7.29.2014

And then I found something

Here is the good news: I know where I'm going to live in Seattle. 

Here is the rub: a lot needs to happen in order for me to get there.

My "moving to-do list" has essentially exploded over the past week. I sometimes get up out of bed to write something down because I can't sleep knowing I'll forget the thing that just popped into my head by morning. I am not an accomplished lister. I make lists but have a tendency to half-finish them or put them in my pocket on my way to Target and then my list gets washed along with my jeans.

I was woken up at 4:30 this morning by the activity of my neighborhood, carried over from the night before. And immediately my mind begin to move. I lay awake until I was reminded to rest in the fact that two days ago I didn't know where I was going to live in Seattle, and now I do. I have been praying for weeks, along with many others (thank you!), for a good housing opportunity, something that would be the right fit and would give me peace in the midst of this transition. And then I found something. It is on the high end of my budget, which is where everything in Seattle is sitting in my budget, so far. But as I was praying for the right roommate, a good fit, I realized that in saying that prayer I also needed to exercise trust. This journey thus far has been about practicing the faith and trust that is so much easier to write about than do. Several people reminded me that in the petition for peace about housing, I needed to trust that God would provide. Because he can. And he does. 

I have been meditating on two of David's most personal writings, Psalms 91 & 139. They have reminded me of God's withness and forness

A dear soul and fellow writer/reader shared these words after my last post:

Most of the best things in life come with a little fear and trembling. "It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going."

And I know where I'm going. Which I realize now, is a gift, because God could have asked for the same step of faith from me as he did Abraham.

Preparing to move across the country is overwhelming. Making brioche is not. Sometimes you just have to do what you know.


So I baked up a couple loaves of brioche in the midst of my packing and smeared it with Trader Joe's fig butter, which has become such a hit in my family. I sat with my brioche and my coffee this morning – two of life's greatest comforts – and continued reading Mary Oliver's poems, settling on this remarkable piece on Praying:

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try 
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

7.21.2014

Something big on the horizon

Here we are, nearing the end of July. It makes me cringe to say it, because I could swear that it was July 4th yesterday. There is this fear going around – possibly a midwest fear – it's the fear-that-summer-is-going-by-too-quickly-and-will-be-over-before-I-know-it. And it's not healthy. It's enough to make a person anxious. Especially when you have something BIG on the horizon and there are only a few short weeks left of summer in Chicago.

I accepted an offer to graduate school just a few weeks ago. An offer to attend graduate school in Seattle. Which means I have a giant leap to the Pacific Northwest on the horizon. A giant leap in the middle of August, in fact. And here is where my heart starts pounding, because that feels too soon and it feels too big and too crazy.

Truly though? I'm stoked. (And utterly terrified.) I spent months working up the courage to even apply to graduate school. When I finally decided to apply to two graduate programs, I thought sure my acceptance into one program over the other would help my decision process moving forward. But I was accepted into both programs. Which meant a few weeks of discernment, hemming and hawing, and a decision.

It was a really tough decision. In all honesty, I think God has been preparing me for this transition in so many ways. I am a very thoughtful person. When I come to a big decision like this, I like to sit with it for a while. Even when I felt like I had come to a decision about school, I sat with it quietly for about a week, without telling anyone, just to see if it felt "right" in my spirit. And it did. So I said yes. I am moving forward into the proverbial open door, into the void that is the great unknown and the journey ahead.

In the midst of my hemming and hawing, a friend encouraged me to take a step back, to look at the trajectory of my life, at the story God is weaving, and to hold that before me as I move forward. For a long time I was pretty sure that my job and my family and my Chicago community were the biggest factors in my decision, but as I was reading the story of Abraham, I realized what's most important is honoring the story being told with my life. God leads Abraham into a new land, and he does not promise it will be perfect, he does not promise it will be without trouble, but he does promise to be present and to bless him as he moves according to this divine and incredible call.

I suddenly felt the weight of my adulthood. And I did not like it. No one was going to make this decision for me. I make this decision and move as an individual, the sole person responsible for my actions. It's enough to paralyze you into not making a decision at all. But then I realized, this is not how you live. You live into your fear, without regret. You pray for courage and clarity, and you pour yourself out, hoping that the world will receive you with gentleness and grace.

There are a whole slough of unknowns before me. Especially in these next three weeks as I prepare to leave one place and make a new city, a new community my home. I am praying for protection over my heart, courage for my spirit, and eyes that will see with wonder and awe. I am praying that there is a people and a community being prepared for me in Seattle and that through the magic of technology, my great love and joy with and for my family here will not diminish. I know that it will be hard. I know that it will be good. And I know that I do not go it alone.

You hem me in behind and before.

I am grateful for a God who is with and for, who goes before and behind us. It is a mystery, especially for friends like Julie Mitchell, who puzzle when someone so profoundly near and dear is taken from them, but He works for the good. We take courage because thousands of years ago and today, the Master of the Universe said He goes with us and He will never leave or forsake us.

P.S. If you know of a good home for someone like me in Seattle, do let me know.

7.02.2014

They know me best

It's really really hard to believe it's July already. What happened to June?! I feel gypped.

My birthday really snuck up on my this year. It's at the end of the month, so usually I have plenty of time to get used to the idea. This year it felt like June rushed us right to the end and into July. It may also have something to do with the weather – apparently, we live in the Amazon.

I was just remembering that last year, my birthday landed on my gram & gramps' 60th wedding anniversary bash. They celebrated 60 years of marriage and family, while I marked 27 years of life. This year's day was a bit quieter. For the first time in a long time, I woke up and started the day alone, which made me feel far too old and adult-like. Later, my mom recounted the story of my birth, as she always does. We cooked and ate and sweat in the humid jungle air. We passed around Ada Jo and played cars and trucks.

I believe God puts people like family and siblings and best friends in your way to affirm and encourage and celebrate with. They know me best. They know I really would love a cool, fresh salad and stuffed portobello mushrooms and that there's really nothing better than a lemon blueberry tart to mark a summer birthday. And they know it's been a good, though challenging, year.

My brother John asked me a couple thoughtful questions while we ate our stuffed mushrooms:

What is the most memorable place you've ever been to?
Brasil. Because it was such a rich, authentic experience of a place, a people, and a culture. And because I was a part of such a dear, beloved Brasilian community. Cheering for Brasil in the World Cup has brought that Brasileira verve for life back.

If money wasn't an object, where would you go before your next birthday?
Two places come to mind: one area of the world that I've always wanted to know is the Middle East. Egypt. Israel. Turkey. Morocco. The history and hurt, suffering and life, it would be incredible to experience. And for the other: I'd love to hike the Camino de Santiago, through France and Spain, as a pilgrimage to the cathedral where St. James' remains are buried.

What is the most memorable birthday gift you've received?
My bike. Partly because it's so cool. And partly because of the story – I was heartbroken when it was stolen, only to run into someone riding it at the grocery store 3 days later.

If there's one thing I've learned as I've gotten older it's this: honor the story you've been given.

Stand back and look at the trajectory of your life. Be true to the story God is weaving. Remember who you have been created to be. And always ask: what stirs my soul? And do that.

My dad, who knows me so well and is one of the greatest blessings in my life, gave me a collection of poems by Mary Oliver for my birthday. It's called Thirst. I read this beautiful poem the other day; it is a good benediction to go forth into the year of 28.

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into this world to do this, to go easy, to be filled 
with light, and to shine."