Staying out of dumpsters and sorority houses from now on

I like to think that I am fairly capable with verbally expressing myself, but some experiences just cannot be portrayed within the feeble constraints of language. You will never fully understand the outlandish living arrangements of our cul-de-sac house, and that’s probably a good thing. In order to give you a vague impression, let me share a few highlights.

This past school year:

  1. I probably had as many German citizen housemates as I did American citizen housemates (for the record, the German citizens were generally more tidy).
  2. I cannot count the number of nights I came home to a stranger sleeping on my couch.
  3. At one point, a house guest attempted to buy one of our homemade paintings off of our wall.
  4. Shampoo, conditioner, gummy bears, and laundry detergent were just a few of the personal items that disappeared on a regular basis.
  5. More than once, I woke up at 2:00am to the sound of rocks hitting my window and my name being yelled from the backyard. A certain housemate made a habit of forgetting her key.
  6. More than one housemate required an intervention-style lesson on How the American Trash System Works. One subleaser got her own personal lesson in Why We don’t Put Metal in the Microwave.
  7. All housemates were instructed to Please Stop Putting Bones Down the Garbage Disposal.
  8. I came home to a handwritten note on the toilet saying “PLEASE WIPE ALL BODILY FLUIDS OFF OF THE TOILET SEAT,” and a second note that read, “SORRY WE WILL!”
  9. K’s terrifying (we’re talking, cut chunks of K’s hair out while she was sleeping, whispered K’s name under her breath, etc.) roommate from freshman year randomly appeared in our house one day, and told us she was spending the night She mainly stayed hidden during the daytime, but Sarah heard her pacing back and forth in the hallway that night as we slept.
  10. When a few subleasers locked themselves out of the rock-thrower’s room, she told them to climb onto the roof and through the window, like she does.
  11. Every walk from the street to the door was like navigating a mine field. No one wanted to be caught in an uncomfortable thirty-minute conversation with our (reportedly bipolar) next-door-porch-dwelling-neighbor-lady. It got even worse when her sister came to visit. I never met the sister, but I heard the stories.

All we lacked were the cameramen, and our reality TV experience would have been complete. After quite the epic social experiment in hostel-style living, we finally had our walk-through yesterday. As you can probably imagine, the house was a disaster. Most of the random transients had long since passed through, and only left their quirky food remnants and carpet stains as proof that they’d visited.

When I arrived at the house, I found a mountain of miscellaneous trash bags and boxes piled in the center of the kitchen. Thankfully, my sense of smell is virtually nonexistent, but K informed me that the house reeked. Our trash can was already overflowing with refuse (apparently everyone had learned how to use it at this point), so Karre and I loaded the garbage into our cars and tossed it at her new apartment complex. Seriously, guys: we couldn’t fit all the trash in both of our cars combined. We had to actually threaten some of our other housemates to come and throw away some of the trash. That was a thing that happened.

During the walk through, Boris pointed out that one of the decorative wooden valances was missing. “Have you guys seen it?”

I’m going to admit something. I had seen it. It had been in our kitchen, protruding out of the peak of Mount Rubbish. It had been, that is, until I packed it up in my Forester and threw it into K’s dumpster. But I couldn’t very well say, “Oh yeah! I saw it as I threw it into a garbage heap this evening!” So I didn’t. Boris told us we could look for it, and Karre and I silently agreed to “look for it” in a very specific and smelly location.

Maybe I should stop confessing my dumpster diving stories to the internet. I highly doubt that it’s helping my job hunting efforts. Oh well. Anyway, long story short, at the end of the evening I found myself inside the dumpster, rifling through bags of trash, hunting for a ridiculously important stick of wood. I found it, K returned it, happy ending. So what did I learn from all this? A lot (mainly that Kirkland brand trash bags will leak all over your car)—but here are the top two take-aways from last night:

  1. Think before you toss—I don’t know why, after this year of madness, I just accepted the fact that everything in the trash mountain was disposable. If I had thought for myself, instead of trusting the assumptions that had been given to me, I would have saved myself a whole lot of trouble. I think that goes for other things in life, too. Traditions, doctrines, interpretations, stigmas, proofs, stories, whatever. Sure, you can assume that your piles of presuppositions are perfectly accurate, but you might find yourself in a hot mess later on.
  2. Messy jobs are better with friends—I’m glad I had Karre with me to shine a light on the situation (literally). She held the flashlight, helped sort the trash, and snapchatted a lovely video of me as I shifted trash. There is nothing enjoyable about being knee deep in germs, but having a friend around makes it just slightly bearable and humorous. Some stages of life are about as pleasant as a metal box of garbage, but having friends with you can make all the difference.

Despite all the odd and ridiculous memories that I associate with that house, I’m grateful for our time there: for our semi-monthly dinner parties, our backyard twinkle lights, our fireplace, our sporadic deep conversations (or discussions about Beyonce), and the many great and interesting friends I made under that expansive roof. Sarah and I had no idea what we were getting into when we signed a lease with three complete strangers (and one coworker). Now, none of us has a clue what this next chapter holds for us either, but I’m sure that if it is anything like this last one, we have nothing to worry about.

Through a great deal of expert planning and perseverance, we managed to avoid ever having a complete house dinner, and we do not have single image containing all six of the housemates.

Here’s the closest we ever got, you’ll just have to imagine the missing girl (and the boyfriends, and the subleasers, and the unwanted former roommates, and the of-balanced neighbors…

suite pic 1 suite pic 2

 

*************EDIT***************

Sarah pointed out that one morning we went downstairs to find a bean-bag sized trash bag full of movie theatre popcorn in our living room. I guess that’d be weird story #12.

Skateboarding and Other Such Tests of Persistence

The clattering and grinding of a skateboard against pavement drifts up from the cul-de-sac and in through my open window. The embarrassingly  stereotypical sounds of Southern California Suburban Nightlife would be much less of a nuisance to me if I weren’t having so much trouble falling asleep as it is. Sleeplessness seems to be negatively correlated with busyness, or perhaps positively related to the number of unanswered job applications I’ve submitted.

Today a good friend of mine messaged me to ask me if I’d been applying to such-and-such jobs. Her friend so-and-so had been rather lazy in college, but had miraculously managed to get a job after filling out a single application. As encouraging as my well meaning friend’s message was intended to be, it unfortunately harmonized with a chorus of kindly meant comments that have been echoing in my ears over the past few months.

Have you applied for A, B, C? Have you looked to see if 1, 2, 3 is hiring? Have you done this, that, and the other? I am going to find you a job! You will find a job. Joe Loser found a job, and he barely graduated from State University! How is the job hunt going? Have you found anything yet? Have you heard back from anyone yet? I’m going to look for you. I hope you find something.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, really. I am thankful for all the encouragement, prayers, and hints. It’s just that sometimes the swelling song of edification ends up sounding like a discordant verse of you’re doing something wrong. After all, if Joe Loser managed to get such a great job, then Sweet Baby Moses, what is wrong with me?

The thing is, I don’t know. I’ve applied for nearly 100 jobs since graduation. I follow all the rules. I troll all the best job boards. I keep an Excel spreadsheet of the jobs I’ve applied for. I customize the resumes and the cover letters. I follow-up. I leave my imaginary friends at home when I go to interviews. I even thank you cards, and yet I still feel like we are picking teams in P.E. and I am the one with the broken foot and inhaler.

My only answer is that my plan is not God’s plan. In my version of this story, I would currently be semi-permanently situated in my own fabulous apartment somewhere and sleeping soundly after enjoying my Saturday off (from my deeply rewarding, challenging, and well-paying job) with my friends. Instead I am wide awake and worrying at 11:47pm, while my sister snores next to me in our shared bed in the spare room of a house in a town where I know four people.

What is the point? Why this long dry spell? I’m not sure, but I don’t have to know. If there’s one thing I learned from Job (the Bible character, not the employment), it’s that I shouldn’t need to understand in order to trust. On the other hand, it sure makes the waiting a whole lot more bearable when there is a silver lining in sight. With my admittedly near-sighted view of the situation, here are the…

Upsides to Unemployment as seen in the thick of it

  1. An otherwise impossibly long visit with all of my dear friends in Florida
  2. Practice writing witty cover letters in record time (practice is an understatement)
  3. A fuller understanding of the Fuller girls and Morro Bay
  4. An acquaintance with the charming and quirky local coffee shop and its mysteriously loyal patrons
  5. An overabundance of quality time and Netflix time with my sister
  6. One of the most spectacular hikes I’ve been on in California: Paradise Falls
  7. The opportunity to volunteer with School on Wheels
  8. A heaping helping of humble pie
  9. A Ventura Fair venture
  10. The creation of a second blog (as if I write frequently enough with one)
  11. A much larger share of understanding and sympathy for others who have been/are chronically unemployed
  12. A marathon experience in trusting God in the hard times (an activity which looks about as pathetic as when I tried to skateboard that one time)

So by all means, please continue to give me your kind words and suggestions, and I’ll keep trying to remember that they aren’t meant as jabs at my personhood. It sounds like the skateboarder has gone inside for the night, and I should wrap things up as well. Tomorrow, we’ll both get back on our boards and try again.

and fall again. and try again. and fall again. and try again. Because in order to succeed, you have to keep getting up.

 

 

Life is not a line dance

Somehow time flies away from me and before I know it I’ve moved to Germany, gotten married, had twins, joined the marines, and forgotten to update my blog. Okay. So, I’m single, childless, jobless, and still in SoCal. But hey, to my credit—I was in a wedding, I babysat, I applied for about 60 jobs, and I was in Sweet Home Tampa for three weeks. That’s gotta count for something.

I’ll update you first about my time in the 813. To make a very long story short, God vetoed my earthly-focused, fear-driven desire to just find a job and only go to weddings if they were convenient. He answered my prayers for direction with unmistakeable unemployment. I decided that I might as well be jobless in Tampa for a month, and I’m so glad He led me there. So much happened, I could have written a blog post about each day. Instead, I’ll give you a few lists about my time there (you know how I love lists), and then we’ll move on.

Awkward Things That Happened To Me

  • Getting locked in the Snapps’ Guest Bathroom
  • Getting locked out of the Snapps’ House—This resulted in me accidentally inviting myself over to my ex’s house three times in one day, and inviting myself on a married-couple-double-date to Starbucks.
  • Playing “Pass the Pig.” Oh, you’ve never heard of Pass the Pig? Bless your heart.
  • Ordering a Chick-Fil-A Sandwich, lettuce wrapped—All the employees mocked my California-ness, and the cook told me to “take my order to KFC.” When I finally got my low-carb order, it was more like a salad than a sandwich.
  • Being tricked into going on a double date with a guy who spoke a grand total of 22 words during the whole meal. I counted.
  • Spending four days at the beach house with six children. There are too many stories to recount. One involved a fish in someone’s swimsuit. I wish we could blame the children for that one.
  • Not showering for four days at the beach. I’m pretty sure that if I’d gone another 24 hours, I would have successfully developed dreads. Who needs shampoo when you have salt water and chlorine? *This girl*
  • Using DPS codes in radio conversations with the kids—”10-22″ doesn’t mean a whole lot when you’re seven.
  • Buying much-too-small-for-me Cinderella underwear at Hot Topic—It was for a bridal gag gift, obviously, but the cashier probably just thought that I had Reverse Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
  • Discovering a stash of Popsicle Stick People in a friend’s glove box—If you think that you want to know what a popsicle stick person is, you’re wrong.
  • Trying to comfort an anxious barista by telling him that my friend was, “Mexican, not Cuban,” and that she would be perfectly content with the Americanized Cuban Coffee he’d made her. He didn’t think I was funny.
  • Celebrating Tutu Tuesday as a 22-year-old. Somehow, it’s just less excusable as a college graduate.
  • Becoming a regular at the new Dunkin’ in less than a week. I think that’s a new record. The cashier told me I should “Come every single day” until I went back to California. I pretty much did.
  • Compiling a Bedroom-Related-Song CD (to plant in the Binghammontree Honeymoon Car), while women within earshot practiced their talks for the church’s ladies’ day. The details of this story are about 500 times worse than it sounds. Again, wedding gags getting me into trouble.
  • Getting a manicure from a woman who looked eerily like the creatures from the We Like The Moon YouTube video.
  • Being the same height as the best man. We pulled it off well. I did the whole one-leg-bent thing, he stood tall.
  • Dancing at the weddings. JKJK you know nobody dances at COC weddings. Good thing, too, because white people can’t dance. Or at least that’s what they say. You know what was awkward about the weddings, though? Being one of the single ladies who is obligated to clump with the other single women in a giant blob of singleness and fight over some second-hand bundle of flowers. Nothing says “desperate” like moshing in a dress over a magical-marriage-plant. I’m allergic to flowers, anyhow.
  • Receiving congratulatory texts about my wedding. I guess that’s an unavoidable hazard when you have the same first name as the bride.

Things I loved

  • Deep theological discussions in trucks and Taco Bells
  • Good Sweet Tea
  • Morris Food
  • Third Wheeling
  • Afternoon Thunderstorms
  • Late night chats with the Snapps
  • Dunkin’ Donuts, my long lost lover
  • Singing with so many saints
  • A social life, community, and family
  • My bathwater ocean (none of that Pacific Coast 60-degree-water garbage)
  • Watching the raindrops on the river
  • Air that envelopes you in a warm hug the moment you step outside
  • Eating at The Oxford Exchange, Wright’s, and Which Wich
  • Watching The Lego Movie and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • Weddings, and all things related

I had a great time. I learned a lot. I loved a lot. I cringed at my own awkwardness a lot. I was blessed with valuable time with people who mean the world to me, and generosity and hospitality was shown to me by so many.

I also interviewed a lot. Okay, maybe “a lot” is strong language, but it was a lot for me. It was a lot for one job. I had two interviews and one special project, all for one position. They seemed to like me, they even wanted me to interview as soon as I got back to LA (read: five hours after my plane landed in LA). After rushing from LAX to Calabasas back to Santa Monica, I left Maris at Philz Coffee and headed to my interview. It seemed to go well, for the most part. At the end, one of the team members suggested that I try the Mint Mojito at Philz when I picked Maris back up. I was a bit surprised that Philz served alcohol, until I realized that the Mint Mojito was a coffee flavor. An amazing, out-of-this-world, shaming-all-things-Dunkin-Donuts, coffee flavor. My life changed with that first sip.

Well, I guess you probably know this if you read the intro, but I didn’t get the job. I found out today. I kinda feel like I just endured a break-up. Or, at least, I imagine this is what a break-up feels like. Letsbehonest I haven’t dated anyone since Call Me Maybe was still a song people pretended to like. But I’ll be okay. In fact, I have another list for you. I knew you’d be excited.

Reflections on not getting this job (or any of the 60+ jobs I’ve applied for in the past 60 days)

  • I have really great friends. I can’t count the people who have been praying for me during this job hunt, who have bad-mouthed whatever job I told them I didn’t get, who continue to support me through this fun time.
  • God is good, all the time. I know that’s a cliche, but it’s true.
  • Money doesn’t matter. I know, I know, that’s pretty cliche too. But I guess I needed to it, because Dr. Dickey followed me to two different congregation just so that I could hear the same lesson about greed, twice. I guess, what I mistake for responsibility is often just a lack of trust in disguise.
  • It’s all worth it, if you walk away with a new favorite coffee.
  • “White people have no rhythm, but everyone can line dance. They literally tell you what to do.” That’s a quote from one of the brilliant high schoolers sitting at the neighboring table outside this Starbucks.

I’ve been spending my unemployment binge-watching tacky Netflix TV-shows (family members, please do not judge me for the embarrassing things on my recent views—I blame the Morris Sisters), beach-bumming, and spontaneously napping. Life could be worse. Monday, I’m starting up again with my full-blown Job Safari. 61st time is the charm? For right now, however, I’m taking a moment to thank God. For forcing me to Florida. For Florida thunderstorms and for California sunsets. For countless homes away from home. For new letters from old friends. For mentors. For music. For encouragement. For hope. For Dunkin’ Donuts and Mint Mojitos.

But most importantly, I am thankful that life is not a line dance. Sure, I have no rhythm, and step-by-step instructions would be way easier. Sure, “everyone can line dance,” but that’s not what it’s about. I’m thankful for a life with no pre-set track, for a life with twists and turns and unique little side-steps. I’m thankful for the ambiguity and unpredictability that makes it all the more exciting, and forces me to let the Spirit lead, even when it’s uncomfortable.

 

New Heights

It’s 1:50AM, and I can’t sleep.

You’d think that my insomnia was induced by the creeping realization that I have 3 weeks left in my undergraduate career, but that wasn’t it. This is one of those ill-timed-coffee-consumption situations. You see, we’ve come to the point in the year where no matter how well I manage my time, I will have to sacrifice either grades or sleep (my social life met with the prioritization guillotine long ago). I had a group meeting in my old dorm at 10:00pm, and Matt was kind enough to brew me some coffee at 9:50pm. Matt loves three things: Academia, bumper stickers, and strong coffee.

It was funny being back in my old dorm. I hadn’t really been in there all year, and it brought back a lot of “old” memories. I hadn’t realized it, but there is even a distinct Towers-Parking-Lot smell. All of my junior-year struggles seemed so distant and small: a perpetually full Towers parking lot, sharing a wall with the temperamental elevator, and the most awkwardly arranged bathrooms imaginable. Okay, I suppose there was also that one time that our shower flooded the bathroom. Still, I didn’t realize at the time just how small those issues were, how petty. Even with The Curse of the Angry Shower Drain, all I had to do was call DPS. Now, we have a dirty kitchen, a clogged canyon, and a water-logged garage. I’d like to say that these new issues are somehow more grown-up, but part of me realizes the distinct first-world flavor that these new, sophisticated issues still possess.

Speaking of canyons, did I mention I went to the Grand Canyon for the first time ever last weekend? It was, to put it quite simply, epic. As of late, I have been perpetually impressed with the beauty of God’s creation, and The Giant Hole in the Ground was quite a sight. It was a bit terrifying, standing on a tiny isthmus of rock in the middle of that vast expanse of nothingness, but it was the good kind of terrifying, the kind that makes me think about the Lord. Standing there, I couldn’t help but think about how small I am in relation to Him, how insignificant in comparison to His glory, and how blessed I am to be able to experience His power. Having s’mores for breakfast was pretty cool too.

I’m still a bit shocked that I spent a weekend roadtripping, given my impending graduation and joblessness. Basically, everything I do right now is internally narrated with the phrase “I’d rather rage be applying for jobs.” To be honest with you, I’ve been struggling a lot with worrying. Worrying about my grades. Worrying about my future. Worrying about finding a subleaser. Worrying, worrying, worrying. I mean, if you know me at all, you know that fretting is kind of my M.O. I don’t think it really hit me until one night when I was venting about my qualms to Sarah, and she laughed out loud (that’s “LOL’ed” for you young folk) and said, “Emma, you worry SO much.” (For a reenactment of this conversation between me and Sarah, click this link).

I think I always knew that I worried, but I rationalized it:

I just care a lot.

I have really high standards.

I am responsible for myself—I don’t have a safety net.

Seriously? What weaksauce excuses. Lately, I have felt very convicted about my worrying. I’ve finally come to realize that it displays a lack of faith and a lack of focus. If I truly believe God’s promises, I won’t stress about things I can’t control. If I truly care about what’s important, I won’t let myself get caught up on the little things.

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

There’s a picture of me, back before my vampire years, when I was still cute. I’m standing on a stump. It’s actually quite adorable. Anyway, the backstory to the picture is that I was apparently standing on this stump, and I was frozen in fear at the idea of jumping off of it. Terrified. My mom knew that it was not a dangerous situation, but her coaxing did no good. I didn’t trust her. The distance seemed too great. It was too risky. I’ve known that story for a while, but only recently did I realize that I was still that terrified two year old, not trusting her parent, peering down from a minuscule height, immobilized by my apprehension. I don’t want to be that toddler anymore. Nothing good comes from worrying. It doesn’t glorify God. It doesn’t help me improve things. It doesn’t let me enjoy the view.

God treats me like a timid child—he started me off with tree stumps, and he’s working me up to Grand Canyon. In His infinite wisdom, He helps me grow incrementally. And yet, somehow, each step is painful. At each level, my initial reaction is fear. How much more joyful it would be, if I could just skip that first stage of the climbing process. How much more purposeful it would be, if I could react with faith instead of fear.

So, that’s my goal for this next 3 weeks: faith over fear. I don’t know about the subleasers, the job market, or my future, but I do know that the Lord reigns, and that that’s really all that matters. If something is going to keep me up at night, best believe it’s going to be coffee, not worrying. I’m going to enjoy this view, until it’s time for me to move on to new heights.

Disclaimer: I wrote this blog post before Andrea published hers. It’s great, check it out.

Tea with Germans

Yeah, yeah—I would love to be more fit, financially savvy, fun, and focused in 2014. As much as I may relate to these common new year’s sentiments, however, I have nothing novel or particularly witty to add to the annual dialogue. So this post is not anything remotely to-do with a yearly challenge, or a 365-day plan, or a renewal of dieting vows. As we close the door on 2013 and open the door to a new-and-totally-awesome 2014, I thought I’d lead us on a short jaunt down memory lane:

  • Remember back when I said that we should all get more comfortable telling each other about our shortcomings, and that I was going to make an effort to do that more often? Well, this post has a dash of “confession” in it.
  • Remember back when I said that I worked three jobs? Well, this post has a pinch of “two-weeks-notice.”
  • Remember back when World War II…yeah, okay, I wasn’t alive yet either. But there are a couple of Germans in this post as well.

So my Winter break has been lovely. I suppose it can’t be ALL that exciting, seeing as I am sitting here on my computer on new year’s eve, but I’ve had much worse holidays. After all, I had my front door wide open all day yesterday so that the lovely crisp air could come in (until the neighbors’ puppy wanted in too, that is). I spent the first half of the break working at the good ole security job (where I put in my notice—I’ve decided to stop working there in the spring). The holiday schedule of 8:00 to 5:00 left me exhausted and short-tempered. Add to that the fact that I have been trying to wean myself off of caffeine while I am test and paper free, and you have the perfect storm. That’s probably why, when one of my housemates stopped me (on my trip from my car to my bed) to share some news with me, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to hear what she had to say. Our conversation was brief, and as she smiled, thanked me, and ran up the stairs, I remained thoroughly confused. Here’s what I got out of our discussion:

  • An unknown number of her tennis-playing friends were coming to stay at our house for a couple of nights while they played in a tournament.
  • They were from Germany.
  • I “wouldn’t even see them, they would just be here to sleep.”
  • Aforementioned housemate would be leaving for Mexico before they arrived.

I don’t know about you, but Grouchy Emma was a little creeped out at the idea of some number of German strangers coming into my house while I slept (If you are reading this and you are one of the Germans that this post is about, no offense). Soon the morning came when I rushed down the stairs and found our living room occupied. I surmised that there were two of them, and that they were of indeterminable gender, although I was 87% sure at least one of them was male (they were sleeping, it’s not like I could gather any more data than that without being thoroughly creepy). I was in a rush that morning, so I got my car started and in reverse before I realized that it was garbage day. As I wrestled the cans in the direction of the curb, I realized that my visitors had left the side door wide open! The nerve. I made sure to message my housemate a very curt request that her friends keep that door closed in the future, thank-you-very-much.

At least 24 hours passed without a chance meeting of they-who-come-at-night and myself. After all, I went to bed early so that I could wake up at an ungodly hour for work, at which time the gender-ambiguous-athletes were still sleeping on the sofas.

The next evening, I took the precaution of locking my bedroom door as I showered and got ready to go out. Honestly, I didn’t even realize that my door had locking capabilities until that night—I had never felt the need before. But who wants strangers wandering into the wrong room on accident? I just wanted to be on the safe side. I went and ran some errands, and got home around 11:00, already feeling the need to hop into bed. Unfortunately, it turned out that my bed was on the wrong side of a locked door. My locked door. My first-time-in-a-year locked door. Somehow, the simple push-lock had not become un-pushed when I had left for my errands, and now I was locked out of my own room. All of my housemates were out-of-state (or country), and there was no key. I commenced planning mode:

  • Plan APick the lock—Who was I kidding? I wasn’t Nancy Drew. I’d never successfully picked a lock in my life. What’s more, all of my small tools and tool-like-items were on the other side of the locked door. The butter knife was useless. The screwdriver was MIA.
  • Plan BBrute force—Do I even need to explain the many reasons why this plan didn’t work?
  • Plan CBecome Karre—I was tempted to just crash in Karre’s room, which is right next to mine. After all, she has a nice bed, and some articles of clothing left in the closet that I could probably make work for my office shift the next day. As I crept about her room, however, a little voice poked holes in Plan C. Emma, how long could you live out of Karre’s room? Karre’s room doesn’t have your box set of Gilmore Girls: Season 2. Karre’s room doesn’t have a phone charger. Besides, you might need to change your underwear, eventually. I cursed the voice of reason inside my head, and I cursed not having spare GG, chargers, and underwear in my backpack. Then I filed Plan C as the emergency back-up plan. Wait, did you mention GG?                                                          Sorry, I got a little carried away…
  • Plan DPhone a friend—I texted one of my on-duty security guard compatriots, but he wouldn’t be leaving HQ for some time. All I could do at that point was wait.

When they found me at midnight, I was doing the dishes, laughing internally at the rotten luck that seemed to follow my every move. They took the opportunity to apologize personally for the open-door situation, which I graciously forgave them for. Somehow, one door-themed conversation led to another, and pretty soon I had some Germans helping me to break in to my own bedroom.

  • Plan EGerman break in—After about 14.5 minutes of small talk and the ruination of my Howdy’s coupon card, I slept in my own bed that night. I’m not sure where he learned to pick locks, but that isn’t really the point.

Where I slept that night isn’t really the point either. The point is that despite my best efforts to avoid the inconveniences of dealing with strangers in my life, in my house, I was forced into talking to them. And despite my best efforts at avoiding shining my light—in fact, what would seem like efforts to spread indifference and rudeness—I was thrown in the way of these two strangers who actually turned out to be a huge blessing.

During our 15 minute break-in chat, Christianity came up. During our week long house sharing (yes, it turned out to be more than a couple nights), Christianity came up often. As did English Breakfast tea, omelet sharing, SoCal sight-seeing, immigration issues, social differences between the countries, and Harry Potter. Ironically, I was sad to see my new housemates leave. They were cleaner than the girls that I actually live with, that’s for sure (If you live with me and you are reading this, no offense) (But really, it’s probably your turn to do the dishes).

I’d always thought of myself as hospitable. Whenever I had friends stay with me, I did my best to accommodate them and make them feel at home. I did grow up in the semi-South, after all, and what do they teach you there except to drink sweet tea and serve Southern hospitality? In reality, though, I feel like I have been missing the mark.

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Yeah. I have been missing the mark. It’s more than my friends who come to visit. Actually, it’s even more than those who I am literally forced to provide shelter for. The hospitality that I am called to show is a love for strangers that should cause me to act with love. for others. for strangers. for the forgotten. It isn’t about having a beautiful guest room (although that’s always lovely), it’s about making room for people in your life wherever and whenever you see needs. It isn’t about making yourself look or feel good, it’s about serving and loving everyone, even the people you’ve never seen before in your life, and even when you’d rather not be bothered with any pesky company. God knows I’ve only made it this far due to the hospitality of countless people, strangers as well as acquaintances (and ex-girlfriends of my dad) (that’s a long story).

So I guess this is my first lesson-list of 2014 (I’m sure the year has plenty more lessons in store for me after this):

  1. It’s better to have an open door than a locked one.
  2. Picking a lock is much easier than I originally thought.
  3. Maybe don’t suggest the Historic Nazi Stronghold as a good day hike for German guests (seriously, what was I thinking? But really, the hike looks pretty stinking cool).
  4. I have a long ways to go on the hospitality spectrum.
  5. It’s pretty hard to spread the good news when you can’t be bothered to meet the people staying in your own house.
  6. College in Germany is a whole lot cheaper than college in the U.S.
  7. Russians celebrate Christmas in January? What a bunch of hipsters.
  8. Not all Europeans hate Americans.
  9. It’s much harder to see God’s will when I’m so caught up in my own.
  10. Harry Potter is the universal language of the millennial generation.

So yeah, it turned out to be more than a couple days. If I had known that at the beginning of the week, I would have been irate. As it turns out, I’m inexplicably grateful. or dankbar.

So go be more gastfreundlich. I’m gonna do my best. Now, here are some snapshots of December for you:

My Agenda

Unless you happen to live under a rock, I assume you have heard of my friend Adam, and his “untimely” death. I put “untimely” in quotes because he was only 25 years old, and if we were going by my timetable, he would not be dead for some time. In fact, if we were going by anybody’s timetable, he would still be selling camping equipment, planning his research project, leaving baked goods on peoples doorsteps, serving his God, and occasionally writing me letters asking me about all my surfer boyfriends and complaining about how much he hates it when people eat with their mouths open. But, as it turns out, we are operating on God’s timetable, so to say that this was “untimely” might be a bit presumptuous.

Anyway, if you have more questions about all that, I suggest you go stalk some facebooks or something, because this post is more about the aftermath. You see, my biggest fear, following Adam’s passing, is that I will not learn anything from him, from all this. No matter what, his death is a tragedy that has affected my life. It is up to me to learn from it, and allow his life and death to also be a blessing. Other people have also acted as blessings to me in all this. Four people sent me money to help me buy a plane ticket to the funeral, and countless people have commented and messaged and generally expressed compassion and prayers. I can’t really do justice in this paragraph to the love that I have seen displayed since Adam’s death.

So, thanks to a bunch of people, I found myself with a plane ticket to Phoenix. Sarah and I had a grand time bearding people out, while driving to the Ontario airport.

Photo Cred: Sarah Smell-one

Photo Cred: Sarah Smell-one

From Phoenix, I would fly from Atlanta, where I would drive with Caroline to Gettysburg for the funeral. Or so I thought. I suppose it was quite naive of me, to think that I could have a perfectly boring trip to any event involving Adam Smelser. Long story short: after 24 hours of cumulative airport/plane time and four flights, I made it. I flew from Ontario to Phoenix to Philadelphia to Atlanta to Washington D.C., where Andrea and I had lots of shenanigans before Caroline picked us up. It didn’t matter how many flights or how much money it took, I just cared about getting there.

Photo Cred: Andrea

Pretending we are at the White House

Our time in Gettysburg was a whirlwind of talking, praying, exploring, crying, laughing, and drinking coffee. The funeral was so good, despite the fact that our row was full of embarrassingly loud criers, and my nose felt like I’d been using sandpaper kleenex the entire evening. Let’s just say we used a few tissues.

sandpaper

Our drive back to Atlanta took longer than intended, partially because we took a long nap/lunch break before starting, partially because the weather was plague-like in temperament. Anyway, we ended up taking some back roads, and taking a pit stop at a thrift store in rural Virginia. I bought a hideous sweater, and Caroline bought some 1950s-era diaries of a 18-year-old girl named Patty Kluttz.

patty

The diaries turned out to be a wonderful diversion for the two-day trek back to ATL. We learned all about Patty, which isn’t saying much once you realize that she seemed to think that diary meant “date record.” I can say with confidence that Patty Kluttz went on more dates in one week than I have been on in my entire lifetime. Sometimes she mentioned some church related stuff she was participating in, but mostly it was comments like, “If I don’t find someone soon, I think I’ll die,” “I didn’t go on any dates today, I feel like an old maid,” and my favorite, “Today we couldn’t go to church, because Herb didn’t have a belt.” Right. Anyway, we were so enthralled with her story, we tried to look her up that night. Unfortunately, right now she seems to have disappeared, and the only traces we have of her existence are two old and dusty diaries.

The rest of my time on the East coast was seasoned with snow, sleeping, singing, and seeing old friends. Also, I may or may not have witnessed Caroline’s American Girl Doll collection. That, my friends, was a thing that is some stuff. I made it to all of my flights for the return trip, and managed to make it to my uncle’s house just in time to make the stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner (just kidding, we do dressing. Ain’t no way I’m sticking my hand inside a Turkey carcass). I learned a lot at my uncle’s including some facts about a thumb eating eel named Emma, and…

what my cousin would look like with a beard.

what my cousin would look like with a beard.

From my uncle’s, my mom and I drove to 50 year anniversary party for a couple from my church. 50 years. yeah. My favorite part of the evening wasn’t the fact that the food was good, or that I got to see people I hadn’t seen in forever, or that it was a novelty to see dancing at a COC event, or even that it was so inspirational to hear about the life they had built together. No, my favorite part was the fact that there had been a mix-up in the place settings, so mine read “Mrs. Emma Angelo,” and my mom’s read, “Mr. Shay Angelo.”

Revel in that for a minute.

IMG_1177

Pretty great, right? I mean, wow. Adam would have done one of his head-back, deep laughs about that one.

Anyway, that’s been my week. So much has happened in it, it’s kind of overwhelming. But like I said, my biggest fear is that time will pass, and I will forget the things I learned or could have learned from all this. So, I am bound to fight against that possibility. What have I learned from Adam? Mrs. Smelser said he was content without being complacent. I think that’s a pretty good way of putting it. Sadly, I’m not quite so succinct as that. So here are some things I have learned from this week:

1. Care for others

Not only have I realized how much Adam cared for others on a constant basis, but I have been overwhelmed with the amount of care that has been poured out on those who are grieving. Both of these things have made me want to do better for others in turn. Typically, I tell myself, “You don’t know what to say to that person who is hurting,” or “There is no way that you can help that person who is hurting.” When, in fact, just the attempt to comfort or help will probably do more harm than good, and there is really no way for me to get better at caring for others without trying. The small acts of kindness shown to me (through money, napping places, and meals) during this have made an impact on my heart, and made me realize how many hurting people I have avoided reaching out to in the past.

Another way I have been complacent is by procrastinating in my everyday relationships. Too often, I put off having that difficult conversation, or even just telling people how much they mean to me, because I operate under the false belief that I have all the time in the world. In reality, no amount of time here is guaranteed me, and I am a steward of whatever time I am given.

Maxine and Larry built a family with their 50 years. Not only did they raise their own children to love and serve the Lord, but they opened their home to four other children as well. The room was full of people who had been touched by them at some point during those 50 years, and it was beautiful to hear about the ways they had served others with what they had been given.

And then there’s Patty. I don’t know much about Patty, other than the fact that she went on a lot of dates, and she was an active member in the Lutheran church. Don’t get me wrong, she had standards and morals, but she was, like one preacher she met, “twitter-pated.” She “loved love,” and her main goal in life was to find it. Her diary could also have been called 365 first dates. It wasn’t that she wasn’t doing good things with her life, but those good things were all of secondary importance to her pursuit of a husband.

2. Contentment

Adam was a prime example of contentment. I mean, sleeping in a tent in Alaska? Sharing a bunkhouse at a fishery? Sleeping on homemade furniture in a shed in West Texas? Eating rice while cooking for others? It’s crazy to think about being that content. Does he regret it now? yeah right. He’s finished his race. All of us benefitted from his example, and none of that even matters to him anymore. The shed, the tent, the way he died—I don’t think any of it is of the smallest importance, because it all seems so small in comparison to what he is now experiencing. And even then, it was worth it to him, because he knew where he was going. He had plans, and so the little things didn’t really matter.

I get that when it comes to my travels—taking four flights to PA, driving through rain and snow to Atlanta—the ends totally make the means irrelevant. But somehow I get sidetracked in life, and I forget about the importance of my destination. I complain about the bumps in the road, as if they actually mattered.

This is from a letter from Adam right before his Alaska trip, postmarked June 19, 2012. I was initially avoiding sharing this excerpt, because it’s kind of eerie to me:

“Everyone here is…vaguely bemused, I suppose, by my plans. Many of them are convinced that I’ll die, but there are some that are under the impression that I have such intense survival skills that I can’t be drowned. Well, that’s nice, I suppose. Frankly, dying is not quite at the top of my agenda for this year.”

Adam had a lot on his agenda for the year. He got a lot done in the year and a half between the time he wrote this letter and when he was taken from this world. He grew a lot on his own, he encouraged people all over the country, he worked and saved money, he spread the gospel, and he had tons of grand adventures. None of us can say why God chose to give him that year, and to not leave him here for any more, but he sure got a lot done with the short amount of time he had.

I knew I had a short amount of time in PA (thanks to a gift from others) in order to cry and laugh with those I loved, but soon I would have to leave again. There wasn’t much time, so I took advantage of those opportunities every chance I got. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore, and I laughed without reserve. I wasn’t like, “You know, really I would rather do homework than spend time with you.” I want to treat life more like that; living boldly and using every moment like it is a limited gift from God. Because it is.

Frankly, dying is not quite at the top of my agenda for this year, but I’ll tell you what is:

  • Doing more, bragging less
  • Giving more, spending less
  • Thanking more, complaining less
  • Praying more, blabbing less
  • Laughing more, worrying less
  • Serving more, self less

Maybe if more of us are more silly, serving, giving, thanking, praying, and doing, then the void that Adam left behind wont be quite so big and gaping. Maybe if we tell more strangers Happy Birthday, and look out for each other more often, and quit complaining so much, it’ll turn out to God’s glory. I sure hope so, because right now the world is facing a severe shortage of ugly sweaters and awkward moments. I share this with you, not so that you will be like:

“Oh, what an awesome person that Emma is.” “I know, too bad she’s named after a thumb-eating eel.” “I know, right? And I heard a rumor that she’s married to her own mother?”

Woah, that hypothetical conversation deteriorated quickly. Anyway, I tell you this because I want to be held accountable. Because I don’t want my days to be measured in the number of dates I went on, or the money I made, or the grades I got. I want to leave a mark like Adam, like the Ashtons. I want to conceptualize my time gifted to me, and when my time is a gift, it’s easier to be grateful for it and share it with others.

Peace, Love, and Ugly Sweaters.

Oh! I almost forgot—I also learned not to feed finger-shaped food to vicious sea creatures, even if they do have incredibly lovely names.

All Things to All Men

I have three jobs.

How many times is she going to mention that. Seriously, we get it, you work hard. Man.

I have three very different jobs. I am a DPS Student Service Division Leader 12 hours per week (but really it’s 24/7). I am a HR Professional Development intern 8 hours per week. I am a Brainrush Learning content intern 8 hours per week. Oh, and then I’m a student with all my free time. Lately I have been shocked by the different environments of the different places.

At DPS, there’s a wall-sized, plasma screen TV in the briefing room, and it seems like the only channels it is capable of showing are ESPN, Comedy Central, and some weird old movies. There’s always free food and free coffee and free rides to and from anywhere on campus. We have a jar of sour patch kids in the office that is emptied every night by the graveyard shift. Aside from all of the shenanigans, confidentiality is a huge thing. Whenever I screw up (I know, you are surprised, but it happens), it’s kind of a big deal, because I’ve broken policy, or let someone die, or something like that. Our lunchtime conversations frequently consist of heated debates over the best way to enter a room where an active shooter is located (and that’s actually completely relevant). Other times, everyone enjoys berating my lack of culture because I have missed out on so many Will Ferrell movies (that’s actually not so relevant).

At HR, I have a cubicle. It’s a nice cubicle. I have a huge mac to work on, and I don’t have middle aged men interrupting my silence with their lunch breaks or reports. I sit there at that cubicle and I do research. For eight hours. I don’t really interact with the other interns, or with the full-time employees, except for my boss. They’re all really wonderful, but we all have work to do. And it’s a bit more disruptive and off-topic to discuss active shooter scenarios in a cubicle. Sure, we have a breakroom, but there’s no TV, and we share the room with other departments. In fact, if I’m careless, I could accidentally lock myself out of HR if I don’t prop the door open as I enter the breakroom. Let’s just say that I’m often careless. Also, it is a major sin to use the wrong department’s coffee pot. Seriously, office foul.

At Brainrush, we share a big open space. Throughout the course of a day, I may switch between the fatboy, the regular chair, standing, the couch, the exercise ball, and the new stair stepper-desk combo.

 

I made the mistake of wearing a pencil skirt to work on my first day, and then I realized that my two supervisors were both wearing yoga pants. We have a kitchen, but we don’t have a break room, because the whole place is an open area meant for creativity. Apparently we have a ping-pong table and a meditation area too, but I haven’t ventured into those sections of the suite yet. Last week, I took two hours off and went and got a haircut and then came back. In contrast to DPS, this job is virtually all female. I love our morning coffee breaks where we all leave and walk to the hipster coffee shop. The walk there is a miscellaneous conversation about what happened over the weekend and how everyone’s dogs are doing, the way back consists of soul searching dialogue, along with a general expression of grief that the GOOD barista wasn’t on staff, and agreement that the lattes would be much better this morning if he had been, and that we didn’t even get pretty hearts on the tops of our coffees.

At DPS, I wear business casual clothes, or my DPS uniform. At HR, I wear pencil skirts and blouses. At Brainrush, I wear pretty much anything but a DPS uniform or a business outfit. My role—from my attitude, to my volume, to my outfit—varies from job to job. I can’t be the same person in every job. Throwing delineations, writing tickets, and training new SSOs isn’t a job for a follower, but my other jobs require a lot of following and question asking. In one role I am teaching, in the others, I am learning. Some jobs are more creativity focused, some are more confidentiality focused.

I may be different at the different jobs, but I am hard working in all of them. Maybe hard working means literally sweating, if I have to walk up and down the hills of Malibu. Maybe it means doing research until my brain goes numb, or cutting audio files for eight hours. No matter the clothes I am in, I clothe myself in the same character at each place. I conform to the company culture while maintaining my core values and essence.

Paul said he was, “all things to all men.” I want to be all things to all men. I think I know how to be that way when it comes to jobs; I know how to be malleable to new norms, while keeping what matters constant. But on a broader scale, I think it’s hard to do. It’s hard for me to separate my culture from my core beliefs. It’s like when you take your Beaver Nuggets to the beach (yes, I have done this before). Inevitably, You set your brand new bag of Beaver Nuggets on your towel, and the instant the seal is broken, the sand migrates in and mingles with the Nuggets of Beaver, and you have a new crunch in your snack. You aren’t ever getting that sand out of the Beaver Nuggets now. You’re gonna end up eating a bag full of sand. Nice going. That’s how I feel about my socialization. I feel like it will be virtually impossible for me to separate my socialization, my cultural upbringing, from the truth. My mom made sure to teach me a lot of truth growing up. She tried her best to ground me in God’s word. But along the way, she probably taught me some of her own thoughts and fears too. And despite her best efforts, I watched some TV. I went to school. You get the picture.

I think college makes you realize just how much you were brainwashed as a kid. But that’s where I think a lot of college students get it wrong. Yeah, it’d be easy to get the sand out of the bag if I were to just dump all of those lustrous Beaver Nuggets out onto the ground and feed them to the seagulls. But that would be a waste of a perfectly good bag of Beaver Nuggets. Have you figured out yet that I am just really enjoying writing the phrase Beaver Nugget? Anyway. That’s not what I want to do. There is no sense in throwing all the good things I have learned away, so that instead of having some biased beliefs and some good beliefs, I can just have no beliefs. That’s a waste. But it’s so hard to get the sand out of the bag.

Why worry about the sand? you ask. Well, for one, if the FDA were a thing that was in existence right now (shutdown, LAWL), I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be letting Beaver Nuggets with Sand: Limited Edition pass. No, I don’t want to eat sand, I want to eat food. Eating sand is like eating beach dirt. Beach dirt that a bunch of fish and birds pooped and died in. But more importantly than that, I don’t want to be bogged down by these beliefs that don’t matter because they could limit me from seeing everyone that Jesus would have me touch with His love. That happened a lot with his apostles at first: they didn’t want to let children bother Jesus, they couldn’t understand what he meant about dying, and they certainly didn’t intend on sharing the Kingdom of Heaven with those dirty gentiles. And I don’t want that. Christ is supposed to live in me, and there isn’t room for Him if I am holding on to prejudices, preferences, or biases. And hey, I’m always going to have some personal beliefs. I’m always going to know that the Beavers (not the Nugget variety) are better than the Ducks, despite what the record might say. But I shouldn’t let those beliefs get in between myself and someone else. None of it matters, except Christ’s truth. And I shouldn’t let any of my personal beliefs get in between other people and Christ’s truth. So currently, I’m a Security Development Learning Content employee. I’m am Oregonian Floridian Californian Christian. And I hope some day to be much more open than that.

Sorry, this was wordy. I feel like I just barfed up a bunch of words. Or Beaver Nuggets.

Peace, Love, and Shoes, y’all.

All Aboard the Hogwarts Express

I could tell you about how I have as many jobs as I have classes right now.

I could tell you how I live with more girls than I have nuclear family members.

Or about how my nuclear family members are all over these United States (or did the government shutdown the “united” part, too?).

I could tell you about how I lost my license and my debit card.

I could tell you about how I found out about Caleb Bunting’s twin, who’s from Tampa.

Or about how I followed some Polk county plates to Starbucks tonight, and introduced myself, and didn’t even get arrested.

 

But I think I’ll tell you that yesterday I officially named my car the Hogwarts Express. She’s great. The whole fact that I have her is a huge blessing. That being said, Tequila was a blessing too, and we went through a lot together. From softball games, to cross country moves, she’s had everything from hoodrat baseball boys to 100 year old rocking chairs stuffed into the backseat. This is a gem from my old Pleonast, and I felt like this was the perfect time to share it:

Today I was walking to my car and was struck with an idea. My car is me. Well, not really, my car is Tequila, and she is named after an IHOP waitress I had several years ago. But in many ways, my car is an expression of who I am right now and how I feel right now. My car is relatively average looking. Silver. Covered in pollen. The front bumper has a big gash. or hole. or whatever. But that one is my fault, not Tequila’s. Maybe I’ll get it fixed someday. But I think it gives her character. One window is broken. I don’t really know how it happened. I just heard a noise one day, looked back, and realized the window wouldn’t roll up. At least it is a back window and it doesn’t matter all that much. Really, the window’s motor is broken and it’ll be fixed in a week or two, once I come up with the money. So at least there’s no broken glass or anything. I have, in the meantime, covered it with a garbage bag and yellow duct tape. Duct tape that andrea stole from tia. in the middle of a thunderstorm. While I was marooned at the business building wondering how to keep the water out of my car. Like I said though, As soon as I get the money it’ll be all better. I think that Tequila also needs new brakes. I mean, she’ll stop, but when I break really hard, the steering wheel shakes and it is scary. She is always running on empty. Well, not quite empty, but always very low. But she always has enough to get by. Her o2 filter is broken. For those of you who don’t know, apparently an o2 filter monitors the oxygen that is going into the engine. I guess it needs replaced or something, because that is what my mechanic said. Maybe she’ll run better once that is taken care of. I got my car from my grandma. Actually I bought her from my grandma. With the help of my parents. I wasn’t grateful enough for her at the time. I mean, I was grateful, but also felt entitled. Now I see her more as a responsibility, but she is also a huge blessing. And she isn’t like the van I used to drive: she is dependable. She never randomly dies on me, even when she’s having problems. Lastly, I want to tell you about Tequila’s markings. On the UN-broken back window, she has a smiley face drawn in blue faded window paint. And on the back window, there is a “Jesus Fish” and the word “Jesus” written in equally faded blue paint. I am not responsible for these markings. I can take no credit for them. They just magically appeared on my car one day a long time ago and I do not know how they got there. But I appreciate them. Because even when my car is looking her utmost ghetto and pitiful, she still is looking optimistic. When I glance up and see the garbage bag, yellow duct tape, and puncture wound, I also see the fish and smiley face. and I know I’m taken care of.

Sorry. I’m really random. Hope you didnt read all that. Imma go eat some breakfast for dinner now….

Wow, who knew I had emotions, even as a wee Sophomore? Anyway, most of that is true. But I want to make one amendment: It already is better, I don’t need to wait till I get the money. I am taken care of, and I hope that some day soon, I will remember that. You’d think that when I see THIS every day, I’d be better at remembering. But, whatever.

IMG_1004

Sorry, I was too lazy to get out of my car to take this picture this evening…haha.

Why do I love the Hogwarts Express enough to name my Subaru after it? Well, for one, I think it will be simply lovely to proclaim, “all aboard the Hogwarts Express!” when it’s time to depart. But aside from that VERY important reason, I think the Hogwarts Express is a symbol of new beginnings. It’s the first tangible aspect of Hogwarts that new students witness. And yeah, the n00bs have an idea of where they are going, and they are excited and all that, but they don’t really have a clue what is in store for them. They don’t have a clue what the castle will look like. Or what their teachers will be like. Or what house they’ll be in. For that matter, they don’t have any idea what the rest of their lives will hold.

A friend of mine shared this article with me recently, and I thought it was pretty awesome. I know that people can serve God without being happy. I think Elijah is an example of that. But I think it’s pretty amazing when “studies” show that God is good for you. I feel like too often I act like the first type of joy-seeker: I look for it in pleasantness, in material comfort. And then it’s embarrassing how often those comforts seem insufficient, and I complain about stupid stuff, and get stressed over stupid things. Yeah, cool, the God of the universe gave his son to die for me so that I could eternally live in relationship with Him, but this wind is TOTALLY throwing off my tennis game, and my housemates are so ridiculous sometimes. (Yeah, so I tried not to complain at all today, and those were the two things I complained about). I mean, I’m supposed to be in relationship with Him now, so it’s kind of ridiculous for me to be upset about whatever it is that is going on enough to forget the bigger picture. It’s kind of cheapening the gospel. Who wants to hear the good news from someone who is constantly upset? Obviously the news isn’t THAT good.

In other news, I found the most wonderful thing in the world. It’s so wonderful, in fact, that I probably already told you about it.

harry-potter-myerbriggs-chart_523246c0ec4cd

Isn’t that great? It’s Harry Potter AND Psychology. The bad news is that Matt and I are BOTH INTJ (Malfoy), and Sarah is ENFJ (Dumbledore). So instead of being Harry, Ron, and Hermione, we’re two Malfoys and a Dumbledore. Great team there. Really, though, I am thankful every day for the wonderful friends God has blessed me with here. No one understands my nerdiness as much as Matt, and no one makes me try new things as much as Sarah. I couldn’t have planned things better if I had gotten the opportunity. Which makes me think that maybe it would be a good thing if none of my plans work out.

I have a vague idea of what this year, this decade, this life will hold, but I really don’t have any clue. I pray that it will be full of joy and peace and love, but aside from that, how can I plan it? Who cares if my compartment has two Malfoys and a Dumbledore? It’s pretty awesome. And I may not know for sure what’s awaiting me at the end of the train tracks, but I can enjoy the ride. I can enjoy the crazy schedule of juggling jobs and classes. I can relish the oddities my housemates hold. I can love the one family member I have left in CA. I can trust that the Lord will provide for me while I wait for my debit card to come. And I can listen to hours of Matt Hires and creep out Law School students in Starbucks parking lots…Oh, wait, I already did that tonight. It doesn’t matter that the train is cold, or that the ride is bumpy, or that I don’t have enough money for the trolley: all that matter is that I am with people I love, and that I am excited about where the train is taking me.

Peace, love, and [sensible] shoes.

Traffic School, Life School.

I’m writing this from the best cabin on the west coast—my aunt’s place in the Portland woods. Cooper and I drove up here, through hazardous smoke from surrounding forest fires. Finally, after driving through smoke for an hour, and passing a trucker wearing a breathing mask, I decided to look it up and find out where all the smoke was coming from. The answer was, everywhere. There were several different fires, and the air quality for the region we were driving through was at the “hazardous” level. In case you are unlearned in air quality denomination system, “hazardous” is the worst it can be. Needless to say, Cooper wanted to forego stopping for lunch until we found some clean air. We came through it fine though, and I’m enjoying some very fresh Oregon air, along with cards with cousins, chats with grandma, and antics of the food carts/donut shops/farmers markets/getting lost in the woods nature. I’m a long way from my old life in Florida, but somehow I see FC people everywhere. It’s nice—it makes this big world feel so much smaller. I got to surprise the Oregon camp friends, which was just lovely.

For mom.

For mom. Cooper’s Room

For mom.

For mom. Cooper’s closet.

Isn't she beautiful?

Isn’t she beautiful?

Jack doesn't like pictures.

Jack doesn’t like pictures.

Sunset

More trouble than the campers

More trouble than the campers

Ya know, gotta have wood for the winter.

Ya know, gotta have wood for the winter.

These donuts are so stinking good

These donuts are so stinking good

Friends to youth. LOVE these girls

Friends to youth. LOVE these girls

Speaking of FC friends, one of my overly conservative friends at FC once told me that he disapproved of those popular “Jesus fish” bumper stickers that people put on their cars. I was expecting him to say that they were liberal or something. No, he was worried that if a Christian had one, they would eventually sell the car. Then, the car would probably belong to a non-Christian, who would either drive badly and make people think it was a hypocritical Christian, or take the sticker off, leaving residue, and making people think that the car belonged to someone who had lost their faith. I found this thought process to be mind-boggling, but mildly entertaining.

At this point, you might be a little confused, since this post is so very unlike my last post. After all, it was a big heap of crying and driving. A little ironic, considering this lovely bit of advice my traffic school gave me recently:

Do not drive while emotional

No, I didn’t get pulled over by the waaaambulance, that isn’t why I got stuck doing traffic school. It was a bright Sunday morning, my car packed with clan members, when I got pulled over for speeding like a fiend down the PCH. I guess that means that this paragraph was meant for me:

Don't Drive Offensively

Easy for the condescending, mighty traffic school gurus to say—they don’t know what it’s like to be late to church! It’s not that I am, “preoccupied with myself,” as they accuse. I just want to show that I actually care about being there by being punctual. I’m not trying to, “get there first,” I’m just trying to get there on time. Being late is not really a part of my plan.

Make God Laugh

So I learned some valuable lessons from traffic school, and got some other fun facts thrown in just for fun.

Follow Vehicles Too Closely

PreemtiveMeasures

Right of WayRoadLessTraveled

Yes, I learned a thing or two from traffic school. But it wasn’t always an easy process. Last week, after a week of living in a cabin with a gaggle of 7th grade girls, I sat in my Malibu Starbucks for hours, staring at the traffic school text on my computer screen. One can only stare at traffic school for so long before they inevitably fall headfirst onto their keyboard in what my mom refers to as “sleep of depression.” There I was, defeated, keyboard making a brand on my forehead, dreaming in the middle of the Malibu Starbucks, when I was interrupted by a tap on my shoulder. Dazedly looking around for the culprit, I was distressed to see the Starbucks employee standing over me. Surely he would tell me to stop snoring in his establishment. My embarrassment quickly turned into some form of lifelong indebtedness, when he instead said, “Hey, we are throwing away our pastries in an hour. So, would you like one?” Let me tell you. That free pastry had magical powers. I went into beast mode, and my traffic school quizzes were completed within the hour.

I guess I learned a lot about driving this past few months. Better to leave early or arrive late, than to pay several hundred dollars, sit through hours of traffic school, or die. But even the concepts that we grasp when it comes to driving are lost when it comes to applying them to our real lives:

  • If you’re driving through fire, don’t stop.
  • Too often (young people in particular) make important life decisions based off of emotion, and end up steering their lives in wrong directions or getting into collisions with others.
  • Christians regularly navigate their lives offensively, rather than defensively. “That’s my right!” “I earned this!” When we maneuver our lives with worldly mindsets, what makes us any different? Claiming to be a Christian, but having the “get there first” mentality is like driving recklessly with a Jesus fish bumper sticker on your car.
  • If there is one thing that is consistent about LA traffic flow, it’s that it is bad. Accidents, bad weather, and construction are just part of the deal. You just have to turn up the radio and take what comes. But for some reason, when it comes to our lives, we act so surprised when there is a hold up or hang up or rerouting.
  • If you are following someone else so closely that they are blocking your view of the big picture, then you are following them too closely.
  • It is much better to avoid a collision with others than to try to correct your course the moment before impact.
  • Having the “right-of-way” doesn’t give you license to be a jerk. Just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean it is always the correct thing to do.
  • Drive the road less traveled—it’s less congested.
  • Whenever possible, offer people pastries—it can do more for them than you would expect.

 

Peace, Love, Shoes.

 

 

Oh, and P.S.

What were they thinking?

AIDS for driving?

AIDS for driving?