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I am tired.

I don’t mean the haven’t-slept-enough, over-active, too-little-coffee kind of tired. I mean the bone-weary, worn-soul and beaten-heart kind. The kind that keeps you nailed to the ground and muffled as if wrapped in layers of cotton. Anything that comes in contact with you makes little impact if any, just pinging off and away as you watch in apathy. The kind that leaves you with no energy to move and no motivation to try. The depression kind.

I am so tired.

And I can’t overcome it.

Forgive me as I try to clumsily word the things I’ve never permitted out loud.

There’s something about this season of life that constantly seems to leave me feeling stranded in a vise-like grip. Everything is tight: money, time, energy, willpower. It wears you down with no elegance. Not the nicked and smooth hardwood floors, gleaming with age and love, but a dirty, frayed and matted carpet that’s sat in the rain and mud and baked in the sun. I wish it wasn’t so amusing, the self-identification with an over-bested, threadbare rug, because it hurts to smile these days.

I’m grappling with a season of life defined by refinement, and it feels less golden than it does galling. I’m trying to wrestle with an overwhelming disappointment in God as I feel continually abandoned and beaten down by the odds and life, wondering where is the cup that runs over with anything but pain? Where is the embrace that doesn’t suffocate? Where is the relief, the peace?

I don’t know how to address this in a way that gives glory. It’s as if after all of these days in the wilderness I’ve arrived to find an empty Promised Land. How do you continue to proclaim Christ when you feel abandoned by Him? The Father, the Brother,  the Friend; the Prince of Peace, the Lover of Our Souls. All of these names have felt empty lately as I cry out and receive no answer.

I think often of the passage in Hebrews on hope and faith.

Things not seen.
Believing.
Earnestly seeking.

What does the believing soul do when these steps seemed to have failed? I know depression well enough to realise it deals unfairly in pessimism and lies, each card the colour of cynicism and disappointment. But how to have hope when there is barely enough energy to breathe? How to help meet the needs of others when yours are so incomplete? How to think on eternity without considering the means to reach it sooner?

I ask for prayer a lot these days, and I long to explain in ordered words and lists the reasons why, but how can I when I don’t even know myself? There is no way to quickly sum up the stumbling blocks of life that have landed me here, there’s no way to organise and quantify the pain. It’s certainly not my first time here, but it’s absolutely my first for allowing myself to acknowledge it and attempt transparency. I cannot pretend to offer a shiny end of brightly trimmed ribbons to what I have to say here. I know the True Things: I know that God works in the silence and moves in the pain. I know that brokenness always precedes the blessing. I know that nothing is wasted, and that even the heaviest crosses are meant to be borne.

But I still feel the empty corridors echoing in my chest, the brokenness still hurts, and I still have eyes deceived by the desert’s trickery of mirage and beating light. I have learned the word for brokenness in more languages than I can count, most especially that of my own heart.

I have seen glimpses of that far-off place of light and life. I have known its taste, I have felt its joy. But as these memories seem insufficient to carry me forward I would humbly ask for the prayers and encouragement of those who have been here before and seen the proven hand of God draw them out of their many waters, that I may at least be reminded that I will not drown in mine.

Thank you.

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Graduating

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It’s been about a year since I did a true update on life, and I won’t lie– I’ve largely been putting it off. This isn’t so much because I’m trying to hide as much as it is my inability to line up the grand smear and mess of things that linger in overall impressions rather than identifiable feelings or thoughts.

So let me set the stage with the barest bones I have: events.

I’ve been dumped, started a new relationship, broken it off, fallen into a third, and parted ways again. I’ve gotten seven tattoos (my latest being the one pictured above), three massages, and seen one Broadway show (crammed somewhere in my near countless trips into Manhattan). I’ve bought a turntable and amassed too many records, temporarily adopted a dog, and started using essential oils. I bought an old car, sold it, and started leasing a new one. I started taking antidepressants, got back into counseling, found a mentor, left counseling, and started getting counseling from my mentor (who happens to be a licensed counsellor). I’m still taking the antidepressants. I’ve gotten a second job, decided it’s time to leave my first, filled out thirteen applications, had three interviews, received two offers, accepted one, and begun to work three jobs with plans to have officially left the other two as of today. I’ve travelled over 8,000 miles, dreamed of traveling more, done a lot of laughing, and done even more crying.

It’s been a busy 365-plus days, and here’s what’s changed since last year: not a lot.

For all my talk of settling in and down, I’m no better at it than I was a year ago. I have more pillows (three, actually), but two were free and I took them in knowing I’d feel no qualms donating them at the drop of a hat. I’ve routinely cleaned out my closets- I have a fresh load of mugs and trinkets to take to Goodwill tomorrow- and only have one box’s worth of random “things.” My seven crates of books are still thousands of miles away. Most of the records I own were gifts. Only last night I took pictures off my wall because having so many up made me feel uneasy— as if it were punishable for home to feel lived in.

A few months ago I finally acknowledged that I’ve been living an improper life for a long time. I looked at my two jobs, my physical health, and the mountain of worry and fear that I carry around on my back at all times, and compared them to the things I know I’m supposed to be, and who I know I truly am:

A daughter of the King and an inheritor of peace.

A mixed bouquet of wildflowers and cherry blossoms.

A logical thinker and a hopeless dreamer.

A communicator.

An artist.

A writer.

I gathered up all these explanations and names and put them on paper, starting a separate list below it of all the things keeping me from all that I am. The results have been tumultuous.

In less than thirty days I’ve tendered resignation at my two jobs (admissions counsellor for my alma mater and sales associate for a retail shop) and found a new one (at one point working all three over the same two weeks, and let me tell you that is its own special kind of hell that no one should have to endure). I’ve even had to end a few friendships along the way as well– none of its been easy, but I can promise all of it has been good. I’m taking on a reception role at a local animal shelter and humane society, and the difference in the job, my coworkers, and the lifestyle are so different from anything I’ve ever known or done before. It’s hard, often smelly, doesn’t pay well, and is somehow incredibly rewarding. I’ve taken my focus off the worry of gaining the financial and life goals being chased by my peers, and back on the things I truly love and value. I’ve started spending more time with people who share my passions and think deeply. I’ve cleared away the things that have been eating up my time and am making space for what I truly want to do: create.

As I stepped out of my office for the last time today I had a funny thought: it feels like a delayed graduation. When I last posted about life, I talked about how everything felt like it was slipping easily and nonchalantly into place: out of college, and into work, then a relationship, then a house, then more work. This chapter shift has been the exact opposite: it’s been jarring endings and sudden epiphanies. It’s been a lot of tears, a great deal of sweat, and a number of looming deadlines. I’m thankful for what this past year has been, and for the job I was given, but when I turned to look up at the 100-year-old building of brick and bells behind me, I finally had that sense of completing a heavy, weighty task, an impression that never truly arrived a year ago when I walked across that stage. It was as if leaving the place and this chapter- however rough and wonderful- behind, I was finally ready to let go. I am finally ready to graduate.

And I have.

So tonight I’ll celebrate, drinking champagne and wearing my favorite pair of old socks as I dance on my own to some old Ella Fitzgerald records, and tomorrow I’ll go to my only job, and then I’ll use my free time to write. Because that’s who I am– that’s who I’m made to be, and I’m finally stepping into that role full-time. And you know what? It feels like home.

Soli Deo Gloria

They were playing old emo-punk songs in a coffee shop yesterday- the haunt that’s quickly becoming my weekly Tuesday job-hunt base- and it took me back about ten or so years to when these songs were the shiny new anthems of the misunderstood misfit many. I can still remember the black-lined eyes and long dyed hair of the singers, fists raised against growing up and growing complacent, and the resonance I felt humming  along, the volume turned up all the way on my little off-brand MP3 player, trying to make sense out of all the ache from where I listened in secret.

Underneath my bed.

In a black velvet skirt repurposed as a cape.

I find it ironic that most of those singers likely lead somewhat normal, complacent lives today, comfortable to live on whatever riches and fame they acquired through their neon anthems only a few short years prior.

But I haven’t. Certainly I’ve ditched the cape and learned to apply eyeliner in acceptable amounts, but the confused ache and search, that same sense of displacement and longing, still lingers in my bones. It’s redirected itself over time and with maturity, less focused on a rise against the machine, and a more introspective angst aimed at the sense of inevitability that culture and expectations seem to move me- move us- towards.
A degree.
A career.
A husband.
A family.
I was asked in an interview on Monday where I wanted to be in twenty years, and I didn’t have a good, direct answer (something I know breaks all of the good job-interview rules)  because I don’t know. I half-stuttered through a sentence building cloud-castle dreams of merely living a life and working a job that enables me to utilise my gifts and passions each day. Beyond that, my only true desires include being student-debt-free and a fully stamped passport or two. I don’t want wealth, I don’t anticipate stepping up and onto a career-structured ladder, I don’t long for children, and I certainly don’t yearn to be someone or anyone well-known on a larger scale. I’m certain I can’t be the only one. Right?

It’s a theme of this year, discovering just how dissonant my desires are with the expectations given me by whatever source you choose to indicate or blame be it society or tradition. I’m trying to parse a disparity of information for the truth and for what I truly desire, what I was truly created for. I know more and more that this includes and is centred around writing. The difficulty falls in learning to chase the how and disregard the many potential outcomes for failure along the way. Failure means many things to different people: for me they look like scathing disregard and blasé contempt of my attempts, thoughts, and final product. There aren’t enough words in the world to properly describe to you just how much I fear failure.

I could likely quote here the entirety of Elizabeth Gilbert’s masterwork of a book on chasing creativity in spite of it all- especially the fear- but I’ll settle here for a public reminder to myself- and perhaps you if you need it- that we’re not held to the standards and expectations of anyone but God. The God who made you and me, the God who guides both of our paths independently (although often crossing), and the God who delights to lavish His children with good gifts and see them grow to trust Him, and all for His glory. Not ours: His. We just get to benefit from the good things along the way.

Sermons spend a lot of time encouraging us not to fear the hard things that God will ask us to do: it’s easy to translate this to mean that when God asks us to do something, it will inevitably be the hard thing. I think this short paragraph in my life is yet another reminder that sticking with God’s will and walking the “right” straight and narrow path isn’t a needle-in-the-haystack hunt, and it’s rare that we find ourselves faced with two similar choices one of which will plummet you into utter darkness and propel you down a path of rebellion. That’s simply not contiguous with all the overwhelming evidence and examples of God’s character that we’ve been given, and no matter what path we take we are always in danger of rebelling. That’s the sad truth of taking your sin nature with you wherever you go. So as I’m faced with choices, I’m choosing to make the ones I believe will make me more like God, and with only his expectations in mind. Soli deo gloria.

 

Eudaimonia

I am here.

(I inhale at these words- a small catch in my throat- then exhale, a slow, steady stream).

I am here.

How long as it taken? How many days, months, years of wandering and wondering? How many moments spent searching, seeking, only to discover my arrival on a nondescript morning, fresh pieces of a broken heart arranged before me on the chipped wood of a Starbuck’s table?

I try to tally them all.

I quickly lose count.

It’s so much more than a mere journey from point A to point B.

It’s been twenty-four years of struggle and confusion, comparison and contrast, darkness and a ceaseless reaching for the light. It’s been love songs on repeat and the acute ache of a broken heart. It’s been so much grief, often for things I neither understand or even know.

It’s been walking—so much walking. Step after step in any direction, towards any goal: anywhere but where I am.

I have pawned portions of my soul and bartered peace of mind for it, only to find myself robbed and unable to buy it all back. I’ve been in debt and withstood whole seasons of silence and dark, being blind or deaf. Sometimes both at once.

I have felt the crash and roar of the ink in my veins, and experienced the unsettling calm when none seemed to be found.

I’ve cut lines through my skin in search of more.

I have peaked a few mountains and walked through many valleys, often in the shadow of death.

I have known Death intimately.

I have lied and strained to understand truth, I have starved and eaten, starved and eaten again. I’ve thought about starving a lot: I think about eating more.

I have slept through the day and woken with the stars, counting pinprick holes in the sky as they appear.

I have lingered on cold concrete steps in the dark, gazing at the world of twinkling lights on the hills beyond, my entire life and worth sitting in the person next to me.

I have watched my entire life and worth walk away.

I am learning to secure my entire life and worth in a safer place.

I have built bridges and stood aside, eyes covered, as I’ve lit the matches that would ignite their burn. I have not always done so on purpose. I have often found myself standing bereft on the wrong side.

I have known both sickness and health, and I have learned how to live fully in both

I have danced in the sun and in the rain, arms open and carefree. I have done so in worry and fear too.

And after all this fight, this rest, this struggle, this strength, this darkness, this light; after all this building and tearing down and building up again. After all this wandering, wondering, seeking, searching; after all of this asking asking asking– I find myself here, I find myself arrived.

And- most wondrous of all- I’m finding I was here all along.

 

 

Monochopsis

The event of spring always feels more like an advent to me; that out of the depths of so much darkness and death can spring the loveliest, liveliest of things. It’s no accident that we celebrate the resurrection of Christ in the same breath as the returning flowers and green fields.

There’s symbolism in everything.

I’m a child of the spring. Not only because my birthday falls in early April, but also because of my connection with the season. I feel intimately the movement and shift of the vernal stirrings. Trying to explain it is like standing in a river and describing its strong undercurrent to someone who sees only rippling waters from their position on the riverbank. I know other people see the water moving: I don’t know that they feel its depths. My life also tends to mimic the cycle of plants. Every autumn is a withering, every winter a hibernating near-death in which I battle the seemingly insurmountable enemies, darkness and depression.

But then comes spring, and pushing through the darkness and into a marvellous light. With it comes the realisation that the things that threatened to bury me are the very elements that strengthen me and give me life. I know spring touches everyone’s spirits- the long-standing jokes of love in the time of cherry blossoms are evidence enough of that- and that I am far from being the only one who feels the burgeoning from its very roots, or fights the deepest dregs of depression in the cold-dark months of winter. We all like to believe we foster special connections with something, but in the true spirit of spring time I cannot even desire to hold sole claim to a thing which by nature is defined by sharing and abundance.

Remember back in January when I told you my word?

I thought I had a good idea of what it would look like, lived out in a life: gold.

I thought of refinement, of value, of beauty and boldness.

Here’s the thing: if you ask God to break and rebuild you, refine you, remove everything but Himself from the throneroom of your heart, you had better mean it. He doesn’t take such requests lightly, and God does nothing by halves. While “gold” may be my word for the year, it’s synonyms are quickly becoming “broken” and “pain,” “relinquish” and “redefine.” I knew refinement would be painful, but I think I’d forgotten that it is a process, and long one at that. I think of the verse in Psalms that describes being refined seven times in a fire. While the particular context is describing silver and as a metaphor for God’s word, the process for refining gold is no less intense, and our lives are scripturally referred to as such on more than one occasion (my favourite example being Job 23:10). The theme to notice across all of these verses is that the refinement and the gold both are meant to give glory to God; the refinement as testament as His actively working, and the finished product a pure and lovely thing because it is testament alone to God’s work. It is pure because the fire brought all of its impurities to the surface where they could be removed to make the gold like Christ. It is lovely because it was submitted to the fire in the hands of the most skilled craftsman who could then form it to His intended design.

As a lump of ore, as the bulb placed deep beneath the earth, I don’t want any of these things. I’m comfortable where I am, warm and safe and full of potential.

However, that same potential is what drives my dissatisfaction. The knowledge that I contain precious metals, that I could be a thing in bloom, eats away at my sense of contentment until I know I can linger underground no longer.

Thus begins the praying, and thus begins the fire.

And refinement begins to feel more and more synonymous with growth; I am finding my way, stumbling through the dark until I meet my full potential and purpose. I am being placed into fire after fire and finding my clutching hands let go of the things I cling to most as they are proven to be the very impurities keeping me from looking more like He who calls me Daughter. Some of these things would surprise you (heaven knows they surprised me)—love, relationships, traditions, desires. Others, the lies and deceit, the insecurities, the false beliefs, all make far more sense. They all feel the same to me, though; things I thought were deeply-valued and intrinsically part of me are quickly being proven false, or cheap, or less-than.

Oh my friends, the letting-go is so painful. I don’t have words to describe the hurt that it is causing me. It is nothing, however, in comparison to the hurt I am causing others as I begin to step out of my old form and shed the lies, shed the counterfeit loves and speak the truth and sever ties that never should have been told or made. The only comfort in these low times of shame and hurt are that I am truly at the end of my pride and self-sufficiency. Only a perfect God could forgive and heal and raise and refine all of this shattered, broken mess. My frayed rope has begun to come undone and I’m working up every ounce of courage to let go and fall, knowing that I’ll simply be moving closer to the safe and caring hands of a Father who will never relinquish me to the darkness that always feels so close at hand.

What’s most confusing of all is the many forms growth takes, all of them itching, moving, shifting, painful. I think of April in these terms, and it’s only ever been agitated by my straining pull to run, to move away, anywhere but here with the pain. Strange that I only recently connected the symptoms with the cause: that all of the discomfort in the world, perennial and painful, could in fact be growth and movement of stretching limbs and earth as it crumbles away.

That not all things are buried in death, but also in preparation and in sleep.

And there’s the image of a buried God emerging whole, strong, and new, but still no different than He had been throughout the ages. And there’s the mirror image of flowers, exposed and delicate and so full of life; of gold removed once more from the fire, purer than before and lovelier for it.

There’s symbolism in everything.

Finifugal

It’s snowing again today. Early march, in like a lion when what my soul cries out for is the sweetness of the Lamb. Spring always stirs up the water in me, revealing the truths indelibly marked in my soul, the memory of who I am, the anticipation of who I am coming to be.

The past few weeks: a blend of the irritating, incomprehensible, and ironic, all whirled with a fine dose of intoxicating sunshine as the stuff of life dances a loop: fall apart, back together, apart, back together.

It would be a nice kind of lie to say that I’ve spent the time overlooking it all from a perch on the fence of mindful ambivalence, but a lie nonetheless. Everything lately has felt so unsortable. I wake up most days after very short nights facing a still-tangled mess of thoughts and circumstances, the mass of which I cannot seem to sort. If I could only find the loose end and unravel it all from there.

And in the core of it all, a sense of leaning, straining—reaching for some unnameable thing ahead. Amidst all of the busyness have been the stillest of moment, moments of clarity, assurances that all of this builds up and into a purpose.

But what purpose?

Just as the answer takes shape in the mist and the fog begins to clear; just as I step towards the meaning of it all-the memory of who I am and what I value-the world inevitably falls back to chaos.

Things progress: the old sputtering engines are exchanged for the new, we lift each other from the floor and into arms, into chairs, into the waiting rooms where doctors try to tell us our fates, and the show still goes on. Anticipation is met by the pattering of small padded feet across the floor, and, if done correctly, you exchange plane tickets and hours of anxious waiting for a week full of kisses and laughing hellos. Jangling nerves relax, the tangled knots release, and purpose begins to take shape again, closer this time, clearer now, almost discernible before disappearing once more back into the mist.

I haven’t yet learned how to handle life, and how to do so gracefully. I have to laugh at my name sometimes, at the way it belies the clumsy tumble-trip of my feet and flailing hands as I desperately try to find balance. I wonder: is there ever a time in life when you no longer feel that you’re at odds with the innermost pieces of yourself?

The fissures lacing their way up and down the walls mark a nonsense map: indent of beating fists and bodies. I remember the feeling of my hair being pulled, punctuated by angry words. I trace my fingers across the lines, making new memories. Whispered words send their tickling messages into waiting ears. I watch the cracks re-join and the lines heal. I watch the scars disappear.

The purpose takes shape and clears the mist, revealing itself not as a single being after all, not a hulking, nameable thing, but as a summation of so many parts. Pieces of me that I lose sight of but have always known to be mine. And thenI remember who I am.

The girl who loves receiving mail but who cannot seem to ever properly open an envelope.

I’ve learned to count my days in anniversaries, the passing months in memorandum of the things that have passed, the people. I’ve learned to identify myself with endings, to wait with bated breath for the next passing.

I still don’t know how to describe these things out loud. I haven’t really tried. I do know that I’m finished marking my life by tragedies, and I am ready to see my life in light of a grander scheme than merely defined by the losses that have surrounded it—that I am done singing requiems.

The challenge is learning, after so long, to find a new song to sing. But there is joy in that as well, a sense of adventure and uncertainty as you fumble with the unfamiliar notes and build a new tune, one entirely your own.

Or at least this is what I tell myself to make it all seem less daunting.

The truth is, I don’t know how to be alone. For all my independence, for every table for one, every private date with myself to every film, every night in with a cup of tea and a book and the void next to me I’ve been staving off some inexplicable sense of sadness I’ve been too frightened to allow myself to feel. I’m afraid to admit that I’m not just alone, but that I’m lonely. I’m afraid to own that the boundaries of my own mind and the pages of a book may not always be enough to satisfy the longing of my heart to find some kind of meaning. I’m afraid to admit that I don’t want to be alone, because how terrible and embarrassing would it be if my wish never came true and I was left kissing frogs for the rest of my days, desperately hoping one will somehow turn into a prince.

But as if the knotted loose ends know what is to come, it seems that they have already begun to fall, unravelling themselves. Or it could be that they have simply been loosened by other fingers, the same ones that formed me, perhaps, or the ones that have lovingly traced the length of my spine. Or both. I’m not certain that I need to know.

As this old life falls apart, I light a match and touch it to rubble and watch it go up in flames, burning itself into my memory in some great, glorious, fiery impression. One final, blazing salute to the chaos of what was as I turn to embrace the chaos of the unknowable what-will-be.

After all: chaos is a friend of mine.

Esperance

Typically this time of year feels like walking into a strong, biting, winter wind: an arduous and prolonged slogging through time and tasks until you make it safely to the month of March and the promise of warmer weather. I’m a bit of a slogger in general—or rather, I seem to have become one. My mind seems irrevocably tethered to what has already occurred, be it a moment or years ago, and seems to take the brunt of my attention most of the time.

Sometimes this habitual existence in the what-was can be helpful: when I’m able to wedge myself far enough out of the mire to try and use the past to inform my actions in the present. For the most part, though, it merely distracts and disappoints. I so easily lose track of myself-perhaps due in part to being a people-pleaser-as well as lost in the purpose and practices of adulthood. I’ve been out of university for less than a year, nearly halfway through my twenties, and have no idea what I want to be and who I feel I am anymore. A few paramount truths (such as my identity in Christ) remain the same. Everything else feels a little tarnished. There are so many things I am and long to be that I’m neither certain I could ever manage to become them all, nor how to even begin.

Here’s where the past informs the present: I am actively seeking my life’s purpose. This is a many-layerd process that includes the need for a great deal of healing in many areas. I’m back in counselling, and I’m taking the steps needed to get my health on track (even though most days I still don’t want to, and occasionally feel a premonition that it’s pointless). I am beginning to understand that I’m a liar, most especially to myself, and that I am broken in more ways than a handful of identifiable disorders. I’ve begun to admit the truth to myself (and by extension to the rest of the world) a whole host of things big and small– that I don’t want to go to grad school and never did, that I’m not sure what I believe most days, and that I am not fine relegating my creative pursuits to mere hobbies. I’m allowing my dreams to live as more than just vaporous “what-if’s,” and begin to take form through tentative diagrams and blueprints on the page. I want to start cultivating an existence that not only makes room for creativity, but gives it free reign of the entire house. I’m trying to find ways to stop cowering in fear of all the world could offer and take risks for the sake of what could be.

You know for an optimist I’ve lived nothing but pessimistically most of my life.

I’m trying to explore my relationship with God and claw my way out of this spiritually dry season I’ve been studiously ignoring for months now. I know that most of the healing I need cannot be offered by a kind woman in a chair with a notepad and a litany of questions. The pain and the brokenness I know I’m feeling is so much more than mood and circumstances: it’s an issue of the soul and testament to the many fissures streaking their way across my heart. I’ve mastered to art of placing myself higher up and further back into the shadows in hopes that obscurity and ignorance will cause the fractures to heal themselves. When they do it’s usually in the wrong formation, and it comes out further deformed and more deeply broken a thing than it was before. I’m tired of living like this, and ready to face the breaking necessary to set it straight again.

I know when Spring awakens every year. I can tell you the week, even the day, that she begins to stir, and it’s different every year. It can still be bitterly cold outside, it could have been light and warm for a few days before, but there is a distinct difference between a little extra sun and the movement of Spring. I’m not sure if it’s something I imagine or if it’s a strange sixth sense that tells me flowers are coming (because there’s nothing I truly love as much as flowers), but there is a shift and pull, and I always sense it, and it always brings me indescribable joy. Right now I’m beginning to sense a similar stirring, but in my own life and not somewhere beneath my feet.

And while the joy seems yet to arrive, what has come with this particular stirring is hope.