Summer’s Flying.

It’s amazing all that can happen in a summer. Or all that hasn’t happened in a summer. Or all the summer experiences I’m about to cram into the 5 remaining weeks of summer. 

These past few months have not been an easy ride for me. I’ve been interning at a video production studio, working at an outdoor outfitters, filming/editing wedding videos, and taking online classes. Whew! Seeing all that typed out just exhausts me! And somehow, I’ve managed to balance it. Not without a few breakdowns and lessons learned. 

So with one class wrapped up, another one about to close, and an internship coming to an end, I wanted to record a few thoughts I’ve formed from this summer. Nothing too deep or sentimental, but maybe a rare dose of practicality that I’ve acquired (and will probably soon forget and have to relearn all over again. The holy cycle of relearning, right?). 

Lesson #1: Learn to wake up. Don’t laugh. It’s an art. A discipline. A torture. I have yet to accomplish this thing called “early rising.” Every morning this summer my alarm has gone off and I look at it wearily, throw the watch across the room, and roll over, thinking I’ll just sleep five more minutes. HA! Ya right. An hour later, I get up, mad that I’ve messed up my schedule and starting off the day on a sour note. So, dear friends, I’m saving you the hassle of a rough start: learn to wake up. Call a friend to meet you for an early morning run. Set 3 alarms. Mentally (or literally if needed) yell at yourself to get out of bed. Buy a parrot and train it to squawk “good morning” at 6:30 a.m. Do whatever it takes! And then call me when you’ve mastered this art. Because I definitely have not. 

Lesson #2: Exercise. I honestly think part of what has kept me sane through all the busyness and work was my early morning runs or bike rides or gym workouts or, on the really crazy days, the 20 minutes of some form of high intensity cardio, preferably outside. It’s hard to tell myself to drop everything right when I’m beginning to think the world is going to end and grab my running shoes for a short sprint up hills in my neighborhood. But the hard sweat and muscle-ache does miracles. I feel refreshed and able to think again when I return back to my work. I’ve found several helpful workout websites as well over the summer. Here’s a workout that I’ve been doing on the crazy days. 

Lesson #3: Risk your life. Ok, I’m not advocating jumping off a cliff (or at least jump with a parachute, and if you feel called to do this, please call me and I’ll come film you! And maybe join!). What I do mean is go do something adventurous that’s out of your comfort zone. This summer I got more into kayaking and drove up to the Ocoee river by myself for a 3 day paddle school. There are definitely some crazy stories from that weekend (there may have been a night run), but overall it was awesome! I met new people and put myself in a bunch of uncomfortable situations that made me work hard, think quick, keep my cool in tight spots, and learn a new sport that I’m now addicted to! Paddling bigger water made me push my limits and comfort zones and forget about everything else in life. When I was in a rapid, all that I could think about was getting through, leaning forward and pushing my blade through the water, bracing when a wave threatened to pull me down, and rolling back up after a flip. I couldn’t think about all the work I had waiting for me at home. It was mind clearing and therapeutic. I came home refreshed every time. 

Lesson #4: Don’t resist your mother. If you resist her prying into your life, she only pries more (Yes, I’m dead meat now. Mom, just keep reading). This summer has not been the easiest, not just with work, but also with relationships. I’ve had a lot of processing to do with life back in America, going to a small, Baptist college, finishing the hardest semester of my life, and now semi-working in the real world. Oh, and did I mention I graduate in a year and jump off the high cliff of my childhood through college years into that real world? *gulp* As the summer progressed, I built walls between myself and my mom. Even now, I’m not sure why. My mom and I have always been close, so these new separations between us weren’t easy. I didn’t want the walls, but I didn’t know how to tear them down; I couldn’t open up to her. She saw the walls and the pain I was going through, but had no idea what was going on, so she pried. She kept asking questions, and I kept pushing her back. It took us a few months to work through to each other, but with what I believe was the help of the Holy Spirit, we were finally able to break through the brick and mortar and fall crying into each other’s arms. It was beautiful. I cherish my mother so much, her heart, her love for the outdoors, her willingness to help out, and even her complete goofiness that always comes out in public. She’s pretty awesome, and I’m blessed to have a mom that I can connect with and spend several hours at the pool simultaneously frying in the sun and having good conversations with. I wish we hadn’t had to go through so much pain, but through the discomfort and then sudden reconnection, I saw that God never let me go through all of it. When I was hurting and blocking the world out, He was still holding onto me. It was His grace that broke the tensions between my mom and I. Once again, by his mercies, I have been set free. I have a shallow heart with short term memory loss, and often forget that I am loved by my Father and that He cares about the relationships in my life. I am thankful that I have been able to see God’s grace through the pain this summer. 

Lesson #5: Learn to say no. You would think it’s easy. Just two letters. N… n… n… (deep breath) o. No. No. Nooo. The problem with this summer was that I didn’t say no enough. I said yes to a few big things that I didn’t realize would take up so much time, and in saying yes to them, I said no to things like reading a good book in a hammock, hanging out with friends, a decent nights sleep, time to think and reflect. This problem isn’t new for me. I’ve gone 90 to nothing since I could crawl. I’m terrible at over committing. I see a need and feel like I have to fill it. I see a fun adventure and I hate to miss it. I want to be able to balance a full schedule but also have time to read a book on the couch. But I can’t do it all. It’s exhausting! Who do I think I am? Superwoman? As my failures have shown me, I’m not. I can’t handle everyone’s needs. I can’t control other’s emotions and situations. I can’t participate in every adventure. All I can do is control myself and my emotions and my schedule (and sometimes not even that). Saying yes over and over is detrimental- to relationships, emotions, and health. It burns you out and chokes the life from you. Joy is lost and weariness takes over. I’ve learned that the hard way once again. Knowing me, I’ll probably burn myself out a few more times till I really get the lesson, but after this summer I feel like I have learned more about the need to have time to yourself and how saying yes to one more thing says no to something else. 

These are only a few of the lessons I’m beginning to put to words from this summer. They are humorous, tear-stained, practical, and valuable. Some of them have been really hard to learn. But the lessons are valuable ones I hope to store away for my senior year of college and the rest of my life. This summer, as odd and busy and hard as it has been, has been a summer of learning and exploring- the real world, myself, and new adventures. I’m not sure what to make out of this summer, but it’s not over yet. There are still 5 weeks. And a lot can happen in 5 weeks. 

Star Gazing and Galactic Battles.

I sat outside watching the stars tonight, or at least the few I can see from my driveway in suburbia.

I focused on one spot and counted 55. The verse came to mind:

“He determines the number of the stars; He gives to all of them their names.” (Psalm 147:4)

He names… the stars? I don’t even know if I can remember 50 names at one time, yet He has named every star. Every. Single. One. The big ones, the small ones, the ones that we have no idea exist. The old, the newborns, the ones that have yet to explode into the sky. He knows and NAMES them all. They are something to Him. They exist to Him. And He cares about them enough to give each its own name. Why?

When I went back inside, I googled what a star looks like from a telescope. It just about took my breathe away.

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Light. Color. Heat. Purples, golds, blues, greens. Explosions in the sky, gas trailing behind brilliant light, like pixie dust, but only hotter and better and more magnificent! My mind cannot even grasp that this is going on right above my head, outside of our world, outside of my daily routine, stars. are being. born. Are EXPLODING INTO BEING. Or going out in a giant Ka-BOOM of light!

What else am I missing in this world?

The pictures are humbling. The mere reflections of refracted light into a telescope where the image is recorded and transmitted back to earth (because telescopes work just like cameras, right?) those images take my breathe away. Would the real deal push me smack onto my face in awe?

We think we know so much, but one look at a star coming to life and I am dumbfounded. What else am I missing? What goes on in the natural and spiritual realms that I do not see? Are battles being waged out there? Is there more significance in the birth of a star than we realize? Or the death of one? Why does He name them, the stars? Why are they so important, beyond the fact that they are beautiful? (I know so little!) And what’s even more mind boggling is that what we see through our naked eye or a telescope is actually looking directly into the past. The bursts of light we capture may have happened hundreds of years ago and the light is only now reaching our eyes. There may be stars being born today that only our grandchildren will see!

I have to admit there’s a reason to my imagination going wild. I’ve been consuming Madeline L’Engle’s children’s series the Time Quintet, starting with the book A Wrinkle In Time. In the book, the children, Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin, travel above the earth, into the outer realms of the galaxy, looking for Meg and Charles’ father who has disappeared while on a secret government project looking for something called a Tesseract (I won’t tell you more or I’ll spoil it!).  As they look over the planets and stars and watch the sun sink into night, they see a large “Black Thing.”

“Meg looked. The dark shadow was still there. It had not lessened or dispersed with the coming of night. And where the shadow was, the stars were not visible.

What could there be about a shadow that was so terrible that she knew that there had never been before or ever would be again, anything that would chill her with a fear that was beyond shuddering, beyond crying or screaming, beyond the possibility of comfort?”

The children’s guardians, Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Who, explain to the children that the Black Thing has taken over several planets, ruling over them and capturing their freedom. The planets and their inhabitants, and even the stars, are fighting the Black Thing. But it is moving forward, and closer to earth. The children are frightened and ask their guardians what IS the Black Thing, and what will happen to earth?!

“Itt iss Eevill…”

“What is going to happen?”

“Wee wwill cconnttinnue tto ffightt!”…

“And we’re not alone, you know, children,” came Mrs.Whatsit, the comforter. “…some of the best fighters have come from your own planet…”

“Who have our fighters been?” Calvin asked.

“Oh, you must know them, dear,” Mrs.Whatsit said.

Mrs.Who’s spectacles shone out at them triumphantly.“And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

L’Engle’s book may be dubbed a children’s book, but as L’Engle says herself:

“A book, too, can be a star, ‘explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly,’ a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”

Her stories have done just that, stirred up my imagination and mixed it with my spiritual questions and thoughts to create an explosion of color that leaves me laying in my driveway, staring up at the stars and wondering is there something out there that we’re missing. We live in a earth fighting the Black Thing, the darkness. Some battles we see, like towns raided by war lords in Africa, or the women being sold into sex slavery in India and Thailand and so many other places, or in poverty, or divorce, or abuse, or addictions. But I am convinced, there is much we do not know or see. There are battles between light and dark behind the battles that we humans see. The possibilities of stars dying in their own fight to resist the Black Thing, evil itself, does not seem that far fetched when you read a book like Revelation, or even the creation account. How much do we not see? How little do we know?

As the children gazed in fear, Mrs. Which reminded the children that there is HOPE: there are people out there fighting. Mrs. Who quoted a verse that has stuck with me since, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

There IS a Light that shines amidst the Darkness! There IS hope amidst the battles and the pain and the chaos and wars. This Light is more brilliant than the most beautiful star, is more powerful than the biggest explosion, and transcends time and space. And the best news is, that it will never be extinguished. The Light is powerful and loving and has already WON. Christ came into the world to defeat the Darkness once and for all by defeating Its main weapon: death. With His resurrection, Christ won. That’s it. Boom. Done. It’s over.

The battles against Darkness have not ended yet, for the lord of darkness has not yet given up. BUT we Hold On with Patient Expectation for the return of the King to claim His Victory.

Christ returned to His Father, so that He could ignite His light in our hearts through His Spirit. He has equipped us to fight the Darkness, to be a light. With His light radiating out from us, we are equipped to continue fighting, through prayer, through love, through sharing the gospel, through repenting of our own sins and believing that we are Children of the Light … we MUST keep fighting. We must press on, persevere, hang to God with everything in us, say no to our flesh and dare to go to uncomfortable and/or dangerous places, so that others can see the Light.

One day (and I hope it’s soon!), Christ will return and remove the Darkness from earth for good. He will open up the gates to heaven and Light will pour forth like nothing ever seen before! He will call us by name and we will participate in His glory and revel in the joy of His beauty.

And maybe this is my imagination running wild, but I hope, that on that day, we will be able to see the stars up close, that we will be able to somehow communicate with them and all of creation. Even if it is only to break forth into song together singing Holy, Holy, Holy is He!

Beauty, Arise!

 

Clinton Coffee Culture.

“Coffee is what keeps me alive.”

So says Webb Crecink, an espresso lover who stops at the Starbucks in Clinton, Mississippi, every time he comes through after a sales trip on his way home to Louisiana. He emphasizes his point by grabbing another sip of his espresso with milk in the small, paper white cup with Starbuck’s green mermaid logo printed on the side.

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The afternoon sunlight cuts through the umbrellas, hallows Crecink’s head, and lands on the pavement outside the Clinton Starbucks off I-20 right as a customer pushes through the glass door with a drink carton holding frappuccinos and ice coffee, and a cake pop for the child in tow.

Coffee fuels many people like Crecink in Clinton, Mississippi. With Cups and Starbucks at opposite ends off Spring Ridge road, the small town cultures a mini sociology project in the people who walk through the doors of the local coffee shops. The differences and varieties in age, dress, and drink desires create two unique atmospheres.

“I see all sorts of people,” says Joan Blanton, who comes a minimum of three times a week to Starbucks to study and research for her PhD. “There’s a preponderance of students. There’s a group of runners that are here every weekend in the mornings and then a group of local artists that meet most Saturdays. There’s the people who run the Vietnamese nail salon in town. They come before they go to work. And the Chinese students at MC love it. Oh and there are two women, they must be b.f.f.s because I see them every weekend.” She laughs and takes a sip of her caramel frappuccino, “Sometimes my drink is already made when I get here.”

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Being next to an interstate, Starbucks has a unique blend of fast paced service with the drive-thru and in-and-out customers as well as the slower crowd that stays to study, read, and socialize.

“It’s fast paced,” says Michael Shadie a barista at Starbucks. “There’s what I like to call ‘the church rush’. We’ve had a couple come through the drive-thru who are in a huge rush and have a line of drinks and they kinda tell us that they’re running late to church. We do the best we can to get all the drinks out because we have to go in the exact order that they’re rung up or written out, so we don’t get drinks out of order which confuses all of us.”

Drive down the road and at the corner of West Main Street, what may resemble your grandmother’s house, is Cups coffee shop. At any time of the day, a room in Cups will hold any number of students, studying, reading, or meeting up with mentors or friends. Men sit outside smoking their pipes and discussing theology and women. Some Saturday mornings, a group of elderly ladies sit on the porch catching up on their families and recent news. They clap their hands when a student picks out “Amazing Grace” on his guitar. A family walks in with kids in strollers to pick up their favorite drink after an early morning start.

Giorgio Fareira has worked at Cups about four months and notes that he sees many of the same people every day and that most of them are friendly and caring.

“It’s mostly regulars,” says Fareira. “Even throughout the day, we have people just come back after classes or between whatever they’re doing. There are some people that are here probably more than I am.”

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Most people get the drip coffee, says Fareira, because of the student discount. “As far as the other drinks, the Blondie is definitely the most popular.”

Currently, neither Starbucks nor Cups host events at their stores. However, Cups is working on hosting more social functions at their store this spring and summer. Fareira is working on an open mic night at Cups in April.

Only miles apart, the two coffee shops gather crowds unique to their coffee and location. While the crowds, pace, and orders may vary, both shops offer a place to sit, free Internet, and a warm or cold cup of joy to brighten your day.

“Here [at Starbucks] if you want to interact with people you can. If you’re studying, they’ll leave you alone,” says Blanton. “And for me there’s just enough music and noise to make it interesting but not distracting.”

“Cups is more than just a coffee shop,” says James Ritchie a MC student and Cups regular. “Cups is a haven.”

 

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Molly.

The semester is winding down; the stress levels are slowly decreasing; the caffeine is beginning to stop working; the rush of finals is almost over; and we are all looking forward to the best Christmas gift of all: a break.

However, not for my friend Molly.

“All I want for Christmas is a pug!”

Relaxed on the couch in Molly’s room, with books open around me and papers layered in a chaotic order, I look up from scratching my pen in hurried notes, to see Molly splayed over her bed, hands in hair, with a distraught, longing look on her face.

“What?”

“Well first, I want the pug, but then I want a hairless cat,” she repeats, as her fingers move down the computer’s track pad and her eyes dart over whatever pictures she has discovered, while not studying.

College is a unique time. We are all thrown into one bubble to cohabitate together. You meet all sorts of people you probably never would have crossed paths with if it were not for activities like classes and clubs and tribes and cafeterias. Molly is one such friend. Though I cannot trace the specific moment we first met, Molly has been a consistent character in my life over the past two and a half years. From politics and history to Say Yes To The Dress, books, mustaches and sweaters, Molly has an opinion on everything. She’ll keep you on your toes with a random comment about the Pope, then a blunt fact about Germans eating each other—as she eats her smother and covered hash browns at Waffle House—followed by her new discovery in Hebrews.

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Since freshman year, I’ve enjoyed many hours in Molly’s room discussing books, life and theology across the giant wooden spool she has turned into a book shelf (one of three in her room), and sipping numerous cups of tea. But one of her most unique traits, that always baffles me, is her love for the ugly things of life, like pugs.

“Someone has to love the ugly things of this world,” she proclaims as her roommate Malessa groans after walking into the room to find out Molly is once again distracted by her eccentric animal obsessions. But her love for the ugly goes beyond furry, or not so furry, creatures.

Freshman year, Molly brought home a metal, gold-rimmed mug that looked like a grandmother had finally separated it from her husband and paid the thrift store to take it away. Dark green with a duck framed in a black square in the center, it was hideous. While most thrifters’ hands would have passed over the repugnant piece, Molly’s hand clasped her newfound treasure. She bought that mug, took it home, washed it with tender love and care, and placed it front and center in her ever-increasing collection of mugs. (Of course, we won’t mention the microwave incident where she attempted to heat up her coffee in the METAL mug, sending sparks flying out of the box, threatening to burn the whole dorm down. That’s irrelevant.)

Maleesa sets her stuff down and joins our “studying.” “You and your macabre likings,” says Malessa. “I told my mom today about your history paper that’s due. She asked what it was about. I told her, ‘Well, it’s on vampires. Molly is a little macabre.’”

“I feel like I can get away with it,” says Molly, “because I fool everybody with my sweet, innocent looks.”

“But can’t you just see a pug doing life with me!” she bursts out, with hands dramatically on her chest in a passionate, emotion-filled look upwards. “The world sees pugs as ugly, smooshed-in face creatures, but I see each roll as another reason to love them.”

She looks over at me on the couch, trying to ignore the not atypical conversation about Molly’s future animal kingdom, “Just think, you could be cuddled up on that couch with a hairless cat starring at you. I’ve heard they feel like velvet.”

Oh gosh.

There is never a dull moment with Molly. A few weeks ago, Maleesa and I were returning from a visit to Jacktown, and Molly texted us to come by the room for a midnight cup of tea. She met us at the door: bangs, big glasses, hair in a bun, and covered in a purple corduroy jumper from neck to ankles. “Look at my new dress,” she said with an almost seducing tone in her voice. We sidestepped the wannabe grandma to check out what was in that tea.

Back in the room tonight, where I have given up all hopes of studying, Molly sits at her desk, ignoring the history essays due on Monday, to flip through her Pinterest wall of pugs.

“Have I shown you my pug wall?” she asks me.

“No, I can’t say that I’ve seen that.”

She scoots over to show me a pug dressed in a Victorian costume, looking perfectly miserable. “It’s just so cute,” she coos over the dog. “I want one.”

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She moves back over to her desk, and Maleesa and I exchange a look of ridiculousness but total belief in our interesting friend.

Molly stares down at her screen one last time, before turning it off and looking sadly at her papers, “Now I’ve gotten myself so excited, dreaming about the future, my little animal kingdom.”

Laughter fills the room, breaking any remaining layers of tension and stress, and tears begin to roll down our faces as we all realize the silliness of our conversations and the love of our friendship.

Laughter, tea, friends, and pugs. My Christmas break feels like it’s already begun.

Poetry in Life.

THE SOUTH

To have watched from one of your patios
the ancient stars,
from the bench of shadow to have watched
those scattered lights
that my ignorance has learned no names for
nor their places in constellations,
to have heard the note of water
in the cistern,
known the scent of jasmine and honeysuckle,
the silence of the sleeping bird,
the arch of the entrance, the damp
–these things perhaps are the poem.

–Jorge Luis Borges

 

The semester’s close is around the corner. This slower week seems to be the last stop before the flying home stretch of due dates, papers, and finals, interrupted only by a few days at home for Thanksgiving.

The past 3 months at school have been far from easy. Reawakening study habits and motivation is like shoving an old locomotive steam engine back to life. In the first few weeks, I scooped only a few coals into the fire. Classes seemed easy; it wasn’t going to be a difficult semester. But the train merely creaked at my efforts and the tracks began to climb. I began shoveling frantically more and more coal– begging, pleading, sweating with the train to speed up. Midterms were coming! It finally took trashcan sized buckets of coal thrown onto the fire to increase the heat enough to get the wheels turning. Five tests in six days did the trick. The engine started smoking; steam began to rise; and the train leaped into life. A ton of coal, a whole lot of effort, and a solid challenge were the key ingredients to get me back into the swing of school and balance of college life. Now the train is rolling.

And it’s going fast. There is never a moment where I am done researching or studying. I see the world fly by behind my back as I aggressively continue to shovel coal. I have to remind myself to continually look up or I will miss all the beauty.

Beauty hides in blatant places. We just have to slow down to catch the incarnations. Light shredded by trees falling in angles across the soft, lacy petals of a flower. The freeing laughs of a friend as we gallantly run across two lanes of traffic. A yellow and black striped spider guarding his threaded kingdom of transparent glory. Scattered city lights from a mountain top view. The underbellies of leaves seen from a hammock hanging from the trunks of trees. A treat waiting in the library by someone who recognized a hard day. The steam of coffee flamenco dancing in the air to the bold aroma of the dark liquid beneath.

Beauty is intangible. We try to grasp what we perceive with our five senses. We see, we hold, we get closer and try to become a part of the beauty in front of us, stepping into the object’s existence that takes away our breath. But we cannot grasp it. We can give it form through art or words. However, the audience perceiving our efforts views our incarnation of beauty through their own lenses of perspective. They do not see the moment that captured you but your perspective of that moment, in their own reality.

This idea fascinates me. It sends me reeling into a philosophy search for heaven on earth and a hunt for others’ realities. Potential perspectives of beauty walk down the sidewalks, sit in class, eat meals with me every day. I want to grab my friend from passing a lamplight, illuminated against the dark blue depths of night sky, and ask her what she sees. And if she doesn’t see, open her eyes to this small moment of glory, this line of poetry, as Borges calls it, in the course of a day.

These glimpses of beauty slow down the racing train of college for a brief few seconds. The air rushes into my lungs and energiezes my mind and brings joy into my soul. I see in the rays of light, in the water droplets, in the morning’s fresh air, God’s hints that something spectacular as yet to come. A beauty that will be tangible and more real than anything I could imagine. A Beauty incarnated in flesh to come back to reign over us and restore this earth to breathless wonder.

I long for this beauty, to see the ocean and mountains and valleys in their perfect state. To walk down the beach, sand between my toes, a sunrise brilliantly declaring the presence of the sky, with my Creator beside me. I don’t know what the next reality will look like, but beauty will be tangible. And I long for it with an ache and awe and excitement that words cannot express.

Oh Beauty, Come quickly. Rend the heavens and come down.

 

Sit back, Relax, & Watch the Show.

So I’m a raging video editing, late nights, stressed out, obsessed with spider webs, totally loving it, seeing everything as a shot, searching for lens flares, “I have no idea what I’m doing”, “professional” student videographer. What does that mean? I make videos when people ask me to. And it’s fun. Lots of fun. But it’s also CRAZY! The learning curve is Mount Everest & my patience may have grown to the size of a peanut M&M (which I consumed a large bag of this week while simultaneously pulling out chucks of curls & googling why my 1920×1080 video was exporting at 1280×720.)

This job hasn’t been easy. I’m constantly frustrated with the editing process & how much I don’t know & need to learn, & daily wondering, why am I not in school for this! It’s just that standing behind a camera, focusing the lens for a perfect boca blur, catching the sun through the dew drops on a silky line of pure strength sparks a flame inside of me that travels along a fuse of creativity, gaining light & strength each centimeter until it explodes in a burst of joy & color & laughter & angels singing the hallelujah chorus. And that’s worth travelling mountainous roads of learning.

Video is an art. And it’s an art that displays & highlights others’ talents & stories. It’s a challenge to keep my eyes open & ears tuned to deeply listen to the people around me. With a camera, I have the capability to open someone’s eyes to their story & to other people’s story & to show beauty amidst the chaos. It’s a challenge. It’s a job. It’s a risky adventure, especially when one begins to combine art, technology, & human beings.

I’m constantly searching vimeo to gain ideas, perspectives, & skills. Oh, I like how they focused. That angle is good. Wow! What a shot! Each video takes me not only into the world of the video, but also into the mind of the videographer. I no longer watch videos just for the content. My trained eye notices the shake of the camera, the focus in & out, the slide across the audience & the filters applied to create an effect.

If you’re a fellow lover of movies, art, & joy, then you may understand half of what I’m saying. Buuut if now, no worries. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite videos I’ve watched over the past few weeks. They are worth a good study break, family time, or resting & soaking in perspective, angles, & lens flares. I’ll give you 4 minutes & 37 seconds to grab your drink of choice & pop some popcorn.

Here we go:

ON FAITH:  Jason “Propaganda” Petty tells his story about growing up the wrong color, in the wrong place. As a black kid in a Mexican neighborhood & a poet in an “alpha male urban environment,” Jason struggled to find his true identity. Watch his testimony & then his art. If you’re impatient- I mean, doing important things like saving the world- then watch the first video & skip to 4:50 on the second video. I like his second poem more. Note the camera movements!

ON CULTURE: Want to travel across the world without raising the funds for a plane ticket? These camera lovers attempted to capture an all out Indian wedding & turn it into a fully scripted narrative production. Wow! I was impressed by the write up, so I coaxed a friend into watching the whole short film with me. The ending was… well… tell me if you get it. So if you want the full Indian experience watch the full video. If not, watch the trailer. And because this video wasn’t the best, plot wise, I had to find another one to make it up to you. So ignore everything I just said, & watch this: India : Oxelo Skateboards. Once again, train your eye to see the styles of cinematography & enjoy skating through India.

ON FUN: Ok! Here’s a great one! If you don’t watch any of the above

STOP NOW & WATCH THESE!!!

Devin Supertramp (aka Devin Graham) has become aYouTube star after gaining over 1 million subscribers. The guy has thrown himself off canyons, triked behind fast moving cars (yes that’s a thing), shot through the air from a human slingshot, & traveled to Hawaii to live in his car & film water jet packs. What a guy! What a passion! What a job! Why are you not freaking out as much as I am! He has a glidecam that stabilizes the camera so that he can run full speed while shooting, like in this Assassins Creed Meets Parkour video. I want one! So pick a video or watch them all. I highly recommend listening to Devin talk about Fighting For Your Passion.

And last but (hopefully) not least. Here’s what I’ve been doing over the past few weeks working with Oak Mountain Church & filming weddings & MC rush skits. Check back in a few weeks for the Indian ring ceremony I filmed this weekend.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

New Journal.

I sit on the back porch of the dorm watching reds melt into oranges behind grays blanketing blues, & purples coating the serenity as the show comes to a calming conclusion over the MC parking garage.

In my lap lies my blue journal. A faithful friend, a goldmine of stories. Between the hard covers lie ten months of lessons, struggles, adventures, & prayers. The first entry from December 2012 was outside this same building. I was excited & naive, speculating over the next few months of Africa adventure.

Well, 3 months turned to 5 months which has made a full circle back to MC. People have asked me if I am glad to return, but I find it hard to call this a “return.” So much has changed since I left. Friends grew, some moved. Couples married, others dating. I’m no longer running for the school & that alone has drastically changed my college day schedule. I have freedom that I didn’t know existed! Who knew one can grab a cup of coffee over book discussions or make a trip down to Jacktown to see friends or stay up late without the fear of 5:30 a.m. practice!

But it’s hard not to wish that these next 2 years would rush by with the speed of a freight train. My dad wrote me a letter of encouragement that appeared in my mailbox on a day where patience was dangling like a leaf about to fall in weariness from hanging on. He encouraged me from Psalm 90:12 “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” He wrote that “numbering our days” refers to the seasons of life mentioned in Ecclesiastes. And if we don’t “number our days” the implication is that we won’t get a “heart of wisdom”-knowledge, emotion combined with purpose- our inner desires.

“Daughter, I see this verse applying to you & your days of life that you are in. Your stage of life is to learn, to get trained for your latter days. Going to college & learning a skill (video, writing, etc.) are preparing you for your future & giving you a heart of wisdom. If you try to rush life before the appropriate time, you become foolish. Patience & diligence are key characteristics of numbering your days. I celebrate you & your experiences this year. Set your focus on the race set before you. Don’t live in the past nor in the future. Be fully present today for that is where God will teach you & use you.”

As I finish my last entry in a journal that holds a season of travel, change & growth, I feel the close of an important chapter in my life. As much as I want to dwell in the stories & rush back to a world that has become more familiar than this college campus, it’s time to move on & dwell within the bubble of MC (though weekend escapes are always welcome!).

So with the change of chapter, I open a new journal. This one is leather bound & clean, lacking the dust of African roads & the coffee stains of early morning spills. The pages lay open, crisp & bare, waiting for the pen to drop & the ink to bleed the stories of another season of dwelling & learning.

And adventures. And books. And lots of coffee.

Trusting in Transit.

The sun rises through the thick, humid air smothering Alabama. Roads emptied of travelers, highway 280 calm for a few brief hours. The light sneaks around the horizon & tiptoes across the backyard. Leaves flash their spectrum of greens as they sway to the rhythm of the passing breeze. The stillness of late-morning sleepers declares it’s a Saturday. He slips between window & curtain in an exuberant burst of brightness, crawls across the covers, & gently strokes my face. Wake up. It’s time to move again.

My life is a story of metamorphosis. Constant change of people & place. I live in 3-4 month seasons with small periods of transit between each. Fall semester (3 weeks at home). 3 months in Uganda (1 week in South Sudan). 2 months in Spain (2 days of travel). 3 months in Birmingham (1 week of packing). And now another fall semester.

The past 3 months were as jam packed as a filing cabinet with lessons on re-entry, working 2 jobs, videography, biking, kayaking, climbing, holy listening, bearing burdens, & resting amidst chaos. Several times, I told God I had had enough & put my shoulder to that cabinet & tried to shove the drawer close. But we’re never done learning.

Over the past 8 months, I’ve realized I have so much more to stuff into that filing cabinet. I tell people that I learned what I need to learn through my experiences in Uganda. I saw the vast chasm of ignorance & realized I needed a longer pole to vault it. God has graciously provided the means to meet the end through the next 2(ish) years of school.

It’s amazing how I don’t fear risking safety, health, loneliness, & my graduation date to fly across deep sea & dry, dusty land to a tiny district on the border of Uganda & Congo, but when faced with the challenge of 2 years in one location, I balk at the idea of mundane.

It’s a trust issue. A root of sin deep within me that disguises itself as “organizing,” “planning,” & “being prepared.” Really, each time I look ahead 3 months to pencil in details of my next trip, I am reassuring myself that I am holding the reins & still in control of my life. Ha! Who do I think I am?

But it never fails, as the days of transit drag their feet, I become more anxious, more fearful, more weak. I find all the negatives of returning to school & slowly seep further into a spirit of depression.

Depression. Dependency. A tug of war at my heart. How do I win?

With gratitude. I force myself to take a deep breath, clear the soul, then apply the power of gratefulness with pen & paper as I list my blessings.

Education. Friends. A constant gospel whisper. Bike. Camera. Laughter. Beauty. Waterfalls. Wooded runs.  Encouragement in blogs. Reminders of the bigger picture. Good books. Challenges. Adventures. Hope. Truth.

A consistent, ever present, never altering Love that carries me on His wings.

The rope favors the other side, & I fall back from the mighty pull of thanksgiving, back into trust, dependency, the Filling of my deep desires to be desired, cared for, loved by Him. My focus shifts from self to Himself & peace persuades my heart to rest.

I lay in bed with the Son’s arms wrapped around me in morning’s pure light, accepting life’s constant change of seasons. I can live in transit because He knows my needs, He’s planned my path, & He knows this Hart’s desires. I throw my legs over the side of my bed & my feet touch the floor. The first steps of a new adventure.

But first I need some coffee.

Stay tuned. :)

Facing Fear.

Thursday, July 11 found me paddling for my life down a fast moving Tuckasegee River. Why? Well, why not? Dad paddles, why can’t I? It looks fun. I wish the confidence had stayed around a little longer instead of fleeing the moment I sat in my kayak in the rapid moving, freezing cold water of torture, I mean fun.

A friend from Africa joined us in NC for a weekend of kayak learning in the mountains. Day 1 found us practicing rolls & braces on the Tuck. We put in at an eddy that was big enough to keep me on edge & pray hard that I would be able to get out of it. Of course, Dad hops right into his boat, paddles to a wave, & begins playing in it. “I’m gonna go on down. Just aim down river & paddle hard,” he calls as he effortlessly leans into the wave & floats through the rapid. Mr. Young & Fearless doesn’t think twice & goes right after Dad, punching each wave without grace but making it through. Great. I’ve been left to age in this eddy. Now I HAVE to go. Ok, count to three. 1, 2, 3…. Ahhhhh!!!!!!

I get my boat across the eddy line. Barely. And head straight into the monster waves of 2 feet. Paddle, lean, LEAN! PADDLLLLLE! Oh no! Paddle! Paddle! Oh, made it! Oh, wait…. crap! 

The cold swooshes around my face in a rush of arctic panic that takes my breath away. Suspended underneath, I try to get my paddle to the top of the capsized boat & attempt to roll up. Fail. Attempt 2. Nope. Ok, I’m outta here. I pull the skirt & punch out of the kayak only to find Dad right there with his boat, ready to have assisted me if I had only signaled. My brain was too cold to think that far ahead.

With my first “swim” behind me, bravery slowly peeped its face around the corner to stare down my fear of dying by moving water. After more instruction from Dad, I got back into my boat & continued to paddle down the river. We even stopped in a small eddy to work on pull outs & eddy turns. Once again, I became closer friends with the icy Tuck river, but this time, I successfully rolled back up!

The rest of the weekend proved to be lots of fun. To gain more river confidence, I spent Friday with a private instructor practicing my roll, strokes, & ferrying. We went back to the Tuckasegee where I rolled, this time purposefully, in the rapids to boost my boldness in the fast currents. By the end of the day, I could say I enjoyed kayaking & felt prepared to tackle the next glacier: the Nantahala.

With enough confidence & skill to be dangerous & comical, I joined the “pros” on the Nanty Saturday & Sunday. The waves were much larger, longer, & livelier. The holes were more threatening & ominous. The rocks were more frequent. And the conversation in my mind was not always missionary like. However, I successfully paddled down the river, combat rolled perfectly, & even braved the class III falls at the end. I can now say that I kayak. Sorta.

While I was facing fears of fast water, my friends in Bundibugyo were confronting fears of death by gun point. I arrived home Sunday night to find Josh’s status on facebook:

“Please pray for DRC refugees in Bundibugyo. An estimated 60,000 have crossed over due to conflict in eastern DRC. We have been helping setting up a refugee camp (with water) and providing firewood for cooking. Hoping to provide medical care and care for vulnerable children later in the week. Thanks for prayers. These are long days. (PS- we are safe in Bundibugyo).”

On Thursday, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist rebel group, attacked the town of Kamango in Congo. Men, women, teenagers, & children fled their homes & lives as they knew it to find safety in Uganda, for only God knows how long. The Ugandan Army, UN, Red Cross, & World Harvest missionaries are providing security & support to the growing number of refugees. Five primary schools are housing the estimated 66,139 people. As of Sunday night, local authorities had found a new location to move refugees.
One WHM missionary was able to remember Romans 8:28 through these turn of events:

“Because this area of the DRC has been so remote, so volatile, and mostly closed to foreigners, it has been extremely difficult for anyone to bring the gospel there. But now, these Congolese are literally in our front yard (and sideyard, and backyard…). They are scared, desperate, and displaced.”

That’s a positive way of looking at it. This is a chance to share the love & grace & comfort of our Maker with the Congolese people. Please join me in praying for Josh, Ann, Jess & the summer interns as they persevere through exhaustion, stress, & turmoil. Pray for the Spirit to pour into their hearts boldness to share God’s love & wisdom in how to best engage. Also pray for Edward, the Headmaster of Christ School Bundibugyo, as he continues to lead the school through the end of term 2. And lastly, pray for our brothers & sisters who are caught in this chaos. Pray for the Annets, Rachels, & Gladyses, people who are no longer statistics but dear friends, to have boldness & joy in sharing their Hope & Peace.

 The team is still assessing the refugee needs & their part in it. Contact me if you would like to contribute to this work. For more information about the situation, go to  http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/07/201371410175504702.html.

Hammock Therapy.

“But unless we are creators we are not fully alive. What do I mean by creators? Not only artists, whose acts of creation are the obvious ones of working with paint of clay or words. Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living. Creativity is not limited to the arts, or having some kind of important career.”
Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water
“When I am constantly running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening.”
Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

 

I whirl my Pathfinder into the corner of the gravel parking lot at the state park. With coffee in hand & a backpack of books, Bible, & hammock over my shoulder, I set out on a trail bordering the lake. With each twist & turn, it leads me farther away from the road, from people, from busyness. For the first time in a month, I’m alone.

Perched on a sharp incline, suspended between two trees, blue nylon holds me up. I gently swing over the ledge. Back. And forth. Back. And forth. Therapeutic rhythm. The great ball of light sits on the bows of pine trees covering the scene in a filter of hazy morning sunshine. Gentle rays illuminate ripples in the lake, pink flowers on the tops of a tree, an artist’s pallet full of greens on the underbellies of leaves. The light casts the shadow of the pen across the blank page of my journal.

I rock. Back. And forth. Back. And forth. Legs dangling in mid air.

Back. And forth.  Pen scratches paper.

Back. And forth. Back. And forth. A splash across the inlet of lake.

Back. And forth. Raindrops fall from treetops.

Back. And forth.  Back. And forth. Rock-ing. Swing-ing. Rest-ing.

Each rock forward & each rock back is a staggering emotion, a flash of memory, a blur of eternal to-dos. A busy schedule & high ambitions. Video tutorials & shoe fittings. A messy room & piles of papers. A high deficit of time. Where am I!? Yesterday, I would have told you I was in the middle of the Deep, treading water, straining every muscle to stay afloat, water gushing into my mouth, gasping for air. The weekend before, I was in the middle of a dance, twirling freely from place to place, smile as broad as the horizon, joy abounding with each new step. This morning? I am a girl in a worn, traveled grey dress, roaming the mountain with frizzy curls splayed in the wind, searching for the Shepherd.

“I’m overwhelmed,” I had told my grandparents the night before during our long distance call. “Darling, when since the age of 10 have you not been overwhelmed?” Good point.

So maybe I have been pushing it too hard. I stepped off the plane & hit the ground running with 3 road trips. Now I’ve increased to a sprint with a job & internship. I’m a runner, but how long can I keep this pace? On my first Sunday back, Pastor Bob compared our church to an aircraft carrier that refuels & resends its planes to new locations of work. “You might be the plane that’s been flying all over the world that now needs to land on this carrier & be refueled, renewed, & retooled,” said Pastor Bob. I had glanced up to make sure he was not looking right at me. As we stood for the benediction, I felt God say, “I’ve brought you home. It’s time to rest.” Salty droplets trickled down my cheek. Tears come often in church these days.

How do I rest, recover, learn, & work all at the same time? How do I keep a busy schedule, making the most of each opportunity God puts in my path, & feel rested?

Apparently I do not know the answer. I have been flying with pedal to the metal all week. I needed slowing down; maybe that’s why my knee swelled up after Monday’s run. In the past, God has spoken to me through injuries. Usually they happen during a time of rushing & busyness. Nothing quite slows you down like the all too familiar ache that threatens physical therapy. As I hang in the trees, I realize I would not have taken this time away if I had not been physically forced to rest from biking & running. He’s forced me to get away into my element, the outdoors, to create & be revived, to feel the freedom He’s blessed me with through written words. Ok God, You have my attention.

In the presence of God in these peaceful woods, the Spirit leads me to confess the very thing to which He has brought to my writer’s mind: the inability to rest. I must repent. I see my weakness & fall into the Shepherd’s strong arms. The embrace of grace. He rocks me back & forth & opens my eyes to His beauty surrounding me. Peace calms my soul storm. A breeze lifts the weight of the world. He tightens His grip around my feeble frame, & whispers in my ear, Behold what manner of love I have bestowed on you, that you are called a child of God. If you are My child, then you are an heir.

An heir! If I am an heir, then I am a princess. I am not a wondering peasant. I am a seed of Abraham. I belong somewhere. I have a home. And right now, I am sitting in that home! I am in the middle of God’s creation, His kingdom, not yet restored, but soon to be. I am in the house of my Father.

A breathless Wow falls from my lips. I lean back & gaze up at the canopy of leaves. Rocking back & forth. Swinging to a rhythm that’s cheaper than therapy. Soaking in the love that falls like the water droplets off of trees to land & soothe my heart.

“You will keep him in perfect peace,

Whose mind is stayed on You,

Because he trusts in You.”

Isaiah 26:3