Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I've been making lists lately. I've never been a lister (although I've tried half-heartedly once or twice), and the more time goes by the worse I manage it. And procrastination? Let me give you some examples: all but one or two of my stories for my creative writing classes have been written the night before. Honestly, a deadline means two things for me. It will make sure that I do at least get the work done, but it will also ensure cramming all of it into the last hours. I made a to do list the other day, though. I was at work and had a ton to do and kept forgetting what all it was (yes Southern construction! what all! who all! etc.) so I wrote it down and it really helped. And then Friday before I left for a retreat our chapter went on, I had so many things I needed to do and barely enough time to do them (which for me is really toeing the line) and so I made a list again. And I tell you what, I got every single thing I put on that list done, including showering which is more impressive than you might think.

So I got everything done and left for the retreat and, until this very moment, have not had a Sun Drop since. Just saying. The retreat was pretty great. I'm thinking the weather brought in for real fall (different than calendar fall), because it rained and rained and the wind was crazy like a tropical storm, and then two days later it quit and since then it's been nothing but drawn out sky and no humidity. And then the talk. I'd been so nervous leading up to it, just wanting it to be done and over with. Let me just say that I am not a speaker. Right, I am not a speaker. I'm a writer, a reader (not out loud, but that's for another post), and language-er (linguist?). Because when I speak I don't have time to think, and I'll try ten different ways to explain one thing that I just can't explain exactly how I mean (wait, don't I already do that while I write?), and on top of all that I just get too nervous to make any sense.

So all that said, thanks to everyone who prayed for me. The talk went really well, nothing to do with me at all, except I guess that I stood up there and said okay, God, and started speaking. I even said a few things that had never really occured to me to say, managed to look really surprised in front of everyone, and then realized, whoa. Yeah this is scary, but it's not so bad either, and man is God awesome. I've always had a hard time when I've prayed something like, God, please just speak through me. Because that usually means I pray it and then still don't know what to say and get frustrated. Mostly I think I just showed up and God took it from there, and the great thing about that is that I had no idea how to make (let) that happen. How to actually trust that he would do that, how to let him have it. No idea at all. And somehow, maybe even for the first time, bam. It happened. So that was a pretty big moment for me, just seeing how God works in things and being willing even when I hardly know how, when I'm worried I can't do that right.

But I'm thinking about double meanings and words, about lists, as in he lists, we list. I've always had a bit of an affinity for nautical terms and I don't know if it's because my grandpa was a fisherman or the New Testament or even just the idea of a sea and a sky, the fact that you can come into alignment with anything at all in the middle of the ocean. I'm thinking about listing, how it means to incline to one side, to careen, especially with boats.

First, careen is a dang vivid word. I can't read that word without seeing a train car, something with speed behind it and likely on fire, rocketing toward an edge, a cliff. It's a word that goes with other words like passion and wild, with movement. And to list, to lean toward, to tend toward, to cant. Sunday, Pastor Jeff mentioned Psalm 37:4--"Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” How when you seek after him, delight yourself in him, his desires become your own, and you begin to want what he wants. I can't even tell you how true this is, how I've begun to list toward God, tend toward him, or rather--he's tending me toward himself. And what does it look like in the end? This word catches on fire, and I want to be careening toward God, something that brings to mind the quote about running a rescue mission within a yard of hell. I'm talking about urgency, being consumed by God.

And another quote, this time The Swell Season: "Take this sinking boat and point it home." Talk about aligning with something, how there's a way home even when all you can see is stretching ocean.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

carolina night, romanian sky

Last night after large group, I went to see my friend Jamie and we ended up driving around. A couple of times a year I kind of get in these moods where I have to think things out, I have to drive around in the dark and see things the way they look then. I love Wilmington, but it's asphalt and concrete and metal in the daytime. It's stoplights and too much traffic, and everything looks imposed. Sometimes when everything's lit up, I don't know. I don't know, I'm forever talking about cool air and lights at night, but there's just something about it. Maybe it's just that it's quieter at night and I can think.

When I was in Romania, there was this one night after our first big hike and I was so exhausted and furstrated with being tired and not having enough God time and I ended up going out on this porch swing and just lying there in the cold, watching the lights off the other cabins, listening to two men talk in a language I don't know, some other group of students somewhere down the hill singing songs in the dark. I can't think about Romania without the singing, without lying there in the dark, too tired to even pray, just lying there and knowing my God is a God of comfort and of strength, and how the wind felt, that I was shivering and I didn't care.

Jamie and I drove north last night--my grandparents used to live about twenty minutes north of here, and I haven't been back in years. It was so dark out there, the kind where the rearview mirror is completely dark and you want to turn around to make sure of what's still behind you. I was looking for the dock access, this place up the street from my grandparents' old house that we use to play at. I remember once my cousin Chris tried to build a raft out of hurricane debris and raft us across the waterway to Figure Eight Island. We ended up passing the entrance three times before we finally saw it, and when we got out of the car we couldn't see anything. Not the water, and barely the path, just holding hands in the dark because we were scared but we wanted to see. So then when our eyes adjusted we walked out on the dock and I realized how much smaller everything looked. I don't know if it's the dark or if it's the time, but every time I see a place I haven't seen in years, it looks smaller. Even the island looked closer. And we stood on the dock and it wasn't really moving because the water wasn't really moving, and we could hear the fish swimming around, splashing. We both got scared because suddenly the fish were making a lot of noise, like someone was swimming toward us in the dark and we couldn't see them.

When I walked home from class Wednesday, I could smell the sound, the waterway. It rained and churned it all up and five miles inland, you can smell it. And I thought about that last night, how I sat on the dock when I was a kid, trying to fish because my grandfather was a fisherman, the one time my cousin pushed me in the water in February and I nearly got hypothermia. I was watching the lights across the waterway when we got too scared and finally left, holding hands again because she saw something and in the dark you can never tell what you're looking at.

Last April I drove with another friend of mine an hour and a half north to see the town I'd grown up in, one I hadn't seen in six years and it was the same thing. It was 11:00 at night and we couldn't see anything but it all looked smaller. And the lights. I'm thinking about the dark and the way the lights look and how that's how I remember what growing up was like now: running in the dark, and the lights that led us wherever we were running, whether it was home or otherwise. It's something I don't understand about God--I don't know if, when the Bible talks about there not being any darkness in heaven and light and everything, if it means that there literally will be no darkness. Because my favorite place in the world to be is somewhere at night when it's cool and quiet and there are little lights I can watch, and even looking at the stars is something you can't do unless it's dark enough. Surely the heavens--the heavens, right?--aren't a bad thing. I don't know, I'm just thinking.

I remember walking back to our cabin in Romania the first week of camp, how we walked through this one stretch of trees where you couldn't even see the person next to you, but above you, oh man. Above you the sky like a turned over bowl and the way the mountains reached up and stars so thick that maybe if it were dark enough, if you waited long enough, all those lightyears, the whole sky would be light. But mostly I remember walking under that, linked arms with Shannon, three or four people ahead of us singing out and catching words like aleluia and Dumnezeu, my hand and Jamie's hand and the way the air feels only at night.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

first day of fall

And it came in all storm, all yearning. Sturm und drang. I was dreaming about my brother last night. I haven't had any nightmares in a while, at least not that I can remember, but I woke up after the worst of it, fully awake for a minute or so, crashing thunder like a movie.

In my dream we were in Romania, but there were people from here, some of them only aquaintances. We were hiking or something when the guide suddenly decided to go a different way, wouldn't go near this one area. We didn't really know what, but something bad had happened there. And so we all went over to look and I thought it was some sort of cliff edge that people must have gotten too close to, but it turned out it was a well, wider across than you might expect. The top was boarded up and a bunch of people climbed onto it, they were saying look, this isn't dangerous at all, it's fine. There were three of them that I could see, two aquaintances and one I didn't know and he was the one who was stomping around showing how the wood was stable, when suddenly one side of it dropped down (imagine it would revolve around the middle like a coin spins or something, a revolving door) and the two aquaintances dropped straight down, arms in the air and everything. And it took forever to hear them hit the bottom, well over a minute.

Everyone was panicking and then it did it again and I saw my brother had been standing on the well and was hanging on to the edge and I went to grab him but he was yelling, saying he didn't care, and true to how dreams mix up everything, he was saying something about not wanting to do his math homework. But I managed to get him and I was carrying him, so I must have been dreaming about the little boy Josh, not the one I know now.

I woke up then, and when I fell back asleep there was a re-do, and that time I managed to save one of the aquaintances that fell the first time, and Josh wasn't on the well at all. I don't know why but for some reason we couldn't rescue the people who had fallen down the well, there weren't crews or anything, and maybe everyone expected that no one survived the fall but then we found out there were a few who had. When the dream started to get more and more unlike how it started out, I was walking across my apartment complex looking for my staffworker, trying to convince him that someone had to do something, that we had to find rope to lower down the well.

It stormed well into the early morning, as best I can remember. After the first time I woke up, I kept waking up two or three times an hour. I'm thinking now--I'm not normally one to try to figure out what my dreams mean. I go through phases of having crazy vivid dreams (that I remember) every single night, to going long stretches without remembering a thing. I haven't had too many dreams lately, but that one came out of nowhere. If I go to Romania, I'll lose my brother? I don't think it means that. I don't know that it means anything at all except that I miss him, that I haven't been able to talk to him more than once since I've been back in the States. I did think about all that though, a week or two ago. When I leave for mission work, whenever that is, whatever that will look like, I won't be there for them as far as God stuff goes. I can't make that sentence mean what I want it to--I just tried for ten minutes and I can't. I don't know how to say it, and I know that I'm not the only person in their lives who can do so, and not that I even do it well at all. But all I can think about is a conversation I had with an incredible Romanian woman named Ruxi, and it scares me because I'm not as certain as I used to be about my family. I love my brother more than anyone, and I miss him so badly, and this is going back to things I've written about before, things I haven't thought about it a while, but I'm scared for the way things are going for him.

I'm thinking about the accidental double meaning of the word fall in the title of this post, but mostly I'm thinking of my brother. How on the re-do, he wasn't there at all.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

all creation

There's a lot I want to write about this weekend--my birthday was perfect (although it was Wednesday, not this weekend), STIM was amazing, as always, my car broke down and I got stranded in Raleigh which turned out to be pretty awesome, I got tackled by three huge guys while playing ultimate and took a flying knee to the head (that's what, six weeks following the concussion in Romania?) and have a bruised ear, of all things. But this is what's on my mind, and so this is what I have to write about:

I'm watching Armageddon right now (say what you want about it being a terrible movie--maybe it is, but it's a sort of childhood classic for me), and it's the scene where the president is addressing the world about the asteroid. And maybe it is a bad movie, but that part of the movie, that part, it moves me. There are flashes from everywhere, all peoples. It's the French countryside, men with their flocks listening to the address, a boy in some city with a handheld radio looking up at the sky, a crowded mosque, people sitting around a radio somewhere in Asia. Languages I don't know, people whose faces I can't place with a nationality because I just don't know. The president says he doesn't address them as a leader of a country, but as a citizen of humanity.

I know I always talk about this, but the whole world. I think about how there really will be a day when the whole world is listening, faces all turned upward, watching. I think about that song, that all creation would come back to you. All creation. I can't get over that. Several of my really good friends aren't Christians, and try as I might (even though I know it's not me or anything I do), conversation after conversation, people I love so much, our lives shared and intertwined, they just don't believe. What I'm saying is that I can hardly imagine them changing their minds about God, although I hope and hope, much less the whole world, all of creation in its entirety.

These movies, words like 'citizen of humanity,' the way I remember singing with the Romanians, how my friends who went to China worshiped with the nations. There's so much about the world that I have no idea about, that likely I will never know. Do I know anything about Kenyans? I know when they wake up and pray, they shout and cry out and wail even, but what do I know except that reflects God, his people created in his image. But I always forget how there's the whole world of people and hundreds of languages and all these mountains and cultures and stretches of cities and life that, even if I tried, I could never see all of. It goes on and on it's so big and there are so many different kinds of people but one day we'll all be looking up, eyes lifted and I think about the lines that connect all of us, how really we are all drawn from one same line.

I don't know what to say to that, but it completely overwhelms me. I have brothers in India, in North Africa. People whose lives I'll never know anything about, who, whatever you believe or don't believe, share something with me or you that has something to do with the words life and humanity. It's too big for me, so I keep writing and writing, trying to get at it, trying to hold on to this picture of the whole world, but all I have is little pieces, little flashes of some huge thing that's trying to fit itself inside my heart.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Como un trueno escucho desde el cielo tu voz
Fuego eterno en tu mirada que a la tierra estremeció
Clamé a mi Dios, y él me escuchó, su mano me dio
Oyó mi oración, partió el cielo en dos, victoria me dio
Tú mi roca, mi refugio y mi protector,
Tu me libras y me cuidas, me escondiste en tu amor
Confiado en ti estoy.

I hear your voice like thunder from heaven
Eternal fire in your face that shook the earth
I cried out to my God, and he heard me, he gave me his hand
He heard my prayer, he split the sky in two, he gave me victory
You, my rock, my refuge, my protector
You free me and you take care of me, you hid me in your love
I'm trusting in you.

(This is much prettier in Spanish, but it's amazing, and my favorite lines--the italicized ones--are amazing in both languages. Technically mirada doesn't translate exactly to face. It means something more like look, like a look on someone's face, but I thought it would sound better and figured face can mean the look on it, so I just translated it that way. And confiado just sounds weird translated to trusting--I wanted to put something like entrusted, I am entrusted in you, I am entrusting myself in you, I am counting on you, I'm putting my trust in you, that kind of thing. But that said, I am not a native speaker and I'm not really positive. The thing is, I'm pretty sure it's being used as an adjective in Spanish, not a progressive, so trusting is more how I am as opposed to what I'm doing. Not overly relevant, I guess, but I'm getting hung up on it. Anyway, amazing song. Just wanted to share it.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009


We're all talking about the weather, writing about it. I opened the door Tuesday morning and the air felt like waking up, felt exactly the way it did driving down the coast to Florida when I was fifteen or sixteen. When I thought about writing this, I knew those were the words I'd have to use--that the cool, the sudden, unexpected cool was like opening your eyes, being startled.

I want to feel that every day. I want to wake up and be startled by life, by the unexpectedness of it. By the way you can wake up every morning and make the same breakfast or walk the same few minutes to school, work, and even in the routine of what living seventy years might be, one morning it might be that the light was different, blue like hyacinths almost, glowing like the sky was back-lit, and you thought of T. S. Eliot. Or walking through people, people who don't touch one another anymore, who walk past and beside and around each other with invisible walls and separate lives and all these reasons to be near or close but not with--and then someone's hand touches your back or your shoulder, just squeezing past, but there your lives, drawn from two different worlds, crossed one another like lines and kept going, but that moment they touched and you can always trace back to it. Or maybe it was just that your coffee was hot and the morning was quiet and cold and you felt the heat of it go down as you drank and that moment. Just that moment.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. Only that life is so surprising sometimes, even in all the everyday and I hope it's always like that. I hope that I don't ever settle in too much, forget to see things. I know that it's easy for me to hope for things I don't always expect, to not want too much consistency--here I'm thinking I should be thinking about things like people in villages who don't know when they might have to leave everything and run. What I am thinking about is stretching across an ocean and seeing light on the horizon hours after it would have gone down here, driving down a mountain road in a minibus and suddenly being tossed around inside of it, landing and my head feeling like it split open and hours later in a hospital, no one speaking my language, finally able to think and a million what ifs that wouldn't stop coming. Even in that.

I remember being fourteen or so and everything being so hard, life something I could never control and that always hurt too much, and I remember writing things about being numb but I don't think I ever was. None of it was right at all, but I felt it. Even now I can go back to those things I wrote, over-written and full of teen angst, but they pull me right back to where I was, feeling every bit of what I felt then. And that's the thing--I don't ever want to stop that. I want to always feel stuff. I don't mean living in melodrama or anything like that. I just mean those little things. Waking up and suddenly it's September, riding my bike to class and feeling cool air and wondering.