Tag Archives: stories

Musings

It is hard for those who have lived a life of saying “yes” to learn how to say “no.” For those of us who have been consistently referred to as leaders, who have consistently overcommitted ourselves and always, always been there for others, it can be nearly impossible to learn how to be there for ourselves. It can be strange, even terrifying, to ask someone else to be there for us.

Removing a mask is a scary process. It leaves us raw and vulnerable, at a point where there’s nothing else with which to hide. This is me. Here I am. I can change nothing else. We attend seminars, take notes, read our Bibles. We teach ourselves, piece by scary piece, how to be vulnerable. Maybe the guard comes down late one night with a roommate or friend. Maybe someone taught us, without us even realizing it, through walks in cornfields and late night hugs.

Slowly, we find our identities beginning to change a little. No longer are we “a leader in my home church,” or “mentoring several middle school girls.” Instead, we’re searching for a church as different as possible from the one where we grew up. We’re the mentored instead of the mentor, crying into coffee and eventually signing up for counseling. We’re trying to figure out who we are, apart from those things that defined us.

We learn how to be weak. We get lots of practice telling people we aren’t okay. We buy new clothes and learn how to blowdry our hair. Journals, once gathering dust on the bookshelves, are filled with scribbles of this new thing called feelings. Some of our stubborn corners begin to wear off, and black and white start to fade to grey.

Questions that were once deemed controversial or scary now fill our conversations. We push back on the theological boundaries of our upbringing. We lie awake at night, begging God to prove Himself and crumpling into tears of awe and gratitude because He always does. Every time.

It’s such a process, that we don’t wake up one day completely different. Little by little things change, until we realize that we would no longer define ourselves with words like “leader,” or “strong,” or “role model,” but rather with words like “learning,” and “trusting,” and “receiving grace.”

Always grace. So much grace.

We’re still there for others. But now, others are here for us. We still like to lead – after all, it’s a spiritual gift. But now, we are learning how to be led. The process hasn’t ended. We are still being transformed. Grace is still being defined in every moment of our lives. We’re learning when to say yes and who we should be vulnerable with. The process isn’t perfect.

Yet we can feel Him. He is working in us, transforming us to be more like Him. Breaking our hearts, piece by piece, for the things that break His. He is molding us into something we have been all along: His precious children.

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First Snow and Happy Tears

We’re sitting on the floor, talking, when Kelci bursts through the door screaming about snow. Not three minutes later, we’re in the plaza with what seems like the rest of Moody.

Indeed, white fluffy flakes are twirling gently from the sky, collecting on the ground and plaza ledges, covering my black gloves and jacket in a fine, dusty, blink-and-it’s-melted layer. I’m admiring the shape of each snowflake on my glove when I decide to look up.

My friends are in a huddle, they’re talking and yelling across the plaza at other friends, throwing meager snowballs at each other… but I’m in my own world. I’m looking up, blinking against the onslaught of snowflakes; blinking for another reason too. As I look up at the suddenly-wintry sky, tears prick the back of my eyelids. Happy tears.

Happy tears because I live in Chicago and I go to Moody. Happy tears because we ALL came down to see the snow – all five of us – like it used to be. Happy tears because we’re walking down the road to Sweeting just to see the two light poles wrapped in Christmas lights. Happy tears because Christmas is coming and I’ll be with my family for nearly a month.

Happy tears because even though it hasn’t seemed like it, time has kept moving. Happy tears because life goes on. Happy tears because God is faithful. Happy tears because everything is going to freeze soon, the weeds and the flowers both, but the cold kills the weeds. Happy tears because when it thaws, the weeds will be gone.  Happy tears because if winter is here, spring must be coming soon. Happy tears because that’s obviously a metaphor.

I’m blinking and flicking the back of my hand across my eyes and clearing my throat. Jesse is there and he’s saying, “you look so happy,” and I’m giggling like a giddy schoolgirl because he has no idea. I’m clapping my hands and grabbing Molly’s arm and yelling, “snoowwww,” over and over and over.

I rejoin the huddle of friends, smiling and laughing and reveling in the novelty and purity of what will soon become a nuisance. Everyone is so caught up in the celebrating that they don’t notice I’m still blinking rapidly, but that’s okay. I know, and it’s only the first snow.

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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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Not Tomorrow Yet

“We’re going to play in the rain, do you want to come?”

I had my night planned out. Classes start tomorrow and I needed to look over my syllabi, pack my backpack, put my schedule on my wall. I was going to heat up my leftover Chinese food and make a sign listing the books I’m trying to sell. But as my roommate begged, pleaded, and listed the million and five reasons why I absolutely HAD to come outside and leap around in the torrential downpour, I realized something: classes may start TOMORROW, but it’s still today.

And so, fresh out of the annual Vespers service, and with “Oh Happy Day,” still stuck in our heads, seven or eight of us crammed into the elevator in gym shorts, tee shirts, and flip-flops. We giggled in giddy anticipation as the floors ticked off on the display above our heads. 5,4,3,2,1, and we were in the lobby, huddled together staring at the deluge which had produced flash flood warnings in the greater Chicago area.

“On your mark, get set, GO!” screamed Grace, and we sprinted through the doors of Houghton Hall into the already flooded plaza . The deepest puddle reached the middle of my calf, and I was drenched to the bone in an instant. Like elementary schoolgirls we squealed and giggled, kicking plumes of water at each other as we ran around and around.

Shouts of, “HOLY CRAP, that’s COLD,” and “I can’t see anything!” and “Oh my gooooosh, this is so fun!” and “There’s still a dry spot on your back!” rang through the plaza. Upperclassmen carrying umbrellas gave skeptical looks, total strangers joined in the fun, and laughter tears mingled with the rain on our faces.

After ten or so minutes of stomping as hard as we could while screaming at unnatural pitches, we headed back into the dorms. On the way up, we drenched the floor of the lobby and the elevator. And seven college girls (no, really! We are! I swear!) tumbled out of the elevators onto Houghton Five, still gasping and giggling, dripping wet, shivering, and smiling.

Tomorrow will bring its challenges. Tomorrow I’ll drag myself out of bed before 6 am. Tomorrow classes start, tomorrow my job begins again. Tomorrow I have to eat in the SDR, have to decide what to wear, have to get back into a routine.

But it’s not tomorrow yet. It’s still today. And today, I walked over 3 miles in the rain to and from my home church. I listened to a message that cut me to the core. I ate Chinese food with my best friends. A lot of Chinese food. And ice cream. I painted my toenails. I made commitments, promises, and plans. I worshipped. I sang “Oh Happy Day,” and did the motions even though no one else around me was doing them.

It’s still today. And today, we played in the rain.

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Story Time- Part One

I wish I could take you out for coffee.  I would sit with you on the back couch at Jilly Bean’s, sipping a blended vanilla chai.  I could talk for hours, telling you stories of the ministry, the county, and the kids who have stolen my heart.  We would share laughter and tears as I attempted to show you why I have fallen head-over-heels in love with Crossroads Farm and Hillsdale County.

I can’t, though.  Take you out for coffee, that is.  I’m only here four more days, and two of those will be spent on an overnight trip with my Bible study girls.  Every second is scheduled, and I’m determined to squeeze in as much relational time with my friends and family as humanly possible.  Let’s take a rain check on the physical coffee date, and instead I’ll tell you some stories via internet.  It’s not as good, but grab some coffee and settle in… this could take a while.  Bear with me as I try to communicate my heart, as I try to make you feel a fraction of the yanking this internship has done on the strings of my heart.

Story One: Cole

Let’s rewind to the first day of my internship.  I was packing up my stuff to take to our car wash when the office phone rang.  A boy named Cole*, 12 years old, needed a ride.  “I can be at the Student Center in 2 minutes,” he said. “I have to go! I only have to raise $50 more before I can go to camp!”  I told him I would take him, and sure enough, he showed up within two minutes.

We talked the entire way to Hillsdale.  Actually, I misspoke.  HE talked the entire way to Hillsdale.  In the 15 minutes it took us to drive to town, go through the McDonald’s drive-thru for dollar drinks, and pull into Rite-Aid, I had learned all about his family.  I don’t see my dad very much, he doesn’t really like me. He says I’m annoying. But he’s awesome! Really! He’s so awesome! He works at a car dealership and he said he’d come today. I hope he comes today. My mom’s getting remarried on Friday. The guy’s nice, but I don’t really like his kids. And I think we have to move. I’m excited for Hiawatha, are you?

The car wash started (and ended) very slowly, but before long, a huge red Ford truck pulled up.  It was already practically spotless, but the tinted window rolled down and a way-too-well-coiffed-for-this-county man said “Heard there was a car wash around here.”

“DAD!” yelled Cole.  A quick glance at his face confirmed my suspicions- his smile nearly wrapped around his head.  Suddenly, it was Cole’s car wash.  He started handing people towels and scrub brushes as he handed out orders. “You, do the windows. Zach- tires. TJ, get the bugs out of the front. But be careful! This is my dad’s truck!”

As our little team scrubbed the truck, Cole exchanged small-talk with his dad.  “Dad, I’ve almost raised all my camp money by myself.  Only $50 to go!”
“All by yourself, kid? Really?”
“Yeah, Dad, all by myself! I babysat and did car washes and I’m almost there!”
“That’s great, Cole. I’m proud of you, bud.”  This produced another megawatt grin from Cole, who quickly ducked to dry a hubcap.

When we finished, Cole dad handed Paul his camp donation and jumped in his truck.  As he started to pull away, he rolled down the window and yelled, “Love you, Cole. I’m so proud of you, son, I mean it. Have fun at camp!”  And I thought Cole’s first two smiles had been huge….

*name changed

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