the weekend

This weekend:

 

high school football; baby shower for an old friend; a reunion with another old friend; Longhorn football at the Wesley House; driving home at 6am;

As soon as I entered the valley into the hill country, a thick fog settled over the road but by the time I made it into the suburbs, the sun was peaking her head over the strip malls.

It was a relatively simple weekend, and yet the fullness in my heart tells me that it was much-needed.

xoxo

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how it feels being a missionary to your old high school

I was one of those people who graduated high school and decided to never go back again. It’s not that I had a miserable experience there. I actually enjoyed it. But there’s something about growing up in a small town that never really fit well with my personality.

I always felt like the county lines were too constricting, like the fields were never big enough to hold all my dreams, the roads never long enough for me to catch any momentum. It was as though the horizon itself was slowly drawing me out, beyond Bulverde, to other adventures.

So away I went. Off to college in a big, bright city. Never at home during the summer. And then eventually out into the world, hardly glancing back, developing a stronger affection for living in slums instead of suburbs.

Along the way, in between the moments in the slums and jungles and underground churches and isolated villages, I occasionally remembered my roots. I remembered the mission field that I’d left behind. A mission field that was bursting with ripeness but was just too familiar for me to approach.

It wasn’t my mission field, I convinced myself. That’s a job for someone else. If I ever do return, I’ll only just be passing through.

Image from the watercolor collection at: http://www.harusaki-suisai.com

Last week I returned to my old high school.

As soon as I rounded the curve and approached the school, nostalgia swept over me and demanded to be felt. It was irresistible.

I wandered through the familiar maze of empty hallways, past classrooms filled with students I didn’t know, retracing the steps of fifteen-year-old Emily.

The entire place echoed with old conversations.

Memories began sprouting up all around me, like little flowers poking their heads out of the soil.

That’s where Mrs. I’s classroom used to be. Remember all the times I thought she was crazy and weird and annoying? It turns out that the lessons she taught me have long outlasted the lessons I read in any textbook.

Oh, now this is the hallway where I’d always stand with C before class started. I remember one time we were standing there talking. He was going to be late to his class but swore he didn’t care because we were discussing something apparently important. What were we arguing about again? I just remember standing there, arms crossed, staring at him and feeling so confused by the conflicting emotions of a teenage girl who wondered if this boy could love her when really neither of us knew what something like that even meant.

That’s my old Physics classroom. I remember exactly which seat I used to sit in, right behind T. He always asked me about Jesus in some way or another, feigning disinterest but clearly still intrigued.

And this is the part of the school that didn’t use to be here. I remember when they first started building it. A few of us snuck into the construction site one night and we climbed up to the roof. We sat there in silence and looked out at the stars and the hills and the empty parking lot below and it was as if the whole world went quiet and sat with us and we thought about all the things that happened in those four years at that school and what it could mean about all the years that were yet to come. 

Walking through those old familiar hallways, past those classrooms that bore witness to my adolescence, I realized that I wasn’t just passing through again. It wasn’t just some casual reencounter with the memories of my teenage years.

I was visiting my new mission field.

What an interesting route the Lord has marked out for me on the Map of Life. That he would take me across the world, literally as far as one can get from Texas, only to bring me back again and say, “Now, be here.

I’m still charting out this territory, which is altogether well-known and completely undiscovered. The juxtaposition of emotions that occur is a bit inexplicable.

I may recognize those hallways, but I don’t think they recognize me. I’ve seen and learned a hell of a lot in the last few years, and now I’ve been brought all the way back to where I started, at least for a while.

But this time, I have a new song to sing.

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threads

I find myself once again in free fall.

Not yet here, but not yet fully there either. Betwixt and between. Scattered across the floor, like the beads of a cheap necklace whose string snapped under tension.

I feel like I’m flailing through the sky, eyeballing the water below me and wondering if I’ll slam down against it in a painful bellyflop, or if I’ll have time to gather my thoughts and compose my body into a smooth shape so that I’ll slide gracefully into the water upon impact.

My threads are bare and fringed and unraveled.

This is how my mind feels when I think too long about my life as of late. One of my jobs has ended, leaving me with less than half of my usual income and an unnatural amount of open spaces on my planner. I have no idea how long this transition will last, and surely it won’t be long, but my how I forgot this feeling of liminality.

Not yet here, not yet fully there.

I’m finding that places in-between are the uncharted, unknown places that determine one’s course more than any other marked destination on the map.

 

This would be amazing as wallpaper for inside a closet, in a small bathroom, etc...

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on friendship

Since I was eighteen, my life has been made full by the Christian friends that have surrounded me.

From roomies to study partners to teammates that were with me 24/7, these friendships have been deeply enriching. They resuscitated me, put color in my cheeks and a song in my heart, even on days when they were extremely humbling or challenging. These friendships shaped my character, my very soul, and the trajectory of my life. These friends have taught me more than you can imagine about life and love and relationships and fashion and cooking and work ethic and dancing and so on. I could not list it all.

But of all things, my friends have taught me so very much about the Lord that I would not know Him if I had not known them.

eternal sisterhood

It turns out, this current season of my life is markedly different than the past few because of one thing: my isolation from these beautiful friendships of mine.

As sometimes happens, Life has blown us in all different directions. Like dandelion seeds being scattered in the wind, we have been strewn across the big state of Texas, into the corners of nearly all the States, and even across the great oceans of the world into far off places and time zones.

Some of us ended up where we always imagined we would, while others of us are in the place we least expected to be. Most of us are not where we’ll end up forever, but all of us are fighting like hell to grab ahold of our dreams and do something big with our lives.

It’s lovely and so encouraging to see photos and read emails and have late night phone conversations about the lives of my friends from across the globe.

But it’s also so extremely difficult to see photos and read emails and have late night phone conversations – but rarely sit before them, touch them, look them in eye, hug them and be hugged by them.

Have I mentioned how much I love making forts with my friends?

I miss Duval House forts the most

Nearly every.single.friendship I’ve ever had is now impaired, to some extent, by physical distance.

I never imagined how difficult that would be. And I absolutely never imagined that the Lord would do such a thing.

I know that God values community because he himself exists communally: the Father, Spirit, and Son. And I know that scripture talks endlessly about the necessity of the Church living and working together. Even “secular psychology” suggests that humans aren’t meant to be alone. And while I’m not fully alone in life right now, I still feel such a strong and overwhelming void that you might only understand if maybe you have also known such an absence.

I’ve asked the Lord, sometimes with a lot of anger but mostly with exhausted confusion, what he’s up to in all of this. The answer I have consistently heard is this:

I want to be your friend, Emily.

these people

The Lord can be known in different roles – as a Father, a King, a Lover, a Healer, and so on. I have known him very closely in many of these ways. But not often or primarily have I considered my relationship with him like a friendship. That looks like a different kind of intimacy and familiarity than what I’ve known and practiced in the past few seasons. But it seems that a friendship with God is how I first began to know him, and perhaps it’s time to return to the feelings of those first few years.

I guess this season of my life, from the outside looking in, seems to have a scarcity of friendship in the day-to-day. And yet, I think this is actually a season dedicated to Friendship.

I don’t have it all figured out, and I still wish my friends weren’t (at least) 75 miles away. But, I think I’ve sort of flipped over a stone here, and I’m starting to see the patterns in the moss.

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like jumping into a river

“He still had doubts about the decision he had made. But he was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”
The Alchemist, Paul Coelho, p. 68

Many months ago, at the dawn of this new and uncharted season of my life, I found myself feeling sort of tangled and immobilized by all the possibilities around me. There were so many roads down which I could have journeyed, but surely, I rationalized, one must lead to a bigger treasure than the rest.

After lots of prayer and list-making and sleepless nights of lamenting and confusion, the Lord eventually told me, You just have to make a decision. Just choose something and then do it.

It was like jumping into the river.

summer fun...jump into a lake on a rope, randomly

The water before me seemed cold but refreshing in some way, like the revitalizing sight of a fresh spring for a weary traveler. It was deep enough for me to jump in without smashing my legs on rocks. The current was strong and would take me quickly, but the river, undoubtedly, flowed in the direction of my dreams.

I knew not what the rest of the river would look like, where the current would take me or how long I would be in its waters. There would of course be many bends and twists in the river’s path as it snaked down the mountain and into the sea, this I knew. Certainly there would be parts of the river that would be white with choppy water. Occasionally there would be waterfalls that would send me plunging and tumbling along. In some stretches I would find the water so shallow that I’d inevitably scrape my knees and have to get up and walk until it was deep enough for the water carry me again.

But all of those parts of the river’s path were unseen to me at the time. All I knew was what was before me in that moment. All I saw was the part of the river that when I looked out into it, seemed to promise me that it was in fact flowing in the direction of my dreams.

IMG_9945Sometimes you just have to make a decision, not a plan. You just have to jump, committing fully to the moment, not jumbling yourself up in the misty fog of the unknown future.

Sometimes you just need to get off the shore and let the water take you – with a jump or a step or a gradual submersion – because the treasure that’s waiting for you in those waters is so much more rich and promising than any treasure you could spend your whole life digging for in the dunes. Continue reading

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incalculable yes’s

I’m dusting off my keyboard and realizing how much I’ve neglected this page. It’s not that I’ve forgotten it was here, it’s that I’ve been staring at it in the corner of the room for a few months now wondering what there is to say. I’ve found it hard to string some sentences together because I feel I’m out of thread and the only fabric I have to offer is colorless and thin.

This season of life, though it has included a few small victories, has been so hard. 

But tomorrow, I’m leaving on a three-week, three-destination pilgrimage. It’s not really about where I’m going, but the act of going that seems to have put some color back in my cheeks. I don’t know why it is that I seem to find so much energy from the act of peregrination and sometimes I hate that about myself –  that I’ve always got my eye on the door. But I just can’t help it, at least at this point in my life. I guess I find God most easily on the road rather than in the pew.

Skogafoss, Iceland >> breathtaking! Adventures in Missions www.adventures.org World Race www.worldrace.orgTomorrow I’m flying to Haiti and I can’t help but think about where I was four and a half years ago when the 7.0 earthquake happened. I remember, very vividly, sitting alone at a table in the dining hall watching CNN endlessly replay the same clips of the chaos in Port-Au-Prince. I put my sandwich down and watched, stunned, at the horrifying devastation. I felt so sick. I didn’t have the appetite to finish the food on my plate but I didn’t have the heart not to after watching that footage. Catch-22 I guess.

Later that night, my shock had evolved into a desperate desire to do something. I stared out the window from my desk and felt an overwhelming urge to pack a bag and go. I swear if someone handed me a plane ticket I would have left without hesitation. I wrote in my journal the next day, “I desire so badly to drop everything and go. Lord if you provided the chance, I would leave right now. Please Lord, let me do something.” But I felt so trapped because all I heard from God was silence. 

For four years, the Lord never offered a chance to go to Haiti. And to be totally honest, I sort of forgot about it. I assumed that it just wasn’t something I’d get to do, that it was one of those prayers that just sort of floats out in space and never lands any where.

There’s no such thing as floating prayers though. 

Who can relate? It's time to go.  Adventures in Missions www.adventures.org World Race www.worldrace.org

Tomorrow, I’m boarding a flight to Port-Au-Prince, almost exactly four and a half years after that journal entry. And here’s what I’ve learned:

The word “yes”, when said from us to God, is an infinitely expansive word. The first time we say it, it’s like this little formula is programmed into our souls and over time, that formula generates and multiplies infinitely. We continue to utter more and more “yes’s” in submission to God and eventually, the first “yes” has turned into a thousand, and like Moore’s Law or Pi or the length of the universe, there’s no calculable end. 

One act of obedience, if genuine, is never just one act of obedience. 

Thinking about the way God has answered four-year-old prayers gives me hope about the prayers I’m praying now. Though this season has challenges of its own, I know that God does not let our prayers drift out to space to be lost in abyss. He grabs them and logs them and responds to them at the appropriate time.

So with just one step at a time, I will keep saying “yes” to God in this season, on this pilgrimage, knowing that my yes to God will eventually become God’s yes to me.*

That’s not to say that God says “yes” to all our prayers, because often he says no (and PTL for that). But our faithful obedience to God will produce good fruit in our lives, which is God’s yes to us.


(top two photos from Pinterest)

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yet i will rejoice

even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields are empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty;
yet i will rejoice in the lord!
the sovereign god is my strength!
he makes me as sure-footed as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.

habakkuk 3:17-19

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