Monday, July 13, 2009

nine hours and counting

Well. Right now I feel like I'm about to die. I always say I never get sick and mostly that's true, although if I do get sick it's definitely never in the summer. But I was out with my friend tonight just hanging out before I head out of here and I really felt exhausted. No energy at all. And then I started to notice that my lymph nodes were swollen on both sides (it's usually only on my right side). So I went back to the apartment where I had (have) hours and hours of things to get done waiting for me, but I felt like I could conk out so I got into bed with the intention of lying there and resting, not falling asleep. And then I fell asleep. It was only for about thirty minutes, but when I woke up I had this bad bad headache and the lymph nodes were more swollen and my throat was sore and of course still felt like I had no energy at all. Right, so I feel like death. Just out of nowhere and right before I leave before Romania. And I've still got all those hours worth of stuff to do before I go ahead of me.

Alicia and Hodges, if the apartment is still turned upside down by the time you guys get back, which it will likely be, I am sorry, I promise I will clean it.

Today's been really nice though, apart from suddenly getting hit with whatever this is. It's actually been kind of strange, honestly. Last night we had a goodbye party for me which was amazing, and I've never had anything like it. I've had a few birthday parties, but this beat all of them. I can't tell you how much I love these people, how abundantly blessed I am by their friendship. It's weird because I haven't been nervous at all about Romania but then tonight right before I said goodbye to everyone it just sort of hit me and my pulse was all fluttery and I was a little shaky. And then after that, after about twenty minutes of hugging people (which always makes me very happy!) I walked out and it was quiet on campus and it's funny how suddenly that moment felt like the end of something. Not the end of any friendships or anything like that, but what I mean is that felt exactly the way a movie might, or a book. And if my life were a book, the chapter would end there. I feel silly using that metaphor, but then I feel like I'm experiencing and observing and noting my life all at the same time and those flash moments like that always tend to give it a structure I might not have thought about otherwise.

So on to the next one. I don't want to say next chapter because that just feels kind of cheezy. Maybe it's more like mini-chapters anyway. But on to it, whatever you call it. Nine hours and counting now.

Mental to-do list:

--See if what I've packed fits into my soccer bag so I don't have to lug around giant cheap luggage.
--Do the dishes. Oh dear gracious, do the dishes.
--Write the rent check because that would be a very bad thing to forget to do.
--Clean a ton, but at this point maybe I should be realistic...
--Type up a bunch of names for NSO for next year and email them.
--Lots of organizing little things--mostly this one's just trying not to forget things like grabbing the batteries and separating stuff into little bags.
--Responding to about six messages/e-mails that I haven't yet. If that's you I'm sorry.

I realize this doesn't seem like a lot, and maybe it isn't, but I am no good at all at this kind of thing. It's like, holy crap I have a ton to do and it's just so much and I don't know where to start so I don't and then it's nine hours before I leave and I've barely gotten anything done and I still have to sleep because I've got to be well rested and why the heck am I getting sick and whoa I am overwhelmed so I just want to sleep because I feel like I'm forgetting everything there is, and I know I'll forget something and I can't think about it so breathe.

New plan: wake up at six or so, read this so I remember what needs to get done, work like crazy for a few hours (and shower), and then get the heck out of here.

As far as posting while I'm in Romania, I'm almost certain I won't be able to. If I get a chance to put up something quick saying that I'm alive and all, I definitely will. But if I don't, I fly back in the 7th of August. I'm gonna remember how it was windy today and humid, and when I'm in Romania and hiking the Carpathians, this is the home I'll be comparing it to.

For everyone that's been praying and encouraging me and listening to me, thank you so much! God's going to do crazy awesome things, and I can't wait to tell you about it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

i got my braces off!

Well, I'm about four years late on this one, but oh man. They're not actually all the way in place yet--they'll be just a little straighter once I get the retainer, but oh man oh man oh man. What's really great is that you can actually understand me when I talk now now--I can enunciate! It's so great! I am so excited, you guys don't even know. Also, I think the picture can be viewed larger in case you want to zoom in on my teeth and just look at them. No really, that's what I've been doing for the last three hours.

In all seriousness though, I've been nothing but smiles all day long.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

sharing life

It feels like freshman year this morning. I'm in my room at my desk and about three feet away my friend Jamie is sleeping and it's raining outside--soft quiet, everything sort of humming. It feels like the dorm in a way our apartment never has. I just got out of the shower and my hair is cool on the back of my neck and I'm in pajamas, sitting here in the quiet and I could spend the whole day like this.

Lindsey--my roommate from freshman year--and I would have days like this all the time. Saturday mornings, particularly. It's different in an apartment, going down to the living room. But I'm trying to type quietly and the sound of it brings me back.

I've seen Lindsey several times this summer, and it's strange thinking back, how different everything was. I think about how well we hit it off at first and then how difficult living together became. There aren't many big things I miss about freshman year, and there certainly aren't with sophomore year, but I remember our mornings and little things, how cold it got, hearing the music from her headphones as she listened to her iPod, and then walking through quiet morning to the dining hall together.

If you'd told me at the end of freshman year how we'd hang out some this summer, I might not believe it. But it's been good. What's funny is that a friend of mine from high school said the same thing to me two nights ago. That he and I would spend the summer in the company of one another and each other's friends, enjoying a very particular friendship, one that runs through places you might not have guessed is a surprise to both of us. But then, our God is in the business of restoring relationships, of healing.

I'm sitting here and I'm wishing that it could be this simple all the time. Jamie sleeping a few feet away, grey quiet morning. The people I care so much about. This is what I want. I want to share life with each other, sitting in the stillness.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

ephesians 3:20

About Colombia. About not going this summer. And about how God's got this crazy way of working things, how I'm able to look back and see his hand working in this summer, and particularly how it isn't so much that he's worked things in ways that have been huge blessings (although that's certainly the case), but more that he's used those blessings to put me in a position where I have no idea what to do. What I mean is that I've got a decision to make, one that had me ready to start crying from frustration yesterday. But I'm being vague.

Sometime around the end of May I got a chance to go to Colombia for two weeks. And let me tell you, I was so excited and happy and all we had left to do was call Alicia's dad to confirm the dates and then buy the plane ticket. And sometime in about the twelve hours between making the decision and getting her dad on the phone again, I started thinking about all the things I'd already commited to for the summer. The problem was that the dates I'd originally hoped to go weren't going to work, and the only ones that would work would have me leaving in the middle of the freshmen orientations and the evangelism class I'd started. I also had a friend coming to stay with me the weekend after I would have flown out, and I'd really been looking forward to the weekend, just getting to know her better and all of that.

So I ended up staying. And more than I'm not, I'm glad I stayed. I really am. I would have had an incredible time in Colombia, I know that--it wouldn't have been perfect, I know that too, but it would have been good and I would have come back able to talk and talk in Spanish. But here--and I've said this nearly every single post since May--I've been incredibley blessed with relationships and I feel like everything's somehow become more and more about God and so he's blessed me that way too.

I stayed because of commitment. I didn't want to let people down. Now I'm thinking about that as a motivator in decision making, and I want to be careful. Because some of the things I thought I was staying for ended up having next to no part of my summer. That's not exactly what I mean, how do I word that? I'm talking specifically about working the orientations. Now, while I really, really am grateful to the people who came and helped out, I came out more frustrated than anything else. And bitter. Man, just bitter about people. And in different ways, but for similar reasons, it's only gotten worse as the summer's gone on. And my thought is, wow, what a waste of my time. But what's that? Well that's crap, I can't go on with an attitude like that, whether I'm angry or annoyed or hurt or even if I start thinking that I don't care.

So jumping to another part of this summer. First, it's important to know that I've been jumping around between churches for well over a year now and for the life of me I haven't been able to find one that feels right. I'll like them, but for some reason none of them have felt like the church I should be at. I've been going to Lifepoint for about four months now and I like it, I think it's a good church where God's doing some pretty cool stuff, but it's 'the church I've been going to' more than it's 'my church.' It's not my church. No religious jokes intended, but I feel like in some sort of limbo, just kind of floating around and going to churches knowing that none of them have been the right ones, but not really sure where else to go in the meantime. It's interesting, because at Lifepoint Sunday the pastor was talking about how you can't ''date the church,'' which is what I've been doing in a way. My intentions aren't to not commit to one--it's only that I haven't found the right one, but I can't not go to church in the meantime.

But then there's that evangelism class I've been going to with Pneuma/Grace people. And a few weeks ago I started going to their Sunday service (it's at five in the evening). Now, Pneuma has the feel of an on-campus ministry, but it really is a church. And I'll tell you what. It fits, it really does. What's that verse about the word being our bread and butter or something? Not to say that topical sermons with scriptural basis aren't as good as scriptural sermons that discuss a topic (you guys know the difference I'm talking about?). I only mean I prefer the scriptural ones, I guess. And that I feel like suddenly, bam! I feel like I had no idea I was so thirsty the last three years and suddenly I've been plunged into lake and I am drinking it up. I know that the whole not knowing I was thirsty thing is mainly my own fault, mainly my insistence on having God drag me toward the good things he has for me kicking and screaming. But I also know that this summer there's been a change and God is in the thick of it. And that I've found a church I feel like God's put me at, one that doesn't feel like a typical church, and one that will be very different come fall when most of the people who've been so encouraging will be gone. But one that I feel like I'm getting my bread and water from, that he's using to grow me up.

Where am I left, then? The problem is the rules. The problem is commitments. I've made commitments to things that I can't and don't really want to back out on. And I feel like God would have me honor those commitments, just like through honoring them this summer he blessed me so much in ways I didn't expect at all. So I'm okay there with all of that. I've got my commitments to the ministry I'm involved in and that's good and I do feel like I'm there for a reason. But I really feel called to this church. At least I think I do--honestly I have no idea what to do, but for the purpose of thinking it through at the moment-- So the problem is that this church is kind of an on-campus ministry. It's a church first and technically, but it's very small and mostly students and looks very much like an on-campus ministry. And there are unspoken rules about being in more than one. On the one hand I know they're good rules, they're meant to keep people from spreading themselves too thin. But it also feels like a bunch of politics. And ultimately, although I do serve the ministry I'm involved in and my church, I serve God first.

My worry is where I'm working out of, how I'm making my decisions. I'm praying, of course--and it occured to me last night in the middle of the sermon that Pneuma is a church, after all, and we're supposed to be involved in a church on top of our involvement in InterVarsity. So my worry in that is that I'm working out of a technicality and isn't that just another way of being deceitful, of bending the rules? But when suddenly I thought of that, I wondered if it was God telling me what I should do. It made sense. I've been worrying myself sick the last few weeks about this--what am I going to do? I want to be a part of this church, but I don't want to divide my time, I don't want to do something if I feel like I might have to keep things from people, etc. The problem is I'm already commited, but surely there's a way I can do both. Bam, that's when it occured to me. Well, it's a church, not another ministry, so I'm okay.

Mixed in there some is the bitterness I talked about earlier, although I don't think I'm making any decisions based on that. I think it's very important that most of the people I've been spending my summer with are leaving, so I know my motivation isn't there. Even apart from them I feel more poured into than I have in the last three years--that's not completely true, because through STIM and discipleship I felt very poured into this year, but otherwise. I don't know how to explain any of this. I'm frustrated and confused. Apart from praying, I have no idea what to do. On the one hand I feel like once I realize what the right thing to do is, I'll feel peace about it, and that's one thing I haven't really felt. But on the other hand, I also know that sometimes God wants us to jump out in faith. And maybe that's what I'm supposed to do?

It boils down to this: whatever happens, I've got to do it because that's what God wants me to do. I have no idea where he's leading me in this, and I'm not so sure he's going to tell me. Maybe he will, but maybe it's more about having faith that he'll work things for good. I'm just not sure. And I don't want to make any decisions based on frustration or anything like that. I just don't know.

If you've gotten this far, first of all that's crazy. This is mainly for myself, I think, just trying to think things out. But what's clear to me is that God is always surprising me. For the hundredth time, this summer--this summer that's barely more than half over--came out of left field. Who would have ever expected? And it doesn't just end with these great things--it's like he's saying, here's a picture of what I want to give you, but I want you to trust me, I want you to seek more of me. I want to bless you. So here I am in a situation where I don't know what to do, and I have to listen to God and trust him. There isn't anything else--I have to. It's like how God will capsize a boat to show you how he wants you to trust him to save you (cool story that happened to some friends of mine). He's like, let me give you this great thing because I love you, but let me teach you to trust me because I want more of you, and when that happens, you'll begin to learn to accept the even bigger blessings I want to give you. And on like that.

"Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think."
--Ephesians 3:20

Thursday, July 2, 2009

things that have been making me especially happy as of late

--I was sitting in the waiting room at the orthodontist Tuesday and there was this guy (maybe a little younger than me? but then I'm terrible at guessing age) sitting with his mother. And she kept nodding off--not just falling asleep for a minute or two, but the kind where you're sitting there and your head actually is falling forward and jerking back up. And the guy reached his hand over and sort of steadied her head and neck so she could go on sleeping without all the jerking around.

--For three days now--four if you count today--when I leave work to take my lunch, there has been a man sitting across the street wearing a red tank top sitting on a picnic table. On it like on the table, with his feet on the bench. He's always there when I leave, sitting the same way. I don't know him, but he sees me too, and I wonder how long he'll be there come one o'clock.

--I'm getting my braces off before I leave for Romania. And even if he said I couldn't, my orthodontist is one of my favorite people to be around.

--The heat--I know it's weird. Even I think it's strange that the heat should be making me so happy, but there you have it.

--Even though I've only learned about three words in Romanian, I read the other day that lei means lion. And then I found out that the Romanians don't use the Euro, that their currency is the Lei. They pay in lions! Just wow.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


This is my very favorite time to be in Wilmington. I haven't spent a whole July here since the one following my freshman year--last year I got back in town around the 20th, and this year I'll be leaving the 13th. Mostly it's the heat, I think. I'd rather be hot than cold almost any time except for when I'm sleeping. Well actually, that's not completely true--I'd rather it be hot outside most of the time, cold inside while I'm trying to sleep, and then when it gets to be November and December and on until February, it could be crisp air and jacket weather, but no heavy coats, please and thank you.

But the heat here in July, there's something about it. When I go out in the cold weather, I am cold--unless the wind is blowing it's not so much that the air is cold but that I am cold being out in it. Or sitting inside where it's room temperature. You don't feel that, it disappears like feeling your clothes on you does. But outside in July, you feel every bit of the air and it is heavy and dang hot. And I don't know, I just love that. Nevermind that I get all sweaty and icky--I feel like it's pressing on me, like I could fold it, maybe, and that's what I love. It hems me in.

And then there's the fourth of July, and sitting on the riverfront with fireworks thudding inside all the open places in you is stock for the nighttime air and lights that really get me. The first time I ever saw fireworks in real life was in Wilmington, and I would have been fourteen, I think, the summer I lived down on Topsail. We drove down for the fireworks and when I heard them the first thing I could think was how it sounded exactly like the thunder did when I was camping a year before and the biggest storm I've ever been in caught us on the top of the mountain. I'd never been able to describe how big the thunder sounded, even growing up with all the storms and hurricanes, but this was it, this was exactly what it was.

July just has that feel. Like you could run and shout and let your head fall back and love the heck out of people. It's also something to do with how heat builds on you all day and then nine, nine-thirty rolls around and the heat's broken some, humidity coming from who knows where and ten times as thick as it is in the day, so you don't ever stop being aware of the air and its shape around you.

I'm ready for the lightning storms, the street flash-flooding. And isn't it that? The heat and the electricity, all of it building, and sometimes you just need it to break, summer like a building tension, breaking into itself, outside and I'm soaked through, ankle deep in runoff.