I’ve been scanning Mom’s photos, each one sending me into a reverie. I load the scan tray, then hit the button. A buzz, a hum, and the whir of a feed tray. Photos of family vacations, birthday parties, now available anytime.
“Andrew, get over here. Mom’s unconscious.”
So much has changed since you heard the word cancer through the phone last year in June. You knew nothing was going to be the same - at least in theory - but nobody ever really knows what to expect, do they?
What do I have to offer you, brother?
When 5AM comes, I tiptoe out of the house
And revel in the stillness of the morning when breath is dew
For seasons I imagined I was trapped on either side, with fitful sleep and nighttime duties but
Here I am - we are at peace
Please give me longsuffering, God, so I can smile when things don’t go my way.
There’s no turning back. When that big Parenthood Switch flips on in your life, you are tossed into every conceivable life change you can imagine. Your time is no longer your own. Your sleep is interrupted, infrequent and faked. Money flies away faster than you can say Baby Wipes On Amazon Prime. Your little one, bless his dear heart, happens to be a fearsome night terror, the cutest man on the face of the planet, and the darkest mystery you will ever encounter.
The past six weeks have been nearly blissful. You’ve surprised us all, son, to learn that you are actually a rather happy baby when you’re not uncomfortable. I’ve surprised myself too, feeling intense fondness for you in your moments of simple, unbridled joy. What a difference from the first few harrowing months.
The past year has been rough on our friends. Our friends have lost many loved ones, another one recently received a terminal diagnosis.
We came back home from your baptism last Sunday and you could not stop laughing, screeching with joy for twenty minutes (or what felt like forever).
When you first arrived I took you in my arms and I prayed over your life that you would grow strong, because you were so small, unexpectedly early.
The sudden death of a friend’s father this past week had us all reeling - on top of an already-difficult 2016, this really hurt.
You will, after service, be asked if you would like to receive prayer, and having been pushed to a rather desperate place in your life, you jump eagerly at the chance.
I’ve had a lot of time to myself lately to do some thinking. Not that I’ve really asked for it, but I’ve acquired myself a lot of free time after developing a Jones fracture in my right foot after a particularly high-volume period of training. For six months I had been training for a marathon, only to acquire the stress fracture in the last two weeks of training and get it diagnosed merely days before the race.
Driving back up on the 5, I heard a song erupting in the meadows. The windows were down and the air was heavy with the scent of wildflowers. I’d been driving long, winding single lane country roads for forty miles, these long expanses of California farmland, green as far as the eye could see. And I swear, I could have heard singing.
Oh my God, I’m cold. I guess I didn’t imagine this on my retreat. 30MPH gusts blowing at me, stinging my face with snow bits. Nature is beautiful yet harsh, and I realize that the City Boy in me is not quite cut out for this. We aren’t in Oakland any more.
Push and pull, move and wait. I’m in a season of waiting, of settling down. One moment moving, one moment heads-down dealing with the day-to-day, one moment being allowed (a little) to plan and to dream.
Paris, I confess I don’t really get you. I mean, it’s amazing being here, walking your cobblestone streets, taking in the sights and sounds. Your language is beautiful, melodic, and silky, so much so that I’m embarrassed when I try to speak it — the words kind of slip out of my mouth and I lower my voice to avoid the embarrassment of mispronunciation (several people have assumed that I’ve simply grunted, and for some reason my face has flushed red).
Steep Ravine 50K
To be honest? This year felt a little like autopilot. Like I was caught dealing with Life as it happened, doing a zillion different things (like I always do) and realizing that I needed to catch up with the changes. At times, this year felt like waiting for things to happen to me. Does that make sense?
One thing I like about volunteering with RBO is the chance to meet up with kids from all different parts of Oakland. This year I was paired up with S, a kid from the Fruitvale district attending a local charter school just a few blocks from me.
Mike calls me out of the blue.
Years have passed since I’ve last written about Mike. I see him every once in awhile in Berkeley, still. I think about him from time to time – wonder how he’s doing. I catch him out the corner of my eye the week before I leave for vacation, hanging around at Gypsy’s. “Mike!” I call back to him, and he turns around with a big grin on his face. The sidewalks are soaked.
Happy new year!
Competitively, this was a good year. I ran a 3:05 PR at Napa (yay!), but missed Boston by seconds (argh).
Immanuel, God with us. Immanuel, God with us. Breath. Breath(e). God is with us.
There are two themes running through my journal lately – one is of intense gratitude: about the things I’ve been given and how much I didn’t deserve them. They are filled with thankfulness about how things have unfurled with Annie. It’s got a lot of awe and wonder at the beauty of the outdoors and the sheer awe of creation.
In the recent theme of grace, maybe one of the reasons I really like country songs and the myths they tell is because you can feel the grit in the stories. Country protagonists live out their flaws fully (for better or worse) but there’s always that redemptive thread.
Oakland, tonight I swam in your streets and felt the cool of your night. I think to myself how I feel strong when the pull stroke feels easy, and think to memorize the tones of the sky at dusk when I pull to the side for air – half the sky a fading incandescent red, the other a fluorescent blue. I find, for a few moments of grace that people shimmer with a quiet mystery when they’re underwater, the light from the pool lamps refracting, flexing, arcing over their bodies. To you, Oakland, I feel a sense of sheepishness, I
San Francisco wraps me up with hot pumice breath and does not let go. She follows me with a sincerity that I cannot shake, offering the fruits of her cacophony as the throaty rumbling of cable cars, as the muted quarreling of European travelers, blue eyed children in tow, as azalea sunbursts lining the steps I jog each afternoon. She orchestrates the movements of ten thousand bicyclists. She punctuates the skies with glass ornaments and fighter-jet jewels. and lures in her prey with the offerings of raven gold parlayed over her streets. She charms me over then just as quickly, she turns
I miss running barefoot – there was something about running with the spring in your step, pushing gingerly against the grass, feeling the strength of the stride move through your legs and through your toes that made you feel powerful, or free, or wild. When I first started early on, I always felt sore and achy at the bottom of my foot, like pinpricks lived there. We’d joke that running the lake barefoot was safe–so long as you didn’t step on the needles. A few times I felt a sharp pain and swore I did step on one… only to find out that I was fine. But as the calluses built, your stride adjusted and you would feel safer, and the stones wouldn’t cut you anymore and you’d run a little faster, leaning into the slicing chill, ignoring the numbness of running on wet grass on the north end of the lake and run home in darkness against the dotted glow of Lake Merritt’s necklace.
I’ve been silent for a long time. Not by any real conscious choice, but because I fill my time with things like work and keys and lost receipts and work and missing the bus and missing appointments and laundry and riding the bus and foraging for dinner.
Okay, I’ll finally admit it. I’m an introvert.
At the end of last month, Nate, Bruce and I did the Golden Gate Triathlon together. This was only my second triathlon ever (after last year’s Tri for Fun), and I intended to train hard for this sucker.
I’m not afraid of dying. I’m surprised by the thought flitting across my mind as my plane takes off. Were we to plunge into the California coast as the scene used to play out in my imagination, I’d be ready for that.
I can run! I’m on a jog on my lunch break for the first time in four months, and I want to tell it to everyone: tourists with itchy, sunstroked faces crowding Chinatown, Dan, down-cast on the street corner in front of that handmade sushi roll place, forty-something yuppies with yoga mats yelping as I dodge them by. I’m drinking it in, the clangs of cable-car bells, the way they fade off when the car heads up the hill on California, the way the riders have a faraway look as if they’ve seen something familiar yet mysterious (maybe it’s warm nostalgia for things they can’t remember).
Through your own merciful dealings with me, O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul, I am your salvation. Say it so that I can hear it. My heart is listening, Lord; open the ears of my heart and say to my soul, I am your salvation. Let me run towards this voice and seize hold of you. Do not hide your face from me: let me die so that I may see it, for not to see it would be death to me indeed.
I feel like seasons are changing, not just in the air but through my life. I’m outdoors more often, laughing more, more okay with things being stuck, or in-between, or just not formed yet.
Really digging Yuna’s vocals. Chill, relaxed R&B sound.
Stuck stuck stuck stuck stuck.
I’ve been wont to complain about how it sucks to be doing my training in the gym. Ever since I tweaked my foot I’ve been feeling caged on the treadmill and elliptical machines. On the machines I can’t think about anything, it’s too stuffy and hot and I’m always dripping with sweat. I’m always staring at numbers, cursed numbers. It makes me remember how I hated running track in high school, and the unforgiving numbers that come with it.
My grandfather (ah gong, or 外公, but we call him gong gong), driven by winds of Communist change, arrived in Taiwan in the 1940s. He was a Fuzhou businessman, 26 at the time. He was a businessman, relatively wealthy and educated, and fled from the incoming Communists.
On the days when the weather is right, I swear I can feel the tickle of young love: the kind that’s radiant, inviting, and easy to fall into. It’s simple and charming and as light as goosefeathers.
He slowly slurps his noodles in front of me, and I take him for a professor, an old man with a certain academic flair. Of course, I have no such reason for thinking so, he could be any old man at this nondescript, jam-packed hole-in-the-wall restaurant (the best kind). A sky-blue collared shirt hides beneath the neckline of his sweater, the kind that men in their fifties protestingly receive from their smiling wives and children on their birthdays that they don’t remember themselves.
I’ve been running for the past week or so, despite my grandma’s protests (“you’ll catch a cold”). It used to be easier with the jet lag, when I’d get up at 5am and stare at the wall and catch myself wondering where exactly I was.
I get some book credits to spend at work, so I decided to make a photo book with some of my favorite photos from the past couple of years. I think the hardest part was culling the photos, but I’m pretty excited to get this in my hands.
Annie asked me this morning in the LAX terminal if I was looking forward to doing anything once we arrived in Taipei. I froze because I really hadn’t thought about it. The only thing I had thought about was what it would be like to see yie yie (my grandpa on my dad’s side), now 90 years old–the man that shaped my father, who shaped me. This may be our last time together.
This morning I woke on the wrong side of the bed, knowing full well I couldn’t go back to sleep in this heat. I was annoyed that it was already 7:15 and it was already too late to get to prayer, too early to go to the office, too late to go for a run and too late to go back to bed. So I hung around in a daze of sleep debt and wondered why it couldn’t be 10 degrees cooler, why I felt so tired. I tried to read scripture but just got annoyed at how good it was, how soggy my cereal was, and how I couldn’t concentrate and how far I felt from Jesus. I got mad at how guilty I’ve been feeling about it all–about what exactly?–I don’t know. My jaw is sore; I’ve been grinding my teeth in my sleep lately. It’s my wake-up call to the fact that I’m generally really stressed, but never really aware of it.
If you lean too hard, you’ll go tumbling out of shadows, into the lake. Look, like how the leaves strain against their cuffs in the wind, leaning into the goldenrod breeze. Look at the lovers lean into each other, racing against sundown, lips brushing freckles, freckles brushing blades tickling toes.
The Regeneration interns and I are wrapping up our year here at church. What have I learned?
My nephew, he’s the one in Afghanistan. Sometimes I wish I could take his place because if I go… (silence) it doesn’t matter.
Channeling Ice Cube:
you have come to us in royal fashion, your slippers triumphantly slapping against gravel, your elegant fingers drumming against our windowpanes. you keep up a good pace, sir. you glide alongside our car and smile your patented, ringmaster smile. we watch you through one-way tinted glass and air-conditioned cabins. you are a curious specimen, a caged animal proudly loping the length of your alley.
It startled me because I actually felt it last night, the groaning of a city. Carlos’ voice expressed it best, a wail that shook the walls: _Oh / how he loves us oh / how he loves us _and I felt like crying.
Here’s a few fun pictures:
I’m sitting in the terminal at SFO and about to board and it’s finally hitting me–here we go. A few of you may have gotten this, but here’s a quick recap of what I’m going to spend the next few weeks doing:
The more I stay here the more I realize that I am tired, I am selfish, I am resentful. I am being changed–yes–by entering the lives of people in poverty and seeing the grace of being invited into their lives. Yes, I am learning from them a simple faith and a simple life. But it is difficult, and it’s a place I do not know how to inhabit.
I’m wrestling a lot these days with the idea of Justice and what it looks like to be a Christian–and a human–in the midst of it.
I remember you most for your light-heartedness. I remember I used to play with you Sundays at Campbell and see you laughing, backpedaling from one side to another, sinking (most) your jumpers. The uptempo cut, a light-footed jumper, picking your way through lane traffic, and you’d be cracking another joke at Joe’s expense. In between games, you’d sit on the far bleachers and talk shop with the other HK dads.
Soon comes spring; and children will sigh in the rhododendron light. Forty days, the land groaned under the burden of frost and dust. I think to myself that were we to drink the ashen calendar days, we could not bear the surprise of heart-sick laughter, the lightness best experienced with others; a choked-up kind of glee that pounces suddenly without explanation. Does a bird think to itself, thankgodi’malivethankgodi’malive? I have a suspicion the children know; they have watched and waited for the light. Soon we, too, shall awaken.
Tonight, we watched a video in Stephen Ministry that left me moved and feeling heavy at the same time. Dr. Diane Langberg spoke a message about the reality of brokenness and suffering in our lives and the need for compassionate Christians to sit with the hurting and minister with presence.
We’re all holding hands on the street. Bear on my left, a stocky, grizzled Filipino dude wearing a hard expression under squinting eyes. Pancho on my right, a wiry black man with a thin face and a black “OAKLAND” beanie with big, gothic lettering. Cece is between the men, finishing a prayer: “And keep us alllll”–she draws out the word in her Native-American accent–“safe from the Devil!”
Ideas I’m toying with:
At about 10AM this morning in the middle of Albert’s sermon, Mrs. Hu bursts into the sanctuary and I hear a flurry of hurried murmuring behind me and the flutter of a hundred heads turning. “Someone call 911!”