If I asked you who you were, what would you say?
Maybe that sounds weird, but it’s a question that I’ve been running through my mind a lot, lately and today, I stopped to actually think about it. You see, moving to a different country is a pretty intimidating thing. But the moving itself isn’t the hard part.
It’s having no identity once you get there.
Most people don’t really sit around wondering what their identity is. Most of the time it’s inherent. You’re a daughter because you have a mother. You’re a girlfriend because you have a boyfriend. You’re an artist because you make art. You’re an English speaker because you speak English.
But, what happens when you move away from all that?
You’re a daughter, but your mother is 8,000 miles away. You’re an artist, but you have limited supplies, resources and different mediums available. You know English, but you’re not allowed to speak it.
So the question comes up again: Who are you?
I’m the kind of person who believes that regular identity crisis are necessary and a healthy part of my life, but most of the time it’s because I find myself not knowing who I am, or what I want to do at that moment.
This experience is different.
I wouldn’t call this a crisis. I’ve spent the last year figuring out who I am and what direction I want to go in, so those aren’t issues right now. But, like in any witness protection or spy movie, by moving I have suddenly become a person without any identity to those around me.
No one knows who I am. I can walk down the street with 0% possibility of running into someone I know, or grew up with. I go to the store and they eye me warily, wondering where I came from – since they know everyone who lives in this small town.
I don’t have any favorite spots, yet. I don’t have a community, church or friends, yet. I’m a body in this city, but not yet a person.
When I was thinking about this, this morning, it really bothered me. I, like most people, like to be known. I love acknowledgement, and “words of affirmation” is my love language. – not having anyone to talk with in my native (and therefore emotionally comfortable) language makes feeling “whole” pretty difficult.
So, with my identity shifting, and my surroundings foreign, I was wondering today – what makes me…me? Who am I?
“When my identity fails – You will remain. So I will tether myself to you.”
The nearest (non-catholic) church is more than an hour away from where I live, so I’ve been streaming some sermons while going to the Catholic one down the street. It’s an unconvential way of “doing church”, but I’ve never been very good at claiming the conventional, anyway.
Today I was listening to a sermon about anchoring your soul – or having something that grounds you. The pastor was talking about how, to some people, this anchor might be material, and to others it might be another person (such a spouse)…but, the problem is, those things aren’t going to be able to help you when you’re “four inches from sinking.” The first because, being soulless, it can’t relate to your problem, and the latter because they are as broken as we are.
This week I have felt like the top of my boat is four inches from the waves (aka me losing my mind); with too much weight gathered within its structure, my boat is about four inches from being filled and slipping beneath the water: four inches from disaster. Sometimes I feel like I’m just staring at the side of the boat hoping and praying that no bigger waves come and pull me under.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am confident in my decision to move to France, and I have complete peace about where I am right now. But it’s not easy jumping into a family of strangers, working every day and trying desperately to understand 100% of a foreign language when you have about 80% comprehension (80 sounds like a lot, but try reading a book with 80% of each sentence).
Sometimes I find myself praying out loud because I’m so frustrated with circumstances. Like dogs getting diarrhea and pooping EVERYWHERE, kids throwing punches and middle fingers at their siblings and simultaneous fatigue from a mixture of constantly being around people (introvert alert) and jet lag.
I am not perfect, and situations are not perfect.
But, it’s at times like this, when I realize it’s absolutely essential that my hope is anchored on something stronger than my discouragement.
“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” (Hebrews 6:19)
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes think about just packing my bags and going back home. I miss Seattle like nobody’s business. But I also know that there’s a plan and a reason for me being where I am. And, perhaps more importantly, there’s a promise that my anchor is holding steadfast, even when I can’t see it.
My identity, although feeling unknown, is buried deep within the hope of a savior who promises not that things will be easy, but that he will be present. Right now things are tough, that’s just a reality. But even as an outlier to my present circumstances, I have confidence in knowing that – regardless of the way I feel about things – below the raging water’s surface is an anchor that promises never to let go.
I’ve been waiting four weeks for paperwork from a French government agency so that I can apply for my visa. After sleepless nights, phone calls, faxes and emails, they finally called me this morning. The woman, her thick French accent filling the phone, told me I had no need of the paperwork I had been waiting for (and had been told to apply for). “Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. We’ve just been so busy.” Four weeks.
Welcome to the bureaucracy.
I’m finally boarding a plane for my visa appointment with the French embassy in San Francisco. It’s been a long road, filled with stress, stress, stress and more stress. I can honestly say that this “adventure” has been more stressful than four years of college… combined. I don’t even know how people do this and live to tell the tale, but I’m still fighting everyday to make it to the end.
The only question now is, when will it be the end? The hope right now is that the embassy will process my application in record time and then I’ll be able to leave on August 18th. The reality is, though, that they might not get it done in time, and that means I’ll have to buy another plane ticket. Something which I have NO budget for. Let the prayers commence.
Miracles don’t generally seem to happen, but when I was sitting in my room yesterday, looking at my stack of paperwork, I realized something – this ALREADY IS A MIRACLE.
If you had told me a year ago I would be applying to move to France, would be accepted into a French university and would be quitting my job, I never would have believed it. Last year, at this time, I was trying not to think about suicide, unhealthy relationships and starving myself. I was on multiple meds, had no plans or direction for my life and was spinning out of control. I remember sitting on my bed, curled up in a ball and thinking that I just wanted to die. Then I thought about that thought for a minute – no I didn’t! And that’s when a little voice said, “You’re going to have to choose. You can’t keep floating between life and death.”
I chose to live.
It’s been a pretty bumpy road getting here, but I think that’s what’s making me realize just how much I want this. Last night I really felt like God was pointing me in the direction of 2 Peter 3:9 where it says, ” The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you.” We’re all given passions and dreams for a reason. On each of our hearts God writes a script that is unique to who we are, and who we’re called to become. Maybe these things seem arbitrary and random, but those are what guide us to find our destiny/calling/purpose. The funny thing is how often it’s US who are causing the roadblocks to getting there.
I think one of the most dangerous things we can do is to ignore what we’re passionate about. But, the reality is, sometimes we just forget. We get so caught up in the societal expectations to ___________ (fill in the blank) that we lose sight of our own path. And, for a really long time, that was me. Afraid to live my life, and trying desperately to follow someone else’s dream to get married, work in an office, get pregnant, volunteer in the kids room at church and only shop at Nordstrom and Anthropologie. Note: There is nothing wrong with these dreams. But they are not mine (although, some might be in the future). Coming to terms with this realization was half the battle. But you know what they say: Acknowledging you have a problem is the first step to recovery. It wasn’t until I was in a place of complete (and essential) surrender, that God reminded me of the dreams HE had planted deep in my heart.
When I was going through some old boxes at my parents’ house a couple of weeks ago, I realized that throughout my life I’ve always wanted to move to France. I have coloring pages from when I’m 9 of the Eiffel tower and every school related binder I ever had has some kind of France theme to it. It was a dream of my heart – my heart’s desire. But, in the chaos of life, I had forgotten, and I almost gave up.
I’m so thankful that life is full of second chances. And that right now I am on a plane to go apply for a visa to FRANCE. That, in itself, is a miracle. And I think it’s important that I declare that. Everything might not be working out according to the plan in my mind, but it is going to work out, because this wasn’t my plan to begin with.
This dream comes from somewhere so much deeper than my mind or my heart. In truth, I think it comes down to following a path that’s been waiting for me for quite a while, now. To find it, I simply had to stop looking so hard for a path that was someone else’s “right one.”
Tomorrow will be my last Thursday as a nanny to the family I’ve been working with for over TWO YEARS. Next week will be my last week. Crazy, I never thought I could “commit” to a job that long, but it’s been a wild ride, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
I’ve grown so much over these past years. And while I’ve taught the kids I work with, they’ve taught me so much about myself, communicating with others, relationships, friendship, siblingship, love and selflessness. Here are some of my favorite lessons:
1. In every job that must be done, there is an element of funSomething that I didn’t realize before becoming a nanny is that NO ONE LIKES CHORES. It’s not like you grow into an adult and *snap* you love washing dishes and cleaning your room/messes. No one likes it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an opportunity for fun. I’ve learned to embrace the fun aspects of getting things done, such as getting kids to race with getting their pajamas on, “fish toss” their laundry away, and Disney music dance the dishes clean.
2. What you’re passionate about MATTERSHave you ever stopped for a minute and realized how much we encourage children, as a society? We encourage them to do their best, work hard, dream, imagine, and run after things they love. Somehow, these are all lessons that we (often) lose when we grow up. Being a nanny encouraged me to start loving sports again, pursue being an artist as a profession, instead of just a pastime and be unafraid to plan for the future. It’s absolutely amazing the rebounding ability of children. We all fail sometimes, but we all have to get up again and keep dreaming.
3. It’s ok to be a little kid, again
Who said adults aren’t allowed to have fun, anymore. There’s something wholesome and amazingly refreshing about remembering how to have fun before it had to include going to clubs, drinking, smoking or trying to look “cool.” We all have that little part of us that likes the silly, the imaginative and the crazy. It’s ok to stop being serious and be a little weird sometimes.
4. Never underestimate the power of your wordsThe way we speak to others is something I know I took for granted before becoming a nanny. I had more of a “if you don’t like what I say, too bad” approach, and I think over time that hurt more than ever helped me. Being around kids, you can’t do that. You can’t cut down, demean or be “brutally honest” (although, they definitely will be to you). Instead you have to encourage, uplift and inspire with your words. Even if you’re saying something negative, you have to go about doing it in a way which is positive. Learning this skill has taught me more than four years of college and a communications degree. The way we talk matter, don’t let your words be aimless.
5. How to be a big sister
Some of the “kids” I nanny are in high school and that makes the whole process of “nannying” quite different than working with elementary age kids. They don’t need me to remind them to go to the bathroom, or to feed them. What they do need is someone to talk to, share clothes with, and watch trash TV with (just a little bit). Two of my girls really have become like little sisters to me. We watch the same TV shows, read the same books, talk about fashion, talk about boys, sex, tampons and every other embarrassing thing you can think about in high school. I get to encourage and uplift them, but more importantly I get to speak truth into their lives. I’ve learned never to underestimate the power of life experience. Whether your past is good or bad, you have something valuable to offer to the next generation.
6. Gentle words can have just as much powerLearning how to “work with kids” meant something different to the past generations of my family. To put it nicely, it involved spankings and soap. But I’ve learned, after two years of working with kids that I have no option to discipline in that way, that there are so many other ways of connecting with children and teaching them how to communicate, respect others and take ownership for their actions. Of course, with every child there are different ways of discipline, but I SO love expanding my knowledge.
7. Sometimes you’re going to have to do embarrassing shitIt’s true – you’re working with kids. What does this mean? Well, you’re going to probably be doing some embarrassing things like dressing up in weird costumes, letting them paint your face and dragging them on your legs as you walk in public. But, here’s the thing – who cares? Learning to chill out has been my biggest lesson from nannying. Because, the truth is, the only person whose opinion matters is your own and the kids (who are loving it – guaranteed).
8. Cherish the little things
I’m pretty standoffish by nature. I don’t run up and give people hugs (in fact, I don’t really like hugs) and I’m not the type to call people sweetheart, or sit for three hours to listen about their day. But, over the past two years, I’ve learned that those little things like calling a kid “love” or giving them a huge hug when they come home from losing their soccer game ARE IMPORTANT. Despite my scandinavian background, I’ve learned so much more about valuing other people and really taking the time to cherish.
9. It’s not about you
I’m a generation Y twenty-something. Every NY Times article and scientific research study tells me that I value instant gratification, self interest and ME ME ME. Which I think would have been a lot more accurate before I became a pseudo mother of five. When you have children running around you constantly, you have to start thinking about more than yourself. You have to have snacks always in your purse (NOT FOR YOU), extra water in your water bottle (ALSO, NOT FOR YOU), A GPS in your head (“Are we there, yet?”), a memory that holds all their birthdays (Forget one, and you’ve made “favorites”) and a mind that is completely not your own. You don’t think about you at the grocery store – you think about which kid likes spaghetti sauce, who hates blueberries, who’s allergic to eggs and who only eats tofu this month.
10. “When you need me, but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me, but no longer need me, then I have to go.” Being a nanny is so fulfilling, and at the same time heartbreaking because you know that it won’t be forever. You pour your everything into a family that, after you quit, you may never see again. But that’s the way it works. That’s what we’ve signed up for. Nothing is permanent except the love we leave behind, the memories we’ve made and the lives we’ve changed.
It’s against my nature to hope for things. I was raised to analyze facts, statistics and data, calculate a potential result, analyze that result and then still never fully put faith in the final solution.
It seems illogical to get your “hopes up” for something that may not come about. Statistically speaking there aren’t any certainties, so why hope for things?
But, last night I was reading 1 Corinthians 13 and, while I’m normally enraptured by the verses everyone remembers, “love is patient, love is kind…” this time my attention was grabbed by the very end of the verse:
“Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.”
Trust God? Ok, I can do that. Love people? Ok, working on that. Hope unswervingly? WHAT.
I literally muttered, under my breath, “Why?”
Why does God command that we hope (and not only just hope, but hope UNSWERVINGLY)?
Hoping is dangerous. It puts you in a place of trusting the uncertainty of life. When you hope, it generally means there’s something out of your control. We hope for success, for things to go in the direction of our favor. We hope things work out, or that we’ll figure out a solution to an overwhelming problem.
The only issue is, these things will fade. They’ll break our heart. They’ll hurt us and make us never want to hope in anything, again.
This week has been kind of a hard one for me. A lot of personal things have come up that I thought had been dealt with in the past, but resurfaced, resulting in a lot of confusion and chaos.
But, while I’m praying and crying and trying to figure out things, I’ve continually been pointed to the idea of hoping in impossible things. For the first couple of days I thought, “No, I need something that will actually HELP me through this.”
But it kept coming, again and again: Hope.
I’ve never really realized how many bible verses there are about hope, but to save you the trouble of looking – there are a lot.
And after reading a few of them today, I noticed something. God doesn’t tell us to hope in or about things. He tells us to hope in Him, to find rest in Him, to know Him.
While I’m running around wondering how I’m expected to trust people, trust situations; hope in impossible endings, or extend impossible forgiveness, God says, “Put your hope in me.”
Like a lot of people, the Psalms are some of my favorite pieces of poetry.
In Psalm 42 we read “The prayer of someone who is in exile.”
This is one of my favorite chapters, because it’s raw and it’s human. In it the author talks about the emotional rollercoaster of leaning on God, and then remembering the past. They talk about heartbreak, they talk about “waves of sorrow” and questioning whether God has forgotten about them. In a nutshell, this has been my week.
But then, at the very end comes:
“I will put my hope in God,
And once again I will praise him,
My savior and my God.”
Life has a way of kicking us in the face. And I mean broken nose, blood and cracked bones, kicking. It happens to everyone at some point. Part of life is then getting up and still walking forward. But sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you’re also faced with having to forgive the beating. (Matthew 6:14-15)
As Christians, it’s not suggested – it’s required.
But, it’s not easy. And that’s what I’ve been wrestling with this week. And I do mean WRESTLING. I don’t like being put in vulnerable positions (who does?) I want to be in control of my life, and know what’s going on and when it’s going to happen.
But I don’t always. And even then God tells me to trust him. To hope in the promises that he has given me. To remember the little whispers he told me a year ago, while I was curled up gasping for breath from crying so hard.
It’s hard to hope.
It’s hard to remember.
It’s hard to keep walking, in faith, toward the things God has called us to.
Sometimes it’s with no directions. Sometimes we barely have a path we’re following.
But still he tells us to hope.
I can’t see what the outcome of situations will be. Sometimes I think I’ve got everything handled and in a good place, and then I get slammed with a curve ball like this week. I get knocked down. I get bruised and my heart feels like it’s going to tear in half. But I have to get up, again and again, and keep walking.
Hoping for things is not in my nature. Life is too uncertain. And risking with the potential for failure is against my better judgment.
But God doesn’t call us to hope in the uncertainty of our world. He calls us to hope in the certainty of knowing that when our brokenness, our messed up perceptions of what is happening, hits us hard, threatening to break our resolve, we hold tight to the promise that he will never fail us.
He is a never changing, immovable God who challenges us because He knows, ultimately, that we are so much stronger than we perceive.
So today I’m choosing to hope – not in the uncertain, the broken or the flawed. But in a Father who promises his presence when it’s time to find beauty in those things, and rise again.
Yesterday I stood in a Safeway aisle, staring at toilet paper.
Normally I always buy the same brand, same size, same everything (I’m a creature of habit), but for the first time in years I had to stop and think. You see, I’m moving out of the country in 2 months – I don’t need 24 rolls of toilet paper. And, as I continued to shop through the store, this realization kept hitting me. I don’t need a huge container of laundry soap. I don’t need spices in bulk. I don’t need twelve rolls of paper towels…no, wait – I do need those (#artistproblems). It’s odd, but grocery shopping yesterday was the most slap-in-the-face realization I’ve had so far.
Although I’m getting closer and closer to my leave date, there hasn’t been a whole lot that’s finalized so far. I’m still mid process in getting my Visa, moving and packing up everything. But, even thought things aren’t 100%, I’m at the point where I have to pretend they are. I can’t buy bulk at the grocery store anymore. I can’t buy new clothes, unless I’m going to DIE without them. I have to get rid of stuff every moment I can. I have a giant “Get Rid Of” pile in my living room because there’s no way I can take everything I own with me…or even half of what I own with me.
The hardest thing right now is acting the part, even though I don’t know for certain that I have the role. See, I’m the type of person who likes certainty. I like order, I like knowing things are going to work out, and at exactly what date, time and location they will happen. But, unfortunately, that’s not the way life works – as much as I want to be in control of this situation, it’s just not going to happen. There’s no net, here. There isn’t a back up plan for if things fall through. And, honestly, that’s terrifying. I am a type A personality. I NEED everything on charts and graphs. I NEED to know everything’s going to work out. But I don’t.
They say that big risks reap big rewards, but risks can also produce epic sized failures. Realizing this is part of adulthood. As we get older we realize that grass isn’t going to be purple, no matter how many times we color it that way; just because we can imagine something, doesn’t always mean it’s going to happen.
BUT, the other half of adulthood is realizing that sometimes you have to stick your middle finger to that side of your brain (yes, I just told you to flip yourself off) and fight for that kid-like disregard for the factual and definite. Because, living despite the potential for failure is essential for succeeding, growing and moving forward in life.
And while risking big is something scary, uncertain, and periodically gives me nervous breakdowns, looking back over my life I’ve realized that I cannot remember a time when I’ve risked big and not been blown away by God’s faithfulness.
The last time I moved, even though it was only a couple of states away, I had no idea what was in store for me. I moved to accept a job in southern California with a non-profit called Krochet Kids International, and it ended up being one of the most impactful experiences of my life.
But, that being said, it also was nothing like I imagined. While living in California, I was so broke I remember looking in my bank account and laughing when I saw I had $7.11; the irony of having barely enough money to go into a 7-11 store, let alone buy anything substantial like groceries.
When I was in California I lived in a three bedroom, two bathroom and one main room apartment with eight other roommates – guys and girls. If you’ve ever had roommates, you can imagine how much drama took place amongst that many people in that small of a space. I honestly think if we had lived together for another month someone might have ended up
dead seriously injured. But we figured it out. We survived that ant infested apartment… and I figured out someway to buy groceries.
I cried a lot when I lived in California. But I also grew a lot. No, I didn’t have the experience I expected from being a “good Christian” and volunteering. I didn’t frolic on beaches, greeted by dolphins amongst the Pacific Ocean waves (there were sharks, however). I didn’t sit under palm trees and tan – I started to hate palm trees about a week after being there (all I could think about were Washington evergreens).
Things were just about as off kilter as could be, and I really
loathed to all eternity didn’t like living in California. But that experience was essential for making me into the person I am now. Living in California changed me, because I stepped into the complete unknown and failed miserably.
Right now there are a lot of uncertainties in my life, and it’s really hard to try piecing everything together when I only have a sketch of what the final painting is supposed to be. But what I do know, what I draw from daily, is that I’ve never been failed in the past. God has never failed to see me through. He’s never left the role of comforter, guide and Father. And even though I can only see the next step of my journey, he sees the entire playing field. And I have to trust that.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go color in some purple grass.
Today I saw a picture of a little girl hugging a fish – a huge grin spread across her face. The caption? “Girl saves fish from drowning.”
At first it was funny. Then it was convicting. Not that I have a spiritual experience every time I read a meme, but my mind couldn’t help thinking about how often I’m that little girl – grasping for something that needs to be let go so both it, and I, can continue living.
The problem is, I’m stubborn. Anyone who knows me can tell you that. And I hold on even tighter when someone tells me to let go of something. Call me a typical Virgo, or just an overly tenacious Irish/Norwegian woman, but I’ve just never been very good at saying goodbye.
Lucky for me (*insert sarcastic grimace*), in this intermittent season, between where I am and where I’m going, my life is proving to be heavily portrayed by two words: Letting Go.
If I’m perfectly honest, I’m not the best at change, or at transitioning myself from one time frame to another. When I moved to southern California, I was nauseous for weeks because I couldn’t settle myself enough to enjoy my surroundings (mainly including the Pacific Ocean and palm trees that were steps from my front door – hard life).
But we all have to face change sometime – and that point, for me, is right now. Finding out that I’m moving halfway around the world, with the potential of not coming back for a very long time, has changed the way I interact with people in the present. Actually, I’m starting to realize now, that if I had lived this way before, I probably would have had higher life satisfaction prior to present day.
To make this transition easier, each week, I’m giving myself an “assignment.”
Like last week, specifically: I challenged myself to be intentional about saying, and putting myself in a position to say, goodbye to people that I had simply cut out of my life. That being said, in the true revolving door fashion of my life, some relationships have been harder to close than I initially thought.
This week has been filled with emotions (are you noticing a trend here?). There’s been laughter and tears, hugs and high fives and finally learning how to drop some fish that I was trying to “save.”
Relationships are messy. And being raised with a “don’t burn any bridges” mentality, and an over zealous social media involvement, has resulted in me putting many on “life support.” You know, when you’re still “friends” with someone, even though you haven’t spoken to them in five years, nothing truly keeping the relationship alive.
My social media life (*cough* Facebook) easily gives me the false feeling of having dealt with things I’ve passive aggressively swept under the rug. After all, we’re still “friends,” right? I don’t need to wrap things up, say I’m sorry, or end on a good note with people. It’s the perfect system.
Or is it? See I’m starting to realize that, sometimes, it’s healthy to burn bridges, to say goodbye, or to walk away from things that are harming rather than helping. Sometimes, you need to do those things in order to really be able to move forward.
While change can be good, never confronting or having to make actual decisions about past chapters in your life is not. It’s like never deleting emails – yeah, they aren’t immediately showing up every time you log in, but they’re still accumulating and taking up memory.
I’m starting to mildly hate that I have, maybe a couple hundred friends/family members I actually interact with, but three times that amount of “friends” on Facebook. Who are these people? Ghosts of past seasons, floating amidst the ocean of my news feed and shared viral cat videos. Do they know me? Do I know them?
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being friends with people years after you’ve met, but what I’ve found myself doing is using social media to pacify my actual interactions with people. A habit that ends up being a lose-lose situation.
I’m not a fan of interpersonal shortcuts. I like phone calls more than text messages, and sitting down, talking to someone, more than Facebook messaging. And when it comes to saying goodbye, I’m no different. I want people who are close to me to be close because we’ve actually had a conversation in the past six months. I want people who I’ve decided are not healthy to have involved in my life, to actually be out of my life; sometimes, it’s ok to close the door, turn the key and walk away.
We don’t heal from ignoring injuries, we only make them worse. And, although, it can be painful to deal with them, I’m making an effort to enter this next part of my life in as healthy a way as possible; letting go of dead relationships, and nurturing those that are worth investing in.
It’s true; I’ve never been very good at goodbyes. But, I am starting to realize that I have an option, the power to decide, who and what remains in my life post this transition. A decision I don’t want to waste. Yes, it’s terrifying to start everything off again with a clean slate. But it’s also unimaginably liberating to step forward into the unwritten future.
Right now I’m sitting on a park cliff overlooking Puget Sound. There’s a slight breeze, and half of the sky is sunny; the other filled with half huge cumulonimbus clouds speckled with highlights of gray and white. Staring at me are the Olympic Mountains. And normally, on a clear day, I would see them fully. But today, they are half hiding behind a dense curtain of clouds. I smell salt water. I hear seals barking on the beaches down below. Preening stay-at-home dads are walking by with their babies strapped proudly to their chests. A boy and his dad are practicing their Dempsey moves. The attire of each person here proclaims their love of hiking, nature and going on adventures.
This is Seattle. And I’m going to miss it – a lot. Sometimes I sit and just think of all the things I’m going to miss about home after I move. It sounds depressing, but I have a good reason for doing so.
I want to make sure I now appreciate what I won’t be able to appreciate once I leave. I want to make a list, and check off every special part of my city, knowing that I’ve enjoyed it fully. I want to savor everything. I want to imprint every favorite view, every spot I’m in love with, in my mind. I want to remember the smell of salt water and rain. I don’t ever want to forget home.
I’ve moved away from Seattle before, and I remember the feeling of displacement. How it feels to know you fit somewhere, but that you’re somewhere else instead.
But knowing that I’m going to miss my home city doesn’t make me sad, or prevent me from loving it in the moment. Rather, it makes me relish it. I don’t want to think for one moment, when I’m in France, that I wasted my last few months in Seattle. Because the weird reality is, I don’t know when I’ll have more. One year? Two? Five? Who knows?
Today I was thinking about the past year. It’s crazy how much can change in such a short time. Primarily that my AppleCare on my MacBook just expired, but other things too. We never know where we’ll be a year from now. I would never in a million years have guessed I would be moving to France. I know people always say, “ If you had told me, I would have told you that you were crazy.” But I literally would have.
France wasn’t in the books. There were no plans for it. But now, looking around, it’s incredible how much I seem to have been “preparing” for it for years without knowing. Now, here I am: getting rid of half my belongings and begging my mom to take care of, and love, my goldfish. Change is uncomfortable and inevitable, and I generally don’t like it. But, for one of the few times in my life, this change feels right.
I think it would be natural to step back from this opportunity. It’s intimidating. It feels like a rock wall blocking the path to the next chapter of my life. But, no matter how much I stare at it, it’s not going to dissolve. I know I have to climb it.
My job right now is to make sure I’m prepared, to equip myself and then grab on. Because ultimately, when I get to that end point, everything I’m learning now will enrich and enhance what I’m about to do – I just happen to still be in that stage of equipping.
Sometimes this place is scary, and awkward and frustrating. It’s taken me weeks to fill out paperwork for schooling and my visa etc. And it’s exhausting to not know what to prepare for on the other side. No matter how much work I put in now, how many French lessons, how much money I save, how many ideas I have and packing plans I make, I have no idea if it will be enough. The reality is that it could NOT be.
Regardless, I know the hard work is worth it. Something amazing is waiting for me on the horizon. Maybe it will be everything I ever hoped for – maybe it will be something I never knew I wanted. But, right now, it’s not my job to worry or freak out. My only task is to reach out and grab ahold of it.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”
What makes a life memorable? With today’s world of online clutter, award winners, inspirational people and political voices, it’s hard to really know what impact even means, anymore.
But, a couple of days ago, I read an article about a girl who died when she was 22. She didn’t have any Nobel Peace Prizes or Olympic gold medals. What she did have, were friends who were willing to write her story after she was gone. And, as I scrolled through the piece, tears started to fill my eyes. After I was done reading, I had to stop and ask myself, “Why does this matter? I’ve never even met this person. So, why am I mourning?”
You make beautiful things out of dust.
These lyrics have been haunting me for a couple of days now. They come the band Gungor, but I don’t think I ever let them sink in, until today.
Before, when I listened to this song, I thought about the scientific realities. From dust we come, and to dust we will return.
But today, I let my heart speak for a moment. I started to think over the past couple of years. They weren’t great. With the exception of the last four months, I would go as far as to say they were probably the worst in my repertoire. Nothing seemed to work – ever. I felt like life kicked me again, and again and again, until I was broken down and bloody on the ground. Life was shit, and it didn’t seem like it was ever going to get better. It was chaotic, it was unfair, it was overwhelming, and it was filled with pain, tears and sitting on my bed asking, “WHY?”
But now, looking back, I see that it was dust. Those things that happened, each pain filled moment, was merely dust preparing to be formed into beauty.
See, I serve a Creator who takes dirt and molds it into lives that matter. A God who raises up leaders out of the broken and the weak. When doubt fills my mind, and chaos is all I can see, I know that, through the storm, there is beauty waiting to be made. Beautiful things are rising up out of the ground.
I feel like doubt is one of the greatest killers of dreams. We doubt ourselves, so we make do with what we have, instead of pursuing what we’re called to. We look at ourselves and think, “There’s no way. I’m too [flawed, imperfect, scared, tired, messed up, broken, weak, insecure, unlovable, insignificant, unsure, inexperienced] to ever see this through. It’s not even worth trying.” And guess what? You’re right. You are. But, that’s not the point.
Regardless of beliefs, I think the creation story found in Genesis is beautiful. In it we’re told that God takes dust from the ground and forms it into man. Maybe it’s because I’m an artist – but this is significant. For every other living thing, God speaks them into existence. But for humankind, he takes them and forms them out of the dirt of the ground.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried making pottery, but let me tell you – it’s hard. Your hands get dirty, and your arms get tired. It takes hours and hours to make one pot. You sit there staring and carving, smoothing your surface and lovingly putting in each detail you desire.
We were worth God’s time. And that means something.
In life today we don’t get to see God physically making people out of dirt, but I almost wish we did. We don’t have a physical manifestation so, instead, we have to pay close attention to see the remaking of beauty from the dirt that life produces.
Because, when it comes down to it:
In order to truly understand love, you have to experience pain.
To truly appreciate the value of laughter, you have to know the heaviness of silence.
To relish the comfort of restful sleep, you have to know the anguish of tear filled nights.
It’s not that our lives are perfect which makes us matter, or important, or significant or able. It’s that our lives are poignant.
Why did that 22 year old’s life matter, when I read her story? Because, the words she left behind sparked curiosity and enlightenment in those she spoke to; she set her mind toward goals, and her hard work inspired others to do the same.
Her life wasn’t beautiful because it was spotless, it was beautiful because the ripple effects of her existence are still echoing through space and time. Her zeal for life, her passion for engaging fully with others; those were her legacy.
Those were the stories that continued to be told and retold and retold until they ended up on my laptop screen. She lived a life worth writing about.
And, even if it was through the testimony of others, she inspired me to remember that it’s not always about the prizes, the recognition and the success of our endeavors. Sometimes, beautiful things don’t come out of perfection – they come out of dust.