Sunday, July 9, 2017

>>-------> N E X T

{Currently I am typing from my friend's apartment in the heart of Brooklyn, NY.
Because I haven't had the time or the strength to publish it before now.
I suppose in so many ways I still don't. I still don't feel ready for it and it's already over. I still don't have the words or any idea what exactly I'm feeling. I can't stop weeping. But for what it's worth, here's the beginning of the processing and the sorting. The start of #transitiontime. My falling apart and being put back together again. The reverse culture shock.
Here is the beginning of Next.}

(Written from the 37th floor of the RIU Plaza Hotel in Guadalajara, Mexico 1 July 2017)

July is officially here.
That means just seven days left in Mexico.
That number does not even feel real to me. It feels like I'm finishing up a trip here. Actually, I'm finishing up two years of my life.
Two years of language learning and friendships and becoming a teacher.
Going to end faster than I can blink or even manage to take even one deep breath.
I think it's going to be a while before I take any deep breaths.
Ending here is so surreal.
48 hours in NYC
Moving home-like Ohio home-from a foreign country
A wedding (actually 2)
Yep. It's going to be a little while.
So. On this last peaceful morning as I sit in a crazy fancy hotel and look out over the whole expanse of Guadalajara, it's time to take a very deep breath.
To exhale this whole season-this chapter-these two years loved.
Enough air to last for a little while. Because I'm certain that in the weeks to come, it's going to feel like I can't catch my breath. Like there's no air to be found. Because. Well. That is transition for you.

So much change so fast.
Everything whirling around. People and events and papers and tears.
So blurry.
And then all of a sudden the whirling ends-the transition is over and it just drops you off wherever is next.
And even though you had some warning, it doesn't ever really feel like you did.
And everything in Next seems normal but everything inside of you is still whirling and heart has somehow not quite made it all the way to Next.
Pieces were left behind in the whizzing and whirling, and it's all you can do to stand up straight and try to sort it all out.
Where you are-what's happening...who you are here in Next....
It seems like you might never figure that out.

Of course you will.
I will.
Because where I just came from was once Next. And what landed me there was the same whirling and whizzing.
There was the stumbling around and feeling dizzy and lost. Discovering the normal and who I was in a whole new context. And eventually, I found out.
The thing is that you don't always find quite the same person in Next.
Anf for a little while that's scary. Because you think you'll never find you at all.
But you do.
I did.
We do.
We just have to accept that Next changes us. To be okay with a little evolution and reinventing.

Because Next can be really beautiful.
If we let it.
Next is full of hope and tomorrows and opportunity and potential.
And Next might need a different or newer version of ourselves.
Because maybe who we were back there is not quite the right fit for everything that comes next. And maybe just a little tweaking and adapting might give us everything we need to embrace the present-to embrace Next.

Next will probably feel hard for a little while. Maybe even a long while. Tricky and messy and uncomfortable. Sad. Confusing. Frustrating. lonely.
You may really dislike it.
Looking back to where you came from will feel all warm and fuzzy and sure.
But remember-keep remembering-that back there was once Next and someday, you could be looking back all warm and fuzzy at this Next too.
You have to face it. Embrace it. Navigate the twists and turns until you can walk them in the darkness and your sleep. Until you know you here.

And you have to keep on doing that until whatever's next.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

One Decade Down

Today-June 7, 2017-marks exactly ten years since I graduated from high school.
Became a "grown up"
Set out on this adventure called life.

Here's what I've learned since the moment I walked across the Boardman High School gymnasium and changed over my tassel. In a nutshell of course.

Sometimes you go somewhere and discover what you were made for...

Sometimes it takes losing things-the most precious things-the things you think you can't live without-to show you what really matters and what you're really made of. To take you to the core of you... 

Some places show you who you are...

Other places show you who you're not....

Wherever you go. 
Whatever you gain or lose along the way. 
Whatever you discover about yourself in the process. 
It's always the people that remain and that matter most. 
The things they do in your heart that cannot be undone. 
The way you can no longer imagine life before they were in it. 
Those people. 

And your faith. 

Life is a crazy ride. 
An adventure if you'll let it be. 
It's twisty and turny and predictably unpredictable. 
Locations and situations change. Miles and borders and even death come between. 
People come and go I suppose. 
The the marks they make in our hearts and our lives and the faith that we cling to when all else seems lost-broken-hopless. 
Those are the makings of one crazy beautiful story called life. 

Just a little look at what I've done with my first decade as a grown up...

Moved my life to Missouri. I promise I didn't even know where it was on the map. Best decision I've ever made. Discovered my passion and my calling and decided to pursue those and Jesus above all else. Walked away with some of my very best, lifelong friends. Traveled with them by my side and survived some of the most difficult, most heart breaking events in my life while they held me up. 

Made my way to Africa and just knew <3

Spent a summer in Chicago figuring out how to be alone with myself and really love it. Of course with these lovely people to help me when the learning wasn't fun. 

Ventured out on my own to the furthest corner of the country. 
Rented my first place. 
Planted a church. 
Became a nanny. 
Collected family from coast to coast. 
Adopted a puppy and made him my best friend. 
Found where my heart had been all along. 

Obeyed despite not understanding and moved my life to Guadalajara, Mexico to become a teacher. Discovered I am indeed not a teacher and I certainly do not enjoy living in eternal summer. But here I also found my pastoral heart and my insane love for teenagers. That mango in just the right moment is magical and that I really can sort of speak Spanish. That kids make me crazy but there is absolutely nothing else I could ever do with my life. And where I was reminded that God gives you exactly what and who you need in each and every season <3

Here's to the many more chapters in my story. 
To another decade of adventure and heart change and the fiercest faith. 

(And for the record, it was impossible to include every single beautiful human that God has used in my life along the way. This is just a very small sampling of the endless amount of people that I have been blessed enough to journey with.)

Friday, June 2, 2017

Casi la Lluvia

Just like that, it's June.

May has come and gone.

June means rain.
I can smell it. Feel it.
Last night there was even thunder and lightening.

I really don't enjoy living without rain for eight months of the year.
Of course I love sunshine, but I've always-for as long as I can remember-loved sunshine and rain equally.
And besides, sunshine is better by the sea.
I miss random, rainy Saturdays-Tuesdays. Rainy days in January and March or perhaps even June. I love the refreshing of rain. The sound of pitter patter on the roof. Flashes of light in the nighttime sky and rolling thunder that invades your heart.
I'm not made for heat. Not for desert.
Not for here.

That being said, I am an anticipator.
I love looking forward to new things.To learning more about who I am. Transition is bound to do that.
In my life until here, that was true. But MX has taught me so much more about who I'm not and I suppose confirmed on a deeper level who I already was.

Let me explain.
In MX I learned that I am not a teacher. It is not my passion.
I do not like warm climates.
I cannot be at home or fall in love with just any city.

I discovered that I am, after all, in the truest sense of the title, a pastor.
That rain is not just something I like, but something I need.
That it's not just any city but Seattle where I belong.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Lately I've been most inspired by the palm trees and my shoes.
In the most (well almost) literal ways. They've made me so reflective. Urged me to write again.
My two dollar Rue 21 sandals with the ankle straps finally broke.
Like really. Literally came apart while walking.
I remember so clearly the moment I bought them.
On my way home from a mid-winter evening shift at Bath and Body Works.
The irony.
A summer sale in the dead of the northeast Ohio winter.
Lucky for me since I was about six-ish months away from moving my life to MX-the land of eternal summer. I remember putting the outfits together in my head, imagining myself as a preschool teacher in MX.
It's crazy to think that I didn't know this version of myself yet. I could only imagine her. Wonder what she'd be like and attempt to dress her well.

Two years later, those little two dollar sandals have carried me to her.
To that version of myself that I could only imagine before. Away from family, across international borders, and up and down long cobblestone avenues. They've seen lots of snotty noses and tearful walks home. They've splashed through rainy season puddles and survived something like 30 Friday afternoons with seventh graders. They've discovered along with me my love of teenagers and mango from the street drizzled with lime.
They've carried me from who I was before MX to who I am on my way out.
They knew me then and they know me now.
I know they're just shoes, but lately the've been so profound for me.
I actually got a little choked up when I finally dropped them into the trashcan outside of my office.
I like my new sandals, but we're still getting to know each other.
I suppose it's sort of fun to imagine where these will carry me.
Out of MX.
Where Jesus walked.
Back to the roots of me in Ohio.
What I'll look like when they can't carry me any further.
And the palm trees.
The tropical sounds all around.
How strange it will be when they're gone.
I wonder if when I'm surrounded by the robins and the pines if I'll think that maybe this was all a dream...that it never happened at all.

I took this panoramic picture of Guadalajara the other day from the very top of a super Wes Anderson-y hotel. There's everything in that photo.
The tall buildings.
The palms.
The wide bright blue sky.
The warm, welcoming rainbow homes cozied together between the chaotic citiness of it all.
My friend Andres who took me in and helped me discover and love this place.
The way it's old and so new all at the same time.
Pueblo and urban jungle colliding continuously.

This city holds two years of my life-of my story-of me.
There's little pieces of me all over it.
The way I get giddy even still when I finally lay eyes on La Catedral in El Centro.
The satisfaction in stumbling upon a churro or elote stand.
That feeling of accomplishment when communication in Spanish is successful.
The way Chapultapec makes me feel like I'm almost in Cap Hill-the way it helped me realize that's where I belong-where my heart is.
The streets of El Centro in mid October when I finally knew that it's always been all along-saving girls. Ending it. When my passion and my calling to act finally found each other.
Those tiny, complicated classrooms in the heart of Las Fuentes where I understood (often sometimes the hard way) that I'm not a teacher.
Where some teenagers snuck right in and stole my heart anyways.
And the mountains. Always strong. Always present. Always surrounding.

Moving forward means new things.
Lots of new things.
And old things too.
Except even the old things are new because you're new.
You're different.
So somehow it's all new.
It means opening your heart to change.
New friendships. New surroundings. New jobs. New coffee.
It means learning new things about yourself that you didn't know before and that you couldn't possibly have discovered anywhere else.
It means being willing to evolve a little more. To suffer through the growing pains again.
To trust in nostalgia and Jesus to replant your roots. The parts of you that must remain in order to grow from here.
Taking steps. Leaps.
Means uncertainty. So much uncertainty.
About everything really, including yourself.
But it also means so much potential.
It means new favorite cafes and flavors and colors you never knew you'd fall in love with. It means new people and friendships that you won't be able to imagine your life before or without. It means new versions of ourselves.
New memories that stay behind for us to hold onto in the moving forward.
New memories to be made up ahead that will do the same for us further down the road.
New adventures to be had.
New stories to tell.
And just like that, it's June again.