Posts Tagged ‘Virginia’

Starbucks got pretty fun yesterday. A few of us pulled out the ear-buds and acted like real people, trading jokes, stories, and turns watching laptops. It was pretty awesome. It filled a need in my heart for community–something I feared I was sacrificing when I decided not to attend grad school in Virginia.

And after I had returned home, Sister Kate showed up. We went for an unexpected walk, catching up in about twenty minutes. All of it strengthens me. And I needed some strengthening.

Last night I also attended a Good Friday service. Contrary to the somber affairs I had been accustomed to, this one was lively. It was full of upbeat music and positive thoughts–focusing on the glorious words, “It is finished.” Rescued. Christ’s death rescued me. Living a story full of heartbreak, thrill, adventure, danger, and success that would make a novel jealous, I am fully grateful for that rescue. Christ is my knight in shining armor. The One Who says I never have to be alone. Hallelujah.

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Let me preface this blog post with the comment that I am not just in Virginia to play with a newborn and love on my friend (though those are good parts of this trip). I titled my desire to leave Maine behind for a few weeks “walk-about”, not because I would actually be walking much, but because the concept of “walk-about” is soul-searching and place-finding and self-discovery and, importantly for me, listening to God’s Voice as I process my past, deal with my present, and plan for my future. So if I sound a bit melodramatic in this rather lengthy post, know (1) that it is because I have been thinking a bit more than is perhaps normal and (2) that my melodramatic side is already fading.

During my time in Virginia I have been re-reading my favorite series: The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander. They are the tales of the life of a very ordinary Assistant Pig Keeper (Taran) making mistakes and discovering life. Alexander has a unique ability to offer books full of rich moral lessons paired with fast action and loveable characters. He is the author I have learned the most from in my journey as a writer and a person.

As an introduction to The Book Of Three, Alexander writes, “Our capabilities seldom match our aspirations, and we are often woefully unprepared. To this extent, we are all Assistant Pig-Keepers at heart.” In all honesty, I have been feeling much like an Assistant Pig-Keeper completely outmatched by the vastness of life. And I mimic Taran’s words, “At home nothing ever happened. Now, everything happens. But somehow I can never seem to make it come out right.” This latest journey, and indeed much of my last couple of months, appear to ‘never come out right’ by my own doing.

There are some bittersweet moments for Taran, our young Assistant Pig-Keeper. At the end of his first adventure he says, “And I am troubled, for I wonder now if I am to be a stranger in my own home.” I guess I am somewhere in the middle of my latest adventure, somehow still pining for home and longing for a change simultaneously, unsure of myself and my own judgment, not at home at home and not at home away. There is comfort in the advice of Adaon in The Black Cauldron, “I have marched in many a battle host, but I have also planted seeds and reaped harvests with my own hands. And I have learned that there is greater honor in a field well plowed than in a field steeped with blood.” So through prayer and discovery and some bumps and bruises I have learned a bit more that both tasks (steady work at home and the labor of adventuring) have an importance place in my life. Each offers challenges and victories that should not be overlooked, leaving me with discoveries and memories I would not go without. I think part of my frustration is that I have been trying to find a home in one or the other. Now I think I see that it is the plowing and the adventuring together in which I find the direction of my life flowing. It is a unique life, full of challenges and misunderstandings on my part, but that does not make it any less right or wonderful for me.

As a summation of The Book Of Three, Taran is admonished that he has been just as impetuous and full of self-pity and a longing for the impossible as his friends have been. I must confess I see myself in this as well. On an adventure we all wish we could be the perfect, patient heroes we dream of; but truthfully, adventures are full of knee-bumps and blows and quarrels and pain, but also of joy and learning and excitement and victory. Summing it all up perhaps better than I could, Alexander writes in his introduction to The Black Cauldron, “humor and heartbreak, joy and sadness, are closely interwoven.”

So, no, walk-about has not showed me exactly where life is going, but it may have made me a bit more receptive to the concept that difficulty does not deplete the worth of something; it may, in fact, enhance it. Signing up for a life that is daunting is so much better than cowering in the shadows.

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Oh I do love the open road. Nevertheless, my brain was the consistency of jello when I finally made it to New York. It was not today’s drive that killed me. It was the drive to and from New York on Tuesday, followed by this drive, that nearly sucked all my capacity for logical thought away. So, like any sane person, as I ransacked my sister Julie’s cabinets for food I settled on chocolate chip pancakes. They may not have been the best choice for food to follow up the three cups of coffee (one was decaf) I had tapped into on the drive, but oh they were good!

Listening to sermons in the car is a great way to pass the time, learn some good things, and keep your mind in a solid place. There is no telling what big thoughts will pop into a person’s head as they sit all alone in a car… My pastor’s sermons are all online and I downloaded several onto my iPod before leaving home, along with a new CD to keep me company.  So, with less near-death experiences than I usually face on a short drive in Bangor (we Mainers are crazy drivers), I made it to Nyack, New York in one piece. Tomorrow: Virginia.

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It is graduation day. Finally, I’m a college graduate.

I have been having a lot of flashbacks from different points in my college career, and as I promised you around New Years here is some self-reflection. My mom’s verse for me is Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect,<sup class=”crossreference” value='(W)’> but I press on to take hold<sup class=”crossreference” value='(X)’> of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Nothing much sums up my life better than that. College really began in high school, when I took a few classes at local colleges. I learned then that I was not as outmatched by the big, broad world of adulthood as I had thought I was. I was still a bit of an introvert. And I spent every spare moment of that senior year writing or thinking about writing. It was the year I published Issym. And then I made the very logical decision to go to school for a business major.

Honestly, I don’t know that I would have gone to college if I had not started with a Business/Bible degree. It was the Bible degree that pushed me to head to South Carolina for college, stepping out of Maine, the only home I had ever known. I will never regret my one semester at Bible College. It was my chance to be a real student, to write on the side, to live boldly, to make friends, to feel warm everyday. I enjoyed Chick-Fil-A for the first time; I learned how to drive on a six lane highway; I discovered the value of coffee with the girls. Very importantly, the time at college granted me a deeper foundation of Bible knowledge and exposer to different chapel speakers and their ideas. I discovered that home could be found anywhere, even in the sweltering south. I made good friends that semester; not one of them lasted as more than a ‘Facebook friend’, which was okay too. Life is funny like that. What I desperately want to be permanent sometimes only lasts for a season. But oh, what a season! One must embrace moments. You do not reject summer because it cannot last.

My description of that semester at Columbia International University (CIU) would be incomplete if I did admit how very near death I seemed one fateful night when the chest pains I had been experiencing all semester surged to a new high. After not leaving my dorm room for a week, I was rushed home to Maine and admitted to the ER. I did homework in my hospital room, searching for the feeling of normality and holding onto hope that I would be able to go back to college. I remember being amazed how my heart (we had a special scan run) looked like an angry Muppet and how one floor of the hospital had the overwhelming smell of coffee. What was then diagnosed (although falsely so) as costochondritus allowed me to get on my feet, slowly. I discovered rest–pure rest–was about all I could do for myself. Somehow, through it all, I made it to the release of my second book, Asandra. That accomplishment may be my proudest because of how many obstacles seemed to get in the way. It was also the book where I learned how to be honest with readers, how to show them my heart. The reception was phenomenal. That semester I learned in a new way how true 2nd Corinthians 12:9 is, “But he said to me, ‘My grace<sup class=”crossreference” value='(P)’> is sufficient for you, for my power<sup class=”crossreference” value='(Q)’> is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” So I boast in Christ’s strength. I am full of weakness; He is not.

The fateful events that haunted me near Thanksgiving break led me on a journey back to Maine. At the time it felt like failure to leave my new home and head to my old one, to move back in with my parents, to have them carry my laundry, to barely drag myself to school every day. I was proud that I had finished the semester at CIU, but I knew that there would be no quality of life if I stayed in South Carolina. I could not have anticipated how good home would feel, how important it would be for me to work alongside Maine Bible Quizzing as a worship leader (for a pretty crazy crew of adults and teens), to participate in my nephew’s lives, to see my sister’s new home the day she bought it, and to take my place in so many little things. No, I have no regrets about coming home. Who knew then that what had been misdiagnosed as costochondritus would later give credence to my Lyme diagnosis as we came to understand just was really going on inside me. I could not understand during my semester at Husson University in Maine why I was not getting better from the supposedly curable costochondritus. So as my business grew and had me traveling, and when the opportunity for online college came along, I jumped at the chance.

I transferred to Nyack College where I completed my degree just today. The program was still business, but its title was ‘Organizational Management’. I think I had expected to be less of a guinea pig (I was in one of the first primarily online OM programs at Nyack), but all-in-all, I graduated and that is what is important. I published another book, the best yet (Xsardis). I invested in my home and family. I found an impact zone in Maine and outside, as  I began book touring. While I had lots of fun with friends in Virginia and met some awesome people at Soulfest, probably my favorite trip of the year was Ohio. The people I spoke with (young and old) and the reception I received was astounding and memorable.

During this last year of college I have learned more about myself than I thought possible. In understanding Lyme and what was going on in my body; in accepting whatever the outcome of my health is; in participating with friends and family; in investing in home and accepting the value of seasons that come and go; in traveling; in speaking; in writing; in worshiping God and writing songs; in choosing joy and peace; in seeking God’s will for my future; in meeting some very remarkable people that had a big impact on my life, I have discovered a fuller, deeper life. From uncovering my desire for coffee shops, to my love of Lindsey Sterling fiddle music, to my happy-place by my sister’s side, to the charm of dancing in my father’s arm, to the merit of playing guitar in an empty house, I have grown to understand a bit more of who God made me to be. I have learned that I love mentorship and so am working on mentorship programs with students. I have learned what I want to write about; who I want to be; and why it is so very important to live as God has called us to live.

So what’s next for me? Lots of family-time and reading by the fireside in the coming month. Part of my Lyme treatment is a doctor’s order for rest and that’s what I will be focusing on as much as possible. I head to the road in March to catch up with friends I have not had the time to see. I am highly motivated to work on my already-drafted novel, Mark of Orion, that has captivated my heart and my imagination. I plan to write/publish/and speak for six months as I look at buying my own printing equipment and try to gage how far I am from making a living based on my writing career. Whatever adventures come next, be they in this state or another, I will carry with me the lessons learned of joy and peace and seasons and the beauty of God’s majestic plan for my life and this world. I look forward to following where my Lord leads. The purpose of my life is to go where He sends me, to share His goodness with the world, to grow to know Him and love Him better. As my graduation verse, Ephesians 2:10, says, “For we are God’s workmanship,<sup class=”crossreference” value='(U)’> created<sup class=”crossreference” value='(V)’> in Christ Jesus to do good works,<sup class=”crossreference” value='(W)’> which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

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This weekend Maine Bible Quizzing hosted its District Finals tournament. At it, the teens compete to see who goes on to the Regional tournament. Some of the kids who got busy and dropped out of the program return and at the end of the evening have a banquet (which for some of our homeschooling seniors is about as close to prom as they can get). So this was not a tournament I could miss. Yet I had conflicted dates. Sunday at 1:30 my friend was having a bridal shower in Virginia—fourteen hours away.

I settled on staying at the quiz until 3ish and then heading to New York. Sunday morning I got up and drove the rest of the way to the bridal shower, arriving a whole ten minutes early. I am really glad I made those arrangements. I would not have wanted to miss the quiz.

The youth were so much fun. I was an official, working with an old rival and friend–Scott. From Veggie Tale questions to Disney questions together we tried to make the time when the kids were not competing as much fun as possible. What came out of it was this gorgeous flower chalk drawing (I do not know who to give credit to, but it was one of the teens) that is reminiscent of the one in Disney’s Tangled. Props to whoever is responsible.

But as much fun as all that was it paled in comparison to the worship times we had. Usually I lead a singing time on Friday night with my guitar. This quiz we squeezed in two additional opportunities for the kids to worship in song. The last one was at lunch time. I pulled out my guitar and started playing. Instantly, the youth started to move in around me. Though they only have 40-ish minutes for lunch, they spent more than half of it in praise of God. To hear their voices willingly raised in worship of the Creator was incredible!

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