Thursday, January 31, 2008

return to the PNW

Today, I celebrate a first: I am in Seattle, and it is not raining (at least not as I type this). After my last soggy experience in the Pacific Northwest (see "The Canada Diaries" from July, 2007), I find the brief moment of semi-sunshine to be delightful. I arrived here yesterday on a nearly empty flight; there were 24 of us on a plane that seats 116. The extra room on the flight was consolation for the fact that I had left both cash and food in my friend's car, and would have to use an expensive airport ATM to get cash for a bus, then buy expensive airport food to break said bills. Sigh.

The Seattle public transit system provided the usual moments of bus hilarity. I asked the man next to me when my stop was going to be, only to have him chat my ear off in an Arkansas accent and with alcohol on his breath. Nearby, a teenager (maybe 17) alternated beween jabbering with her friend and sucking her thumb. Yes, you read that right: sucking her thumb. So wierd. A few rows behind her, sitting in the back, was a man who looked like he could have walked straight off the set of Fiddler on the Roof. I wanted to say l'heim! (um...I only know how to write that in Hebrew), but I resisted. I was most drawn to the two young backpackers a few rows up, and I was reminded that I, like most people, have the default button of retreating to that which is familiar.

When I got off the bus in downtown Seattle, I looked at Emily's directions to the public library, where I would wait for her: "Go south 4 blocks." Folks, I am from Colorado. Without the Rockies nearby, I have no idea which direction is South, so I asked directions from a Starbucks barista and headed off in the rain. Thankfully, the airline lost my luggage, so I didn't have to carry too much. (Seriously, not having to carry my luggage, then having it delivered that night is a good deal, if you ask me.) I spent the next couple hours wandering one of the most unusual (and cool) libraries I have ever seen, before meeting with my old friend and going out for some amazing Thai food. I fell asleep that night looking out my window at the Seattle sky line and the Space Needle, all aglow.

This morning, I decided to take a walk before hunkering down to do some work. I wanted to enjoy the fresh air, yes, but I also had a more important mission: coffee. Several blocks up the street, I came upon a durn good place to get groceries: the Durn Good Grocery (true story). After surveying the rather tragic coffee options, I asked the flaming man behind the counter if there was a coffee shop nearby, and he pointed me down the street; "Tell them Steve sent you, the guy from the Durn Good." I finally got my hands on some precious Brew at Irwin's, and headed back to Emily's. So here I sit, needing to get off blogger and start some homework.

These moments away from home, getting myself from here to there between meeting with friends and exlporing new places, are much needed, it seems. Not that I hopped a plane to Seattle to find myself. Still, my self-esteem has been wishy washy lately, and I know by now that it often comes down to a need to be reminded of who I am. It's a battle I have always fought, but it is nonetheless annoying each time I feel my footing get slippery and my heart panics. I forget my own skin and begin looking around me for definition,and that always leaves me a mess. So, as I began a few days ago, I still linger on the question: Who am I? What makes me tick? That post should be coming soon.

For now, I begin with one thing I do know about myself: I will forever be in love with the Colorado sunshine, no matter how much I love a cup of coffee in Seattle.

Monday, January 14, 2008

the soundtrack of my life

Often times, it seems that my life has a soundtrack. Music has a hold of my heart in so many ways, and often plays a part in walking me through good times and bad, giving voice to anguish and rejoicing alike. Because songs are so connected to life experiences for me, it has become common practice to add a date to any mix cd that I burn. It allows me to look back on the time of life during which the songs were particularly important to me. It is a melodic journal, I suppose.

Recently, I came across a cd labeled, "Fall 2005". I was surprised to hear how obvious the theme was: the love of God. Looking back, I recalled that time, a season in which I was awestruck by divine love. It was a unique time for me, since God's love is something that I generally struggle to embrace. In the fall of 2005, however, it was sinking in deep.

I could not have known when I was burning that cd that the coming season would not only bring a chill to the Colorado air, but would also bring a long winter to my heart, burying my soul beneath frozen ground. Spring would not come around on the inside until another full year had come and gone. Even more importantly, I could not have known that, in the midst of that bleak midwinter, I would be offered a sort of poison with the promise of bringing warmth to my heart.

But the Father knew. I look back now, and I am astounded by my response to that offer. "How can you walk away from it?" I was asked. The response was immediate and real: "I know that it would place a wall between me and Jesus. I have learned by now that it would keep me from his love, and I absolutely can't risk that. I cannot risk the loss of friendship with my God." Those words are not my natural M.O. They were the fruit of the season of preparation represented by the songs on my cd. God was preparing me for what was to come. He was impressing upon me the knowledge of his love, knowing that it was the only thing that could carry me through the long winter ahead.

How beautiful. The soundtrack of my life is a story of God's faithfulness to me. It is the melody of a God who is taking care of me long before I even cry out for help. Honestly, there were many months when I looked at that bleak time and felt that he must have abandoned me, left me hanging. I suppose I had to make my way to a place of hindsight before I could see things clearly.

In the silence that follows the raging is now that I can hear him singing. Yes, I can hear that he's been singing all along.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

sometimes the road seems long

It’s dark in this place,
this chamber where I fight my lonely battle
with the never-ending onslaught of
of shame.
I don’t (do?) want to give up,
[as you know]
I’ve been asking for my freedom for some time now.

There are days when
it begins to feel futile,
this pleading with you to remove the poison,
entreating you to lift up the shade
and let some sunshine in.
Yet the venom
it seems
rising up from some inexhaustible place,
some giant aquifer of tainted water
filling me up on the inside.
I feel
that I am like a polluted well.
I am to others
like a glass of water in Mexico.
Like Montezuma’s Revenge,
I am bound to wreak my own brand of relational havoc.

[I admit]
there are other days,
when I am able to see them:
tiny flowers emerging from
what looked to me like a sickening plot
of heart-soil
[a soiled heart?].
Sometime I catch a glimpse of
the paradoxical way
that this misery is mulch,
for the lot
where the beauty of redemption takes root.

Yes, sometimes I’m able to see
that it’s all exquisite
under the light of grace.
But today I do (don’t?)
want to give up.
Today I feel like there’s
no end in sight.

Perhaps in my weariness,
in this dark place,
I simply want to find a breathing space
[for one day]
where a life that displays
his beauty
leaves me in something
than muck.