year

I’m sitting at a coffee shop with my feet resting on a metal grated chair, ankles crossed, right heel acquiring the tiny pattern of the seat.

There’s a breeze as tiny as the metalwork of the chair and I feel it more on my warm, poised fingers than in my hair. (Strange.)

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I have a feeling in me to write something about having been here a year now, and I’m prepared to sound quite cliche but none of the things I’m thinking of are cliche except that nagging little phrase that, in place of actually being able to express all the things that have happened, prompts me to say “what a year!”

Yep. Sorry. Cliche happened.

In July I packed up my minuscule hatchback so full and heavy I lost all the distance between the wheel well and the tires. I took the rather violent hugs of my sisters and the enveloping hugs from Mom and the semi-stoic, choked words of Dad and the warning from my little brother not to hit any speed bumps with all that crap in my car, and I drove away.

I’ve admired things like sunsets and gravel roads and the faces of laughing passengers in my rear view mirror before but putting home in that mirror is a lot different and I kept a roll of toilet paper tucked in the center console above the parking brake, since I couldn’t find any kleenex.

In August I felt the call of God on my heart to really sink in, to dwell in this strange, beautiful new land with all the strange beautiful people whose names were hit-and-miss for a few weeks, and who all called me G because my name was hit-and-miss for a few weeks too.And I got a tattoo pulled straight out of Psalm 37:3, with lines that came out of my own fingers, and now if I ever stop listening to God’s staying voice, I have no excuse (but all of August was learning to live with the loneliness and stay through the awesome, and the heartache.)

September was a little cooler, finally, and I was getting all sunk into my small group so when we set up a table at church to introduce our group to the church, I was there, representing. I shook a lot o hands and smiled a lot of smiles but the one guy who came by was super tall (I watched him coming through the crowd, actually) and he doesn’t remember shaking my hand but I remember hoping he’d show up the next night at our study.

September was also when I hiked Pikes Peak and learned that the altitude is not always just a strange spirit on the high slopes but a bit of a rude jokester who’ll make you throw up if you hike too high, too fast. So I puked and grinned and I still hike but I do it more carefully, cuz you gotta appease the things that thrive on high, rocky places if you’re gonna go climbing around their neighborhoods.

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October was the sweetest, wildest month and work started going a little crazy but so did the colors and the city burned in a riot of leaves. Gold and orange washed down the mountains in a tidal wave of glory and the city swelled up in a fire of autumn that leapt and danced and faded and clung all the way into November. That tall fellow DID come to study that week, and the next week, and the week after that we got engrossed talking about books for an hour after the closing prayers, and I didn’t need much more than that to fuel a crush, but crushes come and go and so I settled into the pattern of our friendship with a happy soul.

November I had company. Bestie time – five full days of paid time off and did beautiful things. A road trip to an old mining town and coffee stops and book stores and church and then we had another coffee date but that one guy was there and we finally both kinda agreed, as I took her up to the airport, that he didn’t really like me that way, just friends.

Three days later he asked me on a date and she said to ignore everything she’d assumed about him not liking me and I went on a date and then by the end of November we’d been on two dates and sent a looooot of text messages.

December was an outside month because the crazy snow hadn’t started, and it wasn’t cold like Minnesota and I went for a long walk and had a deep conversation with that cute guy and when we got back we were officially a couple. I went home for Christmas and spent every waking moment with the people who’d been watching the horizon since I left. Mom watching for me, my brother watching for Mourning Doves, then upland game, then waterfowl, then deer. I think he glanced up when I came in the driveway too though. I learned the extroversion of being the outsider coming back to your hometown, and the necessary coffee dates and regrets and the way you spend every waking moment either with your mom, or making your mom jealous. And then she keeps you up for extra waking moments because she loves you, and promises to spend all her moments praying when you leave (which you do, and she does.)

January I flew home to CO and I landed and my boyfriend hugged me, and held my hand. The dusky mountains stood up and wrapped around us as we drove back, and all the gentle memories and feelings began to crowd warmly around me, and I felt ok, even if I was sad underneath.

But January didn’t stay ok. My sister’s heart and mind were hurting and she turned around her in desperation to find somebody safe, somebody who could keep her safe and I wanted to but none of us could heal her heart. We all began to turn to places of refuge. It was a month of confusion and survival, and learning to hurt together without hurting each other.

In February people warned me about the blizzards and the blizzards got bad, but (Minnesotans, you will understand me) the blizzards were warm compared to MN, and I got good tires and laughed at the furious, sparkling mountains. But I cried to myself in the nights, when the blizzards were safe and pretty and I had hot chocolate, because all of the good things around me could not make good the hard things that were biting into the hearts of my family.

All through March, the cute guy (named Grant) and I started realizing that we thought we were dating, but God thought we were getting married, and God usually thinks bigger (and more accurate) thoughts than we do, so we began to figure out whether we agreed with God on that particular point. It wasn’t a disagreeable thought by any means, but when God thinks big, it’s way big, and it took a while to adjust to.

April had it’s due showers, and my parents and my brothers poured right on down through South Dakota and Nebraska and spilled out on mattresses across the floor of my tiny room, and Grant got introduced on his nicest manners. Then the next weekend when they were gone, I hobbled to Grant’s place on a sore knee and discovered the surprise Bestie had been flown in to meet me and, sore knee or not, I jumped on her and we savored the whole weekend together.

Almost the whole weekend. There was a tiny part where Grant took us for a pretty drive and stopped in a field behind the mountain and he took me a little aside and she took a camera and he asked a question and I said yes, and there was some kissing then, and some laughter, and a lot of shaken-up, fizzy joy that we couldn’t keep inside. We celebrated by eating nachos for lunch and pizza for dinner and grinning non-stop and sighing with big memories and big plans.

May was chaotic. My mind was planning a wedding and my fingers were counting cash and resetting online banking passwords and my heart was missing my sisters (because sisters should be able to plan weddings together) and loving this man who wanted to have me forever. And all that time I was hunting for the joy I figured I should know how to feel, or create, or something. But I couldn’t feel or create it, and the something remained a mystery and May passed in that kind of a blur. I got a trip home in there, and it was lovely – a little island of blurry happiness book-ended with long stretches in the car.

June brought summer and I began to officially count down the days interfering between me and my wedding. I flew to a humid city and celebrated the wedding of Grant’s – heck, my! – sister, and met the sweet extended clan that I’m marrying into. And June stretched on, hot, and poured warm and sticky into July.

It’s July again. The same month where I learned the tragedy of putting things in rear-view mirrors, and saying hard goodbyes, and not going over speed bumps with a car so fully loaded.

July. Not yet the wedding-bell August, not quite the month of severing, but not quite the celebration I’d thought it might be this year either.

I thought maybe in July I’d have a mental party with pine-cone confetti to commemorate the day I’d moved to this spectacular place, and to nod towards all the home-people I keep dear.

But it isn’t like that. It hasn’t been the year of slow establishment and flourishing that I saw it could be, and it hasn’t been the year of rapid growth and huge friend circles that I expected (and set to work on, back in August, 2015.) It’s been one hell of a ride. Sometimes when I think about it, I want to curl up and give in to all the feelings that have wrung me over the past twelve months.

But today, this week, I’m better. I’m laughing more, and reading more, and writing and dreaming and planning things, and feeling the random squeeze of a smile on my face nearly all the time.

*And that is where that blog post ended. Apparently the business of life and wedding planning dumped my blogging aspirations down the drain for a few weeks, because I discovered these pretty little words languishing in the draft folder of my site.

So there ya go – a month late but an update, none the less!

 

sky

It was the sort of promisey thing you want to see on a Friday, when you’re already happy but it’s an eight-hours-away sort of happy, and you’re looking forward.

Only I was sitting in my car, looking skyward and not forward and I noticed all the sky-roads crossing and crossing again. Straight-laced clouds tied one end of the horizon to the other, zigzagging like lost roads going where they please and having a jolly good time of it, thank you.

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Something about that great wide blue and its constantly recurring and fading street lines enchants me. I drive distracted by divine stitches pulling the arched heavens together with smoke. Hundreds and hundreds of people went online and researched prices and sighed or sobbed or squealed and clicked “purchase” and then waited in line and proved to a tired uniformed officer that they were who they said they were;

*beep*

“Next.”

And then pilots did the things with the knobs and lifted that crazy tricycle busload of people and luggage and sighs and dreams into the air and now all I can see of those myriads of stories is a fading streak of puffed out white tail in the morning.

Somehow all those flights happened last night, all zoomed up over my city leaving hot, shimmery air behind them, all leapt into the jagged horizon while tell-tale heat waves bloomed into footprint clouds. Then somehow the sun climbed the sky like magic and hid the stars in gold and those clouds came out of night and like thick waves of happiness, lapped up on top of each other.

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Do I envy them, these free cloud-ropes swaying gently in the wild day-blue above the mountains? They have space. Soul-space like what I need at the end of a day. Eye-space like prairies, the home-kind that I need after too many mountains and too long of lonely. Heart-space wide enough to hurt and heal without breaking, to fall apart and pick up slowly, without losing all the pieces in the shuffle.

Do I though? Would I be up there, if I could? Would I live in the open jewel of heaven wrapped around this dizzy globe without touching it?

Because sometimes I have those sky-things anyway.

Sometimes I find those sky-things down here, in strange, tiny, beautiful spaces. Sometimes that soul-space fits soft and savory into my one room, and sometimes eye-space comes when I feel the sunshine through my eyelids on a Saturday morning. Sometimes that healing heart-space fits into the warm gap between my palm and his, when my small fingers are knitted with his large ones; and maybe those gentle hugs are the ones that keep the pieces of me together when I fall apart.

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[sometimes I wonder how I think of these things]

[and then sometimes I want to twist those jet tail clouds around my fingers and play cat’s cradle in the sky]

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could be

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There is a jet dragging a sun-dyed crimson tail across the sky. That gold fire is behind the mountains but the jet is up, up and the sun reaches up when it can’t reach across anymore, and I want to be doing that.

I want to be in there, that jet

but I also want to be here, on the ground

I am tired

I could be leaving bright banners between the horizons

and I still want to be here, resting.

pine cone

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I went for a walk, on the road, in winter

the road was white, and snow –

covered, in snow clumps

crumbling.

there was a pine cone, flattened

bottom up,

top down

driven over

squished into the ground.

I have been that pine cone.

Sledding, (more snow) and clumps, crumbling

and bumps, tumbling

bottoms up tops down, sled

riding me the rest of the way down

until my face became brakes, red cheek on white

ground.

I have been that pine cone, riding my horse

I was afraid of the rabbit, for him

he was afraid for him too, but

he did the jumping

bumping me

and I did the falling, sliding, bottoms

up, and tops

down, white face on

green ground.

I have been that pine cone, planted in safe ground

scooped up, dumped down

the bottoms of life tipped

up, set away high beyond mountains, and

the tops tied down, there

red dust on red cheeks, spitting out

brushing off

new ground

careful not to touch

red bruises

              (or green cactuses)

              (or pale yuccas)

              (or homesick memories)

But then I saw

bottoms up

this ground – this red dirt under fingertips

was living, and

tops down,

I saw the sky, a cup

of sunshine, poured top-down

to bring the bottom things up
even pine cones.

the staying; the going; the ink

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I wrote lately. I wrote about staying, and I wrote about going.

I wrote that I had learned to stay and now I am learning to go.

I don’t think that’s exactly correct anymore.

I thought this, before. I thought that the last three years were to teach me to stay. Live. Dwell. Befriend faithfulness, Psalm 37 says. Dwell in the land, and befriend faithfulness. I did all that. I was faithful and dwelt contentedly where God had placed me. The last nine months I had focused on going. I thought it was a new lesson. Like a puppy.

Lesson 1: Stay.

Lesson 2: Go.

No. Lesson one is THE lesson.

Go is really great. Go makes packing fun – like a jam session with besties. I wore my girls out packing things into boxes and boxes into my car and I wore me out with putting my car on the road and my home and family into the rearview mirror.

Go carried me all week.

Great, right?

A whole… week.

Yes.

That’s really not very far. After a week I was in Colorado Springs.

“Welcome home,” Anni texted me. “Welcome home,” Tiffany and Elena and Hannah and Afton wrote in their sweet letters.

I hesitated before I said it out loud myself. I would leave work and think “Now I am going… going back to… “

There are several awkward endings to that. “To the house I rent.” “To my bedroom in the basement.” “To the north end of town.” So welcoming, eh?

(Fine. You know what, Coloradans? I do say “Eh” and it’s awesome.)

Then I breathed. Slowly and deeply on low-oxygen air that still burns Minnesota lungs and I said IT. Going home. I’m going home from work. Home from church. Home from Bible Study. Home from hiking on whichever of all the mountains I’ve been scrambling about on.

Home.

Yes.

Home.

I don’t think Go was ever meant to last.

A few times I have caught myself thinking that I am on vacation. I saw a photo by my M’s dad on facebook and the first thing in my mind was “When I get home, I really want to see M right away! … Oh.”

Each time something small like happens I feel a still small voice.

You’re going to think this is like, scripture if I write it like that. Of course I don’t know the future. But I understand the underlying message of this still, small voice.

Stay.

I argue it a little bit in a half-hearted way. (No sane person really argues with staying in the mountains. Okay? Okay.)

But God, my old friends aren’t here. God do you know how deep 13 years of community are? Thief River is my Tribe. Yes, God, that was a capital T.

And I feel it a little deeper.

Stay.

I got it tonight. I think I got it. Part of it. Some small shining nugget that I’ll hold onto until, again, I need to go. 

I am here to stay. To dwell. This is not an experiment. This is not a semester. I am not here to dip my toes in the water, to roll another sip around on my tongue, to analyze the difficulty of the trail. No. I came, and God makes it more clear daily that I came to stay.

It sounds so permanent. It isn’t. I don’t have the foggiest clue when I’ll leave. (Most likely not this month. Anyway.) But until then, I am called to stay. Until then, I am called to dwell: I am called to befriend faithfulness.

How am I staying if I am holding on too tightly to those friendships that have nurtured and challenged me and made me better at ultimate frisbee? How am I staying if I chill listlessly in my comfy chair and wonder how Bible Study is going back home on Tuesdays?

No. Staying is staying fully, and dwelling here, and befriending faithfulness to new friends, new communities, a new church and a new home. A new job. New backyard and new friends. New ideas. New activities and new habits.

That.

That is staying.  

Those last three years are like any chapter in any book. It is closed and ended, but the characters have not gone away completely. The lessons your little protagonist learned will be used and flopped around and forgotten and relearned and worn out and comfortable in the chapters to come. The old has gone and the new has come and they are underscored with the same theme – the staying and the serving God in the everyday – everyday happens everywhere, to everyone. There is no Go farther than everyday.

And so?

I will stay. Dwell.

“Will you ever get a tattoo?” Kiara asked. Her question was nearly as out of the blue as it pops to you in the post. 

“Probably not,” I shrugged.

“But what would it be, if you did?”

“The word Dwell,” I replied.

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An Inception-like idea sprouted. I started to unintentionally recall scores of scriptures that mention dwelling or staying.

John 15: “Abide in me, and I in you.” Abide. Dwell. Remain. Make this place, this community with Christ, your home.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous: do not be afraid, do not be discouraged. The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Wherever you go. With you. Abiding, dwelling, staying beside. God dwells with me.

So I scheduled an appointment. I did a little trail run with a marker on my wrist, and liked it. (Dear Sharpie: Thank you.) No, actually. Not trail run. Trial run. (Mountains got me like: Everything is Hike. My bad.) Mountain-girl mentality aside…

Then one night, before getting tatted, I read Psalms. I read Psalm 37 to remember my lesson and my goal and to smile a little, with God, about our staying. And I read Psalm 42 and Psalm 19 just to get all the favorites, and then I read Psalm 23.

“I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

*deep exhale

Yes. Ooooh so much yes.

I went into that parlor with a gorgeous bestie and a full heart and came out giddy and bandaged and determined not to almost run any red lights by accident, like I did 4-ish times on the way there. I came out biting my lip because it stings when you get your wrist poked with needles and grateful for M’s hand to hold when it hurt to hard and silly-happy about this whole ink thing.

And I came out determined to learn again and keep learning to dwell, to dwell with God as he dwells with me, and to strive for that eternal dwelling.

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life is great, and stuff: or, why being happy hurts so hard

To the Coloradans who wonder how I write and what about: Sample below.

To everybody I knew before Colorado who wonders how I’m doing: Explanation below.

I only barely know why I’m compelled to share this. Don’t think it’s too perfect. Maybe I need to remember myself; others feel this, too.

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It’s a social media thing. We want to look perfect. But is it really that? Sure. We run into those people who are stuck on how lovely they look on their media and all. But some of us are just trying to remind ourselves how beautiful it is – because underneath it hurts – hard.

I take all sorts and kinds of photos and I sort them, cull them, edit them, post them, attach pretty words to them, and make them into something like art.

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wpid-2015-07-25-02.11.05-1.jpg.jpegIt’s not bragging.

It’s clinging.

I’m not proving to you that Colorado has a trump-card view, or that my solitary hikes are peaceful, pensive plunges into wilderness. I’m not showing you that I’m braver, I meet more genuine people, I have a cooler church and a sweeter coffee mug (actually, this is true. Tiffany and I have the coolest coffee mugs.)

wpid-2015-07-25-02.20.10-1.jpg.jpegwpid-2015-07-23-03.28.11-1.jpg.jpegwpid-2015-07-25-02.17.07-1.jpg.jpegI’m holding on to those things. I need to know that the people I meet here are genuine because it helps the ache of missing my homies. I need to know that the mountains are as beautiful as the plains – that they can be home too: sweating and straining towards some summit combats the pain of not staring across the lakebed of my state towards the sunset for hours, in a single evening.

I always look for beautiful things. Now though, more than before, I document them because I need to see them again and again – I need to look at the provision of the past to see the potential of tomorrow. It’s a choice, some days. Cling like hard and smothery to this present beauty and its Giver, or give up and wear out the roll of tp I keep by my reading chair, in case of runny nose and eyes. (I’m too cheap/lazy/happy to buy Kleenex.)

wpid-2015-07-25-02.21.44-1.jpg.jpegwpid-2015-07-24-09.20.14-1.jpg.jpegDon’t look at things I say and photograph with a jealous eye (idk – do you?) But then don’t look at anybody’s profile life like that. It’s never easy. The leaving, the severing, the growing, the newness and immersion and the quiet (lonely) nights at home, or the energetic, bright (numb) nights away?

These. Things. Hurt.

We all crave that peace and that excitement and that rare moment on our camera and those fresh words we find. There is a funny dichotomy between the perfection we hope we can grasp at – even for a moment – and the hurts we are trying to cover – even for a moment. It’s there in every sentence. Every photo. Every text. Every smile, every tear, every of just about anything we do.

wpid-2015-07-26-06.14.19-1.jpg.jpegSo, all ya’ll. Thanks for sharing a bit of my life. Thanks for being excited about it. Thanks for letting me share and be excited about your life. Let’s us keep clinging to and remembering and sharing lovely things, yeah?

night flying

I love the soft suspension as air breathes up under us and we float across the sky, cloudlike.

Darkness ebbs and flows like thick ink: black and sleepy, and lazy enough to let the moon through when she’s peeking. We pull our own magic strings like a dancing puppet; touching the pavement and twisting back up, a waltz with the runway lights and the stars.

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