Saturday, November 27, 2010
Alas, my checkbook rolled its eyes at me for even thinking this would be possible.
Plan #2. Go to my roommate Katie's hometown for Thanksgiving. This sounded like a lot of fun, and she lives on the southwest coast of Oregon, so it would be a great change of scenery. I even met her parents while they were up here, and they were so wicked nice that I knew it would be an enjoyable way to spend my Thanksgiving. This time, it was my workload that just sighed, shook its head, and pointed at the piles of things that would never get done if I was away for 5 days.
Plan #3. Stay in the city. Here. Portland. Well, why not? I mean, it is my first year in this place, and I won't be around for the Christmas holiday, so wouldn't it be great just to see how life was lived here? I waited a few days, but since there were no rolled eyes or shaking heads this time, I figured this was meant to be.
So here's what I did:
... Wednesday night I went to a hockey game with about 10 friends of mine. There was a contest where we could make paper airplanes and try to fly them (unsuccessfully) into this box on the ice to win $10,000. Mine hit the glass on its way down (which I found rather impressive actually). We had a great time, the Winterhawks won 4-2, and I got a free lift ticket with my admission, so now we are all planning a future day on the slopes!
... Thursday Kim and Pete came over for a Thanksgiving meal. I was crazy excited to cook (it IS my favorite meal of the year). We spent about 4 hours preparing everything. I found a killer new mac& cheese recipe, rubbed the turkey with seasonings and fresh basil, whipped up about a vat of the creamiest mashed potatoes, blanched some teryiaki green beans, glazed some carrots, warmed up some wheat rolls, and tried a new apple pie recipe. Everything was delicious, my home was warmed by the smell of the baking food, and we crashed afterwards for a movie night.
A very busy, but very pleasing, day to give thanks.
... Friday Kim really wanted to go shopping during all the sales, but we both decided to sleep in, and try the stores later. I was fortunate enough to get a morning wake up call (at 5 am) by Sarah, my youngest sister out with my family on the traditional mall quest. (; Well, at least I felt like I was a part of it with them... After trying to get back to sleep for another hour or two, I got up and ran downtown for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Yes, we have one here, and No, we are not New York City). It was AWESOME! I had never been to any holiday parade in the city, and I just loved every bit of it. The crowds were so friendly and filled with life, and the people in the parade were passing out everything from dog noses, to stickers to candy. It was so festive. I felt like I was part of the fabric of Portland.
Later on, we did a bit of shopping, then I went home to munch on leftovers and talk to some long distant friends. After squeezing in a 15 minute nap, I bundled up again, headed back down into the city to watch the tree lighting ceremony in Pioneer Square.
Now, Pioneer Square is one of only 4 downtown squares in America--- so it is nicknamed 'Portland's Living Room'. And rightly so. Everyone was there, and again, such a vibe of commonality and friendship. The Portland orchestra played old Christmas hymns, and our city's choir led the crowds in songs that outlined the birth of Christ. It was so surreal. There I was, standing in the middle of strangers, in a brand new city, singing lyrics like He rules the world with truth and grace... or Fall on your knees, oh hear, the angels' voices, O night divine! O night-- when Christ was born... I looked at the sky and marveled at how my God brings forth praise from those who don't even acknowledge Him. In all that time outside, I believe we sang only 2 'secular' Christmas songs. It was pretty nuts.
Right before the tree was lit, there was a live news cast which occurred right where I was standing (so yes, I was on the 6 o'clock local news channel. Jealous, I know). Then, we sang, the tree was lit up, and everyone was cheering... and blinking. (you see, Cricket Wireless had handed out all these buttons that flashed green, so everyone was basically twinkling around the 75 foot tree).
It was only after I got home, and was watching television, that I saw this news flash pop up on my screen. The FBI just arrested a teenage Somalian in a thwarted terrorist attack on Pioneer Square at the tree lighting tonight. WHAT??!! Yup, it was true. Some kid had been planning for months to blow up a van of explosives while we were all gathered around celebrating the advent of Christmas. The thing of it was, he tried lighting the explosives, and they just wouldn't work. You know why?
It was because I was to be reminded again to fall on my knees. While we were merely singing words, Jesus was again bringing peace on earth. To my life. To my city.
Crowds of us were enjoying life and celebration and we didn't even recognize the reason for it. There should have been chaos, and death, and sorrow-- those were the Enemy's plans-- but instead, we blindly made it home wrapped up in the grace we take for granted every day.
Is it a bit obvious to say that this was truly a weekend to give thanks?
Sunday, November 21, 2010
When you grow up as the older sister of three young siblings, like I am, you spend a lot of childhood learning how to hide.
You learn how to hide from your mom, when she wants to you to babysit,
You learn how to hide your Halloween
You learn how to avoid spring cleaning time, because you’ll be put in charge of at least five projects.
You learn how to find the dark corners of your house, to bury yourself in a closet, to stay in under the covers, with a book and a flashlight, ignoring the sound of your mom’s voice when she calls your name.
That’s a feeling I haven’t quite left behind. I feel the same way when I spend hours on
I don’t feel this way all the time, though. I feel like I’ve peeled away the edges of my comforter often enough to know that there is a beautiful world outside, where everything is lush and lovely and in bright, bold, color. I see laugh lines, and the streak of tears, and conversation between people who really know each other. These pictures intrigue me, brash little whispers of what my life could be, of how I could be with other people…But even as these fleeting flashes of life appear, they usually vanish. I blast them away with thoughts of I can’t…I won’t…I don’t want to…
… like, what if I invite the lonely new girl from home community to Thanksgiving, and it winds up being horrible? What if I’m awkward with her, what if my friends think she’s lame, what if there’s nothing to talk about?...
...or this lady I know has the flu, and I want to bring her something, like go get a chicken and fresh herbs and vegetables and make her some wicked awesome soup, but my car is about to explode if I don’t get the oil changed. And I don’t have cash to do both this week...
…or that guy at the bus stop looks lonely, but what if I talk to him and he gets the wrong idea, and I find myself feeling totally freaked out?…where is the balance between living boldly and taking risks...and being wise?
…or sometimes I think about working with the jr highers, or maybe the refugees, but I don’t know if I have what it takes. I don’t know if I’d belong around Somalians, or junior highers…I don’t know what’s hip in Somalia. Or let’s face it, what’s hip in jr. high.
And then I start to think, maybe I’m crazy for even asking these questions. Seriously. Why would I want to mess with my life, as good and as hard as it already is?
There’s a fear that in letting God find me under my covers, so to speak, or in asking him what I should do, how I should love people, I’ll be asking the question that will ultimately lead to me into places that I flat out do not like.
When I think about the fact that God might have something to say about my life…from the small, “shall I be patient with my co-worker right now?” the everyday “how should I spend my Saturdays?” the large, “what continent will I live on?” or “how do I help bring my family towards Christ?” I get a little anxious. Well, maybe a lot anxious.
I think somewhere deep in me I have this paranoid idea that God has no concept of what is enjoyable to me. That He would think that I love licorice, when really chocolate is my favorite. That somehow, God doesn’t “get” me. That somehow, there’s some role I have to play that is soooo not me, that I might have to change who I am completely.
Or the opposite: that I would never change. That this is it, and that my lesson is to suck it up, to resign myself to a life of ho-humness, of total monotony. That I will always be in exactly this posture, this position, showing up to the same cubicle until retirement, or making copies for the church until I die.
And another thing, what if I just don’t get it? What if I ask God what to do, and I’m in for a lifetime of being puzzled? What if somehow I’m not
I’m afraid that I’ll get lost in contemplation, and never take steps toward action.
I’m afraid that I’ll get lost in action, and be caught in an endless web of doing.
What if he gives me something that I cannot handle? What if he gives me something, and I screw it up? It seems simpler not to try.
But here is the thing.
When I think back on childhood, the babysitting, or the chore that I was avoiding, is never really the point. The uneasy memory is the one of dread, of being alone in my bed, waiting anxiously, self-conscious and self-protective. And I think, what if letting God find me, letting him take my hand and pull me out from my hiding spot, what if that is the place I find life and hope. And what if there is a whole, world, lush and lovely, just on the other side of my covers.
I got more than I bargained for. I walked into the converted gym. It was beautiful. Long artsy drapes hung over the back wall. Multiple round tables, covered with black cloth, held dishes of fresh fruit, candied nuts, artisan bagels, and creative centerpieces. The Bible passage was artfully arranged on deep merlot cardstock, while the schedule of events was printed on corresponding clear vellum paper. There was a roaring fire in a stone fireplace, warm drinks to wrap our fingers around, and friendly conversations to engage in.
Then the speaking began. It was beautiful, deep, and moving. The theme was based around Isaiah 61, the call was to examine what it looks like to become engaged in the world around around us. It was truly a study of the Bible. After Heather spoke, we were given 20 minutes to discuss at our tables, to enter into our own stories and our own hearts.
The whole morning went like this, until something happened that I thought I'd never see at a women's conference in my lifetime: we were actually given time to sit alone and be with Jesus. An entire and precious 45 minutes of private reflection, prayer, and journaling. It was the culminating piece to an inspiring and encouraging day spent with fellow sisters in Christ.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Before the party I cleaned, baked, and sewed some new covers for the chairs in my living room. (oh yeah. just call me
Kim and I invited all the friends we had met in Portland so far, and the attendance was outstanding.
The first to arrive was Reese. That was my favorite, because he is so shy that I swore he tried to sneak back out of the house when he realized no one else was there yet. This guy reminds me so much of my friend Aaron
Next came Kim and P.J. These are my faithful Philly friends. They brought with them the games, pizza... and a measure of safety for poor Reese. Kim is the best person I know for making friends, and P.J., well, let's just say that he's the best person I know for ignoring the rules of games.
Enter in Brei, with her roommate Erin. Brei is one of the nicest girls I have met while out here. We were in the same night class together (before I stopped attending it), and she introduced herself to me so we'd become good friends. She loves to laugh. I had never met Erin before, but she was this pretty redhead who proved to be a killer teammate in Electronic Catch Phrase. I was glad to have her join the group.
Soon after followed Kimberly. Here is a college student I met that morning at our church's women's forum. She is a really intelligent girl who is studying web design and formatting. We hit it off pretty easily, and so it seemed natural to invite her out tonight. She fit right in, and made friends quickly with all the others.
Aaron soon came after that-- you know Aaron. He's my neighbor, transporter, and most consistent Portland friend here. He's a runner, and obviously came to the party on his own two feet. In the rain. He kept thinking I was talking to him every time I addressed Reese. (who I kept calling Aaron, remember?)
Matt was almost the last to show-- mainly because he had to finish watching the Oregon Ducks' game. Matt was one of the first guys I hit it off with out here-- he was in my Economics' class (along with Aaron). Several of the girls were drawn to him, and he showed some amazing panache for the game of Catch Phrase. (although he did guess some odd answers in a disturbingly quick fashion).
Last to enter was my roommate Katie, and her best friend Jessica who was visiting for the weekend. They had just returned from a day trip to the Coast, and were coming in wet, but happy. It was a perfect time to transition into Fax Machine, which, thanks to Katie taking a drawing class, turned into some brilliant displays of artistry.
All in all, there were about 12 people here laughing and cheating and bonding.
It was simply a solid, good time.