for all brutal youth

this is going to hurt


When Astrid was a slender five year old, her life was mostly about circles.

In school, her kindergarten teacher asked the class to sit in circles for sharing time, story time and game time. Astrid’s favourite game was duck, duck, goose. After she got over her fear of being tapped on the head and hearing ‘goose’. It took her a while to settle into the trust that she wouldn’t be told to stay out of the circle once she was out.

It wasn’t until her mid-thirties that she learned the term ‘immersion therapy.’

At home, the circles were different. Mostly they were invisible and the terms that needed to be fulfilled in order to be included were murky and they changed at the drop of a hat. During the best times.

The fact that she was running to keep up was the same, so there was that small comfort.

Not all the circles in her youth at home were invisible, though, and these were the circles that she wished more than anything were invisible.

Her father had been the first person to bring cockfighting into Canada from Mexico. First, he got his friends to buy in with roosters or hens of their own. In his version, it didn’t matter if it was a cock or a hen. Both worked equally well, was his theory before it began, and he set out to prove it.

In the beginning, there was really only three other friends with three birds – one cock and two hens. He threw his hen in the circle just to see what would happen.

He didn’t tell anyone, but his plan was to build up a scene in his city, Toronto, so he could make money throwing fights and – most of all – by flying in rich men who were sick of the same old scene in Mexico.

Astrid’s father wanted to be a captain of industry type, but he’d throw it all away if there was no way to do it without it being completely invisible in his every day life.

So, she grew up in dimly lit circles that came together on dirt floors in secret.

Her father’s two friends were a married couple with two kids – a boy and a girl – who Astrid called her cousins. His third friend was his wife. Astrid had a younger sister who was just getting steady on her feet when these fights started.

He made it sound like so much fun. He compared it to the WWF but with animals. And he made sure to impress upon her and her cousins that the wrestling was not real. The men were play fighting. They wore costumes and capes to fit into a role. It was the characters who fought, not the men themselves. And most importantly, nobody ever got hurt, even when it looked like someone got hurt. It was not real. Just like these cock fights.

And looking back, who could blame the man for telling a tiny lie in order to protect the children? Well, only those who knew that he had also lied to protect himself, and in fact, that was his main motivation. But who could expect a man like that to be a good father? Only a young daughter. Nobody but a daughter.

That was why he insisted on keeping the cockfighting separate from his ‘real’ life.

Astrid and her cousin Lucy were both pretty excited to be part of the first fight. It sounded grown up and, yes, somehow glamorous as well. But most grown up things were glamorous to an almost four year old and a six year old.

As their eyes adjusted to the low light, the men set up and the women smoked cigarettes.

When they were all standing in a circle, Astrid’s dad and her uncle, who was really her godfather, made it feel like the WWF by play fighting smack talk with each other just like the wrestlers did and then winking at the girls.

Astrid’s dad counted backward from ten and then fired a starting pistol. But they stood there with their birds in their hands.

Her godfather called over to them. “Why don’t you guys get in the circle and play fight instead? Just this one time! It will be fun!”

The girls were confused. They had never play fought with each other. Astrid’s dad kind of shrugged and said why not? The men put their birds back in their cages.

Lucy’s dad took her hand and pulled her into the circle. Astrid’s dad did the same.

Inside the circle it was like a completely different world. The girls were nervous. Astrid could barely move. So, the dads sat down toe to toe in the circle and pulled the girls onto their laps.

They whispered into the girls’ ears that they didn’t have to be nervous, that it would be more fun if they were relaxed and enjoying the adventure. They told the girls to pretend to push each other, but Astrid and Lucy looked at each other with fear in their eyes.

So the dads said they were going to try something else. Instead of play fighting, why didn’t they get up and pretend to be models together? Maybe pretend to be the girls who walked the ring during wrestling matches. Could they do that, the dads wanted to know?

The girls laughed and stood up. They felt kind of silly at first, walking around pretending to be models like Tyra Banks and whoever was popular then. Astrid was feeling tense. There was a flip flop feeling in her tummy but she didn’t know why. Lucy grabbed her hand and held on tight. Being the older cousin, Lucy was always trying to protect Astrid.

Then the dads told them to dance. No, don’t be shy. It’s just for fun. Hey, you were the one who didn’t want to fight, remember?

So the girls danced. They giggled and moved their feet side to side as Lucy held Astrid’s hand. They spun in circles when the dads told them to spin.

Then the dads told Lucy to put her hands on Astrid’s shoulders. They told Astrid to put her hands on Lucy’s waist. The dads hummed a popular song as the girls danced face to face in circles.

The dads told Astrid to give Lucy her hand like she was a lady being helped down from a carriage back in the olden day’s, just like in the movies.

The dads told Lucy to kiss the back of Astrid’s hand. Her lips felt tickley and soft.

Then the dads clapped their hands together and jumped up from the dirt floor. They said it was time to stop pretending and get the cockfight started.

Lucy and Astrid were told exactly where to stand. When they asked to sit, their request was granted. Lucy pulled Astrid up onto her lap. All of Astrid’s muscles were tense. She couldn’t relax no matter how hard she tried. She wanted to be good. She wanted to be able to follow instruction with no fear and it made her alternately sad and frustrated when her body would not comply.

The dads invited the others to stand in the circle and started to count backward from ten again. This time when the starting pistol was fired, everyone dropped their birds into the circle.

The girls watched. As the reality of the violence began to sink in, both of their bodies went numb.

When Astrid’s dad’s hen was advancing on her godfather’s hen, Lucy held her hand tighter, rubbing circles into the base of Astrid’s thumb with the pad of her own. When Lucy’s dad’s hen was advancing, Lucy tried to comfort Astrid the same way.

There was blood on the dirt floor. The sound of the birds screeching in pain was unbearable. Feathers went flying everywhere.

And then Astrid’s mom’s hen came at her dad’s hen. She had been fitted with razor blades on her feet. The most terrifying feeling came when Astrid’s dad and godfather started screaming at Astrid’s mom while the girls could do nothing but watch as the one bird sliced the other bird right in the face.

More blood on the dirt floor.

The fight was called as the razor blade hen was disqualified.

Astrid’s dad turned that very first cockfight into an empire.

my 999 birds

the scent still haunts me on random days

I wrote this prayer on Feb 14, 2018 but I didn’t really finish it and I didn’t share it.

I was thinking about my Osprey again this afternoon and I remembered my prayer. I think it’s time to share.

Abba Father, with You everything is possible. Your love is the most powerful healing force in this universe. I’ve felt Your peace and I know what that does to my sense of security, my faith. Even momentarily, feeling Your love so intensely in a way that not even my ego could deny has had lasting effects on the way I walk in this world and I’m so grateful for this.

Yet I still struggle with confidence sometimes, God, which hinders my ability to bring your love through me in a way that I know will change my life and the lives of my loved ones. I need Your help. I don’t really know how to feel confident in following my heart anymore – especially when it seems like the directive makes no sense, and especially when doing so forces me to face fears that some days keep me locked in the dark and bc of the way I have grown, my brain needs to know at least one answer to the questions: what why how when where who.

You’ve given me none of those answers, God, yet You keep at me with this one thing I’ve been avoiding. I confess I’ve heard Your directive and I’ve put it off bc I’m looking for more understanding first.

But if I’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s that You ask me to leap before You show me why and sometimes even what and where.

Here’s the thing, God. I woke up this morning thinking about the day I found the dead osprey. Again.

It keeps coming back to mind and I don’t know why. I don’t know what it has to do with now. I don’t know why it’s taken over my dreams and now it’s invading my waking life.

The summer of 2016, I spent a lot of time at a beautiful public park on the water. I got to know two osprey who were raising a family in a nest high up on the top of a ball diamond light tower.

I had trouble telling the difference between the female and the male because ospreys are similar size and colour.

But one day that summer I had lunch with her. I had a feeling it was a her, so I called her her.

It was an incredible experience, Father, one that made me feel closer to You before I knew Your name.

That afternoon I felt called to go to a slightly different place in the park. Normally I would sit with my back against an oak tree where I could ground and pull in the healing sound and sight of the water.

But I felt pulled to my right a bit. And there was a picnic table that had been moved over there. I sat down and started eating my lunch. The view was beautiful. It was peaceful and restorative. Sounds of the water, small ground animals, birds and far off boat engines and laughter coming from the beach on the other side of the bay.

Even in this peaceful environment, my mind was wondering, ‘why did I feel pulled to here? why was the picnic table moved? was it a coincidence?’

Then I heard the unmistakable call of an osprey. I looked all around. She called again. It takes me a while to figure out where sound is coming from. She called a few times and I finally found her. She was perched in a tree above me just to the right of where I had been looking. She was up there looking out over the water for her family’s lunch.

I stopped eating and stared. I slowly got up. I took careful steps toward the tree, looking up, saying hello.

She didn’t fly away. God, this was the most amazing feeling. She is such a majestic creature, so big and regal. She’s the biggest bird in this area and she knows it. And she carries it well. I got the feeling from her that she had never felt fear in her life. Not in a way that stopped her from anything.

I stared up at her, smiling, asking if it was okay for me to take her photo. She didn’t fly off.

So I started taking pictures. More as a way to get closer to her and to have a souvenir than anything else. It was a once in a lifetime experience for me to be that close to a bird of prey in the wild.

As You know, God, after that, I stopped by the nest to say hello each time I came to the park. If she was off looking for fish, I would look for her and she would look for me. It was beautiful. She would call to me when she saw me coming up the field. Singing hello hello I missed you where do you go I can’t find your nest.

She would watch the parking lot for my car and I think it confused her that I never came from a car. I told her I take the bus.

We had a wonderful relationship, God, and I felt blessed. It felt like something wonderful just for me. My inner child loved every minute of it. So thank You.

And then, one day in early September, her call was different. God, I’d never heard her sound like that, but I immediately recognized something was wrong.

She flew across the field to the water and I followed her. I took the route along the shore. And the closer I came to finding which tree she had perched in, the more a sense of dread bloated my belly.

And then I saw it from a distance. I remember saying to myself, please let it be a raccoon. But it wasn’t. I knew it was her dead spouse before I saw him.

She was distraught, God. It scared her to be on this side of the park now. She didn’t know what was safe anymore. She didn’t want to fish anymore. Not out of grief, but fear that whatever had killed her spouse from the water would kill her and her offspring.

I sat down at a picnic table and I looked up at her. I told her I would help her. I think I might have said, ‘it will be okay don’t worry I’ll fix this.’

God, I admit I thought it would be as simple as making a call to have the dead bird removed and some tests would be done to figure out how he died. I thought this because osprey are a protected species.

But when I called, nobody could help me. I was told they don’t remove bodies. I was told they don’t test one single bird. If there was a few birds and some fish or a whole bunch of birds, they would send someone out.

I told her I would be back. I told her I would keep trying. And I did. I came back every day to check on her. I prayed.

That first day I was worried because she was still singing her grieving song. I checked the shoreline to see if he had been removed. No. He was still there.

I sat at the picnic table again and made more calls. I spoke with an expert who couldn’t come out but told me the likely cause of death was lead in a single fish. Which meant that she wasn’t in danger of being poisoned. Because other fish weren’t washing up on the shore and no other birds in the area had died in masses.

I told her it was okay to eat. I told her the lake was okay. I told her he got unlucky and found the one fish that was poisoned. I told her no other birds or animals had died. That was the only thing that convinced her to eat.

I checked on her each day for nine days until I finally found a way to take away her pain.

She was eating and feeding her children, God, but knowing that her mate was lying in shallow water decomposing in the summer heat really upset her.

By the ninth day I had tried everything I could think of. I called people I knew from another life. I got as many numbers as I could. The last few days I was waiting on a response from a local wild life lover who, I’d been told, might be able to help.

By the time he got back from vacation, it was nine days after the Osprey had died. The smell was terrible. It was caught in my nose for weeks after, and has come back up over the last two years now and then.

It turned out this man couldn’t help either. He gave me some handy tips on how to collect the body without getting a disease. He said I could put it in a garbage bag and I can’t remember if he suggested throwing it out or burying it.

This was a fucking bird, God. I just could not bring myself to toss it’s half decomposed body into a garbage bag no matter what I was told to do with it after.

I felt in way like I had failed my Osprey. I had told her I’d figure it out. And I had been determined to find a way.

When I had exhausted all of the options I thought of, another idea suddenly popped into my head. I guess once I gave up on the idea of a proper burial, I was willing to open the door to new ideas. And there it was – the solution.

I called the park’s maintenance crew and let them know there was a terribly smelly decomposing animal caught up on the shallow rocky shore. I said the scent was becoming unbearable.

These people fixed the problem. The next day I came out I saw the body was gone and my Osprey was much lighter in her heart. The park staff had just pushed the body out into the deeper park of the lake, where the vultures were sure to find him. And I cried. But my Osprey was happy.

So, God, I don’t understand why this awful experience, which started on September 9, 2016 and lasted nine days, is coming back to me again and again.

Have I left something undone? Have I missed an important step in bringing closure to this experience?

Please let me know in a way that’s easy for me to understand. Please bring Your Holy Spirit to me, indwelling in my heart, so I can gain a supernatural understanding of this entire situation and everything and everyone involved.

Help me bring closure to this upsetting experience in a way that brings peace and divine blessings, healing and protection to everyone involved.

I ask for miracles, divine intervention, divine intercession and full divine support.

Above all else, God, I ask that Your will be done, not mine.

I love you.

A Mother’s Heartbreak

you have said it

Dear God, Dear Jesus, my beloved Lord and saviour,

I’m trying to reach you, but the air is dense around here. Even though I cannot hear you and cannot feel you where I am, I know, Lord, that you pursue me with your unfailing love all the days of my life no matter where I wander. You hear my worries and my doubts and confessions, and though you feel far away, you answer our prayers.

Dear Abba Father,

Everything is possible for you because your love is the most powerful healing force in the universe, in all of creation, and it always has been and it always will be. Please take this cup of suffering from us, for it is painful and tiring. And some of that pain feels so bitter against our skin and in our bellies.

We are not weak, Eloheim, yet this punishment feels so relentless and unfair. After everything that we’ve been through, the way we have been persecuted from our earliest youth, this rebuke feels like too much and we turn from you in these moments.

Should we not be taken into your loving arms and held until you love us the way Jesus son of David did, the way Abraham and Issac and Jacob, Israel, did? Should we not be nurtured and protected and fought for by you, God, the way we missed in our childhood? Should we not be granted rest before you judge us and convict us? We are so weary, God, we need Christ Jesus to carry us all day long and all through the night until each one of us can truly walk on our own.

Abba Father, please take this suffering from us, yet we want your will to be done, not ours. For you will for us to be peace filled and joyous. You will for us to have our needs taken care of. You will for us to be free. We deserve to be free, yet parts of us still struggle to believe this fully. Help us, Lord, to soften and open our hearts so we can allow your love to carry us. Help us, Lord, feel worthy, truly worthy, of your love, even though we are nothing compared to you, even though we would not exist without you, our creator, even though as humans we make mistakes every single day. Show us your love, Abba Father, in ways that meet us where we are.

Oh Sovereign God,

I have a confession to make. I have no idea what I am doing and yet you’ve handed me so much responsibility – like, if I am not centred when I hold the full weight of it I topple forward – and this feels so similar to some ways I’ve been persecuted from my earliest youth. To be given such high expectations to meet, yet to be not given the clear instruction I can hear, confirm, see.

Eloheim, the God of my father and my grandfather and my greatgrandfather,

I cry out to you and ask that you remember the covenant you made with us. I don’t want another failure. I don’t want to be another example of what to avoid and why. Yet, if that is your will for me, Abba Father, I accept my fate, my true fate. Yet, if that is your will for me, I feel like I have already fulfilled my purpose.

So why am I still here?

God, you have handed me such an arduous weight with this responsibility of caring for so many children. Me, I confess to you God, I have been trying to be a loving mother on my own. I confess that I have no idea what I’m doing. None. I confess that what I’ve been trying hasn’t worked. I confess to you, God, that I need your help. I need you to help me with everything, God. You gave me so many children to care for, Eloheim, but I am just a girl myself in many ways. How can you look at me and see a person who deserves to be handed such responsibility? What do you see in me that says, This is a woman who can care for thousands of children. More. More? More children that I can count. What is it about me specifically that makes you so certain I can handle this responsibility?

Because, God, of all my children scattered around the world, I cannot say that each is safe, that each knows s/he is loved, that each feels a true joy, that each knows their purpose, or even that they have a purpose.

I confess, Abba Father, that some of my children have fallen into the hands of the devil, and I have tried everything I can think of to free them, but nothing has worked. I confess, God, that I see this as a failure on my part. I confess, God, that some of my children have willingly run to the devil, being driven by the desire to destroy themselves or others or both.

This is my greatest heartbreak, God, and I confess that I have been trying to heal my heart on my own, and that nothing I’ve done has really worked and that I need your help.

Oh, to walk on this earth as you did as Jesus of Nazarene, so filled with faith and free of nagging worry.

I confess, God, that I have allowed both my guilt and resentment interfere with the way I parent and love the other children. Guilt for not giving them enough of what they need to keep them out of the devil’s arms, under his thumb, and resentment toward the devil himself.

What kind of lost child makes it his life purpose to defy you, to punish you, to bring harm to your children because he knows it will hurt you? What kind of lost child rips out all of the human parts of himself so he won’t be manipulated the way that he manipulates these children?

All to prove to you that he doesn’t need your love. That he doesn’t need your power or protection. That he can not only get along without you but that he can do better without you. And then it wasn’t enough for him to do well without you. He needed to prove to you that others don’t need your love or power or protection. And to prove all of these things to himself.

He has persecuted everyone from his earliest youth. And I tried to love him, Father, I tried to give and give and give him love and shelter and the security of knowing there’s power he can access through you that won’t electrocute him, but he never wanted this love. He wanted to control your love and everyone who loves you. He did it to destroy you and everyone who loves you. I know now, God, that his heart will always be hardened, heavy, but he is one of your children, too, and each of your children deserve your love.

God, I am terribly afraid that I’ve been too caught up in this cycle to properly care for all of my children. This cycle of loving because I want to believe that love will change the world, anger as the scales are ripped from my eyes by his depravity and absolute disregard for all life, fear, resentment that he has tricked me again, and then trying love just one more time.

Here I am, Almighty Lord, trying to offer whatever shelter and light I find in you, too pitifully caught up in my own fear of failure to turn any person away – even those who do not welcome me – and to shake the dust from my feet as a public testimony against them.

I confess, God, that part of me cannot believe that love isn’t powerful enough to change even the most wicked and hardhearted because it makes me feel helpless as a mother. If this nurturing momma love that comes straight through me from you cannot break open each human who walks on this earth, all who have ever walked on this earth, then I don’t know how I can believe it’s powerful at all. I don’t understand your power if it opens one heart and not another.

Each of the children you’ve entrusted to me has the power to keep their heart closed.

How can you ask me to walk away? How can you ask me to leave them alone? Even when they are unreachable, God, I’m the mom who will sit beside them just so they know the lies that the devil tells about not being worthy of love are not true. Even when they can’t really see me there beside them, I know part of them knows I am there. And I believe this presence might just make the difference on those really bad days.

I know this is probably part of the reason you gave me this responsibility. But I’m tangled somehow, loving sideways.

I need you to help me, God. I need you to promise me that even before I fully leave, you will be there beside them. And even if they can’t hear or feel you where they are, I need you to promise me that it’s enough.

Help me believe that you will keep them safe from the devil while I’m away. Help me forgive the devil for all the ways he has destroyed my children, your children, our children, God, all for the sake of his guarding his own broken heart by turning it to stone. Help me forgive myself, God, for not protecting them from his sneaky, devious ways. Help me forgive myself for not being able to free these children, God.

Tell me I did everything you asked, God. Tell me I haven’t failed. Tell me my love was enough, even for those children who never felt it.