God Eats Pad Thai – Part 2

                                Pad Thai

A few years ago, I wrote a novella, God Eats Pad Thai.  Just for me, just to put words to a story that had been floating through my life for the last several months.  I wanted to write a story of what might happen if God actually showed up on someone’s doorstep to explain himself.   We ask him often enough… 

This week and next, I’m sharing excerpts. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

(If you missed the first excerpt, check it out here.)

——————————————————-

The memory blurs out, and I’m back watching a few sparkly stars fight their way through Los Angeles smog and light. 

I really want to know. So I ask. “Doesn’t it even bother you? Wars mean soldiers. Dead soldiers. Broken families and bodies and souls and minds. Little kids get killed by misguided bombs.”

            “I know,” he says. “It breaks my heart.”

            “How can there be good anywhere in that?”

            “There’s not.”

            “So we’re basically just screwed?”

            “I’m in everything. I’m always there.  And I am always working.  I’m not just going to leave you empty-handed and alone.  But everything that I want for you is getting destroyed at every turn.” I’ve never seen such heartbreak and sorrow in someone’s eyes before.   

            I look straight at him.  “I’m never going to forgive you if Ash and Kara don’t come back from Afghanistan.”

            “What if I’m asking them to be there?”

            “I’m never going to forgive you if they don’t come back. How can you possibly let them go?  You don’t get it.  Ash is my brother.  If he goes to Afghanistan, he could die.  And I am so proud of him.  So incredibly proud that he would risk his life for any of us.  But I am not going to survive if he doesn’t.  And my family…”  I drift off.

            “I’m going with him.”  

            I spin around. “What?”

            “I am going to take every step with him.”  I hear the words, but I am not comforted in the least. 

            I can’t even thank him.  What do you say? Thank you for walking through bomb –infested roads?  And what does it matter if he’s there if they die?  I close my eyes, willing away the visions.  Blood.  Horror.  Fire. Alone in a hole, half-buried in this worthless ground we’re fighting for.  Sobbing, tears drying almost instantly in the sticky heat. More blood.  More horror. More fire. The screaming. The sound of metal twisting and bending in the heat and gunfire.  And there’s the prayers of soldiers, shimmering in the heat, waiting for God to hear and answer.  But they feel so alone out there. So very alone.  And in these horrific visions, I want Ash and Kara to come back. Alive. But it doesn’t matter. He’s gone, and she’s gone. And I’m standing at funerals trying to come up with three words to say.  I can feel the suffocating black dress I’m wearing already. This is what free will gets us? Really?

I pull myself back onto the beach, where God and I are still sitting. I take a deep breath. And another. Ash and Kara are fine.  Alive. Happy. Whole.  Doing what they so deeply love. I have to stop racing ahead to the worst of it all.  It’s going to destroy all of my days.

“Do you even notice how much we’re all hurting?” I ask God. “Or are you so intent on giving us our free will or honoring our choices or whatever that you let little kids join armies? You let teenagers get killed by roadside bombs – and why?  What about the little twelve year olds who pick up a gun because they’re afraid of starving tonight?  What about the fifteen year olds recruited all across Africa, forced to become murderers?” I’m angry.  Angry at the injustice.  Angry that he’s allowed any of this to happen.  Livid. 

            He’s crying. I get face-to-face, almost nose-to-nose with him. And I’m screaming. WHY?!?  WHY?!?

             “I want so much more than what’s happening now,” he says.  “This is not what it was made to be.”

            “No shit.”  

            He closes his eyes.

He doesn’t speak, and for a moment, it’s as if there’s no sound at all. But there’s something.  A rounded, life-giving… something. The sounds form into words. Life. Hope. Fully alive. I hear the words of redemption he’s speaking over the entire world already. Words refreshing body and soul across the world. Words that are life.  Words that are ending wars.  Words that bring food to starving mothers and their bellies-distended children.  Words that are sending children back into the arms of their families.  Words that let a father wake up alive after finding his son dead.  Words that breathe hope to broken marriages. Broken families.  Broken people.   I watch and listen.  I can’t help it.  I’m swept in, and I breathe in the words. And I’m suddenly aware I’m not the only one clinging desperately to the words. God, let me live here. The words pour over me, over my heart, over the sand and the beach.  They pour into the ocean, spreading out, spreading through.  I find myself wondering what it would feel like to dive in now. I open my eyes, and the words shimmer and dissipate. 

            “They’re rejecting me. My words. My redemption,” he says. I try to will the words back into my ears.  “Imagine if I did nothing.”

            “But you could fix it!” I’m incredulous.  “Just do it!”

            And for half a second, I understand.  He could fix it.  And it’s breaking his heart.  Suddenly, I’m drowning in a choiceless world.  There’s no love here.  No joy.  No grace.  No anything.  Just one word – “yes”.  There’s no shades of grey here.  No shades of anything.  Black and white. My mind turns itself off, burying itself deep away.  I’m just doing things now. No thought involved.  No me. How could this possibly be worse? 

I’m back to the world I know. And once again, I can hear his sweet song.  He’s calling everyone to come rest. To come, and to simply be.  And those redemption words swirl and twist into a melodies and harmonies and counter-melodies, and I breathe deep. 

Sing louder. I think. Sing louder.  We can’t hear you.

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… the truth is that I was enough of myself. I was never meant to be her or him or them. I was somehow exactly who I was meant to be at that moment, a woman shaped and fashioned by Someone so much bigger than myself.

I am who I am meant to be today. I’m not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination. I have edges that I’ve over-sanded, sharp edges that should have been left there as protection or as a reminder of times and places traveled that should never be forgotten.

Excerpt from my essay (via thewomanhoodproject)

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God Eats Pad Thai – Part 1

                                          Pad Thai

A few years ago, I wrote a novella, God Eats Pad Thai.  Just for me, just to put words to a story that had been floating through my life for the last several months.  I wanted to write a story of God actually showing up on someone’s doorstep to answer every question they’d ever had face-to-face.  Some of it was based on my own life.  Some of it was straight from my imagination…  But it begins here… 

This week, I’m going to share excerpts… in the hope that you’ll find something encouraging and honest and beautiful there too.  

It’s raw. Be warned.  But hopefully authentic.  I would love to hear your thoughts. 

    ——————-

It Feels Breakable Like Glass 

Minutes. Hours. Seconds. Days. Here at the beach.  God and I really could have been sitting here forever, and I couldn’t have told you. The air around us seemed tense, fragile, like glass stretched across a frozen canyon.  Moments from breaking.           

“I’m still here.”  The words are so soft, so minutely quiet that I almost miss them.  I feel the glass crack around me.  I feel the shell that I’d carefully been constructing around myself begin to shatter.  Hold it together, I remind myself. 

“Share it all with me.”

And in that one sentence, everything comes crashing down.  There’s not even words to explain everything in my heart.  Not enough sentences on the planet, probably.  I can’t hold on to all of this.  I can’t keep it from overwhelming me.   I wrap my heart around every pain, every joy, every indescribable and exhausting emotion, and I shove it towards him. Here, I think. 

A scream from somewhere inside. 

I feel everything clawing, scraping, grinding, as it somehow forces it’s way through my skin.  Blood.  Water. Tears.  I feel like I’m drowning and vomiting and falling long through an untended ocean. This is not how it was supposed to be.  I gave everything away.  Another wave.  Another. You were supposed to take this. And he’s crying, and I’m screaming. Like diving into a pool to find it’s a hurricane, waiting to overwhelm and destroy. TAKE IT! But the corners of my heart, the barren spaces I’d long since forgotten or covered up or buried, the movement and openness was too much.  There was a comfort in the silken forgetfulness that came with time.  A soft cover over years of sorrow.  Years of deferred hopes and broken hearts.  Even the joys that were buried among them all were broken and showing their age.  Their dullness only seemed to remind me of what once was.  Forgotten friends, classmates.  Family members long since gone.  Gone. I held my head as more memories ripped through.  More everything.  There was a brief flash of joy as Matthew flashed through my head. That test.  Instinctively I ducked to avoid the bottle being thrown at my head until he reached for my hand, quietly reminding me. Only a memory.  And then, those girls were laughing.  And again, I felt so alone. So forgotten.  I hated myself for wanting to look like her, dress like her.  I kept hearing voices in my head over and over – you really want to be that shallow? That materialistic? I wasn’t loud enough to admit I just wanted to be pretty.  Girly. Feminine.  My heart followed that train of thought far too long.  I felt every time I put the dresses back. Put back the lacy shirt.  The silver sandals. The necklace. I was swallowed up in conflicted hopes.  I want to love Jesus and be pretty.  This is so unimportant.  Move on.  Two sentences that even now, reveal a heart.  Friends fly past.  Memories of conversations.  Two buildings burning in the morning sunlight, and terror. A first date. A last date. Wondering if I’d ever be good enough.  Strong enough. Fast enough. Skinny enough.  There was the memory of his hands around my neck, the implication clear – I wish you’d never been born.  Never walked into my life – the implication fresh as the day I survived.  Slow down. Go faster.  You’re selfish.  Self-centered.  You’re ill because you refuse to take care of yourself.  You’re ill because he just couldn’t stop it. He just doesn’t care. He’s going to take care of everyone around you, but you – you are on your own.  I felt this God-on-the-beach beside me absorb that last one with a particular sting.

And then there was air again.  Filling my lungs. Filling my soul.  Deep breath. And I realized there were so many pieces I hadn’t even caught as they’d flown from the dark recesses. Things that I could now see reflected in his eyes as he sat patiently.  What are you waiting for?

“Just hold on to me.”

And so I do. 


Too Much to Think About

            And that’s when it all hit.  The rocketing emptiness that had been soothed by so many stuffed-in memories and thoughts came roaring to life.  Now I understood that letting it go was the very beginning of the battle.  It was all I could do to not take everything back.  Anything to quiet this monster that’s come to life. Please.   There was no response. Please.  I’m begging you.  I am crying. Anything but this. Please.

            He wraps his arms around me.  And we cry together.


Coffee and Glass

            When I resurface, I’m aware that the sun is setting over the water…I’m entranced by the sparkling edges of light sprayed out across the ocean.  As I begin to put my thoughts together again, I look over at him.  He’s sitting, his legs stretched out in front of him.  I watch as he stares intently at the sunset.  Every time his glance moves, I notice new glimmers across the sky. I think he’s holding his breath. I watch the sky. I watch him.  Alternating back and forth.  As the light dims, the sun slips beneath the water, purple edges trailing behind.  A sliver of white, and then nothing. He relaxes back and smiles. 

            “Welcome back,” he says, still looking at the sky.

            I move, shocked at the stiffness.  “How long have I been here? How long have we been here?”  The people I’d seen earlier are nowhere to be found.

            “A while.”

            “Clearly.” My stomach twists, and I think back. Did I eat breakfast?  I go backwards through my afternoon, then morning.  Coffee and glass.  That was the last time I touched anything edible.  Of course the glass kind of put a damper on that too. 

            I sit for a moment, feeling my way around my heart again.  I brace for another onslaught, but there’s only calm.  I am able to look back, my memories intact, burnished, but no longer my core.  It’s as if I have been ripped in half, my bones replaced by… by what? My stomach twists again. 

            “Here,” he says, handing me a take-out box and chopsticks.

            “When did you leave –“

            “I didn’t,” he says, as if it’s entirely normal to be in two places at once.  I pop open my box, taking in the swirls of noodles and vegetables.

            “Pad thai.  We’re eating pad thai.”  I don’t know why this is odd to me.  Maybe I never saw God as the thai takeout sort. I can’t help but smiling. Maybe somebody will finally teach me to eat with chopsticks.

            “It’s your – what do you call it – your one-food-on-an-island choice?”

            I laugh out loud. And then I realize he’s absolutely right.  If you had asked me, I probably would have given you a different answer.  Tomatoes?  Sourdough bread and olive oil? He’s absolutely right.  It’s pad thai. That is so unnerving.

            But damn, can he pull together a pad thai!  We sit, eating our noodles. The air is still, warming as the day’s heat rises from the ground. The sound of waves pounding the shoreline is comforting somehow.  I take a deep breath.  In, out.  Another.  I take another noodle bite. So what now? I think.

            “Thank you for trusting me,” he says.  I’m surprised yet again. My eyes flash to his, and I’m surprised again to see my memories living there. “I know it was a lot to handle.”

            “I didn’t even know most of that was buried in there.  It hurt so much. How could you let me live like that?” 

“I never left you.  I carried you through everything.  You weren’t alone.” He sets his takeout down.  “I know how much it hurt. But now you’re free to ask now. You have so many questions.”

            My heart unfurls with questions faster than I can put words to them. But he picks one anyway. And then another and another.

            “Because you’re unique. Because that was his choice, not yours.  Because you love the creative arts. Because if you would have quit that job you’d never have met her.  Because I needed you to trust me.  Because you needed to know I was there.  Because I wanted you to have that moment.  Because it was my gift to you.”  I honestly wasn’t sure what questions he was answering, but they settled into my soul with amazing speed.  Like puzzle pieces snapping into place.  Pieces I hadn’t known I needed. 

And then, there it is – the first fully-worded question.          

“Why did he have to die?” 

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We Are That Kind of Human

                                       

One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reflect what you worship not only back to the object itself but also outward to the world around. 

– N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope 

Every so often, I read something that just kind of stops me in my tracks and makes me consider the way my life is put together.  This ‘primary law’ of humanity is both a beautiful and terrifying thing, honestly.  I want to be a more graceful person, so I spend time looking to others in my life who just radiate grace in the most beautiful way.  I want to be bolder, I want to be fiery, I want to be strong – and so I live my life in a way that makes that possible.  I learn from everyone I spend time with.  I absorb their words, their thoughts.  Like Harry Potter’s sword of Gryffindor, I take in that which makes me stronger.  

But then comes the unfortunate truth that I can’t just pick and choose to absorb the good while swimming straight through the bad.  In Surprised by Hope, Wright goes on to give examples of what other things people have chosen to create their lives around – money, sex, power and more – and just how those things have basically eaten them from the inside out.  For instance, if I worship power, I start looking at everything – people, experiences, places – in terms of that power.  Relationships become less about the people and the heart between friends and lovers, and more about ‘What can you do for me?’  Suddenly it’s not so hard to step on others, over others in that unending quest for power in one form or another.  

And so the question remains – what am I focusing on?  What am I worshipping with my time and heart and passions?  

It’s not as simple as ‘Choose A’ or ‘Choose B’ once and things are sorted.  There are layers and choices every single day.  It’s less about ‘Do I take that job?’ and more about ‘Why am I taking that job?”  It’s less about “Should I be friends with that person?’ and more about “Why do I want to be friends with them?”  or “How can I be truly a friend to that person?”  

Ah, the unending Why? of life.  

To use a specific example from my life – I am a writer.  I want to be a writer for the rest of my life.  There’s nothing inherently bad about that at all.  In fact, I would say there’s something inherently good about that.  I was born to be a writer.  At the risk of sounding cliche (or pretentious… not sure which one) – I’ve been destined to be a writer my entire life.  I write because I come alive when I put words to the page.  I live and breathe in the stories I tell the world.  But the moment I start thinking “I want to be a writer so people think I’m cool” or “I want to be a writer so I can say I’m friends with that person,” I’ve lost the point entirely.   Writing would stop being a passionate pursual of life and joy and become a twisted pursual of power or fame.  I would have completely missed the point. To say nothing of how that mindset would become a complete drain on creativity. I hope I never lose my way so completely as that. After all, there are no stories outside of people.  There are no joys so complete as the ones that are shared with friends. Preferably over a homemade dinner with a glass of red wine (hence the photo above – haha!)   But, especially living and working in Hollywood, I can see how easy it could be to lose sight. 

And at the end of the day, I don’t want to lose sight of the people in my life – the real people, the deepest selves that surround me.  I am able to live and write and love because I am ridiculously blessed with people everywhere in my life – in life, in work, in church – people who have become friends, friends who have become family.  For some reason, God has seen fit to fill my heart and home with the most amazing people I could ever have imagined.  He sees them all with this intensely beautiful love. And I hope my heart is always the heart of God. 

As C.S. Lewis put it… “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”   Oh, to remember we are that kind of human.  How much better the world will be… 

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ART – The Pasadena Playhouse

                 Art

I think I’ve had a wee bit of a crush on Bradley Whitford since his Josh Lyman days.  Let’s just get that out of the way.  

Art is in the middle of a short run at The Pasadena Playhouse (this delightful little venue we haven’t had a chance to go to before), starring Bradley Whitford, Michael O’Keefe and Roger Bart.  Yasmina Reza’s play about three friends who find their relationship nearly torn to pieces when one of them purchases a brilliant piece of art/total waste of money/completely pretentious joke masquerading as an actual painting.  (Reza also wrote the stunning God of Carnage, and its themes of humanity and relationships and community are definitely echoed here as well.) These three friends – Serge (he who owns said painting), Marc and Yvan – spend several days arguing, yelling, backstabbing and generally being totally horrible human beings to each other.  But they also spend those several days finally digging into the deep parts of their friendship, the parts that are always there that it’s far to easy to overlook.  It’s the questions we’ve all faced when staring down good friends of ours – Who am I?  Who do you think I am?  Am I honest? Am I loved? Are we really friends?   

Part of culture and community is based on humanity’s ability to overlook parts of our friends’ or family’s lives that we don’t love or don’t agree with.  I think Van Gogh’s paintings are beautiful.  I think the Mona Lisa is ugly. I love being vegan. Try as I might, I am really truly not a fan of French food.   I hate death metal music.  I have friends that love it.  I will totally own up to being the girl with a glass of red wine and a good indie film in my living room, while Luke is much more into the big-budget blockbuster films on opening weekend.  

But there’s a difference between acknowledging our differences and “agreeing to disagree,” and simply burying the truth about what we really think for fear someone else might not agree. And these three friends in Art have spent so long telling each other what they think the other wants to hear that when an enormous 4×5’ painting makes silence or obtuse replies completely obsolete, these three have nothing to do but sit in a room and tear it all to pieces.  

I kept thinking of The Fray’s song “Over My Head” – there’s a line that just says, “We won’t let this go down ‘til we torch it ourselves.”  These three characters are doing a damn good job of lighting the torches.  Why is it that our friends and family can hurt us more deeply than anyone?  Why is it that somehow, in our twisted little human brains of ours, we latch onto all the perfect buttons to push for when we’re ready to wound each other?  And what does that say about us as people? 

Art is brilliantly funny, if you can believe it. It pushes us to look at all the absurdities and wonders and beauty of art and friendship and love.  But there is also brutality as they rip each other to shreds.  I kept looking at Marc, the first instigator of “What the hell were you thinking, buying this white and off-white canvas?” I wondered if that art didn’t tell him more about himself than he really wanted to know.  That maybe he was inelegant, that maybe there was nothing much of substance when other people looked at him. Yvan played the peacemaker, mirroring his friends’ thoughts back to them until they were satisfied, if not honest. Serge looked at the painting and loved it for what it was.  And he seemed to me the sort of man who wouldn’t mind being unwritten on, a free bird in the turmoil of everything.  To him, I think, this painting looked like freedom.  

Different views.  Different people.  Different personalities molded into friendship. I don’t want to spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it – but let it be said that a felt tip pen has never before been used as such a perfect gesture of friendship, in all of it’s funny, beautiful, broken moments.  

All in all, a perfect night at the theater… 

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Life Changes… All the Time. And Then Again.

As many of my friends can attest, when I start a new show (yay!), I pretty much disappear into a little bubble for a few weeks.  I’m doing good if I manage to let my parents know I’m alive, let alone anyone else.  This post is partially about that.  And partially not.  But let’s start there.  

Hi everyone.  I am alive. Alive and well, actually.  

Everything changes so quickly around here.  Luke and I, both being in the entertainment industry, change jobs about every 6 months.  Sometimes it’s even quicker than that.  A month here, three months there.  Oh, the life of the freelancer.  It’s amazing and scary and wonderful and terrifying all at the same time.  

Sometimes I wonder how well I’m really handling it.  Sometimes I wonder how well my friends and family are handling it.  Over the last few months, I’ve had several people get upset because I wasn’t there for them 24/7.  Luke and I rarely ever make it to dinner with anyone before 9pm, and that’s usually only on Mondays when his schedule is still relatively early.  I wish that there were 30 hours in every day so I could see everyone I want to see.  I wish that we didn’t come home, completely exhausted and worn clean through every night.  But it’s unspeakably worth it for us.  We are working towards becoming who we were made to be.  There’s something really lovely about that.  There is nowhere else we’d rather be.  Nothing else we’d rather be doing.  It’s our heart and our joy to be here.  

I’ll still be blogging here as often as I can over these next few months.  Good things are happening in life right now.  And I think even more amazing things are just around the corner.  Some days I’m so excited I can barely breathe.  

But please have grace with me.  I’m exhausted to the very deepest part of my soul right now. I’m imperfect. But today is not forever.  Life will not always look like this.  I will emerge on the other side of everything…. One day soon.  

I promise. 


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