Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Sunrise

I've always been one to enjoy a sunrise more than a sunset.  Maybe it's something about the symbolism -- a sunrise is hope, light, and life.  I love being up early, when the world is quiet and there's a small chill in the air.  Something about the serenity soothes my soul every time.

This morning I was at Starbucks with a friend.  We've been meeting up at 6 am a few days a week before work to get ourselves out of bed early enough to spend time with Jesus.  It has been extremely worth it and life to my soul to get time with a dear friend and to start my day early.  When I was in high school I used to get up early every day and read the paper with a bowl of cereal.  I hate being rushed in the mornings.  I am an old person at heart, as evidenced by the nice elderly folk hemming me in on every side.

As I wrapped things up this morning (I'm reading an amazing book by the way: A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman), I smiled with contentment at the first strokes of color coming up on the horizon outside the window.  Arizona is known for its beautiful sunsets, but I think the sunrises are just as spectacular, its just that few are up to see them.  As I watched, colors turned from dusty blue to pink, from pink to vibrant orange, and suddenly I realized I had to see that sunrise.  Starbucks is no place to view something like that.

I quickly bagged up all my things and charged out of the place.  I ran to my car and as I started it my hands were shaking.  A sunrise isn't something that waits around, and I knew this one was going to be glorious!  There is a park down the street I went to once, with a big lake, one of those places that I wish I visited more often, but I usually just stick to my boring routine.  

I raced out of the parking lot.  I didn't even put on my seatbelt.  I always put on my seatbelt, because I am a great lover of rules.  I exclaimed out loud to myself as I watched the colors accelerate in my rearview mirror.  I drove over the speed limit.  I only needed to make it two blocks!  

I careened my car into the parking lot by the lake and literally ran to the shore.  No one was around but me.  Me, the waterbirds, and this:

This was my actual face of delight.  Orange from the glow.

I sat by the water for a few minutes taking it all in.  And then, as soon as it came, it was gone, the colors faded into hazy blue, the birds awakening from their slumber and pecking in the grass.  

This is the kind of morning that makes for a beautiful day.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hope and Sugared Cranberries

Christmas cheer is in full swing, even here in the desert.  The stockings are hung by our chimney with care, our tree gives a soft glow every evening, and our little fireplace dances.  The temperatures have dropped down to freezing -- my Boston-bred husband couldn't even stay out long tonight.  But it makes it all seem much more cozy and festive.

We've been doing a little advent reading every night, just to remember the magic and wonder of Christmas before it slips away.  I love the idea of advent, of waiting, hoping, anticipating.  Advent - "coming."  He is coming.  The whole world sparkles with it this time of year.

I've been thinking about hope a lot lately, which is appropriate since on the first week of advent we light the hope candle.  When we feel disappointed, broken, lost, bored - hope gives us reason to sing.  Someday, somehow, things will be made right.

I took a drive this week into Phoenix to pick up something I purchased on Instagram.  Honestly, it opened a whole new world to me, new neighborhoods, new people, new adventures to be had.  And just like that, another candle lit, another little light of hope that life can flourish here in the desert.

A new addition to our gallery wall (and I am in LOVE with it).  "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." - Hebrews 6:19

In the spirit of making Christmas feel all the more Christmasy, I made some sugared cranberries this week.  If you're looking to get a lot of bang for your Christmas buck, this is the project for you.  These are SO easy to make, are completely addicting (and also probably fairly bad for you), and look  festive and beautiful on the table.  

The original recipe for these is from Cooking Light.  But it's easy enough that I can write it from memory after making it once.  All you need is:

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 cups fresh cranberries (I got mine from Trader Joe's)
3/4 cup superfine sugar (or regular sugar that you ran through

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan.  Heat on medium, stirring every so often, until all the sugar is dissolved.  Bring it to a simmer, but not to a boil, then remove it from the heat.  
Pour in the cranberries and stir to coat.  Pour the whole mixture into a large bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight (or 8 hours, or in my case, about 24 hours because I didn't get around to the next part until then).

Drain the cranberries.  Bonus: save the water and use it as a holiday sweetener in cocktails, coffee, etc!  Easy and delicious cranberry simple syrup.

Pour the superfine sugar onto a plate and roll the cranberries through it a few at a time.  Place them on a baking sheet to dry at room temperature for about an hour.  

Then pour into a pretty bowl and enjoy!  If you can keep from eating them all first.  They have a perfect, crisp little pop when you bit into them, and a delightful combination of sweet and tart.  I can't get enough.

In fact, I think I'll go have a few now.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

With New Eyes

Jonathan and I spent Thanksgiving this year on a last-minute trip back to Boston, to visit his family.  As we drove down the main street of his town, I found myself seeing things with new eyes.  It's one of my favorite things to do when things start to seem ordinary--to remember what it all looked like the first time I saw it, before everything got dusty and average in my mind.

I remember the first time I was in Norwood.  I mentioned it a few posts back, how we drove at midnight down the silent streets, lit up in an array of white Christmas lights, a little town, its little square, very quaint and New England.  When I first saw it, it was beautiful.  There's the big Catholic church in the square next to old bars and ice cream shops.  The local bridal shop where I tried on the bridesmaid dress for my sister-in-law's wedding.  The breakfast diner that Jonathan has been frequenting since he was two (the same waitress still works there). When we were first dating, he used to love to drive me past his old high school, so proud that they were renovating it.  We spent a few minutes one starry night trespassing on the football field where he used to play drums in the band.  It is small town America to me, and nothing like where I grew up.  To be real, it's suburbia--it's not like there's one dirt road and a stoplight.  But something about that New England spirit is sowed deep in the ground there, somewhere between the Dunkin' Donuts and the Friendly's, past the little cape-style houses, down the commuter rail tracks behind the middle school.  
I joke that my husband is the definition of a townie, but it's something I love about him.  It took a lot of courage for him to move across the country on this adventure, and he's paid for it in homesickness already.  But it has been worth it, and does make it all the sweeter when we can go back to the frigid air and familiar sights of home.  We can see things in a new way because we've missed them for a few months.  

All that to say, I want to remember to look at things with fresh eyes more this season, especially with Christmas approaching.  Can I remember what a lit Christmas tree looked like to me when I was a little girl, still full of easy joy and belief?  Can I choose to remember what I loved about my job when I first started working there, before the drudgery set in?   Driving around Tempe, this place can seem like Anywhere, USA.  But if I choose to really look, I see the palm trees.  They were one of the first things I remember marveling at when we landed here.  And it reminds me that this is an extraordinary place full of beauty and new life.  Seeing with new eyes is more than just imagination.  It's choosing to remember what is still bright and beautiful about the world in front of me.

Choose to see something with new eyes today--and enjoy!

This post is part of:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Saying "Yes"

I've embarked on a little personal project lately that I like to call "Saying 'Yes'."

I didn't intend for it to be a project really, it just began happening.  I have eased into life here, and it feels like the long sigh, like sinking onto the couch after a hard day.  Things have slowed down considerably.  We are comfortable.  I go to work and come home, fairly predictably.  I spend a few delightful, introverted hours doing whatever I want to do, then start dinner.  Jonathan comes home.  We eat, hang out, go to bed.
It's not a complicated life.

I'm happy living it, but I do realize life is about more than being content in my easy routine.  Life might actually be, in large part, about loving people.  So I've been trying to say "Yes."

Yes I will grab coffee with you.  I love grabbing coffee with people.  But sometimes, when I've been on the phone all day and I stayed late at work and tripped over a curb on the way out, a book and a quiet house sounds much more appealing.  Those times lately, I've been reminding myself that I never regret time spent with friends. At the end of the day, I don't sit down and wish I had spent more time with just me.  Because in this season, in this stage of life, there is plenty of time for just me.  I'm thanking God.  I will enjoy it while it lasts.

Also, yes, I will say hello.  At some point this week I realized that my routine is so consistent that I walk by the mailman almost every day on my home from work.  We live right by the mailboxes, and there he stands most days around 3:45, filling a hundred holes with grocery ads and electric bills.  And I thought to myself, wouldn't it be nice to be the kind of person who says hello to the mailman?  Doesn't the mailman matter?  I want be aware of opportunities to show people that I see them, instead of letting my routine blind me to people around me who are probably really great.
Yesterday, I saw someone I recognized in a coffee shop, and my half hour of waiting was much better spent chatting with her than getting lost in a book (though, as mentioned, I get lost in books plenty these days and have no regrets about that).

And finally, yes, I will bring my husband Starbucks at work, because I know he's working really hard.  And maybe Starbucks for his employees too, because they're there and he's stuck with them and I really do like them.  Coffee (or tea) is always a good way to tell someone you like them, I think.

It's a small way I'm trying to live a more intentional life right now.  One day, I'm sure, there will be a time when my project is to say "no," when I'm overworked and tired and need to give attention to the people closest to me.  But today I may be too comfortable, and so today, when I can, I'll be saying "Yes."

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch

I've never appreciated a weekend like I do now that Jonathan and I are both working normal full time jobs.  I love getting off of work at 3:30 and having time to come home, rest, work out, clean the house, and cook dinner before the husband gets home.  In Boston we were both working irregular hours, so I never knew week to week how many nights we would both be home for dinner.  It is so much easier to plan grocery shopping and life in general knowing that we'll both be home every night.  And like I said, the weekends.  In Boston we were both frequently working Saturdays.  Now we spend our weekends watching football (so much football) and doing things around the house.

Today's project was inspired by Pinterest, that perfectionist's paradise, that utopia of picture perfect weddings and baked goods and home decorating.  I love Pinterest because I feel sometimes I just need a little inspiration to be able to come up with something on my own.

I saw these prints on Pinterest a while back and love them because they reminded me of the song "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch," by The Four Tops. And I love the simplicity of this kind of print. Partly because it's playful and fun, and partly because I feel like I can easily reproduce it.

A simple, fun, and easy addition.  I picture a lot of this happening in our kitchen in the coming days (now if only I can find Jonathan one of these stylin' suits!):

Monday, October 7, 2013

Weekend Projects: DIY Headboard

This is our bed.

At least, it was our bed last week.  And this is our bedroom, not sugar coated, complete with dirty laundry in the corner and sad, bare, we-just-moved-in wall.  Yes, this home, and the people in it, are most definitely a work in progress.

If you follow me on Pinterest, you may know I've been dreaming of headboards lately.  I am so very tired of this ho hum bed.  In our last apartment, I hung some lace curtains to give the illusion of a window.  They were the same lace curtains that covered the window behind the bed in our beautiful, light-filled Cambridge apartment.  They were given to us by our friends, who masterfully decorated our apartment while we were away on our honeymoon.  I could still cry thinking about it.

So after all my Pinterest searching, I decided I could probably manage to build a headboard.  I love making things and fixing things, so it was a fun (and easy!) weekend project for me.  

Step One: Measure.  This is based on taste.  I wanted my headboard to be medium height and classically shaped--nothing fancy.  My measurements were five feet across and three feet high. 

Step Two: Take a trip to the fabric store.  Choose something you love.  But then again, if you find after everything that you don't love it, it is easy to change.  Besides buying enough fabric to wrap around the wood, you'll also need batting.  Most tutorials suggest using both one or two inch foam and batting, but after hearing the price per yard of foam, I decided I didn't need that much padding.  I bought two packages of twin-sized, high loft, polyester quilt batting.

Step Three: Buy some wood.  Most tutorials suggest plywood, but the helpful man at the home supply store recommended Oriented Strand Board (OSB).  My extensive construction knowledge tells me that the two materials are basically the same.  But OSB is less than half the price.  That was an easy decision for me.  I went with half inch plywood.  I've seen people use quarter inch as well, which seems pretty thin to me, but may be a better, lighter choice if you are planning on hanging your headboard on the wall.

Step Four: Iron.  I was tempted to skip this step.  Ironing is one of my least favorite things, and my mom could surely tell you that I've been much more likely in my lifetime to wear something wrinkled than to pull out the ironing board.  Having such an impeccably well-dressed husband has somewhat reformed me.  He seriously cares about wrinkles.  And though he does most of his ironing himself (what a man!), I find myself more and more satisfied with a crisp shirt.  And a crisp headboard.  So I ironed.

Step Five: Lay out the fabric, face down, and cover with the two layers of batting (followed by the foam, if you are so inclined).  

My kitchen fit perfectly.  I should have included step Four and a Half: get down on hands and knees with a spray bottle and clean the kitchen floor.

Step Six: Add the board.  If you are using a patterned fabric, like me, take some time to make sure the pattern is going to lay on the headboard straight.  

Step Seven: Wrap and staple, making sure the batting comes all the way to the back of the board.  This is fairly simple and fun.  I did have to cut off a lot of my batting to reduce the bulk on the back of the headboard.

Step Eight: Install!  Hanging is an option, as is screwing the board into the bed frame.  For now, I opted to rest the headboard on the box spring.  It may not be the most professional installation, but after a long morning of DIYing, it was the quickest option, and it has held up so far.

The finished product!

I like the bedroom so much better now!  It's no Crate and Barrel, but it's a step forward at least.

To end my day of home renovation, I hung a mirror that I bought for $2 at a yard sale recently.

And I added a little color to the bathroom by hanging this enormous lion painting that I won in a drawing at work last week.  Its previous home was the Phoenix clinic, which was recently redecorated.

As the cherry on top of the weekend, we finally bought a couch.  I was happy with my two little dream Ikea chairs, which I bought off Craigslist last year.  But now that we have a real couch, I have to say, it does feel much more homey.   

And thus ends my home improvement weekend!  I think I need a day off.  What should my next project be?

Saturday, October 5, 2013


In pursuit of finishing the first DIY of this new apartment, I recently made a trip to the fabric store.  I distinctly remember being dragged to Hancock Fabrics as a girl, lamenting all the way the sheer boredom that awaited me there.  My mom and Mawmaw would spend what seemed like hours carefully choosing fabric for a quilt or some other project.  I would roam the aisles, touching every suede and fleece, leafing through boxes of tissuey patterns, ogling the rainbow display of thread.
A few years ago, the fabric store went out of business.  My mom took advantage of their blowout closing sale by grabbing up a whole dresser full of just-in-case fabric.  Just in case some project presented itself.  Despite my early disdain of trips to the fabric store, when Hancock's closed it felt like they were boarding up my childhood.

During my first week of work I discovered I loved mini peppermint patties.  I took it as a sign that I have officially become old.  Peppermint patties are what my grandma eats, and I have never, ever wanted one--until now.  I sit in my cubicle and savor their cool dark chocolate in between phone calls.

This trip to the fabric store was the second recent sign that I have become the epitome of an adult.
I suddenly love going to the fabric store.

Rows upon rows of bright fabrics, waiting to be transformed into something.  Baby quilts, halloween costumes, upholstered chairs, kitschy sewing projects - the possibilities!

In the end, I narrowed my fabric choices down to about ten, with the help of a phone call to Mom and about an hour of wandering, wide eyed, through racks upon racks of chevrons, toiles, and soft velvets.

Those who know me well will breathe a sigh of relief that the above print was never in the running for this DIY.  
I did eventually choose a print, upon returning the next day with my husband.  He was, by the way, extremely reluctant to spend more than ten minutes in that store, and clearly does not share my appreciation for textiles.

Stay tuned for the DIY!

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

South Mountain

I drove a friend to his home the other day in Phoenix.
The sun was setting, and we drove straight like an arrow to the West, with a blinding ball of light before us, just at the horizon.  As we drove, I couldn't believe how the landscape changed, from flat, populated Tempe, past the highway, beyond the strip malls and fast food joints, until South Mountain suddenly rose up to the left, out of the desert.
It's a short, long hill that snakes its way parallel to Baseline Road.  In the past, I've laughed at little hills called mountains, but South Mountain is not to be laughed it.  Maybe it was the time of day, that golden hour, but there was a regality and a silent dignity that rose from the ground in that place, and it shut my mouth.
The road rose up and down abruptly, narrowing out as we wound our way through the neighborhood, a cluster of adobe-tan houses like a little village at the base of the hill.
I couldn't help but be breathless.  On one side, a desert wilderness, and a trailhead leading up the mountain.  On the other, the lights of Phoenix twinkling as the darkness crept in, the flat land sparkling its defiant eye toward the hills beneath me.

There is beauty everywhere.

As time barrels on into October, I find myself missing that Boston fall less and less.  There may not be golden orange leaves raining to the ground, but the air in the mornings here is crisp and fresh, and you can tell a new season is coming.  If I want, I can wear a sweater, even if it may live up to its name.  I had a pumpkin spice latte despite the 80 degree temperatures.  And you know what?  It was still delicious.
For now we are enjoying our little apartment and finally starting to clear out the boxes and add some personality.  I have a big DIY planned within the next week or two -- something I've been dying to do since we moved in.  More on that to come!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Breathing Room

We woke up this morning in our new apartment.

We went to sleep there and we woke up there.

It has been a tired, high stress, joy-filled weekend, as moving always is for me.  There is so much excitement in setting up a new place, a place we will live for who know how many years.  What joys and sorrows this apartment will witness with us.  It is so good to have a place to make our own.

We left Boston in such hurry six weeks ago, leaving only a month between the deciding and the doing. It wasn't in our short term plan to move across the country.  But we found ourselves at an impasse, unable to afford living where we were anymore, and with beautiful adventure ahead of us in Tempe, one we'd dreamed of but maybe never really anticipated.  It was a quick and painful going, not easy for us, not easy for those we love, with so little time to realize it was happening.  I don't take lightly the painful parts of the process for us and for others, but here in this new place we can say with confidence it was assuredly right.  

In our hurried packing and rummaging and purging, we unhitched ourselves from a good number of things -- things like couches and clothes and odd knick knacks -- in order to arrive here with just what we needed.  So it feels like a sweet exhaling to unpack our little life here.

My favorite part, I must say, are the windows.  I do not take light for granted after living in a basement apartment with blue carpet on the walls.  Our bedroom there was a windowless enclave, and while there are benefits to being able to sleep till noon without a shred of light or the peep of a bird, I can't say that's much my style.  This is my style.

Room to breathe.  Space to enjoy.  A place for my mornings to be quiet and bright and bird-filled.  That's the good stuff.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Someone Else's Life

Recently a friend wrote about having the odd feeling that she was living someone else's life, about finding herself somewhere she maybe just never dreamed she would be.

I hope everyone gets the chance to feel this way once, like they are living in a movie, like the glamour and sparkle snuck up on them in the midst of their everyday, and suddenly the scene has changed.

I had this same feeling the other day in Wendy's.  It's not that I haven't been to Wendy's before.  But I suddenly found myself a year married, eating chicken in a Wendy's in Phoenix, like a whirlwind had picked me up and deposited me, even though I do seem to remember being present during the process.  The feeling was one of casual delight.  How mischievous that I should find myself in a place and a life I could never have dreamed up.  My plans would have had me somewhere else.  The script I was writing was certainly exciting, and full of drama and action, but in all my readings and travelings, I never did imagine myself here in the desert, or here in this skin.

I like to think of myself as a child, in my room, writing and singing and dreaming of who I might be.  Even then I must have known that things would never turn out as planned, but much better, much more fluid and frustrating and lively and right.  I just give a knowing wink to my little self, full of hopes, longing for the exciting and the ordinary at once, wondering where life might take me.  "You'll never know," I want to say, with a wise smile.

That is one of the singular joys of being young and free.  I don't take for granted that not knowing is a privilege and a beautiful gift that I am continually unwrapping.  I hope in five years I'm able to look around again and find myself surprised, whether it's in a coffee shop in Seattle or a house down the street.  And I'll just tip my hat to God I imagine, give him that same knowing smile, and say, "I could never have guessed."

Monday, September 16, 2013


This week I suddenly got a funny kind of feeling. Maybe it was after I went to the third bar in a week to watch the third football game with the same group of guys.  Maybe it was after I looked at photos of my dearest friends sending off part of their heart to another state, and how I just ached to be part of it, to cry with them and remember the good times and remind each other the best is yet to come.  Somewhere in the midst of a workweek, homesickness crept up on me in the worst way, because I found myself being short with my husband, and feeling sad, and not knowing how or when it all started.

I tried to think of an analogy tonight to describe what moving has meant for me, but nothing seemed to fit.  The older you get, I think, the harder it gets to make new friends.  I suppose it's because you're further removed from kindergarten, when you first learn those kind of things.  I do know, though, now that I've had time to think on it and an entire church service to have a good, puffy-eyed, awkward cry over it, that it has been eight years since I've really had to make friends.  And even eight years ago it was easy, because everyone was the same as me, young and naive and unknown and ready to change.  And it was also easy because I had dear, beautiful people pursuing friendship with me on purpose, people who would become lifelong friends.

But now, I'm here, hoping that there is planted in me somewhere a friend-making gene.

When I think really hard, and try to be really honest, and squint my eyes a little, I can remember that the friendships I have in Boston actually were hard-won.  They were formed like a geologic event, with time and pressure and friction.  It is easy to make those rock formation kind of friends when you are forced by circumstance and city and community to live in close quarters.  But no, it didn't come any easier than I suppose it will here.  And isn't that the point after all?  Don't the most important things in life, all relationships really, slowly etch out over time like the Grand Canyon, making a place for themselves in otherwise independent people, smoothing out rough places and creating depth and width?  These are the things that make it worthwhile to stand still for a while.

So stand still I will, through many awkward conversations that get more natural by the day, through the not knowing and the not being known, and through the hours of small talk.  And little by little, unknown to me, streams will smooth away all the not knowing and I just may find myself looking up one day at layered canyon walls.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


This morning it finally rained! We've had plenty of thunderstorms since we got here a month ago, but this was the first good long soaking rain. Like the kind you get in Boston--an all day rain event.

I always missed western thunderstorms when I was out east. Growing up in Colorado, we had short thunder and rain storms almost every afternoon. Not long, maybe even just ten minutes of actual rain, but usually some good thunder and lightning. It was a rude awakening when I realized (almost immediately upon arriving my freshman year) that in Boston, if it is going to rain, it is going to rain ALL DAY. Rain boots are a necessity, umbrellas are futile in the urban wind tunnels, and there will be no thunder and lightning to thrill you. Just the plodding grey rain. For days. Forever.

 I went to a drive in movie once way out on the plains of eastern Colorado. I remember seeing a thunderstorm out in the distance, miles away on the horizon. I could see the dark line of clouds rolling closer, and the bolts of lightning reaching down like tree limbs. Storms like that can bring a lot of trouble to the plains, but they are certainly a sight to behold.

This morning's storm was a welcome reprieve from the summer heat. It has been heart wrenching already, hearing of the perfect fall days in Boston, thinking of everyone pulling on long sleeve shirts, the students at Harvard hurrying in boots and scarves through brick gates, the leaves starting to slowly change, everyone baking fresh apple pies. Fall here wont begin until late October or maybe November, and I'm sure the cacti will evoke different feelings in me than pumpkins and crunchy leaves. But this morning at least there was something. There was a steady rain, and a warm latte, and football and waffles and friends gathered together. Today, that will be Fall enough for me, and in the true spirit of the fall season, I am thankful.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Above the Waves

It's been a busy few weeks here in Arizona.  For so many weeks I trudged through page after page of bare white employment websites and somehow stumbled upon a job, which I started this week.  It puts me in my place--in a place of wonder--to think of God's kindness to me.  It's nothing special from the outside, but working where I do is like winning my own personal "find a job" lottery.  It is everything I could want (and from the beginning it was never really up to chance).
Jonathan has been waiting all this week to hear from a prospective employer after his final interview last week.  So we have been constantly reminding ourselves that God is faithful--he led us here in the first place, and it wasn't so that we would fail.  He promised we would find new life here, the fertile soil that has already shown itself so clearly in the two years our friends have adventured here before us.
This morning he found out he got the job.
This afternoon was punctuated by our first Arizona rainbow.

These weeks have been lessons in seeing the bigger picture.  When there is so much new happening, how do you remember to see the story all around you?

Sometimes I know it's me bobbing there in the water, treading just hard enough to see the sky.
Above the waves, I can see something that is bigger than just my own beautiful mess.  There is a sky out there that stretches beyond me and leads me to places I never dreamed I could go.  And there is light there, hope for my life and hope for the world.  Above the waves there is quiet.  Stillness.
With so much of my own life swirling around me, I could go a long time without ever looking up and out.  But it's bad posture to sit so long in a scrunched up position, and you tend to get stuck that way.

So it's my goal these days to remember to keep my eyes above the waves--to look up frequently from what I'm doing and live with a purpose bigger than now.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The View from Here

Jonathan and I drove into Phoenix for the first time a few nights ago. We were going in to see a singer/songwriter friend play a gig at a bar downtown. It was a beautiful night--a haboob had just come through (our first!) followed by a burst of thunderstorm, turning the sky dull, and then brown, dark with rain and bursts of lightning. So the air was cooler, perfect for walking. Since a baseball game was just ending at the stadium, we got a scenic tour of the downtown area while we tried to find open streets. Mostly, the city felt empty to two Bostonians used to post-Fenway mayhem. But it was a safe emptiness, a street-lit, quiet stroll, a calm after a storm, like the city belonged to us and who else needed to be there anyway?

Driving home, I looked over at Jonathan in the driver's seat and I was taken back to when we first started dating.  On one of our first dates we went down to the North End in Boston and had pizza in a tiny Italian restaurant, where they seated us in the back next to the ovens and we sweated double from the nerves and the heat.  We ordered bacon pizza.  Later we walked down to Long Wharf and sat out by the water for a long time, then he drove me home.  But pulling into Cambridge around midnight, I somehow let him convince me to stay out another hour and drive to Norwood, so I could see where he grew up.  Maybe that's why I fell in love with him anyway, because he could get me to break a rule or two and do something spontaneous, to eat bacon pizza and stay out long enough to make my roommates ask questions.  
I distinctly remember driving down the highway with him that night.  In the blurry haze of newness back then I couldn't quite make out who it was sitting next to me in that car.  And he may have thought he knew me, even thought he loved me, but can't we see now that he could only knew such a small part of me?  The real knowing and loving comes on much later, and is somewhat less romantic, less hazy, more true.
I found myself thinking of these things as we drove out of Phoenix, as he played drums on the steering wheel to a Macklemore song, like he does all the time, like he always has (and sings the drum parts).  He still does sing me funny songs, even when I don't want him to (and makes me sing them too).  And its nice to remember that when it feels like everything has changed in the past two years, some things don't.  I still have the same view from the passenger seat that I did two years ago, and it's always been a good view from there.  

Sunday, August 25, 2013


I've never had the deep kinship relationship with the ocean that some seem to have.  Living in New England, there seemed to be this sense of binding to the sea, this craving to be near it, some inner connection to where the ocean meets the land.  There is, even for me, something deeply spiritual about standing with the water just lapping my ankles, the rhythmic in and out of the waves, like the breathing of the shore.  It feels right to be there, to stare out at the expanse before me and know my own smallness.  My favorite memories of the ocean are at dawn or dusk, when all is still, all is quiet, like the earth should be at peace.  All is right.  The infinite sea, blue as far as my small eyes can go, is something bigger than me, something no one claims to control, always ebbing and flowing, always there.
Maybe that's the draw for those who have always lived by the sea.  It never does change.

I remember that I used to go back home to Colorado on breaks from college, and take my dad's car and drive out to nowhere, out on the plains, where it was quiet and I could listen to music and think and feel small in some open space.  It was often late afternoon, when the light slants out of the west, from the mountains, and everything turns sweet amber.  I felt like my soul could open up there, spread out, not bound by the brick and bustle of my other life.
Every so often, I'd rise over the crest of a hill and suddenly I could see forever--blue mountains with a dusting of snow, and clouds that rose to points just above them, a mirror range in the sky.  And the light would break through the clouds, just turning pink, and light up the whole valley before me, a sea of civilization that was really only a foreground and a preface to the story.  I could see the light reflect off the skyscrapers in the distant downtown, making them look so small.  Making us all look so small.
My heart still feels at home there.  My Colorado is a golden prairie-land.  In my daydreams I run through wheat-colored fields and the tops of the plants just brush my hands.

Now I've made the desert my home, and so I must learn to see God in what is around me here, different as it is.  It is palm trees and cacti, and sparky orange blooms; rocks and puffy storm clouds and so much land.  There are hummingbirds here and there, and little mourning doves that populate the apartment complex where we stay.  And the sky--mostly the sky--so blue by day and any choice of colors in the evening, a display of God's glory.  And maybe that's where I'll find him here, if not at my ankles or brushing my hands, then up and out, in the expanse, where I can wonder at him in so many new ways.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Finding Family

Tonight was our second Sunday in Tempe, and so our second week of new church, new faces, new feelings, new friends.  I remember that I didn’t want to leave.  I had no one in particular to talk to.  I really only know about 20 people and I’ve never been the best at making conversation with strangers.  It makes me want to be invisible, mostly.  We had all milled and migled over nachos in little paper boats, some folks curled up on an assortment of blankets on the ground (fleece snowmen, knit ASU blankets, a tour of the travels of someone’s life).  I had chatted with most people I knew.  They had asked me about the job search, had I made any progress (no).  I had stood contentedly and watched a few kids playing together, pushing each other, spinning in circles, and I had watched the people I hadnt yet met, trying to guess who was in college and who I might meet another day and where had I met that one before?  The sky got dark, and I could barely see anyone’s face, and some were still wrapping cords and positioning chairs inside.
Jonathan asked if I was ready to go, and I had no one to talk to, but I wasn’t ready.
Travis talked about who our church is tonight and said he hoped we would find a family here.  And I only know 20 people but its true they are family.  Already nachos on the lawn feels like a reunion.  There’s nothing like leaving almost everything you know and have loved (so deeply loved) for the last eight years to make you learn quickly how you need a family.  This one feels at once familiar and new, old and comforting and uncertain and adventurous.  Who will I be? Who will I love?  It’s impossible to know.  But I didn’t want to leave, because I had the impression that another conversation, another connection, could be just around the corner, and it could be beautiful, and I wouldn’t want to miss it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


It’s official: we have moved to Tempe.
We have no place of our own, and no jobs, and little to do but apply and pray and explore and hope.  Hoping is a big and important job at times like this.
Tempe feels so familiar and comfortable to me, in large part, I think, because it is like Colorado with palm trees.  Returning to the West feels like coming back to my roots, though I come back to them such a different person than when I left.
This is, in so many ways, not Boston.  It is not where I’ve been–not the history, not the inconvenience, not the quirkiness or the attitude or the accent.  I remember so vividly descending into Boston the day I moved there–the feeling of disbelief, of wonder, not having any idea what awaited me or what the years would hold.  But I was delighted by the possibilities and the unknowns.
It was a similar feeling landing in Phoenix, though more tempered and through older eyes.  The wonder, I hope, remains, because it is a terrible thing to lose your sense of wonder.  But now, of course, I have this man who is on this wild adventure with me (wonder!).  I have the weight of responsibilities, adult worries, complex relationships.  But mostly, I have hope.  That must be the most important thing, knowing that despite the worries and everything else, this is exactly where we are meant to be, right now, today.  That holds everything together.