow overtaken this once open-hearted nation. My father, who always seems to find a way to make new friends laugh, yet possesses a quiet, strong way of taking in the world around him has never been one to “cause trouble” because he believes it wouldn’t change anything. Perhaps he is right. I’m sure there are people who will always harbour this kind of fear, anger, hatred and ignorance in their hearts. But I have to believe that the more we talk about how wrong these kinds of occurrences are, the less it will happen.  My heart is broken, and it took me a while to figure out why.

My heart is broken, because I realized that it had nothing to do with my father being an immigrant, and everything to do with the fact that he wasn’t white. And some white person somehow believed that she was more entitled to a parking spot for that simple fact. Here’s a thought: Unless you can trace your ancestry back and are 100% native to this land, all of us have been immigrants, or come from people who immigrated at some point.  And, not only have we broken the hearts of those who cared for and loved this land before we set foot on it, but have flourished simply from being here, instead of somewhere else.  How does that entitle any of us to anything more than another? This kind of hatred and ignorance is something that I had believed in my heart of hearts wasn’t part of Canada. I don’t know that I could say that I’ve ever felt ashamed of being a Canadian until tonight. Because tonight, I am ashamed of sharing citizenship with someone who could be so wrong.

But then, I think of others who have immigrated to this country. And it makes me proud to share citizenship with someone who could be so right. And this is what being a Canadian is truly about. My father has taught me a lot of things about being a Canadian: do not create conflict- but stand up for yourself and what is right, respect your government, seek peace,  care for your neighbours and your neighbours’ neighbours, always do what is right-even when no one is watching, work hard, do your best, be proud of who you are, show grace and forgiveness even if it is unsolicited and probably undeserved.  I suppose I have a lot to learn from my father, who it seems, has grasped the true nature of being Canadian better than some who were born on this soil.

Initially I was angry, and wanted to post an image of that person, but I knew it would only create more anger and backlash for that person. I guess you could say that I then became ashamed of my own anger and hateful attitude.  Plus, I just don’t believe this kind of hurtful behaviour really deserves specific attention. Despite my own initial anger, I know this is not the Canadian way.

In conclusion, I’m not ashamed of our country at all and I’m sorry if the title threw you off. I’m ashamed that we still have people like this here. Because I do believe that we are a nation that stands for multiculturalism and tolerance and peace. None of these attributes were represented in this woman’s actions, but I believe that my dad did stand for these things in his response. Initially what I wrote began as an angry outlet, which I didn’t necessarily intend to share, given the amount of anger already floating around on the Internet. It soon became my attempt to write a different sort of post- one that doesn’t just stand by and let this kind of behavior simply happen without note, but brings to light a more positive outlook instead of feeding the monster I call the angry Internet troll. Peace, love, grace and patriotism do prevail- I LOVE being Canadian. It’s true: pride ourselves on being kind, polite, and welcoming, and we do love beer, maple syrup and hockey (along with apologizing too much, eh?).

But let’s not fool ourselves, we still have much work to do. Above all my patriotism lies with the human race and all of the people fighting to let love win. Far too often, people stand on two sides of an issue and fire different kinds of hatred at each other. I’m hoping this encourages people to stand for justice while keeping in mind that love and kindness go a long way.

My dearest Canadians and fellow citizens of this beautiful planet, let us open up our hearts again. Fight hate and fear with love, grace and forgiveness.

xoxo

love ehjae

 

Chan

 

An Open letter to the Brokenhearted

I’m sorry. Those are words that you need to hear, but you may not have heard them yet. So, I am sorry that you are hurting.

You are hurt and confused.  You thought this relationship was the end of the games, the confusion and the hurt. You’ve thought, “Given the pain I’ve been through, there can’t be more.” Yet here you are again, alone with the pieces of your fragmented heart, wondering how it could happen again. After all of the time that you spent rebuilding and learning to trust again, how are you sitting in your room, crying over someone?

It will be your first inclination to close off that wonderful heart of yours. You are thinking, “That’s it. I’m not doing this again.  I don’t ever want to hurt like this ever again.” Please don’t hide that light from the world.  Not everyone will speak lies.  Not everyone will betray you.  Not everyone will hurt you in your weakest moments.  But everyone DOES see that glittering light that shines from your soul, and they are drawn to your love and joy. Don’t let him/her steal that from you on top of everything else.

You are asking yourself, “How will I ever trust anyone again? How will I ever trust myself again?” You will.  Not today, and probably not tomorrow; but you will. How do I know? Because that’s what makes you you.  Your resilient heart, your enduring optimism, and the light that you see in every other person. You have your own beautifully unique way of reaching others. Only you can love people the way that you do. Don’t let anyone put out your light.

Don’t run away from those wonderful friends and family in your life; those people who see your worth and never capitalize on your love.  They will endure with you, encourage you, and speak truth to you. (Even when you don’t want to hear the truth).  They will listen with love and care for you in the ways that you need.

Do listen to your feelings.  Do feel. Do process with your closest people. Do trust again, it will be worth it. The right person will never let you feel like this. The right person will never let you question your worth. The right person will see you, all of your darkness and scarring, and they will still choose you.  The right person will make you feel like you are the only person in the world that they could possibly love. The right person will be the one who makes you feel alive again.

For now, let that person be you.  Love You with all that you have.  You are worth loving.  Your heart is worth protecting.  Your mind is worth knowing.  Your soul is worth celebrating.

You will wake up one morning and the ache will be a memory; you will breathe deeply into your soul and celebrate the new adventures you are about to embark on. When that day comes, I hope I can join you on that journey.

 

love ehjae

3 Things That are NEVER Funny

I consider myself to be a person with a hefty humour, and I like a good sarcastic joke. But something that I have been reflecting on as of late is the misogynistic jokes that have found their way into my relationships with guys, and I let them slide because I didn’t want to be “That girl.” You know that girl, the one who is a little too intense about women’s issues, the girl who takes every opportunity to share her opinions about women’s rights.. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.  But if I don’t take the time to speak these truths, then I am doing a discredit to the fiery passion for human dignity and empowerment that is written on my soul.

Here are three recurring jokes that I can pinpoint throughout different times in my life that are NEVER acceptable, EVER.

1.Violence

I have actually had guys jokingly threaten me when not happy with something I am doing or saying. “I will punch you in the face,” “I will kick you,” “I want to choke you right now.” I am not kidding. At the time, I would just jokingly return in kind, saying that I would hit them back or kick them in the balls. Now that I reflect back, I am horrified that I ever spent time with these people. It is NEVER funny to joke in this way. A guy who is genuinely concerned about your safety and cherishes you wouldn’t find this funny or acceptable in any situation.

2. Numbers

Believe it or not, I actually had a guy give me a score on my “Wife-Abilities.” There were categories such as Cooking, Appearance and Mothering… The list goes on. I kid you not. I know what you are thinking, “Where in the world do you find these guys, Ehjae?” You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. I cannot express the damage that was done to my soul in this experience. While it is the most extreme case that I’ve experienced, sadly it is not the only one. I have heard guys describe women as numbers in different categories more times than I care to repeat. “Her face is a 4, but her cannons are a 10”
Women struggle with perfection and comparison on our own. We always feel like we fall short of the standard, and are gloriously reminded that this is the case with the barrage of media reminding us to stay fit, but not too fit; to be nice, but not too nice; to be successful, but not too successful; and to be the perfect mother/wife. If a guy ever, EVER removes your dignity by describing you OR ANYONE ELSE by a number, walk away. No, RUN away. It will never change, and you will forever feel like a prisoner trying to be freed from the prison of “Not Enough.”

3.“WOMAN”

Have you ever been called, “Woman” by someone? It’s always said in a mocking voice, “Woman, make me a sandwich; Woman, bring me a beer.”

 MY NAME IS EHJAE.

Calling me “Woman” tells me that this is all that you see. You see my breasts, and the opportunity for conquest between my legs. I can hear some of you protesting- that’s not the case. So what is the case? What is the pressing need for you to diminish our worth? The sake of a joke? I can tell you that no one is laughing. And further more, why would calling me “Woman” somehow grant you power, as if to say that a woman is weaker and must submit to your request?

The verdict is out, and the joke is on you, misogynistic men. Women are strong. We are courageous, and we are not going to be treated like this. “It was a joke.” is NOT a reasonable explanation to ever do any of the above. Having let people speak to me, and treat me in this way for much too long, I hope that it will take some of the beautiful women out there less than a quarter century to stop enabling these destructive language and patterns. It starts with us, ladies.  We must stop joking back, and start walking away.

Girls Games

Have you heard about Mo’Ne Davis? The 13 year old has taken the world by storm. She became the first girl to pitch a shut-out in the Little League World Series, and earn a win! I read her story, and it was actually the story of Maria Pepe, who carved the way for girls like Mo’Ne to play in the Little Leagues who truly inspired me and triggered the emotions for me.  In 1972, she was a threat to her male competitors who asked her to be removed from her Little League team because she was a girl. That began a long legal battle which eventually led to the Little Leagues allowing girls to play. Hearing about Mo’Ne makes the younger version of me excited for the future.. As a young girl growing up who loves sports, you always feeling like the opportunities are limited for you simply because you were born a girl.  Women play for the love of a sport, because what chances do we have to get paid or become a professional?  That aside, the opportunities to even learn certain sports are limited.  Hearing Maria’s story of adversity and fighting for girls’ rights to play, leading to Mo’Ne’s incredible accomplishments is what drives me to write today.

I play for a women’s tackle football league in Canada.  It is the highest level of women’s tackle football available in Canada, yet every single one of us pays to be here.  We do so willingly, and will continue to do so for years because we love the sport, but also because we believe in competitive women’s sports.  I think I speak for our whole team when I say that playing women’s tackle football does not just resonate in our souls and ignite a passion within us; more importantly, it feels like we are pressing forward in an unseen battleground, building a forward momentum for the girls who come after us. When I was 13 years old, playing tackle football in the schoolyard (when the teachers weren’t watching) I remember a sad thought that cycled through my head.  “I wish there was a girl’s football team in high school, I wish I could play on a girl’s tackle football team.”  I look at the dream that has literally come true for me, and I am not ashamed to say that it brings proud tears to my eyes to see how far we’ve come.  Last year, our city introduced girl’s flag football to the high schools, and 16 teams participated! When I was in high school, I never would have imagined I could play on an all-girls football team of any kind in high school,  let alone with the prospect of going further after high school to play with our WWCFL tackle team, the Valkyries. I know this is only just the start, and it’s not about football.  The momentum that is building is that girls deserve these sports opportunities too, and to be respected in their pursuit of sports excellence.

So I guess I’m just writing to say thank you:  Thank you to the women out there who have gone before me, fighting hard and working hard to see a world where girls can play; and they can play hard and strong and fast without compromising. Thank you to the men who have joined the journey and teach us with integrity and excellence and respect.  I’m also writing to say that I’m committed: I’m committed to fighting hard and working hard to see the world continue to change and grow so that the opportunities keep arising for those girls coming after me.

Moment

Life is full of moments.

Moments that stand still

Moments that fly by, where you soar high

Moments when you can’t see and you can’t breathe

and you begin to wonder if you’ve ceased to be

       Anything

Worth loving

——-

NO

——–

We

need

to see

that this is not who we’re meant to be

That life is full of these moments

So that we know what it means to be free

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