Friday, September 30, 2011

the adventure begins

Raising the lid of the trunk that contains my sweaters, sweatshirts, and scarves, I first felt delight. Cold weather means layering colors and textures and more creativity with clothes.

Rummaging around, delight faded a little and I started thinking things like this: "I wore these last year, and some the three years before that. They still look new, but I am tired of them."

Tired of them? Why? And thus began a week of the question rattling around my brain until it settled into a deep introspection.

Why do I want new things? New things make me feel more confident, I suppose. Well, that's rather nauseating, when I admit it to myself. I look to mere fibers for proof that I am capable of living my life well... when my me-ness wasn't made by me and therefore I'm not even responsible for the entirety of my existence? Well, that just grosses me out.

Especially when I think of many people who are lucky to have two sets of clothes. I say I care about poverty, slave labor in the clothing industry, and living a sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle. I do care about those things. Hugely. But I'm an artist. How things look is a big deal to me. So I justify having a whole trunk full of sweaters because I got them on sale or at thrift stores.

Please understand that I do believe that God wants us to enjoy life and His good gifts. Wearing pretty clothes reminds me that God created beauty and loves it even more than I do. But I know that I can use this truth as an excuse to indulge myself.

I feel God calling me to a beauty in dress that is content. Aware of need and injustice. And knows beyond cognition that He is the source of my identity and confidence.

So, for the next six months, I'm not going to buy any clothes. The adventure begins. Anyone want to join me?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

the spice of life

To balance my school and work schedule, I've been working a few days a week at the off-campus boy's group home. This means that I am only on my usual unit three or so days a week. I miss my girls, but suffice it to say that four boys instead of eleven girls is a huge drop in stress level.

I love the challenge of building relationships with my girls, but both the highs and lows are pretty intense... and they switch with unpredictable frequency. I think guys in general are just more chill than girls.

Yesterday morning, two of them were watching "Hillbilly Handfishin'" while waiting for the bus. T. said to P., "Dude. We should do that." And P. replied, "I can't be a hillbilly. I'm Asian." They gave about two grunts of laughter.

After they left, I laughed and laughed. Yep, I'm a girl.

When a new girl arrives, it takes days or weeks of talking to her, trying to draw her out and showing her I care before she's cool with me. With guys, I don't feel that pressure. I'm just here and not much talk happens between "time to get up, you guys!" and "have a good day at school!" But they must be starting to feel more comfortable with me because P., who was awake when I arrived, came downstairs to show me the drawing he had just finished. I was so honored, and he really has talent. I love meeting other artists and believe there is incredible power in teens, especially urban teens who don't have much familial support, expressing themselves through art.

I hope I didn't fuss over it too much. Ha. Yeah, I'm a girl.

And I love being a girl. I'd miss feeling maternal and feminine.

But I'm glad I can be maternal and feminine and still like watching football, still be invigorated by a good theological or political debate, and miss going hunting and doing farm work with my dad.

I'm glad God likes variety. So do I.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Learning Russian letters

My Russian Culture prof is...


words rather fail me...

but the closest matches would be




outrageously funny.

Today we were starting to learn the Russian alphabet. He warned us that we will need to spend a lot of time rehearsing the sounds and symbols on our own because they will be on the test. "You will spend many hours," he said. ""Not like 22 hours, because that would kill you. But very many."

After shouting the sounds back at him while he wrote the letters on the board for half an hour (and yes, shouting because he won't accept anything less), he squinted his eyes all up into crinkly slits. Looking at each of us carefully, he consoled us, "Learning letters can make you crazy, but there are medications for that."

It was even funnier in his Polish accent.

Monday, September 19, 2011

goodbye, summer...

goodbye, flowers. both inside

... and outside.

goodbye local fruit...

... and long breakfasts on the porch.

goodbye, idyllic afternoons spent lying on the ground with nothing to do but...

... watch clouds charge by like horses in slow motion through the blue sky behind green leaves.

goodbye, sandy toes and weekly trips to Presque Isle.

goodbye, sweet summer

and oh,

welcome, fall!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rainy Evening

Living on a cobbled street is always charming.
On rainy evenings, it's mystical and romantic.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

something good

I should be working ahead on Algebra homework because I have a Psych exam on Thursday and I really and truly don't want to have to worry about my least favorite class while I study. Notice that I didn't use words like "hideous" and "malevolent" to describe Algebra. This is proof that my extremely right-brained mind is learning how to think in stringent procedures again... after not doing much math for seven years. Thank God.  But instead of solving equations, I am reading blogs and starting to process all that has happened in the past two weeks.

For the sake of privacy I will not say much here, but I think it's ok to admit that our families are broken. Maybe this is just in "plain", Mennonite circles, but the term "broken home" is often used to describe families whose parents are separated. I am choosing to not feel shame. I believe that every family is broken, just like every person is broken. Some types of "broken" are more visible than others. Even healthy, loving individuals and families can hurt each other and take each other for granted. This is something my closest friends have told me repeatedly since my mom left, and I feel it to be true.

When brokenness shows itself in nightmarish proportions, everything about life can feel wrong. It can be hard to imagine this, but

{made by me, so copy and paste if you like without fear of the copyright police}

Whether today's brokenness is job frustration, misunderstandings between people, sickness of someone you love, or grief over losing someone, all of us have our dark places. But please know this with certainty:

Something good is going to happen.

Every day.

Something good.

Something that proves that the world isn't completely hideous and that your life hasn't run into a gray cul-de-sac with the exit blocked by a toppled building. The world is hideous, but it is also beautiful. Look for the orange poppies under the tree on the east side of your cul-de-sac. They are there, and you will find them if you have eyes to see.

How do I know?

Because I know God to be a nurturing god of healing and redemption. Every time I get trapped in gray cul-de-sacs, I see Him working. Preserving. Healing. Making GOOD out of broken. He is the source of GOOD and WHOLE, and He is always here. I see him in my dad's care of his girls, my sisters' and my closer bond, the misty sunrises every morning, and (tonight!) a free concert of Chopin and Schubert's masterpieces.

Because something good is always going to happen, I can feel blows that break me and still say

 I will extol the LORD at all times;
   his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the LORD;
   let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the LORD with me;
   let us exalt his name together.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
   he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
   their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
   he saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
   and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
   blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the LORD, you his holy people,
   for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
   but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Psalm 34:1-10

Monday, September 5, 2011

on & on

Driving 11 hours in one day is crazy, especially when you get caught in a doozy of a storm on the way back. But I hunched over the steering wheel with poor Ebony's wipers on full speed and kept plunging along at 35 MPH while other cars stopped underneath overpasses to escape the liquid blizzard. Ebony's headlights were walled in only a few feet ahead, and Ebony and I crept along through the deluge, completely unrepentant of our insanity. I got to spend 5 hours with my dad and ALL my sisters. It was so worth the crazy hours. I really can't describe the way my heart shifts toward them, so all I will say is that blood runs thicker than anything else and that family pain and trauma only deepen real love.

Plus, the water battle was epic. After a free-for-all, we played "drip, drip, drench", a very wet version of "duck, duck, goose". Mad fun. A few people (coughKelsey) (coughCandace) thought we were playing "drench, drench, drown", but no casualties were reported.

I was feeling rather morose at leaving them and plugging along in a submarine across the state to go to work. The submarine wasn't even yellow. And there definitely was no sky of blue or sea of green. But I arrived at work.

My moroseness was shortlived because three of my girls were still awake. We joked around for a little, then I told them "goodnight" and started working at the desk. After a while, M. called me over. "You OK, Becky? Cuz you look like you been crying or something." Is it possible that this is the same girl who once yelled "f*** you, Becky!" at me several times in rapid succession after a serious battle of the wills (over a tiny little rule)?

"Yeah, I'm OK," I said. But I sat down and we talked about how much our parents' decisions can hurt us sometimes and yet how it is possible to keep your head above water and walk upstream, hanging tightly to your own choices.

"Becky, I look up to you. Like, for REAL, for real. You're just a really nice person and I want to be like you." And M. told me that she knows I truly care about her and that's why she has no trouble anymore with doing what I ask of her.

I think I gaped like a freshwater bass a lot during that conversation. I think of my job in terms of how I can give to THEM. But oh, they made my night a lot better tonight. Completely and totally warmed me down to the tips of my green shoes (from Ireland, I might mention. They are quite fairyesque and I sorta like them a lot.).

Then M. said, "I will pray for you!" And A. and C. said, "I will, too!"

After a pause, M. said quietly, "I need you to pray for me, too." She told the three of us things she wants to change and that she knows she needs God's help to accomplish.

So I told them how much I love them and how awesome they are, then I asked if they wanted to pray together before they went to sleep. I'm always hesitant to ask, or even talk overtly about God. Maybe I shouldn't be. But I get so tired of the "cram God down people's throats" thing. It makes me cringe when I see God presented like cod liver oil. I try to focus on loving like Jesus and living like Him. He knows I sure don't do it perfectly, but usually He is merciful enough to give me moments to talk about how much HE loves all of us.

But they jumped out of bed and said, "Yes! We was going to aks." So we prayed together. Just sat at the feet of a Father Who loves His beautiful, broken children. Then they ran to me and hugged me goodnight. Suffice it to say that hugs from teens mean a lot.

Life is hard. Life is good. And, after I get some sleep, I will be ready to take another step.

"On and on and on we pray
That we can break into a brighter day
Nothing worth anything
Ever goes down easy

On and on and on we go
I don't understand this winding road
Nothing worth anything
Ever goes down easy

Goes down easy"
-Mat Kearney