Into the Storm

Here’s a piece I wrote last week on my way to work. Enjoy!

A storm is coming. I can see the clouds in the distance. Dark, ominous, full of rain to be let out on the earth at just the right moment. I can feel the weight of it. The humidity is almost unbearable to a temperate climate girl like me.

I climb in my car, start the engine and pull out of the apartment complex. I don’t need to be reminded that I’m going to work. I’m already too aware. I wish I didn’t have to go, that I could, instead, work in the day, like a normal human being and spend the evening cuddling with my love and getting other things done, instead of pouring water for customers eating a seven course meal when I haven’t had dinner.

I roll down the windows, letting my nose take in the smells. Over the fast food smell, the consumeristic, corn smell of McDonalds and Burgerville, I can smell it.

Rain.

The storm is brewing.

For the first time in months, I smell rain. That beautiful, wet, earth-made-new, smell. It unleashes a wealth of memories, of thoughts and feelings. I always feel happiest during two times: when I’m with the people I love the most and when it rains.

I love rain.

There’s the typical cliché things: it’s cleanses, it refreshes, without rain we wouldn’t have the beautiful greenery of the Pacific Northwest.

People write all sorts of allusions to the weather. Some talk about the first day of spring as a reminder of rebirth, as a token that says winter will soon be over. Some speak of hard times of life as compared to rainstorms or to the middle of winter.

I think of rain as something that rebirths.

Last October, I knew when it would rain. I sat on the porch of the house I shared with twelve other girls, and waited. I could feel it. I could smell it. My whole body was primed and ready, anxious to hear it, feel it, dance in it, chomping at the bit, oozing impatience for my long-anticipated rain.

And there it was. The smell gave way to the clouds unleashing the first few precious drops of rain. I ran out into the road, dancing down the street as the summer stores made rivers in the gutters and lakes in the rose beds.  I got muddy, soaking wet and goosebumpy all over. And I loved it.

I went back inside, made a cup of tea and sat and watched the rain. I could watch rain forever. One night at work a few months ago, I was so captivated by the rain that my coworkers had to constantly remind me that we were in fact working. They laughed behind their hands at my fascination, but if only they knew what rain means.

Rain means a chance to start over. Rain signifies autumn, the season of hunkering down and preparing for life’s future. The season of taking everything as beauty, even decay and death, and loving it all the same.

Rain. Tonight it might rain. I can see the clouds in the distance. Full, heavy, carrying the weight of rain kept in its cage for far too long. It wouldn’t be good for our customers tonight, but it would certainly be good for me.

Good for my soul. It would be good for my soul to see a storm. To see a reflection of the stirring within me on something so simple as the changing of the seasons. Maybe that would make the circumstances seem somewhere closer to the realm of reason. Maybe my frustrations with my job, my fears of my future, my despair at losing the love of my life, and my loss of purpose might somehow be seen in the storm.

Because normally, after a summer storm, one sees a rainbow. There is always good after a storm. Some beautiful combination of sunlight and water makes the perfect circle of light, a sight to see, a promise to be faithful, a bold declaration.

To see a promise during my job (that can often be the brain child of Satan’s lover) would be a true miracle indeed.

I step out of my car.

I step into the storm.

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Cravings for Autumn

It’s been HOT guys. For a girl raised in Washington and Oregon, where the temperatures rarely every see above 90, this has been one toasty summer. I’m not a warm-weather bird. I’d much prefer it to be colder. I enjoy cuddling and snuggling and cozying and this heat is just not cutting it.

Which is why I’ve been having major intense cravings for autumn. My favorite season is almost here…I can feel it.

I am on of those people who LOVES that period of the year from October to December. The weather, the holidays, the food, the drinks, the RAIN. I love it. And it is SO CLOSE.

It makes me think of school, and projects, and late fall coffee dates spent walking through lines of trees turned gold from the changing seasons.

And then I think of school again. And I realize that I’m not going back this fall. For the first time in my life, autumn will be rung in in an entirely different way. No more back-to-school rush to get notebooks or pencils, no more syllabi days (which were always my favorite because my Type A personality loves a schedule), no more buzz about new classes and new teachers and how much work we’re going to have to do all semester.

Instead, my fall will be rung in with work. More work. The same old, same old, that has been my rhythm for the whole summer, will continue on through the fall. My schedule will stay the same, my days will rise and fall as they have the past three months. Nothing new.

Except for autumn. Except for trees changing from green to gold, for 90 degree temperatures to return to a more comfortable 50-60. Except for shorts and dresses being exchanged for boots, sweaters and scarves and for iced tea being traded in for warm apple cider, or hot tea with lots of milk and sugar.

I can’t even wait.

Love that Makes You Think

I’ve been pondering love recently, for obvious reasons. Not oh-my-gosh-I-love-chocolate kind of love. Real love. Love that makes you think.

I recently found this post on 60 Tiny Love Stories. Love is always something that I’ve either wanted more than anything else in the world or could care less as to whether or not it happens to me. I’ve hated love a few times in my life as well. Isn’t that what they say: hate isn’t the opposite of love, apathy is? I guess I’ve filled the gamut.

And it used to startle me when I saw love that is too good to be true. When an elderly couple still has it going on even after 40 years of marriage. When my newly married friends are working on their relationship more than some of the other relationships that I’ve seen for years.

And now that I’m in a relationship of my own, love has been on my mind a good deal. Stephen is starting seminary on August 18. Which means we now see when we have to end our relationship. Whether temporarily or permanently, we still aren’t completely sure, but either way it has to end.

And that breaks my heart. It renders me paralyzed by fear and loss and I can’t imagine my life without him in it.

But then I’m reminded of how much we love each other. And possibly the biggest lesson I’ve learned in this relationship is that love is not defined by circumstance. Loving someone isn’t only allowed in relationships where your status with that person is clearly defined.

If Stephen and I don’t end up together, that doesn’t mean I’ll love him any less. He will always be the love of my life, no matter our circumstances. And maybe he will become a priest and love the church and maybe I will marry some other guy later in my life. But that won’t change how much I love him or how important he is to me.

I’m coming to realize that love is a lot stronger than we think. The ability to truly love someone seems impossible, but very often, love does all the work for you if you choose to commit every single day. We choose to love and we choose to act on that love.

Bangladesh in the News

Before I went to Bangladesh in January, I spent hours researching anything I could on Bangladesh and her people. It surprised me to find that there was very little information on this tiny country in Southeast Asia. Now, after the recent collapse of several garment factories, Bangladesh is all over the news and is the placeholder “fixer-upper” of the current media.

A recent article in the New York Times, Bangladesh Pollution, Told in Colors and Smells highlighted the pollution in the waterways near Savar, an industrial suburb outside of Dhaka and the location of the collapsed Rana Plaza. Due to lack of water treatments, the Times said that “Students can see what colors are in fashion by looking at the canal.” The water turns blue, red, green, a whole variety of colors, and the smell is horrible.

I remember the first time I smelled the Buriganga River in Old Dhaka. We took a taxi from Gulshan to visit the Pink Palace. Before I could take in the sight of a bright pink palace, I instead smelled the river. The Buriganga was still a ways off, peeking its way through the trees at the far end of the palace. But the smell was so strong it could be smelled from hundreds of yards away. And it was black. Pitch black, like tar.

I never went to Savar when I was in Bangladesh. I spent most of my time in the city, and in the nicer parts of the city at that. And I hadn’t even heard of Bangladesh before Tara and Daniel moved there three years ago.

But that makes me wonder: How much do we not know? What other countries are facing incredible odds or disasters or terrors and we’re blind to them? Every country sways in and out of the media’s view at some point or another. Give the media a big earthquake or a tsunami and all of a sudden a dozen new non-profits are established to send aid or money, adopt kids from the impoverished countries, or send high school kids on mission trips. And then after a few years, the countries slink back into the unknown.

The media’s portrait of Bangladesh is limited, one sided, and short-lived, similar to all other countries that are developing and experiencing environmental hazards, issues over human rights and are in various states of poverty and decay.

I find it strange that we never look into a country unless some great calamity has hit. I think it’s important to follow through with those, and the media needs to provide information on the countries that are going through incredible odds. But many stories in the media are so one sided. They leave out the parts of a country that are good and beautiful. The parts that, God forbid, we ourselves could learn from.

A Response to Monday

On Monday I posted a pretty vulnerable post on my current relationship with my boyfriend, Stephen. And I got an overwhelming response. Not only did the post rank as the most viewed post in the history of the blog, there was a huge variety of responses to my story, even from people I didn’t expect and with reactions that I didn’t expect (God outwitting my expectations is sort of a theme in my life). I loved the variety, the wisdom and advice and the encouragement. I was overwhelmed by the positive responses. And overwhelmed by how supportive you all are. I didn’t expect it at all.

So thank you. Thank you for reading and responding and for being willing to read this journey with me.

I really appreciated the honesty in all the responses I received. And I was reminded of the vast support that Stephen and I have in this experience. We couldn’t do this without you.

An Expository Post On Why I’m Not Writing

In case you hadn’t noticed, this blog has been lacking in posts for quite some time. And while I tell myself it’s because the blog isn’t quite where I want it, and that certain things need to change before I can realistically commit to blogging again, I know that the reason there hasn’t been any posts recently is not because I don’t like the design or I’m wishing I could just change the whole thing already. It’s for a different reason entirely. And I think it’s about time I explain. I know this post is fairly long, but please, bear with me.

There are a lot of things going on. There always is, right? But in the past three months, the most incredible thing that probably will ever happen to me, happened. And I’m not talking about graduation or moving out or getting my first post-grad job.

What happened was that I fell in love.

But people don’t normally talk about their dating lives on blogs right? The only time you read anything about someone’s dating life is when that girl that you only sort of know on Facebook is gushing about how OMG SHE JUST LUVS HER BOYFRIEND SOOOO MUCH. Or it’s the wife of ten years spilling the beans on how she and her husband have a fantastic sex life whilst balancing seven kids, homeschooling and national book tours. And I can’t really put myself in either of those categories. Unless I have seven kids that I don’t know about.

But this is where the most intense bout of writer’s block I’ve ever experienced is coming from. The writer’s block is coming from not writing about one of the most important things that’s happened to me and limiting myself to writing about the less-than-spectacular things in my life. Not that graduating or moving or trips to Disneyland or what I’m reading isn’t great stuff. I just need a balance between the trivial and the weighty.

So I have resolved to write. Because this love story is no ordinary love story. And, yes, I know everyone says that about their love story. But I think in this case, I might be right.

I am dating my best friend and the love of my life. He is ridiculously smart, incredibly generous and caring, and has this ability to see the beauty and purity in everything. He  strives to see the world through God’s eyes and I’ve never met someone who so clearly loves as God loves. I’ve never been so well loved, respected or cared for. He treats me as if my opinion is the most important thing to him (because it is), and values my happiness over his own. He knows my strengths and weaknesses and respects me for them. I know with absolute certainty that he is the One. There is no one else for me.

But, like any good love story, there is a glitch. At least, some people would call it a glitch. I just call it hilarious circumstance. Or heartbreaking annoyance. Whichever you prefer.

This incredible guy loves Jesus so much. He loves Jesus so much, that he feels called to be a Catholic priest. In case you aren’t aware, Catholic priests don’t get married. Or date. Or have children. Zero, zilch, nada. So that puts me firmly out of the picture.

And before you start saying, “Oh why can’t he just be a Protestant pastor?” (Because he’s Catholic and no, he is not converting. He already converted to Catholicism from Protestantism and there is no going back) or “Maybe the Pope will change his mind” (just think about that for a minute and compare the duties between a protestant pastor and a Catholic priest…they are not the same) or “I hope this all turns out right in the end” (is the “right” end a happy ever after?), let me interject here and say this:

I know this is not normal. I know this is not easy. Trust me, I’m living it. There are no knights in shining armor here or white horses or riding off into the sunset of marital bliss. We are just two battle-torn Jesus-lovers who are trying to do what He is calling us to. And it’s messy, and dirty and very often, there are black horses with red eyes careening despair straight to us, only to find ourselves pulled out of the fray just in time by the God we are trying so hard to understand.

Because we don’t know why we are dating now. Everything in our culture, the typical Christian culture says that you should only date if you know you’re going to marry them. I know exactly who I’m going to marry. Whether or not I get to marry him is still up in the air.

And it is because of all this, that I have been unable to write. Or rather, I haven’t known where to start.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time (thanks Mom!) you’ll know that many of my blog posts are reflections on what is happening in my life at the time, like my trip to Bangladesh, my attempt at applying to USC to get my Master’s in Theatre, my trip to San Fran with my school newspaper and my thoughts on graduating. But here is something that is hard to write about. Or at least, has several taboos around it.

Because people don’t really publicize their dating lives. They don’t really write about their very real, very deep struggles. And maybe I’m breaking every taboo and rule in the book by writing this out and publishing this online for EVERYONE and their mother and cousin and friend’s ex’s sister’s fiance to read. But I can’t not write about it anymore.

A friend of mine suggested that I write a different blog about Stephen and I. A private blog that I don’t publicize or share. And I seriously considered it. But being completely honest and sharing my story on the blog that is already very important to me, makes more sense.

So now that that is off my chest and into the world, here’s to hoping that I can be honest with you all again. I shared my fear and confusion with you when I was in Bangladesh. I shared my despair and disappointment when I didn’t make it to my USC audition. And now I want to share my uncertainty with you. Because this is by far the most complicated, heart-wrenching, thrilling, wonderful and uncertain thing I have ever experienced. And I no longer want to experience it just by myself. I want to share it with you.

The Difference Between Wisdom and Fear

The other evening I finally got the opportunity to catch up with a dear friend who had been out of the country for three weeks. We talked for hours, like we typically do and caught up on everything that happened in the time we were apart.

We talked about how much we hate it when people ask “Where are you going from here?” or “What is next?” or, the question that I get a lot, “What do you want to do with your life now?”

One of the greatest discussions I have with myself is whether I should stay or whether I should go. I’m equally pulled by two things that are very, very dear to me: the people I love and the world I love. Should I travel the world and have incredible experiences or stay here with the people I cherish and have incredible experiences?

It was within the midst of questioning this, again (because I probably question this multiple times a day, especially if a vacation is in front of me or something semi-traumatic or difficult is happening), and going back and forth between several different decisions that I’m currently confronted with, that she said something very strange and very wise:

“It’s hard to delineate the difference between wisdom and fear.”

Read that again.

It’s hard to delineate the difference between wisdom and fear.

We both sat in shock for a moment and she continued on, trying to put what she said in a context, but then simply ran out of words and said, “I don’t know what I’m saying. That was not me.”

We paused, looking at each other, both of us shocked at what she had said, and both of us knowing exactly where those words came from. In that moment, we had heard God speak. 

Which is ironic, because ten minutes earlier we had been discussing how we determine God’s will and how we can hear Him or sense His direction one way, in one situation, and then in an entirely different situation, we will understand His will in a whole new context. But somehow He had made himself clear to us.

Wisdom and fear. Fear and wisdom. Those two words aren’t really besties. But somehow, in many instances, they can be kissing cousins when life shoots those burning arrows our way. Because those are two of the most common nouns used when talking about God’s will. We seek wisdom. We are afraid of what He might want us to do. We’re afraid we will do something wrong or go the wrong way. Is wisdom moving forward in faith or waiting until He makes the first move clear?

Because I think we are motivated both by wisdom and by fear. Fear of living a certain way, being a certain person, being perceived in certain lights. And acting within the constraints of those fear, we appear to be living “wisely”…is living within the bounds of fear, really living in wisdom? If fear is driving our “wise” decisions, are they really wise?

What are your thoughts? I, obviously, have yet to come to a conclusion on this idea. Comment below or email me. I’d love to hear more opinions.