Exhibits 1-6

I haven’t clicked the “write” button up on the top of the WordPress homepage for a while. And part of that is that I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be writing right now, which sometimes leads me to not write at all.

This is surprising, because I kind of thought I’d be a blogger for a long time. Perhaps it was a season that is ending.

My Saturday mornings are often times of reflection. It’s when I can rake up all the thoughts that have fallen to the ground during the week and examine them before I put them in the yard waste container or press a few between the pages of a book (YES that is a fall metaphor, because there is no better metaphorical season and I’m milking this for all it’s worth).

Seth and I went to the driving range last night, which is in itself such a strange sentence. Mostly because I never pictured myself as the kind of girl who goes to the driving range on a Friday night, much less dates a guy who wants to take her to the driving range on said Friday night, EVEN LESS enjoys going to the driving range and was the one to suggest it.

Who am I? What have I become?

I picture God chuckling as I think these things, because he’s surprised me so many times over the past few years, taking the vision I’d cast for myself and blurring it. Then he redirects my focus, sometimes gently, sometimes not. And here I am. I imagine the same will be true in a few years. This is the life of faith.

I’d like to give a list of all the things I’m surprised by in my life right now. It’s a way of reminding myself how little happened that I wanted/expected but how the disillusion of those plans brought me here.

  1. If I expected to be working in publishing, the last place I expected to find myself was in a Sales department. My year working Phonathon, short stint as a cold caller, and dislike of upselling or trying to get someone to open a credit card at my retail job all pointed me away from that field. Yet, here I am, working in sales support and both enjoying it and doing a decent job.
  2. As a teen, I found my church to be less life-giving than I wanted. I was ready to move on, even though I really loved a lot of the people there. I wasn’t growing there and thought, after college, I’ll go find somewhere else. Well, God both changed parts of that church and changed parts of me, and here I am, helping lead worship at the church I started attending when I was 8, with a lot of those same people. Totally unexpected.
  3. Speaking of leading worship, I learned not to see myself as a leader after high school student government burned me out. I do not like wrangling people. It exhausts me and feels fruitless. This opportunity to lead at my church, however, though it involves some volunteer wrangling, has been life-giving. It has also been difficult, stretching me and requiring me to adapt and let go of my need for human approval. Among the many things in my life that aren’t about me, leading worship tops the list. Partly because I didn’t expect to be doing this, I didn’t expect for God to refine and shape me in ways that equip me to lead people in worship and to work with a team of people to do it. I’m amazed as I look back just a year at all God has done in our group of leaders and in our church.
  4. Speaking of that group of leaders, this may be the thing that has surprised me the most: I DID NOT expect to meet a single guy at my church, based on the demographics of young marrieds and older marrieds and older singles who propagate my church. I was resigned to and pretty much content with not meeting someone at church. Like, who was there to meet? Also, it’s fine if the rest of the world is a hunting ground for a spouse, but like, really, I should be focused on God at church. And isn’t it just so nice to get to develop these wonderful relationships with the people who are there? These were my thoughts. The church in general does not (typically) attract singles, even less single guys around my age. Also, I find very few single guys in the church that I’d want to be with. (To sum up, there are so very many reasons why this should not and could not have happened) But there he was, at my church, interested in being on a brand-new worship team and offering up his many talents. There is a much longer story to tell here, but reader, I’m dating him. And still amazed at God’s good work there.
  5. On another note, I did not expect to still be doing laundry at my parents’ house. I was going to be more independent than that. I was going to use! quarters! and be! independent! But $$ add up when you wash a lot of towels and clothes and sheets. And sometimes you just need to go see your parents and have an excuse to stay there and get sound advice while your clothes are in the dryer.
  6. I also didn’t expect that I’d still deal with anxiety. This could be a much longer conversation, and the ways God has taught me and refined me through this are many. Most days it’s hardly there and the things I’ve learned about coping and thriving bring me through. Some days it rears its ugly head. I take the meds every day, and sometimes I remember to try to cast my anxiety on the one who cares for me, even in the most irrationally anxiety-producing situations. God has made me brave, not the kind of bravery that looks like bravery, but the kind of bravery that looks like normal living.

I could go on. I will, I’m sure, at some point.

This is not to say that I wasn’t disappointed that some of the other relationships in my life didn’t work out or that I wasn’t dismayed to find I needed to go back on my meds or that I didn’t cry a few times from the stress of starting something new and feeling like a failure.

All of that happened.

And more.

But this hindsight into the ways God has shown his grace and worked in my life to bring me to a place where I am growing and learning is helpful. Because the dreams I have right now might not come about. But I know that God is faithful. He’s faithful to guide the path and bring us to the place where he wants us.

And he has to be the one to do it. If you need proof, see exhibits 1-6 above.

Marker for growth of some kind.

One of my good friends from high school, Emma, is visiting me in Chicago this weekend. She’s sleeping on my couch, and we’re exploring things I haven’t yet seen in my time living here (There. Are. So. Many.). And we’re going back to things I love.

We were standing on a train platform waiting for a train back to school late last night (late for me, which means before midnight and after ten), both of our feet tired from walking and standing for hours.

“Four years ago, we were still in high school,” she said at one point in the conversation.

It has been four years, hasn’t it? We’ll have our five-year reunion next year. And for the rest of our lives, we’ll be getting progressively farther and farther from high school.


This morning, when I woke up, Facebook told me I’d posted this picture four years ago today.

My acceptance letter. There I am, in my (likely) post volleyball practice splendor, proudly holding the envelope that means I’m going to college in the city where I wanted to be. In my letter jacket.

Almost everything in that picture is changed now. I suppose the only thing that’s the same are the acceptance letter (which I still have… some day I’ll throw it away) and the fireplace, which is made from stone.

My letter jacket no longer hangs on my body but in the coat closet at my parents’ house. Our family room (pictured behind me) has been painted and rearranged (twice) since then.

I haven’t played volleyball since that last game of my senior year. (but just saw on Facebook that my alma mater’s team is going to State! Finally, someone achieved the dream.)

I haven’t yet figured out what exactly is different about me in the intangibles. I mean, visibly, my hair is a slightly different color right now, I have two more piercings than when I started college, I think my face looks a little different. But what you can’t see? I’m not ready to identify that.

I eat more protein now. Eggs! Beans! Who knew I could have such a diverse palate? I’m my own chef. I’ve tried making new things – and sometimes failed miserably.

“You know this place,” Emma said last night, after I said I thought we needed to walk west in order to get from State to Dearborn. A small feat, but I thought, yes, sometimes, I do. I’ve gotten decent at orienting myself in Chicago. Not fabulous, but decent. I can navigate the brown line and most of the north side pretty easily and can get to either airport without a problem. That’s something. I can get to any part of the Loop.

Sometimes I walk a mile in the wrong direction after I get off the train, realize my mistake, and walk back. So I know some of this place, and I’ve gotten better at walking longer distances. And worse at double checking the direction.

I know I write about different things now. I’ve thought sometimes about if I should start a new blog, get a fresh platform. Some of my posts are from 2011, yikes! That wouldn’t be a big deal if I hadn’t been 17 that year. Some of the posts are cringeworthy. (but hey, I can still write cringeworthy posts)

But it’s true to the process, both of learning to write and growing up.

Today feels like a landmark. Four years ago, today, I was just beginning to be a part of college, just starting that process of figuring out what I wanted to study, who I wanted to be, and how I’d fit into a new place. And now, I’m 41 days away from reintegrating into the place I left – but a different version of it.

I can’t say much for certain about what has changed in those years, but I’m marking today. We can tick it off of the wall as growth of some kind.

Climbing walls.

Some days are more active than others.  Some days include group fitness and scaling walls.  Sometimes you even get a lovely purple bruise  on your knee from your intense activity.

Then you sit and watch the Vikings lose, barely able to keep your eyes open.  Yet, the day longs to be processed and published, so you sit in bed with Matilda and think about it.  What was the takeaway from today?  What was significant about the way I spent my time today?

DSCN4862As I sit here and think about it, I think that indoor climbing has a lot of parallels to life.  Let me just lay out a typical facility for you: there are some easy walls – straight up and down, lots of big things to grip (often shaped like turtles, hippos, and whales), spaced in a way that you’re rarely in a pickle to find your next move -, there are medium walls – slight inclines, uneven surfaces, smaller things to grip, some spots where you need something to put your foot on but it’s a foot away from where it “should” be -, and there are hard walls.  I don’t know all the lingo for the hard walls, so I’m just going to skip the description.  All you need to know is that they’re difficult.

As a climber (though I can barely call myself that) and as a life-liver, I gravitate towards hippo-shaped rocks and minimal inclines.  I like smooth terrain and support exactly where I think I need it.  I sweat in panic, in those moments where the rock looks like it’s a little too far away or just a little bit smaller than I’d like or shaped so that it isn’t easily gripped.  Then the sweaty palms make it easy to let go.

You don’t fall far.  It barely seems like a failure, to give up midway through a fairly easy task.

But you really don’t learn anything either.  There isn’t any strategy involved.  No need for perseverance.  I could tell myself that it was challenging enough to just step outside of my normal activities to climb walls (I know you’re surprised that I don’t do that on a regular basis already), but it’s not, not really.

There’s no growth.  No new skills.  Growth and skill come from moments where you step on a foothold only to realize that there wasn’t a foothold where you thought there was.  There’s a moment of wild panic, some small flailing.  But then you learn that you should plan where your feet go before you move.

Lesson learned. Growth.

I’m going to have lots of opportunities to choose the hard walls, to pick challenges outside my comfort zone in the near future.  In conversation, in class schedules, in extracurriculars, in relationships.  The possibilities are endless and so is the growth.

Here’s to choosing challenge in 2013.

Stranded motorcycles and being settled.

In the past week, I have seen three motorcycles on the side of the road (twice on a highway, once just on one of those county roads). Just sitting. No one is around, and there doesn’t seem to be any explanation for their presence.
They are stranded. One of them was stranded by a bridge, on a hill in really tall grass. Another one just on the shoulder next to a field of cows. The third, parked right next to a walking path as though it was about to drive straight through the path and across the road.
I have no idea why there’s been such a sudden influx of stranded motorcycles. I wonder why they’re there, and if anyone is coming back for them. And by what mode of transportation their owners will come back.
Oh, the random things we see day to day.
I bet if those motorcycles could speak, they’d be ready to get home. They miss the comfort of the garage. They would like to know that they’re not going to have to stay in their present state of abandonment and chaos forever.
I think I know how those motorcycles feel, in a way. (prepare yourself for what might be a stretch of a metaphor)
Sometimes, I want to be done with transition mode. I’d just like to be transitioned. As much fun as it can be to be on my way somewhere unfamiliar – or stuck somewhere I don’t know, who could become familiar in time but isn’t yet – I would rather already be there.
I long for life teleportation. You’d like to skip all the transitions and growth that brings you to a place in life where you’re married, settled in a house somewhere with a degree and a flexible job so you can raise your three or more children? Okay, step right up to this machine. You’ll be there in no time.
Maybe it wouldn’t really be that nice, to just experience all the benefits and outcomes of growth rather than actually going through it.
Maybe, just maybe, all of life includes growing – to some extent, perhaps not as concentrated as high school and college -, that you’re never really done and settled. Or maybe sometimes we are, but we shouldn’t be.
Maybe high school and all the changes it brought in me, in my surroundings, in my relationships, in my future, just wore me out. And maybe I need summer vacation.
I think that’s it.
I’ll let you know if I still feel this way 6 months from now.

Home, where is it?

I’m sitting in the doctor’s office right now, which is obviously not home. It doesn’t look like it, doesn’t smell like it, and has way more people under the age of 5 than my house does. I’ll be sitting here for a while, so I’m going to think about where my home is.
I just started reading Little Dorritt by Charles Dickens as my first official book of summer reading today. In the first chapter, the gentleman in jail describes where his mother was born, the other country where she lived, the same for his father, and his own birthplace. He says, with grandeur, “I am a citizen of the world.”
Which got me to thinking about home and belonging and where I’m from.
I’ve lived in Minnesota my entire life, so I obviously say that’s where I’m from now, and I will continue to say that when I go to college out of state in the fall. But then, if I decide to stay there after college, if I become a citizen of a different state, what do I say when people ask where I’m from?
Well, I lived in the same house, same room – but we changed the paint colors to lime green when I turned twelve – until I was 18. And I always told my parents when I was younger that I would never move, that I’d bring my family there when I grew up. And I would build a little house for my parents in between ours and our neighbor’s house. So, that’s where I’m technically from, but I’ve lived here for 6 years, so this sort of feels like home.
Then what if I move to another country and then come back to the US? Then no one will have an attention span long enough to hear the whole story.
Home is where the heart is, right? And I’m not really supposed to feel at home on earth at all since Heaven’s pretty much the eternal residence. But I obviously need a temporarily permanent residence for while I’m alive and mortal, so I may have some issues with identity if I move.
Oh, but to be a citizen of the world in the sense that the gentleman in jail in Little Dorritt means it, to live in multiple countries in the course of a lifetime, to leave a piece of your loyalty there, to have memories and cultural knowledge firsthand from more than one culture… That’s an invigorating thought.
Home: does it really matter where it is? As long as it’s the place I’m meant to be at the time, the location my roots are doesn’t have to be easily describable to someone I’ve just met. In fact, why not go for the most complex story I can get?
After an hour of waiting – which only ended up in giving me a referral – I came to the conclusion that maybe I’m going to have to be okay with not knowing exactly how to respond to the “where ya from” query. That maybe part of my stretching and growth will be in the
changes in scenery.
I could use a change in scenery after this doctor’s office.