Ever since childhood, I’ve addressed God as “Lord” in my prayers. It’s a common term and an appropriate one. Over time, though, I’ve covered it with rust and dust. “Lord” is the powerful, all-knowing, benevolent being who I keep disappointing. All he wants is the best for me - if only I would obey him perfectly, think more rightly, doubt less and listen more closely. “Lord” watches me struggle, shaking his head in silent frustration. I fall short every day and he’s tired of my explanations. I’m wearing his patience thin. But he would never leave me, so instead I retreat from him. How can I go to him for help when all my troubles are of my own making?

Shame has tainted my image of “Lord” so this year I searched for a new name to reframe my relationship with God. I’ve never felt comfortable with “Father” - that feels too stilted. And calling him “Daddy” feels somehow disrespectful to my wonderful earthly father. So I settled on “Abba” - the Aramaic term for father that Paul invited the Romans to adopt now that they were adopted by God. A call from slavery into sonship.

My relationship with Abba felt awkward at first, but as the word grew familiar in my mouth and on the page, I began to sink into his presence. With Abba, I am weak. I crumble. I know nothing and I fear my next steps. So I look to him, my Abba, for comfort and direction. He wraps me in his arms and I’m allowed to fall apart. He’s familiar with all my tears. In overwhelming moments, “Abba” escapes from my chest as an unconscious prayer synonymous with “Help!” I don’t know what else to do, but he does.

The greatest lesson I am learning: Abba wants nothing from me. All he wants is me.


Have you experienced the cosmic? It’s okay, you can whisper it, gently, here in my ear. I believe you. I’ve felt it, too.

The destiny of arriving in an unknown city to discover your ideal habitat, prepared for you in secret so you could thrive in freedom. The concert conducting lightning so sacred you can hear the seraphim singing. The person who sees you like no one else can, when all this time you thought you were alone in the world. Your whole body crackling with homecoming, a golden thread tying your soul to another.

Has the cosmic ever betrayed you? The thread transmutes to barbwire. Your city breaks its promise, rendering itself a stranger. The risk you sent boldly flying at God’s friendly urging falls short and crumples underfoot.

All my life, I've sought the cosmic. The places and people who feel so right that all the waiting was worth it.

“Is there someone else?”
“No. No. But there is the dream of someone else.”

Hope is what keeps us alive. But the longer I live, the more reasons I have to distrust it. More reasons to hold God responsible. To doubt the times I heard his voice. Or thought I did? I am not to be trusted, and neither is he. The cosmic - that foolish feeling - still arrives unannounced, but my trust is long broken. It moves on quickly, sensing it isn’t welcome.

But the phantom limb of my reaching soul still shivers. My hasty amputation leaves me aching for what was lost. I miss the joyful folly of dreaming. The energizing indulgence of big feelings. The naïveté of hope. Or could it be strength? The courage to choose the unpredictable possibility of wonder, the slim chance of mysteries revealed. To chase what could be. To see pain as proof of life. A pinch to convince I’m alive, not dreaming.

Oh cosmic, I’m sorry. I’ll search for you again.

"bodies fashioned out of dirt and dust / for a moment we get to be glorious” - Four by Sleeping At Last


When you're in it, you don't feel sad. You feel frustrated. That it's taking you so long to do your taxes. Even the dishes. Another head of rotting lettuce rolls into the bin. You feel ashamed. Because your motivation has siphoned off, along with your optimism. You feel scared. How did you end up here? Again. You swore you wouldn't let it get this bad again. Yet here you are. You feel dumb. You didn't see the signs. You thought you were stronger. Now you're in it again, and you feel so weak.

Sometimes a realization untangles the knot. More often than not, it's time. The cords relax and your energy seeps back. You have a few good days. Sunshine filters through gauzy curtains. Your task list shows movement. Finally. But the guilt still hangs on you like an ill-fitting sweater. The wasted time. You text your friends, hoping they don't feel neglected.

When you're in it, it's hard. When you're almost out, it's just as tricky. Take off too fast and your muscles seize. So walk slow, breathe deep, and stretch your legs. That's more than enough for today.

The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.
– Psalm 103:13-14

The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you."
– 1 Kings 19:7

Adrian PatenaudeComment

I’ve had my share of sad vacations. I’m well aware my emotions don’t go away when I do. Taking trips, moving cities, changing jobs or churches - all are enticing experiences with their promise of newness, but they’re rarely the answer to my problems. What I’m tired of is me, and I’m always here.

The past weeks have been a wintry mix of uncertainty, relational stress, difficult conversations and unexpected burdens. Exhausted and withdrawn, I grew paralyzed in my vacation planning for the year because why would I spend money to be lonely and overstimulated in a different city? As a physical manifestation of my mental and emotional burnout, I caught a cold and lay in bed hoping the world would stop spinning long enough for me to find my footing. The last thing I felt like was leaving my apartment, much less the city.

But an unplanned work trip to NYC rolled me rudely out of bed and the next afternoon I found myself climbing the stairs of a midtown subway station and gazing up at the shining skyline of one of my favorite cities! Two days before, I was convinced vacation was overpriced escapism. But in the moment, I couldn’t believe my luck. Even though doomsday brain continued to intrude upon my weekend, I still ended up having a jam-packed, breathless, inspiring good time. Just as my cold lingered, my feelings never went away, but I had refreshing new emotions to interrupt the monologue.

Since then, the fever has broken and hope feels less like an unproven panacea. My heart is still heavy with the state of the world, but I don’t want my pessimism to shut me off from positive possibilities. That’s no way to live. I wasn’t looking for this trip, but it happened, and God said that it was good. Sometimes I need a hard shove to find my wings. Next time, I hope I’ll take off sooner.

Adrian PatenaudeComment

I started reading a new book this weekend, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. I’ve been familiar with the TCK terminology since childhood and was heavily involved in a TCK group in college but it’s been awhile since I’ve made it a priority to explore the subject. To my surprise, I was in tears by Chapter 2.

As I read through the TCK definition and all the factors that affect kids with cross-cultural upbringings, I found my heart sinking with familiar insecurity. Maybe it’s all in my head but I feel like TCKs have an unspoken ranking system determined with questions like, “How many countries have you lived in? How old were you when you first moved? How many languages do you speak?” I’m not a super-TCK because I only lived in one country and culture other than my passport country (-5). But I did arrive when I was a toddler (+3) and we were often the only foreigners in our rural area (+4). I also speak Thai better than many of the international school kids (+2) but not as well as the kids who went to public school (-1). Once again, I find myself looking for reasons why I’m not enough.

The more I read, the more I stooped under the regret I’ve been carrying since childhood. Would my Thai be better if I had been bold enough to venture outside the house more often? Would I have more of a Thai mindset and culture if I had made more friends? I did my best to savor what I knew was a unique childhood but shame still whispers in the back of my mind when I stumble over words. I was immersed. Shouldn’t I be fluent by now?

I broke down when I realized I was reading a book about childhood development. The subjects are kids with an unusual background, yes, but kids just the same. I was me back then, but I was still a child. In that moment, I felt compassion wash over me instead of shame and regret. Why wouldn’t I be a shy little thing, painfully self-conscious, when people stared at me every time I went outside? Why wouldn’t I feel socially anxious, even around my friends, when I always felt left out of some big inside joke? Of course I did my best! Of course I did. I cried it out, a grief I didn’t know I carried. And so I begin to shrug off the burden.

Adrian PatenaudeComment

I'm still struggling not to see 2018 as a waste. I don't have much clarity about the future. My anxieties have multiplied. My depression has a name now but it's as heavy as ever. I usually love this time of year for all the prepping and the planning and the dreaming. But this time my new year feeling is more like the Saturday morning rush of urgency, quickly followed by the crushing resignation that I'll only be able to accomplish a fraction of my to-do list.

I wish I could laugh off my distress but I do want to have compassion for the disappointment shadowing the spirit of this year’s planning. I failed to meet many of my goals last year, so now I'm hesitant to commit for fear of breaking more promises. In 2018, my dreams were postponed again, so any hopes for 2019 feel like creative new ways to break my heart.

But HOPE is the word I've chosen to live by this year, so I must learn to embrace it! Throughout 2019, as I ponder my direction in life (and attempt to ignore Doomsday Brain), I'll be meditating on Psalm 25: 4-5.

Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.

With that in mind, here's my overly-ambitious list of hopes for 2019:

  • Early to bed, early to rise

  • Stop using sugar as a coping mechanism

  • Write morning pages

  • Work towards a new poetry chapbook

  • Write more about the books, movies, music and art I love 

  • Use my feet/bike/bus to get around

  • Publish personal essays as a warm-up to my eventual memoir

  • Spend less time staring at my phone

  • More baking, cooking, crafting, fangirling and photography

  • Reduce, reuse, recycle

  • Establish a daily thankfulness practice

  • Explore my fashion sense (sustainably whenever possible)

  • Go on some dates (????)

  • Feel less ashamed about where I stand spiritually and politically 

  • Be more courageous about sharing my voice with my audience

  • Learn more about what it means to be a Third Culture Kid

  • Greater honesty with God and with myself

  • Write letters and call my family

  • Host more parties!

Adrian PatenaudeComment

depression feels like
not having the right to be sad because my life is pretty great and other people struggle so much more than me

depression feels like
letting down the people i love because i’m struggling, but not reaching out to them for help because i probably sound like a broken record

depression feels like
exhaustion and a lack of motivation because participating in the world beyond the bare minimum only leads to heartbreak and disappointment

depression feels like
minimizing my pain because at least it’s not as bad as it was back then and maybe this is as good as it gets

depression feels like
not wanting to call it depression because i’m probably just feeling sorry for myself anyway...

I wrote this a month ago to practice putting into words the heaviness and shame I’ve been feeling on and off for much of my young adult life. I’m more comfortable with melancholy than most (hi yes, enneagram four here) and I’m generally a self-aware person, so I thought feeling this way was normal for me. And it is normal, in the sense that most people experience a level of depression and anxiety at certain times in their life. But I thought I could pull myself out of it on my own through hard work and healthier habits. I had no idea my stigma against therapy had gone so deep that I could encourage others to go but had never considered it for myself. When the sheer scope of my blind spots finally dawned on me, I felt like a failure. Even now, I doubt the wisdom of sharing this post. But if it wasn’t for other people talking openly about how the tool of therapy has helped them, I wouldn’t have reached this point. So I’m here to say with as much simplicity and sincerity as possible: We’re all humans who need a little help sometimes (including me).

Adrian PatenaudeComment

I keep my questions to myself, mostly. I’d hate to be labeled as a “struggling” Christian, though nothing describes my faith quite so honestly. “It’s okay to have doubts,” the pastor says. “Even I have doubts.” But has he ever asked the questions I do? The ones that feel like loose threads which, if pulled, threaten to unravel the delicate fabric of my beliefs.

The way we talk about “losing" our faith makes it seem like faith is a misplaced key, a wedding band, a stolen passport. Is it that easily buried in the bottom of our backpacks? Does it fall out of our pierced ear one day, never to be seen again, with only its duplicate to remind us? Faith feels like a mustard seed: Small, and easily lost.

Let’s try a different metaphor, shall we? Faith is not so fragile. Faith is fingers in the Messiah's side. Faith is a doubter begging for belief. Faith is Jesus saying, “Don’t be afraid.” He stands, steady as ever. The wind blows, I panic, and faith is Jesus reaching down to save me from drowning. In that moment, I realize: It was never the waves I was standing on. “I’m here. Take courage.” Jesus speaks, and the sea calms.

Adrian PatenaudeComment

Magnolias always seem to bloom later than I think they should. As soon as I notice the days lengthening, my impatience for summer has me searching their lush green leaves for signs of the fragrant gifts to come. It’s June and the blossoms have made their formal debut. I’ve already made myself dizzy from breathing in their essence.

I’m impatient with myself, too. I already feel like a late bloomer. People often call me an old soul and I had just turned 17 when I started college, so since then I’ve been determined to take advantage of my head start. When I graduated, I was so sure of my purpose in life despite the path itself being misty and dimly-lit. I thought I could skip the “lost 20-something” stage. But here I am, about to turn 25, and my so-called dreams have lost their shimmer. I’m not who I thought I was. I’m certainly not who I thought I should be. Instead, I’m someone different.

I’ve been grieving this ever since my realization in March. But it has also felt like a long, slow exhalation of relief. As spring turns to summer, I’m settling into the fact that I don’t have to live up to the fantasy version of myself - the badass female Oscar-winning director (which sounds exhausting, frankly, knowing the film industry). Instead, I can be myself. The version of myself that I am right now, sitting at my desk, typing this out on my iPhone. I’m the lost 20-something who is just starting to know herself, who likes writing in coffee shops, who loves her soft cat, who is sometimes motivated but usually slow-moving, who spends too much time on Twitter and not enough time swimming (even though she loves it), who goes to sad movies alone because it feels so good to cry, who loves her city but still isn’t sure where to call home, who nurtures succulents on her windowsill and a sourdough starter in the back of her fridge. Maybe I’m not a late bloomer. I’m just anxious for summer and forgot to enjoy spring. Each season has its own vibrant blossoms, so drink them in, drink them in.

what if we already are
who we’ve been dying to become
in certain light i can plainly see
a reflection of magnificence
hidden in you
maybe even in me
– 'Four' by Sleeping At Last