awake & free: trains & two more weeks of nineteen

It’s currently 4:07am and I’ve been up all night.

I’ve been trying to make a dent in this ten page paper (that may or may not be slightly overdue), drinking coffee and eating ice-cream while dissecting life on a mildly uncomfortable coach with one of my best friends. And now, she’s asleep and there’s a playlist from freshman year humming in the background.

The songs keep on coming, and I’m slightly amazed at where my heart was. And where it is now.

I just realized that it’s two weeks exactly until I turn twenty. When I turned nineteen, the words that were put on my heart were “awake” and “free.”

I’m not where I thought I would be.

I turned nineteen on the beach and there was so much excitement and such an abundance of anticipation. I thought I had it all figured out; everyone in their little boxes in my brain. I thought I knew where I was and I thought I knew what I needed and I was so sure I knew what I wanted.

And probably, God looked at me and smiled. Because He knew what was coming.

A year later, everything is so different. And life promises to continue down these tracks, taking turns and surprising me always. I am so out of control.

I’ve discovered that to be truly awake, to be truly free, is to be out of control. It’s to not know what comes next, because you’re not supposed to. You’re not made to carry the burden of having to figure it all out; you’ve been created to fall into the arms of a flawless, reckless love that doesn’t run dry. Translation: you have absolutely no reason to be anxious because He already has it all figured out.

I whisper these words to myself an infinite amount of times, in the face of uncertainty and disappointment. In the face of brokenness, in the face of not knowing what comes next. This reality is comforting, when I choose to believe it. He’s moving the most powerfully when I feel the most lost, when I feel the most out of control.

Awake and free. I feel it. I think I might know who I am. I’m starting to see who He is. And I’m starting to feel the smallest hint of His greatness and it’s leaving me feeling overwhelmed, transfixed in complete wonder.

There’s a newness here, even as this season draws to a close. There’s a calm, even in the midst of the insanity. There’s a tremendous strength, even as my heart screams “broken.” There’s life bursting all around, even though I’ve experienced death more fully than ever before. He doesn’t leave us in brokenness. He doesn’t leave us in death.

There was a time that my heart was ravaged by doubts that I would never make it. I thought that failure was inevitable and exposure of my heart would lead to my ruin. But turns out, there’s freedom in being seen. There’s freedom in the awakening of a heart, of listening to its beating and acknowledging its longing. And, turns out, we don’t actually have to be afraid of desire. Because our God is so big enough for all of it, even when we don’t see how it’s going to work out.

This year, I was taught to love so deeply, to give of myself so totally, in crazy ways that I never saw coming. And while this year seems to have lots of loose pieces that I don’t understand, I know that He knows. I know that He sees. I know that He’s not done. I know that I’m His daughter, and wow, that’s actually enough.

This year, I’ve taken risks that I never would have taken before. I think it’s because I’ve finally encountered the heart of the Father and I’m finally pressing in and wanting more. I think I’ve started to let His love be enough; to love not on my own (because I’ll always run out), but with His heart (because there’s always abundance).

I wish I could explain every little detail to color in these convictions. Somewhere within the days of being nineteen, I was told that my writing was too ambiguous and that, to be truly different, I had to be brutally honest. It was a good challenge– something that I’ve continued to wrestle with for months.

But, perhaps, sometimes, there’s a place for ambiguity and the murkiness of metaphor. Just perhaps, there’s a kind of beauty there. Or maybe I’m using it to hide, while I try to make sense of this last year. Of these last two decades, even. Maybe they’re placeholder words that sparkle without substance, capturing attention but not devotion.

Trains. Let’s talk about trains.

I used to listen to the trains from my old bedroom back on Wayne Street, in a small town in Pennsylvania. Sometimes, I’d wake up really early and act out all of the love stories I knew with my Barbies. I’d listen to the trains, and they kind of scared me. I didn’t particularly like their sound, but my ears would continually be straining to hear them. There was something missing when they weren’t there.

We moved across town when I was five, but I could still hear the trains, and pretty soon, I wasn’t afraid. Ten years later, we moved a whole state away, but the trains were the constant. I’d hear them at night and always get stuck behind them during the day, having to factor in extra time to get to places because the more of the rush you’re in, the longer the train always is.

When I’d get up early in the morning and sit at my window, I wasn’t playing dolls anymore. I was sixteen and wondering if life could really be all that I wanted it to be.

Now, here I am, over two-thousand miles away from home, and there are no trains audible in the night. However, I found trains again about three months ago, in some raw thoughts strung together in a haunting fashion by someone I was close with. And just like that, trains are tied to an unforgettable person.

Awake and free. Like the trains. Always going, always making noise. Moving forward with purpose, precision, and clarity. The train doesn’t question whether or not it’s going to make it; it just goes forward. I’m done questioning whether or not I’m going to make it. 

I’m reminded that I could chase every single goal of mine, I could dream so big that it breaks my heart, and even if I got it all, it would never be enough. Only the heart of the King is big enough for me, and I already have it. You already have it. So let the striving cease. Even in the midst of heartbreak, even in the crushing reality of disappointment, even in the face of despair– He is enough. His love is so enough. He’s promised to work all things for my good, so that’s how I’m going to live.

So, nineteen, I’m leaving you and turning to twenty with my hands empty of expectation. I’m turning to twenty with hope, knowing that this is a season of dancing, because joy is not tied to circumstance.

I like the messiness of this post. There’s almost a lack of closure and I suppose it’s slightly unfocused, but isn’t that real life?

Here’s to the adventures to come. Here’s to the inevitable tattoos on my arms and scars on my heart. Here’s to the love of my Savior that just keeps on pursuing me. Here’s to the relatable indie songs that will form the future playlists. Here’s to twenty, and whatever comes next.

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5 Comments

  1. Ah! I remember so well coming to a similar place over a year ago. It makes me smile now to think about it. You write words I understand, even with the ambiguity. I am sure our stories differ somewhat, but here is a bit of mine. In the first hours of 2016, I had my master list of what I would do to “get myself together”. That year, I thought I would fix things and charge ahead. God in His mercy, broke my self-dependance and planning. He broke me kindly, and then rebuilt me- building me with hitherto unknown love and peace. 2017 was my year of really realizing His love for me. And this year has been one of learning to trust Him to be faithful during the uncertain times. He is so faithful. He is so good. God Bless you Anne Marie. Take care!

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  2. Being 19 now… I enjoyed reading this. It makes me excited to go on my own journey, let life be chaotic so God can direct me, and see where I am when I’m 20. Always nothing but love for you and your writing Annie ❤️

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