hello hurricane

This Saturday morning is quiet.

My chipped Damascus mug is steaming with a new tea and my roommate is still curled up in her blankets. The refrigerator hums and the A/C blasts, encouraging the tightening of my blanket around my shoulders. The presence of my backpack next to my desk taunts me, reminding me of all I have to do this weekend.

Welcome to the mundane.

A week ago today, I came back. After Hurricane Irma pushed me out of my southwestern Florida school, I came back to find that there hadn’t been much damage, but that everything had changed.

Rewind even further.

I was on the phone with my mom the second week of school. It was a Tuesday. The word “hurricane” was brought up to explain that there wasn’t an issue, it probably wouldn’t hit. Hours later, I was packing and preparing to leave at 4am the next morning.

It never happens to you.

That night, the clouds went insane. They were a hurricane around the moon, lit up with grandeur. I wondered what God was doing. I slept for a solid thirty minutes that night because I knew it was something big.

The next morning, squeezed into a car with four other girls (two roommates, two that I wasn’t super close with), we sojourned through Florida, not sure when we would be back, if we would be back, or what we would come back to.

We made it to Panama City, ate our weight in chicken and cupcakes, and passed out. We stayed there for a couple days before deciding to head further on to New Orleans.

There were so many times I looked out of the car window at this crazy world and wondered how I had gotten here.

I thought of being little and sitting on my bedroom floor, back in Pennsylvania, in a home I haven’t lived in for fifteen years. Sometimes at night, I would crawl out of my bed and just sit at the window in the dark. The headlights zooming by were shooting stars from another galaxy, a cheap replica of reality. All from different worlds with different stories, with different heartbreaks and devotions.

When you’re four, you never think of leaving that bedroom window. You don’t question beyond the front porch swing and the block-of-cement backyard. This is where you will always be, this is who you will always be.

But then, one day, you’re in a strange, loud city so far away with people who have become your family. You never expected them to, but all of a sudden, they’ve seen you at your best and worst. You’re making hard decisions. You’re dreaming big dreams and seeing them as totally possible for a God who doesn’t withhold. You have real deadlines to meet and work to turn in.

You put on a coat of mascara and then stop.

Because once there was a little girl who used to play dress up in her grandma’s night gowns and who fell down the stairs because of heels that were too big. There once was a girl who would act out adventure with her Barbies and wish for fairytales. There once was a girl who couldn’t wait to be an adult.

You look in the mirror and stop. Several big decisions later, you’re her. You’re not slipping around in heels anymore, you’re walking confidently. You’re not pretending adventure anymore, you’re living radically.

And it leaves you a little bit breathless that God is turning your life into something this big.

People talk all the time about finding themselves. I never needed to find myself because God has always held me. However, being in Panama City, walking around the streets of New Orleans, and driving over two-thousand miles over less than two weeks brought me to a deeper realization of who I am.

And I don’t know who that is. But I know that she is. Finally, I’m okay with not having words because I’ve spent my existence fighting for control, fighting to understand. I’ve limited reality to what I can put words on. Except…it’s so much bigger.

This realization was fed by the reality of the power of living in the moment. It’s the idea of “be here now”. Right now, in this moment, is where I’m supposed to be. I had no idea, most of the time, what I would be doing the next day or where I would be. It brought me to radical trust and dependence on God, on a Father who sees me and won’t let me down.

“Be here now” gave power to my encounters with people. I felt like I was able to delight in the moment, to truly receive the gift of each moment, to be fully present in the gift of each person.

I saw people more than I’ve ever seen people in my life. I saw hearts. When you begin to discover who you are as a child of the King, the barriers built by social anxiety turn out to be just paper.

I looked homeless people in the eyes and gave them my attention and validation. I got bath bomb glitter on my nose and some dude decided to help me out by wiping it off (still uncomfortable about that one). I met an awesome guy who made a video about train hopping from coast to coast and put together an entire album of hobo musicians. I prayed with a woman on Magazine Street who was probably the exact opposite of me. Human beings are so beautiful.

I danced in front of the cathedral and I got powdered sugar blown all over my face (and, more importantly, black jeans) while eating a beignet. I rolled the windows down and sang at the top of my lungs. I embraced sisterhood and vulnerability.

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I adventured. For the first time, I felt fully awake, fully alive, and fully free. And it was beautiful.

There was one night we went for a drive to see some big New Orleans houses. We ended up not knowing where we were and stumbled upon the most beautiful adoration chapel I’ve ever been in.

When I walked into the chapel, I literally fell down in front of Jesus and just exhaled. I exhaled my entire life. And He brought me into the beauty and goodness of unsuppressed emotion and desire and the reality that He makes all things new and greater things are yet to come.

The night I came home (back to school), I sat and looked at the stars for hours. I saw a real shooting star for the first time. I struggled to find words to capture the welling up in my heart…I feel like my words are never enough. But that’s okay. Because maybe, sometimes, words are a box that contains what was never meant to be contained. Maybe a silent heart actually makes the most sense. Or maybe the words we do have actually are enough because God fills in the gaps of a heart longing to be simple and understood. What’s supposed to be spoken always is…complexity’s war can never win.

So here I am.

A week later, with new anxieties threatening the peace my Savior won for me. But this time, it’s not enough because I have seen Him provide. I have seen Him move mountains.

And I know that He’ll do it again.

I’ll keep adventuring. I’ll keep trusting. I’ll keep loving. I’ll keep embracing newness and rejecting control and going further…because there is so much that is yet to come.

“Everything inside of me surrenders…you can’t silence my love.” -Switchfoot

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