Category Archives: Letters

Dear Nina–who finally told the truth.

dearninawhofinallytoldthetruth
*Warning: this post includes my story of an abusive relationship. It references a letter I wrote one year ago today.**

Dear Nina–who finally told the truth,

A year ago exactly today, you write something here on the blog in a language you don’t fully understand yet, one that still has the power to freeze your voice and leaves panic thrumming like butterflies beating their wings in the back of your throat. This language is the one necessary to tell the truth about what happened to you, what he did to you, and how or why you kept quiet.

A year ago today, you press publish, despite the avalanche of fears. One of the first to message you is one of his teammates. Before he can say anything, your mouse hovers over the delete button; one click and all of this will be gone since already there are people reading this you never expected.

But then, do you know what his teammate says? I’m so sorry that happened to you. What he did is not okay (with some more colorful language thrown in) and when you profess your thanks, trying to use this new language you are learning to let him know just what his acknowledgement means, you mention something like: I just want and need to tell my story. I don’t want to assassinate anyone’s character. 

And let me tell you, now a year later, you have not forgotten his teammates’ response: You deserve to tell your story. It needs to be told. And that piece of garbage doesn’t deserve any of the attention (his words, not mine/ours).

On the day you write the first letter to yourself, a year ago from this very day, you will be humbled beyond belief at this and at the other men who reach out to you–who admit that yes, there is a problem because this happened “in the church,” because the people you opened up to “in the church” only ever called you angry and unforgiving, because the boy who did this to you, who while you lay incapacitated from having your wisdom teeth removed, mouth full of gauze, coming down from anesthesia, just having taken your first Vicodin, did everything but to you was being “mentored” “in the church.” They call it discipleship. So while you were thinking: I could be anyone. I am just a body. I could be a blow up doll right now. Why is he doing this? he was meeting one-on-one with other guys. In another two months, he would lead a Bible study.

So to those men who reach out with humility and grace and kindness, true brothers: they may never know what their words mean but you will know. Just to hear these guys, your brothers, admit there is a problem…This is worth the fear you feel in sharing your story so nakedly.

More than that, there are the women. Within 24 hours, you will have over a hundred emails, Facebook messages, texts–from some women you do know but mostly women you do not know, using their own language to tell their own stories. Their words are precious and weighty. You have been entrusted with these stories.

Your heart will break with each one–as it should–but each story will make you stronger. You will take each message so seriously. You will write from the deepest depths of your soul. You say: I’m sorry and what happened to you is not okay. But it seems paltry. You will pray. You will hope that somehow your written words are infused with more, even knowing no words can erase what happened to them.

Or you.

It is not okay though–the number of women who can relate in only 24 hours on your baby blog. None of it is okay.

Now, you don’t think of him often. It’s hardest to forget the couch–the anger, the rage, the pushing and shoving, the pinching beneath the table–those things fade with a bit more ease.

It’s hard not to forgive yourself for not having the language to tell someone what the couch was: sexual assault.

You are braver today than the day you first wrote the letter and on that day you are so afraid but you are so very brave too. A year later, you will be learning more about violence against women. Those women who will reach out to you after your letter are still with you now. You know with confidence that God is knitting together a future where you are somehow a part of the solution.

And to that boy, today, a year after telling your story, you say: I forgive you. 

And today, you name the things you forgive him for because by now you know that words have power. So: I forgive you for yelling at me so often. I forgive you for losing your temper. I forgive you for the unsaid rules, the things I could never get right that resulted in you pinching me beneath tables and on couches with plenty of people around but no one to see. I forgive you for those pinches too. I forgive you for the multiple times we set a boundary for purity, you tried to cross it, I said no, I tried to stop you, and then the same thing happened again and again until I gave up because maybe I wanted to “make out” too. I forgive you for making me “the keeper of the guard” when it came to purity. I forgive you for blaming me for why purity was such a struggle for you–in our relationship and on your own. I forgive you for making me apologize for what I wore and how I temped you. I forgive you for all the rules of how I must dress and wear my hair. I forgive you for shoving me into doors and walls. I forgive you for the bump on the side of my head and the back of my head too. I forgive the bruises. I forgive you for telling me at 120 pounds that “no guys wants a fat girlfriend.” For the emotional and physical abuse, I forgive you.

I forgive you for what you did to me on the couch.

I forgive you for sexually assaulting me, even though you probably don’t remember it and if you do, it’s just one more time “we messed” up when it came to purity. I forgive you for not having my consent because I could not give it (as I could not speak with my mouth packed with gauze and blood) and was incapacitated (due to the surgery and proper drugs). I forgive you if you think this sexual assault was one more heat of the moment mistake though I know different. We couldn’t even kiss. I was a series of body parts. And still, I forgive you.

Nina, in the coming year, that is 2016, I ask that you try to forgive yourself now–for being young, stupid, in love (what you thought it was then), confused, afraid, for feeling trapped when you could have gotten out, and for not telling your story earlier. I ask that you forgive yourself for not standing up to him. Forgive yourself for keeping quiet about the couch for so long. You’ve learned a new language–one where you can tell your story–use it.

To those who read the letter but do not reach out and to those who do not believe it or cannot believe it or do not want to believe, I can only offer this with a strength I didn’t have when I first wrote the letter: just because you can’t acknowledge it, just because you don’t want to think things like this happen to girls like me by boys like him, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I have no reason to share the humiliation of the couch with the world. There is nothing for me to gain.

To the other women and the men, who have experienced any shade of this, I say to you, with my heart in my hands: I am so sorry this happened to you. It was not okay. What was done to you is so far from okay. I forgave because it was right for me personally. I am by no means telling you to do the same or even what to do. I am just standing beside you shoulder to shoulder.

And to anyone who says or ever said: I believe you. I’m sorry. What he did was not okay…To anyone who supports you as you write the first letter, there are no words, there is no language. My throat is blocked with tears as I humbly and gratefully tell them: thank you. I have not forgotten your kindness a year later.

I still wholeheartedly believe there is beauty from the ashes.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor 1:3-4).

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Ava’s Story.

You can read the beginning of this story here.SONY DSC

Dear Ava,

There are so many things I want you to know–about yourself, about our family, about me. But the most important thing I need you to know is that I loved you, I wanted you from the moment Dad told me you existed. That’s God at work in me and even now, He is at work in you–like when you pray for me on Facetime in your adorable voice. When Dad said yes, your mom was pregnant, my heart swelled. I didn’t know if you were a boy or a girl but you were my sibling and there was no half about it.

I hate that word and I hate that I have to use it to explain to some people how I can have a sister so much younger than I am (though it’s no one’s fault). I hate the word because from the moment I knew you were in your mom’s belly, you were my sister. Period. In my heart of hearts, there is no difference between my love for Joey and  my love for you and that again is the Lord, knitting us together as siblings and as a family.

How we can be so close, despite the miles between us and the years, is also a God thing. It doesn’t make sense. I am not your mom or your aunt and you don’t treat me as such. I remember the first time you told me a secret and told me not to tell your Mom and Dad (it was completely harmless, guys! It had to do with Christmas presents…) I was overjoyed because we are sisters. There are days ahead where you will call me just to talk or to ask for advice. We will cry together and laugh together and years and miles will melt away even as they do now.

I am proud to be your sister. I am thankful and honored God gave you to us because in the midst of some difficult times, you have been such a joy. I want you to know that. God has also used you to bring healing in places I, frankly, no longer believed could be healed. That’s a lot to put on such a little person which is why it’s good you are only three and a half. But someday I want you to know about all the healing and joy you have brought my heart and this family.

I love you more than I could ever say,

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Cue the photos:IMG_0038I was the first one to hold you after your mom and our dad.SONY DSC

You were a perfect baby.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of my favorite pictures…about seven days after you were born Chelsea was flying out of the country but you two got to meet for the first of many times. Now, she is one of your faves.IMG_2611Sporty.SONY DSC

We’ve always laughed a lot together…from the beginning.SONY DSCOur first Christmas together…with matching bows.IMG_0544Yep, we are related.IMG_0547One of my favorite pictures of you.IMG_0884You visited SF…IMG_0835

We got drinks. SONY DSC

I’m trying to deal with the fact that you are growing up. xoxo

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Dear Michelle Dockery aka Lady Mary.

Dear Michelle,

Darling (please excuse my use of such a familiar word), I must tell you that you are simply an incredible actress. In interviews, you are warm and funny, playing Antler Ring Toss with Jimmy Fallon. You are humble, warm, funny.

From Michelle's Harper Bazaar UK shoot by David Slijper

From Michelle’s Harper Bazaar UK shoot by David Slijper

On screen, at the beginning of season one on Downton Abbey, we saw you resigned to your fate of marrying whatever man was thrust in your way after Patrick died on the Titanic. Lady Mary was cold and not everyone liked her. But I did. She had to be cold because she had to survive. If she cared, she would never be able to put one foot in front of the other when it came to stepping into the future that others decided for her. We saw you straighten your spine when Matthew Crawley became the heir, putting him easily in his place: “I wouldn’t want to push in.” The battle of wits between you two–who can forget Andromeda and Perseus–charmed us.

From Michelle's Harper Bazaar UK shoot by David Slijper

From Michelle’s Harper Bazaar UK shoot by David Slijper

Your stillness, your single eyebrow raise–in every way you are Lady Mary. Though Julian Fellowes wrote her, you brought her to life and created her.

From Michelle's Harper Bazaar UK shoot by David Slijper

From Michelle’s Harper Bazaar UK shoot by David Slijper

In season two, we ached with with you as you held your love for Matthew in. Ah, the joy of the season two Christmas special! In season three, you softened (but not too much, because you are Lady Mary, after all), you loved, you married, you became a mother.

From Michelle's Harper Bazaar UK shoot by David Slijper

From Michelle’s Harper Bazaar UK shoot by David Slijper

Your grief in season four is ragged and painful to watch but in the best way because you are an incredible actress. No matter what situation Lady Mary finds herself in, both your range and your subtly as an actress are amazing to behold. This is your year. I just know it, Darling.

Most Sincerely,

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Dear Nate Berkus: Stop, Collaborate, & Listen.

Who doesn’t love Nate Berkus? His Target line is great. A few months back, he featured a silver rhino. I wanted it. But I couldn’t justify it to myself. Did I really need a silver rhino?

Sadly, no.

But, then I saw this:

Screen shot 2013-11-07 at 5.12.22 PM

And do I need a golden elephant? 

Yes, yes, I do. In fact, I need two because I love elephants and I love gold (right now) and I love Nate Berkus (and if I only got one, he would be lonely. Right?). I made a special trip to Target, after work, for these golden elephants. But alas, my journey was not successful. I hung my head in sadness because my Target didn’t have them. So then, five minutes later, when I was over it, I ordered them online.

But when I got them, they were a bit…garish:SONY DSC

Nate Berkus, I don’t know if I just got the two elephants that were an orange-copper-gold mix (and not in a good way) but that was not the color pictured when I ordered. I felt a bit misled at first since I am used to your work equalling perfection. I love your work so I hope it is okay that I added my own touch to these little guys.

So I had to take my favorite gold spray paint (I call it a softer gold with flecks of silver in it) and fix these suckers. Is fix too harsh a word? I don’t think so. They were more orange than even pictured here.

How to do Crafts in an Apartment in San Francisco:

  1. First, find a nice work space and always remember to cover the area where you will be spray painting. (I hope you don’t think I am taking myself seriously.)SONY DSC
  2. Place your a bit-too-garish items on the tinfoil.SONY DSC SONY DSC
  3. Spray  away.

And voila! In my opinion and for my apartment (Nate, please forgive me), this was a great improvement and my little elephants are happy on my bookshelf.

SONY DSCI love elephants so much. Some people might say, I love them too much. But I don’t think that is possible. And for you city dwellers who don’t have the luxury of driving out to Hobby Lobby or Michael’s…I hope I inspired you to use your slightly unstable fire escape as an arts and craft studio. (It’s stable, I promise).

And Nate, I’m sorry. If you’re interested in future collaborations, or just my opinion in general, please have your people reach out to me.

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P.S. My favorite gold spray paint is Ace Hardware’s Metallic Spray Paint in 17010. They didn’t pay me to say that and also, you can buy it any hardware store.

 

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Jars.

SONY DSCThere are so many things I want her to know. And still, there are so many other things I want her to learn all on her own. There are some things that must be taught, lessons engraved on the very palms of our hands, when truths turn into roots or some times wings. We learn to stay or we learn to flee. And those are the lessons that she has to live in order to learn. And it breaks my heart to know that one day, she will have her heart broken, and it will have nothing to do with Mike or Sully from Monsters Inc.

When I look at her, I think of a mason jar. I would like to unscrew it and allow memories to float inside it. She is so little that believing she is loved is not hard. You are so beautiful. You are so smart. I am so proud of you. You are more than enough. And she believes because she is three and she cannot yet hear the lies the world whispers. I want to give her this mason jar, when she is ten, or twelve, or sixteen, whenever she needs it, so she can open it. So all those memories and feelings can flood into her. I believe in the magic of this jar, that this will somehow keep her from ever being hurt. But no jar or magic can do that, can it?

I’m not her mother; I am her sister. So I think of lessons sisters teach one another. I know one night she will call me crying over a boy and it kills me, kills me, because I already know that boy has no idea how special she is. She is incredible at three; who will she be at eighteen? And I want to tell her now: no boy is worth your tears. No boy. Someday, a man will be worth them. And you’ll know the difference between the two. But you won’t know, the first time your heart breaks, the difference. And I already hate the first boy who will make you cry. Hate. Him.

I wanted to grow up. My whole life, that is what I wanted. Stay little, I want to tell her. Take things as they come, I want to tell her. But she is three, you know. Instead, you line up her toys on a couch and you call them by name and you make up silly voices and you be there, you be her sister so when that day comes, and that some stupid boy breaks her heart, she will know you will be there, that you are her sister, and come hell or high water, you will pick up the phone and get to her.

You will get to her.

For now it is silly faces and stuffed animals and playing dress up. Put it all in the imaginary mason jar. Store it all up, not just for later, but for now.

Because some things matter.

And other things just don’t.

And Nina, while you are at it, perhaps you should consider why your metrics are so different, why you are so hellbent on making sure that she remembers she is smart, she is loved, she is good enough, why you allow people, jobs, tasks, life to make you believe less about yourself.

IMG_1577Take your own jar…

and fill it with what matters…

and let the rest go.

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