Letting go.

Five months ago, I posted a poem I wrote called “Not letting go.” (You can read it here: https://ramblingsofastarvingwriter.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/not-letting-go/ ) Today, I wrote what I consider to be the end of the story I began.

 

Letting go.

I’m done feeling this feeling
This feeling with no name
It has brought nothing but heartbreak
Nothing but sadness and pain

I’m tired of remembering
I just need to move on
Because those days are in the past
They’re all over and gone

So now, I say goodbye to you
It really must be so
Now I’m moving forward
Letting go.

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The Heritage of an Overcomer

This is an essay I wrote for school. The assignment was to write about how our ethnic or cultural heritage had influenced our experience as Americans, but I had a different idea. I asked my teacher if I could write about how having a disability has influenced my life as an American. Hope you enjoy it!

My family has a very diverse ethnic heritage. I have roots extending from settlers that came to this country on the Mayflower, to Native American tribes in Montana, Idaho, and North and South Dakota, to family from China. It would be a lie to say that my family’s ethnic and cultural heritage have not affected my life in this country in any way. However, I believe there is another aspect of my life that has affected me much more so.

This part of my life began to affect my placement in the world before I was even born into it. Two weeks before I was born, my parents found out I would be born with a birth defect called Myelomeningocele, the most serious form of spina bifida. I could go into the specifics of the condition, but that would get very complicated and boring. Suffice it to say that the bones of my spine didn’t form properly, making it so that I am unable to walk.

As soon as the doctors found out, they began preparing my mother for all the hardship she would face raising me. They regaled her with all the horrifying details of what she would have to put up with. They made sure she knew that it was likely I would have brain malformation and possible retardation, as well as a serious gag reflex, and no use of my legs whatsoever. One specialist was even bold enough to tell her bluntly, “It’s too bad you didn’t find out about this sooner, when you could’ve had an abortion. To be frank, you’re going to give birth to a monster.”

I didn’t turn out quite as bad as they said I would. I do have a brain malformation, but I am not, by any means, retarded. I did have a serious gag reflex for the first few years of my life, but it has all but diminished completely. I cannot use my legs, but I use a wheelchair and get around just fine.

For the first five years of my life, being a monster didn’t affect me much. My parents, my siblings, and everyone who knew me treated me like the normal, awesome person I thought of myself as. But then I started kindergarten. I never even thought to be nervous about it. It never occurred to me that there would be kids there who had never seen a child in a wheelchair, because wheelchairs were for people like their grandma. Thankfully, I had a great teacher who wouldn’t tolerate any disrespectful comments.

I really didn’t have any problems with kids at school until two years later. Then, one day while I was out on the playground, a boy came up to me and tried to sit on me, because I was in a chair. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that event marked the end of an era for me. From then on, very few people who did not know me would see me as I saw myself.

But they never let it show as obviously as that boy in second grade. They show it in there pitying glances, their condescending words, and their motivational speeches in the aisles of Safeway.

My heritage is one of a girl who, from before birth, was told she wouldn’t be able to live well, because she would be too broken. It’s the heritage of glances and words that say “I pity you because you are less than I am.” But, more than any of that, it’s the heritage of a girl who has chosen to believe that she can live well, because her soul is whole. It’s the heritage of a girl who says “Do not pity me. I am more than I seem.” It is the heritage of an overcomer.

Different Shades of Colors: An Interview With Travis Thrasher

TT

From the first chapter of the first book I read of his, Travis Thrasher secured his place as one of my very favorite writers. His stories feel incredibly real from the start, and his characters are utterly human. I recently asked him a few questions about his writing. Hope you enjoy!

 

The characters in your books aren’t the typical “Christian fiction” type. They’re broken, their lives are messy, and, in many cases, they don’t want anything to do with God for a large part of the story. Why did you decide to have these kinds of characters?

I love redemption stories, so the more messed up the characters, the more chances for a miraculous recovery.

The truth is everybody has their issues. Nobody is perfect. It’s hard being a Christian in today’s world. I start with myself and then go from there. So I start from my own broken and messy place and start writing.

 

In a similar vein, your stories are clear that, though a character finds God, their life doesn’t suddenly turn around and become this perfect, no-issues-of-any-kind life, and the characters themselves still have problems. Why did you decide to have the characters struggle like this?

I think that’s real life. I know one of the criticisms of “Christian fiction” is that things are too often black and white. God comes in on a white horse and saves the day. The End! Life’s not often like that.

At the same time, life can be like that. I did a memoir of a couple named Mac and Mary Owen. It has everything you might roll your eyes at, except IT’S TRUE. The former meth user is now out there helping to save lives in recovery. The former baby the couple gave away right after his birth came back into their family after nineteen years. God is blessing them and they really are remarkable people.

Everybody struggles and hurts. We can win battles but still need to wage a daily war. I try to be as authentic as I can to life. I want to paint in different shades of colors, not just in black and white.

 

And, of course the most important question, if you wrote with a pen name, what would it be?

I have quite a few I have for myself. One would be William Travis which is technically my first and second name. I’ve just always gone by Travis. Another is Josh Brennan. I like that name.

 

You can follow Travis on Twitter @travisthrasher and like his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Travis-Thrasher/13427461109! You can also read about his books, including his newest novel, MARVELOUS at http://www.travisthrasher.com!

Gentle Terror: A Short Story

(While I did write this story, I can’t take credit for the idea. Markus Zusak, my favorite author, told me on Twitter one day that he had had a dream just like the one the narrator of this story has. So thank you, Markus Zusak, for sharing your idea, and letting me make something with it.)

 

I shot up in bed and found myself surrounded by my own sweat. I’d heard something, I knew I had, I just didn’t know what it was. That fact, along with the midnight darkness that surrounded me, terrified me. I glanced over at my wife, sleeping peacefully. It was obvious that she hadn’t heard whatever it was I had.
All was silent for about an hour as I tried to persuade myself that maybe, just maybe, I had imagined it all. That fantasy crumbled suddenly when, tearing through the dark, a soft, ominous hiss reached my ears. My heart shoved itself up my throat as it began to pound loudly. Now I knew exactly what I had heard. Oh my…it’s a snake! There’s a snake in my room! My mind raced as my arm reached out to turn on the lamp on the nightstand.
Fresh hysteria was imbedded into my heart when l actually laid eyes on it. It was a pure black rope of shiny scales, lying motionless at the foot of the bed, as if awaiting it’s moment to strike. Two bright, beady, eyes peered up at me. My mind screamed at me from all directions, telling me to get out of there, protect my wife, call the police. Anything. Somewhere in all the jumble, a whisper calmly told me not to panic, black snakes are not unkind. But, as soon as it spoke up, a thousand voices shouted back at it to shut up, because there was a freaking snake in my bed.
I closed my eyes, trying to quiet this chaos, wishing it would all just go away and let me sleep. Slowly, I cracked my eyes open…to find everything as it had been. Well, mostly as it had been. My mind remained a hurricane of thoughts, but, slowly, it died down to a peaceful breeze of just two thoughts: Black snakes are not unkind. Things aren’t always as they appear.

I Didn’t Think It Would End This Way

I knew the end was coming, but I didn’t think it would come this way. I had waited for it, but I had no idea what I was waiting for. Now, as I saw the shadow behind me move, I knew this was it. They had come for me. I say they because I honestly didn’t know who they were. When it came right down to it, I really didn’t know anything.

Well, that’s not quite true. I knew enough. I knew they were coming to kill me.

Even though, if I had wanted to, I could have watched it happen from the reflection of the mirror in front of me, I closed my eyes. I didn’t want to be a witness to my own murder, even if the police wouldn’t be able to use my statement. I sat in the silent midnight that lay behind my eyelids, and I waited.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;

I sat and I listened, but heard nothing for a long while. Then, there was a slight creaking, as if someone treading quietly on the wood floor.

Half a league, half a league, half a league onward. All in the valley of Death.

Even though I knew my killer was deathly close, I suddenly knew I had to do something. If Death was here, I wanted to look it in the eyes when it took me. I wanted to make it clear that I was not afraid. So, with a breath that I knew was my last lingering in my lungs, I spun around and looked straight into the eyes of Life, knowing it was the last remnant of it left in this room. The last thing I heard was the click of a trigger.

Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

Not letting go.

I wrote this poem late last night, not able to sleep, after months of trying to let go of feelings that just wouldn’t leave.

 

There’s this feeling I’ve been feeling
I don’t think it has a name
It is happiness and heartbreak
It’s beauty and it’s pain.

It’s remembering the good times
While mourning that they’re gone
It’s dreaming of what could be
But trying to move on.

The worst is that it’s pointless
Deep down I know it’s true
But I just can’t quite yet bear the thought
Of forgetting you.

You know, maybe they did name it
This feeling that I know
But I just know what it isn’t
Letting go.

Words: The Knife and The Pill

Words

(This is an essay I wrote for school. We had to write about something we are passionate about. There are few things I am more passionate about that words.)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been positively captivated by words. I just loved how each one formed, on a page or in my mind, all of them with different meanings coming together to make thoughts, sentences, and stories. I’ve always marveled at how some words fit together, flowing beautifully, while others just didn’t quite work with each other. Most of all, though, I was amazed at the power that words have. One of my favorite songs, “Words” by Hawk Nelson, describes perfectly the power that words have. “Words can build you up. Words can break you down. Start a fire in your heart or put it out.”

I have come to believe that words are the most powerful thing in existence. Words have the power to make a person feel utterly alive, or completely empty. They can convince people to do something that they don’t want to, and they can keep them from doing what they should. Words can make you fall in love, and they can make you hate. Ultimately, words can heal like a pill, and they can kill like a knife.

My favorite book, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, is about a girl who goes to live with  foster parents in Nazi Germany because, as she discovers later in the story, her mother was arrested because she was a communist. Though she is illiterate at first, this girl, Liesel, discovers words and the incredible power they have. A Jewish man, Max, flees to Liesel’s foster family’s house for protection. While he is in hiding, Max and Liesel form a friendship over their mutual love of words, but he is eventually taken away to a concentration camp.

When Max is taken, Liesel finally realizes what, and who, has taken away the people she loves. She discovers that it all comes down to the Führer, Adolf Hitler, and his words. Liesel comes to understand the devastating power that words can have when used against people. “The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn’t be any of this. Without words, the Führer was nothing. There would be no limping prisoners, no need for consolation or wordly tricks to make us feel better. What good were the words?” (The Book Thief, pg. 521)

I love The Book Thief because the story tells so beautifully what I have been convinced of my whole life. Words have incredible power that can be used to create and give beauty into the lives of others, or to spread ugliness and sickness into the world around you. In the end, it’s your choice whether your words will be a knife or a pill. I have chosen that my words will heal, not harm. I hope you decide the same.

The Aftermath on Himmel Street

I never thought I was the fan-fiction-writing type, but this one just kind of came out. Hope you enjoy it!

A silent figure glided through the wreckage of what once had been Himmel Street. No one could see Him, but that didn’t matter much. No one was around to see anything. Years after the bombing of Himmel Street, Death was still busy cleaning up after the war. He still, somehow, always found time to go back and walk through Himmel Street, remembering all the houses and their occupants, just as He was doing now.

He first passed where the Fiedler’s house had once been. 45 Himmel Street. He saw terrified adults and anxious children. But mostly, he saw a girl, reading. He saw a boy, prodding her to continue. He saw two parents, one visibly proud, the other hiding her pride behind a rough exterior.

He walked a few yards, and almost kept walking when He reached the spot where 35 Himmel Street once was. He made Himself stop and look up. He saw a father, working all day at a tailor shop that paid nothing, just to keep his mind off the pain. He saw a mother, staying up at night while her husband was away mending uniforms in an army hospital, wondering if she would ever see him again and, with her last thought, missing him. He saw children, who hadn’t even begun to live, lying lifeless in what once had been a bedroom. And lastly, though He tried to keep the thought away, He saw a lemon-haired boy, with big, safe blue eyes, painted black and running on a track, shouting “Jesse Owens!” He saw him lying awake at night, thinking of and longing for just one kiss from the girl next door. He saw him as he got what he wanted, too late.

Death closed His eyes. So many memories swirled around in His mind. Finally, He reopened them and looked on to His ultimate destination, the former home of the book thief who He had seen three times before. As He looked on, He saw a mama, scrubbing her daughter in the bath while grumbling about how little work she had. He saw a papa, with eyes made of kindness and silver, playing his accordion, bringing the house down. He saw a Jewish fist fighter, gazing out the window at the dots of fire in the sky that burned his eyes. Finally, he saw a girl, reading in a bedroom to a sick man. She read and she read, hoping that her words would keep him alive. They did. He saw her writing on the walls of the basement with her papa, and being called a saumensch by her mama. At last, He saw her as a grown woman, far away, regretting that she had not kissed the boy she loved so incredibly hard before it was too late.

Turning on His heels, Death began making His way back through the aftermath on Himmel Street. He had places to go and a job to do. But, before He left the scene completely, He paused for a moment and reminded Himself of the only truth He had ever known.

“I am haunted by humans.”

The End.

Closer Than Skin, Deeper Than Breath

Having written nothing on my blog for quite some time, I decided to write about one of my favorite subjects: lyrics from a song by Cutter Gage.

As some of you may know, Cutter Gage, Cory Ryan, and a few other musicians from their church, recently formed a worship collective called Vessel Worship. Their first EP released just a few days ago. I love all of the songs on the EP, but one line from one of the songs has really come alive for me today. The words are from the song Be In My Everything. Cutter actually played the song at my church seven months ago. (Why yes, I am feeling a little smug right now. How did you know?)

“You’re closer than the skin I’m in and deeper than my breath.”

When I first heard this song a few months ago, I didn’t pay much attention to these lyrics. I mean, sure, I liked the song. I even acknowledged that the lyrics were “deep”. But it wasn’t until today that I had an epiphany, of sorts.

At least 93.6% of the time,  we are completely unaware of our skin and our breath. However, skin is the natural armor of the human body. It protects our body from germs that may try to get inside, helps regulate our body temperature, and lets us experience the world we live in by touch.

And our breath?

Well, let’s just say that, without breath, your body simply can’t function.

We hardly ever think about our skin and our breath, but they are absolutely vital to us. And, even if we don’t think about them, they are always with us, keeping us alive and well.

God should be our skin and breath. He should be what is holding us together and keeping us alive.

We may not always feel Him.

But He is always there.

Max

MAXVANDENBURG(This is a poem I wrote yesterday about my favorite character in The Book Thief, Max Vandenburg. Hope you like it!)

Max
He ran to survive
He wanted to fight
But he had to escape
He was afraid
And he fled.

Jewish fist fighter
First he fought because it felt good
Then he fought to stay alive
Not afraid of Death
He vowed to punch it in the face
Such stupid gallantry.

Hair like feathers
Makes me wonder
Why he didn’t
Fly away.

The Sky Stealer
He found beauty in the stars
In the words of a book thief
And in the music of a criminal.

Max
Fearing life
Fighting death
Finding beauty.