Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In His Hands

My favorite season of fall is settling in. Leaves are turning red and yellow hues and the cornfields are spreading out their magic carpets of gold. The goodness of the Lord fills the earth during this season of "mercy" after a hot summer. My daily walks are a time for my eyes to drink in the earth-toned colors and absorb the peacefulness of nature and the refreshing breezes for my mind and body. My walks are also a time of prayer to contemplate God's goodness in my life and pray for others, like close friends who lift us up when we are falling.

Yesterday I was bemoaning to my roommate how I feel like a fragile leaf being mercilessly tossed in the wind, falling after this and that, doing somersaults in the air without knowing where I will land. In my complaining, (this shows how good a friend she is to me), she looked at me and said, "God's got you right in the palm of his hand. You may think you are blowing around, but really you are only fluttering about in the cup of his hands. He's saying, 'I'm holding you. It's okay.'"

Suddenly, that doesn't sound so scary anymore.

Those hands that hold the universe - those hands that bear the wounds of our sins and sufferings - those hands that healed the lame and blind - those hands that lifted up the bread to feed the thousands of hungry people - those are hands that can be trusted to hold the problems of my life and keep me whole.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Ride of a Lifetime

When was the last time you had a dream that you remember? Was it in color? Looking back to almost two years ago, I recorded two dreams that were significant to me at the time. Now that my pilgrimage to Spain has happened, I feel no doubt that these dreams were the first seeds of the desire to travel abroad and that through these dreams, my thirst for adventure and boldness found their expression.

The setting of the first dream is in the narrow, cobblestone alleys and streets of Europe. I am riding my bike casually down the steep and narrow streets, zig-zagging between old, stone houses with flowered terraces. As my bike bumps over the cobblestone road, I feel a twinge of danger being on my old rickety bike, but it is a wild kind of fun. Then I enter the doorways of these places and peruse through the different rooms, all decorated with rich, deep hues. They are cozy interiors with luxurious carpets, chairs and libraries filled with books, open windows, looking out on gardens and more cobblestone streets.

I wake up relishing the dream, and even more, the feeling of adventure in a foreign land.

Another memorable dream came a month later…imagine Main Street in my Midwestern town. I’m on the east side of the street on the sidewalk, again, riding my old, red-checkered, banana-seat bicycle (in fact, the very one I learned to ride on with training wheels as a child!). I pedal down the sidewalk. I am dressed in a light, frilly, white dress that is blowing freely in the breeze. Think Anne of Avonlea. My orange hair flaming and my white dress fluttering in freedom, I know how beautiful I look in the white-colored dress and how feminine it is to ride my bike with it on. I am enjoying the sensation.

Then I notice Costa. He is on the side by J&R Bar & Grill and is waving a piece of paper at me. I ride past him at first, thinking he is looking at someone else. Then he stops me and chides me for going by him. I explain that I thought he was looking at somebody else behind me. He says something like, “Why would I be looking at somebody else when you’re the prettiest girl around?”

I feel happy inside. As we talk, I get off my bicycle, and we stand across from each other by the bike. He gives me the paper, which has a picture of a group of people on it, and I’m in the picture!

Then he asks me, “So where do you want to go?”

I get back on my bicycle, and I think I answer, “I don’t know. Where should I go?”

Because he answers, “How about to Paris?” with a mischievous sparkle in his eyes. (I'm serious! He actually said Paris in my dream...I thought that was random at the time, but where do I end up going on pilgrimage just a few years later? Not Paris, but another city in France! The picture of our group above was taken in Lourdes, France, on Aug. 12.)

“How do I get there?” I ask.

“Right over there will take you there” and as he says this, he gives the back of my bicycle a shove, and off I go to the right, following the curving road. I know in the dream it’s a joke between us, because we know you can’t get to the heart of Paris from the Main Street in my town! But in dreams, anything is possible. And swept up in the spirit of adventure, mischief and beauty running deep and wild within me, I just about believe him.

It is amazing to think that all of this came true. Okay, not riding the bicycle part, but it was like these dreams expressed my growing desire to take a risk and take the ride of a lifetime. When that opportunity materialized in the pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2011, like a train rolling in to my station in life, I heard the call "All aboard!" and eagerly hopped on board. Maybe our dreams can tell us more than we can imagine. What are your dreams lately? Where do you want to go?

The bicycle pictures in this post were taken in Austria - during my first travel abroad experience.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Moving Day: Finding Hope in the Dumpster

In a week and a half’s time, I secured an apartment in a new city, packed up my belongings and moved into a new home with a friend of mine from college. It didn’t hit me fully until I was taking one last look at my room and closing up the house that I was leaving my childhood home…possibly forever. Will I ever return to live there? Maybe, maybe not. I shed a few tears to let go of the home where I grew up since a baby. The rain was soon replaced by the brighter and more penetrating sunshine…

I love my new room, my new home, new town and the start of a new life. Some things are the same, like living in another rural Wisconsin city, but it is noisier here than in our quiet neighborhood, where I used to take evening walks or sit out front and watch the stars with my cat in my arms. Peaceful. The universe felt so big then. Today it feels so small, a good small, cozy, warm, my apartment nestled up here on the hill, overlooking restaurants and the main highway, surrounded by trees.

My desk is near the window – just like before. I can look out and nod my head at the trees that wave their limbs and shake their tousled heads back at me. Will be strange to call this “home,” although I feel comfortable here. No, upon further thought, it will never be “home,” defined as that place where love is nurtured by parents and brothers and sisters, the place of childhood play, teenage dreams and the home base of young adult exploration. A new kind of love must grow here, the love known as friendship.

The city noises will take some getting used to: the honking of the train that passes by at least once a day and the lulling melody of a neighbor's New Age music that drifts up to my bedroom window every evening. It's not obnoxious music, but the melody is repetitive and gets old real fast.

A surprise came from Dad. I hadn’t even been thinking of him yesterday at all, and then he showed up…

As I'm putting the pizza in the oven, my mom's friend asks if I have any tin foil or a baking sheet to put over the coils to catch drippings. Nope, don’t have tin foil. Nope, don’t have any baking sheets either at this point. So I decided to just throw it in, and, if necessary, clean up afterwards.

Dan decides to go take the paper garbage outside. When he comes back, he says, “Guess what I saw in the dumpster? …a cookie sheet!”

Yes, really. It was an almost spotless, shiny cookie sheet! So I tell him to bring it up, figuring that baking it at 400 degrees would sterilize it.

It was a Dad moment. You see, Dad’s favorite spot in the world was the Town of Empire dump! He’d always be over there seeing what treasures he could bring home and surprise the family with. The man at the dump would expect him and even save the best items for Dad. Dad brought all kinds of things home, including a bowling ball that doubled his score, a yellow checkered dress for me, and occasionally even presents for other people. We’ve always teased about the dump closing at the same time that Dad died.

As soon as Dan mentioned his find in the dumpster, I thought of Dad and knew in my heart that he wanted to be a part of my moving experience. He was watching me all grown up moving out on my own and wanted to say, "I'm proud of you, and I'm right here if you need me." Do you think he was sitting in spirit at the table with us, as the four of us, Dan, Mom, Marie and I ate pizza and corn on the cob? Was he sitting there, laughing with us? I believe he was, and he wanted me to know it.

There’s going to be new challenges now, but I’m trying to trust in the Lord. He has provided; He does provide; He will provide. There are a whole new set of worries that come from being on one’s own, supporting oneself, and I am only staring into the beginning of them. But it’s a happy time, a grace-filled time, one that calls for action, diligence, strength…and hope. Lots of hope.

In just the past few months, some of my friends and fellow bloggers also picked up and moved to new houses. Have you moved in the past year? If so, what things have given you hope in your move?