Friday, April 15, 2011

Endings and Beginnings, In That Order.

Four years ago, I was eighteen and Grand Valley seemed massive. After my parents unloaded the Jayco and put my dorm room together, I remember asking my dad how long he thought it would take me to find my way around [my effectively linear, two-sidewalk] campus. He looked at me with this look that simultaneously said, “I can’t believe my little girl is starting college today” and “I can’t believe my little girl is such an idiot.”

I fell head over heels in love with college pretty instantly. I remember one specific night sometime in September, one of those perfect autumn nights that make you believe that God designed this season specifically for college campuses. Tuesday. The best nights were always Tuesday during freshman year. YoungLife happened on Tuesdays and YoungLife meant games and cute, older boys and feeling like I belonged to something bigger than myself. I walked across campus that night, surrounded by a cloud of people who seemed too cool and funny to be real. This was my new life and I was so, so happy. That particular moment is tattooed forever in my memory, because for the first time, I knew beyond any doubts or fears that I was fully in the middle of where God wanted me to be.

I still feel that way. I have loved college – loved it. The very best and worst times of my life have been crammed into the past four years and the fact that it is ending in a matter of days is both unbelievable and incredibly appropriate. This season of my life has been about so many things – I have fallen in love with academia and Grand Rapids, with the Writing Center and my professors, with my friends and their families, with writing and cardigans and Crossroads Bible Church and Marie Catribs and oversized rings and small group girls and Grand Valley’s campus in the fall. I spent eighteen years daydreaming about college, four more years existing in it, and in two weeks I am walking away a completely different person than I was when I got here.

And now it is ending. And it’s time for a different dream, a strange place, an unknown community. It is time to leave and meet new people and see new places. And see new places I will – I have just paid a deposit to go on the World Race, an eleven-month mission trip in eleven different countries. Starting in September, I will join a group of strangers to travel the world and make Jesus famous. I will pack everything in one giant backpack, carry a tent and a sleeping bag, and hopefully die to myself a little bit more every day. Easy to say for a girl who considers checking into a Holiday Inn to be a rough equivalent to camping…

This adventure is going to be more than life changing – it is going to be life defining. I trust that God has a plan for it that is both massive and intricate. I am praying that He will break me of my pride and my materialism and show me more and more of who He is and who He wants me to be. I’m more excited and terrified that I can possibly articulate.

College has seemed like a massive adventure to me and I never even left Allendale. If God can work in me and grow me and change me so much here in Southwest Michigan, how much more can He work and grow and change me when I am so far removed from my comfort zone and everything that is familiar? I can’t think of a better, more appropriate next step for my life. I am ready to experience life in a new way, to be more moldable and vulnerable, to surrender my dreams in exchange for His plans. I am ready to base my life on the hope I have for things unseen.

So the next part of the story is up, simultaneously clear and veiled, thrilling and daunting. I’m ready to be done with school, but sad to leave this place. I grew up at Grand Valley. The people I met shaped me and the experiences that we shared have made me who I am; I am so deeply, incredibly, completely thankful for this time in college. But it is time to move and I’m ready to do that. I don’t know exactly what the next year will entail, but so far God has been good on His promises to provide and I have a feeling that the best adventures are yet to come.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I saw this on a friend's blog recently and have I mentioned that I love lists? Because I love lists. I also like copying things that I think are cool, albeit they always seem less cool once I get my hands on it. Still, I think that this provides a really awesome structure for slowing down a little bit and really noticing what is happening in your life.

Also, it's like I'm writing a baby book for myself. **Julie never could provide evidence that one of those existed for me, so I'm going to have to take the reigns on this one, apparently.

Right now, these are the things I am

1. How quickly the final weeks of this semester are flying by
2. Experiencing God's awesome plans and provisions
3. The colorful pages of InStyle Magazine's spring issues
4. Antique stores
5. The time that Shelby spends at GV
6. Planning outfits for spring
7. Quinoa and roasted veggies
8. Prose poetry
9. Thunder and lightning

Not Loving:
1. How quickly the final weeks of this semester are flying by
2. The fact that my ENTIRE family will be in Florida next weekend, sans Carly (...and Drue, but he's probably warm in Arizona, so I'm counting him too)
3. Gas prices
4. The lack of orange juice in my fridge


1. Not freaking out about graduation
2. Making some incredible and unbelievably exciting decisions
3. Final projects
4. Yoga
5. Biting my nails less

1. My heart for what comes next

1. The constant stream of Spanish homework
2. My vow to go to bed early tonight
3. The list of people who I need to email

1. The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis
2. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
3. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
4. Philippians
5. Isaiah 53
6. Forgotten God, Francis Chan

1. That God is who He says He is
2. That God can do what He says He can do
3. That I am who God says I am
4. That I can do all things through Him

**I stand corrected. Jewels just came through with the fact that I have not one, but two baby books. Rest assured that my mother was sweet and attentive and lovely and observant during my infancy, childhood, and forever afterward. Sorry for the mix-up, Mama. I never really doubted you ;-)

Monday, March 7, 2011


Between you and I, I'm really not afraid of that many things. Heights? Not a problem. The dark? No big deal. Failure? No one can avoid it 100% of the time, right? Lest I come across as self-impressed, let me clarify -- I certainly have my weaknesses. It's just that my neuroses are generally limited to the hyper-unusual, like large, inanimate objects underwater. That stuff is TERRIFYING. Sometimes I think that I would rather see a shark swimming under my raft than an unexpected boulder. Also, stairs freak me out. I tend to attribute that particular phobia to a nasty childhood incident, but I digress. The point is that today, I took a major step of faith. It took a lot of courage and growth, but I put on my big girl pants, breathed deeply, and walked straight into the lion's den.

That's right. I went to the Kalamazoo Public Library.

Ridiculous? I think not. The Kalamazoo Public Library system has taunted me for thirteen years, gleaming with all of its multiple locations, millions of books, and presumably knowledgeable staff. Yet for me, it's been off-limits, forbidden, territory to fear ever since one fateful day in fourth grade. Nine-year-old Carly wanted a good book, a challenging book, but she made a bad choice on that day -- she checked out The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss. I mean, why not? The Disney movie was a perennial favorite -- Francis and the elephant, Ernst and his self-absorbed intelligence, Mother and Father and that awesome tree house -- what could possibly go wrong?

Answer: EVERYTHING. That book has haunted me ever since I checked it out. First of all, I never even finished it. I think I got as far as to when they somehow got a whale and Wyss spent a full chapter discussing the use of the bones and the blubber for the Family Robinson's survival. Stale reading for a nine-year-old, let me tell you. Second of all, the book wasn't like the movie and my fourth grade self couldn't quite forgive the text its inadequacies. Thirdly, I don't know how much of a chance I ever stood when the text read like THIS:

As we drew near, their curious appearance and singular fruit caused much surprise and also amusement, for we were speedily established among the trees, where, as I chose and cut down the gourds most likely to be useful, every one engaged merrily in the work of cutting, carving, sawing and scooping some manner of dish, bowl, cup, jar or platter, according to his several taste or ability.

Great. Sounds great, Johann. Give a nine year old a freaking break. I hated it.

I tried my best to get through it, but even at a young age, I had a pretty good understanding of when to cut my losses. Given how much great stuff there is to read out there, I cannot justify plowing through miserable books, just to say that I did. Besides, I think Tara Lipinksi had just published yet another autobiography of her fifteen year existence on earth and THAT was pressing. So I gave up on The Swiss Family Robinson and dived into real Ella Enchanted. Or something.

No big deal, right? Except for the fact that I lost the book. I meant to look for it, but after a month or two, it got embarrassing. What was I going to do, waltz in with a book that was months overdue?? It made more sense just to avoid KPL until they forgot that I forgot and we could all just start fresh.

Years passed and things got worse. KPL was just so big and beautiful and I started to get tired of living like an outlaw. Still, I had passed the point of no return...if I couldn't return a book a couple of months late, how was I supposed to return a book that was YEARS late? Everything seemed complicated and messy and dramatic in my mind, so I continued to bite the bullet and avoid those beautiful books that called my name like a junkie in rehab.

Then I actually started using my brain. I mean, what was KPL actually going to do to me? I realized that my nightmares of blood sensors recognizing me upon entry and cages falling from the ceiling to trap the offender were probably a bit far-fetched. Also, that one image of falling through a trapdoor in the floor into a crocodile-infested moat? Most likely not going to happen. At worst, I would have to pay for the price of the book, which seemed doable and worth it after years of avoiding the best library system in the area. While it would certainly be somewhat embarrassing, I decided that the time had come to grow up. And that time was today.

I walked into the library this afternoon, jumpy and nervous. I walked up to the desk and a frizzy woman looked up at me. "Hi," I said, hedging my way into her day. "Um, I think I need a new library card. Because, um, I had a situation here? A long time ago?" She stared. I cleared my throat. "Um, I checked a book out thirteen years ago. I was nine. And I never brought it back. And now I don't know where it is. What do I have to do?"

No sirens went off. No lasers trapped me in a lightsaber-like cage. The woman barely blinked. She looked me up in the system and couldn't even find anything. She stared at my ID and said that she didn't see anything under my name and address, so all I needed was a card from my local library and she could make me a reciprocal account. Of course, I conveniently forgot to mention the fact that I moved the summer after fourth grade, therefore my account probably would have been at my old address, but the point is -- I'm free. In fact, I'm better than free -- I'm sneaky. I'm like a library ninja. I'm like the Sydney Bristow of library services. I'm officially the person that the head librarians probably warn new librarians about, like, "Watch out for the library ninjas who lose books, then move, then start accounts nearly a decade and a half later under a new address, thereby abdicating all of their former responsibilities as library patrons. BEWARE." See? I totally win.

Overall, it was a successful day. Granted, I couldn't get the books I wanted, since because of my top-secret move, I'm no longer in the district of my current "local" library, meaning that I need to go to a different district's library to become a member there in order to get my account at KPL, meaning that by the end of this week I will have not one, not two, but three different library cards, but hey -- all in a day's work for a library ninja like myself. Besides, with three different libraries at my disposal, I'll never have to pay late fees again.

I'm really thinking that this ninja gig has long-term potential.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Life, According to the Numbers.

1 day until this midterm essay is due.
1500-1800 words required.
0 words written.
3 cds burned this afternoon.

4 days until Spring Break.
1 essay,
1 exam,
3984398 hours in the language lab,
2 embarrassing volleyball classes,
12 shifts,
and 1 conference presentation
until I'm free.

55.01 dollars to fill my gas tank today.
0.01 dollars that I actually paid.
My dad is awesome.

2 more months of rent to pay.
8 more weeks left of school.
61 days until graduation.
1 summer to plan.
1 life to enjoy.
0 left fingernails unbitten.

1 girl ready for the whirlwind that = post-spring break winter semester.
Bring it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Christine asked me on Friday why I'm not blogging anymore. Was I over that phase? Had I forgotten how to do it? Was I seriously that busy? I had to think about how to answer that question, and I don't think it's any of those things -- it's just that I feel kind of serious most of the time right now. It's odd, because my schedule is pretty packed (the only people I actually hang out with are the individuals who come over to my apartment, so...Jess.) and I guess I've just been looking more inward and upward and forward than scrutinizing my daily life to find funny things to write about. And maybe the things that God is showing me felt too personal or maybe I was scared or just unwilling to share them or maybe I haven't even put the pieces together in a coherent enough order to make them matter, but I guess that whatever the reason, this needs to be said: God is moving. And it is good.

Over the past few months, He has been slowly and gently pulling me around to see myself more like He sees me. I've been learning how to redefine my dreams and goals by His standards and trying to let go of my preoccupation with comfort and material things and status. It is a hard lesson, a humbling season, and it all feels too raw and fresh and new to be able to say much right now, other than it is happening as we speak.

It's a hard process, but it's a beautiful process too. For all the weirdness and betweenness and worry, it has been so, so good. I don't know where I'll be in the fall, but that's okay. I don't now how I'm going to finish my classes this semester, but I know that I can. Jesus has been changing my heart and closing this season of college in the kind of perfect and final way that only He can accomplish. If you would have brought up the topic of graduation with me at the start of the school year or even the start of the semester, I honestly would have refused to talk about it. It seemed too heart-breaking and scary and permanent -- these have been the best four years of my life and you want to talk about the ending?? No thank you.

Recently, though, it is not only a less scary fate, but it is welcome and exciting. I'm so ready for the promise of change right now. It is bittersweet, to be sure; the shifts in community and lifestyle and work dynamics are already difficult, and I know that it is only going to get harder. But the promise of the rest of my life is too exciting for me to cling to the past. I'm ready to go where Jesus leads me, whether that means Europe or Africa or Kalamazoo. I'm ready to jump into friendships and relationships that might have scared me in the past. I'm ready to move forward.

In a lot of ways, this entire blog has been about my thwarted attempts to go on cool adventures and how I've occupied my time while waiting to embark on some sort of epic journey that I always hoped was on its way. I finally realized that I will be forced to take some concrete steps toward that journey in the very near future, and it is time to test my integrity. Do I really want an adventure, or do I just want to talk about it from the safety of my known existence? Am I really spontaneous and willing to follow wherever Jesus calls me, or do I just say those things because they sound cool and that is how I want to be?

I think that in order to change and grow and really actually become that woman, I need to get ready to do something. Part of getting ready means to accept the end of good chapters of life so that I can truly embrace the beginnings of even better ones. So that is what I am choosing to do. It's a weird, incomplete picture, but I know that my next step needs to be acceptance. And I think I'm ready.