Evening at Home

I spent a brief amount of time at my house yesterday, before the mother kindly drove me to the swim meet because it had been decided that my brother was more deserving of the vehicle than I. I was worthy of being abandoned at the pool and left to fend for myself and find a way home. Conveniently, the three other coaches drove together and were kind enough to return me to my home after the event ended.

So I was at my house for a bit last night, in between work and returning to school.

Ever a creature of habit, my quick blitzes passing through the home on my way to and from work always consist of the same things. I walk through the door, and my mother yells out that I take my shoes off. This is an ageless ritual that has occurred since we moved into our home in 1995, and if I sit quietly and still my soul, I can hear in my head the deep sigh of frustration she utters when one of her dearly beloved family members (generally my father, brother, or I) insist upon treading the clean wood hallways in our shoes. The deep irony of this situation is that the most common reason that my father traipses around in his shoes is that he is about to leave and has forgotten to kiss his wife. So she stands in the kitchen and exclaims over wet marks on her kitchen floor until he smooches her.

After having removed my shoes, which I do after a moment or two of entertainment experienced at the expense of my mother’s clean floors and sanity, I forage the kitchen for consumables. I say forage because this process does not always actually entail eating anything. Rather, I spend a couple minutes opening cupboards, drawers, fridge, freezer, and basking in the rich and figurative glow of healthy and plentiful food options. Praise God for the SDR here at school, which serves two purpose: nourish my body, and develop in me a deep appreciation for real food as it appears in the home setting.

I arrived home last night smack in the middle of the weekly Bible study that my parents host. Not one to interact or be pleasant or have friends in general, I burst into the door as quietly as possible and hightailed it to the kitchen. Once there, I greeted the small ones, who were tucked into my father’s desk chair, watching Sid the Science Kid, and then I began my forage.

Having opened and closed the fridge, freezer, and cabinets each six times, I prepared myself a small salad, as previously suggested by the mother, and then continued to open and close cabinets and drawers, just generally enjoying looking at food, while I ate. I pulled three tortilla chips, a yogurt drink, and a handful of popcorn out of their respective locations and had just chugged a glass of lemonade when my mother appeared in the kitchen. We chatted back and forth, as we do, and then she motioned towards a full pan of brownies, dusted beautifully with powdered sugar and sitting, ready to eat, on top of the oven.

You want a brownie? She asked, waving a butter knife for the purpose of serving in my direction.

I raised my eyebrows and shrugged indecisively. I’m not a huge brownie person.

I was hoping you could try one and tell me how they are; they’re pumpkin brownies. She added, before disappearing through the swinging door and rejoining her study. I finished my assorted dinner and then paused in front of the brownie pan. Pumpkin brownies, huh? Curiosity won out over my vague and underdeveloped brownie aversion, and I pried a corner piece out with the butter knife.

Except “pry” is in no way the correct word to use, because these brownies were the squishiest, most sponge-like dessert I have ever consumed. I’ve tried for minutes to come up with an appropriate word to communicate to you the texture of these brownies, but nothing comes to mind. Just believe me when I say squishy. Spongy. Soft. Bouncy. Springy. Moist. Odd.

While Sid the Science Kid squeaked on about force and “oomph” and how much fun it is to study scientific things, I ate that little brownie square. It didn’t taste anything like chocolate, and “slurped” might be a more accurate description that “ate”, but whatever. I ate it, and when my brother arrived home, I served him one, too. This was partially because I honestly wanted his opinion on this strange, although not necessarily bad concoction that my mother had created, and also because of my subconscious bitterness that he had the car instead of myself.

My father appeared in the kitchen shortly afterwards and the three of us stood around discussing the pumpkin brownies, while my brother’s shoes doubtless left gaping puddles all over the clean kitchen. We couldn’t quite make up our minds on what exactly we thought about the brownies; there was something very different, strange even, about the baked dessert, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. So we ate a little more, then I kissed the smalls goodbye, grabbed my bag, and my father kindly drove me back to school.

I went about my evening, and had very nearly forgotten about the squishy brownies, when I received a text from my mother at 12:15am. The words I read as I fell asleep? My goodnight message from the woman who gave me life?

Ha! No chocolate in THOSE brownies. It was pumpkin pudding. :)

Good night, mother.

~Natalia

Didn’t Miss Everything

I coached a swim meet this evening.

Rather a frequent occurrence, although weekday competitions are less common.

Four coaches, 80 athletes, three hours,

it was a fast-paced event.

And that’s good- I’m glad is was well-run,

and that we weren’t dawdling around,

waiting to hurry up and wait some more.

But I didn’t sit down until the end

also means

I wasn’t in the same place very long

also means

I didn’t get to spend much time

with the kiddos tonight.

I saw them, yes. And we communicated, of course. But my words to them were mostly shouted above the general noise of 25 littles gathered around, and it’s hard to make eye contact when they’re all wearing goggles.

I saw them and I spoke with them, but even conversation one on one is short when another of my guys is in the next race, and I barely have time to bend down eye level and offer a high-five and a smile before I’ve straightened my back and am yelling at the next one to put his goggles on and get on the block.

I liked tonight’s short timeline, but the tradeoff was time with little athletes I love interacting with, and I rather like that time.

There were no long breaks, and the usual games and jokes and conversations that characterize time with swimmers and time with other coaches were in short supply tonight: we just didn’t have time. But I was still there, and I still worked and watched and cheered and taught, and I didn’t miss everything.

I didn’t miss little girl, eight years old, she’s still just a little unsure. I can wait behind the blocks with her the first time, but second race is trickier because I need to be elsewhere, so I’ll send a 10-year-old sub instead. And older child is wonderful, and she knows what she’s doing, and she’s holding the younger one’s hand, and she gets her on the block right when she’s supposed to, and I’m so proud of both of them. I’m back and forth up the pool deck, but I’m still watching the child and my little assistant coach, and my heart catches and swells to see that the helper didn’t leave when the child dove in, which I had rather assumed she would.

She cheered and she yelled, and she collected her charge at the end of the pool. She high-fived and she smiled, and the pair appeared in front of me, grinning both. And I congratulate the little, and thank the big, and they’re both done, I think.

But helping hands and gentle, compassionate hearts aren’t finished yet, and this older child, she’s still working, working. She helps younger find backpack, boots, coat, and they hunt up and down, searching for a Hello Kitty towel gone missing. And finally, possessions are claimed and home beckons, and the little hugs the bigger, and it grabs my attention even more because two children just barely introduced, support so well, care so free.

And I was busy, quick at the meet tonight, but I didn’t miss everything.

~Natalia

Just Telling

I suppose part of the reason that I gave you pictures last night instead of words is because I’m sorely tempted to wrap the intensely varied spread of emotions and experiences that have been crammed into this campus over the past four days into a seven paragraph sermonette on a neatly defined aspect of God’s character and plan for our lives.

I’m obsessed with wrapping the unwieldy and just generally real life experiences that I live and witness into clean, tidy lessons with a moral and a fairy tale ending. It’s good, and I’ve gotten good at it, but it’s a vast majority of life that cannot be packaged clean and tied with a bow, and I’m too tired to try to pretend that I can do that tonight.

Because Nelle came into the room last night, in the brief moments between when I had brushed my teeth, and before I clicked off my lamp and climbed into bed. The Roommate in her tall bed behind me, I had taken a deep drink of water from my cherished cup when I noticed a head in the cracked door, staring expectantly at me. Had my mouth not been full of water, I would have screamed. As it was, my heart jumped and the would-be scream came out wet and warbly and the water I had been drinking ended up mostly on The Roommate’s arms. Ever apologetic, Nelle made amends profusely, as I alternately laughed, listened to my heart pounding, and spot dried The Roommate with my hand towel.

And then Tuesday morning, President’s Chapel is a memorial service for our fellow student, now three days worshipping the King face to face in Heaven. Songs and Scripture and memories and praising the sovereign God who knew exactly how many days Micah would have here with us. I didn’t know him, but my mother’s prayed years for a tender heart that mourns with those who mourn, and service ended, we walk in silence to our next classes, I’m so thankful for friends who carry tissues.

It’s such a real life we live, and joy is real and suffering is real and I’m not looking for answers and deep connections tonight.

I’m just… telling.

~Natalia

Playground Escape

I’ve written quite a lot of rather heavy things here lately, which accurately reflects the heavy things that I’ve been thinking about and that have been happening around me. But I’ve been thinking about the littles at home today, too, and memories of Paris have been sifting around my head, too.

So I’ve merged two very wonderful things, and have for you tonight a compilation of Little Ones at Parks in Paris.

Enjoy.

parisplayground1

parisplayground2

parisplayground3

parisplayground4

parisplayground5

parisplayground6

parisplayground7

parisplayground8

parisplayground9

parisplayground10

~Natalia

No Reason to Leave

I didn’t want to go to church this morning. I woke up to my phone under me and my Bible still open next to my pillow and my first conscious thought was that I didn’t want to go to church. But it’s really not an option, so I got up and got dressed and I like to think that I was quiet, and for once it was her alarm that woke The Roommate up, not my scuffling around the room. I brushed my hair and putting my little notebook in my purse, wrapped a scarf around my neck, pulled on my coat, and went downstairs. And I went to church.

But the feeling I woke up to settled stronger in my heart and I stepped fast down the sidewalk to the train stop and I suddenly realize that I’m scared.

Because I’m three blocks from Michigan Avenue but who’s going to be out at 9am on a Sunday morning? I can count the people I pass from school to the train on one hand. Because someone’s discarded Starbucks cup rolls back and forth in the wind, the spilled contents splashed dirty brown on the already filthy piles of snow. Because the train’s underground and the urine smell is strong today and I’ve never noticed how much garbage lies heaped down there on the tracks.

And yesterday on the train back from a lunch date with The Roommate, I sat at one end of the train car and halfway back to school this train car full of people headed deeper into downtown for an enjoyable Saturday afternoon is struck silent by one man in the corner. I looked at him, I listened to him, but he dropped to his knees as telling became pleading and it seems so ludicrous that I took time to think that it’s illegal to solicit on the CTA. But he’s not soliciting anything, he’s absolutely begging and he says he can’t go on living the way he is, and my cheeks are prickling with emotion I can’t name and I got off the train with my head down and carried my shame all the way back to school, where I put my sweatpants on and crawled into bed.

And I was so relieved to be back in the safe nest of my bed, my room, my dorm, my school.

But The Roommate texts me not two hours later because a freshman from this school, a young man whose sister lived just around the corner last year, has died. And Moody was never a perfect place, never a safe haven, but any illusions that I had come crashing down and I’m frozen in my bed with my computer on my lap, mechanically typing out a paper, but I can hear sobbing in the hallway and the same prickling crawls up my face and suffering is so uncomfortably close.

And I woke up this morning and my first thought was to stay here. I didn’t want to ride the train because you know who else rides the train? Broken people who need Jesus. Broken people who fall to their knees and beg because they can’t keep living this way. And I balked at the dirty in the streets and the dark selfishness of my own heart, the black terror of distrusting Christ, is something I’ll never be able to hide from.

And I don’t have answers and I wished last night that I was little again, when I had much more faith in the world, and much less exposure to the raw pain of a broken earth.

And there’s so very much that I don’t understand, and the human, selfish desire to hide from the fresh, broken, utterly uncomfortable pain that rubs raw everywhere that I turn is so strong. But I think somewhere I’ve heard a command that I trust Christ, and I’ve read before that His grace is sufficient, and I have to believe that He has a plan in everything.

And I hold to trusting Him, because if I don’t, well then, there’s really no reason to leave this dorm.

~Natalia

Story of Him

I’m in a writing class this semester, called Creative Non-Fiction. Having skipped out on both College Writing and Research Writing (the two sit neglected and ignored on my class checklist- eventually I’ll have to do something about them), this is the first writing class I’ve taken.

I’m looking forward to it, and have hopes that it will help me develop my writing more. That I’ll learn more and more how to write well.

The reading for the upcoming class included a brief section on why we write. I’ve talked before about why I write this blog. I write, I share, I tell, to glorify God and to draw attention back to Him, back where it belongs. But I’ve had a creeping concern these past days whether I am truly accomplishing this goal. I’ve begun to wonder if my reason to write has fallen somewhere short of honoring God, and bringing glory to His name.

Then I look back at pages after pages of words I’ve written, and I know I’m nothing but completely subjective, but I can see Jesus working in the snapshots of my life that I’ve plastered here. I can see Him in the bizarre humor of the randomer who asked for my number (and I can certainly see Him in the fact that our favorite truck-driving-school-attendee only attempted to communicate with me once). I can see Him orchestrating my life in the little things, even when I can’t quite grasp the depth of the big things. And when it’s late and I’m frustrated with my humanity, angry with myself for being exactly the broken creation that we all are, He’s the only perfect one whose quiet, brilliant, strong grace is carrying me through every day I live, regardless of what I write here.

I see Him here, and I hope you do, too. Because this isn’t the story of me: it’s the story of Him working through me, and I’m trying so hard to keep it that way.

~Natalia

Fixed This

There’s a million things to write and I’ve written not a one because my evening routine has somehow morphed into perusing my email, checking the blogs that I regularly read, and opening and closing the Facebook tab eighteen times, before I consider typing a single word into the WordPress box.

I suppose I’m overwhelmed by what I could write; there’s so many options. And the obvious solution to my dilemma is to waste the maximum amount of time possible in completely avoiding the issue, before it’s midnight and I’m speed-typing because I know how long I can last sitting with tired eyes in front of a white screen and I’ve fallen asleep with my computer on my lap three times these past two weeks.

I’m completely addicted to solving problems and there’s hardly a breath between “this is what’s wrong” and “how are we going to fix this?”. I’m possessed with making everything good, everything right, fixing everything and I marked the yes box on the survey question that read “Do you consider yourself a perfectionist?”.

I want to do things well and I want to do things right, and I’m tired of falling asleep with a funny settling in my stomach because I feel unsolved, I feel problems.

Here are the problems, I’ll list them for you so we can solve them. I’ll tell you what’s up and since everything can be fixed, this shouldn’t be a long process, should it? We’ll sort everything out and line it all up right and we should be on our way in no time.

I’ve banned myself from Imgfave, Iwastesomuchtime, Pinterest and Buzzfeed. I don’t go there to look at pages, pictures, jokes, and time I have in the past spent paging through the Humor section of Pinterest, I now spend doing other things.

And here’s what those other things are: gmail, google reader, and Facebook. There’s a Skype icon on my sidebar, too, and I was so desperate to waste just a little more time just now, that I clicked “six months” and I’m scrolling through a long-ended conversation that sounds all too familiar because this isn’t the first time that I tried so hard to waste so much time.

I hate telling you this, because really, wasting time online? Of all the things to struggle with, all the things to be upset about, I don’t really have an excuse for all this mismanaged time. I should have a handle on this, I should be way past getting sucked into looking at the profile pictures of people I hung out with in high school and are you picking up on all this ridiculous?

It makes me angry, and I so willingly putter around, clicking on links and circling in and out of the same pages, the same blogs, the same profiles, that I’ve seen the last time I put off writing, not three days ago.

And it always ends the same. I open WordPress, I think a while. I write a post. I tell you what I think, what I see, what I hear, what I believe, and I should be reading each post over again, and I truly do, but it’s hard at night because by the time I’ve finally gotten with it it’s so late that I fall asleep sitting up, my photo screen saver sliding bright images of my little sisters across a screen balanced haphazardly on my knee.

And I finish my post, and I close my computer, and I get ready to fall asleep. And over and over again I tell myself that this will get better; I’ll fix this. Because I can, and next time I snuggle in bed and prop computer on my lap, I’ll read more, waste much less time, and simply enjoy my life more because everything will be under control, everything will be fixed.

Next time, I promise myself, I’ll do this better.

~Natalia

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