The Final Semester

My best friend and I shared a hotel sized dorm for 3 years and had known each other for 4, but the time came to part ways. Nothing changed about our friendship or desire to be friends.

We didn’t have a falling out. We were graduating.

The stink of it was, I was her Resident Advisor so I had to ask her to sign the check out line through my tears. It was awful! We would never again be roommates but we knew each other like sisters.

All spring, I had these weird feelings. I knew graduation was coming. I was also engaged to be married. My life was changing and would change radically in the months to come even though I didn’t leave my college town after graduation. That spring, graduation was always out there. It loomed and my emotions rode this weird roller coaster that I can name now as transition.

Looking back at myself, I know how unprepared I was for this change. All the boxes of life were checked. Grades. Check. Apartment. Check. Job. Check. Health Insurance Rider. Check.img_5704-1

I was even one of those annoying senior girls that was actually engaged! The dream, right?!

But, emotionally, I did not expect to feel such turmoil.

So, you seniors in college, you are in a pivotal semester.

You are waiting to hear from potential employers. Wondering about a current co-ed relationship. Trying to figure out where to live. Needing to pass classes. Planning celebrations. Its a lot to take!

So, how can you leave college more ready for the next phase of life?

Reconcile relationships. 18-22 are volatile years of change. One big step to graduation should involve thinking back on your time in school. Are there any friendships that went south? Any lingering, nagging feelings of resentment towards old roommates, boyfriends or girlfriends, organizations, leaders, or professors that are creeping up in your soul? Pay attention! When classes end in May, it will be much harder practically to reconcile these relationships.

Forgiveness, hopefully, is a choice you’re making. Reconciliation is the next step. Think through your time in college. Is there anyone you need to talk to? Consider talking to anyone you’ve hurt or who has hurt you and expressing forgiveness or a desire to forgive. It may not fix things the way you might want, but it goes a long way.

I had to do that my senior year and it was one of the harder conversations of my life to ask for forgiveness. As an adult, I’ve had to have many more of those conversations. Get started now and enter adulthood on a track of freedom from your past.

Affirm. Many people, most likely, came into your life during college and provided the encouragement, teaching, friendship, and support you needed to finish. Let them know. Think through these people and contact them personally or write a note. Not only will it grow your gratitude, it will also remind you that you were not alone in a season where loneliness can creep in.

Farewell. Say your farewells. Don’t avoid them. It doesn’t have to be a huge graduation shindig. In fact, that may be a really difficult way to say a meaningful farewell. Farewells happen best for me when they are personal and specific to my relationships. Did you always work out on Fridays with a friend? Mark a last workout, get a treat afterwards,  and tell them you’ll miss them and that tradition.

Why say farewells? Graduation marks that a change is taking place in your friendships. You are entering the work world in different cities. You will make new friends. Trying to hold onto all of your friendships the same way is impossible. They need to change and saying farewell to the college student phase of your friendship is a good idea. Some college friendships will continue, but they will be different. They will take more effort and not all of them will last.

And, friends aren’t the only farewells to say. What about professors? Favorite study haunts on campus? A place where you had an epiphany about yourself, your life, or your future? One of my favorite things to do when we are moving away from a place is to walk around and remember my favorite places and what happened there.

Think Destination.This is the practical of moving. How and when are you going to pack? Where is that nasty couch going to go when you move out? Where will you stay in the in between? What will your job be and when do you start? What will your budget be? Where will you go to church or find friends?

It could be as simple as answering some of these questions. Zoom out and also consider, what do you want your adult life to be like in your new location? How will you get there? What can you do now to smooth the path?

Are you looking for a church? Ask friends about churches in the new town, go to one the first Sunday, visit a few, and make a decision.

Then, serve in some capacity. You will meet far more people and probably have a better attitude if you are in the game rather than bench-warming.

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So, I must give credit where credit is due. These four points aren’t my own. They come from David Pollock who helped many, many adults and children make international moves with this model of transition called RAFT. I’ve used it many times myself for moves.

It became so internalized for me that I also went to it when my dad received a death sentence from the neurosurgeon in 2015. You can read more of that here.

This process doesn’t eliminate the hard things of moving, but it will help you move through them a little more smoothly. It’s a RAFT to get you across some bumpy waters of life change from graduation, moving, marrying, or saying the ultimate farewell.

I hope it helps anchor your soul and give some direction in a very tumultuous semester.

Stooping to Look Again

From four years ago….

I don’t like to wait. I try to find ways to avoid waiting. Call ahead. Go do something else and come back when the line is shorter. I especially don’t like to wait when I don’t know how long the wait will be. That’s what it feels like to be left, to wait for the unknown. When leaving, I think about the future, to what comes next. It’s exciting. When left, I think about the future, too, but what comes next? I know not.

The tomb scene in John spoke to my heart this week as I contemplate the departures of a few friends and teammates. Mary came to the tomb early and left late. She saw the men come and stoop to look inside and then they returned home. She, too, looked and saw emptiness inside, I suppose. The text doesn’t say specifically. She was left, so she thought, but she lingered anyway, weeping and waiting.

I don’t like to wait or to weep. I don’t like to be left.

But, then she stooped and looked again where others looked before and saw nothing. Amazing. Why did she look again? I don’t know but if I were her, why would I look again? I want to see. I want more. I want a different reality. Maybe I’d think that if I looked one more time, just once more before I left I could leave and go home and start to fill the emptiness on my own, sure that there was nothing left to wait for anymore. The act of stooping to look again is so full of faith.

She stooped and looked weeping and she saw angels…heard angels, spoke with angels!  She saw the Risen Christ, clung to Him, and He gave her a message to pass on.  For others who came and went, the tomb lay empty, just empty.  But for Mary, who waited and wept and stooped to look again, the empty tomb became a place of joy and comfort and hope and purpose.  The emptiness of feeling left by the Lord filled up with so much more.

So, I wait weeping more and more.  I stoop to look in the emptiness and wait for His explanation of the reality I feel so deeply.  He fills the emptiness more and more with the comfort, joy, and hope in His Word.  And, He challenges my view of reality.

I am not left.  I am not alone.  The emptiness of the tomb is the reality but the explanation for what my eyes see is far from empty.

A Day for Remembering

I lay on the couch in the morning sun flipping through my photo feed. Memories wash through with each swipe. Sunshine to snowfall. Normal to hectic. One life then another. Change after change after change.

Some photos remind me of things forgotten in the crash of my father’s sickness. The dark chocolate bar the writers gave me upon the publication of my first piece. A monumental event, an event eclipsed by news delivered 2 days later.

Two swipes later clouds and snow from the seat of a flight booked last minute. Then, my parents on face time with family figuring out how to process a terminal diagnosis. Hospital photos, prayer meetings, more clouds from more flights all mixed in with children at school events, moving trucks, beach sunrises and meals at favorite restaurants, hospital room views.img_1404-1

All jumbled together in an impossible array of the unbelievable.
I wonder how we made it, and I remember how we made it. It was life in the moment of what had to be done, constantly shoving aside what must wait until later. Daily listening to my gut when it said weird things like go shopping, buy a nice outfit for each kid for the funeral. Or listening to my friends, buy the tickets, don’t worry about the money.

Coming to accept more deeply that life isn’t as neat and clean as we want, and we can’t make things as neat and clean as we want no matter how hard we try.

Somehow we made it. Somehow we cherished the moments given to us and came through. Scarred, yes. Hurting, definitely. Intact, physically, yes.

And missing.

Always missing what was taken from us in this world. Hopeful and waiting for the day of reckoning. The day of returning what we are promised in Jesus Christ. Life, joy, peace, and fellowship with the ones we love.

A day without tears and without missing.

A sunrise from on high.

 

The Doctrine of Production

Wednesday was my day to do things around the house. I started out in a whirlwind of activity trying to make the day count. Of course, by count, I meant produce things, results. My caffeine fueled to-do lists hardly ever leave me feeling satisfied. In my mind, I imagine I possess eternity in the confines of a single day and the strength of Hercules for my tasks.

Later, feeling rather unsatisfied and frustrated, I sat and talked with a college student about grace and how it means “unmerited favor.” Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. Grace is not getting what I deserve. I evaluated my week and realized while I could say the right things, my actions bear witness that usefulness is a central value. I like to merit my favor.

Ouch. What does that mean for the crippled child? For the elderly? For children in general? For the sick? For the needy? For my dad? For me?

It’s easy to abide by this usefulness doctrine when life is going well. When I can produce and when I feel good about my behavior. It’s harder when life isn’t going well for some reason or my production fails to meet my expectations. For some, like my dad, it’s health. For me, it’s been grief and moves.

And, actually, when I stand back and look at my life, I’ve accomplished a lot in the last year despite huge change. So why is this still a monkey on my back?

Striving. Striving to measure up. Striving to find favor when its already been given me through Jesus. So this is a futile striving in that what I strive for is already mine. So silly.

The verse where God calls me to “cease striving, and know that I am God” comes to mind. To cease striving, I need not look to the work of my hands to see if they are enough or look at life and figure out if I’ve met my goals or behaved well enough, but know in a profound way that God is God. His purpose will be accomplished.

And, He accepted me by grace through faith.

 Rest follows. True soul rest in the midst of the chaos of life. Order will come. Because God will accomplish His purpose.

 

Priming the Pump

My husband is a mechanical sort. So was my dad. I know just enough from listening to them talk to make wild assumptions on what is wrong with machines. Most often I jump directly to worst case scenario. I get the feeling that is not particularly endearing to some, ahem, my husband.

Like the time we returned to our assignment in Asia after a 6 month absence. Our cute orange car waited 6 months for us parked outside. Friends cleaned it a time or two and started it a time or two, but it was lonely.

Our first morning back I headed to the car to go and stock our bare fridge and cupboards. The engine turned over, and over, and over, and over…and didn’t start. I gassed it and tried again and again. Our car was dead, I knew it. Stone cold dead.

I also knew just enough to know that maybe stepping on the gas repeatedly could flood the engine and undermine my efforts to bring Orangey back to life. I laid off, took a breath, and eventually got to the grocery store.

So, here I am years later trying to write again after months of upheaval and absence from my blog and not writing. I primed the pump last week at the library by checking out books on writing like Stephen King’s book On Writing which I stumbled across in the stacks.

I took it as a sign that it was time to try and begin again.

 Plus, I heard it was good. Stephen King’s writing is not my genre by a long stretch. But, his book On Writing is more my style and quite a fascinating and humorous read so far.

I checked out another on the craft of memoir writing. I haven’t cracked it yet. It sounds too serious, a little more ambitious than I’m ready to read.

My library trip and a couple short editing projects, and I felt a bit of the spark of desire to write again. It felt good. Like a visit with an old, familiar friend. Like unpacking a box and remembering a beloved object not seen for years.

I started to feel ready to write again.

Plus, an automated woman from wordpress called and warned me to pay up or I’d lose my domain. I didn’t pay up soon enough. I lost it and now must pay a fine for my procrastination. But, something about a call from wordpress made me think about writing again.

Like a kick in the pants.

I remember paying for my domain name last year. It was a huge step for me to put money towards writing. I was so serious about it. I realize I don’t want to pack up my love for writing.

So, here I am writing…

 

 

 

 

 

Stooping to Look Again

I published this around Easter two years ago. As I read it again, I am struck by how the Lord is calling me, yet again, to stoop and look into the tomb. I reposted it this year. It is still a very current place for me.

I don’t like to wait. I try to find ways to avoid waiting. Call ahead. Go do something else and come back when the line is shorter. I especially don’t like to wait when I don’t know how long the wait will be. That’s what it feels like to be left, to wait for the unknown. When leaving, I think about the future, to what comes next. It’s exciting. When left, I think about the future, too, but what comes next? I know not.

The tomb scene in John spoke to my heart this week as I contemplate the departures of a few friends and teammates. Mary came to the tomb early and left late. She saw the men come and stoop to look inside and then they returned home. She, too, looked and saw emptiness inside, I suppose. The text doesn’t say specifically. She was left, so she thought. But she lingered anyway, weeping and waiting. I don’t like to wait or to weep. I don’t like to be left.

But, then she stooped and looked again where others looked before and saw nothing. Amazing. Why did she look again? I don’t know but if I were her, why would I look again? I want to see. I want more. I want a different reality. Maybe I’d think that if I looked one more time, just once more before I left I could leave and go home and start to fill the emptiness on my own, sure that there was nothing left to wait for anymore. The act of stooping to look again is so full of faith.

She stooped and looked weeping and she saw angels…heard angels, spoke with angels!  She saw the Risen Christ, clung to Him, and He gave her a message to pass on.  For others who came and went, the tomb lay empty, just empty.  But for Mary, who waited and wept and stooped to look again, the empty tomb became a place of joy and comfort and hope and purpose.  The emptiness of feeling left by the Lord filled up with so much more.

So, I wait weeping more and more.  I stoop to look in the emptiness and wait for His explanation of the reality I feel so deeply.  He fills the emptiness more and more with the comfort, joy, and hope in His Word.  And, He challenges my view of reality.

I am not left.  I am not alone.  The emptiness of the tomb is the reality but the explanation for what my eyes see is far from empty.

The Side View

You would think that dodging motorcyclists, pedestrians, and lane-crossers that my capacity for the relative calm and peace of the American roadway would usher in less stress.  I sure believed such things.

I believed I conquered driving stress as a road warrior in Asia, or at least I believed my experiences driving in Asia at least increased my immunity to stress on the road.  Oh, how wrong I was!  Driving in the U.S. of A. ranks among my most surprising sources of stress upon re entry.

I realized the level of my defensiveness, my learned behavior in Asia, was making me dangerous.  My husband and I joked about my PTSD on the road but it wasn’t a joke.  My inability to remain in a lane for fear the car next to me will drift into my lane was, among other behaviors, highly dangerous and I knew it.

The surge of my foot to the brake when any car pulls up to enter traffic from a parking lot is lightening quick.  I break whenever a car even looks like it is thinking about pulling into traffic.  Why?  Drivers in Asia never stop on the way out of a parking lot, trusting that all other drivers will just make room for them.  So, I have deep trust issues.

I drive slow.  Traffic in Asia is mostly pretty slow as it all happens in highly congested cities.  Most of the time I drove at about 30-40 miles an hour.  I was unprepared for traffic to move at 60-70 miles an hour on weaving highways with concrete barriers blocking out the shoulder.  Add to that, drivers seem to trust that others will stay in their lanes which makes them completely comfortable to hang out right next to me at high speeds.  This reckless behavior just sends adrenaline streaking through my body.

To make it worse, sometimes I wasn’t driving but my husband was behind the wheel.  Such losses of control in areas of fear are true tests of character.  Well, I failed them all.  My efforts to grab hold of anything in the car and my convulsive movements into crash positions when he was driving made me dangerous even in the passenger seat!  Fortunately, my husband is understanding and did his best to patiently ignore his crazy wife in the passenger seat.

There is always something unexpected in transition and I began to clue in that driving was my unexpected stressor this time.  Did not see that one coming!  Ah, pride, what a blinder of the soul.  I thought I owned the road and maybe I did just a little…in Asia…but in Texas?  Not at all.  The road was owning me.

So after much soul searching I began looking out the side window instead of looking out the windshield (only when I’m not driving of course).  It took me awhile to do this because, for some reason, I thought that yielding my ability to look forward would somehow negate my control of the future.  So silly!  But, fear usually does not go hand in hand with calm logic.

In this season of fear, I’m struck by the simplicity of living in the present.  Our present is full of boxes, half unpacked or in transit or in a storage unit.  It is also a season of road trips and visiting family and friends.  We are in transition and the longing of my soul is for that future point in which we are settled, so it is difficult to say the least to live in the present.

Living in the present is looking out the side window observing and noticing what is right next to me rather than reacting to all that might could possibly happen.

Even though the present passes by quickly it is beautiful and not to be missed.

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Old Thoughts on New Years

New always seems exciting…better somehow.  The New Year is usually the holiday I count down and celebrate with a cheer.  But, this year I felt a bit of trepidation.  New feels a bit scary this year.

When I think of new I usually think of good things.  A new shirt, a new baby, a new apartment, a new destination, new friends, a new restaurant, a new recipe. 

But, new shirts need tags ripped off and a good washing.  Sometimes they don’t fit as well as I thought.  New babies cry and demand a lot of attention and care.  Sure, they’re cute and all but…new isn’t just exciting, it’s hard work.

In a new apartment I can’t find my way around in the dark.  New shoes feel pretty awful before I break them in.  It took a good soaking rain storm to make one pair feel excellent and that happened 3 years into wearing them. 

Making new friends takes time and attention.  Time to share memories, experiences, preferences, life.  New recipes sometimes don’t look like the picture and new restaurants are difficult to find.

New doesn’t fit quite like the old and I like comfortable and known.  I don’t want to wait three years for the storm that finally makes everything fit right.

When I celebrate the new year, I bet I’ll indulge in a little more nostalgia for auld acquaintances and times past as is fitting when a new year arrives.  I plan to take a look at the last year which gave us a lot of twists.  We find ourselves a little weary at the end of this year.  I guess I am ready for a little new even as I pine for the old.

Because new flowers are beautiful and new babies are warm and snuggly.  New apartments hold yet-to-be-made memories and new friends enrich my life.  Finding a new favorite restaurant sparks my curiosity and new shirts sometimes graduate to favorite shirts.

New isn’t all bad yet new is a bit more complex than I originally thought for a mere 3 letter word.

What is new in your life this year?

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Wilderness Nurtures the Soul

We woke up in succession, five of us in one hotel room. Everyone slept on a real mattress for once. Motels in the US seem to understand families with more than one child.

Our motel perched on the edge of the Everglades and the Keys in South Florida. I was ready to go see, my kids wanted to watch Discovery channel. They grumped and groused as we forced them out of the hotel and stuffed them in the car. We meandered down to Everglades National Park and took in the strange beauty of the marshes. With so many signs pointing out the various wildlife in the area, I stumbled across this one./home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/330/30512586/files/2015/01/img_0835.jpg

Wilderness nurtures the human soul. It was listed as one of the reasons to preserve wildlife. My heart and soul resonates with this statement. Wilderness nurtures my soul. Wilderness is quiet and I hear rustling and chirping that normally fades into the background of hustle and bustle. Wilderness leads me to contemplate my size. I am small yet unique and significant. Wilderness opens my eyes to new creatures and the wonder of the expansive creativity of a creative God. Made in His image, I also long to create. Wilderness feeds my soul.

I noticed it fed my children’s’ souls too. Discovering animals and plants delighted them. Alligators hiding in marshes. Birds floating in from far away. Manatees bubbling up to the surface with their speckled skin and mysterious shape. Fish rushing after food. Birds dipping down deep for a meal. Delighted they took it all in to their soul.IMG_0812

We are still searching for our way in America. At times it feels like a wilderness. At times it feels like a familiar home. We are always learning, always adjusting.

This was our first solo family foray into vacations in America. We’re learning that too. I think we learned we are a national park kind of family.

We won some, we lost some on this vacation. It wasn’t all smooth but I’m thankful for the reminder that wilderness nurtures my soul.

restoration

Flea Market Flip ran last week on HGTV while I exercised. Teams picked out old junky furniture and restored it in a nicely equipped workshop. Then, they resold it to people who found out they paid way too much when they watched the show a few months later. That show cracked open a door in my mind.

Can I be a Flea Market Flipper too?

I browsed Goodwill hoping to find a bike for my son a few days later. I found a bike for my son. I also found a table for me. Do I need a table? Why, no, I do not. But, the table needed me, so I took it home. Now it sits in my garage waiting for me to restore it.  IMG_0372

Which brings up a curious point of drama in this story because I don’t actually know how to do that. So, I pinterested.

I discovered a few options for this kind of project. One involved a few cans of superior grade spray paint. After that, there’s the small step up. I can buy a can of some kind of primer, sealer, base type paint and slather it all over before painting the table some daring color.

I’m not a particularly daring person so picking the color intimidates me. I’d leave that to my friend, Lori.

Then there’s classic restoration. It’s time intensive and complicated. It takes elbow grease and new tools. Sanding, staining, putty, glue, varnish, oils. The result is a beautiful, classical table in the style first envisioned by the maker.

I’m not sure I’m up for that. And, do I want another dark wood table? Not really.

Of course, all of this connects on a deeper level for me. If you haven’t gotten there yet. I am the table. A little loose and damaged needing quite a bit of sanding and staining to bring out what’s underneath all the crud. I’ve always needed restoration. I’ll always need restoration.  Until the end of days I will need restoration.

So, what kind of restoration am I opting for? It depends on the day or the hour or the minute. Mostly, I want the fast spray paint type of restoration. Just get me looking a little better. Cover over the worst of the transgressions. Blot out the huge blemish on the surface.

But, there are days when I understand that spray paint fails to do the job. It’s fast, easy, and noticeable on pieces that got a lot of problems. I got a lot of problems. I don’t really ask often because who wants to know the truth about themselves?  But we all kind of know, don’t we?

It takes creativity and time but in some areas I take a step further and really try to cover up the problems. It’s takes years to manufacture the hard shell that covers the really big stuff, those huge gaping wounds and gashes. Add a daring coat of paint to distract. Voila. I’m repurposed.

I’m longing more these days for more restoration in my life. I know its painful to feel sanded, stripped, and scrubbed but I want it. I can see a glimpse of what can be and I want more.

I’m in a good workshop now. Lots of skilled restorers of lives, lots of tools, lots of space, and gentle spirits that walk with the Lord. It’s a good time to restore. I’m realizing I need to keep a workshop in my life in years to come too. A place and people who restore. A place where I can be involved in the restoration of others too.

One person mentioned a few weeks ago that when we’re tired…bone tired…we need to work backwards from the physical through the mental and relational back to the spiritual. I ponder that these days and I wonder if the table is God’s answer to my prayers. I prayed that I’d connect with Him in a new way soon, that I’d see His hand.

Did He give me this flea market find to engage me in the ongoing work He’s doing in my life? Why, yes! I think that’s exactly what He did.

So, now back to the real table that is not me. I want to go buy that good primer, sealer, coater all-in-one paint today.

The allegory only goes so far, folks. I’m going to paint that table in my garage.