Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lasting Words.

When Shelby and I moved home for the summer, we spent a solid two days unpacking our bedroom together. For the most part, that entailed the major things -- finding corners of the house to hide our dishes in, laundering massive piles of clothes, combining our army of lotion bottles and hair care products. When we started to organize our respective closets, though, we got side-tracked. Shelby and I both have a number of boxes filled with cards and letters and pictures and old journals on those shelves, and when one of us starts to go through all of it, everything turns into If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. If Shelby starts looking at all of her cards from graduation, Carly will want to do the same. If Carly finds a ridiculously dramatic and painfully hilarious diary from fourth grade, Shelby will want to find hers. If Shelby has a particularly juicy piece of gossip from middle school hidden in those pages, Carly will obviously want to get on Facebook and look at pictures of those people... the whole thing morphs into a horribly vicious cycle that is very hard to get out of.

Some of my favorite things to find in those boxes are letters from my sister. I have saved the notes we passed in Spanish class, the MASH commentaries of our lives, the card that she left under my pillow my first night away at college, and no matter where I am in my life, I know that these things will always make me smile. One letter in particular struck me this spring. Shelby wrote it to me the summer after my sophomore year in high school when we were on the verge of something very new and different in our sisterhood -- separation. I was going away to Engineering Camp [laugh with me, please] and Shelby was going to be gone for two weeks at camp right after that,so for the very first time in our lives, we were going to be separated for three weeks. That time seemed insurmountable then, as evidenced by what Shelby wrote me. "We need to brace ourselves," she said. "You know what they say, 'Absence makes the heart grow fonder...' Maybe this will be good for us. Maybe it will teach us not to take each other for granted so much." She went on to admonish me to behave myself and begged me not to do anything stupid and before I acted on a questionable instinct to think, "What would Shelby say?"

In some regards, things have changed a lot. In others, however, nothing will ever, ever shake this friendship. What seemed so frightening all those years ago is now normal -- if I see Shelby every four or five weeks during the school year, I consider myself lucky. I practically stew in jealousy at my friends who go to college with their sisters and I hate the distance between Shelby and I more than I can say.

But maybe fourteen-year-old Shelby was right; maybe this absence does make the heart grow fonder. Maybe it's worth it to be apart so that we can really enjoy being together again. Maybe I wouldn't notice all of the time we have together right now if we always had it. We're starting to fall into a summer pattern, a lifestyle where we act as a unit and simply expect to do nearly everything together. We speak for each other when we plan things now and whether we're running errands or hanging out with friends or just sitting around in our bedroom, we get to do it together.

Today is Shelby's twentieth birthday and it's been freaking her out not to be a teenager anymore. When I stop and think about it, it is kind of weird how much we've grown up in the past few years. We're not little girls anymore; we're learning what it means to be women and how to be sisters who support one another in adult lives instead of the birdcage of childhood. Still, there is one thing that I know in the midst of all of the uncertainty and change that is life as a young adult -- no matter how old we get or how far away from each other we live or what life choices we make, we will always be best friends. I think Shelby said it best in the letter she wrote to me when she was fourteen, so Shelby, in your own words: "You are the human being that knows me the best. I love you more than I love anyone else... soon we'll be together again and between the two of us, I know we'll have a ton of stories to tell each other. I love you soooooooooo much."

Happy Birthday, baby sister. You're half of my heart.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Some Things Never Change

Mrs. Christine Webb will not be living with my family this summer, meaning no more Inside These Crookston Walls, meaning no more hysterical laughing every night as I read her interpretation of my family's insane antics. In her loving memory and to celebrate her wedding a few days late [or just to serve as an introduction...] I would like to offer my own, honorary ITCW entry.

Day 7810:
There is only one entry today, because everything else paled in comparison. Today my mom let her goats out to graze as she rode Charlotte. That was fine, until it was time to put those dumb animals back in their pen, at which point she casually asked me to catch them in the side yard. Sure. The boy goats are stupid and easily caught, but Buttercup is conniving and I swear that she has ulterior motives in life [when I mentioned this to Julie, she just shrugged and said, "Typical girl."]. I casually walked up to her and offered her some grass and she made to eat it from my hand, but then she darted in the other direction. I could practically hear her snickering. I proceeded to chase her into the horse paddock, out of the horse paddock, and back INTO the horse paddock, only to be thwarted each time. At this point, I yelled at my mother, who was leaning against the goat house laughing at me.
"Patience, Carly," she said, casually walking toward me. "You just have to be a little more patient." Carefully, she climbed into the horse paddock and sauntered toward the goat.
"Buttercuuuup," she cooed. "Buttercuuuuup... come here, sweet baby." The horses barely moved as she walked past; they were clearly unimpressed. Consequently, so was Buttercup, because she completely ignored Mom as she sat in the grass near her.
"Buttercup, look what Mama has," Julie said, holding out her phone. That's right -- my mother was trying to lure a stubborn goat to her by waving technology in her face. Effective method. That's not it, though. "Want to see the pictures on my phone, sweetie?" Mom continued to ask the goat, who continued to eat weeds and ignore her. Undeterred, my mother began to look through the pictures saved on her phone. "Oh, here's Shelby after her surgery last week... Buttercup, come see Taylor at the prom. Ooh, this is Mama drinking a pineapple drink in Hawaii - that was a very fun day." At this point, Buttercup may have looked up at Julie, perhaps with the same look of disbelief that was on my own face. "Buttercup, look, here's you in labor!" Mom said next. As Buttercup started to walk away, Julie suddenly lurched and caught her by the hind leg, as if she were some sort of professional cowgirl. My jaw dropped a little; I was equal parts impressed and horrified. Julie looked up smugly. "And that," she said, "is how it is done."

Christine, please move back here and write these things for me... this farm life is too funny not to be documented in some way.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

An Inciting Incident

This is my life. This is what I love. This is what I am called to do. I write. I don’t always write well or consistently, but I write. I write the things that come to me – I put it all down in ink and make sense of it as I go.

It doesn’t seem like an inherently scary process, but it really is. On a good day, it’s like I poke a hole in my heart and let little bits of it trickle onto the page. Other days, it’s as if I use my soul as sidewalk chalk, smearing it across anything I can find. And that’s kind of nerve-wracking. I mean, I write to be read and I write to reveal, but the power of words scares me. What if I say something wrong? What if I misrepresent what I want to say? What if someone reads it and thinks I’m an idiot? What if nobody reads it and I know I’m an idiot? Or worst of all, what if I can’t get it out to begin with?

Those are obviously the wrong questions, though. As a writer, I can’t help but to write – it comes out of me even when I don’t sit down formally and decide to spend time working on my craft. And as a Christ-follower, I can’t help but to do what He asks me to do, to use my gifts, to pursue my passions. For me, that that means that I have to write.

I’ve been blessed with a beautiful network of support. Pam and Kate and Dee, for example, always build me up and encourage my work. Taylor takes it a step farther and assumes ownership of my writing in a way that I would let few people do. But Jackie pursues my writing. She asks for it. She demands it. She promises that I can do it even when I’m sure that I can’t and she lets me read everything to her, even the really awful, boring stuff. I think that she’s just vying for the position of Jordan, Donald Miller’s friend who frequents his books, but her reasoning is secondary at this point; she’s well on her way to securing that position.

Jackie and I sat on the beach talking today, talking about God’s promises and His plans for our lives and the awesome potential for living the epic, whimsical stories that we both yearn for so deeply. She asked me why I haven’t started writing the books that I want to write and I said that I don’t know if I can, that I don’t know if I should, and she just stared at Lake Michigan and listened. Jackie listens. She processes. She takes her time to speak, but it is generally worth the wait. After a while, she just sort of shook her head and said, “I don’t know a lot of things, Carly. But I know that you were created to write. And I think that you should start.”

So I’m left with the question, what if I really am a writer? What if I wrote a book this summer? What if I wrote every day, faithfully, in discipline and in boredom, in joy and in inspiration, when I feel like it and when I don’t? What if I actually tell people about this project and thereby lock myself into it with accountability? What if I took a risk and did what I loved and risked falling out of love with it? What if I allow myself to become so consumed with Jesus that I write everything He tells me, that I turn off my internal editor and just write what He asks me to? What if I did that? What would happen?

I guess the only way to find out is to do it… so I’m going to. I’m going to write all summer. I’m going to beg Jesus for words and for patience and for understanding and for stuff to write about and then I’m going to write it. Because what if I am a writer? And what if I did the scariest thing of all and walked away from my dreams because I was too afraid of them? That sounds worse than being an idiot or being frustrated for a little while, so… here goes nothing.