And here I am

Greetings from the Emerald City!
Already I am finding that the grass is greener, the air is cleaner, the roadways are filled with kind and considerate drivers (a breed that does not exist in Chicago), and everyone really does drive a Subaru.

I've been making this Sea-side town my home for a week now, after my mom and I wove our way through the west, riding the blessed I-90 for over 2,000 miles.

It was the kind of trip you might include in a memoir, years later.

We packed up my 13 year old Subaru Outback with my most beloved of belongings, wedging in books along the window, proclaiming the Right to Write across the western United States like a good grad student.

We swept through Wisconsin and Minnesota, made our way across the great state of South Dakota – making a stop to see the Badlands.

Here's what Frank Lloyd Wright had to say about the dry and windy bad-ass lands:

Let sculptors come to the Badlands. Let painters come. But first of all the true architect should come. He who could interpret this vast gift of nature in terms of human habitation so that Americans on their own continent might glimpse a new and higher civilization certainly, and touch it and feel it as they lived in it and deserved to call it their own. Yes, I say the aspects of the Dakota Badlands have more spiritual quality to impart to the mind of America than anything else in it made by man's God.

We wove our way through the breathtaking Black Hills of South Dakota, stopping to see the four stately gentlemen carved into a rocky mountainside. 

From the Black Hills, we entered Big Sky Country, meeting my dearest friend from college in Bozeman, Montana, exactly ten years after we moved in across the hall from each other in Grand Rapids. She also happens to be from my grandpa's hometown outside Bozeman. We walked to the church where my grandpa was baptized, and nearly 82 years later, we played on the swingset outside.

It was a beautiful drive from Bozeman into the Rocky Mountains. We stumbled across Coeur d'Alene, an unexpected Idaho gem with it's breathtaking views, glassy lake, and charm.

The great state of Washington greeted us with an unforgettable view of Mount Rainier as we drove through the Columbia Basin. My mom and I ogled the bountiful dahlias of Pike Place Market and sipped some of the Pacific Northwest's finest joe.

It's a little surreal to finally be here. I was talking to a friend the other day while wandering the Seattle streets, a friend who has walked alongside me in the journey of questioning, wondering, and discerning that brought me here. He remarked on how not three months ago I was questioning everything, anxious over what to do and how to get there, where to live and all the anxieties that go with a complete life upheaval. And here I am. Making the Emerald City my home. With a fine apartment and a wonderful roommate and a story to live out. I am counting my blessings, that's for sure. I have never felt so undeniably cared for by God. 

I was reading Psalm 124, which begins, "If the Lord had not been on our side –" followed by a string of horrible things that would have happened to Israel if the Lord had not been on their side. If the Lord had not been on my side – we could have been stranded on the side of I-90 in the middle of nowhere; I could have moved here with no place to live; I could have ached with loneliness; I could have questioned and doubted. Not so. I have been protected, guided, and shielded with the utmost care and faithfulness. I have been welcomed into this new city with grace and kindness. 

Sunsets like these, dipping low and quiet into the sound, are a daily testimony to the faithfulness of the hand that wrote all. It is a gift. For what? To remind me that I am known and loved. Deepest and truest of all, by the Master of the Universe.

I was reflecting on the gift that it is to known, one we take advantage of mostly. It is only when you move to a new place, where you are known by next to no one, that you realize the value of being truly known by another human being. It has rattled me, to be in this new place I call home, without that assurance. It can cause you to question who you are. You realize the incredible risk it is to let someone know you truly. My prayer is that before too long, I will be known in this new place. And loved, perhaps in spite of myself. 

I am honored to be here. Privileged to be a part of this grand story. Praying that I would do the story justice by living awake and grateful, kind and gracious.

I remember the stirring from among Mary Oliver's trees: "It's simple," they say, "and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine."


This liminal space

I'm down to just one more day in Chicago. I don't feel like I've done a very good job of soaking up all of the best parts of this town in my final weeks. It's funny how everything looks rosier when you begin your goodbyes. I've never felt so nostalgic about my apartment and my noisy neighbors than in these last days as I've packed up my things and started my farewells.

I have been living in the shell of an apartment. It is a strange thing, this liminal space. I feel as though I am without a home or routine, on the threshold of something, in an almost paralyzing state of transition. It has made me grateful for the familiar, for what remains of a routine, and for perspective.

For more than 10 years, I've gathered with the Taize community in Oak Park. When the cantor heard this month's prayer was my last before heading to Seattle, he insisted I take a meditation bench made by the brothers in Taize, France. He couldn't have known this was the perfect gift for this liminal space.

In a moment of doubt and despair last week, a dear friend encouraged me to make use of my new meditation bench and sit quietly for a few moments each morning, in an attempt to still my mind and center my spirit.

It has been a much needed posture of surrender and reverence, remembering the one who works together for the good. The physical act of kneeling, even on the hard floors of my echo-y apartment, has reminded me of the origins of this journey and that in my doubt and despair, surely I speak of things too wonderful for me to know.*

In between the packing and planning, I was making blueberry peach pie for my grandpa's 82nd birthday. We gathered in my parent's backyard oasis to mark the occasion and celebrate summer and family with a latticed pie filled with summer's finest fruits.

Baking a pie was like kneeling on the meditation bench. It was an act of quiet familiarity, an opportunity for me to create and remember who I am.

My meditation bench and my pie plate will be packed into my Subaru along with my other things, starting the trek west with me and my mom on Saturday. Praying for traveling mercies. Praying that Seattle, and all the people and places along the way, will receive us with grace.

So long, Chicago. You will always be my home.

*Job 42:3