Goodbye Journal

I just keep coming back to journaling as important for you. She says it almost apologetically, the tone earnest in its simple suggestion.

I nod then, my eyes sliding away from her, landing on the window to my right, set high in the exterior wall.

For a moment, several long, quiet seconds, I watch the crane in the construction zone across the street swing faintly in the December wind. I nod again, barely, as I consider what I might say next, where my thoughts, my emotions, my body might lead to next.

And there is something next. Maybe she speaks first, maybe I do- filling that warm, gently space with truth and value.

And the minutes move by, and later, soon, an hour has passed and I stand to leave, thank her, say goodbye.

And weeks pass, and I have other meetings, other times spent sitting on that white couch on the third floor.

But today, last night, I’ve heard those words in my head, in my heart, once more.

Journal. It’s important for you. Journal.

And that little book, the same one that I opened on January 1st, the same one that’s become fat with notes taped in, stickers and momentos affixed to its back; that notebook rides in my bookbag every day.

And in a quiet moment in class, after chapel, sitting along the second floor window outside the coffee shop, I pull out that book.

And I write.

I journal.

Moments of beauty. Things I glimpsed that I dare not forget.

Thoughts. Prayers.

Words shared with me, words overheard, words claimed from the texts I pour over every week for school.

All of this- and more besides- I write in that book.

And there are many things about the next week that weight heavily upon me. Goodbyes. Transitions. The end of a three-year-long part of my life, a part that I will never forget.

Yet with all of these things, with all the movement and the wind and the trailing, racing, wondering unraveling of my normal, I have that book in my bag, and a pen besides, and I’m writing, writing, writing.

And just like she said, all those days ago, it is important.

It is valuable and honest and real

and it’s helping me say goodbye,

or at least, see you later.

~Natalia

One by One

It’s been rather a long while since I came here to write. This is mostly due to the fact that I went to WOW Camp, Guatemala, and California in nearly consecutive weeks, leaving me not only with limited time in which to write, but also too few moments to think about all the many things that I could write about, tell you about.

I sometimes come to a quiet moment, a time that seems made for writing, a time when I pull my computer onto my lap and open the WordPress page. But I don’t go farther than that, often, because I can’t remember what I told you about WOW Camp, and I know we’ve barely spoken about Guatemala, and then there was California, and I’m not even sure what was important, what I loved, what I want to tell you, about each of those unique sets of seven days.

Seven days WOW.

Seven days Guatemala.

Seven days California.

Twenty-one days with hours and hours inside each day; hours to live and breathe and see and work and learn and grow and wonder.

And I’ve no idea what to tell you.

I’d like to know. I’d like to know what was important, what I’ll return to again and again; what I’ll come back to these pages to read over once more.

But I don’t. Yet.

That takes reflection, I suppose. Time to sit and think, scribble notes in the notebook of life and thoughts and dreams and prayers that I’ve carried to each place, tucked in my backpack, yet not opened.

And maybe, after this week of second grade Vacation Bible School, after another seven days in Michigan, I’ll have the stories and the pictures and the words will take shape in this WordPress box, forming the shapes and the grooves, the bumps and the corners of the days I’ve lived.

Maybe, after yet more days, I’ll shake the dice of all these trips, roll all the days and the words and the scene out before me, and they’ll come out arranged, aligned, in order; a large straight.

Or maybe they won’t.

Stories might appear one by one, disordered, jumbled together yet clear in their own. And I’ll consider them, carry them around with me like the pennies I keep in my coat pocket. I’ll turn them over and over in my hands, weigh them, think about them.

And piece by piece, I’ll write them here. For me, and for you.

~Natalia

The Moments Before

It’s the moments before I write that I’m most introspective. Sitting on my bed at school, propped against one of the five pillows that line my bed; at home leaning sideways on the little couch, bare feet crossed, sticking slightly to the cool brown leather seat. The computer on my lap has long passed six years old- roughly 147 in laptop years- and its fan whirs, providing a long hum of background sound to the music I’m flipping through on Spotify.

Often, it’s Facebook, gmail, blog reading pages that occupy my mind before I begin to write. Eyes flicking across the white screen. Maybe I think about a lot during these internet perusing moments, as my mind mirrors my eyes, wandering across messages, pages, pictures, notifications, communication. Maybe I think, but I don’t pause, don’t consider, and often, it’s not until I open WordPress, watch the blinking line wait patiently, rhythmically, for me to type, that I truly begin to think.

I begin to wonder what I’ll write, then.

There are stories, of course. You’ve heard me say that before. On evenings when this space is quiet, and there are no new words, it’s hardly the result of lack of stories. Occasionally, I come to this WordPress square and watch the mouse blink across my screen, only to leave WordPress without having shared with you one word.

But on nights like tonight, in the quiet after email, I sit, rewind my mind to what has happened, what I’ve thought, what I am thinking now; what I’m doing and saying and choosing and anticipating. And the thoughts are so many and so varied, and the stories jumble upon one another, creating a cascade of memory, emotion, introspection and wonder, and I simply cannot choose what I will write.

Because there is Mar on the other end of a texting thread that stretches back now three years, a freshman friendship that bent and stretched, and came near breaking a time or two, but we’re nearly a month past her graduation, past hugs on the stone staircase of the Moody Church, and we swap words like treats, sneaking morsels of conversation between work, meals, bedtimes that misalign by almost three hours. And some nights, like Monday, we splurge on these emoji-peppered texts, and we text fast, lengthy, deep, and the conversation topics spin and fly, alternating and returning like some wired game of tennis with seven balls in place of one.

And there is work, standing pool-side with three others, gaggle of miniature athletes gazing up- and all too often around, past, above us- as we direct them. We mix instruction with input and a healthy dose of the personal relationships we’ve built this practice upon: jokes with little swimmers, high fives that send water droplets dancing, landing fat, cold, on my forehead, my neck, my eyelashes.

And there is memory, a multi-volume series of conversations, ideas, moments, that I’ve stored, willingly, or that have stored themselves as I look on, shrugging in veiled agreement as what I’ve seen, heard, said, considered, becomes that which I will never forget.

And so writing goes.

Sometimes there is much to say, yet little time.

Sometimes there is barely anything to say at all,

and I’m left thinking, wondering, wracking my memory for

what I’ll share next.

And some nights, like tonight, I’m a thousand places at once,

with the stories and the moments and the lessons

of the past weeks boiling, beginning to bubble inside my head, my heart,

and I just cannot decide what I’ll write about next.

~Natalia

There are Stories

There are stories of Saturday’s nearly four hours spent driving in the snow, dull wipers scraping ice chucks back and forth across the windshield as the snow swirled white and heavy in the headlights.

Stories of a home in the snow, board games and thirteen of my classmates scattered throughout living room, dining room. Heads together, strategizing. Exclaiming over lost points and lessons learned and forgotten and an exceptional roll of the dice.

Stories of the little girl of the house; professor’s daughter, two years old. She sits on my lap, smells of shampoo and fruit juice, and her wispy black hair tickles my cheek. Around the card table, we’re playing Time Line and I’ve guessed a date wrong, hand her the discarded date. She wraps tiny fingers around the card, tells me it’s hers, and it feels like Lala, Jaid, sitting there with me, sippy cup in one hand, playing card in the other.

There are many stories, all kinds of stories; you’ve got them and I’ve got them. Pay attention and everything is a story, really. Maybe a story you share, typing words onto a WordPress square, or a Facebook post, or a memoir. Maybe a story you treasure, flipping open journal- little book- pages, writing tiny, scrawled script in the moments that are free, the moments that can be spent remembering, uninterrupted. And some stories to move past, to leave behind, to heal from, learn from, grow strong from.

There’s a place for every story.

And tonight, for you, there are lines of stories of a Saturday in that warm old house in the snow, three days ago and yet moments woven into a day- a day of stories- that I’m still relishing.

~Natalia

Chapel Hour Haikus

Taking chapel notes,
big letters, Scripture verses
and poems on this page.

These Tuesday mornings,
sitting all on red velvet,
Nyquist wears a suit.

Thinking about summer,
sidewalk chalk and sand castles,
every year better.

It’s Taco Tuesday
but they have changed the menu,
I really don’t mind.

There’s two pianos
and one huge organ, as well;
we live, breathe, music.

I might make a list,
things I know I need to do,
I need more paper.

Di watches my page,
leaning over to see, smiling,
these poems amuse us.

Coming down the stairs
professor who prays so strong,
he asks how I am.

One haiku a day,
what what I be thinking of
if I lived in poems?

~Natalia

p.s. For more haikus, as well as a glimpse of my life during the summer, check out the This is Summer series.

We Keep Living

Look back and you’ll notice it.

My posts, the pictures and words that I share with you, are less frequent now.

What was every day, maybe a skipped day once a week, is now every other day, maybe even longer.

I’m blogging less this year.

Part of this was intentional. January 1st, 2nd, I thought about choices and priorities and doing things and doing things well, and I decided to write for you less.

Less, but well.

This space has always been an outlet, an opportunity, for me to share what I’m thinking about, learning, living.

I’ve spent many, many late nights sitting on my bed, at my desk, on the flattened carpet in the hallway, writing.

I’ve told you about friends,

and about classes.

I’ve written about work,

and recounted story after story of my beloved family.

I’ve told you about fear and faithfulness and grace and my own inability, insufficiency.

That’s not going to change; I’m still experiencing and thinking and learning and writing, and you’ll still see that here, find me here.

But I’m also living.

I’m living the heaviest class load I’ve ever had, and the classes and the reading and the homework and the papers are written there, boxes on a full calendar, waiting for a check mark, waiting for completion.

But I’m also living friendships with hearts inside this school, and outside of it as well.

I’m living high school youth group time and relationships and Snapchats on Friday morning because they have a free period and I’m just reading.

I’m living family visits on the weekend, texting the Mother the days in between, little sister stories and inside jokes and the Father texting late when her phone’s left unattended.

I’m living work and little swimmer conversations and Jo-baby just turned 7, she wrapped her little arms around my waist last night, told me I was her favoritest coach.

And there’s a million other things I’m living; just like the life and the moving and the story that you’re living, that we’re all living.

And I’ll keep writing and I’ll keep telling, because I love this time and I love this space, and these lessons I want to remember and these moments I want to record.

But sometimes, the living will outweigh the writing and days will pass, and there will be no stories in that time, no new words on this space, then.

And when that happens, you and I, we’ll both keep moving and keep living, because there’s so many things to do, but there’s also a God who is so sovereign and who gives so much joy,

and for that, we just keep living.

~Natalia

Because I Love It

I love writing. She says, sitting there in that dorm room. They’re fourteen strong, returning students, new students mixed, and I’ve come mostly for the popcorn, the Oreos, but they’re talking about themselves, getting to know each other, and I stay where I am, there in the doorway.

They go around the circle, playing an introduction game, and I listen, absently pick the half-popped kernels out of the salty popcorn bowl. They’re sweet girls, all of them, but I’m distracted by those first words, that self-proclaimed love of writing, and soon, introductions are over, and I grab another Oreo, slip out the door, down the hall.

I write, I know. You know that, too. You experience my writing, most days. I’ve written more than the words found here, too. On slips of paper and in the backs of notebooks and on lists and in journals, books, my Bible. Of course I write. But she’s said she loves it, and I’m suddenly wondering if I do, too.

Certainly I do, some might say. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it.

But maybe I would. Maybe I would still write. Not as a demonstration, an outpouring, of my passion for recording and memorializing, but as an obligation, as a task, as a check-mark I’ll not receive, an imaginary mark of honor that I’ll pass up, should I not compose those words, mark down those letters. Maybe I don’t love writing at all. Maybe it’s an assignment I’ve inflicted upon myself, a pen-and-paper, blog-typing burden that I’ve not yet escaped.

But I don’t think that’s the case.

I look forward to writing. I think about writing throughout the day, mentally- subconsciously, almost- taking note of images, ideas, questions, conversations, memories, stories that I want to preserve, record, explore through writing.

I understand myself through writing. It’s true that many of the ideas and lessons that I tell you about here are things that I’ve talked through, thought through, lived through with those around me, but not everything. Some of the words and memories that I write here for you have never before slipped out of my heart, my mind, my eyes, and into written form. And in that writing- sometimes there in the moment, and sometimes later, in the rereading- there is understanding, too.

I talk to myself through writing. Maybe that sounds odd, maybe even egocentric. But it’s not; it’s a confession. You might have already figured this out, of course, but I fall desperately short of having all the answers. In fact, I barely have any of the answers. I don’t know what God has planned for me, or for anyone else. I don’t understand why most things occur the way that they do, and yes, that was me you heard stomping around Mary’s room, yelling about every way that things would be different, if I had my wish.

I most certainly am not in control of this life.

But I know who is. And when I write about a God who is sovereign, or a Lord who is love, or a life that is confusing and that hurts and that I sometimes wish would just freeze so that I could get a grip on things before they all change again, I am talking to myself. I am reminding myself of the way in which life spins so fast, and yet so under His reign. I am leaving memorials of His faithfulness and His mercy and His grace, because I know at some point, probably sooner than later, I’ll forget and I’ll fall and I’ll fight. And I want to be able to come back and see the truth, and be reminded.

So I write. Because I look forward to it. Because through writing I understand myself, understand the world, understand the lessons I’m learning, better. Because I’m speaking to myself, reminding myself of what is good and what is right and what is true.

But most of all, I write because I love it.

~Natalia

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