an interval

11:50pm

My parents are still awake; Rosie is asleep on Dad’s lap. Midway is on the television screen and I exclaim every time another actor I recognize appears on the screen. Isn’t it funny how many actors come from America? We’ve already tasted our sparkling apple-grape juice and watched a lackluster football game. It seems like the year went that way too – starting off with a lot of pop and sliding into more of a “huh.”

11:52pm

I took a sort of vigil over lunch today at the big white house in Vienna. Perhaps you have your own big white house in Vienna…but if you’ve attended my church, then you know which house I mean. I ate my sushi from the car and stared at the long driveway, the new treehouses, and the lamppost that reminded me of Narnia. Was that there when my church friends and I ran about on dusky summer evenings? Did it ever confuse me during the many games of Capture the Flag?

11:54pm

I wish there could be a rule put in place that the end of a year always felt the same way. The end of this year has felt nostalgic. I’ve had more time to process this past week, though that processing has extended beyond just 2021. I’ve also spent more time in silence than is my normal habit. Is that maturity? My one roommate might say so. She is far better at appreciating silence than I am.

11:56pm

Change is spread out across the calendar as I look ahead to 2022. Church plants, new marriages, babies being born, friends moving away – none of these changes are out of the ordinary for a twenty-six year-old woman, but my heart still quickens and my brain wonders what will be steady throughout it all? Praise God for the Rock of my salvation.

11:58pm

I didn’t have expectations for 2021, but at the urging of a wise and older friend I am going to attempt setting goals for 2022. I dislike goals because they have often set me up for being disappointed in myself when I don’t accomplish them. It will be a challenge to remain compassionate with myself and those goals, but I’m going to set some and endeavor to keep them.

12:00am

And we are still here. A toast and a firework and a worried dog later, I am still the same person I was two minutes ago. Lasting change and sanctification require more than a new date, but that’s okay.

12:02am

I’m not sad in this moment, but that adjective prevailed this past week. Christmas Day was sobering and the coming weeks will be about the same. Grief settles in here and there, never letting you know when it will move on (if it ever does).

12:04am

Praise God for my family and roommates, for my daily friends and long-distance friends and friends I don’t talk to but still adore because I have a big heart and small ability to communicate with more than a handful of people on a given day. Love lasts in the heart, but if it’s not backed up by action can it still be called love? Maybe it’s more affection at that point…

12:06am

I’ll let you read The Four Loves and get back to me on how love should manifest in friendship. I want to be a better friend this year; most of us would probably say that, I assume? How many questions have I typed in this post? My favorite writer is coming out with a book this summer about questions and God and people. I must just be preparing for that release.

12:08am

My body felt better this year, my heart only took a few l’s because of my own foolishness, and I continued to observe Yahweh’s protection in my life. I struggled earlier this year with understanding his holiness, but sovereignty is one that comes easily to my mind, even if it doesn’t always rest easily there.

12:10am

The decade is two-years old. I am glad to turn twenty-seven this calendar year and apprehensive about all of the sweet changes that I know are coming my way. Can I be excited for the changes that will come but are not revealed to me just yet? Check back in twelve months and ask me the answer. Until then – seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. You are His, and He is yours. Rest well in His love, my dears.

cheers to the last Wednesday in May

A storm is here; the cicadas are quiet. The thunder is crackling; my neighbor (man or woman? the outline against the light gives no clues) lifts the blind to look out. The rain and lightning have not found their rhythms with the thunder; the trees are thankful, nevertheless. Is it a luxury of adulthood to appreciate the beauty of storms? I at least know some of my girls in college adored them. They would often (once the wind and thunder and lightning had subsided) run down three flights of stairs and out of our dorm to the nearest gully of fresh rainwater and wash their hair. I wish I had been brave enough to join them.

I am twenty-five, sitting on the floor of a condo I share with two gal friends whom I cherish. Our living room smells like rain, and I should probably turn the A/C off because this is one of those often-spoken-of-but-rarely-known storms that has drowned the humidity and brought back the chilly air we had just a few weeks ago.

Twenty-five has felt good to claim these past seven months. I can’t say that I know myself well (what does that phrase even mean?), but I do know that I like kimchi, thunderstorms, and the way ferns are fascinating to observe in every stage of their growth. I know I would rather have my friends make me laugh than “comedic” shows or movies, and that a shoulder-bump against my own shoulder can convey more love to my soul than a hug. I know that God has been (metaphorically) dragging me along in understanding that He is holier and kinder than I believed in the previous two decades of cognizant thinking, and that I love Scripture but need to be disciplined enough to memorize more of it. I know more than ever that my faith is small (what’s smaller than a mustard seed, eh?) but that Yahweh gives good gifts because He is good and because He loves me, not because my faith is worth rewarding.

(how comforting and humbling is that?)

The past seven months have contained soul-freezing, body-jarring, “why am I alive in a world where this happens” moments. I have accepted the Lord’s sovereignty in such moments more than I understood His sovereignty, and I have prayed in frustration more than peaceful acceptance…but even at twenty-five, I know enough to look at the story of redemption and my few chapters in it and to trust its Author. I don’t know what can be done about fatal conflicts or cancer or pandemics or shifting cultural dynamics, but I do know Christ and His conquering, abounding, steadfast love. I know I can cling to Him.

The storm is not yet over, but my tea is gone and I think I’m ready for bed. Pleasant dreams and God bless you, my friend. He is faithful, and you can trust Him.

Are you still writing?

A few weeks back, I got to sit in a bagel shop and write by a sunny window...it was possibly the most content I have been in many months.

That question came tonight while I met with my teaching elder and shepherding elder for our annual visit (my first shepherding visit, which I mentioned to anyone who would listen, aka my patient parents and longsuffering roommates). I trust those men and the rest of my session, and I am thankful to attend a small-enough church that my trust is based on first-hand experience.

My shepherding elder asked two questions that I answered too hastily in the moment, and so I am going to answer him better through the following words. The questions were “Are you still writing?” and “Why were you angry with God last spring?”

Are you still writing?
I am writing emails for work and late texts to friends and grocery lists that I often forget on my desk and so are only semi-useful. I am writing letters when the Spirit prompts me, beginnings of stories on loose sheets of paper, and phrases from the Bible that strike my soul. I am writing words that should probably be burned at some point (for my pride’s sake, not because they contain state secrets or insidious gossip), and I am writing for myself and for my God, but for the last twenty-some months those words have not felt right to share with the majority of humanity. I did think the other night that I need to loosen up and post more writing, though, so perhaps I’m coming out of that funk?

Why were you angry with God last spring?
I have thought periodically about my springtime-2020 anger towards the Lord, but I must not have said it aloud to anyone else, for I did not have a good answer when my elder asked me. I hobbled together some answer about fear, sadness, and sin, unable to keep my voice from cracking. With a bit more time to recall and dwell, I stand by those answers and will elaborate slightly.

I was angry because of fear for my own body and the bodies of my family, fear for the bodies and souls of my loved ones who have not yet trusted Jesus to be their Savior, and fear that the world would always be afraid. The cyclical nature of that emotion fascinates me, and I was caught spinning in it last spring.

I was angry because I was sad for cancelled events, for missing my daily/weekly people, and for the grief of watching people die at such a rate on a world-wide scale. I was sad because of the division I then felt (and have now experienced) would cause families, neighbors, and congregations forget their fraternity and choose to argue with hostility. Sadness has many levels, and I think I knew all of of them last spring.

Lastly, I was angry because I am a sinner who lives in a sinful world. I was angry because the “God” that had manifested in the idol factory of my heart would never cause such discomfort in my life as a pandemic. That “God” would surely know I had plans and hopes and desires for 2020 and wouldn’t allow me to be stifled by quarantines, restrictions, and masks (gasp). Oh, I was angry with God for reminding me that He is Yahweh, El Shaddai, and Adonai, not the controllable deity that my sinfulness wanted Him to be last spring.

I have been angry with the Lord before last year, and I assume I will be angry with Him again in my life. I write that frankly (and if anyone is overtly concerned for my spiritual health, I will gladly eat a meal with you and discuss in-depth how that frankness came to be) and with all confidence that God is big and wise and strong and “fill in the adjective blank here” enough to handle my anger and still be God. I am not still angry with Him, for His Spirit is in me to convict and renew and comfort my soul – praise God for that, and praise God for the day when I am in His arms, when anger, fear, sadness, and sin are eliminated, and when I will love Him well.

Until then? Until then, I will continue to write and continue to press on, with full assurance that Christ is seated on the throne, that I am His, and He is mine.

a proem

No description available.
the last sunrise from my first apartment

11:50 pm

Owen and I are watching a strange NYE countdown show…possibly fitting for everything that has occurred this year? I haven’t watched one of these shows in years, and I guess I’m okay without it.

11:52 pm

I gave a lot of words away this year, though sometimes they were only for me and the paper to hear. They were words of thankfulness, fear, anxiety, praise, and the overflowing of my heart in love. I learned again this year that you don’t always have to tell people exactly how you’re feeling. Sometimes, silence is okay.

11:54

Ah, but I have also learned again (and again and again) that when someone you trust, respect, and love looks into your eyes and speaks truth, God is glorified and you are uplifted. What a gift it is to know people who are willing to give you words.

11:56 pm

I remember how excited I was for this new year and decade to begin. I can’t say I’m excited now about 2021, but I am ready for the arbitrary turning of the calendar. Isn’t it cool to think that God is greater than time, that He is greater than the coronavirus and our whining over how “crappy” this year was?

11:58 pm

For there was grief this year – whether related to the virus or not, we have cried and mourned for ourselves and our loved ones. We have all felt fear, most have felt doubt, and I think we’ve all felt a bit alone. Ah, but God. But God is trustworthy and good, kind and sovereign and always faithful.

12:00am

There was grief, and there was also joy. Joy for friends giving birth to sweet babes, joy for loved ones getting married and starting lives together, joy for being alive.

12:02am

The theme goes that I have fewer words each Eve that I write. The date changes, I say a prayer, and I wonder what the Lord has ahead for us. Maybe I don’t need to be excited, just willing to read His Word and trust His character and genuinely love the people created in His image?

12:04am

I will read books, eat at new restaurants, laugh with my family, learn from my friends, and grow in one way or another. My heart is tired from the past twelve months, but I don’t think it keeps track of time like the world does (so I will be okay).

12:06am

I didn’t drink anything sparkly today, but that’s okay. I ate breakfast for dinner with my second family, watched a movie with my blood family, and thought ahead to some hopes for the new year.

12:08am

I’m running out of minutes for these words. Maybe 2021 will be a year in which I think more deeply and articulate my thoughts more clearly?

12:10am

The Father loves me, Christ is on the throne, the Spirit is in my heart, and that is all my confidence is in. Be safe, love your people, and think of what God would have you do for the next 365 days under the sun. He is good, and you are His.

Spring?

IMG_5207

Tulip Fields, a few springs ago

It’s finally spring, and while that fact won’t save the world, I am comforted.

I wrote those words this morning while sitting at my grandparents’ kitchen table that now resides in my parents’ dining room. The wood is worn in certain places where my grandparents sat to read the mail and watch the news, or where aunts and uncles and cousins ate fried chicken and yelled at the television for the Steelers to win. I’ve thought a lot about those memories and ghosts the past two weeks as I’ve sat here to telework (has that suddenly become the third most popular word in the world this month?), but I haven’t written.

I have washed my hands, listened to all three Lord of the Rings film scores (twice), and video-chatted with friends who live in different states. I have worked extra hours to help my company scale with the technology needs around us, listened to the neighborhood kids play in the cul-de-sac, and smelled the pear tree buds right outside the window. I have baked a cake and eaten it with my family, touched my face and then chided myself, and vacillated from fear to anxiety to trust to peace and then back again.

But I have not written, at least at length. I’ve penciled down a few sentences during the day and have continued with my nightly-journal entries, none of which are profound. I have felt like Pippin in Minas Tirith, waiting fearfully and disbelievingly for the hordes of Mordor to approach the Pelennor Fields.

(you knew I’d have some sort of Middle Earth reference in such times as these)

I don’t feel a calling to release pithy statements – I am thankful for those who have written and posted such ones – nor do I yet feel the ability to give words of assurance (you can find those here). I do think, though, that I can share a few hopes.

I hope those of us who received the Word of God preached virtually on Sunday rather than in person will have a greater appreciation for corporate fellowship when we’re back in our church buildings. I hope our hearts are refreshed when we settle back into routine gatherings with our churches, but I really hope that our hearts (speaking as the American church here) remember these weeks when we were apart and are then prompted to pray for our brothers and sisters who aren’t able to meet routinely or safely. 

I hope these weeks spent in our homes will allow us to love our own spaces, to see the shabby or new or cramped or unkempt or beautiful and praise God that we get to call it ours. All on earth will eventually pass away, but for now we have these walls to paint our favorite colors, these ovens to bake chocolate cakes in, and these tables to hold bowls of soup and good candles. Our homes can be a vessel for hospitality if we’re willing to shake off our pride and have people come into our spaces. It’s humbling in all sorts of ways to welcome people in, yet we know how good it is for humans to feel welcomed someplace on earth. Once these strange times are over, may our homes be those sorts of places.

I hope we take advantage of technology to talk with far-away friends and family during these times and that we are motivated to visit them in-person once it’s safe to do so. I hope we take (some) time to look backwards and forwards in our personal timelines, that we’re able to process events and look forward to how our lives will be normal and altered. I hope we’re patient with our loved ones, diligent in taking care of ourselves and our spaces, and that we have the humble audacity to admit that we aren’t God and that we don’t have answers to all questions.

Have courage and take heart, dear ones – we are small, but it is spring, He is Lord, and He has overcome.

an interpolation

12.31.19

The last sunset of 2019

11:50 pm

I usually wait eight more minutes to start typing, but tonight I am tired and wouldn’t mind going to sleep eight minutes earlier. Cheers to growing older and changing, huh?

11:52 pm

It’s fascinating that we only post “yearly recaps” on Facebook and Instagram if we’ve had really great years, years of good grades or engagements or international trips or new babies or the sweetest mundane moments. We don’t post pictures of the hospital beds or the dying pets or the goodbyes that force tears when you remember them in public.

11:54 pm

Truly, I am thankful that 2019 is over. I believe in goodness and redemption from the Lord in every part of life, whether now or after Jesus returns – but, I do not want to relive this year. I have kept the essential memories and lessons; now, I start to say goodbye.

11:56 pm

A new decade comes along with this new year. Fourteen to twenty-four, with so much in between. The passage of time is something strange.

11:58 pm

January and June held distinctive turning points for my head and heart. In January, my heart softened to life in Virginia and I started to appreciate the goodness around me. In June, my heart broke and let go of idols that had brought anxiety and I thanked God for limitations.

12:00 am

I’m one who needs change to happen to me, for I am terrified of being a catalyst. New is here, forced upon me, and I am thankful.

12:02 am 

I do have plans on the calendar for 2020 (how lovely is that date to type??), which settles my mind that longs for steadiness. A friend-sister and I had breakfast last Saturday, and half our conversations were about our desires to burrow into the roles and places we’ve been given. May this year see us looking more like rabbits.

12:04 am

The Weasley family home from Harry Potter is called The Burrow…I wouldn’t mind living in such a chaotic and welcoming mess. For now, though, my life is slightly less complicated than the redheaded wizard family and far sweeter because of the people God has given me.

12:06 am

It is almost time to stop putting down these words. My mind is more tired this year, my body feels weaker, but I am better than I was last January, even with fewer words to share.

12:08 am

I’d like to type up the entire song Moving Forward by Colony House, but there isn’t time for that. Go listen to it on your own time and know that I am singing it with faith as I turn away from the growth of 2019 and wait with hope for the days and gifts and lessons of 2020.

12:10 am

God is greater and kinder than we can imagine with our little minds and hearts, and I pray to remember that in this next year and decade. He is faithful, and we can trust Him.

 

When I forget my limitations

green

How is one supposed to write well about a grandmother’s death when it still feels odd to call her “gone?” What tenses should I be using when I speak of her, one believer in faith referring to another believer who is now in Love? My grief and disbelief are overwhelmed by my relief that she is in peace in the presence of Jesus, yet I still reside in an earthly body that can and does cry for the loss of her laugh and her hugs.

How is one supposed to write well about recent moments of un-explainable fears and anxiety that reside while driving in a friend’s car or sitting at a desk in the middle of an average day? What words should I have said while crying in my parents’ bedroom or fumbling through telling a best friend? It is frustrating and shattering to realize that your body and mind don’t always behave as you want them to.

How is one supposed to write well about the beauty and nuance of friendship when she herself has lately been such a poor example of the sweetest gift from God? What excuses should I find for my inattentiveness and lack of care these past six months? It is a fearful thing for me to rely solely on the love and grace that comes from others and to not feel able to reciprocate with my own actions of love.

-|-

The prophet Jeremiah spoke the words of God but was not himself God. He was ignored and kidnapped and left to trust enemies of Israel with his physical well-being. He must have grieved for the stubborn tribes, wondering if his own human mouth was somehow getting in the way of God’s commands for repentance. His mind and body must have felt stretched with exertion and fear as he realized (over and over) that he was a human who did not have control over his circumstances or the hearts of his people.

My lesson since the start of this year has been on hubris, the act of turning up my nose to and my back on the Lord. No, that’s not right – it’s more turning up my nose to and my back on this humanity given by the Lord, my silly heart and fallible mind and weak body that remind me that I am not God.

I feel more limited than ever before, in body, time, and place. Lately, I’ve been trying to think of this reality in terms of me being created and God being God, the Creator. The three “How?” paragraphs above are the culminating thoughts of fighting against those limitations for months now and of wanting (without admitting so) to be like God. 

-|-

I am not the first to break under and finally accept my human limitations as good, nor will I be the last. Jeremiah knew and accepted his limitations as a prophet, wholly reliant on God for protection and heart-change. Friends of mine know and accept their limitations as mothers, ministry workers, nurses, husbands, teachers, friends, and soldiers, wholly reliant on God for strength, perseverance, health, and the will to get out of bed some mornings. As I read Scripture and observe my friends, I hope it will get easier for my mind and body to rest in their limitations.  It’s difficult to push down the fear and instead thank God for His sovereignty and my limits – but what else can I do? He is the only One who saves and is worthy to be praised.

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;  your right hand upholds me
                                    | Psalm 63:6-8

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”
                                   | Jeremiah 9:23-24

Stars of promise

IMG_9572

The starry-ceiling of the Schuster Center in Dayton

I’m not a person who has set-favorites. My favorite movie changes by the year, my shelf of favorite books is turning into a shelf and another shelf, and my favorite city is generally the one I’ve been to most recently. I like a lot of things, I love a lot of people, and I don’t like picking out just one from any category to hold high and say, “See this? This is the best _____ to me.”

The only exception to this truthful generalization is my favorite constellation: Orion.

-|-

When I lived in Ohio, I went on nightwalks quite often to clear my head, ponder my interactions with whatever boy I happened to admire at the time, and talk to God. This habit of walking at night only came about because in high school I often took Samwise, our family dog, on his final walk before bed. He and I would take a loop around our cul-de-sac, sometimes crossing the main neighborhood road to the one spot where I could see the stars. I remember the winter walks best, partially because I was cold and wishing Samwise would purge faster, but mostly because winter is the season where Orion sits overtop my house, tilted and with his abstract arms stretched higher than I can fathom.

I recognized Orion’s belt years before I knew it belonged to him. In younger ages, those three stars represented for me relatives who had died. They were for for my mother’s grandmothers, one I was named for and one I was only related to by love, and for my sister, at peace with the Lord before the thought of me existed on earth. I could look out my window and see those three stars, and I would say some sort of prayer to God about them, feeling the deep melancholy that any eleven-year-old does when relatives she never met have died.

Later on, after my own grandmother died and when I often felt friendless, I would walk Samwise and talk to God. It can be difficult to talk to a best Friend who is a spirit, yet when my face was horizontal to the sky and Orion was above me I felt that I was truly having a conversation. Prayer is one of my weakest spiritual disciplines, but those lonely nights were rich times for my relationship with Yahweh.

My teenage years passed, friendships were given at just the right times, and my conversations under the stars and with God were more sporadic. When I took up nightwalks in Ohio, though, Orion pulled at my memories and my soul, beckoning me to again speak with the Lord as my Friend.

And so I did. I stretched out on the low brick wall by the student center, speaking to God about boys and grades as my eyes dashed from cluster to cluster of stars. I sat on the steps of the Biblical studies building until my legs grew numb, looking out at the lowest stars on the horizon and asking to have a peek at His plan for my future years. When I needed to cry alone and talk about the burdens on my heart, I would go to my bench under the pine trees; one of the darkest corners of campus. With my chin pointed to the catch-all building and my neck tilted up, Orion was directly in my sight and the words for Yahweh came easier. I cried for my brothers and my parents, for my girls and my friends and the details of their stories. I held those tears until the presence of my favorite constellation reminded me to let them and my burdens and my anxieties fall onto the heart of my Savior.

-|-

I didn’t have a real point when I started writing all this, but I do now – go outside. Go look up and pick a star or constellation; go walk in your local park and find a tree that looks just right; go sit beside your favorite body of water and watch it move amongst itself by the wind. Find a beautiful piece of Creation that you can call your favorite.

Now, stare at that beauty. Take a few breaths, smell the air, let your eyes wander and your thoughts go where they want. You’re here and so is God, just as it has always been. Try saying a few words aloud, even if it feels funny at first. It doesn’t have to be a prayer or a song; you don’t have to say anything brilliant or poetic, but do say something.

Talk to God in His Creation, for you are His Creation.
He knows you, and He loves you
(so much).

The heavens declare the glory of God,
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard | Psalm 19:1-3

You hem me in – behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast | Psalm 139:5-10

 

Home soil

 

As I wrote previously, my transition back to the state, county, and town of my childhood has not revealed the best parts of me.

There are many metaphors related to coming home, but the one I have latched onto is “home soil.” I connect it in my mind to the verses in John where Jesus talks about Himself as the Vine and Christians as the branches who rely on Him for life, daily support, and growth. My branch-self grew a lot in the Ohioan soil for four years, taking in adventures and college lectures and new everything. In my mind, the process of growing relied on my context and circumstances. New equaled growth, while old meant stunted, dry, and stationary.

And yet, that last sentence is not Truth.

-|-

I’ve been attending a young-adult book study that is led by one of the pastors at a sister congregation of my own church. The group is a mix of people I’ve never met before this January and people who have known me since before, during, and after braces. We are reading The Pursuit of Holiness and I am learning again how it is to be sanctified through conversations that go deeper than those regarding commute time and weekend plans.

After a meeting last month, when the study time had ended and while the rest of the group made tea and ate cranberry pumpkin bread (don’t knock it ’till you try it) in the kitchen, I sat on the floor and shook heads with one of my favorite engaged couples. Tim has known me since my infancy; he is the older brother of my oldest gal friend, a man who has made in-depth speeches about dirt and led a caravan of vehicles through the rolliest Virginia mountains. His almost-bride has known me since I was twelve; she is the older sister of my oldest guy friend, the woman who is listed in my phone as “Jenn the Lovely” and could match wits with Lewis and Tolkien any afternoon.

I knew these two as we grew up attending classes, church, and birthday parties together, but I never considered them to be my “friends” before this year – partially because they were cooler and older than I was and partially because I did not yet understand how sweetly rare it is to have a second chance at becoming friends with people who have known you a long time. I sat on the floor after study that night with Tim and Jenn, content to marvel with them at how neat it is of God to have us be friends at this time in life when so much else has left or changed or simply faded.

They come from the same soil I was a child and teenager in; their roots go as deep in this Northern Virginia area as my own do. I was away while they fell in love, but now I am back and they will be married by this time next week. They and their siblings and other people I grew up with have become the friends I look for after Sunday service and the believers who turn my mind toward sanctification. Our relationships are old, yet our friendships are finding new rhythms and patterns as we learn to be adults on our common ground.

Yahweh has given me some sort of second chance to live well here among people I have known and still love.

Honestly? It’s good to be home in this old soil.

How to start over when you don’t have a fresh start

room

(alternatively titled, “Moving back home after college with parents and friends and a church who love you dearly even though you feel sort of like a stranger after four years away.”)

I ran away a lot this past summer. That may appear to be a neutral statement on the surface, for each time away had a purpose: serving brothers and sisters in a new country, standing beside a brother and sister during their vows in our old town, and visiting with Mads, no matter what state she chose for us to be in. I slept on pallets in city apartments, my friend’s childhood bunk-bed, the lumpiest of couches in another friend’s living room, and a beautiful, thoughtfully-designed guest room (feeling very much like Anne and Diana). I met people who know my Lord in a different language but love Him as I do, people who knew my friends when they were younger than college-age, and people who know how to make me laugh like Aslan has returned.

When I finally ran out of reasons to leave, I came home. For weeks, I sat here in my hometown and applied for jobs that would give me a permanent reason to be somewhere else – anywhere else. I envied my college friends, the ones who stayed in Ohio and the ones who went to new states on their own. The small adventurer inside me wanted to be like them, making new cities their homes and settling into new churches and finding themselves to be braver than they ever thought possible.

(my friends, I am truly proud of you all – forgive my envy)

I grieve as I write those words, for while I felt bitterly in my heart towards the sameness of coming home, my family members, old friends, and church body sought to remind me of the goodness in coming home.

-|-

I don’t have a satisfactory conclusion to this post, for I am still determining how to once again be a daughter, sister, friend, church member, babysitter, granddaughter, coworker, and person here in Virginia. I am trying to fall back in love with this state, its traffic patterns and its strange familiar-ness.

After all, when you leave and then return to the soil you were born in, you feel what is different, even if those who remained don’t. You’re starting over without a fresh start, and it’s difficult to have patience with yourself and the dear people in your life who knew you before you left.

To my family, my church, and my friends – thank you for loving me these past few months as I have wanted to not be here. My heart is turning the corner; reading Tolkien and watching college basketball and putting down relationship roots have helped. I’m not an Ent of Fangorn yet, but I promise I’m trying to dig in and love this place, not the place in my memories or my wishful thoughts.

At last they rode over the downs and took the East Road, and then Merry and Pippin rode on to Buckland and already they were singing again as they went. But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap. He drew a deep breath. ‘Well, I’m back,’ he said.
-The Return of the King

I’m back. I don’t know what I’m doing or how to really start over, but I’m back.