Monday, April 27, 2009

As So It Begins

Well. Here I am.


After last summer, I promised myself it would be my last summer home. Somehow, I would find a way not to come back. Working up at school, going abroad, hitchhiking across the country -- I did not care, but there was no chance that I would repeat the mind-numbing, soul-crushing pace of last summer.

As always, Jesus had other plans.

Here's the thing: I love making plans. I don't know why, necessarily. Maybe I just love to be in charge. Maybe I just love to tell other people what to do. Maybe it's because I love stories, and I love to tell myself stories, and they inevitably end up being about my future, at which point I'm making the plans to get there. I think away my life.

All through high school, for example, I lived to get to college. I could not wait to get out of this town, to see the world, to experience new things, and meet incredible, fascinating, strange, beautiful people. If you asked me where I was going to go, I would smile smugly and say, "Chicago." I wasn't sure where and I wasn't sure how, but I knew that Chicago was the perfect place for me. Then I found a school, a nice Christian school in the northern part of the city, and I fell in love. The campus oozed that collegiate feel that is most potent at autumn. It was tucked away, like a secret Ivy League, in a diverse little neighborhood that would give me hours of exploration. It was small and it was Christian and it was in Chicago and it was beautiful...but it wasn't right. In my head, though, it was my only option. I had to get to Chicago.

As always, Jesus had other plans.

I ended up at Grand Valley quite on accident. Distracted by my beautiful little Chicago school all fall, I went through the motions of applying elsewhere, all the while confident that I knew where I was going. By winter, I accepted my situation as bleak, and visited GVSU. After the visit, I had a quiet, yet acutely disappointed, feeling that I was going to Grand Valley. By spring, I had begrudgingly accepted the fact. By summer, I felt tinges of excitement just to go to college, albeit in Allendale instead of the big city. By my second night as a student, I could not imagine myself anywhere else.

In my two years there, God has blessed me beyond belief. He has such a specific plan for me there. The idea of having followed my own ideas and thoughts to Chicago is laughable now -- there is nowhere I would rather be than Allendale. So when all of my plans fell through for the summer [and believe me when I say there were a lot of options that I threw around and it was not for lack of trying], I knew that I had to accept it. I knew that I could fight it and struggle and cry and complain and throw general fits ad naseum, or I could trust. I could have faith. I could choose to believe my God when He said that all things work together for good for those who love Him. I could choose to believe my God and know that there bigger plans and a higher purpose for me in Kalamazoo. I wish that I had a more glamorous calling at this point, but I here I am. And I have a purpose and God has a plan and that is all that I need for right now.

One thing needs to change, though: this title. When I realized that I was, in fact, going back home, it popped into my head instantly. Forgive my shameless Mamma Mia plug...but I mean, how can I resist ya?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Growth. Change. Hope.

I live too much in the future. Far too often I find myself daydreaming, telling myself stories of what my life will look like in a month, a year, five years, ten. In my head, I have conversations with my future husband about how our sons will most certainly not wrestle in high school. I take my non-existent eight-year-old to get pedicures and lunch. I plan vacations with my girlfriends where we lie on a beach, sipping margaritas and laughing about our college-age antics. I'm not crazy -- just thoughtful. I love to think about things like this, to try to plan the path that will lead me to this final goal of bliss.

It doesn't scare me; the future has never scared me. I have never looked at my life and said, "This is it. This is as good as it's going to get," because it's just not true. I refuse to think like that. Consequently, I have always been ready to move on to the next chapter. I was ready to leave Heritage, excited for a new start. I was ready to leave high school, to move to college, to begin my life. I was ready to leave my dorm at the end of last year, and I was elated to move into my apartment at the beginning of this one. But now? As my second year of college grinds to a halt and prepares to march off into my past? As my world turns upside down and everything changes yet again? Am I ready for the next chapter now? Am I facing this next part head on, excited and ready? No. Oh no, I am not.

For the first time, the idea of this change terrifies me. It breaks my heart more than anything, but I find myself struck silent in fear. Suddenly, Time is my enemy. I don't have enough of it -- and I don't just mean between finishing my finals and packing and moving home; those are the least of my concerns. I don't have enough Time with the people who own my heart. I haven't had enough Time to get to know them properly, to show them how much I love them, to simply be with them. Relationships feel like they are being ripped away before they even begin. And I'm scared. I'm scared of what this means for my future, for my community...for my life. I'm scared that this summer will be a hinging point for everything. Decisions will be made. Changes will take place. People will grow and leave and turn more and more into who they are supposed to be. It's a beautiful process, really, but painful and terrifying too.

As I peer over the edge of this precipice, though, I realize something. If God waited until His people thought they were ready for the next step, nothing would ever get done and His role would greatly diminish. He has called my friends and I to huge, incredible things in life. Some are heading across oceans to new continents. Some are heading back to the hardest place to go at this point, back to that changeling place called "home." Still some of us have no idea what lies ahead or which direction we are pointing toward. But we all have faith; there is no other option, really. We have faith that the same God who brought us together will bring us back one day as better people, more whole and more in love with Him.

In August, I wrote that this was going to be the best year of my life so far. I had no idea how right I was, for once. This year, God showed me community. He showed me love. He showed me men and women, how we are different, how we both reflect Him, and how we are meant to live together in harmony. He showed me beauty. He showed me friendship. Through these things, He showed me Himself. I have spent the past three days crying over what I'm leaving in my past, but tonight? Tonight I am going to celebrate what is in my future. Tonight I am going to take hope in the fact that I could not have imagined the fullness of my heart a year ago. Tonight I am going to encourage my friends on their journey, wherever that might be. Tonight I am going to take a deep breath and face what is in front of me. It is huge and shapeless and terrifying, but my God stands at the center, beckoning me closer to Him.

I am ready to answer His call. We all are.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Secret

Whenever anyone shows me a paper that they’ve written, they inevitably get nervous and stare at the floor. “I’m not very good at writing,” they say in a shy, dejected voice.

Well, I have something to tell you. It’s important. Are you ready?

Yes, you are. I know your hidden talent. You can write. And you’re lucky, because you even have this hidden talent. I don’t – I simply splash the one cool thing about me all over the place, jumping around with colored scarves screaming, “LOOK AT ME!! I LOVE WRITING!!!”

You, on the other hand, are much more cool about it. You save it, savor it, make it special. I admire and envy you. And I’m not being falsely modest either…please. I suck at that game. I’m simply calling the facts as I see them: you are a great writer and I have no hidden talents.

I've learned that not everyone is as obvious as I am in the way that they approach life...and that can be awesome. Whereas my body language speaks for me [subtlety has never been my strong point], other people can maintain a bit of mystery to them. Then, when you find something out about them, it's a surprise and it's wonderful.

Case in point: my beautiful little sister, Shelby. Shelby has a strong, vivacious personality; she is daring and sarcastic and clever. You do not forget her. She has so many dimensions, though, so many facets that you would never guess about her... it makes me jealous. I was listening to one of her phone conversations once [it was 2 AM on Christmas Day and we were in our bedroom -- what else was I supposed to do?] and she was telling her eccentric, fascinating friend about her Christmas gifts. I gave her art supplies, and when she told him that, he just goes, "You draw?" in this totally surprised voice. Yes, she draws beautiful portraits, and that's not her only secret. She writes beautiful poetry. She bakes and cooks and can run long distances and quotes passages from Lord of the Rings [less cool, but whatever] and she knows so much about so many different things that I am bitterly envious, if I can be terribly honest with you.

All of my friends have these incredible, hidden talents. My friend Allie makes gorgeous jewelry. Allison can make anything look amazing -- the perfect blend of eclectic, bohemian, modern, and classy. Jessie is secretly sassy, plus she paints. Jon skateboards and makes pancakes. Jackie takes achingly beautiful photos and knows obnoxious self-defense. Andy is a never-ending delightful surprise. Eric loves camping and bike-riding. Christine can hunt and she takes risks -- she just won a roundtrip to Dubai...who does that? Alyssa ballroom dances and makes Puerto Rican food. Dean is attentive and likes musicals. The list just goes on and on.

And YOU. You can write! Seriously, I have a pretty solid idea of who reads this consistently, and I’ve read bits and pieces of your stuff. It’s good. It has depth and meaning and soul and purpose. It’s beautiful. I love it.

So can I tell you something else, writer to writer? Don’t compare yourself. Learn from others, figure out what you like about their writing, try on different styles for fun, but do not compare yourself. Writing is a reflection of YOU and you can do everything you can to make yourself look better, but if you try to look like someone else, it would be just stupid, you know? If I looked in the mirror tonight and berated myself for not looking more like Penelope Cruz, that wouldn’t be very productive. In the same way, if I read my writing and got upset that it wasn’t more like Shauna Niequist’s or Meg Cabot’s or Anita Diamont’s or Beth Moore’s or that girl’s from my writing class or your’s, well, what good would that do? Don’t compare yourself, friend. Write for the sake of the art, for the sake of your soul, for the sake of sanity.

But whatever you do, please keep writing. It’s important. And you’re good at it. I promise.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Indian Princess

I used to tell people that I wouldn't like myself if I wasn't me. Take a second. Think through that statement. Got it? Okay. Basically, I thought that one loud, obnoxious, attention-starved drama queen was more than the world could handle anyway, so why would I ever want to compete to be, well, me?

Then I met Jackie.

And my whole world changed.

I met Jackie when she was dressed as Babe the Blue Ox. You know, as in Paul Bunyan's friend. I was Juno, so we both had pillows in our shirts while rollerskating at Young Life's Halloween party. That night we were really loud together. We dove all over the skating rink on our padded bellies. We took ridiculous pictures together.

And the rest, my friends, is history.

My friendship with Jackie is unlike any other in my life. I have never met someone so like myself, yet so different, but whom I loved so much so quickly...does that make sense? God brought Jackie into my life at exactly the right moment, and He has used her to round out a missing piece of my heart. This girl has truly impacted me in huge ways.

So in case you couldn't figure it out, it's Jackie's birthday TODAY. And I have never been more excited to write a Top 10 Post, so without further ado:

Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Jackie

1. I love Jackie for the ways in which we are alike. We both love Beyonce. We are both huge birthday divas. We both love to cuddle...with each other. We both value words. We are both ridiculous and loud and competitive and memorable and obnoxious. I love that she can relate to me on so many different levels, both deep and superficial.

2. I love Jackie even more for the ways in which we are different. Jackie and I don't see eye to eye on everything. We have different hopes and goals and different ways of going about pursuing our dreams, but I get to learn from Jackie. She is fierce and aggressively follows God's will for her life, and it is beautiful to see her grow and learn.

3. Jackie has incredible passion. When I asked her what she wanted to do with her life, she smiled and said, "I'm going to Africa to hold babies." And she is. Her passion for God, her love for others, her desire to get to Africa, and her loyalty to her friends all paint a telling portrait of what an incredible woman my best friend is.

4. Maybe because of her crazy passion, Jackie is strong. She's gone through hard things and come out better for it. She is flawed and imperfect, but she is the first person to tell you that -- she doesn't let her past affect her future, and I respect that more than I can say.

5. I love how much Jackie loves to laugh. Her sense of humor is one of the best things about her. She is goofy and does not care about what people think of her; she just wants to have fun. She is light-hearted, but deep...and did I mention that she is hilarious? Because she is. Jackie can make me laugh at any situation, at her, and at myself. I love that about her.

6. She spends a nearly obsessive amount of time on YouTube. Why is this on the list, you ask? Because, thanks to Jackie, we have these classics which just never get old. Ever. In fact, most of the time, they only get better when you watch them 17 million times. Dog Lover is the original, of course, but Kittens is sneaking up on it. Nicole and Miranda are pretty cool, too. See what I mean about the ridiculous sense of humor? In her own words, "I AM DYING!!!"

7. As much as it infuriates me, Jackie's awkwardness has a distinct charm to it. "Oh, heeeey...." and "NOPE!" never had any true meaning until this friendship blossomed...what?

8. Jackie is painfully, obnoxiously creative. We have effing craft nights, okay? It's sickening what Jackie [and Allison and Jessie, for that matter] can do. Photography, painting, random little crafty things -- she just knows how to make things beautiful. I don't, unfortunately. I try to learn [and by learn, I mean copy], but to no avail. Beyond just the general artistry, though, Jackie is creative in the way that she thinks. She thinks of great things for us to do [stars on the beach, anyone?] and even better ways to prank people. The mailbox dioramas and quarters glued to the mall floor kill me. If I had a drop or two of her genius, I could be an award-winning novelist by now...alas, I am stuck with creative nonfiction. Sorry.

9. Jackie supports her friends in a very unique way. She has a still confidence, which can almost be unnerving in its intesity. I want to be a writer, and Jackie has just accepted that from day one. She called me once when we were still in the very early stages of friendship, and emphatically talked about what kind of books I should NOT write [consequently, our conversation sparked this]. It was never a question of if I would write, but when. She reads my blog faithfully, something that means more to me than I can say; also, it was one of the reasons I was so excited to write this post. She stops into the Writing Center frequently, for no apparent reason other than to say hi. While trying to figure out what was going on with my summer, Jackie just shook her head and goes, "Here's my question: Why aren't you going to Brazil?" She says what is on her mind and she encourages her friends to be who God created them to be. Her nurturing support helps everyone close to her to be more comfortable with who they are meant to be.

10. She refuses to make a normal face for pictures...

Now, for a while this bugged me...all I want is a couple of cute pictures of us so that I can prove to people that I am, in fact, friends with one of the coolest girls on the planet. I realized, though, that Jackie is exactly who she is. In the same way that she encourages and fosters individuality amongst others, she is creative and original and distinctly her. She is beautiful, she knows it, and there is no need to glam it up for every single camera, because guess what? She's Jackie. And that means something. Besides, she loves doing things that piss me off...she gets some sort of sick pleasure out of annoying me. Yet another reason to make STUPID FACES.

Just kidding, sweetums. ;-)

Basically, I love Jackie a lot. God has used her in my life to teach me so many different things, things about myself, about the world around me, about friendship, about strength, about Him, and about love. Jackie makes me think differently and see the beauty in everyday. Happy Birthday, Jackie. You are one of my favorites.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Shameless Plug

So I have this friend Christine...

She's really cool in the weirdest way possible. She has rats, for example. Also, she brings them to church. In a CARRYING CASE. That is not even a little bit normal...but I still love her.

Christine is incredibly smart; she can work with both her right AND her left hemisphere, so even though she nearly gave herself an ulcer doing it, she graduated from KAMSC. I, on the other hand, was more in touch with my soul, so I dropped and enjoyed my life during high school. That's not the point, though. The point is that my genius friend can do all of the math-y, science-y stuff that makes me break out in cold chills, but she can also write and appreciate good literature and...stuff.

Anyway, she recently admitted to me that she read this! It meant a lot to me, because she's showing support to me not only as one of her best friends, but also as a writer. The problem is that she, along with everyone else in my near vicinity, gets highly offended when they don't get a personalized blog every so often [yes, Jackie, I will write you a Top 10. And an FML. Everyone stay calm]. So, just because she is hard at work planning the ultimate adventure for us that may or may not come to fruition [given our recent luck, we don't have high hopes, but we're crossing our fingers nonetheless], I figured the least I could do was whip out a post in a couple minutes to placate/encourage her in her selfless endeavors.

Now, Christine, wouldn't you agree that this would be better if I had something to actually say, aside from the fact that I adore you? Wouldn't this be better if written deep in the jungles of Thailand? I'm just saying....

Do you feel better now? Good...I meant everything I said... NOW GET BACK TO WORK ON MAKING MY SUMMER FABULOUS!!!

Hehehe...just kidding, sweetums. Love you.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Oh heeeeey....

Hi. My name is Carly...I used to have a blog, I think? I don't really know, anymore -- it all seems like such a distant memory.

Suddenly, though, as I write this, it feels familiar. Yes, I definitely think I have done this before. Why has it been such a long time, you ask? Well, I could give you a plethora of reasons.

1. Spring Break. I went to Knoxville, TN, to work with teenage girls in a state facility. I'm not kidding, and wait until I tell y'all the stories [do you like that? I picked it up while we was in tha South]. They're just too good to be true.

2. I'm in an acting class, have I mentioned? Yes, well, I am and it is the best class ever. I love it. Because of this, I have been spending a lot of time reading plays, memorizing monologues, developing a taste for Shakespeare, embarrassing myself at horrible auditions, flirting with my professor, etc. Just kidding about the professor thing...mostly.

3. Trying to finish school/work/figure out next year. I have two weeks left of my second year of college, which is completely unreal. Consequently, that means that I have two weeks left to finish everything I've been putting off all semester, namely reading any of my linguistics texts and writing a twenty page paper on the Antichrist. Yes. The Antichrist. I think I've been avoiding it, because I have this weird idea in my head that if I write about him, he's going to show up. Illogical, I know...but you know how if you say Beatlejuice's name three times, he's supposed to appear? I understand the fact that I'm being ridiculous, I'm just trying to justify my procrastination.
Also, I've been selected to have a lead position at work next year, meaning I will be part of a team that trains and quasi-manages my co-workers. It's really know, good experience and all that jazz.

4. One of my best friends Allison turned twenty, so we were celebrating her all last weekend. At least, Jackie and I were. We happen to love our birthdays more than normal, and we just do not understand those of you who are not divas about it. Therefore, we diva-fy the day FOR our more low-key friends and that way everyone is happy. I'm sure an Allison post is pending. Jackie gets her in 12 days.

5. I have been learning the futility of human planning, but that's another post completely. Let's just say that God has been showing me how silly it is for me to try to make plans for my own life. Consequently, my summer is going to look much different than I expected. As in, unbelievably different. *sigh*

6. Also, God has been showing me how great He is through, once again, my family in Brazil. I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to see Phil and Rachel, and it was exactly what my soul needed. Truly, it was incredible to see them, talk to them, hear the news from Village, and find out that Rodrigo [have I told you about Rodrigo? Oh, well...that's a story for another time, then] is going to Bible college to become a pastor. I cannot tell you how beautiful that news was for me. Anyway, God is working in Brazil and in my heart, and I am praying for a chance to go back...potentially sooner than I thought.

So you see? I've been very busy and I felt a distinct lack of motivation, although now that I look back, I see I have a lot of catching up to do. I guess I will start that...after I clean my room.

And my Antichrist paper. God help me.