Back Then When: The Baby Met the Eiffel Tower

March 2011



Not Fear

Weeks ago, maybe a month or two, we’re sitting there talking and she says something about worry, about fear, and there was prayer after that, too. Prayer when we break into small groups of two, three, and the room is a small room but it’s funny to feel bigger when His presence comes so close. And then we are done and the meeting is over, and I go back to room, back to desk, back to homework and school, but I remember her words.

And the next morning, I’m sitting in class, kicking legs slow under the long, narrow table. And the professor has us open that Book, and I pulled my Bible out of the back pocket of the backpack, and open right up to where he says. And someone else reads, and I’m listening, really, but another section, another verse, catches my eyes, and I read that, too.

For God gave us
a spirit not of fear
but of power
and love
and self-control

And I read that verse, and suddenly, the end of class can’t come fast enough. But it comes, finally, finally, and class ends a bit early, I’m in chapel early, too. And I sit in that red, chapel chair, with the heavy backpack under my seat, and I pull out my Bible and a notebook, and I write that verse. God and Power and Love stand out strong, curly, half- cursive letters that I run the pen over and over again for emphasis. I write the word “fear” tiny; just one layer of ink, so it’s small and plain and as unimpressive as possible.

Fear’s just a small thing when you think how great, great God is.

I sat in that chapel as students filed in all around me, and the conversation buzz rose higher and higher, and I wrote that verse. Seventeen words on that notebook page, swirling, strong, letters that sink heavy with weight because one doesn’t simply talk about God’s power without feeling something deep down.

And later, when it’s night out and there’s movement on the floor up and down the hallway, I go into her room, that blue-lined notebook page clutched in my hands, and I stick it on her wall. It’s by the bed, that verse, on the wall by the window, next to a pink sticky note that’s been there so very long. She likes it, she says. Loves it. Wakes up to it every morning, falls asleep breathing confidence and peace in that verse. I’m glad I did it.

And weeks go past and heart battles aren’t won in an hour or a day or a week, and I don’t know why fear is a sweater I’d rather not be wearing, but I’m accidentally slipping into it more and more lately. Nobody likes to be afraid, and just when I’ve insulated myself safe in the depths of an imagined utopia, the hand dryer in the bathroom catches me off guard, and the instant heart grip of fear shoots all the way through my body. I force a deep breath past the pounding heart and rising irritation with my own weakness; maybe there’s good reasons to be scared, but a dryer in the bathroom at Moody Bible Institute is not one of them.

I told my heart this, but hearts are fickle things and I feel powerless when fear starts on the inside and takes the outside right along with it.

But prayer and faith and the Word of God rise from all around, and they begin to bear down on that fear root inside. And the anxiety lessens, and I get on that train and ride to the library and back, and if there’s fear in this heart, it feels small just now. And I move and I go, because life moves right forward, while the taste of fear licks up around thoughts, plans, actions.

And tonight at my desk, facing a door wide open, she appears in the space that leads from hallway to room. She steps inside, my bed’s right by the door, and she’s got that paper, that verse in her hands. I’m putting this in here for a while, she says, and she sticks that God verse right next to my bed. And those letters bold, God and Power and Love, they’re what I’ll wake up to every morning now, and the city glow slides in dim, I’m falling asleep to a verse of courage and faith right over my head.

And the words of the verse like a guard on my heart, trust and hope pour down strong, and they’re drowning out fear.


Stuff Right Now

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.


Keep Moving On

I like to celebrate anniversaries on this blog. Whether or not I write about them, there’s a counter on the sidebar, shows up every time I hit publish, and I’m keeping track. 100 posts, 500 then, and still moving forward. Leadmewhere had its first birthday, and then its second, and I marked every one of those days as they slipped past.

The WordPress counter ticked closer and closer to 700, and I watched the digits climb. 700’s a high number, and for some reason 700 posts seemed like so many more than 600. 697, 698, 699, and then 700 came and went and I said to you not a word. I told you about the sweethearts I work with at the pool, how I thought about kissing a goat, and how I’ve completely fallen in love with the Word of God. My post count hit and then dutifully exceeded what seemed to me such a monumental amount, and life both in its tangible sphere, and here in this internet space, continued right along.

I sat in writing class today, and there was a lull in conversation, a lull in my attention, a lull in my desire to be where I was just at that moment. Twelve students, we all had heads bent over paper, listening to the teacher give writing prompts, then falling once again into silence while we wrote, wrote, wrote our answers. But there’s a space on my paper, folded into my notebook, where I didn’t answer her questions at all. There’s a miniature paragraph, just a couple of lines, where my paper took the form of a conversation with myself, and it seemed right to converse with me in Spanish. So there’s words on that page, saying that I’d rather not be, and I wish we’d move on, in my notebook in Spanish. And soon, the assignment was finished and we closed our notebooks, and indeed, life moved on.

Day One was on Friday, and the upstairs coffee shop filled with students in high school yet, and their parents came along, and us Moody student workers, we wear shirts that say Ask Me My Story. And they did. So I told them. I told them elementary education decision when I was 11, and a rejection letter mailed to Mexico after eight years of planning. I told them God works in hearts and three changes of my major because teaching’s too much now. The most recent chapter of this story is last summer, change back to elementary education because what I had thought was so scary might not actually be so. I told them that story, like I’ve told it before, but there’s an ellipsis, not a period, because there are many chapters yet to come, because life is still moving forward.

I went to church on Sunday morning, but it was a rather complicated morning, because the Red Line’s all wonky and I’ve no need for a phone when I’m talking with God, so I got off at North and Clybourn and just started walking without a map. I more or less knew where Moody Church was. I got closer and closer and a woman in heels click clacked all up the wet, snowy street, and I sat in the balcony when I was there. Up in the balcony, when we stood up to sing all those rich, wonderful songs, I looked around at the people and do you know what I noticed? So very many babies in that stained glass window balcony. And I walked home in the slush, but the sun was bright on the sidewalk and my socks stayed almost dry, as I splashed through snow-turned-puddle and I remembered that I’m living a moving life.

I’ve a rather small mind, that stays focused on rather small things, but my sunglasses slid tight on the bridge of my nose, and I looked up at that hot, white orb in the sky, and there was almost comfort in the small that I felt. Because life really does move on. Life moves on to after college, after work, after family, and my life is one long story, but I’m part of a greater story, a story that stretches quite beyond my short lifespan, and this whole world? It keeps moving on.


Now than Later

I’m taking six classes this semester. I realized recently that I have not really told you about my classes, and that oversight may be rectified soon, but suffice it to say that there are six classes. Three of these classes pertain specifically to my major; for nine hours a week, I sit in a classroom while drab grey clouds scurry across the February sky, and I learn how to be a teacher.

I love those classes.

The other three classes, a history class, writing class, and an in-depth study of the Gospel of John, are all highly interesting classes. I study for them, read for them, attend them, and enjoy them. But they’re not education classes.

The advisor of the Elementary Education department teaches two of my classes. She’s a wise and experienced woman, who taught for various years in local Christian schools before becoming a professor. Her passion for teaching, and for training future teachers, is manifested in a wealth of knowledge about teaching methods, practices, and studies, and it’s a wonderful experience to learn to teach from a teacher that I so respect.

She said one day, quite early in the semester, that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of becoming a teacher. And this professor didn’t just say it’s okay; she teaches strong and authoritative, with sharp, gentle eyes that see a classroom well, and she kept talking. I’d rather you be overwhelmed now than be overwhelmed when Teacher is your official title, and you have a classroom with desks, and students to go with.

It’s better to be overwhelmed now, and learn as a result, than overwhelmed later, when the stakes are so much higher.

I was relieved to hear her words; I’ve been known to have moments wherein I marvel at my own audacity: Become a teacher? How could I possibly? I’ll never learn everything that I need to know in order to teach well. That’s Impossible. Becoming a teacher is already hard, overwhelming, stressful, and I’m not yet halfway through my studies. I’ll never make it.

But there’s a purpose to this occasionally-overwhelming load: we’re learning how to be teachers. And I made a chart of all my assignments for the rest of the semester, and there’s a touch of anxiety brewing inside, for things that aren’t due until April. But I know why we’re doing this, and reading chapters on developing lesson plans and discipline in the classroom, and teaching students with disabilities, sometimes is rather overwhelming. But how much better to be overwhelmed now than later.

And how exciting to become a teacher.


That Book

I took a Bible

from the church I grew up in

more than a year ago.

We were welcome to take one

and I kept it by accident,

because I already had one;

already had several, actually.

But I kept one and I took it home

and last year,

I read that whole book.

The pastor in Mexico started us all;

they handed out papers with

reading plans for the year

for two straight weeks.

I took one

and in January 2012,

I started to read.

I read in that paperback Bible.

I left Mexico for school,

and I kept reading.

Spring break arrived in a hurry,

and Kenya sun bright, 6am can’t sleep,

I read under my mosquito net.

School ended and summer took me to Michigan, home, and Mexico, again.

I read.

I had my wisdom teeth out, said hello and goodbye to friends old and new,

wrestled through changing my major, learning more about grace

and sovereignty

and His love for me,

and I kept on reading.

I didn’t start the year determined to read the Bible in a year,

but I did.

And I loved it.

With every chapter I read, every verse I discovered

that I’d never read before,

the God who authored the Bible, who authors my life,

grabbed my heart a little more.

I fell in love with that Book.

2012 ended, and there’s no chart to my reading this year,

but I hold that scrapped-up text in my hand,

and the history that winds through the pages

is real and true.

And the story there recorded

of what Christ did and continues to do,

is the story that I’m a part of.

Because God still works in hearts and lives

and His message to us,

is in the Bible;

in that sacred book

with the worn out cover

by my bed.


Puppy Chow

It started with Puppy Chow. I’m lying on my bed, toes cold tucked into fuzzy socks with penguin faces on them. I’m lying there with my feet on the pillow and my head by the desk, and I’m supposed to be reading a textbook on the Gospel of John, but right before I get to John 6:60, I’m suddenly thinking of Puppy Chow.

You know, Puppy Chow. Chex cereal covered in melted peanut butter and chocolate, with a thick coating of powdered sugar on top? That Puppy Chow.

I told The Roommate that I was craving Puppy Chow and she nodded and mhmmed and invariably it’s times I’m talking that are times she’s reading, and the direct inverse is also true. But that’s okay because remember, I’m supposed to be reading the Gospel of John. So Puppy Chow floats low on the swirl of my mind, and I finish the reading, but when the textbook’s back on the shelf, Puppy Chow’s back on my mind. It’s back and it’s making me happy because, conditioned response, do you know what Puppy Chow leads thoughts to?

To California.

Almost four years ago, the mother and the father have taken the littlest sister to Mexico to scope it all out; we hadn’t lived there yet. So Stevy and I, and the four-year-old Glendy, we stay a week with the grandparents, in sunny March California. The cousins are over, it’s a Saturday maybe, and my grandmother takes us up and down the grocery store aisles. We need cereal first, because the recipe’s printed on the back of the box. Glendy’s in the cart, jacket sleeves too long, she’s holding those chocolate chips tight, and we buy all the ingredients we need, and some extra things, too.

And the next day, while the youngest cousin, the girls’ nearest playmate-friend, chases Glendy around the miniature trampoline in that bright backyard; in the kitchen, we made Puppy Chow. Mia and I work together, and my grandma, she oversees, of course. I’m not sure where everything is, and she pulls powdered sugar from behind the spices and measuring cups from the drawer, and I’m secretly happy that she’s there. The family’s never had Puppy Chow before, and I’m proud to be the one to introduce them.

And this sister-cousin and I, we follow all the directions and we heat and we stir and we pour and we mix. And finally, finally, the chocolate mess is into a great, big, circle Tupperware and Chill in Freezer might as well have been Leave in Freezer Until Eternity Arrives. I’m not sure that patience was really my thing then. Or if it’s really my thing now, for that matter.

The next day we’re off to the aquarium. The Monterey Bay Aquarium, the most happiest museum I’ve set foot in my days, but we take that big Tupperware, frozen all through now. And at night, when we’re passing through yellow streetlights, and the aunt’s home with the dog is waiting at the end, we eat that Puppy Chow.

And that’s not the only time, either. Maybe three time’s a tradition, maybe it’s more, but there are measuring cups in the cabinet, and a giant blue Tupperware down below, and we’ve photocopied the recipe now, too. And I guess this could all be explained because three weeks and a day, the plane’s scheduled to touch down. And it’ll be California spring all over again, and the cousins and the aunts and the uncles and the grandparents will all be there. And maybe, too, we’ll make Puppy Chow.


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