Jun 26, 2012

The Importance of Story

"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5

When I was a young girl, I used to narrate my life. I have distinct memories of riding my bicycle around the neighborhood with phrases of narration running through my head, such as "little did she know that this bike ride would change her life forever," and "Katelyn would often look back on this day with fond memories, longing to again jump the curbs on her old street." Everything was big. Even the most mundane of things turned into a great adventure ("Katelyn quickly scrambled up the stairs, determined to beat her brother to the gameboy").

This was a memorable scene
Over time this narration faded out (or perhaps just changed form), but I tended to hold on to this idea of grandness. Moments were always more than they would seem. Watching a deer, laying under the moon at midnight, battling in silly string fights, holding kitchen conversations, playing hopscotch with 4-year-olds, listening to birds as they slowly realize day has dawned... There was always a certain sacredness to everything, to each moment, all crafting an incredible story. Along the way there would be particularly memorable scenes, turning points in the plot, and in these moments I would especially feel the weight of existence and the unbelievable beauty of life.

 And then I thought my story ended.

I remember talking about this feeling with my friend Megan last summer. We'd both just come back into our lives in America, and we had no idea what was to happen or to be done next. "There was all this build up to go…I never really thought passed the SM experience." "Me neither. Getting on that plane kind of felt like the conclusion, and I didn't ever think about what would come in the weeks and months after landing."

What would come was a life without story, which meant a lack of direction, a lack of meaning, a lack of grandness. Just events occurring without a plot, without a feeling of more to come. Much happened, many scenes that could have been claimed as part of an incredible story, as part of my story. But I didn't claim them. Maybe I didn't want them.

But all I did was finish an act, one act in a set of many.

My story's been known for a long time, set apart, appointed. I'm choosing to claim what is mine. Because in all honesty, my story is absolutely fantastic. And if I think about it, I do know where I'm going, and I can see how certain events do or do not fit into my God-given epic. So I'll talk to the Author and live in the divine pages of life. I will experience the holiness and the weight of my scenes. Because each one is beautiful, instructive, and big.

And I will claim the scenes that are a part of my story, no matter how they may appear at first glance. Because they are mine. They've been planned for me. And I want them.

[When my lot of returning SMs went through our re-entry retreat, we were told that reverse culture shock and processing would happen at different times for different people: maybe we'd already gone through the bulk of it, maybe it would take several months. It kind of annoys me that I'm still writing about my Philippines experience, that I'm still processing. But…this is where I am. And I'll let myself be here. I always was a mosey-er anyway.]

Jun 15, 2012

Beautiful Chaos

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

Ah, feels good to be back in Shasta!
As I begin this post, I'm not really sure where it is going to go or what thoughts I'm going to string together. Night is now morning, and I'm still tired from the little sleep from the previous evening, but I feel like there's a great chance I won't be writing on here for a while. And as I transition into summer, I feel like a post is warranted.

It's been a bizarre week. Seven days ago from this moment, I was having a last hurrah sort of evening with a couple friends of mine. Since then, I've had to say "see you later" (I don't believe goodbyes exist) to a number of good friends--some heading to distant countries, some off to grad school in far-off states, and some just away for the summer; I've sat and cried with a deeply heart-broken friend, listening to her pain and processing wounds with her; I've unpacked, repacked, slightly reunpacked, and then left the whole mess to live out of a backpack for a few days; I was joyfully surprised to be visited by a dear friend of mine, with whom I shared an exceedingly lengthy and refreshing conversation far into the wee hours of yesterday morning; I helped to train and give input for newly appointed camp counselors; I got the pleasure to experience a Korean spa, which turned out to be quite an unexpectedly spiritual experience (lots of interesting things to say on this one, but...somehow this doesn't seem like the time or place); and I met a slew of marvelous people.

And through it all, I'm reminded how much I prefer such beautiful chaos to routine. What luck that I get to spend eight weeks with youngsters who can offer me such pleasant pandemonium!

Yes, camp is starting up again. This marks my fourth summer at Sunset Lake. Since counselor training began yesterday evening, memory after memory has started popping into my head: all the highs and lows, the prayers of weary desperation, the hands lifted in awe and praise, the rowdy mobs of energetic children, and the Friday nights spent in tearful vulnerability, connection, and love. Names and faces are resurfacing, each one bringing a smile to my face and the hope that I'll see them again in the next few weeks.

As I was discussing with my friend yesterday, there's just something so incredible about this place. Each year God teaches me something new, grows me in a different direction. It leaves me curious as to what will take place this summer. But above all, right now I am simply relieved and at ease to be back at

The Place Where You Belong.

Typical cabin portrait for Shasta...

Jun 7, 2012

My Evening to Stop

"You hem me in —behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me... Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even here your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." Psalm 139:5,7,8

My time to stop arrived this evening.

If you can imagine God clearing His throat, that's what it felt like: a giant "Ahem!" And after a night of work and an afternoon of constant demand and activity, I embraced my stopping time whole-heartedly. With finals behind me and the thought of necessary emails and phone calls discarded until my return, I stuffed my blanket, hammock, notebook, and ipod into my bag, grabbed a coat, and went to fetch my bike. Just as I was unlocking it, I felt a drop of rain. I paused to look at the sky.

There was no sun--only clouds. It was just a little chilly, but darkness wasn't too far away, and it would be getting colder. And now it was starting to sprinkle. I hesitated just a moment before pulling my bike free. This was the time, and I knew I couldn't be inside for it. Perhaps this was just a good opportunity to test my resilience.

I rode to Lions Park and set myself up in my favorite tree. The branches provided shelter from the majority of the rain. At first. But the sprinkling was picking up the pace. So I cocooned myself in my hammock, keeping my notebook dry as I began releasing my pent up thoughts onto the pages.

Then came the thunder.

I paused my pen to consider this new twist. Was it wise to be in a tree? Was it wise to be out here at all? I could feel drops of water filtering through my shelter. It was cold. The sky was filled with dark clouds, and it was getting harder to see what I was writing. But this was the time.

I continued to let my thoughts flow, to let myself acknowledge what was in my heart. I allowed myself to be frustrated and deeply sad, to be proud and bewildered, to be afraid and honest and open. And I felt and I thought and I listened and I prayed and I wrote.

And then I stopped. The roar of thunder overpowered my music, the soft and thoughtful songs I'd had playing in my ears. I felt a sense of peace sweep over me. I couldn't help but smile. It was all so beautiful, so unexpectedly serene. Cuddled up in my blanket within the cocoon of my hammock, I felt the rain hit the earth and heard it dance across the creek behind me. I felt the thunder in my bones, and I rested in the gentle sway of the wind. This storm is no test, I thought to myself. This is no obstacle to overcome. This storm is a gift. And so I enjoyed my present. It was a medicinal experience, one that filled my heart and left me brimming with gratitude.

When I knew the time had come to enter a new moment, I loaded up my things and hopped back on my bike. It was pouring by this point. I still had my ear buds in my ears and my music set to random. As I started riding up the road, my soft and thoughtful song came to a close, and "I Gotta Feeling" erupted in my ears. A grin spread across my face. Call me a heathen if you like, but I'm confident God speaks through an infinite number of means, including the Black Eyed Peas. So He and I and the Black Eyed Peas half-rode-half-swam back to campus. I arrived drenched, joyful, and rejuvenated for life.

I like serving a God who's a part of everything. I like that He knows what I need, and I like that He shows me how to find it and receive it. I like knowing that there's no way to be hidden from Him. And I like how wherever I go, He is there. In a feeling, in a thought, in a roar of thunder, in a smile, in a song, in a raindrop. His hand guides me. His arms embrace me.

And I like that a lot.

Jun 2, 2012

I'm Here

I don't know where I am.

But it hurts.

This last year, there have been conscious moments of shutting off, of pushing away, of stuffing down the larger thoughts and emotions. It was easier. Easier than facing that same painful restlessness of two years ago. Easier than trying over and over to explain what seems so incredibly inexplicable. Easier than studying chemistry or philosophy through tears. Easier than being aware of my own soul.

It started last May on a couch with a remote in my hand. I knew it was happening, and I was grateful for the knowledge that I could escape, that I didn’t have to face my heart. Because it was easier.

But I think my escape plan got carried away, to the point where it was no longer a conscious effort to find respite, but instead a new form of existence. In reexamining the last thirteen months, there have been frequent and extended periods of numbness. And to the untrained eye, I'm fairly certain this has been difficult to distinguish from my even-tempered, laid-back attitude. But when I have to sit and feel my stomach churn, my pulse quicken, and my breathing become shallow, all to determine what emotion I must be feeling…something is most definitely off. Have I really become so removed from my heart?

This quarter has presented a shift, though. And it hasn't been easy. Beginning to live in reality again has been taking its toll on me. I think that's why I'm here, hurting.  I think that's why my mind is so very scattered and unfocused and confused. Because I have all this pent up feeling and thought that is begging for attention and consideration, and meanwhile my pile of textbooks and notes screams out emphatically that this is no time to neglect it. Seeing as how I'm now in my final five days of sophomore year, that pile has a point. But it is exceedingly difficult to direct my mind as wholly to the tasks of academia as they require when the floodgates of my heart have finally burst open.

I think I need to work on my timing.

At this point, I don't have any eloquent conclusions to draw from this. I'm sure I could write out something that seems thoughtful and fits beautifully with these feelings and words, but I know it would be trite, not genuine. Because the fact of the matter is that I haven't a clue where I am in my heart or in my head.

But wherever I am, let it be known that I'm there. Here. And from here I can see the sunrise, and I know that whether easy or difficult, today is a new day.