Discontent, Disassociation, Disorder


I’ve been sleepwalking, been wandering all night
Trying to take what’s lost and broken and make it right
I’ve been sleepwalking too close to the fire
But it’s the only place that I can hold you tight
In this burning house…
-Burning House
What happens to a dream deferred?
      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?
      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.


      Or does it explode?
– Langston Hughes

But if you have bitter envyings and strife in your hearts…lie not against the truth. – James 3:14


“The Greek word for confusionakatastasia, has the idea of disorder, instability, chaos, unsettledness, revolt, tumult.” – Steve Pettit, Wisdom from Above




Chaotic Mind

What do you do when you can never be where you are?

When your only focus is so far inward that you can’t see daylight or even know what daylight is?

When what you’re thinking about so obscures life you don’t know what day it is or what you’re doing?

You can’t hear people talking to you.

You can’t see things right in front you.

Because you’re somewhere else.


What do you do?


Do you ignore the internal dialogue?

Do you create a new rhythm to drown out the one slowly taking over your entire self?

Do you rehearse the steps of the day so you can maintain some sort of normality?

Or do you let it sweep you away?


What if you were swept away?


Would you discover new things?

New stories?

New pictures?

New words?

Would you find the answers to the questions you know and don’t know that plague you?

Would you find peace?

Would you find anything at all?


Would the outside world disappear?

Would it just fade?

Or would it move on without you?


What if it can’t be ignored?

Or silenced?


What if it demands to be heard?

What if it’s more important than the task at hand?

Than the person in front of you?

Than anything else?


What if it dominates your life to the point where you’re so disconnected you no longer know what’s rational or not?

What if it is the only sense, the only melody, the only plan, the only anchor?


What if it destroys you?

What if it destroys your life while you’re distracted with its never ending speeches?

What if it gives you everything you want?


What if?

What if?

What if?

Lusts, Choices, Gifts

“From whence cometh wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts, which war in your members?”

James 4:1


Not just between Christians. But within ourselves.

That torrential, disastrous pit of all-consuming fury and despair and want. That comes from lust. That tearing between this world and our eternal home. What we know we need, must, ought to do with what we want, what we feel, what we wish for.

Wishing, desires, wants aren’t bad. They aren’t evil. They can strongly coincide with God’s will.

Wanting a spouse.


To do good and be good.


A good meal.

A pretty dress.


But my discontent comes from wanting. From not resting. From seeing the burden God has given and ignoring the gifts He’s bestowed and wanting something different. From wishing to be free of the inexorable path of righteousness of following His name. From feeling trapped by and into only one set of good choices that do not allow for any deviation.

“Do not sacrifice the eternal on the altar of the immediate.”

Bob Jones Sr.


But do not sacrifice the immediate on the altar of the eternal, either. We are not consigned to misery and only duty and complete, mindless obedience regardless of desire. Our only choices are not just for the doldrums, for the cold, clinical idea that all good things can only be hard and painful.

We get to have simple pleasures.

We get to make choices.

We get to choose. And not just the hemmed in, only one choice is good, Christians can only do, kind of choices.


“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of Lights…”

James 1:17


The Father of Lights. The Father who does not give stones when His children ask for bread. And when His children ask for roses too, He has bouquets and fields and the entire earth waiting for them.

I am allowed to have material pleasures. But they are not my solace.

I am allowed to have people, invest in them, rely on them. But they are not my Saviors.

I am allowed to step into my future. I am allowed to make the hard, clinical choices that lead to that future. But I can also choose to love art. I can still have beautiful things and live a life. I can step outside of grades and hard work and depression and breathe and hold beauty in my hands.

I am not a slave to good choices or my lusts.

But I am the bondservant of my King.

New Tech

I have a new monitor, thanks to the lovely people at IT.


I did submit a ticket, just like one is supposed to. I didn’t request any special privileges based on my connections.


But it still doesn’t hurt that my old supervisor has my number and checked with me on why I needed a new monitor. And it didn’t hurt that the techs are my friends and popped right over. And it doesn’t hurt that I can truly appreciate this fabulous, beautiful, oh so nice widescreen they brought me.

They’re the same privileges everyone else gets.

But it doesn’t hurt to feel at home.

“So what do you do?”

“Do you like your new job?”

“So like, do you call people?”


I work for the Admission Office at Bob Jones University. But I will probably not be calling you on the phone. I know: you’re crushed.

Instead, I am more of a planner.

A coordinator.

A folder of t-shirts.


Basically, I do whatever I can to help make my boss’s life easier. I assist with travel arrangements (and all the bookings that entails) and assemble packages and packets that go to various recruiting events. If you’ve ever gotten a free t-shirt, or a bag with a pen and flyers in it, your college promoting freebie was courtesy of the work of someone like me.

They also trust me to drive and handle the group credit card, which is rather exciting. Not that I can do much damage with the thing, but it’s nice to know I have some level of respectability and trust in my lowly GA position.

Apparently, at certain times of the year, I get to be the personal shopper and wardrobe person for a small number of people we then send off to represent the university for a semester. The fact that someone is trusting my personal judgment and sense of style is not only laughable, but mildly terrifying. I like how I dress, but it has been described as “colorful” and “I couldn’t pull that off” and “I wish I were as brave as you.” Aka, apparently I blind people on a regular basis.

At any rate, I’m very much enjoying myself. The other perk that I did not forsee is that the large majority of the male population in my current social set is married. That 3 months we broke for summer was hitching season. This makes life very much simpler, as if it was complicated before.


In other work-related news, I have also started a position as a server’s assistant at Breakwater. Breakwater is an amazing restaurant in downtown Greenville. So far, I fill waters, clear and reset tables, and generally try to be the opposite of a nuisance to the real wait staff. At this point, I have succeeded except for the one unfortunate incident where I ended up wearing a cocktail. The server carrying the aforementioned beverage was exceedingly gracious, but I still wished I could disappear for a while. Flashy baths aside, I’m loving my new job. As an added bonus, Georgia, my dear friend who has stuck with me since Freshman Orientation, works there as well.


All in all, I’m excited about both positions. Now to see what happens when school kicks in as well.

Lyrics I Love: He Will Hold Me Fast

I have been drifting. There has been a looseness in my daily walk that I’m not proud to admit. I do my devotions every day and the words on the page mean very little to me. I pray and can never manage more than maybe a minute or two of pleas. I am tired of being angry. I am tired of feeling alienated. I am tired of not being able to practice what I believe. It isn’t even that I don’t believe in Christ anymore. It’s that my belief has morphed into something I don’t like. A jaded, cynical look at Christianity that is no more accurate than it is healthy.

I believe that God always is working towards my good. But that my good is pain and suffering on earth.

I believe God has a plan for my life. But that plan must needs be nothing I want and everything to make me miserable.

God loves me. But that means that I have to deal with whatever He gives me, no matter how cruel or pointless or droll.


That is the poison I’ve been only half-heartedly fighting for a while now. That even if God is good, I just have to “endure” for the rest of my life.


Tonight, I was challenged that one of the first signs of a spiritually mature (or maturing) Christian is joy. They are full of joy. They are glad and thankful and they rejoice. I realize, and have always been taught, that joy is not “happiness,” that joy is not just a perky feeling, but can be something deeper.

But darn it, it’s more than just “something deeper.” I don’t mean that irreverently. I don’t mean that “something deeper” is unimportant. I understand that there will still be days of deep grieving that can still have joy.

But joy is a brightness of spirit. It IS happiness: not fleeting or circumstantially driven, but actual, deep-seated happiness. If you’ve ever been truly grateful for something or to someone, you can’t be that grateful and be glum. It is not a passionless experience. It. Is. Glad.

And I am missing that joy, too often, in my life. I know that I am better when I am taking purposeful time to thank and praise God. I know I am more centered and focused on what matters and His actual goodness. Goodness I can see and feel, not just the kind I have to trust in. Not the “suck it up until it pays off in eternity” goodness. I need that joy. I need to be thankful again.

I need to praise God for the God He is, and not for the monster I keep believing (because that’s how I’m living) Him to be.

I need to be full of joy.

A joyful heart is good medicine. Medicine to stop the poison.


When I fear my faith will fail,
Christ will hold me fast;
When the tempter would prevail,
He can hold me fast.

He will hold me fast,
He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so,
He will hold me fast.

I could never keep my hold,
He will hold me fast;
For my love is often cold,
He must hold me fast.

I am precious in His sight,
He will hold me fast;
Those He saves are His delight.
He will hold me fast.

He’ll not let my soul be lost,
Christ will hold me fast;
Bought by Him at such a cost,
He will hold me fast.

He will hold me fast,
He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so,
He will hold me fast.

Even so, let it be.

A Week at a Rather Scattered Glance

I’ve been postponing again. In my defense, I didn’t have wifi in my spare time my first few days here, so I didn’t have the chance to post a blog. But mainly I’ve been postponing.


Since I believe that I have free will and this is my blog, I choose not to talk about Sunday, besides mentioning that Samantha and her boyfriend and that boyfriend’s brother are absolute gems for moving all my crap to the third floor of a building.

That’s a lot of steps and demonstrates a high level of friendship, especially since I brought only a million books.


Monday was my first day, and I take this time to say to all those 8-5 men and women out there: You are bomb. Because mornings are of the devil. They might be him in the physical universe.

One of the nice things about being on grad hall is that your door locks and you get a key. That’s a level of privacy I am unused to, and I appreciate it. However, I definitely thought they were pop locks. You know the kind: twist the handle internally and the lock undoes itself. Turns out: it’s not. I was all ready to go, had my coffee perking and so I decided to take a quick trip to the bathroom, come back for my coffee and then pop off to breakfast for a leisurely 20 minute breakfast.

As I am sure you have figured out, astute reader, I locked myself out of my room. 20 minutes later, Public Safety came to the rescue, I rescued my coffee, ran to the DC and choked down half a bagel and managed to arrive only two minutes late to my first day at work.

The rest of that day, and the days following were similar blurs. I fold shirts (quite efficiently and neatly, I might add). I take care of certain transactions and recording. I maintain, track, and return wardrobe items to their respective stores as necessary. I do certain data entry with Access, which is an Office Suite animal that scares me more than Excel.

Most of my experience with things technological came through IT. Which means that I’ve seen all these programs or websites or networks when they’re broken. Which means that the nicer and more useful and extensive a program, the bigger the explosions and earth-shaking consequences when things go wrong.

Access makes very big, very bad, craters. So I am extremely respectful and wary of it. So far, it has not bitten me too badly, although I did hit a minor rough patch my boss was not overly concerned about.


Besides that, I have lived in my room. I have loved that. Coming “home” to quiet, no people, simple food, a book, an early bed time…These are simple pleasures that really make a difference. With only one or two exceptions, I haven’t talked to anyone after 6 pm all week.


I did get to socialize a bit today in between orientation sessions, which proved rather enjoyable, surprisingly enough. My head didn’t fall off, so I count that a bonus.

The best thing that happened today was my voyage off campus. I’m having a hard time remembering that I am no longer bound to campus. That if I’m feeling bound in, I can leave (within reasonable limits). So tonight, I did.

I went to the library on Heritage Green and got a library card and checked out three books. That is pitiful compared to what I used to do, but times change. And I got to pick out my own card design. I am tickled pink.

Then I ate a quiet dinner and sipped a lemon ale outside a Starbucks and read for a little while.

Then some advertising boys came out with “Honk if you love (insert pizza company).” So I left, because I am not interested in listening to non-stop honking till the sun goes down.

And there that is.

And here we are.



The Future is Now

As I enter another transition period of my life, I am pondering the future.

Things I’d like to have happen. Things I fear will happen. Things I want to avoid and don’t think I can.

I feel like I’m constantly being driven into a logical, tactical corner: the only choice that makes sense is A. You must do A, because it is the best choice, the only moral choice, the choice that fits God’s will, and it will benefit what you want in the long run, won’t it, so why not choose A? Because A is what you’re getting.

But is A going to get me where I want to go? Do I know where I want to go? Am I forfeiting what I am really hoping for by planning a specific future that I’m not even sure I want?


I want my first kiss.

I want a mate that I will become one with.

I want to carrry, and birth, and rear my own children.

I want to rehabilitate and love other’s discarded children.

I want to go to Italy.

I want to paint. Well. Passionately. For long stretches of time without guilt or need to stop.

I want my own house to fix and paint and tend and pay for.


I don’t want to waste my life on Netflix and endless schooling and a job I hate, but I got stuck in a rut to pay for food and now it’s too late. I don’t want a career that will keep me from children or being who I am or is only about money. I don’t want to wake up in 20 years or even 10 and wonder when I stopped dreaming and why life is so pointlessly, logically, one routine step after another.

I want to be a doctor.

I want to heal people.

I want them to understand how to be whole.

But I don’t know how all of those things get to exist together. And parts of those things, I don’t get to choose. I can’t orchestrate a husband or conception or even entrance into medical school. I can’t even manipulate a visa into existence.


I don’t want advice or wisdom or counsel. I don’t want kind words or sympathy. I don’t really want a response at all. But I’m supposed to be writing on this ridiculous blog. I’m supposed to be expressing how I feel and what I’m thinking. But I’m not looking for a dialogue.

I’m tired of this cliche, teen-aged angst. The same growing up struggles everyone experiences and I’m shallow enough to fall prey to. I’m tired of feeling like the only right choice is the one I like the least. Like being spiritual is the moral equivalent of eating bitter vegetables and vitamins because they’re “good for you.” As if life can’t be enjoyed or God’s will is one long punishment until you’re lucky enough to die and go to heaven.

I’m really unwilling to buy into that heresy.

I’ve made my current bed.

I’ll lie in it.

But this year will be a time of evaluation. Goal-setting. A plan for non-misery whenever possible. For a life that is not just “good for me,” but in the vernacular, “good to me.” A life I don’t hate. A life that’s in line with what God wants and won’t make me cry every day.

And that’s all I have to say about that.


In the vein of prosaic, daily things…


I was supposed to have a job this summer. I had submitted a large number of applications to just about everywhere within a 20 mile radius of my home. And then I started the application process at Universal. Unfortunately, nothing panned out. Even the positions that I qualified for and the employer was excited about my experience turned out to be looking for long time work, not just the summer.

Therefore, I have been short my intro payment for BJU in the fall. Although the GA position I have taken will pay my bills once I’m there, I am responsible for the first payment before I start work there.

Which had me googling “Ways to Make Money in a Hurry.” Since selling a kidney on the black market didn’t seem to be a viable option (how to find a buyer?!), I decided upon selling plasma.

At this point, I have made three successful visits and also converted my sister, who is also in need of cash. My last visit was yesterday.

Everything went relatively smoothly. I dropped O off at the Goodwill (to look around, not as a donation) and made my way to the center. I didn’t bleed super quickly this time, which was strange, but there weren’t any complications.

On my way to pick O up, I noticed my sleeve felt wet. Since I’d just been holding a cold water bottle on that arm (my donation arm), I wasn’t surprised. As I looked down, to brush the condensation off my arm, I was surprised to see a puddle of blood spreading up my sleeve. I’m driving and bleeding to death out of my arm, but no biggie, I’m cool. We good. No worries.

I haul up my sleeve with one hand, while driving with the injured arm and sure enough, the cotton wad and stretchy bandage are soaked. Trying not to cuss, I grab a handful of kleenex out of the console, clap it to my elbow with one hand and raise my arm over my head. Which means I’m steering with my knee.

By the time I get to the Goodwill, the fount of living waters has chilled out a bit. I text O that I’m not coming in, primarily because I didn’t want anyone thinking I’d just popped out of a war zone. I get my arm unwrapped, cleaned up, and another kleenex folded onto the gaping cavern on my arm. I loosely tied the ace bandage onto the kleenex wad and patiently waited for O to come out.

But not before I’d handed all our donations to the man at the Goodwill with a bloody sleeve and bandage trailing along behind me.

Someone’s Gone

Tuesday is shaping beautifully. Jess was coming over, which was cause for excitement in and of itself. When she got here, we cooked up some cheater pad thai (an excellent recipe, by the by) and settled down for the real festivities: Jurassic Park.

We have always loved the Jurassic World area of the Universal park, have the ride memorized word for word, and we both hold that John Williams’ composition is the best film score in creation. While Jess has seen the films, I’ve never had access. So when Mamaw lent me her DVD set of all three movies, I told Jess immediately. This date had been on the books for weeks.

About 20 minutes into the movie (we’d just been to the raptor enclosure), Mom got a phone call. I paused the movie so she could hear better. It was the DFL. She was surprised to get a call, because DFL is a texter by nature (one of the reasons we get along so well).


“Oh? Oh!”

“At the church?”

Silence. Silence. Silence. Mom’s mouth drops open. She’s gasping. At this point, Jess and I are focused on trying to understand what could possibly be said on the other end of the line. O comes out of the kitchen, sensing the tone.

Mom hangs up, shaking her head, still gasping for air. “Mama Jean, she’s been in an accident, and we have to go. I need to call your father so we can go.”

Jess quietly excused herself. We tentatively set up a date for next week. Tonight, my family obviously needed to camp out a hospital on a prayer vigil. We needed to make sure Papa was okay. I packed up my bag with crochet materials and book and water. Mom gathered throw blankets and jackets. We are used to waiting in hospital halls. We know what makes it bearable. We know it takes a long time.

As we waiting for Dad to get home, Mom explained that a lady from our church had called DFL’s parents, and he in turn called us. Mama Jean had been hit in the Publix parking lot and had been life-flighted to Lakeland Regional. My first thought was that it couldn’t be too serious, because the car couldn’t have been going too fast. Mama is made of tough stuff. And then Mom said that the car had to be lifted off Mama Jean. And the life flight business also meant it was serious. The lady from church and her husband (close friends of Mama and Papa) were rushing Papa to the hospital to meet the helicopter. Pastor was also on his way.

Since Pastor was already there, we kept checking the church’s Facebook page for an update. We got one. Her situation was serious, but it appeared that she was going to be stabilized. We were praying she would be stabilized.

At this point, I am not worried. There is tension in my chest. But at this point, there is no cause for alarm. This isn’t happening. It is not very serious. Mama is too young, too strong, too stubborn, to be seriously hurt. It was a parking lot. We’d just be waiting to see her after surgery. We just needed to wait. Wait and pray. Everything was fine.

Finally, we get to the hospital. It’s less than an hour after we got the phone call. We park. We’re hurrying, but we are restrained. We have time. We just need to know what’s going and where to go. We curve through hallway after hallway and elevators and finally, finally, reach the emergency room desk. The receptionist calls up.

“Jean Byrum? Yes, has she been moved to surgery yet?”


“So, consulation room 4 and 5? Ok, I’ll send them over.”

Good. They’re taking us to hear her options. They’ll tell us which order the procedures have to be in. That’s good. There’s the consultation room 1, 2, 3, there it is. 4. And yes, this is it, because there’s Mrs. McClaren, waiting. Her back is to us, but she’s hunkered over a cell phone, probably to keep informing church people. Only Pastor and Papa are in the room. That makes sense. They said only a few were allowed at a time.

She turns around. She’s crying, but we’re all tense. Of course she’s crying. One of her best friends was in a car accident.

“She’s gone.”

No. No. No. No. No. Every face crumples. My daddy, my sister, my mother. My mother who does not cry. They are sobbing, we are in a huddle, we are trying to make it not true because she was just here. She was alive, she was going to be stabilized, it was just a parking lot. I am not crying. Because it is not true. Mama is ok. They are confused. My parents are too quick to believe she is gone.

We go in. My big, gentle Papa. The man built like a bear. His thin, genteel, white Southern moustache. He is standing, and his face is something terrible. My daddy goes right to him. Mr. McClaren was by him as was Pastor, but all I can see is two of the biggest men in my life shaking and crying and red and devastated because Mama is gone.

Tissues are distributed by very kind, very quiet hospital staff. I hug Papa. I am crying now because Papa is crying and he wouldn’t be crying if it wasn’t true. I am crying because this means Papa is alone. I am crying because this gentle giant is a calm, sweet presence in my life and his calm has just been ripped apart. The crazy, wild, happy, pop of life that was Mama is not here any more.

They say we can go see her.

Papa goes in alone first. He comes out relatively quickly. So we go in next. O stays outside. She’d caught a glimpse through the door and decided to stay out. I’m so very glad she did.

Because my Mama Jean didn’t look like Mama. Battered. Swollen. Bruised. So. Much. Blood. I found out later that both of her hips and her pelvis had been shattered. I don’t know how bad the bone damage was in her sternum, but she had extensive internal bleeding. Her head was swollen to nearly twice it’s size. Eyes black. But what tore out my heart was that her left ear, right where I was standing, was ripped. Where an ear is supposed to be attached to the head, so smoothly, had a fissure, where the flesh had given way. My poor Mama had all those bones broken, so much blood, but even her ear wasn’t safe. And she was so very tiny. She never got to be 5′ tall. But on a hospital bed, she looked even smaller. Only her hair looked normal. Spiky. Short. Red, red, red.

That was real. There was no “holding it together.” There was no “breathing through it.” There was no “ok.” The sorrow and tears and horror and dismal certainty that poured out of that room could not be expressed forcefully enough by tears. I can feel the soft, reassuring hand on my arm from the chaplain, and I remember thinking that he was very good at not talking or being intrusive. The hospital made a good hire.

Papa signed a paper. They told him about the medical examiner taking the body. Protocol in an accident. A nurse delivering her wedding ring in a red plastic bag. It had been removed before a CAT scan earlier.

We all get together a caravan home. Phone calls. Texts coming in. Going out. Updates sent. Condolences. Requests for information. Prayer groups informed.

At Papa’s house, we find out more. Mama had been conscious. She talked to Papa at the hospital. She said she was sick to her stomach. And we know it was from the blood. They gave her a shot for the pain and she went unconscious. She’s always been such a lightweight. It comes with being a tiny human. But she also has a weak heart. Our firecracker, our unstoppable redhead, had a weak heart. And all of everything was just too much. By our calculations, she died around 3:30. She had died before we had really left home properly.

As the evening progressed, we found out that she hadn’t been planning to go to the store until Thursday. Papa had cooked her her favorite breakfast: bacon and eggs. Normally, she ate cereal. He asked her what her plan for the day was.

“I don’t know, but I’m going to do something!”

She had gathered her two recipes and some supplies. She was making a cake for the Saturday celebration at their clubhouse, and his favorite casserole to take to church Sunday. The recipe was still sitting on the box on the counter. Two mixes were beside it.

She ran up to Publix to pick up some milk and two or three other things. On her way out, an elderly gentleman (the news report said he was 84) and his wife rounded a corner and didn’t see her. The police think he got confused and hit the gas instead of the brake.

When we went to Publix to see if they had found her keys, there was no sign that life had fallen out of kilter. Nothing to indicate that we weren’t the same. That death happened here. We talked to the manager on duty at the time, because we’d been told they were holding her groceries. The manager, and the clerk who called 911, and then a few others came over, telling us, offering condolences, saying that the milk had busted, did we want them to gather what she had? They thought they knew what it was. Mom said no, that wasn’t important. And then the manager asked if we wanted her shoes.

Her little, slip-on Nike “yard shoes.” In a Publix bag. So tiny. So final. She didn’t even have her shoes.


Mom said it best when she picked up a few essentials for Papa last night. Milk, because they needed it. Some more water. She walked through Wal-Mart, and everyone else is just living their lives, bustling about, and no one knows that she was not just picking up milk. That we had lost someone today. We lost someone very important. And very tragically. And no one knows.

Someone’s gone. Life is not going to be the same. And yet life things have to keep happening. Waking up. Eating. Laundry. Mowing the yard. Sleeping.  Stupid, everyday, normal things that shouldn’t be allowed to exist because she is not here. And she will not be here.

And I can’t believe she’s gone.

But she is.

Someone’s gone.