Monday, January 31, 2011

"there's shalom in the donuts."

half way through last week i was rather adventure-deprived. i ran into hannah and nina on my way to the library and as we mused over the dull grey winter and the need to see things with fresh eyes, we decided an adventure was in order to help us practice. so we planned a trip to marty's donut land for the weekend and walked into the rest of the week with great anticipation.

i had never been to marty's donut land before, but doesn't the name just make you really want to go check it out? haha i mean really - donut land. say that without a really funny mental picture of donuts with arms and legs playing in rolling hills pop into your mind. so what had i heard about this place before we went?

i heard you go and knock on the door of this mysterious shop between 11pm and 5am (because that's when "the guy" makes donuts) even though all the lights in the shop are out.
i heard that then a man would open the door and let you get some fresh donuts in exchange for a dollar.

sounded weird and adventurous enough to me.

so on saturday night around 11:45, myself and nine others set out to find marty's donut land. two parking spaces greeted us directly across from the donut shop - the shop that looked closed save for the warm light of the kitchen protruding from the back of the store. as told, we approached the door and knocked. lo and behold mr. donut baker himself came and unlocked the door for us without saying a word. all ten of us shuffled inside as the door locked behind us again. we took turns going back to the kitchen. (where the donut making continued) one by one we placed a dollar into a little bowl and then carefully selected a donut. we apologized with stumble-y words, apologized for being such a large group in such a tiny and quaint place, to which the man (whose name begins with a v...) replied with some more broken words saying something along the lines of "don't worry, i don't want to be alone all night."

and so we sat at the counter in the dark, enjoying and savoring the best donuts we have ever tasted in our entire lives. we sat and carefully tasted each bite as country music played in the kitchen and mr.v continued his repetitive donut making over and over and over and over.

so why this story? seemingly silly and perhaps sketchy?

because this experience filled me with hope, a hope that no words can adequately depict. in a world full of so many people who fail to trust one another, a world full of hurt and pain and unexpected brokenness, in a world where marty's donut land sounds "sketchy"... in a world where you are urged not to walk outside by yourself through that dark alley, or fly to another country alone, or road trip across the US without a buddy ... in a world where we see each other as enemies more so than neighbors, this little donut shop was a safe haven. it was home, in a sense. this donut shop gave me hope that people still trust each other. it gave me great hope that this happens each night, that people knock on the door - and slowly and quietly it's opened - that donuts are taken and money is always put in that bowl... there's no reason not to trust the secret beautiful system of midnight donuts. there's no reason to stop. there's no reason to fear. there's no reason not to knock on that door, not to go in silently and eat a donut in the dark. 

marty's donut land reminded me of the good side of humanity. the side that is beautiful and loving and wonderful. it reminded me that we have the capacity and ability to trust one another - and when that happens, beauty untold marches boldly into our lives.

[if you come visit we can go. you can eat a midnight donut and know why this place is magical. you'll then know why it inspires you to talk about your wildest dreams. you'll know why it would be the perfect spot for a date. you'll know why it feels like going home. ok? cool. tell me when you're coming.]

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Before I left to make the trek back up to school I found myself in a very comforting place, my grandparent's living room. As I quietly came up the steps to go through the dreaded "so long for now..." routine yet again, the television was immediately turned off and all attention was on me. After a bit of small talk we stood, hands clasped in a little love triangle as my grandfather prayed so sincerely for me. His wise old words fell graciously on my soul, my soul so eternally grateful for the presence of my grandparents in my life. My little cold hands fit perfectly into his - strong and worn with years of hard work - and hers - delicate and soft.. and my ears listened intently as my grandfather reminded me that God was going with me- that he wasn't going to stay behind in Lancaster while I went on my way back up to school. God promised to never leave us or forsake us... a simple yet life-altering truth and promise that I often forget.  But it's true:

God is here,
and He's caring for me.
(and I'm thankful for this reminder from my grandfather.)

it would be a lie to say that coming back to school has been the most wonderful transition, that my soul is so happy and at peace and my heart is so ready to love everyone here again. because it's been harder than i anticipated. this semester is not last semester, and that alone is something i'm being reminded of every day. some dear friends are not here, (and some new ones are.) the classes i loved so much are not the ones i am attending this time, the weather is cold and the grass is hidden. (just to name a few...) but at the very same time there is so much joy and great anticipation in the newness of this semester. there are new things to do because of the snow. there are new people to meet - as well as old friendships to continue and delve into. new books sit on my shelf to read, new professors will i hear from - and new ideas will be presented to me. and through all this newness, though at first it seemed odd, i am seeing God's caring presence right here - i am seeing his love being poured out in little and big ways. in just these two days of classes and now this weekend, i know God is here, that he's here loving me and preparing me for another semester full of life i cannot even imagine. He never ever ever leaves us, and if I really believe that - if I believe that God is here and that God is good, why should I not rejoice?

I'm coming to trust that he is here with me, and I'm sensing it in real ways:

He's answering prayers so evidently (and quickly!) and encouraging me through my school work already. He placed some dear friends in just the right places last night when I needed them in the biggest and most unsettling RA task yet. He knew I needed to hang out with him this morning so he enabled me to sleep through my alarm so that I could have an oatmeal date with him, and then walk around the pond in awe of his glory in all of this snow. He's giving me a really awesome winter, a winter with SNOW, so much snow! (something I've been longing for...for quite some time.)

This semester I'm trying to learn to be present to God's presence.

... so sometimes I like to open my journal from last year and see what I wrote exactly on this day last year. I did that the other day and found this silly little thing I wrote about going into a new semester. My feelings toward this new semester are similar and so I'm trying to face it with this attitude. So here you go, a little sample of how my heart feels about the upcoming months. : )

Second Semester, sometimes those words, when squished together, feel more like an intimidating monster than a welcoming adventure with arms wide open. But I know this monster can be tamed, and in fact- it's not even a monster at all. Really, it's just a whole bunch of days and months stacked up on top of each other hiding under a dark and hairy costume. All we have to do is find the zipper and unleash those days so that they can run free- free to be filled with the beauty of life, not weighed down by the load of other days. Days are meant to be lived one at a time, and this semester- we shall learn that in a new way. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

so, sometimes i suck at blogging.
sometimes i start three separate "new post" documents,
i fill them up with words -
and then i delete every single one.
then i do it all over again.
and again.
and probably once more.

i have this problem.
it's called:

"Ashley's head is so full of thoughts and words and pictures and dreams and ideas and questions that she doesn't know where to start or how to begin to decide what should be put in a blog especially when the secret part of her wants to be really thoughtful and inspiring and funny and yet oh so true to who she is."

so watch out, i'm not sure what this post is going to turn into...but it's been far too long and i've got to put something on here before i make the trip back up north.

break is coming to a close and for the first time since i left for school as a freshman, i think i am more excited to go back than i am sad to leave this place. it's a weird feeling, but also really good. i'm realizing and learning that the more i am there, the less i am here. (haha, simple enough.) but seriously. the longer i spend in the little town of Wenham, learning and growing and loving - the more i invest myself and pour my life into that place, the harder it is to find the parts of me left to pour into this place. i have been thinking a lot about pouring yourself into wherever you are 110% and it's good, but also challenging - because it's hard to pour yourself into where you are when you are constantly moving back and forth, constantly transitioning and preparing and anticipating the next move. i guess that's the life of a college student- transitory and uncertain. exciting and spontaneous. i do love it love it LOVE it, but i am also excited for the day when i can live in one place for years - to really develop myself and know a community of people that isn't changing every single year. and sometimes every couple of months or so.

regardless, break has been really good. full of rest and love and joy, packed to the brim with little moments of life in it's truest and sweetest forms. there's been much music, a whole lot of knitting, a handful of laughter and so many worthwhile conversations i have lost track. i have been encouraged and inspired. there has been time to rest, but also time to continue learning. time to re-connect with people, time to recognize the value of the relationships i still have here, in this place, in Lancaster. so as much as i am looking forward to heading back to Gordon, seeing the smiling faces of the girls on Lewis One East (!) , giving everyone the biggest hugs and digging my tandem bike out of the snow- i will miss the people here too. every time i return i am reminded how blessed i am to have people and a place to return to, how wonderful it is to have people who care about you all over the place - people who genuinely and sincerely care.'s really rather ironic when i think about how much i have been struggling to fill up this blank white post with words, because words have been on my mind so much over break. [now, this could be partially because i think i have learned that the arrangement and use of words is definitely one of my love languages...(seriously. write me a letter and i will read it at least three times, and then i'll put it somewhere special and pull it out a couple weeks later and read it again. i'll cherish whatever it is that you say and i will do my best to pour myself into a little envelope and mail it back to you. or have a really good conversation with me, or let me listen to you talk for a while, let me hear what's on your heart, what questions you're asking - let's think deeply about this life and what it means, let's imagine to do things a different way, tell me a story or write me a song... i'll be in love. haha)] anyway - so maybe that's one of the reasons i've been thinking about words, but it's also because God has been showing me a lot about the power of words, and yet at the same terribly weak they are.

it boggles my mind how much God is always trying to teach us things, attempting to reveal to us more about himself and his love for us - how often we are blind to it! it brings to mind this quote from A.W. Tozer:

"And always he is trying to get our attention, to reveal himself to us, to communicate with us. We have within us the ability to know him if we will but respond to his overtures. We will know him in increasing degree as our receptivity becomes more perfect by faith and love and practice." 

i'm trying to be more in tune with the movement of the Holy Spirit and the little ways God is whispering to me throughout my the way he is teaching me things through my unicycle and my harmonica, through conversations with friends - through a card i received in the mail and a chapter i read in a book. his fingerprints are all over and his voice is always straining to get my attention (and yours, too.) if only i could learn to listen, to hear only his voice, and not another. (these days i have been fighting my flesh a lot, and often failing. but God is good and somehow he redeems all of my mistakes... glory hallelujah.) 

anyway, back to words. they're powerful, you know that? this break i have been reminded how we are the mouthpiece of God. we have the ability to speak life, to speak love, to speak joy and peace and encouragement into one another. how important it is to tell others how we see God at work in them, how he is touching us through them, inspiring us through them. how crucial it is to be real, to be honest and authentic. i'm learning more about not hiding parts of who you are. we are each created to be just who we are - how dreadful if we are all trying to be each other! i'm discovering the importance of explaining yourself to someone else, of learning to express our feelings and emotions, our thoughts and questions - the process of figuring out how to genuinely describe yourself and the inner-workings of your thoughts is really hard, but really, really good

words have a way of challenging us, of teaching us and inspiring us and i absolutely love it. 

but as wonderful as words are, as touching and heartfelt as they can be...they are also never quite enough. they cannot capture this life. and that is what i have been fighting every time i sit down and try to update this blog, because there's simply no way, my friends - there is no possible way for me to adequately describe the most beautiful sunsets that have graced the skies over break, there are no words for this escalating excitement rising up in my bones for the future and all that God has for me, i cannot adequately explain to you how thankful my heart is for this place and these people and all of the adventures i have been able to take part in, no words could depict this heart's journey or my mind's long wanderings all day long... Frederick Buechner again says it best: 

"Words are dangerous because for better or worse they are so powerful, and yet at the same time they are dangerous because they are so weak. They are weak in the sense that, for all their power, they can never say all that there is to say about anything, and the danger is that we are perpetually inclined to forget that."

so again i find myself in this weird paradox - of learning how to use words well, to speak thoughtfully and compassionately (and not just to speak well and wisely, but to listen with just as much care and thought.) but also knowing that words are not enough - and words must be coupled with action, and this side of heaven - a lot of things cannot be described adequately or explained enough for anyone...but that's ok, i think.

my goodness this seems like just a ramble-y mess, but i suppose that's the most genuine post i can give you right now. and since being genuine and authentic with people is one of my biggest goals in life, i suppose that's just fine. haha 

Also, next time you have - oh, 5 weeks of complete freedom and zero responsibilities, please do the following:

1. Watch "My Name is Khan" - but look out, it will rip out your heart if you're not careful.

2. Go to bouncefunplex. it will change your life.

3. Learn how to knit socks.

4. Paint your kitchen yellow.

5. Go to Jenny's Diner with your dad, brother, and sister- bring quarters for the jukebox and laugh really really really REALLY hard when it keeps playing surprise songs that you didn't choose. and laugh even harder when the tables around you start a sing-along. haha 

6. Read "A Room Called Remember" by Frederick Buechner

7. Spend a whole day baking silly penguin cupcakes with your sister.

8. Transform the couch into the coziest bed ever with a million blankets, place it strategically right in front of the fireplace, pull out a mattress for your sister and have a sleepover while the fire crackles you to sleep. 

9. Bake apple cinnamon scones, eat warm with home-made apple butter.

10. drink tea at least three times a day. 

11. Visit someone in the hospital; the hospital is one of the scariest and loneliest places on earth. 

12. Play Broomball.

13. Go to the Pemberly Tea Shop and then walk around Lancaster City, specifically over the old train bridge.

14. Go sledding. Sled so hard that you are sore the next day, ok? 

15. Sleep "backwards" on your bed (or your brother's bed if your bedroom is too cold and lonely...) so that you can watch for shooting stars as you are trying to fall asleep. 

happy monday!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

earl grey tea awaking my soul, (and weary eyes)
bon iver dancing in my eardrums,
a blanket in my lap,
the sun waving gently at the window,
filling my soul with peace.

and all these words,
treading their feet in my mind,
leaving circles upon circles upon circles.

"There is a kind of high comedy about our faith. There is a kind of high comedy about seeing and not seeing, about waiting, about being human and not quite human. We wait for him to come- more than we know, each of us waits for our heart's desire- and he comes only in metaphors, in shadowy glimpses through the tall and bleeding trees; in long silences through which some words should be spoken and are spoken but never quite audibly enough for us to be sure we've heard them right: 'The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which was shed for thee preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life.'

Body and soul, we wait for new life to make us everlastingly alive, new blood to flow through our dusty sorrowing world, soft as rainwater and almost without taste but with the faintest tinge of sweetness to it. He was a fine man, our Lord and General. He was everything a man should be. He was everything we all should be and from the deepest part of ourselves yearn to be- loving, brave just---but are not yet, not by a long shot.

You hardly know whether to laugh or to weep. Well, laugh then, since you have to choose one or the other. Laugh like the wrinkled old man in the dream with the knowledge that there may yet be hope not just beyond the dust of our world but within the dust. His very absence here in the dust speaks of his presence. Our very brokenness here speaks of wholeness and holiness. The emptiness we carry around inside us through the dust whispers like a seashell of the great sea that it belongs to and that belongs to it. 'I have said this to you in figures,' Jesus says, but 'the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in figures but tell you plainly of the Father.' This is his promise, and watering the earth with the tears of our joy, we make it our laughter and our prayer." 
Frederick Buechner 
in A Room Called Remember
from his piece"A Little While"

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is thy faithfulness.

It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.

Let him sit alone in silence
when he has laid it on him'
let him put his mouth in the dust-
there may yet be hope." 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

because it seems fitting.

 last night the question of "what was your favorite moment, (memory, etc) of 2010?!"" was thrown around and being an incredibly indecisive person i struggled to come up with an answer. i'm quite terrible at answering questions that have the f word... favorite. (haha) i just cannot pinpoint favorite moments. i love so much of life, so many different aspects of it, and choosing a favorite seems to be unfair, it seems to cut something short, or discredit part of it, or something... (lame? perhaps. whatever.) 

so i'm not going to try to sum up this past year for you, i'm not going to use big words and colorful descriptions to try to paint this year for you. because 
1. that might be cheesy and 
2. it would be like stuffing a rainbow into an envelope,

so let's just say this.
i liked 2010.
a whole lot.

i can and will however, attempt to show you some of the moments that are held closest to my heart from this year. some of the times that made me feel the most alive, some of the people with whom i collided and walked away changed. but these do not even do complete justice, because life cannot be captured in a photograph and this year especially i took fewer pictures because i realized that when you're always taking pictures, you miss participating in the activities worth photographing. haha so yada yada yada, there's that. here's a snapshot of this year past, because it seems fitting.

the year began with a trip to the most delightful teahouse with the dearest of friends. 

and continued as we went sledding on cafeteria trays. 
(for these girls i am eternally thankful.) 

we may not have had any snow days but we did get one day off when the crazy apocalyptic storm came through and stole all our power for nearly 24 hours. we spent the day traipsing through puddles and planning adventures.

on spring's eve we found ourselves at singing beach playing frisbee and enjoying the sunshine after a long winter.

we met the sun early one morning, cold and brisk and beautiful.

we made cupcakes and carried out "the great cupcake surprise!" for our dear friends in the dish room.

these guys took my breath away.

these funny people i get to be related to continued to make me laugh.

i hiked this high peak in the Adirondack mountains with team oswald and lived outside for 2 weeks-ish.

the best brother in the world brought home this tandem surprise for me! 
adventures have not ceased since.

i spent the summer with these crazy kids. they taught me a lot about patience and love and joy.
this particular day was probably my favorite with them.

i also had the privilege of hanging out with this darling girl. she and her sister have a very special place in my heart.

i went cliff jumping in an old quarry for the first time. to this day, it was probably the riskiest thing i've done.

learned (and performed) the waka waka dance with these fun girls!

these cool kids came to visit for my birthday and helped throw me the best surprise party every. 
best birthday by far. 

we spent a lot of time in the kitchen making all kinds of random food and sharing it with people. (we ate a lot of eggplant this year, haha) 

one day genny and i biked down to the garden and helped move pumpkins around. it was the loveliest of fall days and we biked back with lots of fresh vegetables.  

i came home for quad break and dug out these potatoes with my dad. :)  

one crisp day we helped prepare the grounds for winter and then pressed apple cider; DELICIOUS.

sufjan stevens.
need i say more?

we had a pre-thanksgiving floor feast. 
there were tears of gratitude and love;
it was beautiful.
these girls are the coolest people ever.

to celebrate the end of a semester we went to my new favorite spot,
the cliffs of magnolia.

and then i came home to finish the year off with these incredible people.

and 2011 has marched in with barely a knock on the door to warn us. 
so here we are. in a year, whatever that  means. 

so here's to another year of learning and growing. here's to a bigger capacity to love, to eyes that see more clearly, to thoughts captivated by Christ, here's to more stumbling and challenges and trying again, here's to seeking God wholeheartedly and trusting him without restraint, here's to gracious giving (for to whom much is given, much is required) and forgiving with finality, here's to asking hard questions and being ok with not having the answers, here's to investing ourselves 100% wherever we are - to trusting that where we are, is where we're supposed to be. here's to being absolutely present all the time, to being child-like, to laughing and dancing and singing and being. here's to living full, and hard, and well. 

and here's to a unicycle, a harmonica, and a heart that wants to see the west coast.