Thursday, February 14, 2008

somewhere in the in-between

Somewhere in the last year, everything shifted. Everything changed. Now, in some strange way, even after spending months on the far side of it all, I am suddenly standing back in the in-between and staring silently out at the scenery. As I told a friend only minutes ago, I am suddenly aware that the landscape of my life is drastically different than it was even six months ago. And to my surprise, I am bushwacking my way through thick underbrush of unexpected and seemingly delayed grief and processing.

The sheer amount of change has been a bit disorienting, as I am left with little familiar footing. I find few constants. The question rings in my ears almost daily: Who am I? I know that I have changed along with the scenery; that is part of life. Yet I ask myself now, Have those changes involved developing new muscles and navigational skills, or am I left only with a sunburn and atrophy in legs that once walked in faith? I do not know the answers to these questions, and what answers are out there seem to be slow in coming.

Of course, some things remain. I am an adventurer who aims her bike tires at the mud that most steer to avoid. I will take a road trip at the drop of a hat, and am always doing strange things just to say I did them. I feel stirred to the core by the suffering of the poor and marginalized, and no matter how many generous rich people I know, I still wonder in my heart if it is ever ok for a Christian to own a Lexus. I think coffee shops are a way of life, and poetry gets stuck in my head almost as often as music does. I see my father in me every time something is broken and I absolutely have to figure out how to fix it. I am moved to tears by music and by the beauty God brings out of our messes. I wrestle with myself and with God constantly, and am insanely introspective, at times to a fault. I live my life with legacy in mind, striving to do things with passion, and seeking to overcome the tendency to live out of fear. I like maps and legos and good books. I generally have a smart alec comment on hand.

Still, the larger questions remain. As I search for a clear view and some firmer footing, I call out with the psalmist: "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I." Lead me, Father, through the grief and joy and sorrow and adventure of change, and carry me safely through when my heart feels caught in the in-between.

Monday, February 04, 2008

we'll find each other in the pages of our stories

My time in Seattle is complete, and I write this while sipping Starbucks in the airport, about to leave the city where the coffee giant got its start. The trip was diverse and rich, and perhaps even more impactful than I know yet. Yes, a good deal of life has come and gone in the course of a few days.

Here in this soggy city, I ate Thai food across the table from a friend with whom I shared games of hide and seek when we were just mountain kids. I held a newborn baby boy in my arms, the first child of a dear friend whom I hadn't seen in far too long. I rode a bike to the frigid waters of the Puget sound and let the waves wash over my usually land-locked feet. I chased down a ferry just seconds before it left the dock, and traveled across the waters to explore the streets of Bainbridge Island, with its cafes and book stores and yarn shops filled with sweaters made by old women. I worshipped at a church that is making an effort to reconcile races that remain divided on the south side of the city, and I grinned as I sang along with the songs that make up African American worship. I listened to the chanting and singing of a compline choir in a great cathedral, soaking in the sound alongside a hodge podge multitude gathered on pews and scattered across the sanctuary floor. I talked over coffee about the injustices of the world and the humor of coffee shop culture, and I talked over dinner about the pros and cons of going for that crazy thing called a doctorate. These past few days leave me with much to let ruminate in my heart and mind.

Spending time with such a unique spectrum of friends has left me thinking about the roles we play in the lives of those around us. I am realizing that sometimes I forget to embrace and enjoy the diversity of these roles at times. Granted, there is room for a sort of natural mourning, the subtle sadness that comes when one realizes that time and space simply don't allow for the kind of sharing life I might wish for. At other times, however, the sadness is the result of elevating one kind of role above another, feeling disappointed and frustrated when relationships can't fit into the particular box that makes me feel secure in my importance to someone. How much I miss when I walk in that limited view!

The rich and unique roles we can play in one another's lives are beautiful indeed. I may not even talk to Emily for years at a time, but I will remain forever someone with whom she shared childhood games and joint family camping trips. I may not be the friend Angela goes to when the world comes down or joy overcomes her, but we will always be able to sit down over coffee and feel a sort of contented familiarity, a knitting together of spirits who once shared college days and heart talks. And I may not be the friend with whom Aly has a rich history of tears and laughter and shared experience, but I nonetheless remain that friend with whom she shared a long trek through British Columbian rain. I remain a friend with whom she witnessed the wonder of God's provision of companionship when it is needed most, and with whom she she is knit in a particular area of the heart--a passion for a discipleship marked by compassion and justice and love for the marginalized around us.

I want to learn to appreciate the beauty of this: we are part of one another's stories. God has, in one way or another, allowed us to make a unique mark on each other's lives. And that is beautiful. It is secure even as it remain uncertain how many pages of the tale we may share in the years to come. It is secure in the mighty hands of the master Craftsman: the Author of our lives.