laundry: day eight.

March 1, 2010

far left: charlie. far right: daniel.

my first summer in tanzania i encountered God in the most ordinary of tasks. i had been in tanzania for three weeks, volunteering at an orphanage [KiChiJo] when i left. i had only planned to be in tanzania for three weeks, and then i was off to experience south africa – first for a week long safari and then for four weeks of volunteering. however, upon arriving in south africa i discovered a relentless ache in my heart to return to tanzania…so, after an incredible week of safari, i flew back to tanzania. i couldn’t wait to walk back through town to KiChiJo, as i winded my way through corn fields, nearing the orphanage, i could hear the voices of the children i had left just one week earlier. the anticipation was almost too much to bear. i turned the final corner and saw familiar children playing soccer in front of the orphanages main entrance. other kids were running around here and there, playing whatever game had momentarily grabbed their attention. and, in the square section of the lot devoted to laundry, i saw two boys bent over a silver bucket, scrubbing clothes. for a moment none of them noticed me. for a split second i was completely invisible, blessed with a moment to just stop and watch them. tears in my eyes, i knew. i knew that what i was looking at was the loveliest of scenes playing out before my eyes. and then gifti saw me. his little four-year-old body came flying at me, huge grin on his face. it was over, my moment of invisibility had passed, and suddenly there were 15 or so kids swarming me. they left their soccer game, they jumped out of the tree nearby, they came running from whatever it was they were doing to welcome me back. except those two boys, bent over the silver bucket. daniel and charlie stayed close to their laundry pile. they looked on, they grinned, but being the older boys that they were [14 & 16, respectively] they kept their cool. after a few minutes, i made my way over to them. we greeted one another and i asked if i could help with the laundry. laughing, they told me “no.” but, i’m persistent, and eventually, all three of us were bent over, sleeves rolled up, and scrubbing those clothes. the boys laughing and chatting in swahili – conversing, i’m sure, about how silly i was or how awful i was at washing clothes [especially for a woman]. i started to sing. a silly song i’d heard on the radio countless times since i’d been there. i don’t know if it was my singing voice, my ridiculous pronunciation of the swahili words, or my whiteness – but something about me starting to sing that song sent these boys into uncontrollable laughter. i said, “alright, you sing it then.” and they did. these boys who played shy began to sing. and i started dancing. and together we sang and danced – all the while doing the laundry. every day i came back, for the rest of my three weeks there, i spent time doing laundry with those boys…dancing, laughing, singing, and [of course] hanging those clothes out to dry. laundry had never been such a holy thing.

simply and purely: day seven.

February 26, 2010

today i went to a memorial service. memorial services are strange and beautiful things. this particular one honored the life of an incredible woman. kathryn waddell was a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, and a wholly beautiful woman. she loved her God well, and loved her neighbor gracefully. i was honored to sit among those who knew her today and celebrate the life she lived well. many people spoke today, but the pastor shared a powerful story. in kathryn’s last moments, she and her pastor spoke about the 23rd psalm. in her last moments, she was surrounded by family and close friends – all holding hands – as her pastor read the 23rd psalm. and she slowly slipped away from her earthly life. he read that psalm today.

as i drove north this evening i heard parts of that psalm repeating in my mind. and i saw the beautiful landscape in front of me. snow covered mountains. clouds hovering. beautiful light hitting the water just right creating bright reflections. and i remembered God, working in this world. simply and purely as he does every day.

psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul;

He leads me in the paths of righteousness

For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;

For You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

All the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Forever.

mawe: day six.

February 25, 2010

jacob.

mancala. it’s a game many are familiar with. in our western world it is a wooden board with two rows of pits in which you move stones around working to collect them all. i first played years ago when i was college student, and remember loving it – despite my lack of strategizing knowledge. i hadn’t played for years until this past summer.

when i arrived back in tanzania this summer i was so thankful to be there again. the moment i stepped off the plane the african air seemed to hug me, welcoming me back to a home of sorts. there is something about that place which captivates my heart and it felt right to be there again. i could hardly wait to see friends, to taste the delicious food i had dreamt of since i left, to see the beauty of the people and the market and the land, but mostly i couldn’t wait to play with, to hold, to sing and dance with the children i had met and knew i was returning to.

the first day there when i walked back to the orphanage, and the kids excitedly swarmed me, my heart ached with gratefulness. i was back. i had no idea what this particular summer would look like, but i was back and that was all that mattered. my swahili was weak, though. and i knew it would take a few weeks to get back to where i had been, and continue learning the language. the first week or so of being back i had noticed a group of kids sitting under a tree [one of the few trees in the town of boma ng’ombe] playing a game in the dirt. day after day they would sit in the same spots, playing something in the dirt. finally, one day i walked over to watch. mancala. they were playing what i called mancala. in the dirt there were small pits dug out by a stick, and in each pit was a pile of stones. i loved it. i loved watching these kids play one another, a small group around them cheering them on and giving advice.

one morning, when arrived at KiChiJo [the orphanage] breakfast had not been served yet [not completely out of the ordinary]. a boy, jacob, was there and i asked him if he would like play with me. he grinned. we walked to the spot under the tree and he began carving out pits in the dirt with stick. my swahili was still slow – and jacob kindly spoke to me simply and slowly. he told me how many stones i needed to put in each pit. he explained how the game worked. we began playing. we played almost every day.

the time jacob and i sat and played together was holy. he kicked my butt nearly every time. and i didn’t care, not as long as i got to sit and play with jacob. my lack of swahili and his lack of english made talking difficult, especially at first, but we found ways. we laughed much and we discovered ways to understand and be understood by one another. our time together, under that tree, sitting on rocks and playing a game in the dug out dirt, was holy. i met a boy who’s smile was brighter than anything i had ever seen. i met a boy full of patience and kindness. i met a smart, funny, and sweet boy. he taught me songs to sing and patiently listened as i stuttered through swahili phrases. sometimes when we were together my chest would ache with sadness for the life this little boy had led. sometimes i wanted to scream and kick at all he did not have. and sometimes i could not hide the wetness in my eyes. but i also saw a child who, at 11-years-old, knew more about integrity, faith, and friendship than i did.

God showed me himself in jacob. and as i sit here and think about those times with him, as i think about the songs we sang and his incredible smile, i cry. i cry because i miss him. i cry because i love him. i cry because i long to sit with him under that tree and play a game. i cry because God gives us beautiful gifts – like a summer of mawe with jacob.

sjt: day five.

February 24, 2010

my recognition of God at work happened at the INN tonight [i know, i know…big surprise]. tonight was one of those relatively easy nights for me at the INN – i wasn’t speaking, and when i don’t speak, i don’t have any official duties on tuesday night. i just get to be there. which i love because it means i just get to be with students and watch it all happen. and although the magic is long gone for me [i will never see a tuesday night at the INN the way i did when i was a student], i still love watching what happens in that place.

so tonight i just got to be. i sat with a group of older students. i laughed at the skit. i listened to doug speak and i was mesmerized by the painting happening. and i sang. it was during this time of singing, the reflective portion of the evening, that i both saw God at work and remembered God at work.

my friend seth lead the music team tonight. and he chose some of my favorite songs. but it wasn’t the songs that turned my mind towards God’s incredible hand in this world. it was seth. i have heard seth lead music a hundred times. it’s nothing new to me. i enjoy it each time. but tonight as i watched him sing, as i listened to the team, and as i sang along, a flood of images came to my mind. i remembered march of 2004 when, sick with strep throat, seth [as a student] played guitar in a stuffy hotel room and led a mission team in worship. i remembered seth standing in front the INN, as a student, leading a room full of his peers in worship. i remembered seth starring in a student pledge video and sharing why he chose to give financially to the INN [i think we still owe him an apology for the crappy, up-close face shots in that video]. i remembered sitting across from seth at a local restaurant talking with him about what his year after graduation would look like. i remembered sitting with stacy, seth’s girlfriend at the time, and listening to her talk about their relationship. i remembered the day stacy came to small group and showed us the engagement ring. i remembered reading scripture on the beautiful, sunny july day they got married in 2005 [and celebrating like crazy]. i remembered the year seth applied to work at the INN, and knowing the evening after his interview, as i sat with him [and others] at a pub in fairhaven, that i would be working alongside him. i remembered a year of sharing an office space with him. i thought of a thousand little moments in the office together – too many to list. i remembered mission videos of seth dancing ridiculously with students. i remembered the white board in seth’s office and the brainstorming i’ve seen on it. and i watched seth, tonight, move throughout the sanctuary stealthily and with ease. i watched him lead a room full of students in worship.

people change over time. we grow and seek and ask and think and choose and move, and as we do we change – or perhaps it’s better said that we are changed. as i watched seth tonight i thought about how he’s changed. of course the seth leading music tonight is the same seth i watched play guitar in a stuffy hotel room 6 years ago – but he’s also different. he’s grown and sought and asked and thought and chose and moved, and he’s been changed. and i see God in all of it – i see God in seth.  i see God in seth because i see God working through seth. tonight i saw God use seth to lead others in worship, and i realized tonight that God’s been using seth to do that for many years now.

i saw God alive in this world through the life of a single person tonight. a person who has grown and sought and asked and thought and made choices and moved – and through it all, has remained faithful to his creator. i saw God alive tonight in a person who is still leading others to worship.

i remembered God alive in this world tonight, through the life and ministry of my friend seth.

coffee: day four.

February 23, 2010

i have a zillion coffee dates a year. okay, maybe not a zillion – but a lot. i, fortunately, get to spend much of my time sitting with people and talking over a cup of coffee. most people might think these sorts of coffee dates are easy for me, that it’s practically second nature to meet up with someone i hardly know and share conversation, but honestly…i get real nervous. last week i met with a girl i had never met with before – well not, at least, over coffee. before she arrived at the office i said a little prayer in my mind…asking God to please help me know what to say or ask as we hung out. she arrived, and we walked downtown. the whole way down i asked the usual questions…how was your day? how long have you worked where you do? when did you first start coming to the INN? what made you choose to go on a mission trip? we eventually made our way to a little coffee shop [i bet anyone can guess which one], ordered, and sat down. and this is when i noticed God. i sat across from the most incredibly brave young woman. she shared her past with me – the good, the bad, the ugly, the sweet, the funny. in that short hour at the coffee shop she opened herself up to me and shared where she had been. and then we talked about where she found herself now…feeling herself tugged in two directions. one direction she desires but can’t seem to follow completely, and one direction she does not desire but often finds herself pursuing. i sat and i listened to a young woman bravely speak to someone she hardly knows. and she was brave because she didn’t hide. she didn’t try to be someone she wasn’t. she shared the difficult journey she’s had and the struggle she’s in the midst of. she put herself out there in a way i rarely see. she told me of the people she’s tried to talk to. of the ways she’s reached out in an attempt to find community.  few people, it seems, have been willing to really listen. few people have taken the time to understand or care. but this young woman is brave, and she continues to choose vulnerability. she continues to choose to reach out and speak and share with hope that someone will listen and try to understand, and maybe even care. she continues to choose things for her life that she believes will lead to community and relationship with others. quite honestly, i don’t see that much in this world. i often observe the opposite: people hiding, people trying to show the world someone they aren’t, people running from emotional risk or potential rejection. and i was honored that she chose to sit with me, that she pursued me, and that she offered me a bit of herself. i pray i listened well. i pray, in that hour, that i cared for her well. and i also pray that she see just how brave she is. that she see God alive in the choices she’s making. because she is making choices for herself with greater faith than i often feel i have on any given day.

it’s 11:39pm. there are 21 minutes remaining in this day. i have just crawled into bed after a very long, very beautiful day. yes, the weather was incredible today…it was clear, it was sunny, and it was unusually warm for the month of february. the weather, however, was not the sole cause for this day’s beauty. the beauty that i found in this day had more to do with the people i spent it with and things we did together.

it all started at avellino…jess, lacy and i sitting outside in the glorious sun with coffee and bagels. what a beautiful way to begin any day. the sidewalk was bustling with lovely bellingham folk – hippies walking bicycles, small children wearing corduroy jackets and cramming strawberry ice cream cones in their mouths [making a delicious mess], downtown regulars carrying their travel mugs and stopping to pet every dog tied up along railroad. as we sat we watched and talked until finally, we decided to get on our way. the oyster dome. i had never hiked it, and all week long i had dreamed of making the hike for the first time on what was predicted to be a sunshine-filled saturday. i hadn’t known who would be joining me, if anyone, and was excited to discover that both jess and lacy would be…as well as chance, of course – the wonderdog. we gathered our belongings, loaded chance’s pack up with our snacks and water [it’s a brilliant idea, to have the dog carry your goods], and set out for the afternoon.

there was nothing particularly out-of-this-world about our hike. it was a dirt trail that pointed upward. trees sheltered us, roots twisted themselves around on the path below our feet, and the air smelled clean. we were outside, moving our bodies, and together. this was my favorite part, the being together. as we moved up the trail, our conversation covered a myriad of topics. we talked about all sorts of things – like chance running on the path and t-boning the other hikers, the first year of marriage, and separation from figurative families, we talked about redemptive theology, substance abuse, and transitions. we talked about books we’ve read, movies we want to see, and the vagina memoirs. as we walked, we talked – about most everything. we shared and laughed and moved together. when we finally reached the top, we sat for a while on a rock, overlooking the san juans. you could see forever, and we simply sat there basking in the warmth of the incredible sun. we rested and we talked. and then we went back to the car [which proved tricky, as we took a wrong turn along – that’s what happens when all three people in the party are enthralled with the conversation].

it was a simple day. a simple hike. i can say i’ve been to the oyster dome. and yet it was a very beautiful day. it was beautiful because i spent it with two beautiful women. two women so different than me, but whom i find it such a joy to be around. two women who have incredible stories and share them uniquely. it was a beautiful day because the sun was out warming everything up. it was a beautiful day because laughter sprinkled its way through all of it. it was a beautiful day because God was in it all. and as i crawled into bed tonight, flipped open my computer and thought about what to type – how to share where i’ve seen God in this world – i thought of today, and i heard Jesus…

for where two or three are gathered in my name, i am there among them.


rain puddles: day two.

February 19, 2010

in the book of exodus God spoke to moses through a burning bush.

in my life God spoke to me through a rain puddle.

moses and i have only a few things in common: 1) he was a human, i’m a human; 2) he felt inadequate to speak for God, i feel inadequate to speak for God; and 3) God revealed himself to both of us in odd ways through seemingly ordinary items. i can’t begin to know what moses felt or thought when he first saw that bush burning and heard a voice coming from it. i can imagine he was a bit overwhelmed, perhaps felt a little freaked out, and maybe also felt grateful. the God of the universe making the effort to approach you and speak to you is humbling for anyone, and especially for a seemingly insignificant human being. so i can only imagine moses was a bit caught off guard, and could have had no way of knowing what was to come next.

october of 2007 i drove down the alley behind my house, as i did most mornings on my way to work. as i approached the end of the alley, i noticed directly in front of me a puddle. spending most of my life in western washington i have become quite familiar with puddles and don’t often take note of them. in fact, my interaction with puddles is usually to notice them only enough to walk around them. this puddle at the end of the alley, however, grabbed my attention – it was shaped like the continent of africa. i drove around the block and back down the alley a second time to make sure i had really seen it correctly – yep, it was definitely the shape of africa. i continued on to work. for the next couple of rainy weeks i saw that puddle every day. and each time i passed over it i knew [and i know this is about to sound cheesy] that God was sitting in that puddle with something to say to me.

it sounds dramatic. it sounds over-the-top. it sounds ridiculous. but eventually, in combination with other happenings, i realized that africa-shaped puddle [or God in it] was saying, “go.” so i went.

eight months later i flew to africa, tanzania to be specific. i stayed for two months, and those eight weeks changed me. the following summer i went back again, this time for longer. and those months changed me again. africa – the [short] time i have spent there, the figurative family i have found there, and the things i have witnessed there – changed me. much of that change happened deep inside of me and manifests itself intangibly. but as i step forward, changed, i am noticing that those unseen, intangible changes are manifesting themselves in the choices i’m making, the direction i’m taking, and the words i’m speaking. and i’m walking into the next part of my own story different.

that puddle remains in the alley behind my house. of course it’s not there every day, in fact this winter it’s not been out much at all, but after a long night of rain i can be sure that puddle – shaped like the change that’s happened within me – will be waiting for me at the end of the alley. and each time i see it, each time i drive over it, i am reminded that God speaks into our lives. sometimes through the most mundane items [like a puddle in the pacific northwest]. i am reminded that God speaks, and he leads, and he transforms.

team time: day one.

February 18, 2010

one of the greatest joys of being on INN staff has been the role i’ve had of creating, coordinating, and participating in mission trips. it has meant spending hours out of my week working to shape trips that [hopefully] meet peoples needs [those we are serving] and provide students with the opportunity to experience God in relationship, service, and potentially new & strange surroundings. for me, shaping spring break mission trips has been a holy thing.

march 2004 was my second year on senior staff at the INN, my first year as missions coordinator, and the year i got to travel outside of new orleans with an incredible group of students and seth spangler [intern and co-leader]. i don’t think it would have been possible for me to know just how significant this trip was going to be – for all of us. it was on this trip that i knew i wanted to keep creating these weeks for people. it was on this trip that i discovered a deep yearning to travel the places in this world i was unfamiliar with. it was on this trip that i fell in love with college students.

each night our entire team [approximately 30 of us] would squish into one standard size hotel room. we would situate our bodies wherever the most comfortable spot could be found. for our first 10 minutes, with one guitar accompanying, we would sing. together we would sit, crammed and tired, and we would sing. and when the singing was over, we would endure the muggy heat, the lack of air-flow, and the unpleasant odor to sit with one another and listen. at the beginning of the week i had challenged the team to consider sharing how God had worked in their lives – in the last day, the last month, or throughout all their years. each night, a handful of people would choose to share, and the rest of us would listen.

[i’m not going to lie, or even try to downplay it…evening team debriefing is my most favorite part of these trips. it’s where i see people think about how God has worked in their lives and it’s where i watch people choose to do something incredibly brave – share that with others]

andrew was a freshman and andrew was quiet all week long. he listened, but he remained quiet. each time i asked who would like to go next, i hoped andrew would raise his hand or speak out – but he never did. i began to wonder if he would ever choose to share, or if he would simply choose to stay quiet. our very last night together, after a really intimate and unique week together, we gathered as we had each night. we talked of the week, we sang together, and we opened up a a time of sharing. there were five students who had yet to share. slowly, each one of them shared until only andrew remained. i asked if he would like to share, he stared at the floor. i waited a few moments for him to respond, but not wanting to make him too uncomfortable, i began to conclude our time together. i was mid-sentence when i saw him look up, tears in his eyes, and i heard him speak – quietly and steadily – “lisa, is it too late to share?” no, it absolutely was not.

andrew began to tell his story. he told a spiritual story of pain and confusion and joy and hope. he trusted a group of ordinary people [hot, sweaty, tired people] with his story. as he spoke he cried, not dramatically but with humility and grace. this freshman boy, not sure of where he was headed, unsure of how to tell his story, unsure of how others would receive it, mustered up the courage to share it. this freshman boy trusted others in a new way for the first time. this kid andrew gave God’s work in his life shape and color by choosing words to offer it with. and when he was through he looked up, our eyes met, and all i could think to say was “thank you.”

i have heard hundreds of student stories. each one perfect. each one a testament to God entering the world and meeting his children. but i will never forget andrew’s. i will never forget what it felt like and looked like to see him choose for the first time to give his story words. i will never forget the power i felt as i listened to him share – the power of God’s story entering that room through him. i will never forget his tears. i will never forget the way his face moved as he spoke. i will never forget knowing that God was with him and in him.

an exercise.

February 17, 2010

i remember reciting prayers before meals and bedtime growing up. i remember spottily attending the youth group at church. i remember the big, beautiful flower wreath i wore on my head as i received my first communion. i remember resting my feet on the kneeling pad during mass because they didn’t reach the floor. and i remember eating fish on fridays during lent. i didn’t have a particularly religious or spiritual childhood, but there were a few traditions that etched themselves into my mind – lent more than any other.

i have given up a number of things for lent over the years, most of them the obvious and popular choices like coffee, sweets, and dairy. each year that i chose to let something go for the lenten season it was with the honest hope that their absence, and my longing for them, would redirect my thoughts to God, and more specifically the sacrifice Jesus made for me. sometimes it happened, sometimes the denying would truly turn my thoughts and heart towards Christ. but, sadly, my efforts were often ineffective…the exercise transforming into a personal test of will rather than a spiritual practice of drawing near to my God.

as this day has drawn near i have wondered, questioned, and considered what i would choose this year. i have debated, in the privacy of my own head and journal, giving up certain luxuries and comforts – with the honest hope that their absences, and my longing for them, would redirect my thoughts to God. i have written lists of possible items to deny myself these next forty days. i have cynically weighed the option of doing nothing, doubting whether the exercise would benefit my life [and faith] at all.

last night, i spoke at INN. i spoke of sacrifice, of letting something go in order to draw near to God. i read romans 12:1 to a couple hundred students and challenged them to consider what in their lives might need to be sacrificed. and somewhere in the middle, somewhere between my opening jokes and my concluding prayer, one single word wiggled its way into my mind. when i got home last night, i opened my journal and wrote the word down: remember. as i woke up this morning, to a gloriously sunny day, this word remained oddly in the front of my mind.

this lent i’m not going to refrain from coffee and inevitably talk about how dearly i miss it. i’m not going to give up sweets, secretly hoping that lent will lend itself to the shedding of a few pounds. i am not going to give up anything. well except, i suppose, some time. instead, i am going to choose something. i am going to choose to remember. each day i will practice the act of remembering where, how, and when i have been blessed to catch a glimpse of the good, beautiful, and perfect God [whom i believe exists] alive in this world. i may need to reach back a decade, i may simply need to reach as far back as a few hours, but each day i will remember a moment or a season of seeing and knowing God alive in this world.

and as i remember i will hope, honestly hope, that as i do my mind and heart will be redirected to God, and specifically to the sacrifice Jesus made for me.

and i will write them down. and i will share them here. for a few reasons: discipline, accountability, and because it shouldn’t be just for me. so, if you are one of the two or three people reading this blog…here we go.

many years ago my family took a trip to canada, and although memories from much of that vacation have faded away, my memory of our stop at the capilano suspension bridge remains vivid. the capilano suspension bridge, hailed as one of british columbia’s most “naturally thrilling” sites, was built in 1889 and suspends 230 feet above the capilano river and stretches 450 feet long. i wasn’t thrilled at the sight of it, i mean, sure, the river was beautiful [and frightful and huge] and the scenery was lush, but the bridge itself did nothing for me. i’m quite certain if it hadn’t been for my pride, i would have gladly found something else to occupy my time. but there i was with my younger brother who was apparently not bothered by the “built in 1889” signage, trying my best to be brave. the moment we stepped out onto the suspending path my legs seemed to liquefy, at least to the consistency of jell-o, and my heart repositioned itself into my throat.  as i  grasped the handrail my knuckles seemed to glow, my skin becoming more white than i had previously thought possible. slowly i put one foot in front of the other, staring at the tops of my shoes, trying to ignore the raging river below. suddenly someone behind me would step onto the bridge, sending the suspended masterpiece into a wobbly motion completely outside my comfort zone.  looking up, at the land 440 feet away, i wondered why it was any better than the land i had left 10 feet behind me.  insisting that it was worth the trip, my father patiently encouraged me to continue putting one foot in front of the other.

the life of an INN staff member is often measured by the comings and goings of tusdays. 306 tuesdays behind me, 16 remaining ahead of me, i am reminded of the capilano suspension bridge in vancouver, b.c. it seems i find myself on a proverbial bridge, suspended high above a raging river and wobbling outside my comfort zone. as i look back to the solid ground i once stood upon i see a land thick with beautiful, colorful vegetation,  a place of wonderment and sweet smells, a territory where growth and life abound, a land spotted with thorny branches but also filled with trees that beckon you to climb and play, and i see a place with familiar paths leading to known spots of comfort or excitement. when i turn around and see where it is that i’m walking from my heart aches deeply with gratefulness, gratefulness for the moments, hours, years i was blessed to roam in that rich and abundant land. years of walking alongside students in life, listening and sharing along the way. years of studying the story of God in hope that i will be able to share that story in meaningful ways. years of trusting that God speaks when i feel at a loss for words. years of planning and taking care of seemingly trivial tasks to create opportunities for others to experience something life-changing…to experience God. years of standing back and watching students engage with one another and engage with the world around them. years of shared life with other staff people, hoping together for great things for Western’s campus. years of missing out on other things – like birthday parties for friends or really knowing my peers. hours of plane rides shared with students. hours of staff meetings spent creating a safe place for questions and doubts and hopes and fears to be spoken and shared. hours of asking questions over a cup of coffee. hours of shutting up and listening over a cup of coffee. hours of sitting, in that beautiful sanctuary, and listening to voices offering music to God. and moments, there have been so many moments i’m grateful for. moments of sitting and praying with the brokenhearted. moments of listening to someone share their story for the first time. moments of knowing God’s spirit was with me. moments of watching students see God on the streets of atlanta. moments filled with God’s grace as i search for words to speak. moments of embrace. moments of connection. moments with people that never leave the memory. i am so grateful for the years, hours, and moments i was blessed to roam that land.

and my heart grieves for it as i continue to step further from it on this wobbly, wiggly, frightening bridge.  i grieve because i chose to step away from it. i grieve because i’m on the bridge, making my way to somewhere new. i grieve because with each step, each scary and unsteady step, i become more aware of just what i’m farther from.

i strain to look forward, at the land lying 16 tuesdays away, but i can’t see much. my eyes can’t adjust and it all seems blurry. i have ideas of what this new land may be like, but they are only conceptual guesses, at best. i have hopes of what i may find there, but they are quite honestly overshadowed by the fears i also possess. i am worried that this new land will be filled with vines that strangle, thorns that pierce, and creatures that kill. i fear this new place will be empty, void of color and wonder. i hope the other side of this bridge isn’t lonely but i’m terrified it might be.  as i look up, towards this land lying 16 tuesdays away, i can’t help but wonder what about it is any better for me than the land i’ve just stepped away from. and yet i sense a Spirit, within and around me, patiently encouraging me to put one foot in front of the other – insisting that it’s worth the trip.

right now i’m just on the bridge. suspended high above a frightening reality. concerned about the wobbling, nervous about the swaying. my liquefied legs and out-of-place heart are creating discomfort. the choice i’ve made to be on this bridge annoys me. i’m afraid i might fall before i get to the other side, so i’m holding on with all my might, and my knuckles are glowing.

i know i’ll make it to the other side. i know i’ll walk into that new land. i know there will be moments i stare back across the bridge and mourn the land i used to roam. i know that eventually, this new place will become familiar. i know that soon, as i discover myself in this new land, it will become beautiful and rich, i know i will find growth and life. i know crossing the bridge is worth the trip.

but right now, i’m just on the bridge.