This is Your Time

Written for Foundations of Education

Teacher on one side, student on the other,
this isn’t an against and apart,
education is working together to learn, to uncover God’s mark in creation.
Education is teacher, student, parent, community,
together with the grace of God
running rich and deep over us all.
Each member has a part, has a role.

Teacher’s responsible to God, to students, to self.
Student’s responsible, too.
Responsible to God, responsible to teacher, responsible to self.
But I’m not sure if you understand, student.

You are so very blessed, student.

Homework is consuming and there’s more to life than school.
Relationships are complex and why is life so hard?
But, oh student. That is the joy of it all.
Look around- do you see where you are?
This place, this hall of education, is your training ground.

Do you understand, student?
This place of learning, where teachers bow before the Creator,
and God’s image in you and in those around you is recognized,
this is your training ground.

Oh, student. Don’t waste this, your education.
Days may drag, months are eternity,
but blink and you’ll be done and the real world comes hard and fast.
You are safe here, student.
Not safe from pain, not safe from hurt;
sin reeks everywhere humans breathe,
but you’re safe to try, safe to learn.

Now, student, now and never again in your life,
will you be in such a place.
Here are teachers, mentors, leaders, who teach you content,
test your skills, give you the tools you need to learn and grow,
and then step back and let you try.

So try, student. Try and then grow.
You’re not perfect, you’ll make mistakes,
but don’t you see? This is a place of grace!
The blood that dripped off the cross dripped for you just as much as your teacher,
as your fellow students,
and try now or you’ll only fall harder later.

This education is overflowing with the redemption work of Jesus,
so open your heart, open your hands, and allow Him to work.
Try things, learn lessons, step in faith;
now’s your chance, student.

The teacher who stands, who moves among your class,
is just as broken as you are.
Struggles you battle and why do I feel this way is not alone. Even as you learn, even as you do your best to glorify God
with every assignment you do, every project accomplished,
even as you do all that,
soften your heart, and allow God’s truth, God’s Word, to work hard on you.
It’s your responsibility to learn, student; it’s your job.

But the gospel was meant for imperfect people and legalism crushes hearts
and this is your time, student.

~Natalia

Yes, Of Course

A day that feels wasted, really.

I did a little homework, but I could have done much more.

I did so many things besides, even things that are good.

Two hours each at two different jobs.

Chapel, class, test, class. Breakfast, lunch, off campus, back.

Min team and catching up and fellowship and chilling on Nelle’s bed laughing.

I did lots of things today, I guess.

And I feel good about the things I accomplished, too.

But I’m frustrated and angry about what I didn’t do.

Could have handled my time better. Should have prioritized a little more. Would have checked a couple more things off the list that guides my life.

But I didn’t, and I hate that.

There are projects I should have worked on, and reading I knew I should have finished, and have you even looked at next week’s homework?

I’m not furious with myself, but I am frustrated and I’m determined to stay that way, at least for a little while.

Maybe enough disappointment at my own time-use failure will motivate me to get my act together and do better next time. Tomorrow will be a better day, a more schoolwork productive day, and then I’ll let myself feel good about things.

Maybe.

But even as a berate my own shortcomings, God comes perilously close to my heart and He’s whispering insistently right into me.

But no, God, I don’t want your view of me right now.

I appreciate how you see me, but I’m busy now, Lord. I’m busy telling myself what I’m good for (very little, apparently), and yelling at myself to get a grip on reality and do the work I should be doing.

I don’t want your truth right now.

This is a small issue, I’ve thrown His truth in His face on much larger questions of heart before, but now just as then He refuses to budge and eventually, I’ve really no choice.

Fine, God. You win; tell me your view. What do you see here? What in me must you be so insistent about revealing to me, reminding me of?

A child who Jesus died for. A child I’m working every day to redeem.

Yes, Lord, and I’m so grateful, but there’s a long chasm between my redemption and the fact that I did less than one hour of actual homework today. It’s a big chasm and I’m filling it to the brim with mistakes I’ve made, choices I know should have been a little different.

Yes, child! Fill the chasm with your mistakes, your sins. Fill it; confess them, learn from them, accept my healing, and move on.

Ah, yes Lord, you’re right! I push all the ways that I should have done better to the side, leave them to you to heal, and then I can get my life together and be so on top of things tomorrow. I’m going to do well tomorrow, God, I promise.

Oh, little one, you miss the point gravely. That I forgive is not so that you can try your own very best to do just a little better next time. No, no; the forgiveness and redemption that you experience is for you to fall even harder on the grace that I extend. Grace doesn’t set you up to fall, but it opens your eyes to how far you fall, and how important it is that you have Someone to catch you.

Yes, God. I understand. Help me, Lord.

Yes, child, of course. Because grace exposes the truth under your mistakes, the sin layer under the superficial layer, but grace knows that you can’t fix anything on your own. So grace redeems heart, redeems views, redeems assignments, redeems time.

~Natalia

Cousins Tonight


photo by Grandma.

Not because I’m tired, although I was face down, eyes closed, on The Roommate’s bed when she returned to the room earlier this evening.

Not because I’m stressed, although it is admittedly a jumbled twist of a line between excited and stressed and generally content about life.

Not because I’ve too much to do, although that might actually be the case.

But tonight, because I had such a very wonderful time with my cousins over the weekend, and because I’m so thankful that they are in my life and for the years of jokes and family history that have tied us together.

So, for you, here’s a picture of cousins whom I love dearly, practicing a little teamwork and assembly line action to clean a post-Thanksgiving-dinner kitchen.

~Natalia

Down to Now

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.

~Natalia

Caterpillar

I’ve been writing a blog post for almost an hour now. Not actively; I just started typing seconds ago. But I pulled my computer onto my lap forever ago, clicking open Google Chrome, watching the mouse slide across the screen as if of its own accord. I should have written an hour ago, but I didn’t and I’m here now and really, how much difference does an hour make?

I returned to school this evening after a wonderful, wonderful Thanksgiving break with my family in Michigan. There’s a long and lengthening list of things that we do every Thanksgiving weekend, every time we celebrate together, and there’s a settled comfort between flying from event to event, outing to outing, and enjoying the soft, enjoying the quiet, in our time together.

And I’m here again for the first time in days and my insides are turning a little, and I’m beginning to feel just a little unsettled, and I think I just figured out why. Because maybe tradition isn’t code for easy, and wonderful doesn’t translate to simple. And I’m starting to think that what I need right now is just a little time to process.

Because the air mattress makes a sound every time I blink, and I’ll eventually fall asleep with my phone under me, but flip flip squeak over and stay awake for a while. Cousins are two years apart and this time, this night-time to talk and laugh and be is what we treasure.

Because maybe it wasn’t to our advantage to divide teams generationally; there’s wisdom with age, and there’s accumulated knowledge as well, and if we get one more question about 1930s movie stars, we’re going down. But Catchphrase is catch-all and even the littles pipe up on this one, and slip of the tongue- no, that’s what I meant, we’re all sitting in this room, and the game’s beeping out of time, but nobody cares because we’re all laughing too hard.

Because there’ve been more than family members around here, now, and friends make their way through our weekend, too. And it’s gift giving time and friend sits behind because this is family Christmas, after all. But there’s a gift bag with her name, too, and tears sometimes come when our name’s not what we were expecting, and deep happiness runs under it all.

And back at school The Neighbor’s laughing and these walls are thin. And Jen taps on the door and Mary knows me well. Liv and I talk profs we love and I hear a greeting down the hall and someone vacuumed and Nelle says like coming home.

I don’t have head space for thoughts that need sorting, or heart space for emotions conflicting strong. But Skype ding and What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly. And my heart grabs tight onto something there, but I can’t figure out if it’s supposed to apply to my school work or my heart, or my future.

But then again, I guess that’s what makes me the caterpillar.

~Natalia

Life Right Now {#33}

20121122-003904.jpg

Tuesday afternoon, yesterday, class ends at 4:45pm- out 45 minutes early. It’s two days before Thanksgiving and professor’s ready to celebrate, too.

Doesn’t take long to pack a suitcase; I’ve no reason to dawdle, and I’m so very excited for the break. The Roommate’s not around and her text says four minutes.
“Nope, I’m leaving.” She knows I’m joking. Of course I waited to say goodbye.

Train’s packed and my bag’s big, but the crowd slowly thins as the train moves north, and soon, I’ve got a seat.
Off a stop early and a coffee for the Mother. Green-aproned fellow raises his eyebrows: Is this for someone else?
This is a city and thousands of people, but they know her around here; they know us around here.

Walking in is the best because it’s quiet tonight and Mom and Dad on the couch, surprise is happy. I didn’t happen to mention that I was coming home on Tuesday instead, and I’ve beat my expected arrival time by more than a day.

And Thanksgiving break is off and running and Tuesday doesn’t end until 2:30am- mother trained daughter and we’re up late late.

And Thursday morning’s tomorrow, see us packing up the car, packing up the bags, Michigan six hours up. Yearly tradition since before I can remember, and four cousins born in three years are older now and the iMessage thread we share is laughing, laughing.

And under it all, around it all, God provides breath each second, and a physical heart beats continual and He’s growing my spirit more like His. And Thanksgiving’s so very fitting today and everyday, really.

~Natalia

Maybe Someday

Weird Sunday and everything I thought I would be doing is exactly what I’m not doing. Praxis didn’t receive my registration and the five hours that I had blocked out of my afternoon are suddenly a blank slate. Two train stops from the testing center back to school, and I choose to walk back, stepping up the same dark sidewalks I traipsed down with Kat the evening before.

Momentary disappointment at the disruption of my original afternoon plan stings first, but breathe deep and breathe fresh and Sunday morning sun on towering buildings calm my heart. Optimism stirs somewhere deep and the prospect of an unexpected afternoon to accomplish things seems so very appealing. By the time I’ve stepped back on the still Sunday morning campus, I’ve a plan already mapped out.

The sun’s shining brilliantly into the empty room and I’ve created a mental checklist of all the work, all the books, all the study accessories that I need. Throw two notebooks and a textbook, a computer and headphones into my backpack. My desk’s a carbon copy of sameness every semester, and my computer charger is woven tight alongside the desk, dingy white cord coiled haphazardly the same day in and day out. It’s a funny kind of comfort to do the same thing again and again; unplug the charger, thread the cord out from under the desk. Every time.

Backpack’s heavy but not too bad, even though the wait for the train is longer than the train ride. There’s a Barnes & Nobles here, and I stay to work, tucked in a corner of a basement bookshop. It’s quiet but not cozy and something’s odd that I can’t put my finger on. But fingers type on keyboard and information fills the screen and things are getting done.

Until I realize the outlet under the table doesn’t work and thank goodness I saved that file before my computer died. It’s an odd place to study and maybe I don’t really regret a broken outlet- a whole wall full of ineffective outlets. So unplug the charger, backpack swishing against my back again and maybe I’ll try Starbucks next.

It’s not the one that I had planned on visiting, but there’s that round, green emblem and I’m twirling through the revolving door into clean black floor and early afternoon’s not coffee hour; this line’s short and my smoothie’s cold in my hand soon.

There’s a seat open just in time, but it’s so funny and maybe I should have found somewhere else to study. Tiny table’s low and round and I’m sitting on the booth side of a two-person space. Backpack and coat hang on the back of the chair across from me; invisible date’s not much help for this homework.

Headphones in my ears blast Relient K to cover coffee shop ambiance, and I’m ever so focused on the square screen in front of me. But peripheral vision gets the best of all of us and just looking up is a study break. Everywhere in front of me there is something to garner my attention and I’ll willingly observe; people watching’s as universal as people.

Paper’s half-way done, more than, actually, when the pair arrives. He sits on my side, the entire booth bench sighing a bit when he sits. She’s across from him, sliding front and center into my range of view. I can’t hear them, but I can see, and glances from my growing paper to her face become more and more frequent.

They’re older, at least 60s probably, and they sit across from each other, sipping their drinks and looking at one another. But they don’t speak. At least, not that I can see. They sit and drink and I’m completely separate from them, but I feel so very a part of the chasm of silence that I’ve read into their space, their relationship.

So I write and I think, and I bemoan their silent coffee time, grieved at the wordlessness of their relationship. I’ve read everything I need to read into my observer’s vantage view of their communion, when I suddenly realize that she’s speaking. I’m not eavesdropping, and I can’t make out words, but I lower the music just a little and I can hear the rumble of words rolling soft off hearts who’ve seen much.

Furtive glances back and forth between my coffee shop neighbors, all the while my fingers type distractedly words I’d much rather save for later. I glance and I watch and the booth seat shifts when he does, and I slowly began to realize what I’m seeing, begin to see the truth of what is happening eighteen inches to my right.

It’s not a sad case of softened skin and dried up words. I’m not witnessing a snapshot of a joyless, wordless, communication-less relationship in its older years. I’m an outside partaker in one of the highest forms of communication I’ll ever attain to. I realize with a weight that strikes my heart cracking and sinks it aching hard that they’re not so done with one another that they can’t scrape out a word, they are so well with each other, so very suited to one another, that sometimes, words are not necessary.

And I, so young and inexperienced, and so very unwise, blinked in an instant and labeled sad, labeled loss something that two people have worked to achieve since decades before I was born. And the hope and gentleness and faithfulness that I suddenly saw where it had really been all along bent my heart with an ache and a longing and I honored them so much and maybe someday, I’ll taste what they have.

~Natalia

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