Friday, February 27, 2009


"Ojalá, which translates to English roughly as "I hope," is but a Hispanicized version of the Arabic expression wa-sa Alláh (or in sha'allah), meaning "may Allah wish it."
--Joseph J. Keenan

Monday, February 23, 2009

the boy who's always had my heart

They keep changing. The seasons, I mean. And not like they're supposed to. Last week it was in the seventies, and a few nights ago it got down to nineteen degrees, and then driving home today, the way the light was bright and clear and the air blew through cool on my hands, it was fall of 2005, cross country and the smell of leaves and earth, running through the trails, driving to meets.

Last week I was walking to campus for my eight a.m. class and there were tractors in the part Alicia and I call the Narnia woods, kicking up earth and it smelled like that mix between country and something urban, fields and asphalt. I remember being maybe nine or ten and playing with my brother and my babysitter's neices and nephews in her front yard. Along the edges of her house, you could dig two inches into the damp dirt before hitting concrete, and rolliepollies crawled out of the brick and we played with them, let them crawl across our fingers.

They were the only bugs my brother wasn't afraid of. I remember how he'd scrunch his shoulders up, face stretched like laughing and almost shouting, the way he'd hold as long as he could until it tickled too much and he'd jump up and try to catch a few more.

Last week it was mid-February and it was humid and warm for that early in the morning, surprising for that early in the year, especially if you're not from here. But it was also twelve years ago, and I wanted to reach across that gap and hold my brother's hand, tell him things would get hard and he wouldn't understand, but that one day after everything we'd realize there had only ever been hope.

I saw Josh this weekend, and I know we aren't there yet--and there's so much I wonder. If I could have been holding his hand the whole time, something, would it have been any different? He's almost grown now, and it's still strange to reach up to hug him, for him to be so much bigger than I am. But he is not the child he might have been, and he's not the child I sometimes remember. He is hurting and fighting everything there is and when people really love him, he's my Josh, the one I missed out on loving when it might have meant more than it does now.

It's too early to be this warm. I want it to be warm. Really, I want it to start getting warm and stay in that not-quite place for a while. But when it went back to cold again, I started complaining about it and someone said to me, well, it is February.

He's sixteen, he'll be seventeen in two months. And I have to remember that it is only February for him, that we haven't even seen spring yet.

But what I want is May, he and I running at dusk underneath a summer sky, that great dome of heaven reaching across it from one side. I want the way the night beat inside itself, cricket heartbeat, the shingles on the roof still warm from the sun. We were alive and he was my brother and there were only nights like that.

He'll be all right. He'll be all right.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


"People need to see that, far from being an obstacle, the world's diversity of languages, religions and traditions is a great treasure, affording us precious opportunities to recognize ourselves in others."
--Youssou N'Dour

Normally I don't comment on these, but this time I'm going to for two reasons.

First, it reminds me a bit of the COEXIST bumper stickers, and I have very mixed feelings about those. I mean, I really do wish we could all live together and be all right. That, for example, Israel and Palestine would just stop fighting, regardless of who I or they or whoever believes is right, that they would quit killing each other over it. But I don't know enough about that to say any more, so what I mean is that--yes, I wish we could coexist, I do. But I think the bumper stickers also promote a sort of "each person's truth is his own" kind of thing, and I don't believe that.

But second, apart from that, I fully agree with that quote, and I love it. It's true, and it says very simply and concisely what I'm always trying to get at but can't. That our differences are beautiful and exciting, and that there's also some of the same in everyone, and I think seeing both at the same time is where the best of it is at.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


"I don't think of it as working for world peace, he said. I think of it as just trying to get along in a really big strange family."
--Brian Andreas

Monday, February 16, 2009


Of all the really cool things that happened this weekend, this one drove it home:

I was at Spring Conference (formerly known as Emmaus) this weekend, which is a sort of a big retreat for all the InterVarsity students that go to universities in the eastern Carolinas. And it's pretty cool, it's at Myrtle Beach and retreats are always great and well-needed, so. And it was over Valentine's Day, which means my Valentine's Day present to myself was taking a three hour nap (and it was glorious, oh man, I could do it every day), falling asleep to Alicia making a chill-music love mix cd.

Part of what the speakers were talking about this weekend was identity, God as the father, all that good stuff. So when we left, we went to Zaxby's and while we were eating I saw this sign on the wall that said "Nude Bathers Watch For Poisonous Jelly Fish." Which is pretty much the most amazing thing I think I've ever read. And so I wanted to get a picture of it, but there were these two little old ladies sitting in front of it so I just figured I'd wait until they left.

Well, by the time we were leaving they were still sitting there talking so I got up and I (TENSE SHIFT!) walk over to them to ask and see if I can have a picture, and they say yes and so while I'm taking it, I start talking to them. Turns out they're from High Point and Pittsburg, but they've been living down here for thirty four years now. And oh, I'm from the beach too? And they've just gotten out of church, so oh oh, have they heard of InterVarsity? That's why we're here this weekend--yes ma'am, we're college students. And the conversation goes on like that until I've got the picture and I have to leave.

But as I go, the woman on the right holds out her hand and takes mine, pulls me toward her, and says to me, "Wherever you go in life, don't ever forget whose you are."

Whose. Not who, but whose. Which is incredible, because first, she seriously said that, and second, because a huge point of this weekend is that we are the Father's, we are his children, and he loves us for no other reason except that we are his children and he is that good. And things with identity and the father have always been a little weird for me, and especially so since this past Christmas. But also especially so since this past Christmas, I've been beginning to really know and understand that God is my father and everything else falls short, so lucky for me, I've always had the best there is. And there is no other that can take that place for me, not for anything at all. And it is pure joy, because it means that actually I found him before December. So when she said that, don't ever forget, I want to always answer: I haven't, I won't.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

if i reach out my hand, will you give me yours?

Yesterday afternoon I heard from Tracey--my foster mom, whose family I lived with for a few years in high school--for the first time since May, and I can't tell you how excited I still am about it. I've always been really bad at keeping in touch with people, and I can't say exactly what it is--I moved around a whole ton growing up, so maybe it's just sort one of the side effects of that? The problem is, I wish I was better about it, especially with the people I don't want to lose touch with. I remember being so scared that something like that would happen when I moved out of their house to college, that we'd just drift apart, and that these people who were as much my family as anything else I'd had would become another part of my life that had happened, had meant a lot, but was done. Except I didn't think it would be more my doing.

I talked to her for the last time before I went to Colombia, and all last semester I thought about how it had been months since we'd talked and I kept meaning to call her up and never did. And then when I finally did their phone numbers had changed. So yes, like I said, crazy excited.

Now, I've said this before, but Tracey and her family are black. And I'm white. And although living with them wasn't one of those experiences that I look back on and wonder about how it was the most culturally shocking experience I'd ever had (it wasn't--but more on that later), it is one that I'm so glad I had. I love cultural and racial diversity. Put me in a room where all the people in are so crazy different in that sense, and I get a little giddy and grinny.

So that said, I'm just going to say this. At risk of offending anyone who doesn't agree with me: I wish there were less white people on my campus. Seriously. We have next to no minorities, and I'm pretty tired of it. I miss being around people who remind me of Tracey, that whole culture in general. "Less white people" is probably the wrong way to say it, but that there would be as many of other ethnicities. So I don't really know what to do, apart from participate in minority groups--working as a conversation partner for the internationals is something I love already. And hanging out with my Korean and Viatnamese friends is so awesome, because in some ways it's refreshingly different, and in other ways--like with Tracey and Thomas and Kristopher--it's the reminder that I am in fact hanging out with my brothers and sisters. We have these differences, whether it's in how we look or celebrate or see things, or how we feel things or get together with our families or treat people we don't know--I don't know, a million different things, and I think they're amazing and when people say we should all be colorblind I really hope we won't. And on the other hand, particularly at heart, we are people. We laugh together and we hope together, and if I reach out my hand, will you give me yours?

Another cool thing is that I didn't realize until a few weeks ago that Korea is 40% Christian. And that Seoul has the biggest church in the world (900,000). And a few of my Korean friends are Christian, and to see someone so culturally different loving the same God I love is just amazing. I think that's in part a result of the ethnocentricity of the West, but I think it also goes to show how much bigger God's "worldview" is than any of ours.

It all reminds me of when we went to church in Colombia. I was surprised when we went to a Protestant church, first of all, but I was more surprised by just how huge it was. Evangelical Christianity is exploding all over the world, in places like China, in largely and historically Catholic countries like Colombia. And this particular church is massive. It's called Su Presencia (His Presence), and I remember they had rented out a whole parking deck underneath a mall and had buses that bussed people over to the church. And this was just a Wednesday night service. The inside of the actual building holds about 2,000 people and when we got there it was full so we had to sit crammed on the steps in the lobby and watch the screens to see what was going on. And this building, made of concrete, was shaking underneath the people worshipping in it. I remember the cold of the concrete step and how Alicia looked at me and put her hand to it, and it felt the way the subway going by in New York City does.

I didn't understand the words that first time we went to church, but I remember Samuel had fallen asleep against me and everyone was packed all in together the way Colombians tend to do, and I was looking around at people listening about God, watching the verses in Spanish on the screen, picking out words I knew. I remember the people lifting their hands, and closing my eyes, disappearing into the body of Christ, all of us crying out to him. I think about that song that says "Oh God let us be a generation that seeks your face"--a generation, all of us alive in that room for one single purpose.

What I want to remember is that togetherness, that fellowship, with people of another nation and culture and language, and even though we were only in a room together, all the distance of countries between us, we were fully together in God. And I want to live that way, just like that.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Love God, Love People

This has been my first semester without any creative writing classes in college, and it's a funny thing. It's been a huge relief, honestly, just having the break from it. I don't know if it was having to write by deadlines all the time (something surely I'll have to get used to) or having to do an inordinate number of critiques, but it wore me the heck out. And now I'm not in any of them and I'm so glad. And I've found myself wanting to write on here the way I used to, thinking about ideas for my story about Adam and the wheat field--I still don't know where it's going to end, but the getting there is getting more and more detailed. And so while, as much as I love to write, I was ready to be done having to, if that makes sense, and now it's already building up in me again. And I'll tell you what, it's a wonderful feeling, wanting to write. I love words so much, but there have been several times in the last few months when I'd be all full of some frustration or just thinking a lot about stuff and I'd know I'd need to write out, whether to understand it or get it out or, every once in a while, make something nice, something I'll be proud of having written. And almost every time I wouldn't write. It felt like a chore, even though I knew how glad I'd be after I did it. So now all I'm thinking is how good it is feel the pull back. I love this, and I want this--words, I mean, just writing stuff out, all of me and always.

So now to the real part of the entry (I think):

First, I was standing by the sink earlier tonight and I was just thinking about a thousand different things going on in my life, how I don't know what's going to happen or what I want to happen, but I've always been the kind of person who has hypothetical conversations in my head. Not consciously, or even always to people, as in this case. I don't intend to have them, I just sort of realize that that's what I was doing. And it's not like rehearsal for what I'm going to say--not exactly, it's less than rehearsal, but if it were like that, then it would be for what I would say. Hypothetically. So.

Somehow all of that got me to thinking about how for so long after my ex-boyfriend and I broke up, I was a mess. A whole heap of different things in there, but one of them is bitter, and I still wonder if I'll ever completely heal there--that is, I'm so happy now and I just want to love people the best I can, but I'm wondering if I could even come remotely close to that with him, or if I'll always just have hard feelings there. I don't know. I hope not, I suppose, but there's not much conviction in that.
And so I thought about how it was true that I was okay and how that had everything to do with God, and everything to do with Colombia. And then it occured to me how much God used those four weeks there, and in so many different ways. Even now, seven months later, I'm seeing for the first time different ways being there changed me, and how it's almost like God's working backwards in me--things that are forefront now are reaching back to experiences from then.

First, Colombia showed me what it was like to love again. And I know how that sounds. Those awful I never thought I'd love again things, of which I'm just as guilty. Buh. But I don't mean that. I'm not talking about relationships with boys. I'm talking about loving people. I came across this verse tonight, Rom. 12:9. It says "Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tight to what is good." I still suck at loving people. Like, really badly. But I was completely closed off to any of it before. Not because I didn't want to or was angry at all the people around me or anything like that, but something along the lines--I think--of my heart just shrinking back in me and closing off to everything. I don't know what my thought process was then, and the more I write this the more stupid I feel and feel like I sound, but everything hurt. So badly I didn't think it would ever quit, and so it was all I could think of whether I wanted to or not. And because of that, everything else just sort of wasn't there. Everyone else. I was just closed off to it all.

Enter: Colombia. I fell in love with that country, with its people in every possible way I could. I fell in love with the mountains and the way the the clouds sometimes pulled away and the sky came through like the world being born all over again. I fell in love with the way David loved his music--I saw how openly and deeply and fully a person could love something, without hesitation or thought of anything else. I loved the people, even when it was hard, even when we got all the cultural things wrong and Alicia's dad and step-mom made us feel like we were imposing (and maybe we were). What I mean is that those aren't the things I remember. I remember Alicia's Tía hugging me and crying in the airport when we left, and I remember trying to know the people where language got in the way. And something about the way people hugged and kissed there. It was like I finally reached back out and it wasn't just that people were there, they were all reaching too, and suddenly my heart was bursting to love again, to love everything it touched. And it did.

Maybe it was a hundred different things. I don't know. Another thing--and this one's only come to mind in the last few days--but there's something about God's people of other cultures just loving him. I'll tell you what. I don't really have a lot to say about it yet, but I hope to.

But I do know this: there was something in that country and that people and in me and it opened me up to let the whole world in, and it filled me up with something that's bursting to love the whole world now, and it's all I could hope for, really.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

i want to live with my heart as open as this

1. My middle name is June, and I used to hate it--everyone else had middle names like Elizabeth and Lee, and no one was called June. But I love it now, it's such a pretty name and an even prettier month, and even though every other girl is named Sara, I don't know another Sara June.

2. can't tell you this one

3. Speaking of moving, I lived with a family who was black for a year and a half before I graduated from high school. We don't keep in touch as well as we used to--I've always been sort of bad at that--but they were my family. People ask me what that was like, being white and living with a black family, and it wasn't like anything but family--just a few more people to love me and for me to love and the cutest, most amazing little boy you've ever seen in your life. And it's that kind of thing that makes me where I can't wait until all people of all colors and nations and tongues and all that are worshipping together in heaven.

4. My family's sort of challenged sometimes. But we're getting better. We don't exactly fit each other, but little by little we're staring to grow into each other.

5. Almost every time I hear another language I want to learn it. I've got a list of languages that I'm serious about, but for sure I'll be fluent in Spanish.

6. I've got two of the best roommates in the world, and I don't deserve them at all. But they're amazing and I hope one day we'll be sitting together on the porch or in the living room and all of our kids will be playing together, mine bossing everyone else around and asking a hundred questions, Alicia's breaking for snack time every ten minutes and jumping between English and Spanish, and Hodges' the sweet, quiet, determined ones--and also the ones running everywhere in cute little kid tennis shoes.

7. Somewhere along the way I turned into a romantic--I can tell already just writing this. But not the roses and moonlight romantic. I mean, that stuff's great for sure, but I mean the idealistic kind. The all hope and dream and doing big things one day sort.

8. And that said, I am an INTP--not the idealistic type at all, but the thinker. And I'm an INTP for sure, no doubt at all--but in the last few years it's softened some, and that part of me that loves hope so much comes out a lot in my writer side.

9. Want to be a writer. I'm going to be a writer, one day, and I just love words.

10. And I don't think writing can be taught. I mean, I think it can, to a degree, but I feel like writing schools are good only for sharpening or developing something that's already there. And a lot of people disagree with me.

11. I love school, I love learning so much and I hope I never quit learning. But sometimes I'm just ready to be done with school, and I think the subjects of my majors are things I'll attain with or without a degree just because I'm passionate about them. And for majors like mine (this being totally separate from any of the Sciences), being taught to think sometimes seems a little arbitrary.

12. I love the color green. I mean like love love.

13. And I'm addicted to Sun Drop. I'm a little worried about it actually because of my braces. And the fact that very infrequently do I go a day without Sun Drop.

14. My favorite person in the whole world is my little brother Josh.

15. I'm going to Romania this summer to do missions, baby! And I am pumped. I absolutely can't wait for it.

16. Something about me--my favorite fruit in the world to eat is lemons. You cut them in half, put salt on them, and eat it like that. I love the faces people make when I tell them that, but they really are delicious.

17. And speaking of faces, I make them a lot. Usually I can't help it, and a lot of times it gets me into trouble because they aren't always very nice faces. But to be certain, you can always trust/tell what I'm thinking by my face.

18. I like honesty and transparency and good conversations. And in that, in that connecting with people on real levels, I just want more. I want relationships with people that are intense and wonderful and scary and real and that rock you to the core. I want to know people and feel that knowing. I want that with my friends, with the people I've known and the people I'm getting to know. What I want is to connect with people, to talk for hours, to have the kind of moments that shape your life.

19. In all of the I wants and I loves in the last eighteen numbers is the fact that, even though I love and want these things, I fail at them constantly. And I want to learn to love people so much better than what I do.

20. And to learn to love God better than what I do.

21. Hands are one of my favorite things. When I meet you, chances are that at some point in that first exchange, I’ll have taken a good look at your hands. And not just because I love the way they look—although that’s a big part of it—they have cool symbolism, like reaching for hope and stuff.

22. I like to use these things—what are they called, dashes?—a lot, and I’m almost always conscious of overusing them when I write or type and so I try to cut back, but I think and talk that way—with pauses and inserts and incomplete thoughts.

23. It’s probably not the case, but I hope if you’ve spent a fair amount of time around me that nothing on this list was a surprise. I want to live with all the things I’m passionate about on my sleeves, and I want you to as well, and I want us to talk about those things.

24. I wear bracelets on my right wrist from the countries I’ve gone to, made of the colors of the flags of those countries. Except I don’t have one from the States. Right now I’ve got Mexico and Colombia and I want to travel to/live in more countries than I can think of, and I hope I can find bracelets from each one.

25. I can’t believe I actually made it to twenty five—and I certainly can’t believe I wrote so much. So one last thing—I love analyzing accents and thinking about the etymology of words and the study of linguistics as a whole. So if I could have travel to any moment in history, it would probably be when God confused the languages of the people at the tower of Babel.