26 Feb 2013 1 Comment
I’m in the process of writing a research paper. I say “in the process” because when I think about writing said paper, I experience an actual physical sensation that is very similar to pain in my chest. This has led me to conclude (which conclusion I had already basically arrived at, thanks to research papers written in previous semesters) that I feel strongly about research papers. Strongly negative.
That being said, I’m writing a research paper.
I watched the snow fall today. Really, really watched it. I sat on my bed and focused hard on a flake as it swirled past the window. I’ve watched it snow before, hundreds of time, but I don’t remember a time that I peeled my eyes open and watched individual flakes fall from the sky. So I did that. But then my head started feeling a little odd, and I suppose I was rather straining my eyes, so I blinked hard a couple of times and decided to do something else.
But I watched the snow fall today.
We went, the girls on my floor and I, to the guys’ dorm on Sunday. Our once-monthly shot at spending time in the guys’ dorm. This event, known as Open House, is a rather interesting experience of which little more can be said than that it is what you make of it. Last month, I instigated a twenty-person game of Signs in their lounge, and what I made of it ended up being a highly entertaining evening. This month, The Neighbor determined to make it into a Tangled movie night. So we watched this film, and The Roommate, she began the evening claiming that she’s going to do Greek homework, but she was so thoroughly sucked into the movie plot (and, doubtless, by The Neighbor and I’s boisterous accompaniment of every song and most of the lines, too), that Greek study soon became a thing of the past. She was into that movie, I tell you. Towards the end of the film, just as the storyline was coming to a climactic point, I pulled out my phone and took The Roommate’s picture. Five clicks, and that picture made its way onto Facebook, despite The Roommate’s vague requests to the contrary.
Thirty people “Liked” that picture within 24 hours.
I told The Roommate that I’m going to photograph her more, seeing as her picture on my Facebook page so evidently enhanced my own image. She rolled her eyes in my general direction.
She’s on the phone with her mother right now, sitting at her desk next to the window, but the conversation is going to end soon. I’m toying with the idea of gritting my teeth and finishing my research paper tonight. Except that I am not sure if I will be able to physically handle such strenuous, unpleasant labor.
And someone is shoveling snow downstairs in the street, scraping snow and ice across the wet sidewalk, while fat flakes still fall in a flurry down past the window.
10 Feb 2013 Leave a Comment
I’ve got four pennies in my coat pocket. There used to be six cents in there, but I threw my coat on my bed last week in an exaggerated display of exhaustion, and two pennies fell out. They rolled under the bed, and they’re still there, along with four hair pins, seven vitamin C wrappers, and a whole lot of dust. I know this because I pulled the drawers out from under my bed and checked.
Stevy and I went to the bank together one afternoon during Christmas break. Walked there and back, and then there and back again because my mother is co-signer and we both needed her signature to activate online banking. And we’re about to cross the street, the street that cuts right downtown with the green line painted for the bicyclists, and I turn to the tall brother in his puffy black coat.
I always hold onto the stuff in my pockets, I tell him.
He laughs a bit, and pulls his hands out of his own pockets, into the cold whipping wind, Me, too! He says, and there are tissues and receipts and some dollar bills in his fists. And we stand there waiting for the light to turn, and a guy on a bike whizzes past in that green bike lane, and I hold six pennies in one fist and some vitamin C in the other.
But I’m down to four pennies now, and I ate those vitamin C a long time ago. And I stepped off the Red Line today, on my way to church this morning, and there are two flights of stairs up from underground train to street level walking. Hands in my pockets, I push through the turnstile, shuffle my boots up the wet stairs with little piles of salt on each step left over from last week’s snow. I’m not even to the top when four pennies in my fist suddenly feels very small, very few. What can I do with four cents? Nothing, really. Just hold them in my hand as I walk along the Chicago street, the rain falling light and balling little beads of clear down my sleeves.
They took two offerings in church today. The normal one, and then a special deacon’s offering, an emergency fund of sorts, for when needs in the congregation arise. The service is almost over on this second offering, and there’s music playing in the background, singing Jesus’ name over and over and I pulled all the cash that was there out of my wallet. A five dollar bill wrapped around two ones. Carrying cash has never really been one of my strengths. I told the mother that it’ll be less to worry about if I ever lose my wallet, but she remained unconvinced.
The basket wobbled hand to hand down the aisle and I pulled the ones out of the little green fold, and I dropped them in my pocket, and the five rustled quiet into the basket.
So I’ve got $2.04 in my pocket now.
I could do something with that. I could give it, use it, leave it. I’ve got power in my pocket, in some small way.
But the rain fell harder on my way back from church and dollar bills don’t fit in a fist, but pennies do, and I held on tight to those four pennies in my coat pocket, as rain dripped off my bangs, and trickled down my neck.
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?
12 Nov 2012 Leave a Comment
First snow of the year and in Becca’s room for a moment. We’re kneeling on Liv’s bed, noses pressed against the cold window, breath leaving foggy half-circles on the smudgy glass.
Squint out the window, can’t see the flakes in front of our faces. But look! Over by the street lamp! White specks glow yellow in pale street lamp light. In front of the billboard, too! Twenty feet tall ad for a car and snow blows past the spotlights shining on the huge sign.
Down the hall, back in my room, the door’s barely thudded shut behind me when I hear Di calling my name. There’s a certain English dialect wherein you remove vowels from words and replace them with the letter “r” and she’s yelling, “Nerterler” down the hall. Say it quick enough, shorten it a syllable, and yes, I’ll admit that I’ve become accustomed to responding to “Nerd”.
Di’s going out in the snow and I toss my notebook and folder on the bed; homework will still be around in ten minutes. Neighbor joins and the three of us ride the elevator down, down to ding in the lobby. Down to sudden taste of winter outside.
There’s not many people down here in the Plaza, not yet anyway, and we scamper around, arms up to the sky, snowflakes landing silent, wet, on our heads and arms. Monday night lull in the Plaza, on campus, but elevator dings once more and slowly, slowly, more appear.
The three of us part ways, and I ride back up to the floor, but news travels fast and excitement runs high and four more are bundling to head downstairs. Homework waits minutes more and the Plaza’s loud now.
We pass cameras back and forth and pose in front of the grass, rapidly collecting a dusting of sticky, cold white. Laughing and yell and it’s a silly, exultant moment on dark Monday night.
We’re not down long, and scurry back inside. ID, beep, beep the elevator and back to laundry spinning in the washer, worksheet half-typed on the computer. Life waits for no one, but even as minutes pass minutes and the pace never slows, fat white flakes fall silent and joy, yells in the plaza, grin on my face.
13 Sep 2012 1 Comment
I’m sitting on my bed, my pillow forming a soft barrier between my back and the cold dorm room wall.
The window, on the other side of the room, is closed for the first time in a while. It’s a little chilly out to have the window open.
It’s raining, too. I can hear the rain swishing and splashing as cars and trucks zip up and down the street.
Behind me, the door’s open to the hall. Nelle’s clicked the hallway light off a while ago, signaling quiet hours, but I can still hear voices.
Voices, new voices just added this semester to our community, our family, are beginning to sound familiar, and I can tell who’s in the lounge right now.
I like hearing the muted lull of their voices and knowing who’s who.
Someone’s making brownies. Someone just got back. An evening of homework in the lounge seems to be wrapping up; the hum and swing of conversation is more lively now than it was an hour ago.
A sound at the door behind me and a familiar face appears. Not living on this floor anymore, she’s decided to swing by and say hello on her way back downstairs.
I like that about school; there’s a lot of familiar faces around here. A lot of swinging by, of stopping to say hello. Smile on the elevator. Waving in the Plaza. Hug in the SDR.
We have community in this place.
And right now, I’m drenched, completely swathed, in the community that I live in.
What I hear, what I see, the faces I can easily pick out of any crowd. I borrow their clothes, message them inside jokes, and can predict what they’ll say and how they’ll respond to many a situation.
Sitting on my bed, with the slushing, sliding of cars in the street on one side, and the bustle and hum of this floor community on the other side, I’m completely enveloped in the sounds of this life, this now.
31 May 2012 1 Comment
02 Jan 2012 1 Comment
I refuse to write to you from Mexico and say anything less than positive about the weather. Especially now that it’s approximately toocold degrees in Chicago.
However, I need you to know that I am sitting in the dining room at Hermana Tere’s, wearing my slippers, pajama pants, a tank top, a t-shirt, a long-sleeve shirt, and a down jacket.
When you finish reading this, before you click back to Facebook, or whatever you were doing before you came here, pause and thank the Lord for the heating in your home, in your school, in your church.
Because I’m really just being a bit of a pansy- who knows how cold is in places where it’s actually cold.
Be warm. Wear slippers.
11 Nov 2011 2 Comments
Thursdays, if I’m lucky, are Mimsy days. She takes an hour off work, I have an hour in between chapel and lunch, we each walk a short distance and we meet at Starbucks on State Street. We take turns buying drinks each week, sometimes we stay in the corner coffee shop, sometimes we venture elsewhere, and we talk. It’s fun, often hilarious, always encouraging, and every week I walk away refreshed and grinning.
I love Thursday mornings.
Today was no different. We sat in Starbucks and watched the sparse bits of snow swirling outside the window, and we ate peanut butter M&Ms and we talked about our experiences at Moody and the things I’m learning and the things she learned during her years here. She often relates tales of her Moody escapades, and her deadpan humor and the way she opens her eyes wide as she prepares to deliver the punchline leave me giggling breathlessly, regardless of how humorous the story itself is.
We talk about things we’re learning, things God’s showing us. We talk about things that make us sad, things that make us chuckle, and things that make us think hard. We sip our drinks and think about life and sometimes we look back at how far we’ve come, and sometimes we look forward at how far we’ve yet to go. Our lives are so different, and yet often so much the same, and it’s marvelous to sit and share with Mimsy.
This morning found Mimsy deep in an entreaty about discipleship and relationships. I was sitting across from her, sipping the last bits of coffee-tinted water out of my cup, when it happened.
“And when we’re close to people, and we love people like that, there is hurt…” Mimsy said, and as she said the word hurt, she pulled her shoulder in, turning her body slightly to the side as if protecting herself from an invisible and forceful blow. She said the word once or twice more, each time unconsciously punctuating her words with a shoulder-curling flinch.
She moved on, continuing her thought to completion, but I didn’t hear. I was stuck, held transfixed by her unconscious pantomime. As her thought process wound down for a moment, I interrupted her and confessed that I hadn’t heard most of what she had said. I told her about the beauty. Beauty in a slide. Beauty in a look. Beauty in a word.
And then we talked about something that’s been on my mind for a couple of days. I love seeing the beauty. I love that God has opened my eyes to see the little things, the nuance that not everyone sees, and that some people never notice. I love when something stops me in my tracks, grabs my heart, and takes my breath away.
But what am I doing with the beauty? How am I responding to the beauty? How am I turning it around and putting the focus back on the One who enabled me to see in the first place?
“The beauty that you see is a reflection of Him,” Miriam observed. And I think she’s right. I may not be able to identify exactly why something knocked the breath out of me because of its mundane beauty, but I can allow the beauty to point me back to God. God who is indescribable, wise, mysterious, and beautiful beyond imagination.
It’s not mere earthly beauty that I see; it’s a reflection of Him, and it’s there to point me right back to Him.
05 Sep 2011 1 Comment
Halfway through last week, after I had finished Church and its Doctrines and checked my mailbox, which I can open now, Katherine visited me. It was hot out, the weather building to the wet, sticky climax that was Friday evening. I met her in the plaza, and we talked briefly, taking turns listening and talking, a fast-paced information trade-off.
We left her backpack in my room, and then rode the elevator back down to ground level. Back out into the warm, heavy cocoon of Chicago weather in August. Chipotle fine for dinner? Yeah, sounds great.
I reached down to the worn, black purse that swung gently back and forth at my hip and pulled out my phone. The Maps app is my second-biggest data consumer (Facebook is first). There are enough Chipotles in the greater Moody area. I chose the closest one, and we set off. Up the street. Down that street. Over a street or two. Let me pause to check the Map real quick. Up one more block.
Two blocks over looks different from here, and three blocks up might as well be a different city. The city’s diverse, and so are its people.
We sat in the front window of Chipotle and watched a man with a motorcycle direct two friends into unbelievably tight parking spots, such that the car in the middle ended up with two inches of wiggle room on each end. And the lady whose infant child had waved at me on the way past meandered passed us again as we ate, and the baby waved at another passerby, happily shrieking her greeting to the stranger.
Katherine talked as I scraped the last bits of salad out of my cardboard Chipotle bowl, and I paused every couple of seconds to interject my reactions to her story. You’re kidding! He didn’t. Are you serious? What happened next?
We finished and walked back to campus, stepping over garden hoses watering lawns and around gaping cracks in the Chicago pavement. We took a different route back, and my phone stayed in my purse, swinging jauntily alongside me. As sure as I was about how to return to school, I was relieved to see Moody’s signature red brick buildings when we turned the corner.
Another block closer to school, and two young gentlemen are lounging on a spot of grass wedged calmly between two school buildings. I recognize both of them, although their names escape me. Steps closer to campus and three women are waiting for the bus. Their flowy summer dresses flip around their legs nonchalantly, blown by the same hot wind that rustles the trees above us. The women chatter back and forth quickly, slipping smiles and laughs in between observations and conversation. I can’t hear what they’re saying, but I recognize them, and seeing them laughing brings a smile to my face.
Walking in the shadow of the school buildings, I suddenly feel as if I am returning to where that I belong. It’s a weird feeling, but I don’t mind the sense of security that tugs at my heart as I fling open the door and cross the threshold onto Moody’s campus.
Sometimes I wish I wasn’t here, and sometimes being here is the hardest thing I’ve done in quite a while. But God brought me here, and sometimes, it feels like home.