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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what if we just did?

Hint: I’m reading Acts.

Acts like things you do. Actions. Movements. Speakings. It is not a passive thing.

I read about Apollos in Acts chapter 18 today. This guy’s special. He was from Alexandria in Egypt, and he knew almost nothing about Jesus.

So: ought not Paul to be remarking what an eager learner this fellow was, or how regularly he sought out teaching an instruction? Perhaps we should be reminded that this guy was always sitting in synagogues, at the feet of Paul, always listening and soaking things up. After all, he knew ONLY about John’s baptism of Jesus.

This is where God does his usual thing, which is an unusual thing. (God is not boring. Remember that. Your life maybe won’t shock you so much after.)

Apollos is known for teaching.

But –

No, you read it right. Teaching. Now, clearly there were some missing elements of his teaching, because Acquilla and Priscilla took him to their home and taught him all that he needed to know to more fully declare the beautiful gospel.

He started teaching way before that though. Can you imagine standing before a learned crowd that studied and memorized the scriptures from the time they were children, and explainng to them the ways of your Savior? Put yourself there: wrap your toga a smidge tighter so that when you gesture wildly in joy at the things God’s done, it doesn’t slip. And explain again how with a simple *dunk* John put Jesus under the water – so reluctant to baptize the Christ! – and when Jesus stood up with water dripping from his beard and off his nose and with his tunic stuck to him all wrinkly, like any human, the voice of His Father, God himself, opened heaven like soft praise and a Dove-Spirit descended down.

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Seriously, what if we did that? I know it’s scary. I know you won’t understand the Greek and Hebrew roots of scripture without deep and regular study. I know you won’t be able to contextualize every passage, understand the dual meanings of various prophesies, tear apart the insinuations of the beatitudes, etc.

Gosh, people. Does it take all that? Yes, it is beautiful and instructive and helpful and each of us should have a buddy in Bible School so that we learn better how to learn and what to learn. But does it take all that? Do you need to know each verse in order to tell people the offensive good news of the Gospel?

I don’t think so. Let me explain it differently.

Suppose I write a book. It’s a famous book. It’s the best selling book in the history of everness. That kind of famous. Now further suppose it is a life-changing book. So naturally, after I change your life, you want to help other people. (I happen to have an inflated view of my life. JK. It’s an example. Just keep reading.)

Naturally, in order to learn more about this life-changing-ness, you go to college:  you pick a school that writes books about my book and that teaches from my book and all the professors have read my book (most of them anyway.)

Or, you could phone me. Read my book, read it again, phone me again (I’m readily available. 867-5309… haaaaahahaha). Read it some more. Memorize a bit.

Really though. Do you think that the people God made – however Godly and wise and learned – can teach you more about his book than he can? But somehow, we take that arrogant view, I think. And not intentionally. But it can happen.

[This is a radical concept even to me. I kind of just discovered it as I wrote it. Somebody remind me to read this again in a while!]

You know, I have friends in Bible school and I highly commend them. For the longest time, I assumed they were better than me. They’re majoring in Biblical Studies and I’m in Literature. I majored in Literature because I love Literature. I questioned myself as to whether that was a bad thing. No, no I don’t think so. (Mostly that’s a discussion for another time.) But I tried to condone my choice by arguing that the disciples were loud, uncouth fishermen, and they understood the Gospel. If uneducated men working the “fall-back” career of the day could be disciples, couldn’t I? I get that my attitude wasn’t right about it. I felt guilty and I was trying to rationalize.

However. I think now that I found the correct answer in the incorrect way. If volatile, thunderous fishermen can be chosen ones; if self-saving wishy-washy Peter can be an agent of grace; if men who don’t understand what Jesus and the scriptures have been saying about his resurrection can be apostles; then by golly grace, so can I.

Below – Caribou Coffee asks: if you could talk to one historical character: who? Yes, you people. Yes.

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So let’s do it. Lets be out there and teach. Let’s explain the grace we do know instead of waiting for more. Let’s teach what we have and share what we’ve been given. We can receive more instruction and we should wholeheartedly seek it, but we should not let it stop us.

If all you know is the baptism, teach the baptism.

to April

You said you were ordinary.

You did not know how spectacular your ordinaryness is. I want to tell you.

This post is to every woman; every ordinary woman. Dear April – for you are an April to somebody, probably several somebodies, – please know that people mean this all to you, just like I mean it to April.

to April: You thought you were ordinary. You thought you were skiing and snowshoeing and enjoying jokes and laughing heartily and being blessed and enjoying a snippet of winter. And sure, you were. But for each little “Darlin'” and “Lamb” and for each time you sat down next to me, or let me come skiing or snowshoeing; for each time you laughed uproariously and snorted that special, ridiculous little snort; for each time you frowned over a pine cone and saved it for later, when you had a pencil – your ordinariness was what I needed.

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I don’t remember the first time you called me Lamb or Darlin’. It was probably the first time I addressed you (which took a while; I was shy.) But you meant it, that first time. You still do. You mean it when you talk with anybody. That, my Dear Ordinary April, is the kind of ordinary we crave.

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I don’t know how often you snowshoed up here, or how often you took people with and how often you wanted to go alone. (I get that, by the way.) I don’t know how often you wanted to share the wonder of the woods with one of your darlins, but I do know that I loved it. I could hear – each time you mentioned how the carnivorous plants worked down in their Black Spruce Bogs, or pointed out the Leatherleaf sticking steadfast and up all through winter – I could hear how much you cared.

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We tramped (you tramped and I tripped over the super-sized feet I wasn’t used to) through the bogs and over the ridges and up the trickling gullies and you asked all about Colorado and my school and the things you knew I cared about. That’s the kind of ordinary that speaks, Love. April I don’t know how often you’ve spoken in front of a crowd, because you got all shaky and your little tears made tears on the rest of our faces too, but I know that you miss it here, and yet you went. You crave your winter and you humbly walked into a vacillating summer. You love those familiar bog plants and spruces, those carnivorous little traps and the frozen places you can only walk on one season of the year. But you left, because you care more about God than winter, and more about His work than familiarity, and more about God’s people than your people.

Bless you, April. You’re a quiet kind of ordinary. I don’t see you on stages, and we don’t chat about your Bible education because you’re not enrolled in any seminary. But for all the deep lessons I learn from great, God-filled sermons, and for all the new exciting teachings I crave at the hands of those being formally educated in things I may never know – for all that, April, your ordinary has made me laugh as heartily; it has taught me much love and how to snort a little when I laugh; it has taught me to care about people, not how they dress, but also how to wear fun colors (admittedly, “Jim”, you take the cake with color.) Gosh – I barely chat with you. Even here we weren’t talking all the time. Mama’s your best bud – you Lucy and Ethel duo.

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You didn’t know all this, did you? You didn’t know how deep you reach with that monosyllabic “Lamb”; you didn’t know tripping through brush on the banks of Black Spruce Bogs was a love lesson greater than any professor could cover in a quiz; you didn’t know laughing that singular laugh was gonna tickle me happy like life can go on, even when I’m melting in a place I wouldn’t have chosen to be. That’s your ordinary, April. That’s you just doing your ordinary thing. And you know what makes it extraordinary and spectacular and beyond anything I’d learn from a sermon or a classroom or a book? I see that you are ordinary and I can recognize that you have been with Christ.

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Now – you other Aprils. Sweeties, all of you.

Stacy: Psh, we still barely chat. But you let me pull you aside at church one busy night and ask you all worried and confused how one ought to do mission trips. And you, sweet seasoned veteran, helped. You told me what I needed to know, and you reassured me. Thank you.

Michelle: Gosh – when you walked through the front door (how terribly cliché the beginning of that sentence sounds!) I just kind of went “She’s coming! Yay!” and I honestly couldn’t even remember your name. I think you’re a little crazy. Your laugh just gets out there and makes a joke better. Still, you know how to lean in and look someone in the eyes and give deep true advice. Plus there’s a bunch of other things – like the whole crazy we-love-camping thing – that make you an epic lady. Oh: I am a lit major, so read that word “epic” for all that it is worth.

Esther: Them sweatpants though! Thanks to you, I was a few degrees farther away from actually freezing the … off.

Roxanne: Never once did you bring up that job I irresponsibly missed and here I was kinda shamed the whole time – but we just gasped and shrieked between the polar plunge and the sauna; we competed in broomball and whooped sledding down that supah-sketch hill – you just being all gracious and forgiving and forgetting and me just being all grateful. Thanks, lady.

Lacey: Okay, how do some people just kind of know what I need? Cuz we just practiced a bit that first night and then we came down the stairs and I did that little awkward walk-fast-so-you-get-away-without-saying-goodbye thing (gotta love my awkward, eh?) and you just said “Gianna,” and I turned around, “Thanks for being so flexible.” and you hugged me, and that was darned amazing. Yup. Do I sound like a sap? Anyway.

So, April and all you Aprils, Yeah. You’re ordinary. I’m ordinary. But people need your ordinary.

*I* need it.

Thank you for sharing your ordinary.

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colorado; because yes

If ever you wanted the shortest version of where hereafter and when, there it is.

Just that. Peeps, I ain’t even exaggerating.

It started two years ago when my brother went to Colorado for a semester at Focus on the Family. Mum and I visited him for two days. (I don’t take long to decide if I love something.)

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Then last year it dawned on me that I was a senior. In college.

Crap. Aren’t seniors supposed to have like… a plan?

Huh.

So I took Colorado and this whole “plan” thing and stuck them together in a mental stew and let them simmer. Actually, I just sort of slept on it for nine months. Legit. Then September rolled around and I was all “Hey, I should move to Colorado for a few years.”wpid-2015-02-24-06.07.02-1.jpg.jpeg

So that’s what I’m doing. Moving to Colorado. Don’t know how long. Don’t know who I’ll meet. Heck, I only know three people in the whole of Colorado Springs, and one in Denver. But they have mountains there, so I’m sure that will tide me over until I make some friends.

I do hope you don’t think I’m joking. Really, I’m quite serious. I woked one morning, and I was tired of thinking and contemplating and sleeping on it and freaking out. So hey. Why not?

Which became: So chyeah!

I think I’m ready. I’m ready to take this world by the toes and shake it out, just to see what tumbles out of the pockets. I’m ready to get my feet wet cannonball into the oceanous world. I’m ready to be brave, and burn my fingers a little. I’m ready to shade my eyes at how bright the future could be (Haaaaahaha sorry) and I’m ready to engage the tough stuff of being all by my selfie. With, of course, the amazing support of my family and friends and blah blah because I gots ta say it but it sounds dreadfully cliche.

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So. Here’s to wet feet and happy days. Here’s to climbing mountains and being a tad too flippant. Here’s to meeting the new crazies and warmer winters and good coffee and new adventures and more. If you want to know what more, come to Colorado Springs and I’ll fill you in, nice ‘n’ tip-top full. Yep. But you might have to sleep on the floor. Kitchen floor. Or the bathtub. Because I promise I will be paying a tiny rent for a tiny place. I am only I, after all.

Oh: the questions you’re going to ask me.

No. It is not a boy. I image if I were moving somewhere for a boy, you’d have heard about him already.

Why Colorado? Because Colorado’s awesome. Duh. They have mountains there, I hear.

I’m not leaving tomorrow. Or today. (Gosh that’d be sweet.) Not til summer, actually. Yup yup.

Ummmz. If you haz more questions, jes’ ask!

coffee time

Ahghghghgh, he would say, and it would stick ever so slightly in his throat. It signaled the first satisfying sip of coffee in his morning. I love to hear it so much that when my uncle offered me a sip of the dark bitter liquid I would accept, even though my face wrinkled bitter every time. It happened many times. The loons would call out over the water unabashed by me – their breathless audience. The mist would disappear shyly when the sun smiled hello. My aunt would hand us washable plates while Uncle Loren shaped and scooped pancakes over the camp stove. And then coffee. While Auntie Londa did the dishes, Uncle Loren would sit on the tailgate of his truck, look me squarely in the eye and silently scald his tongue on rich, black coffee.

“Aghghghghghgh.”

I stared in awe. It must be magical – like Puff, the Magic Dragon he sang about.wpid-wp-1409085615547.jpeg

“Do you want to try a sip?” I could still hear the coffee on his gravelly, teasing voice.

“Isn’t it gross?”

“Best thing on earth.”

“Ok.” I’d burn my tongue for a day and my memory for year.

My first boss started me on cappuccino. “I don’t like the bitterness, but I need the caffeine,” she explained. “I don’t like coffee either,” I said, and we laughed confidentially at the world. I mixed cocoa in mine to take the awful taste out.

Meanwhile, latte-sweater-boots-campfire season set in. I took a test to avoid taking a college class, and I passed! I remember needing something warm, something wakey-wakey, something exciting-sounding, and something quick to celebrate with. Don’t ask me how a gas-station cappuccino fit the bill, but it was the sweetest drink of my life to date. They became a habit. Surely something else could be my rare reward, and gas-station cappuccino could be for work and weekends – the regular, happy times.

All y’all are laughing at me now.

Work and weekends? That leaves mornings, you say. Y’all are right. Mornings were the final step in the coffee-loving of Gianna.

It’s not a shocker to see me stagger into the kitchen looking a bit bleary. I imagine on this particular February morning I looked closer to dead than alive. (That’s bound to happen after fifty-some days of temperatures around negative twenty.) I looked wearily around the kitchen.

“I need coffee.”

“You don’t like coffee!” My brother and sister synthesized on this point.

“I’ll find a way. Today I need coffee.” I googled it. I made it. I made it taste good. I did it again the next morning.

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Now I like coffee. Iced. Hot. Mocha. I don’t like it black yet; I’m graduating in that direction.

Mmm. Coffee. Aghghghghghgh.

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upstairs and to the left

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It’s funny how far a few words go.

Or an action.

I remember this thing from so many years ago. I and my sibses had been making fun of our middle sister, because of her orthodontic headgear. Kind, weren’t we?

Mum decided we each ought to wear the stuff, which fitted around the outside of her face, for a whole day. A day, no less, which we should be out in public.

For a homeschooled child, that’s a big deal.

Grrr.

My turn came when we went to town for a field trip to learn about meteorology. During most of the class itself I forgot the atrocity my face displayed, but then at the end, when we crowded out into the entry way I was well aware. WELL aware. I didn’t want to exist.

I saw a little girl with stunning blonde braids. The ten-year-old heart of I was jealous, naturally. Why should she be gorgeous and not I? Then she smiled at me. Ugly face and headgear and shame and all, she smiled at me.

That was over a decade ago. I remember standing there ashamed and looking through the glass at this walking angel and she gave me the sweetest smile.

I figured out a thing, sometime after that.

Words are like that too. They can be this healing, reaching sap that pulls wounds together and binds up tears. Smiles can come in the mail and you can stamp and seal up joy. Belly laughs CAN be transcribed via text (but read said texts near the bathroom.) Those few syllables can break the silence into something so beautiful and lasting that long after you’ve forgotten, that girl you spoke love to is still grinning like you blew her a kiss.

I worded up these paint chips and almost sent them out a while ago. Then I decided they were silly. Then she came home for Christmas and I had promised her a letter so I gave ’em to her and told her not to laugh to hard, or something like that.

Now it’s been a year and she’s texting me on her lonely day and saying she’s reading them again.

Maybe my words make her smile, because hers sure make me smile. Darling, thank you. wpid-2015-01-24-07.06.58-1.jpg.jpeg

I know this thing about words is true. I got a letter from a gorgeous – and busy – lady over in Washington and it wasn’t just a letter, but a verse and some encouragement and happy. I pinned it up there on my bulletin board, next to another letter from another girl.

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And today I got another letter from another girl, and I just smiled. Her words were short and poignant and she just put them there on my heart with a gentle pat, and a twinklin’ eye.

Oh ladies. Your few and simple and precious words are more permanent than you know! I frame them in my mind’s eye and decorate mental rooms with them, and then some days I just go in there and toast my toes by the fire you’ve lit and remember I’m a Swogbabegirl and “I Are Enough” and Before I was born I was Set Apart. I take time to laugh about the little house in Viking where my room was “Upstairs and to the left” and the letter I found on my pillow there, and I bask in the happy of knowing somebody remembers the “32 million little things” I’ve done.

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Today is the day I decided I must keep stationery on hand. Today is when I figured that beautiful and extravagant purchase of cards would be worth it, because wouldn’t I pay that and hundreds more to see the smiles on the faces?

it rains. it pours.

It’s funny how happy the little things make me. Like pheasant tracks.

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Like a pair of socks. I have all kinds of identical work socks and there were three on the back of my chair and … unbeknownst to I … three on my bed.

The fact that there was an extra sock on my chair bothered me. I’m pretty meticulous about mating my socks. Why is this one single?! 

Then I find the three on the bed and suddenly life makes sense again and I don’t feel irritated and boom – I want to blog about it.

Hashtag yay socks exclamation point.

🙂

Sushi makes me happy too. And that little tiny brick-trail-crossed “Alley of Love” on right off of Demers in Grand Forks. Because modern sculptures of happy trees and heaven-bound herons and singing fish (they don’t sing, nor are they titled such. I named them singing fish because I needed an adjective for this post. Now, however, they shall be forever titled singing fish) and blue graffiti about rain – it’s all just happy making!

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Oh and this girl.

wpid-2015-01-08-07.47.02-1.jpg.jpegSo it was a breezy day and we pulled up our hoods and cowls and went speed-walking between those Singing Fish to find the Merry Christmas art on a community chalkboard before we scuttled back to the mostest hipster-est coffee shop I’ve ever seen.

Urban Stampede, I love you. That is all.

There’s sculptured cherry trees blossoming on the walls and textured October painted on canvases and people and places all captured and adorning the walls. The bathroom feels like a castle with stained glass walls (not as scary as it sounds.) The roof and the floor and the tables and chairs are all old and ready to fall in but they’re enjoying being a vivacious little coffee shop so much they won’t – not until the hipsters stop coming.

I shamelessly took a photo of a hipster behind M. He had the most quintessential comb over and boots and socks and scarf and all and oh my.

I haven’t brought myself to shamelessly post his photo on the blog. Instead, I give you a watertower with real swag. It winks.

wpid-2015-01-08-10.15.11-1.jpg.jpegM and I, we love this water tower. We heralded him too, driving by on that lovely little girls date.

So. Tell meh, pretty please. Why are you happy today?