Tag Archives: life

I Want Alone

I want a cornfield, darn it.
I want to walk the lane back to the woods, just me, Jesus, and a border collie
I want to sit on the rock at the edge of the forest
Praying out loud into the air over the rolling fields
I want the train tracks, the gully filled with jagged rocks just behind Dawn’s house
I want to sit on the edge, throwing stones off the bank as hard as I can
Watching them crash and break and crack
The only time therapy will ever be free.
I want Piatt Lake. I want to sit on the lifeguard stand
Watching God paint the sky in hues my eyes can scarcely take in.
I want to dangle my legs off the footbridge
To listen to the frogs and crickets sing their nighttime songs
I want to wrap myself in a blanket and sit on the pontoon
I want to find stories in the millions of stars
To watch a meteor shower reflected in the glassy lake.
I want to drive, for hours and hours, miles and miles.
I want open road, without traffic, just me
Just me and the playlist that, if you listened closely enough
Would tell you my life story.
I want alone.
There’s no alone here.
There’s plenty of community, and community is wonderful, but there’s no alone
And sometimes, we all need a little bit of alone.
I want to cry, the kind of deep, raw, cleansing cry that only happens when one is alone.
I want to process without having someone knock on the door every 5 minutes,
Asking how I am, how I’m doing, what’s going on, am I okay?
I want ALONE.
I want to ask my questions without it being assumed that I’m struggling or not doing well.
I want to scream at the sky and shake my fists
Because the God I serve can handle my doubts
But I can’t have them if I don’t have alone.
And He can’t answer them if I can’t voice them.
I want alone.

Summer2011-0614

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Not Content

I write it in my journal at least once a week, and more these last few months. I scribble it down like habit. Lord, please make me content in You. After all, we all know that no one falls in love, makes friends, or discovers what they should be doing with their lives until they are content in God.

A couple of nights ago, I started to scribble it again. Lord, please make me con- I scrawled. Something stopped my pen and I crossed out the sentence. God has been moving in pretty obvious ways recently, and I remembered something. “Content” is defined as “satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else,” or “mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are,” and that is not what I want.

At that point, I realized that while “contentment” is certainly not a bad thing, and while God is certainly enough in every aspect of my life, I do not ever want to be content in God.

I never want my relationship with Him to come to a place where I have stopped wanting more. I never want to be satisfied with things as they are, because I forever want to long for more and more of Him. 

Lord, please help me to ever long for even more of You.

No matter my circumstances. I don’t just want to be content. If I’m single forever. If He is my only friend. If He keeps deciding to reveal only the next 30 or so seconds of His plan for me…

All I want is to want more of Him.

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Comm[unity]

In a world of fake, forced community, where “hihowyoudoing” has become one single word, spit out by a person who hasn’t even stopped walking; where any admittance of failure, hurt, or vulnerability is met with befuddled stares and uncomfortable, awkward exits…
In this world,

I am so thankful for the community God has allowed me to be a part of.

This season of life is stressful, and sometimes “hihowyoudoing”  is most honestly be met with

You know what, today sucks.
or-
I’m actually not okay, and I’m not sure when I will be.
-or-
I’m rejoicing from the deepest part of my soul.
-or-
I’m carrying so many burdens for other people and I’m so grateful I can do that but I’m about to crumble from the pressure.

Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,” and that is truly what I have been taught to do here at Moody. Never before have I realized the depth of this verse, the feeling of rejoicing with and being rejoiced with, mourning with and being mourned with.

Never before have I felt so acutely that I am not alone.

My friends get excited with me over things that would ordinarily not excite them in the least. We stop in late at night, after work or meetings, to see how the interview was, if she got the job, if she passed the test, how teaching went. Bare feet pad down the halls at 11:30 pm to jump up and down and muffle screams with pillows. Six or seven girls sat through Handel’s Messiah because our dear friend had a solo… at the very end. We eat way too late at night, go for walks in the pouring rain, and close our computers to turn around and be present.

There are girls on the floor who invite me in to talk and let me ramble for an hour and a half. One girl came and read in my room on Saturday… nearly two hours in total silence, working on our respective homework, just being together. Sharing life.

It goes both ways. We don’t just share each other’s joys, we share each other’s sorrows. “She’s hurting” becomes “we are hurting,” So many times we’ve sat on the floor in a tangle of arms and legs, physically and tangibly surrounding the one who has been hurt. In my room, the mantra is “never apologize for your tears.” We stroke hair, scratch backs, give hugs, and hold our tongues in favor of comforting. We share. We share meals, we share emotions, we share life.

This season I’m in is uniquely blessed. Right now, I have a support net of people who help carry each other when life gets hard, and that same support group will walk a mile or two in the rain to celebrate a victory with Chinese food. I can’t do this “life” thing alone, and for these four years – I don’t have to. I just have to walk down the hall, or go to work, or look across my room.

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A Weird Fall

This has been a weird fall, if I’m being honest. It has been a weird fall in so many ways, for so many people, that to even begin to try to explain the intricacies of the pain and joy interwoven in this tapestry called “life” would take pages and hours. My heart, the hearts of my friends and family, ripped and torn and bruised and beaten and healed and helped and dropped and kicked and restored – sometimes switching from ripped, beaten, bruised; to healed, helped, restored; and back again; within the span of a day or two. Faith, relationships, friendships, boys, girls, dogs, Alzheimers, school, pride, homesickness, in-laws, abuse, inadequacy – it seems everyone close to me is dealing with one of those in some big way, whether positively or negatively.

It’s been a fall of learning. Learning to love, learning to let go of love. Learning to embrace doubt without a ceiling, knowing that God is bigger than any doubt. Learning to step out and initiate new friendships, to invite the new girl to dinner or coffee, to stop being judgmental. Learning how to put up the necessary walls to get through a day of work or class. Learning when and with whom to take down those walls.

It’s been a fall of 8 page text messages, fingers tapping the screens of cell phones rapidly, urgently, as if typing fast enough can make the pain go away. It’s been a fall of honesty and confrontation, of putting the cell phone down and meeting in the plaza or at the beach or at Union Station to discuss in person. It’s been a fall of learning to admit feelings, to admit wrong, to admit to being hurt. Learning to stop sweeping everything under the rug. Learning to stop BEING the rug, letting everyone walk all over me.

It’s been a fall of ups and downs, rapidly, sometimes three or four in a day. Rejoicing with one friend then sobbing with another, in the same hour. Calling in to work because I just can’t get out of bed this morning, I’ll be in this afternoonThe kind of hysterical laughter that only comes when it’s been way too long since happiness from deep in the gut. Like a roller coaster, climbing and climbing then plummeting with no warning whatsoever.

Up, up, up, cornfields and new church and family reunions and journaling and long walks in the city lights and making up and new friends and late night nachos and perspective and surprise visits from Jocie. Down, down, down, endless headaches and misguided conversations and trying to make my own plans and crying in the car again and maybe not going back to Peru and things changing and Lady dying and nursing home conversation and doubt. Up, down, up, up, up, down, down, down, down, down, up, up, up, up, up.

{Have there been more ups than downs? Of course. Is God still faithful and in control? He is, has been, and forever will be.}

It’s been a fall of long-sleeve-covered hands wrapped around mugs of Peruvian mate de coca. It’s been a fall of new coffee shops, popcorn every night, How I Met Your Mother, apples, considering tattoos, and appreciating my roommate more than ever before. It’s been a fall of trips back to the Mitten almost every weekend, of avoiding journaling because I just can’t right now, of new musical tastes, boots and scarves, of solving other people’s problems alongside my own.

It’s been a fall of realizing how stinking blessed I am. A fall filled with moments where all I can do is whisper, “thank You,” because I don’t come anywhere near deserving the abundance of blessings God has heaped on my head. It’s been a fall of being selfish, forgetting how blessed I am just moments after my awe-filled “thank You,” demanding, “more, Daddy, more,” like a child. It’s been a fall of grace, of Him giving me more and more and more even though I ask for it selfishly. A fall of Him prying open my tightly closed fists, then wrapping His hands firmly around my now empty palms, showing me I’m not alone.

It’s been a weird and difficult fall, yes. But when I look back on my life, the seasons that were the “weirdest,” or “hardest,” are the seasons where God has taught me the most. The seasons where I’ve cried the most have been the seasons where I’ve also grown the most. It’s been a fall of leaves changing colors, falling to the ground, and being trampled on. The trees will freeze soon, but that won’t be the end. Soon enough it will be spring.

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Sweeping Pavement

I was awakened by a familiar sound yesterday, a swish-swish-swish that instantly transported me far, far away.

Someone was sweeping the pavement outside my window, and as I laid in my dorm room bed, my heart moved south about 3000 miles. Back to Pucallpa, to the house on Avenida Jose Galvez, where the neighbor swept his small patch of pavement every. single. morning. around 6:30 am – despite the fact that it would be covered in dust again within a matter of hours. I squinched my eyes shut tight, hoping that maybe, just maybe, I would open them and find out I had been transported magically back to Peru.

Maybe I would wake up and find myself in a bed of the same size, but with a sheet kicked to the side instead of nestled under a down comforter. Maybe I would open my eyes and instead of seeing Molly standing at the sink getting ready for classes, I’ll see Mama Rosy’s head poked through the door, telling me it’s time to get up so we can go to the market. Perhaps if I squeezed my eyes shut hard enough, I would magically teleport to Pucallpa and could call Monica when I woke up, so that we could plan a night out in Pucallpa to eat papas rellenas and picarones and talk about life on the corner by the shoe store.

I squeezed my eyes shut tight, childishly hoping for magic… but also to keep the tears from pouring out. Those heartstrings that are tied to Pucallpa haven’t come untied, but they’ve been neglected. Chicago is so far from Pucallpa in every possible way. I’m so busy with school and homework that I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve closed the chat window or said “lo siento, no puedo hablar, estoy muy ocupada ahorita” (sorry, can’t talk, I’m so busy right now) to one of my Peruvian friends. Mama Rosy has messaged me three or four times asking for an update on my life, but the excuses come so easily: I’m busy, I’m tired, I’m forgetting my Spanish.

I try to sweep the memories from my mind like the neighbor swept his pavement every morning. It’s easier that way. If I stop and think about how much I miss my South American home, I’ll be unable to think of anything else. I’ll lose an entire day poring over pictures and sending messages and crying into the one remaining package of Doña Pepa I have stashed under my bed.

It’s easier to try to sweep away the memories, but the wind always blows the dust back onto the pavement of my mind. You’d be surprised how many things in Chicago immediately transport me back to Pucallpa. There’s that corner on the way to the beach that always smells like the parque central. The SDR serves white rice every day, and if I get anywhere near it, I miss Mama Rosy. Tears prick my eyes whenever I hear people speaking Spanish – and I hear people speaking Spanish nearly every day. Facilities sweeps the pavement outside my window a few times a month (that’s not metaphorical. There is a broom involved).

There isn’t a good conclusion. I don’t have a logical answer or practical steps. My life has had to keep moving, and I have had to keep moving with it. But I haven’t moved on, not really. I’ve swept aside the memory dust, but it always comes blowing back. It coats the pavement of my mind a few times a week, or even daily… and there’s nothing I can do about it. I miss Pucallpa so bad that it physically hurts, but I can’t exactly drop everything and go back tomorrow. I just keep living life as the heartstrings tied to Pucallpa pull harder and harder. And that’s where it stays right now. Not the end, because there’s no good way to end it.

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I Ran Away to the Cornfields this Weekend

Sometimes, I just need to escape the city

Visit my Papa Baker, drive into the driveway on Cole Rd.

Let Eugene the Cow lick my arm a couple of times,

crunch the leaves under my feet as I walk back in from the pasture.

Sometimes, I need to look at my childhood memories through fresh eyes

Remember how much I appreciate the open, quiet, rolling cornfields

Eat toast with fresh freezer jam, followed by a glass of fresh cow’s milk

Let the country air soothe my soul and calm my nerves.

Sometimes, it takes a three or four hour drive

The smell of the house on Cole Rd

A good cry with my grandpa by the grave of his loyal dog

A late night trip back from town, under the blazing country stars

A hug from Nana even though she’s not sure who I am

To remind me to relax, to breathe, to remember how great I’ve got it.

Sometimes, I just need to scream-laugh for hours at Jocie’s house

While ingesting half a can of spray whip cream

And watching people wrestle over cell phones

Before falling asleep whispering secrets with Maggie.

Sometimes, it’s just time to go

To drive back down M-49 just because I want to see the Student Center

To point out every significant place to the friends that came with me

Every family member’s house, every church and field and restaurant that bear some meaning

To watch my worlds collide in the most bizarre, beautiful manner

And remember that everything is gonna be okay

That God is sovereign

and good

No matter what.

Sometimes, I just need to go to the cornfields.

And so I do.

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Surprise!

Over the last few years of my life, I’ve learned that God enjoys working in the background in my life, through the little things I tend not to notice. This way, rather than logically connecting A to B to C to D, I look back and say, “WOW. God was working that whole time, through all those confusing/inconvenient/illogical things.”

The end result – due mostly to my general state of oblivion – is a little like the surprise party we threw my mom recently. I know He’s up to SOMETHING, but I could never dream it would be this. Looking back, I realize there were moments when I wondered what was going on. There were moments where I thought, “that’s weird, God doesn’t usually speak to me in this way,” or “Huh. That was an incredibly confusing answer to my prayer,” or “Why didn’t ____ happen the way I wanted it to? It’s not like it would have hurt anything!”

In these moments, sometimes I briefly wonder what God is up to, back there behind the scenes. When I look back in my journal, there are a lot of entries that say things like, “God, I really don’t understand what You’re doing here.” Those moments tend to pass quickly; a fleeting thought or scribbled sentence, soon replaced by the next thing demanding my attention.

I’ve got that feeling again. The feeling that maybe God is planning a surprise party for me. My course load is light this semester, I’ve made contacts and networked in ways I never dreamed of, and there are loads of new freshmen for me to meet. My best friend is here now, at my college, in my city. The student group I’m in is going in new directions. I’ve read three or four books about radical living and sacrificial giving in the past year, I changed my major, and I finally have a home church.

Basically, I’m starting to get suspicious. Starting to wonder why (to stretch the metaphor probably too far) God keeps whispering when I leave the room. I’m beginning to see things that can’t be called coincidences. Little details have shifted and changed and fallen into place just enough to make me question.

My heart is tight in anticipation. I know He’s up to SOMETHING, I’m just not sure what. Every time He drops another little clue, my heart pounds with excitement. Each time I open a new door, I brace myself, wondering if this is it… or if it’s just another step in the process.

Someday, I know, I’ll open that final door, and be completely blown away by what I find. And God will be there, smiling, and gently say,

“Surprised?”

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Faithfulness in a Motocar

Today I went downtown with Mami Rosy and Papa Jacinto to go grocery shopping. Now, unlike at home when Mom and I hop in the car, drive to WalMart, throw our stuff in a cart, and drive home… grocery shopping here is a bit of an excursion. We had to hail a motocar, drive 20 minutes to downtown Pucallpa, then go to each store separately – the baking goods store, the meat store, the sugar store (which differs somehow from the baking goods store), etc.

It was on this 20 minute motocar drive that I, sandwiched between Mami and Papa, spent some time talking to Jesus. Those closest to me already know that this first week in Pucallpa has been a difficult one. I’ve been battling fatigue, culture shock, homesickness, and the language barrier – all while sweating profusely. My mind and heart have been in a bizarre battle of nostalgia and sheer happiness, and it has all been very taxing.

As we’re riding, I’m thinking about Hiawatha. Today is the day that the staff heads north to begin training and meetings, and I find myself missing the place where I spent every summer until last year. As my mind drifts, I remember the post I wrote a few weeks ago about Christ being my only constant.

And then He bops me gently upside the head and says, “Helloooo? Has that suddenly changed just because you’re on a different continent? Do you think I don’t see you? Do you think I’m someone different here than in the US?”

As I gaze at the wooden buildings with their hand-painted signs, a peace begins to wash over me. Of course nothing has changed. Of COURSE Christ is still faithful and constant and unchanging and true and all of those things. Of course He knows where I am, what I’m going through, and what I will become. He sees my weaknesses, rejoices with me in my joys, and chuckles when I make humorous grammar mistakes. He is the same God in Pucallpa that He is in Chicago that He is in Millington that He is in Eckerman that He is everywhere.  His promises have not changed just because they’re in Spanish here.

As I mull this over with growing peace in my heart, we pass the sign that says, “Jesucristo is el Senor de Pucallpa” (Jesus Christ is Lord of Pucallpa). In a throwback to my years at Lutheran school, my heart cries out, “This is most certainly true.”

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Come Over?

I’m sitting at the kitchen table in my house in Millington. I’m not entirely sure how I got here; it still feels so surreal. My mind hasn’t wrapped around the fact that I’m away from my other home, my Chicago home, for three full months. I’ll see something in my closet and think, “I should take that back to school on Monday.”

Then I realize I’m not going back to school on Monday. I’m not going back to school for three more months.  The shortest nine months of my life have come to an end, I’m no longer a college freshman.

I’m sitting here sipping my iced coffee, with six or seven tabs open in Chrome, a to-do list at my side, and The Classic Crime playing.  I’m trying to figure out how to sum it all up.  I’ve spoken of the things I’ve learned, the friends I’ve gained, the friends I’ve lost, and the latest city to tightly tie itself around my heart.  From coffee shops, train rides, classrooms, and my dorm room, I’ve told you stories of this past year of my life.  Yet, now that it’s time to wrap it up, the words fail me.

There’s just too much to say, too many topics to cover and emotions to convey. Do I come at it from a humorous angle, telling tales of the time I knocked over a marathon runner, the late nights spent wandering around Millennium Park doing bird calls, and all the times in 501 when we laughed until we cried? Or should I go the sentimental/literary route, making up allegories of running and birdcages and freedom to describe the intense sea of grace I have recently found myself drowning in? Maybe I could make a list, attack the last nine months from a logical perspective. I could just state everything I’ve done and learned and tried, without adding any embellishments.

It’s a lot easier to talk about things one at a time. I had no problem posting about my changed major, my new church, or my friends. But when I try to sum it all up, it’s like yet another assignment for class. I find myself trying too hard to cram everything into a post of manageable length. It’s impossible. I’d much rather have you come over for an afternoon and sit at the table with me.  We could share the homemade iced coffee I just learned how to make, and then you could see.

You could see the smile that spreads across my face when I talk about my summer plans and my new major. You could hear me laugh and see the joy in my eyes when I tell stories of my friends and I. You could see the tears pool in my eyes when I talk about my girls at PCM, who I’ll likely never see again. We’d talk for hours, you and I.

Come over?

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Major Changes

They say the average undergrad student changes their major about five times.  I’ve always regarded this statistic slightly pridefully, with the air of smugness that comes from “having it all planned out.”  I’ll graduate from Moody in 3.5 years with a degree in TESOL (and Bible, of course), and move to Central/South America. (Hopefully getting married somewhere in there.) There, I’ll teach English fulltime as a missionary and, on the side, work with teenage/young adult girls who have been abused or involved in the sex trade.  Sounds like a good plan, right?

Let me back up about four years.  I was reading the book “Zealous Love” by Mike and Danae Yankoski, and came to the chapter on human trafficking.  Tears poured down my cheeks and my stomach turned as I read the accounts of girls, often as young as 5 or 6 years old, who were sold into the sex trade.  An overwhelming feeling came over me as my heart broke for these women.  As a 14 or 15 year old, I didn’t really know what to do with that feeling, but I bookmarked a few blogs and vowed to pray for the women and children caught up in that sickening industry.

Last year, on a whim, I picked up a $5 CD at Family Christian Bookstore.  It was called “Freedom: Artists United for the International Justice Mission,” and it featured several bands I like.  As I looked over the packaging, I realized it was a fundraiser for IJM and included a DVD.  I watched the DVD one night and cried again as the stories of women who had been rescued from prostitution and slavery… but all I did was cry.  After all, I already had my plan (see above).

My plan started out really well.  I came to Moody.  I declared TESOL as my major.  I started Intro to TESOL.  I observed some classes, wrote some lesson plans… and… little by little, realized I don’t really want to spend every day of the rest of my life in a classroom/writing lesson plans.  Rather than being super excited for my upcoming classes, teaching for PCM, and my internship, I would kind of slump my shoulders and resign myself to the coming realities.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about feeling convicted and not knowing what to do about it.  After I wrote that, I started to pray a lot about where I was going with my life.  The books I’ve been reading, things I’ve been studying, and discussions we’ve been having at Gospel Community have made me realize I need to do something different.  I’ve been slapped in the face a lot lately with the reality that, while it is an incredible door into lives, English is not a basic need.  Those who are starving, being sold, without homes, or in desperate need of true love do not need to learn English.  They need food, freedom, shelter, or love.

As I prayed, I began to realize something.  When I think about my true dream – the thing I’m the most excited about when I tell people “my plan,” – it’s not standing in front of a class or writing lesson plans.  It’s the part I always refer to as “on the side.”  It’s the reason I attempted to interdisciplinary (basically a minor, for those of you who don’t go to Moody) in pre-counseling.  I want to work with girls who have been wounded, sold, and stolen.  Girls who had their innocence ripped away from them, who were so desperate for money that they sold their right to themselves.  I want to teach them that they have worth, that they are beautiful.  To LOVE them.  To show them the One who will never, ever abuse them.  From the first time I read about the issue of sexual exploitation, I have had a burden in my heart for those girls.

Yesterday, in chapel, one of our professors stood at the podium and said she had a “very exciting announcement.”  She announced that Moody was beginning a new major: Ministry to Victims of Sexual Exploitation.  As she explained the details, tears pooled in my eyes and my mind began scrambling.  The first conscious thought I had was, “I have to do this,” followed shortly by about six reasons why there was no possible way I could do this.

One at a time, throughout the day yesterday, God countered each of those points.  In fact, He didn’t just counter them, He gave me even more reasons why I needed to lace up my shoes and run.  I called my mom, who had been sitting in a chapel at Bo’s school while I was in chapel.  Their speaker was a missionary from Peru (of all places!) who runs a shelter for battered women… many of whom have been rescued from sexual exploitation.  The first class for this major fit PERFECTLY into an hour and fifteen minute hole that just happened to be in my fall schedule. 9-12 more credits from Mott would transfer in with the switch.

I got my change of major form this afternoon and filled it out.  When I went to the Missions Department to have it signed, the hallway seemed deserted.  “Okay, God,” I whispered.  “I’m 99% sure this is what I’m supposed to do… but if it REALLY is… just give me one more sign?” (Oh, me of little faith…)  I walked to the end of the hall, towards what I was certain would be a deserted office, and there was Dr. Sisk.  He signed off on my major change as chair of the Missions Department, and I was gone in about 30 seconds.

I could easily write another 900+ words about all of the tiny details, “coincidences,” and neon signs shouting that I should go ahead with this that have happened in the last 48 hours… but I’ll spare you the extra reading.  As of next week, everything should be approved, and my major will be officially changed from TESOL to Ministry to Victims of Sexual Exploitation.  Do I have a 5 or 10 year plan?  Nope.  But He does, and I know that there’s nothing better for me than His plan.

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