Walking back after work, I looked UP. And it made me smile.
Following God's lead across countries and across the street
01 May 2013 Leave a Comment
25 Mar 2013 Leave a Comment
It was perfect, really. Absolutely perfect and I’m torn between satisfaction for having witnessed it, and disappointment that no one else saw, no one else held their breath in that split-second instant. But I saw, and the whole scene was perfect.
I could see because I was in the middle seat, in the back row. Shoulders tucked between sisters perched on matching pink booster seats, I saw through our blue-tinted windshield, right to you. In the seats in front of me, the aunt and the mother sat talking; they probably sat like that when they were little, too. In the very front, just behind you, my grandfather drove, grandmother his copilot. They’re all occupied with this driving, this talking, and really, I was, too. But I took a breath and I looked around, and just straight ahead, I saw it.
You are driving. You’re driving and your hair looks dark- maybe like mine- through the rearview window. He’s sitting next to you in that front seat, busy with something else. Is he reading a map? Planning the route? Sending a text? I can only see the back of his short cropped hair, and I really don’t know. But you know, and that’s all that matters, I suppose. After all, you’re the one driving him with. You’re the one who’s his.
We’re all driving, this whole line of cars is headed just the same way. The ocean is on our left, yours and mine, and his and that of my mom and aunt and sisters, grandparents, too. The deep blue stretch, rolling brilliant with long white caps glistening diamond on the crest of every gentle wave. The waves roll splashing up the heavy, wet sand, collide with the chocolate-red rocks, sending white spray everywhere. It’s a beautiful California coast on our left.
The right side is the city side. It’s a funny mix of quaint and modern in this seaside town. We’ve passed old town shops and a wooden sign indicating the wharf. We’re rolling now past apartments, office buildings, a vast park with an intricate playground and paddle boats, too. And soon we’ll roll right down the street and onto the coastline highway. But we’re at a stoplight now.
We’re all right here now, and I can see where you are, and it happens so fast, I almost miss it. But I don’t and I’m glad I don’t. He’s sitting there in the passenger seat, distracted. And we’re at this stoplight; you’ve got just a tick of time before red goes green and we’re moving forward once again. But there’s a pause here, now and you look over, look city side, look at that passenger there.
He’s oblivious for a moment and I see your lips move, but it’s the blink of an eye and you’ve moved on before I can guess what words you spoke. A name- his? Hey? Look at me? I don’t know what you said. But it worked and in the space of a breath, in the click of a light from yellow, red, green, he’s looking up and you’re leaning forward in this pause of a second. We’ve slowed to a stop in the setting sun, and the side of your profile shows sunglasses on you, on him. You’re black outlines against the sinking yellow sun, and he kisses you just a moment, then the light turns and the road bends and someone manuevers between our car and yours. I can’t see you anymore.
But in that evening second, in that snapshot of a life, I watched captivated from the backseat of a minivan. And your stoplight kiss, sandwiched between an ocean of earth shattering blue, and a setting sun city scape, was totally, completely perfect.
07 Feb 2013 Leave a Comment
Hotel room eight floors up,
like a guest in my own city.
I’ve been here awhile,
will be here awhile,
looking out at this city scape scene.
03 Jan 2013 1 Comment
I went to the DMV today. The state of Illinois graciously provided me with a three-month margin of error in which to renew my license after my 21st birthday, but I elected to accomplish this task now rather than later.
I rather like the DMV. My father occasionally teases me about seeing beauty in generally un-beautiful things, so I’ll not try to tell you that there’s beauty in the DMV, but it is interesting.
There’s a system that dictates the flow of the room; snake through the line to the front desk. Get a number, keep a number, hold a number, wait for your number. One big screen for all the numbers and this isn’t a restaurant calling order numbers at random; everything has a place, everything is in order, and 4 follows 3 follows 2 starts with 1. There are letters with numbers and desks to match and the cashier told me to follow the yellow line to the stop sign.
Step after step after step, I felt silly because I’ve never renewed a license before, and the woman on the other side of the counter has the system memorized front and back. And I don’t have enough cash, but I’m not the only one and there’s an ATM around the corner. Only go out the Exit Only, and I’ve vaulted the threshold between the ticking clockwork of the DMV and the cold, windy, real world.
But it’s a quick walk to the ATM and back and the cashier told me to come straight back to his line, but it feels wrong because there’s a system here and I’ve skipped three steps to find my place again in this line. But stamp, click, enter, and I’m turned around on my way towards the red stop sign on the wall. There’s a plan and a system and everything follows the same pattern in this room.
But how boring is system and how predictable is pattern; it’s not mechanical same that makes this place so interesting to me. It’s people.
Because the woman sitting in front of me brought her little girl, eight-year-old tag-along with an ice-skating pass on her coat zipper. She’s got marker stains on her fingers and green marker all over her nose, and the elderly woman behind me asked her about it. And there’s a woman on the phone on the other side of the aisle and it’s not eavesdropping if everyone close by can hear her, right?
And there are people coming in the Entrance Only every minute, stepping their way into this pacing system. Faces and stories and moving, breathing lives. They come in and they go out and there’s a huge world on the other side of the window glass.
And God’s breathing live and movement into my heart, my body, and I’ll not stay in this stop-motion room for long; flash goes off and card prints and I’ve got a new license in my hand, pushing out the Exit Only. On my way to real life.
Because living, breathing was created for a purpose, created for a life, and I’ll not miss this today opportunity, this now opportunity to live.
27 Dec 2012 Leave a Comment
There’s snow falling outside. Well, actually, it’s stopped falling for the moment. But it was before and I stood in the kitchen and watched the white specks swirl past the window. Kitchen faces the brick wall of someone else’s world, but in between this home and that home, snow flakes fill the open air.
I drove to work. Drove carefully, carefully, but I’m worried about being late and I should have wiped the snow off the car windows before I left. I can see what I need to see, visibility’s not incredible right now, anyway. And there’s a thin heap of snow balanced on my window, and I’m only rolling fifteen miles an hour, surely nothing can go wrong. But you never know and I roll down the window, watching snow pack together in a heap, and the air is cold and flakes swing gently into the car, landing soft on my face, my hair. And the light is green and the window’s still rolling down and the tiny snow bank on the outside of the window collapses into the car, and I’m driving up the street with a pile of frozen white on my arm.
It kept snowing while I was at work, too, and the parking lot’s near empty by the time I come back out. There’s a snow scraper in the car and I’m careful to use it, but I almost forget to clear the snow off my window again, because I can hear Taylor Swift on the radio inside the car, and I’m thinking about Mexico again.
And the car wiggles on the way around the corner, but I’m driving so very slowly and it’s more fun than scary, really. I park in the garage, because I think that’s what the mother would have prescribed, but I don’t like going in the back door, so I walk around to the front. Walk straight up the middle of the alley, and it’s so still that I can hear the snow packing together under my boots. A soft, straining, settling sound. And the snow’s still falling gentle and wet on my head and coat and it’s settling on everything it can touch.
And before I shuffled the car into the garage, before I pulled around the corner to the street I’ve grown up on, there’s a stop sign on the corner, and snow is everywhere and snow can be so much. Because glance up, look around: snow is beautiful. Stunning, breathtaking wonder on every surface that it can get its sticky grip on. But there are other words with snow, too; like dangerous and wet and slippery and cold. And there’s an inches-thick white layer on everything in sight, but can you even tell what’s underneath? Because snow can be deceptive, tricky, disillusioned, too.
And God’s put beauty in this world, and He’s shattering this night with the silent wonder of snow falling, and a strange guilt starts to creep in, because I should be appreciating all this. And I am, actually. I really do love the snow, and I do breathe in tight when white-laden branches catch my eye; bright ice reflecting soft yellow street light glow. But I answered my mother’s phone because she was wrist-deep in dish water and the other end speaks Spanish and I forgot to not, and one time Hermana Tere asked me about snow.
And Mexico missing’s not always so close by, and the ache of longing softens with distraction. But Skype conversation at midnight says unless you do what you love, you will never be happy and there was more, too, but there’s snow outside and tightness in my heart because I know what I love and I know where I love, but snow isn’t just snow, and it will never be that easy, will it?
15 Dec 2012 Leave a Comment
I saw the dog in the parking lot across the street again. Fourteen months living in this city center room, and I guess it’s become a habit. Throw the covers back, step quietly out of bed, the mattress squeaks if I move on it just right. Shuffle tiptoe around the room, I’m used to getting ready while The Roommate sleeps. I know what makes too much noise, and I raise my shoulders and cringe guilty when the closet door snaps shut, when my makeup paraphernalia clatters together as I riffle through the little basket.
Clothes, makeup, teeth, hair, perfume, and I stop at the window on the way past. Look at the parking lot, watch the people walking past. They’re stepping firm in the pale winter morning light, on their way to everywhere.
And there’s a man, feet planted firm in the lot, and a white dog bounds endless in a little square of flat Chicago real estate.
It’s weird to do things that aren’t required of you, and cold gut convicting when I’m sitting in bed doing evening homework, wondering how I could possibly get out of it. But I signed up and Angel Tree does sound cool. That was this morning and the moments that outside world and Moody bubble collide touch my soul deep in the place that says right.
I’m not Pinterest, but people sometimes say I’m good at crafts, so I guess it works that I’m in the craft room. But it’s really not about the piles of art supplies on these round table; ministry’s not about materials, it’s about people, and there’s so many hearts in this place.
Three years old, she’s coloring a Christmas scene. The clips in her hair swing together clicking when she turns to look at me, and it makes me smile because she doesn’t know my name, even though we’re balanced on the same chair, and she has to pat my arm to get my attention. I like her picture and I forget for a second what Angel Tree does and Mommy’ll like it. But a child of three sometimes speaks more than she understands and Mommy’s gone now.
Recover quick and she likes the game we’re playing now, the page we’re coloring now, but a child of me sometimes speaks more than she understands.
Argo Tea’s not far from school, but I’ve never been that I didn’t doubt my direction. Sometimes cities are grid streets, but that must not be Chicago, because I need more than fingers and toes to count all the six-point intersections in this town. But there’s two of us here, and we’ve got it figured out. And right now feels like human things, because we’re people and we figured this out and we planned to get tea today. But it’s really a God thing, a funny thing, because I remember her from Orientation; bright blue shirt means I’m helping new students and the little child came along carried her mirror upstairs because it doesn’t fit on the cart.
So it’s all a God thing, really. And this is a God life, because there’d be a thin layer of surface stretched over nothing without layer after layer of God under all this life. And we talk about grace because God’s written grace on the pages of my story in permanent ink, and it bled red all over the place, and every page I turn reads Him.
26 Nov 2012 Leave a Comment
Not a particularly stressful day, although my calendar’s full with to-dos; systematically highlighting purple stripes across my planner as more and more things are accomplished. Not a stressful day, per se, but the end of the semester feel has descended like a thundercloud over campus and it feels… different.
We’re not looking forward to a break in the semester, counting down to days enjoying turkey with the family all around; that already happened and now there’s nothing between us and Christmas break. Four weeks of papers, projects, and assignments stretch between us and break. And on a bad day, that seems like a rather long time.
But it wasn’t a bad day.
Checklist goes on and one thing follows on the heels of another task, and the week always starts off like this. I’ve never been to the Chicago public library, but I need to go- grab book bag, grab U-Pass, grab notebook, and the train platform’s close by.
I don’t check my phone and I’m secretly proud, I like the adventure of going and not sure where. It’s nice to have a map, always a blue dot right where I am, right when I need to know, but it’s also fun not to know, and it’s a little excitement on this Monday afternoon.
The train’s easy enough because the library has its own stop, and I’m not halfway down the platform steps when the green signs catch my eye. Chicago Public Library, the big library, is right around; there are signs for it everywhere. Clink thud down to the bottom of the stairs and there’s a second while I stand, neck craned back, craned up, that I’m suddenly a skyscraper-gazing tourist. But the feeling doesn’t last long because the green signs don’t just tell, they indicate, and bright green announcements are flapping in the wind above my head, and the train has dumped me at the very entrance of the massive library.
There’s a funny comfort, an odd exhilaration in the anonymity of a crowd, in being just me, one of so many, exploring things, sorting out things I’ve never done before. There’s so many, many escalators here, and this library is so very big and I’m suddenly thinking of my aunt, who’s been a librarian almost as long as I’ve been alive.
I’ve a library card now and the desk worker instantly recognizes my address as Moody. Her nod to Moody erases a bit of the anonymity I claimed when I walked into the huge, beautiful building, but I really don’t mind. Just now I’ve swathed myself in no one knows, but with one glance she’s peeled back a layer to ah, Moody Bible, and there’s safety and warmth in identity, too.
Find my books, check my books, it’s a big place with people everywhere, and I’m proud of myself for finding the books I need so quickly, so efficiently. It’s good, too, because there are more books to read back at school and class starts at 6pm and tomorrow’s another day full of check marks and purple highlighter success streaks my life.
The escalators only go one way, as escalators tend to do, and one time Alison and I ran up the down escalator in Marshalls, but this is not the time and it’s three wrong turns before I’m back to the beginning again. The hallway to the exit is tall and smooth and there’s art on the walls, too. I remember how to get out now, I came in this way, but I’m still looking around because I like new and I like this and I don’t want to miss anything.
The door is tall and heavy and I push through to the street. I’m standing in the shadow of the train tracks, and the city’s swirling by on either side. This errand, this adventure, was quicker than I anticipated, and I’ve more time now than I thought. The library is big, so very big, and helpful, too, and a seed of contentment at my success sprouts happy.
And there’s a yellow taxi in front of the door, waiting for costumers, waiting for someone to call. I’ve no need; I’ll take the train, but somewhere far above my head a wreath hangs on the towering building, and the taxi’s dark window reflects the festive bright wreath perfectly, a circle of Christmas light shining waxy back at me from the backseat window of an empty cab.
And the train’s high above and the ride’s through the city, and decorations shine everywhere in the setting sun, and there are books in my bag and books on my desk, and the days click down to now and it all just feels right.
15 Nov 2012 Leave a Comment
01 Nov 2012 Leave a Comment
Monday afternoon and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Well, no, that’s not entirely true. I’ve not been reveling in the moment ever since, my mind wrapped tight around one moment, one memory. I haven’t been thinking about it like that.
But I am sitting on the top bunk in Mary Queen’s room, and last night’s layers of frustration and discontent are gathering strength in me once more, and I thought and I remembered.
Because Monday afternoon and I’ve finally paid off the printing fees I’ve accrued over the past three months. Check that off the to do list and I’m on to the next check mark, my mind stepping forward steadily; gotta keep everything in forward progress.
There’s a hallway, a covered walk way really, in between here and there. Red brick walls, red brick pavement. The bricks have shifted over the years, sighing into place much deeper than originally meant. I can feel the crevices and gashes in the ground through my boots.
I’m crossing this downtown haven of a campus at an odd hour, and there are few people out and about right now. In buildings, in the SDR, in dorms, life is moving and thriving. But out here, the city throbs all around and I am quietly alone.
I’m halfway through the red brick tunnel when three figures appear at the other end, making their slow way towards me, the dim light reveals a mother and two small children. This is college-land, academia-ville, and little ones on campus are rare, but not unheard of. No matter, really, they have my attention in an instant.
My pace slows, boots shuffle-scuffing across the worn bricks, and I smile faintly at the women as her eyes and mine meet over little dark heads. I keep walking and they keep walking, one way and the other, and soon I’m clicking through the door and back into building warmth and bustle, and they’re on their way. But for a moment, we were together in that tunnel. Together for one minute and a memory.
Two little ones, a boy and a girl. Big brother and little sister. Third grade? Second grade? And the little one, princess barely able to clear toddlerhood. They follow their mother’s gentle pace, meandering the easy, peaceful walk of a child content to be.
They follow and they speak, too.
I’m just even with the trio when I catch the little girl’s voice. Sweet, childish, baby girl voice. She’s explaining something to her mother, waving pink mitten hands in the air to embellish her account. I don’t know what she’s talking about, or what she’s trying so hard to communicate. I catch just a fragment of a sentence, and I’m holding to it still.
She’s explaining and talking, and her sweet, angel child voice is echoing off the tunnel walls, and my ears catch one word and grab on, holding tight to… something.
“and yike…,” the little one says. She’s making a comparison; this one is yike that one; they are alike.
She keeps going, listing more things, expanding her account, and soon I’m out of ear shot, but I haven’t forgotten.
I don’t know if I saw, if I heard, beauty in the sweet baby words that can’t pronounce “L”. Baby child words caught my attention, and have been a sharp point of happiness to me all week long. Maybe because it was so unexpected, a mother and her two, walking through campus the same way hundreds of students do every day. Maybe because a sweet baby voice rang out where so many adult voices reign.
Whatever the reason, I still remember that sweet voice and baby words. And tonight, remembering made me happy.
23 Oct 2012 4 Comments
Tuesday afternoon’s a long afternoon; class from 12:30 to 1:45, then again from 2:30 to 5:20. 3pm. 2:30 to 5:20 is a battle, sitting front row in lecture, fighting with everything in me to keep eyes on the prof, eyes on the board, eyes open. Blink, rub my eyes, scrunch my face up and open dry eyes as big as they’ll go. I kick my bare feet under the desk, doodle on my notes, shrug my shoulders.
I’m trying anything, just to stay awake.
But soon, 3pm has passed and we’re pushing 3:30, and I’ve somehow won the battle for consciousness. It’s a hard battle, but it’s not a long one, and I’m wide awake and taking intelligible notes once more, although I can’t for the life of me figure out what the magic formula is to stay awake, to keep my drifting eyes open.
Today, the rest of the class passed quickly, and soon it was 5:20pm and we’ve been assigned next week’s homework, already written into our planners anyway, and are dismissed. But in the moments before we’re dismissed, as the professor’s wrapping up last-minute announcements and just-a-minute questions from students, I turn around.
Three hours I sit every Tuesday in the same class. Sitting in the front row looking forward. Looking at a professor pacing deliberately around the room, looking at a black board that stretches the length of the long room, looking at gray walls illuminated by fluorescent white lights.
But in that end of class moment, I turned around. Turned around in my seat and could barely bring myself to look away.
Three hours I sit in that classroom, facing walls and teacher and lessons and boards. And three hours, the city lives and hums and moves while my back is turned. Behind my back, outside the crystal clear windows that line the wall behind me, layer upon layer of downtown Chicago buildings pack the view.
I turn around, swiveling in my classroom chair, and I’m transfixed. The setting sun is reflecting deep and orange on hundreds of windows, streaking gold across apartment and office building alike. Brick buildings alongside steel and stone edifices all together glow a rich, fiery orange, and I’m looking at a devastatingly beautiful city skyline.
The professor’s still talking, and I pull my eyes away from the captivating scene behind me, turning my attention back to the classroom, which suddenly seems even more dull than before.
But there was more than a breathtaking view in that moment, in that sunset-laden glimpse. In that beautiful look, I got an eyeful, an earful, of God. I’ve thought recently, standing on the train, watching Chicago speed by, that I haven’t seen the beauty recently. I look for it sometimes, scrutinizing what’s passing me, what’s occurring around me. I open my eyes and look UP and wonder when God will show me the beauty that I know is there.
Ask when God will open my eyes to what I know He put there.
And tonight, He did.
Turned me right around in my chair and knocked my speechless, chest squeezing tight in awe, at beauty in a sunset and buildings, beauty in a city and beauty in a Creator. A Creator who opens eyes and softens hearts and whispers, Hello child. I’m still here. Still listening to you. I love you and I care for you and I know you.
I didn’t forget about you.