Thursday, November 24, 2011

the world is a playground

I have not been doing a very good job at blogging this semester. If you are a faithful reader, I apologize. Words are hard to come by and honestly, my thoughts are jumbled. I have far too much to say and not enough all at once. These days my mind muses over communication, truth, and honesty. I have been floored by how mediocre communication is what the world survives with (rather than thriving...)  - and only since living in this intentional community have I learned the importance of excellent communication skills. I am thinking often about speech and the weight of words, as well as what it means to listen well and genuinely care about what others have to say. (and not just listen to what you want them to say.) I am learning much about myself and the role I play in a community. Hopefully soon I will have more coherent thoughts and eloquent sentences, but for now - here's a glimpse of life lately:

(an excerpt after the della mae show)

In 5 chairs we sat in the corner enveloped in a sea of glorious music. Five women on stage crafted harmonies and pieced together sounds and instruments that fit into each other like the most perfect mosaic. My mouth consistently turned upward into a smile while my yellow boots tapped happily. 
The first snowflakes of the season accompanied the last song.
Life is so good. 

(scrawled after a perfect thursday slumber party, thursdays are the new friday.)

I awake on the porch, the air is brisk and I am snuggled up in a line of friends. As I stumble inside rubbing my sleepy eyes, Sam is already at the counter preparing to make breakfast for our tired guests. He makes coffee; I boil water for tea and pull the crepe batter out of the refrigerator. (left over from breakfast for dinner the night prior) Our friends come in one by one and we eat and wake up slow. After breakfast Claire, Sam, and I go for a walk. We stop to say hello to the swans before going to the secret passageway to the ocean. Claire loves it; Sam takes pictures. Time seems to stop as we scramble over rocks and listen to the crashing waves. I clamber to the top of the jagged precipice and let the autumnal breeze wash over my face. I stare intently at the white foam forming little peaks around the island and my mind drifts to Ernest Shackleton and 400+ days at sea. The sun shines down graciously as we scan the scene for treasure. My glance pauses on tidal pools; Sam finds 2 buoys while Claire hides rocks in her pocket. Just before we enter the path for home we find a see-saw, a log placed perfectly on a stone.
The world is a playground.

four days, and still my mind reels. 
driving between homes is draining,
yet satisfying.
the grey skies nestle snugly around the autumnal colors
brilliant red and vibrant yellows,
(the yellow leaves still last the longest.) 
to my right a black cat scurries in the grass.
beside me speeding,
a moving truck resembling a haphazard wagon
pulled by a hasty child.
three deer chew contentedly on a grassy hillside snack,
while many of their friends lie dead and cold inches from my tires.
The sky bursts in deep pink cotton candy glory,
swirled together with blissful strokes,
refusing to let the weekend come to a close without one
final reminder of beauty and goodness in this world
so broken. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

missing the sierras

(an excerpt from trip.)

Today we set up our last tarp home. The next time we pick up our packs we will be carrying them away from the majesty that is the Sierra Nevadas. We will walk away from the dust that fills out pours day after day, from the glacial lakes and snow capped mountains. We'll say goodbye to early bed times and twiggy fires, to boulder fields and debrief sessions. Away we will walk from long, hard days followed by simple evenings of food and sleep. No longer will we practice being CLODS together, nor will we anticipate caches like more class outside or garbage bag whiteboards - we will trade in our back packs for bedrooms, our stoves for a kitchen, our tarps for a roof. In two days we trade silence for noise, fresh air for pollution, conversation for technology...but we also trade B.O. for perfume, hand sanitizer for soap and water, cold streams for hot showers, and new sprouted relationships for deeper roots. I am thankful that although the journey through this place is ending, the journey with these people is still just beginning. Challenges may present themselves, but I am thankful that I get to walk through these next 3 months with these 11 people. With them I have been pleasantly surprised...
To say I will miss this lifestyle is an understatement...

"Man did not weave the web of life,
he is merely a strand of it." 
(from Chief Seattle's Letter.) 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

i am a contradiction.

a pillar of thought and creativity stands in the kitchen,
a homemade hammock hangs from the beams. 
(strategically placed directly in front of the television, 
testifying that we do not often sit and stare at that box.) 
an "exposure tally" keeps track of the sleeping outside
a basket continually overflowing with local fresh produce,
Nutella always on the shelf
a guitar sits patiently next to the woodstove,
with "the music bag" just in front waiting for some creative hands...
dance parties in the kitchen,
read aloud time at night..

this is home. 
this i love. 

anything i say about this semester will be an understatement. any adjective i attempt to attach to it to describe its greatness will prove insufficient. i feel like a spoiled little child, so much so that it hurts. i love this community of people more than words can say. after dreaming, praying, and thinking about living in an intentional community for years, i am finally experiencing it. i am experiencing and learning why it is challenging and so easily idealized. (which is the one thing i wanted so desperately to learn.) i am learning much about myself, my tendencies, my habits and how i communicate with others. i am learning about perception of others. i am learning what it means to have such an intentional and integrated life. (meaning, these people that i live with - not only are we in the same classes every day, but we're also in the same class of learning how to live together. we learn in our loft together as we discuss John Dewey's theories of education and how to best educate the world, but we also are constantly learning as we have house meetings and discuss problems, as we decide whose responsibility it is to pick up the CSA share or who started the dishwasher at 11pm and hindered some sleeping habits of those below. (definitely my fault) this house is our classroom; this world is our classroom...) i digress. 

this semester has been such a collision of all of my most favorite things. so many things i am passionate about are shaping my daily life and it is way too good to be true: adventure, food  (sustainable purchases!), intentional community, cultivating a home, making of the most striking things to me however, is this contrast between the first month of this semester that was spent wandering through the Sierra Nevadas, and now - this daily life we spend in this mansion in Rockport, Massachusetts living intentionally together in the same place and learning as much as we can about each other, the world, and our futures as outdoor educators. 

i'm realizing something about myself this semester: i thrive on adventure. i thrive on novelty and new experiences. this is partially why i loved backpacking in the sierras so much - it was new and exciting, somewhat risky and dangerous, but way too wonderful to pass up. i love going on adventures and exploring. i love trying new things. 

but at the very same time, with the same exact passion, i crave stability and sameness. 

i long for roots and familiarity in the sense of living in one place and knowing your neighbors, in the sense of being in a place long enough to impact it. (a very long time.) (this desire for home definitely snuck with me on our backpacking trip as every night when we would reach our destination i would treat it like home, (and call it home) and on the rare occasion that we spent two nights in one location - well, that was a super home.)

this semester has granted me the opportunity to explore both of those passions so thoroughly and tangibly; still i love both. 

so i am wondering how to live a life that holds both of these ideas in healthy tension. i'm not sure if it's possible - and sometimes i am not even sure why i am studying outdoor education if this is the case, but i'm enjoying the journey and learning so much that i am not concerned with the destination at this point. sometimes the journey is most important. (a lot of times we get so caught up with the destination that we miss the journey.) 

so until i figure this out, or until God points me in a clear direction and reveals to me how he wants to use all of these (seemingly) contradicting passions, i'll keep learning and seeking to live hospitably in each new adventure. i want to live in such a way that makes others feel at home. i want to host the thoughts and perspectives of those around me well, to be a presence that welcomes others to be who they are, not who they think i want them to be. i want to live in a way that tells others that they belong.

"Stability is a commitment to trust God not in an ideal world, but in the battered and bruised world we know. If real life with God can happen anywhere at all, then it can happen here among the people whose troubles are already evident to us." 
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove in The Wisdom of Stability


in other news, it's a rainy thursday. 
tonight i am going to a concert in boston. (finally! listening to live music again! i've been longing to go to a show for quite some time.) tomorrow tricia, sam and i are escaping to the white mountains for a quick over night hiking excursion and then returning in time saturday evening for Raf's 21st birthday dance party. life is good, friends. life is way too good. 

finally, these 3 books i recommend:

The Wilderness World of John Muir
The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture 
The Phantom Tollboth 

readthemreadthemreadthem !

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

i like the ocean best in the fall.

Like the grey ocean nestled between the shorelines vacant and calm, yet overflowing...
so my heart lies mysteriously within my chest, dangerously full and yet not a crashing wave of warning.

I have way too much to say, 
and nothing at all. 

Until I can gather my own thoughts - check this out! 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

people miss things.

i am sitting here watching the fog roll in, my eyes constantly wandering from my blank word document to the sea. ten minutes ago i could see the lighthouses sitting side by side on the ocean, now they are enveloped in a mysterious cloud of grey. beside me nate is teaching sam guitar; i am thankful that so many people in this house are musical. kerry clicks away at her computer and hannah sits in the loft watching a show, i know this because occasionally she laughs out loud for no apparent reason. : ) living with people in a house is great; it feels too good to be true. for so long i have dreamed, talked, prayed, and thought about living in a house with others, experiencing intentional community - and finally the desires of my heart are being fulfilled. this journey is overwhelmingly rich.

it's hard to know how to begin explaining the past month of my life. it seems far easier to tell you about today, or to describe to you the people i now live with, or paint a picture of the sunrises that i can see over the ocean from where i sleep...

biking. it is my new mode of transportation and i am absolutely in love with it. for the past two years i have idealized the thought of not having a car and being forced to ride my bike every where i want to go. this semester, i do not have my car. for the past month my mode of transportation has been my feet - i spent the past three weeks walking everywhere i needed to go, walking nearly 150 miles, and now riding in a car just seems strange and way too easy. it's not rewarding. riding my bike with the slightly flat tires, squeaky breaks and finicky gears that sometimes jump off the teeth of the crank without any warning however, is very rewarding.

today we did not have class because it rained. (i love my life.) by late afternoon however, i grew restless of not doing anything. homework nearly done and no commitments in sight, i longed to go somewhere i had never been before. (the nomad lifestyle still rears its head now and then.) sam suggested that we bike to gloucester and explore. i agreed. after packing some quick adventure snacks and throwing on my play clothes, we grabbed hannah and set off into the grey late afternoon. the sky looked like rain but the craving for adventure beat out the fear of getting soaked. we pedaled fast and 4ish miles later found ourselves on main street where we wandered in and out of stores and finally settled in a coffee shop, a place i had never been, hurray! as we biked home the salty ocean air washed over my face and i looked at the sky and hoped for rain.

so many things i love about living in this house with these people: i love watching everyone bustling around in the kitchen making food for one another, i love seeing a slack line set up in the backyard, i love community dinners and how they happen 4 times a week, i love that music is played (and taught) nearly everyday, i love that we can see the ocean from our porch, i love that grocery shopping days feel like Christmas, i love that we take turns making meals for each other, i love that we have a CSA share...

i do want to attempt to explain the trip i returned from in the sierras, i do want to try to put words and pictures to that experience - but it seems to be a terrifying and overwhelming task. i would like much better to discuss it over coffee or tea, but the purpose of this blog is to fill in those gaps because i cannot do that with most of you who read this - so i will do my best. for now i will include a little snippet that i wrote on the last day of trip.

People miss things.

    on trip hannah missed her family, sam craved a burger with avocado, and kerry missed new zealand.

    on trip i constantly misplaced things: my multi-tool, my aquamira, my chapstick...but i realized driving out today, looking at those mountains for the last time, that there were few things that i sincerely missed while on trip. i mean i missed talking with my family and getting letters from my grandfather...but other than that i was extremely content. i wondered why i did not miss more things, or even more people... i wondered what it meant to miss things, places, people.

    i think the answer lies in trust, in learning that God always provides for us in the communities that we find ourselves. he might not provide for us in the way we think we deserve, or the ways we desire, but he provides for us nonetheless, and it is always enough. (more than enough.) and i think learning this more and more stifles the feeling of nostalgia in real ways, opens us up to be present and fully invested where we are. i was so nervous to enter into this new community of people and yet as always, God provided far more than i could have begun to ask for...he provided encouragement and laughter, difficult conversations that deepened communication skills, challenging insight and so much more that words would only tarnish.

   nate mori was right, long wilderness trips make you realize and question things. he said it well this morning at our final debrief: ' people matter, food and water matter, every thing else is a privilege...' somehow i want to figure out how to live a life that says that people are the most important.

     i feel like this trip will be changing me for a long time. this trip ought to be changing me for a long time.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


i am not made to be a nomad.

two weeks ago i lived in lancaster,
this past week i lived in lake clear, new york.
last night i lived in wenham, massachusetts,
on tuesday i begin living in northern california,
wandering through the john muir trail,
sleeping wherever our hearts choose. 
(after that i'll live in rockport, then lancaster, then wenham...) 

like the avocados struggling to survive in my (temporary) window sill,
my heart is trying to grow roots. 

after a really solid week in new york our little adventure family returned to gordon for a few days before beginning our trip together in california. it's weird coming back to a place that you call home and feeling like you don't belong. new people live in the rooms i called my own. the friends that made this place home are not here. (they too are exploring the world.) hurricane irene forced us to be indoors, but since i had no room to call my cozy hide-away - i spent the day running from building to building, trying not to let the gordon police see me. (only once they caught me and made me ride in their dark car decked out with flashing lights. "you have to stay inside, " they said "you're not allowed to leave the buildings..." i don't think they understood that i was an "off campus" student so i did not have a key to get into any dorm) i felt so trapped. so stifled. so lonely. after a week of living in really close community with people, suddenly finding myself without a bed or place to stay was frightening.

so i've been moving from dorm to dorm, mooching off of people and passing time any way i can.  last night i found myself in dexter house and as i sat there and had food placed before me, i was humbled. so often i am the one offering food to others and it was so good to learn to accept hospitality as well. and i remembered something God began teaching me this summer, that we cannot sincerely love others until we know what it means to be loved, we cannot genuinely give food (spiritual or physical) to others until we know what it means to be hungry, we cannot properly offer hospitality to others until we know what it means to be homeless... and though this is a super small scale example, these few days of waiting for our trip have reminded me of what it means to be in need, to be at the mercy of those around you. i think this whole semester is going to be a really humbling journey.

i feel as though i am standing on the edge of something vast and dark; i am tip-toeing off the edge of it and i have no idea what is to come, but i am fairly certain that i will not be able to return to this same (and sane) safe little ledge. in four months i will not be the person that i am right now. i know i need to be changed. i know i need to learn and grow and experience new things.

this past week was a good taste of what is to come:

we learned how to tie knots and set up the tarps that will be our humble homes for the next three weeks.
we practiced lighting stoves and collected our gear.
we shared hopes and fears and goals.
we made a lot of food together.
we ate way too much ice cream. (the motto: "everything you eat now will keep you warm later." haha)
we wore sweatshirts and listened to good music.
we played banana grams.  (i am determined to get better at word games.)
we went canoeing. (nate and i may have tipped our canoe... on a lake, no current, no reason to tip.)
we practiced gunnel hopping! (and i have some super crazy bruises because of it.)
we danced.

already i am so very glad that this semester is going to be unlike any other semester i have experienced thus far. i am glad that the learning will be so tangible and practical, so hands on. i am glad that my heart's desire to know what it means to live in intentional community will finally be fulfilled. i am glad that we get to make our own food. our team is quite the eclectic group but even for that i am excited - we have so much to learn from each other. we all bring with us such different ideas, such contrasting backgrounds and varying values. already i have been so encouraged by such honest and vulnerable conversations. everyone is so great and i cannot wait to live with them for the next four months. (ok, i might not still be this excited after we spend every minute together for the next 25 days buuuuut, a girl can dream.)

so tuesday morning at 5am we fly out to california and i cannot even begin to imagine what the next month will hold. i'm hoping snow and grizzly bears are not in the cards but we shall see. your thoughts and prayers are so welcomed and appreciated. hopefully next time i update this i wil be a 21 year old certified outdoor educator.

until then...
may your days be filled with rhythms of rest, gratitude, and joy,
may you explore and love the places that you find yourselves in.

with a heart so full,

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

adventure is on the horizon.

summer is quickly coming to a close. last week i sat outside on duke street and talked with my dear friend hannah about this fact as i sipped iced coffee. (i do not even like coffee, but it's cheaper than tea at square one and so for the past three weeks or so, i have ordered it every time i meet up with  hannah. drinking iced coffee seems like a good thing to do in the summer, specifically when sitting outside on steps watching traffic and discussing the deepest parts of life.) 

 hannah said she wanted summer's end to feel like dying in your sleep... natural and easy, pain-free. i've been thinking about it a lot. normally the transition from home to school is not entirely pain free. a dull ache creeps up on me and often hinders the joyful anticipation i have for the next place. this transitory life is not without tension. 

i am hopeful however, that the dull ache will be different this time. hopeful that the ache will not be so much of a nostalgic longing to return to all that this summer has been, but instead a dull ache of gratitude, an ache that appears because life has been so rich and satisfying and i do not want to brush it off in a couple sentence response to the inevitable question: "how was your summer?!" for it has been rich, my friends. the days overflow with (at times unbearable) beauty. 

if this summer's end is indeed comparable to dying in your sleep, then i think my breath is slowing and my eyes are growing heavy... and it feels just fine. it feels natural. something else is coming and i know that it is good. this preparation however, has not been without resistance and difficulty. allowing my eyes to close and my breath to slow has been a lesson in trust. 

on saturday i set out for a new adventure. for the entire semester i will be studying outdoor education. the thought of doing experiential, tangible learning for the next four months brings me great joy. the first part of the trip will be spent backpacking in northern california. for this i am both thrilled and terrified, but i am finding that is exactly where God requires us to be so that we can grow and learn and thrive in ways we never thought possible.

the (rather terrifying) cry of my heart as of late has been to learn to depend fully on God, to trust him wholly. he is teaching me this in ways that i did not expect, in ways that i often (shamefully) complain about. physically i have been wrestling with  knee pain along with a bizarre leg infection that has hindered my walking. emotionally i have been challenged as i found out that the one girl i knew doing this semester with me is no longer going. it seems as though slowly God is stripping me of everything that i am clinging to that is not him. he is the only one who can provide me with the strength physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, for the long journey ahead.

not only that, but God is reminding me that he calls us to the places that we are (and the places we are going.)...and that he fully equips us with everything that we need to not just survive in that place, but to thrive and grow and become the people he intends for us to be. he equips us with what we need to love and be loved, to give and receive, to learn and ask questions ...

and along with the reminders, he's encouraging me with emails of solidarity, cards in the mail, and text books that teach about backcountry baking, woohoo! slowly my fears are melting into some sort of trust and excitement for whatever lies ahead.

and it's funny, because this summer i set out to memorize psalm 25, and though i have not quite accomplished that goal (yet...) the very first verse is perhaps the one i need most.

'To you oh Lord i lift up my soul,
in you i trust oh my God.' 

God is good. 

so here's to the natural death of summer, to summer drifting off peacefully in sleep. 
here's to my summer eyes closing so that they can be opened to all that autumn has in store. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

my heart is an overgrown forest.

"it smells like toads," she said - slightly out of breath in her jean capris and green tank top. she wanted to go on a run with me - i was hesitant to agree, but with some frustration, i did. her little feet slapped the pavement beside me, her large headphones bouncing around on her tiny blonde head. i noticed how much larger my strides were- her little feet had to work hard. she was a champ. (though maybe i didn't want to admit it.) she completed the Grubb Lake mile with hardly any walking. i failed to do that until last year.

i have a little shadow, a shadow i always forget about. she waits in the yard next to ours, waits for my little red car to pull in the driveway.  sometimes she races over only to find out that the car belongs to andy. (or so i am told.) after a long day of work i pull in the driveway, anxiously anticipating silence, food, a run and some rest. my soul longs to be free from babysitting, to not look after children (until the next morning...) but just as i turn to roll up my window a little smiling (though perhaps a tad sheepishly)  face appears just inches from mine. she wants to play. she shows me her tennis racket. (i told her the day before that she could not come play tennis with me because i didn't have an extra racket for her...) i tell her that although i do not have to babysit again, i do need to go on a run. (thinking for sure the alibi is enough to explain to her that i am too busy...) i walk inside saying, "maybe tomorrow..." (feeling a tad bit guilty for refusing her again, dangit.) i settled down to check the blog i am keeping with friends and soon i hear a gentle knock on the door. standing to my right smiling is my little Lexi shadow holding her chucks in small hands. i open the door hesitantly. (and with a sigh, if i am honest.) "i can go running with you! i ran 3 miles before!" she says with far too much excitement for me to handle. i try to convince her otherwise, try to make the hills at Grubb Lake sound menacing...i have no success. soon enough we are both jogging down the road towards Grubb Lake.

a child's admiration is a difficult thing for me to hold. maybe it's pride and selfishness, but sometimes it makes me feel so trapped. this little shadow often shoots guilt through my veins. if i did not spend all day (most days) with people half my age, perhaps i would have more energy (and desire) to invest in her - but alas, normally an almost ten year old is one of the last people i want to spend time with. but what if this is my last summer home for quite some time? what if i am supposed to be spending more time with her? what if she is here to teach me more about love, patience, and sacrifice?


we passed this sign while hiking in colorado. i forgot that forest need to be thinned out in order for everything to grow properly.

my heart is an overgrown forest.
it needs a fire not every 50 years, but every day. a multitude of weeds eat up sunlight in my soul. that which is good and beautiful is choked out.  the cactus of 'what does everyone think of me' is running rampant. the thistles of what the future holds trip my feet while the dandelions of pride and selfishness keep me from loving others. (keep me from loving little shadows next door.) i need God to burn away everything that is choking him out, everything that is keeping me from loving everything within the ecosystem that i find myself.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

colorado rocks.

hello friends,

i am spending the week in colorado with my family and it has been ever so wonderful thus far. we are filling the days with hiking and exploring, two of my most favorite things. i do not want to waste this precious time out west updating this blog but i thought i would just give you the smallest of tastes. hopefully when i return i will have thoughts to match the size of these mountains... (haha)

today we hiked through eldorado canyon and as i lifted weary feet and sore knees up and down the trail my mind played and replayed this song by sufjan stevens. when i saw sufjan play in october he said that this song was inspired by the times he stands on things so vast and great and incredible that he does not know what to do. the inspiration for the song came from those breath-taking moments when you realize just how big (oh how small that word is!) the world is and how tiny tiny, microscopic we are in the grand scheme of things. this is how colorado makes me feel, small. on the way down i asked my mom if she thought maybe people out west would be less prideful because they are constantly being reminded of how small they are. (haha...) we discussed it but reached no solid conclusion. maybe i will do a behavioral study someday and figure it out --- that would give me a reason to return to this place.
is anyone really satisfied after one visit to colorado?

that's all for now, friends. i'll be back in a week or so with thoughts and perhaps some more photos of this glorious trip. hopefully before then i will get to see a mountain goat! (she said with hopes high.)  i hope you are enjoying wherever you are, soaking up all that is normal and outrageous and beautiful right in your backyard.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

they say it's a deadly game.

trust, courage, and fear. these three things are often on my mind these days. i admired the courage of my not so little cousin the other week. we were boating on the susquehanna and the two of us took a ride on the big round tube. as we climbed in i told her the signals for faster, (thumbs up) slower, (thumbs down) and stop (pretend you're slicing your throat...haha). i expected a calm little ride.

no sooner had we begun and she stuck her little thumb up in the air, and in the air it remained for the entire ride. she could not get enough speed. a contagious giggle stumbled out of her mouth as we rode over each bump and flew out of our seats.

as i (finally) watched the lord of the rings series with jonah i marveled at the courage it takes to go into battle, especially a battle you are expecting to lose. i thought about death and the fragile state of life. i hate watching battle scenes. i hate knowing that they are not just fiction.

sometimes when i think about my fall semester, my heart trembles. sometimes when i think about hiking around in california for a month with people i hardly know on a knee that is often sore, a fear fills my soul. i wonder if i can do it, i wonder if i'll make it. i wonder if i'll drag the team down. i wonder if i am really cut out for this whole outdoor education thing. i fear i won't be qualified, i fear i won't be equipped with the right gear. i know that this is outside of my comfort zone, i know that alone i cannot do it - and this is partially why i want to do it. but that is also precisely why at times everything in me does not want to do it. i think it's important to take risks and do things that we know we can't do alone. i have a lot to learn when it comes to depending on God, when it comes to trust...

it always comes back to trust.

last week we biked to the park and quickly found ourselves playing the bridge game. (the bridge game is a made up game - it is played on playground equipment. one person closes their eyes and the rest of the players hide somewhere on the equipment. then the person with their eyes closed continues to keep their eyes closed and walks around trying to find those in hiding. the people hiding cannot touch the ground, they must stay on the equipment....think marco polo, minus the call and response, minus the water - plus obstacles and danger. . . (ok maybe don't think marco polo, haha.)) i digress.

of course, they choose me to be the first one it. (as babysitter i cannot complain.) i step carefully and slowly with my arms outstretched. it's crazy how quickly even the most familiar place seems foreign as soon as my eyes close. (is this where the slide is? or the monkey bars? is this the fire pole or am i suddenly on a mountain about to stumble off a cliff? my mind races.) i listen closely for little breaths exiting the chests of children. i strain to hear stifled giggles that give hints to where they are. as i close in on one i can feel both of our hearts racing - mine at the prospect of (finally) opening my eyes, hers at the fear of closing...

often my trust in God looks like that deadly game. i walk slowly and with caution, uncertain that God will tell me what to do next (next summer, in 2 years, even tomorrow...) i strain to hear the voices of others and envy their open-eyed adventures. (instead of training my ear to hear the one voice that knows me best.) God, have mercy. Help me in these busy days to trust in you.

irony that this is one of the hymns that i decided to try to learn this summer? i think not.

...sometimes the journey feels long. sometimes i can almost hear God asking in a low, loving voice: "Do you trust me? Do you trust me still?" and with eyes tightly closed and hands held out, a feeble and broken 'yes' stumbles off my lips. 

oh, increase my capacity to trust and to follow!

"He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.

All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
for those who keep the demands of
his covenant."

Psalm 25: 9-10

Monday, July 4, 2011

too much.

summer is passing quickly. 

yesterday evening was summer to a "T." I drove with the sunroof down, windows open. The air smelled like cookouts. A deep, lush green wrapped the curling roads up in a snug blanket. Broken Social Scene's song, "World Sick," played loudly in my ears - words like globalization and colonization swept through my mind, closely followed by Wendell Berry and images of emaciated children. (thank you kindly, documentary.)

we watched the fireworks with open mouths.
the bursts of light were fireflies playing tag,
peacocks showing off,
dazzling shimmering fountains of radiance.

i could write about a lot of things right now. i could write about the weekend spent with family at the cottage or the moments spent with my dear cousins last week. i could write about working and finding joy and purpose in mowing grass, or about the books i am reading and the people i am meeting. i could write about today's weather and the way the sunsets are always different...but my words are tired and my thoughts have yet to catch up with my days and so instead i will just include this little snippet that i scribbled down after a lovely moment of silence on tuesday. it is not much; i apologize.

Last night I decided to bike up and down the street a few times before heading to karaoke night. My muscles complained slightly as I began to peddle. (and increased in sound as I forced them uphill.) The air felt cool on my face, thick with emotion. Biking after a twelve hour work day is a good plan. As I looped back and forth past the neighbor's house I stared intently at the charred remains of life. I thought about how deer used to live in the backyard, and a trampoline after that. I thought about the people that never open those doors anymore, never park in the driveway, never catch my eye as I speed up the road. It seems so normal now. The sight barely makes my heart sad. (this frightens me, for the darkness and death remain.) I thought of my soul and how cold and dead parts of it are - I fear that has become normal too.

My stamina grew and I circled up through the development off Ironville Pike, still growing I faced Pitney Road next. I did not make it. I had to walk. At the top I debate, Indian Head or the old church and cemetery loop. At first I lean towards Indian Head but the ever brightening pink sky convinces me otherwise. The road says closed but I slide through finding myself on an empty and familiar pass. My legs fill with gratitude as the road slopes downward. I circle through the church parking lot and think of the time we road tandem bike for the first time last summer - zach, dad, kayla and I rotating through. I loop down through the cemetery and think about walks and runs with mom when the loop seemed so long. Looking at the names of the people who now exist only in the past tense of thoughts, my mind wanders. I thought about flying off my bike and smashing my head on a tombstone, dying in a cemetery...(sounds like the name of an emo band's song.) I thought of that woman we met on the Rails to Trail, the one on the nice tandem bike who thanked me and Jonah for wearing our helmets. I felt guilty. (my helmet was left in the garage, safely on the shelf - on purpose.)

After each loop through the vacant parking lot I thought about stopping, considered biking home - but with each turn the sky grew more beautiful. The pink sky pleased my eyes and reminded me of God's faithfulness; how beautiful his unfailing love. Though I close my ears to his voice, spit in his face, and turn my thoughts to everything but him - still he remains. And his remaining is not passive, but full of passionate pursuit. (God have mercy.) 

[in smaller news:]
Summer means,

1. eggs for lunch
2. bon iver 
3. playing (...memorizing) hymns on harmonica
4. zucchini everything 
5. thinking a lot about the future 
6. going to the library
7. playing tennis 
8. discipline

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

the llama won't stop dancing.

i have been hanging out with a lot of children these days. yesterday i took a few moments simply to acknowledge the fact that i was getting paid to pick strawberries on a beautiful cool day, to make grilled cheese sandwiches, go to the library, spend way too long feeding goats at a petting zoo, and play at a park. today i got paid to hide in a closet with a seven year old and tell "ghost stories" in only the glow of a flashlight (my stories weren't so scary on account of i hate scary stories. and by closet i mean a wooden box about 2 feet deep and 3 feet long - my neck hurt. i thought they might have to cut me out of there, haha)

aside from my family, this summer i will probably be spending more time with children than anyone else. the three kids i babysit are champs. they're adventurous and silly and for that i am so thankful. (granted, yes. they drive me crazy sometimes, they fight and disagree and whine - but who doesn't? i have a lot to learn from them.)

so yesterday we found ourselves at Longs Park on the big wooden playground. we played tag for a bit but that turned out to be a terribly huge task. after a lot of running and not much success in tagging the correct children, i recommended that we play hide and seek. not the regular hide and seek however, i told them about the hide and seek we used to play when i was little - the kind where you hide, but then you all try to return to starting base without being seen. it's hide and seek with a curve ball, it gives a little more purpose and challenge to a game that can sometimes get lonely. (i mean really, who thoroughly enjoys hiding in the same dark, tight space waiting to be found? i don't. i get bored. i'm always that kid who switches hiding places and is then accused of cheating, lame.) after explaining the game they agreed that it sounded fun enough to try, so try we did. i counted first. after spotting everyone fairly quickly (hiding spots always get better as the game progresses) it was my turn to hide. like an excited child i searched for the perfect spot. when the counting stopped and the seeking began, i slowly began creeping back towards base, forgetting however - that i am taller and easier to spot than i used to be. (especially in a wooden playground with so many children who fit so perfectly into the cracks and crevasses.) the first time kelsea spotted me easily  - she saw my blue shoes sticking out. even though my head was hidden, i forgot about the rest of me. in the attempts that followed i was continually struggling to fit my 20 year old self into 5 year old hiding places. as i attempted to hide behind small wooden poles i forgot that my shoulders are broader, my hips wider than when i was five. i crawled and scampered as low as possible, but always peaked my head up at the wrong time. confidently i stepped into the game, feeling the familiarity of playing it years before rush over me - and shamefully i walked back to base each time i was found. not once did i make it back to base without being seen.

not only have i stepped into a game of hide and seek with far too much confidence, i have also stepped into the familiar circles of home with too much as well. the familiarity of home always presents a challenge to my heart's desire to seek God's guidance. this place is known to me; the roads i drive are the same, the room i sleep in is still cold and dark, and the people i love are still here. i know how to live here, i know how to go from this to that and back again. i know how to handle myself and get through a day, or at least that is the foolishness i buy into. like my confident footsteps to the perfect hiding spot, i easily buy into thinking that i can live these days on my own. i quickly forget that i am different, that i do not fit easily into the crevasses and cracks that i once filled in this place - my role has shifted and i do not quite know what that is anymore. i have grown and changed. not only this, but i tend to forget who gives me breath. i forget who made this whole game up to begin with. so i trudge through my days on my own strength, i step out with confidence and shamefully hang my head each time my strategy does not quite work. (why this continues to surprise me, i know not.) 

it is always hardest to follow God in the most ordinary of settings, to seek his face and his truth when you are pretty sure you know how to live well where you are all on your own. it's hard to ask him where the best hiding place is when you know the playground like the back of your hand. i believe it's important to step outside of our comfort zones into territory when we have no option but to trust God, but perhaps it is harder to force ourselves to trust and seek him in the most comfortable of settings. this is the tension i find myself in these days. 

but even the familiar is full of surprises, and God reminds me that i do not know this place as well as i think - a lot of times the lens through which i look is the problem. afterall, kelsea saw a llama doing ballet moves when i just saw a llama scratching its foot. 

God's joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box,
from cell to cell. As rainwater, down into flowerbed.
As roses, up from ground. 
Now it looks like a plate of rice and fish,
now a cliff covered with vines,
now a horse being saddled.
It hides within these,
till one day it cracks them open.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

practicing the presence.

it's funny how quickly we forget things that we promise ourselves to always remember. it's funny how we can be so convicted by something, and then stumble into the very same mistake the next day. it's frustrating, troubling, and funny being a human with a spirit so willing and a flesh so weak.

since returning home i have found myself doing very different tasks than what i have been accustomed to for the past nine months. and although when i was at school writing papers and studying for tests i could not wait to get home and do "manual labor" as opposed to studying, now that it's here - i kind of miss the paper writing. maybe it's the heat combined with the humidity combined with a restless heart that wants to do whatever it pleases but i have been wrestling with discontentment and so far this week, i'm losing. it's a painful fight.

this week my mornings and late afternoons have been filled with weeding, raking, mowing, leaf blowing, etc. and although it is true that in the spring i raved about this work and how much i enjoy seeing such tangible results, this week i have been swallowing my words and they are not going down easy. it's hot and most days i don't want to do it. yesterday as i was walking up and down the driveway picking up sticks (SO many sticks.) my mind wandered to everyone who has a job in air conditioning, my mind started circling in familiar patterns of envy and pessimism. as soon as i started dwelling in the cycle of cynics however, God brought to mind something i poured myself over in the spring. a small little collection of letters and conversations by Brother Lawrence, a monk who washed dishes for a living and spent his life practicing the presence of God. he disciplined himself to see even the most menial and seemingly unimportant tasks as acts of love and devotion to God. he trained himself to live constantly in God's presence.

"We need only recognize God intimately present with us and address ourselves to Him every moment. We need to beg His assistance for knowing His will in things doubtful and for rightly performing those things which we plainly see He requires of us, offering them to Him before we do them, and giving God thanks when we have completed them...Our sanctification did not depend on changing our works. Instead it depended on doing things for God's sake which we commonly do for our own...We ought not weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed." 

as i continued to pick up sticks and occasionally wipe the sweat from my brow, i tried really hard to find some great metaphor for what i was doing. 

i failed. no metaphor came to mind. no poetry or story or lighthearted revelation. it was just me and the sticks and a tractor panting on the driveway. 

but sometimes we just have to pick up sticks because we love God and we know that he is present with us always. sometimes God provides blessings wrapped up in boxes that we do not recognize and we do not particularly want to open, but we must. and we mustn't pretend to be grateful for those boxes like we pretend to smile when we open a really ugly sweater from our great grandmother. we must truly really sincerely and genuinely be thankful for that which God provides us with, knowing that all we have is a gift. all, everything, every single thing i have is given to me. and he knows us better than we know ourselves, he knows what we need - which means no room remains to complain. and yes, i suppose that even picking up sticks and getting poison ivy and hoping the groundhog that lives under the playhouse doesn't bite you can be a gift. because all of these things are signs that God is providing for me in ways that i could not have imagined. 

so i'm learning again what it means to practice God's presence. to every moment practice being in the presence of God, to do all things out of love for him, to do all things for him. i'm praying for mercy and trying to discipline myself in gratitude, attempting to be thankful for that which is far easier to complain about. like the parable of the talents, i want to be faithful to that which has been given to me - to invest all i am in what i have, multiplying that which God has entrusted to me. . . 

"The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you have entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' 
His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master's happiness!'" 
Matthew 25:20-21

if you want to... google search "Brother Lawrence, practicing the presence of God" - print it out and read it read it read it. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

a wanderer's wonderings.

i'm remembering now why i try not to go more than a week without updating this thing...when more than a week passes it becomes that much harder to attach words to events and places and people. oh well. it's been a busy and rich past week-ish and i will do my best to articulate some of the thoughts circling in my head these days. 

i am home now, summer has finally arrived and i am welcoming it with open arms. it came rather abruptly. the goodbyes and finals and end of everything familiar seemed to sneak up on me even though my soul has been longing for the rhythm of summer for what seems like an eternity. 

on sunday i said goodbye to these lovely people and i am going to miss them a lot more than i realized. saying goodbye hurt more than i anticipated. they have each blessed me and taught me so much. we shared the year being RAs together and for that i am so thankful. 

leaving Gordon was extremely bittersweet. again this year God took my breath away time and time again with all that he accomplished through me and in me and with me. i am astonished at how he works through us even when all we see is failure and brokenness. it's incredible how he redeems our intentions and mistakes and miss-spoken words. 

after leaving gordon i spent some time in philly with nina. we stayed with my childhood friend hannah in her house of friends. :) it was so wonderful seeing hannah and meeting her house mates.

and philly? well philly was great. that place never ceases to intrigue me. nina and i walked all over philly, literally walked from one end to the other taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of a place that at times felt like a foreign country. on tuesday particularly, we were strangers in an unknown land and it was a really good thing to experience.

hannah had to work on tuesday so nina and i were left to explore on our own. we had a destination and some scribbled directions. unfortunately we could not even find the subway station we were looking for (probably because we were deep in conversation and walked right past it...) so the walking excursion ended up being a little bit longer than we anticipated. after asking for directions and looking at a map we found our way not to the subway but to the trolley, an underground trolley - i had no idea those existed. we were perplexed as we realized we did not see a ticket booth and had no idea how to pay for our ride. we debated whether or not we should just get on and see what happened (haha) or try to figure out the ticket system. we decided to go for it, and turns out you have to pay as soon as you get on and you need exact change. i forgot my wallet and nina only had enough to pay for herself in exact change so we got a discounted rate... as we stumbled to our seats i quickly realized that we were the minority. the only young white girls on the trolley. the only ones who did not understand the culture of philly and public transportation, dang it.

we rode the trolley to the subway and then found our way to front street. as soon as we reached front street i remembered that front street was the part of town that ben had warned us about when we were in philly earlier last summer. unsafe could have been the word he used...but what were we to do? we walked. we weaved in and out of side street vendors, mostly all males, all of a different ethnicity, speaking various languages. we were suddenly very aware of our position; i felt vulnerable and uncertain. my heart raced a little bit and i felt guilty for bringing nina to that part of town. the subway roared overhead. we kept our eyes  glued on our imaginary destination and walked briskly, ignoring the various shouts and stares. we said little to each other, we tried to look like we had a purpose and knew what we were doing. as we came out of the chaos we quickly realized that we totally missed the street we were looking for and when i saw a sign for Temple University i knew we had definitely missed the mark. as we were standing on the street corner trying to gain our bearings a man asked us for directions. i laughed and told him that we were lost too. we turned the corner and asked some young women how to get to frankford and norris; they looked shocked and pointed in the direction from where we came. "you're walking?" she said. we nodded with a smile and turned back, gearing ourselves up for sore feet.

eventually we reached our destination and laughed when we realized how close we were when we stepped off the subway station. the trip would not have been the same without the exploration, however. getting lost and remembering that you know little is good. relying on others is humbling. walking in circles is patience.

and as i felt like such a stranger in philly, (a stranger longing so badly to belong) i remembered how Jesus was a stranger to this world, even though he created it. and i remembered that we are all strangers in this land. we belong, and yet we do not. our hearts beat for things that are so foreign to the majority of this world. our souls long for redemption and wholeness in a place where everything seems to be falling apart. we see in part what one day we will see in full.

the great now and not yet, it always comes back to that, does it not?

philly always inspires me.
getting lost, eating ice cream on the steps of a corner store, stumbling upon urban gardens, using public transportation and meeting new friends... the experience is always rich.
someday perhaps i can know philly in every sense of that word.

and now i'm home and summer continues to be everything my heart longed for. i'm soaking up these free moments and days before babysitting begins - filling them with strawberry picking, playing whiffle ball, going to bouncefunplex, mowing grass, reading books, writing, dreaming, exploring,... it's grand. i'm cutting off my jeans and not brushing my hair, going bare foot and eating strawberries for breakfast. perfection.

also. if you have a summer reading list, please add something by Wendell Berry to it:

"But even the unknown past is present in us, its silence as persistent as a ringing in the ears...You work your way down, or not so much down as within, into the interior of the present, until finally you come to that beginning in which all things, the world and the light itself, at a word welled up into being out of their absence. And nothing is here that we are beyond the reach of merely because we do not know about it. It is always the first morning of Creation and always the last day, always the now that is in time and the Now that is not, that has filled time with reminders of Itself."

-an excerpt from Pray Without Ceasing.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


if given the option
 of water colors,
baking cupcakes, 
riding tandem bike, 
watching fantastic mr. fox,
searching for a bridesmaid dress,
watching a theological debate,
playing music,
or studying 
i'm not sure what i would choose. 
but i definitely would NOT choose studying.

if i told you it was nearing the middle of may would you believe me? 
would you believe me if, when i told you that i was wearing my hat and scarf (and thinking about going to get my mittens.. haha) ?
or what if i was drinking tea and thinking about boiling hot water and drinking it straight just to stay warm? 
(and also because i am trying to ration out my favorite tea until the end of the year and there are only   f o u r bags left!) 

it's finals time and i think i'm getting sick.
and although it is a little bit chilly for may...
i'm freezing.
it's springtime.
cool, real cool.

but that doesn't keep me from making colorful tables and charts and flash cards. hopefully even though i feel like i'm living in a cloud some of this information will choose to stay inside of my brain until monday. that'd be great. i'd really appreciate it.

on the bright side, on thursday while at the greenhouse i heard this song for the first time in a looooooooong time, hurray! i had forgotten all about it.
i hope you enjoy this clever little video as much as i did. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

dreams come true.

(this is what I wrote while riding the commuter rail back to school on Sunday evening. Actually, I wrote some of it in Boston. I had to get everything down... back story: Ben and Lindsey came to Boston a couple weeks ago and randomly met this wonderful couple. (they did not go to Boston with the intention of meeting them, they all just happened to be at the same place at the same time.) Upon their return they told me that I had to meet these people and so Ben connected us through email.)

It's a beautiful day in Boston. The trees are in bloom, and the life inside of them is contagious. The sun reflects off of the towering buildings like diamonds. Adele sings loudly over the speakers in Starbucks; it's a bit overwhelming as I strain to hear my mom's voice. I step outside. Leaning up against the cool brick wall, pacing the streets waiting for Tim and Alice, my mind wanders. My phone vibrates and I look up to see a quirky couple at the corner; she is talking on the phone. She has a vibrant red scarf on her head, a beautiful adornment to her hair in dreadlocks. He is tall, as she described to me on the phone. His voice and mannerisms totally remind me of Ben Newton, funny. After introductions we make our way to the "hole in the wall Vietnamese place." The food is fast, delicious, and affordable. The conversation that follows blows my mind. We talk about where we are in life, how we've arrived to where we are, etc. They currently work with homeless youth around Harvard Square. They chuckle and smile as they tell me how breaking the rules is something they are somewhat known for. Giving out their phone numbers and inviting people into their homes, being friends with the homeless is their specialty. And then, then they begin describing my dream to me; it was like listening to myself talk.

Their next step? . . .

To buy a house. 

and have a home where they can host their friends on the streets.
They also want someone to be in the house, "to make waffles and fluff pillows and make people feel at home, to create an ambiance that is welcoming, to be hospitable."

They are looking for an intern.

They asked me what I am doing next summer.

iurhkjsdnfoiwerjkfnosdifhjnaIFUHKJSnfosdiljfampslkmowl;askjdcpoljksmlwa ! 

Other fun facts about Tim and Alice that just seem too too perfect,
Tim unicycles! He was obsessed when he was 10 years old. 
He also enjoys slack-lining, something I've been dying to try.
They go on wilderness trips in the summer.  (Outdoor education, anyone?) 
They also told me about this GREAT festival!

This is all so crazy. 
God is so so SO good. 
He knows the desires of our hearts. 
Even if nothing comes of this meeting, I am just so happy that there are other people in the world who value people and hospitality, community and life and learning to love those with nothing. I am inspired knowing that maybe this dream can be more than just a fun story in my head; I am encouraged to see people passionately pursuing what has been on my heart for some time now. 
man, oh man. 

I am overwhelmed by God's goodness these days.
Psalm 37 has been on my heart recently..., specifically: 

Trust in the LORD and do good; 
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the LORD 
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; 
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
psalm 37: 3-6

In other news - 

1. Today was the last day of classes!
2. Preparing for finals makes me want to listen to all of the rap and hip hop music I can get my hands on. I don't know why. for instance...
3. I only have two regular semester of college left, TWO; that's crazy. 
4. A lot has to be done before I leave. 
5. I am so so SO excited for summer. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

a love story

this week in my social policy class i watched one of the most disturbing videos about the united states of america. it blew my mind. it made me want to swear and scream and cry all at the same time. my heart raged as i saw people being forced out of their homes, pilots being paid less than a manager at taco eyes filled with tears as i watched a family mourn over the loss of their mother, only to find out that her death brought 80 thousand dollars to Wal Mart who stealthily paid in on a life insurance deal for her. (meanwhile, they struggled to pay all of the hospital bills.) huge companies getting paid thousands, sometimes millions of dollars for their employees deaths? young people going to a FOR profit juvenile delinquency center in pennsylvania? it's madness. it's corruption. it hurts to know about.

as i took a nice rainy drive with hannah to a book store afterwards i began telling her how all of this made me feel. (i am a verbal processor. i need to talk things out, put words onto things and make sense of them.) the more i talked about it, (she so graciously listened.) the more i realized that i was thankful to be made aware of the issues no matter how hard they are to see,  glad to be studying social work even if it means carrying really heavy burdens. my heart began to soften and shift as i realized that this is something i could commit my life to... fighting for people trampled by this system. i want to place value on people who are stamped invaluable. i want to create a circle of hope in this corrupt and broken country. to love people stuck in these horrifying cycles. like kelly's heart beats for uganda and the child soldiers, my heart moans for the corruption of capitalism in this country, "land of the free," as perhaps it used to be.

it seems to make sense, too. i mean, people always ask me about the places i have been (nepal, ecuador, kenya, london, india...) and question whether i feel a deep desire to return to a certain place. normally the answer is no, not really. would i pass up an opportunity to return to any of those places? definitely not. do i want to travel? yes. do i have a really deep desire to spend next summer working over-seas? of course. but, the more i learn - the more heartache i see here, the stronger pull i have towards this country, broken and hurting as it is...

i keep thinking about Henri Nouwen's words - about how we must not refuse to read the paper and learn about the heartache. we must not shut ourselves off from the grime and the pain. Jesus came and immersed himself in the filth of humanity, and in that filth he found the pearl of the kingdom, he set that kingdom in's our job, too. to reveal that kingdom, marred by our dust. to bring redemption, to hope, to love, to embrace. (Lord, have mercy.)

---> a quick note on the kingdom of God. growing up i always heard the language used that we must "partner in building the kingdom" - build being an emphasized verb. this semester in my theology class however, dr. green is always saying "we don't build the kingdom, the kingdom has already been built. instead we uncover the kingdom, we reveal it. the kingdom has already been set in motion." although for some time this discussion seemed kind of petty and unimportant to me, i didn't see why the language of building vs. revealing as such a big deal, slowly my mind is changing... perhaps even the idea of building the kingdom is fuel for my pride. if i am building the kingdom then it is all about me and my abilities. if however, my job is to "reveal and uncover" the kingdom - then everything is in God's hands, for i only see what he reveals to me. he is already at work on this earth and if he reveals that to me, then by his grace i can reveal that to others and we can join in the movement, participating in that which has already begun - working together towards the day of ultimate redemption.

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." 
Matthew 13:45

disclaimer:// sorry for anyone expecting a real sappy taylor swift kind of love story. the title comes from the name of the documentary we watched. my apologies for any dashed hopes.