taking the train alone

"Will this really be our last Summer together?"
"If I go to California next year, it will be!"

We sat on a hill, feet bare, mosquitoes biting, and watching the sunset while binging on a Little Caesar's pizza, Milano cookies, and Simply Lemonade. It was one of those impromptu evenings that turned into one of the most memorable ones of my life. That was a year ago. The future seemed so far away. We talked about our futures so lightheartedly, as if just a dream, or dare I say - possibly an illusion.

But now, here we are. The present. The futures we lightheartedly talked about are here. Time has passed, and it's time to move on.

In just 2 days, I will fly alone to California. I will pack my dreams, hopes, and aspirations, and take them with me. I am excited and joyful and anticipating the adventures to come. It has been evident that the West Coast is what my hungry soul needs, but you know what? Even with the excitement and adventure, things are bittersweet. I've cried all week. I thought I was hip and cool and emotionally stable until this week came. Nostalgia has hit harder than ever before, and let's be honest - Good-byes SUCK. They suck more than anything. I told myself over and over again that I needed to just toughen up, be adventurous, and not let any "Good-Bye" get the best of my emotions. Boy, my mindset didn't know what it was in for. At church this morning, everything started sinking in. With every hug, good wishes, and commitment to pray for me, I realized, "This is actually happening. I'm leaving." One friend and I hung out one last time over yoga and then Zaxby's. Another stopped by this evening to see me one last time. We laughed and acted like our normal selves until she drove away. With both, my heart dropped and I was an emotional mess. Saying "Good-Bye" and "Good luck" and "I'll see you...well....I'm not sure when, but I'll see you!" sucks. It's hard. Even if I have a return date for September, we are all going our separate ways, separate places, and beginning lives as adults, and that can be a hard pill to swallow.

It's a strange reality. My time here will close, and new chapters will begin in a place far, far away. Loved ones will continue on without me, continuing the stories of their own. Things will seem funny at first, because a puzzle isn't complete when a piece is missing. A new normal will come for us though. They will soon adapt to the new way of life. The dinner table will be a party of 2. I won't answer the door to chat when a friend knocks. I will no longer fill the usual table at the coffee shop, bike at the gym, or even my bed at night. I will begin a new journey. It sounds bitter, but it really is just another part of life. The bitterness is only temporary. Just as seasons transition, so do we. The coldness of Winter stings at first, but before we know it, building fires and wearing coats becomes a new normal. Growing up is no different. It's a season of life that is difficult and bittersweet to settle into, but the blood will dry, and our own normal will come. That isn't to say that loved ones will separate from our lives and that we won't still long to see them, but rather, we will learn a new way of living without the routine that we were once used to. In 2 days, I will breathe in West Coast air. I will do life with new sisters. I will take the train alone.

"Taking the train alone" is sort of a metaphorical phrase I go by. Having someone go through things with us is like having a hand of comfort. There is relief in knowing that hand of comfort is nearby, but when it suddenly disappears or we do not have a choice as to whether we have it, let's all admit something together: Our lives can become pretty frightening. It is as if that added presence is a silent affirmation that everything will be okay, that we have support if something goes wrong. It is a safe haven. Sometimes you're able to feel that hand of comfort, but other times...

You'll have to take the train alone.

It's the train in which you bid your current circumstances "Adieu", the train that separates you from the shelter of familiarity and comfort, the train that takes you far away from home, and plunges you into unknown territory. It can be scary and nerve wracking and daunting, but sometimes, you have to push through and do it. It's not easy, but it is essential in accomplishing the will that God has set before you. We were not created to sit back, and cling to stability and comfort. We were created to dive into the messy, the hard, the nitty gritty, the terrifying, the things that put knots in your stomach, and run full force to accomplish the journey God has placed us on. We're on a mission, and it will involve saying "Farewell" to your comfort zone. And more times than not?

You will take the train alone. But, my friend, you can do it. You will struggle and you will fight and you will be worn out and bruised and your fingers will be calloused and your lungs will be sore; but the unfathomable strength and peace that our Heavenly Father supplies us with will get you through. Though our lives might change, God's character does not.

"The Lord foils the plans of the nations;
he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations." Psalm 33:10-11

 I asked this same question when I spoke at my graduation a few weeks ago, and I'm going to ask it again:

Will you allow God to take you out of your comfort zone?

And to add onto that...

Will you allow God to take you out of your comfort zone, even if it involves taking the train alone?

"Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise you 
And I will seek You in the morning

And I will learn to walk in Your ways

And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days"  -Rich Mullins


the good guys don't always win.

    "He has cancer, and it is spreading." It was dark out, and we had just gotten back into town, jumping from subject to subject as females typically do. I never knew this man well, but for some reason, the circumstances stirred something in me. I thought back to my childhood; back to when things were normal (or at least in a child's eyes), and back to when his body was healed and times weren't so harsh.

Did you know you would have cancer?

Obviously, we cannot humanly get a glimpse into our future, but I wonder what would happen if in our pasts, we knew what would happen to us. We are blissfully naive in the days before the storm. For all we know, the bodies we carry and the lives we live will thrive in sync and achieve the happily ever after we have pictured. Humans do not have the power to see what lies ahead. We cannot determine brokenness in our bodies, our final days, terrors of the world, or any outcome to the life each of us lives.

 It often reminds me - the good guys don't always win. 

Though there are also other reasons, perhaps this is why I hate watching most movies. Yes, there is tragedy; yes, some things apply to reality, but there is always a hero of some sort. Whether they're wearing spandex and a cape or jeans and a t-shirt, everything ends up resolved, the guy always gets the girl, the villain is defeated, the friendship is healed, and the good guy always wins.

 But that's just not how life works. We live in a broken world filled with evil and tragedy and terror and disappointment. The good guys don't always win, and if we're being honest with ourselves, it's often the villain. While we certainly like to imagine good endings in this life, the truth is this: A last breath is taken. Painful words devour the last ounce of self-esteem. The divorce papers are signed. The mirror becomes a liar. The dreaded call comes. Depression becomes death. The body is disease ridden. There is injustice. You spill yourself on the floor and can't stop crying. Society seems to surely be falling a part. In these times, I can't help but think, "Lord, please, not again." It's hard being human, and especially hard when the mind becomes weary from the fate of man.

I don't have an entire, elaborate paragraph to give some redeeming conclusion as I often do. My words are kept short this time. We live in a fallen world, and all I can say, in the words of a favorite artist of mine, is this:

"So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can't, let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You."

And if the good guys don't win here, because of grace and mercy, there is One who always will.

...Though our happily ever after might not be in this lifetime, we can anticipate one to come. 


I Packed My Things And Ran

   Gripping my arms tightly, they pulled me back. "You stupid girl." My feet barely felt escape. I thought I was strong enough, but I wasn't. The neatly packed bags slipped from my grasp and tumbled onto the cold floor. I was too weak, too vulnerable, too innocent to retreat. There they go. All of my dreams, hopes, wishes - gone. Perhaps I should have gone without a word; kept to myself. Perhaps it should have been a secret I only shared with myself. I should have spoken silence. I couldn't break their painful grip. Please, let me go. Let me experience freedom. Let me run away. My body was scarred and weary. My feet gave way, my bones ached a terrible ache, and their words poisoned my veins. I hid. I found an empty room. I thought that hiding and wallowing in silence would wash away the pain. A film of loneliness settled in. Dusk transitioned into nightfall, and I saw the bite of bitter come my way. Just run. Go. Finding my balance, I gathered the spilt belongings. There they were - every dream, every hope, every wish. I carefully placed them in my bags. I searched around. Not a soul was in sight in that cold, empty room. My heart beat faster, breath deeper, determination stronger, and I picked up those bags.
There it was. The door. The opening. The exit for my escape, and the entrance to new beginnings. I was hesitant. Step by step, I got closer and closer. You're almost there. Keep going. I believe in you. As my hand turned the knob, I took one last glance behind. A shadow slowly emerged; another daunting voice threatened. I stiffened, and another bag landed on that cold, hard floor. The footsteps came closer. Was I to hide? No, no, no. I couldn't. I had no choice. I had feet to carry me and a soul that stayed restless, so I had to go on. The street lights would be my guide, the pouring rain would be company, and the wind would carry me. The blood would dry, and the scars would heal. I have to go. I took a deep breath. I could almost taste the fresh air. I could almost feel the warmth on my skin.  There was no turning back.
So, I packed my things and ran.