Something there is that does not love to unpack. It's probably the part of me that realizes that once again, I will have to sort, throw out, and donate so much stuff. Thankfully, the vast bulk of the effort was undertaken last year, but I don't really enjoy the prospect of doing it again - it just makes me want to gag. Plus, unpacking is the final surrender to the realization that I'm home, that dts is over, that for nine long weeks I am going to be in Lancaster. But let's be honest: nine weeks is no seven months.

I'm a tricky sort of character. I don't think I'm lazy, per se, I just have other things that I would rather be doing. But when you can't walk from your door to your bed (four feet away) without tripping, something must be done. Still, I have to trick myself by pretending that I'm oh so casually picking up a stray piece of paper and tossing it in the trash. Then I oh so casually pick up another one, and another one, and before you know it, there's actually a few square feet of linoleum visible (yes, my bedroom floor IS linoleum... I live in the basement... carpet is impractical if the sump pump overflows...). So really, it's just a matter of misleading myself into doing what I want me to do.

So now I'm in the procrastination bit because I feel really accomplished with my two trash bags worth of stuff carted away. True, one hasn't made it to the thrift store yet, but that's because it's not open on Sunday. Hopefully Mother doesn't panic about the recurrence of floating trash bags outside my door. She likes it when I clean, but doesn't understand that it ALWAYS gets worse before it gets better. In her defense, usually the worse sticks around for years before I get a brain short and frenetically throw everything away with the air of one doing something profound.

And what does procrastination look like, you might ask (just pretend, k thanks). It looks like I went upstairs to put away my french press, coffee grinder, and mug, got distracted by what looked like a cobweb in my eyelashes, plucked my eyebrows, ate applesauce, checked facebook, ate cole slaw, got caught in a chat conversation with someone I haven't talked to in years, ate potato salad, listened to some other rough cuts of Brad Owens's songs, decided that now would be a splendid time to write a blog post. The stupid part about all of this is that what I ultimately wanted to do was to spend some serious Jesus time reading all of the shorter Pauline epistles, so I'm really just shooting myself in the foot because I still have laundry to put away and a bathroom cart thing to deal with before I can say done for the night. And tonight is early crash time because a) I'm still post-dts tired; b) I haven't had caffeine in the past six hours so I'll actually have a chance of getting to sleep early; and b) I have to work tomorrow. Yes, I did just use "b" twice, no, I'm not going to correct it.

Now... If I can only convince myself that I'm just going to put away my dental floss or something...


The Thing Is...

This morning was our last worship time together as a school, and we had Brad Owens leading us. Brad is a musician who has spent quite a bit of time with YWAM and has recently moved to Lancaster to work on the soundtrack for the Sex+Money documentary (find out more at sexandmoneyfilm.com), so in addition to his leading worship, Jeremy also asked him to share one or two of his own songs. Two lines from one of the songs especially hit home. It's a song about a man who has lost a woman to another man, but the kind of bittersweet pain expressed is so much broader than just that.

Holding on is painful,
Letting go is moreso...

How else to capture the dichotomy of saying goodbye? In high school, it wasn't so difficult. These were people I was stuck with, and I was too selfish to care too much about 75% of my class. At IMPACT, it was so much harder. We'd fought through some hard things together, or even if we hadn't really applied ourselves to fighting, at the very least we'd lived and grown together, experienced unique chunks of the world and slices of life together. That counted for something. And now, I find myself at the end of dts, saying goodbye one more time. If anything, my aversion to 'goodbye' has only grown with each successive year. Perhaps you might see this as a good thing- it suggests that my capacity for love has grown also.

But I still don't like it.

Even while we were in Cambridge, I was struggling with that gnawing beast, attached as it already was to my heart. Lewis once said that "the only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell." While we were in Oxford, I mentioned a little bit of that sense to Tyler, and he pointed out that for all of us here (I speak with reasonable hope), even if I don't see anyone again in this lifetime, that's only a matter of, at best, 80 years. But I told him that 80 years was too much, that I would still be sad to miss that part of his or anyone's life. Being a smartass, he asked me if I was hitting on him, but he missed the point. I can only repeat last summer's refrain from Edna St. Vincent Millay, seeing every goodbye as a death no less solemn or worth mourning:

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

{from Dirge Without Music}

Still, I have to let go. Otherwise, I can't move on and into the wonderful things that God has for me. Already, I can hear the distant music floating through the crack in the door that I'm about to pass through, and it's inviting, golden, welcoming. But I hear also the laughter, the songs, the tears, the hugs, the exhausted exhortations of the past eight months like a symphony drawing to a close. Not even the final crescendo now, but the last sweet strains. And this song is no less valuable to me. The question then remains, how do I not callous myself to fight the wounds of separation? How do I set my face forward when it lingers backward? How do I, who so loathes the word, safely say goodbye?


Saving for later purposes...

"In every well-appointed gentleman's house, I reflected, there was the front door for the gentlemen, and the side door for the tradesmen; but there was also the top door for the gods. The chimney is, so to speak, the underground passage between earth and heaven. By this starry tunnel Santa Claus manages--like the skylark-- to be true to the kindred points of heaven and home. Nay, owing to certain conventions, and a widely distributed lack of courage for climbing, this door was, perhaps, little used. But Santa Claus's door was really the front door: it was the door fronting the universe."

{Manalive by G.K. Chesterton}

"`I don't deny,' he said, `that there should be priests to remind men that they will one day die. I only say that at certain strange epochs it is necessary to have another kind of priests, called poets, actually to remind men that they are not dead yet. The intellectuals among whom I moved were not even alive enough to fear death. They hadn't enough blood in them to be cowards. Until a pistol barrel was poked under their very noses they never even knew they had been born. For ages looking up an eternal perspective it might be true that life is a learning to die. But for these little white rats it was just as true that death was their only chance of learning to live.'

And additionally:
"It will be enough for many to say that I had passed a night with a maniac. What other term, it will be said, could be applied to such a being? A man who reminds himself that he is married by pretending not to be married! A man who tries to covet his own goods instead of his neighbor's! On this I have but one word to say, and I feel it of my honour to say it, though no one understands. I believe the maniac was one of those who do not merely come, but are sent; sent like a great gale upon ships by Him who made His angels winds and His messengers a flaming fire. This, at least, I know for certain. Whether such men have laughed or wept, we have laughed at their laughter as much as at their weeping. Whether they cursed or blessed the world, they have never fitted it. It is true that men have shrunk from the sting of a great satirist as if from the sting of an adder. But it is equally true that men flee from the embrace of a great optimist as from the embrace of a bear. Nothing brings down more curses than a real benediction. For the goodness of good things, like the badness of bad things, is a prodigy past speech; it is to be pictured rather than spoken. We shall have gone deeper than the deeps of heaven and grown older than the oldest angels before we feel, even in its first faint vibrations, the everlasting violence of that double passion with which God hates and loves the world."

Why not add:
"`I mean your sort did!' exclaimed this personage. `Yes, your damned smug, settled, sensible sort made the French Revolution. Oh! I know some say it was no good, and you're just back where you were before. Why, blast it all, that's just where we all want to be--back where we were before! That is revolution--going right round! Every revolution, like a repentance, is a return.'

And from A Short History of England...
"Slavery was for the Church not a difficulty of doctrine, but a strain on the imagination. Aristotle and the pagan sages who had defined the servile or "useful" arts, had regarded the slave as a tool, an axe to cut wood or whatever wanted cutting. The Church did not denounce the cutting; but she felt as if she was cutting glass with a diamond. She was haunted by the memory that the diamond is so much more precious than the glass. So Christianity could not settle down into the pagan simplicity that the man was made for the work, when the work was so much less immortally momentous than the man."


Seasons of Love

As I was lying on my sleeping bag perusing Encyclopaedia Brittanica articles regarding such topics as St. Anselm of Canterbury, Charlemagne, William Wilberforce, and Christian mysticism, I was struck by the strange way that God has of doing things. Generally, to start with, He doesn't do them my way. In my head, my way is quite logical and sensible and probably very boring. True, His order of events is rather more difficult, since I have historically chosen the gentler incline when selecting onward and upward paths, but I will definitely say that it is more interesting this way, and the scenery is considerably more varied and awe-inspiring.

How else do I explain my life?

While we were at Harvard and MIT, I happened to pray for a graduate student who is from Malaysia. The most overwhelming impression I had was the hand of God on his life that had brought him, out of all the people in the world, to that place at that time. The likelihood that the two of us would ever meet over the course of our lives was minute at best, and yet there we were, both of us hundreds of miles from home, connected by this God who is more amazing than we could ever conceive. That impression has come back time and again with each place we've been here in England and with each person whom I have had the delight of meeting.

My ridiculous life...
It began a long time ago, but just for inspirational events, let's start with the Spanish class trip to Guatemala at the end of my sophomore year of high school. First international trip, my passport arrived the day before we left, and I got to spend a week in an out of the way city called Xela learning Spanish with Cuqui and eating a lot of pan from the panaderia that was just down the street from the escuela. We got trapped in our terminal with my conspiracy theorist teacher (who is still one of my favorite characters in the entire world, so I mean no disrespect), went to a natural mountain sauna, and ate ice cream every day.

The next year got a little more epic. Katrina moved to the Caribbean for the winter with Cape Air, so I went to Puerto Rico for spring break. Nothing will ever be able to erase the memory of that Ben & Jerry's shop in Old San Juan with the clerks dancing to "Mr. Brightside" while the already hot sun streamed in through the brightly painted windows and we ate Coffee Heath Bar Crunch from a pint container. Then there was kite flying, my first time eating Papa John's Pizza, sitting out on the balcony of Katrina's condo, and the day we drove to Rincon to eat at a place that was on a surfing beach with huge, beautiful waves washing in every other second as the sun went down. We listened to Dido as we drove back across the island, and the song "Sand in My Shoes" is forever stuck in my memory as my post-vacation come down.

Later that year, I travelled to Peru for my senior class missions trip. We stayed at the Mision Tecnological something or other, which were some fairly cushy digs for a place like Pucallpa which is on the eastern side of the Andes, set just off the Ucayali River. Sure, the showers were cold and you had to pour rubbing alcohol in your ears if you swam in the lake, but that same lake made for some stunning sunrises. The Shipibo Indians were hospitable and friendly, the days were full of sweaty but joyful labors, the rice was beyond delectable and into divine... Not to mention the opportunity to eat boa constrictor, maggots, and the rather more appealing paiche (a delicious local fish). Inca Kolas, King of Hearts drama presentations, tarantulas, Christina, Tia, Hayden, Alicia, my first trip with a new digital camera, and a panic attack during an incredibly long farewell celebration that ended with a stunning night sky in the Southern Hemisphere.

Then there was this place I started working at in the spring of my junior year, halfway through another season of managing girls' varsity soccer. Prince Street Cafe has been the setting for some of my biggest laughs and best times over the past couple of years. I've worked seven day weeks, drank more caffeine than my body should be capable of handling, charged through First Fridays, enjoyed the occasional night shift, laughed hysterically over nothing with Sara Martin on Saturday afternoons post-lunch rush, been surprised with a visit from dear friends from Georgia, and just generally lived in an incredible way through so many memories there. I hope that I may be so blessed as to have a workplace that I enjoy even half as much, but that's a pretty tough standard to live up to.

Can't forget about IMPACT 360, a Christian worldview and student leadership training program. One thing I appreciate about England is that they understand gap years. Nothing blows your paradigms about what life could be quite like eight months spent in community learning from some of the greatest Christian minds of our day. Glow stick parties, throwing pita bread, stomping on purple plastic bowls, listening to Bach, an open door all year round, Christmas lights, Aaron Ford lighting fires, the most amazing bomb of a potential relationship ever, John Basie who gets a whole segment of his own, backpacking, Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy trips, drinking tea, listening to Passion Pit while speeding down the mountain from volunteering, learning how to write concisely, giving nerve-wracking presentations, leaving home at 1AM to drive back, watching movies in the classroom, hall meetings, the Gospel of John at 737, Bill I-freaking-love-him-so-much Bain, Preview Days, Ultimate Frisbee, my dear Miss Renee, Sage's Ice Cream Parlor, Callaway, rain, that day they cut down the hedge, turning cartwheels in the front yard with David, destroying bottle caps with Mary Michael, and learning a little bit more about what it means to worship God in spirit and truth.

In the middle of that was a month long trip to Brasil. Who could forget the amazing Brazilians from Igreja San Juan Bautista or Igreja No Lago Sul? We didn't know what we were in for that first weekend at Agua Viva, meeting people like the Saatkamp family, Lycia and Andre Marra, or our translators Larissa and Little Andre. There was the night that I slept out on the porch in a hammock only to wake up to a thunderstorm at five in the morning, freezing from the breezes passing underneath me. Or the many hours spent out there during the day, reading Chesterton and growing closer and closer to God. Goofy hours of travel spent in the back seat of the van with Leah, laughing our way to near hysteria as each bounce jarred my swollen knee that I twisted while dancing with Grande Andre at the spiritist orphanage. There was the children's service in Aracaiba, when I gave my testimony to a hundred kids while relating my whole life story to bubbles and we did a dramatic interpretation of Noah's Ark. God cheekily isolated me multiple times in a coercive effort to make me a bolder street evangelist and forced me to assume leadership when I tried to step back. Pao de quejo started each day out right, and the candy-like Brazilian coffee was a great note to end on. And if I was tempted to forget Brazil, well, the fungus on my foot leading to a nasty allergic reaction in addition to a month long battle with lice did their bits to make sure it stuck in my head.

As I left IMPACT, I expected to spend eight months working, paying some money back to my dad, and making a final decision about which college to go to before starting in the spring semester. I got more connected with my church, got a tiny hankering to go do a YWAM dts since they're all former YWAMmers, and in the space of two weeks turned all my plans on their head when God dared me to dare Him to see what He would do. I found myself in another community, this one with a totally different focus and character. Where God had been whetting my appetite intellectually, He at last drew me in to a place of intimacy with Him and a time of learning more about who He is and what He is doing right now. Through that wild, unforeseen ride, I find myself going to Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, and Bradford, making friends for life in the form of the most fantastic outreach team that has ever existed and having my whole paradigm for what life can be like totally wrecked.

What did I do to get this life?! What am I doing in England?! Am I seriously moving to southern California to do a Great Books program (only one of the first and biggest dreams I ever had about college) with yet another rad community which might involve a summer exchange back to Cambridge? Am I going to the beach with the best sisters in the whole world then roadtripping across the country and stopping by Mexico with the best friend in the whole world? Am I psyched about all of this? Heck yes...

Life with God is NOT boring. Anyone who says differently hasn't tried it yet.