beka stays faithful : reflecting on life post-roadtrip

-post-road-trip-time-line-

november: come home. sleep in bed, not van.

december: jump on treadmill, repeatedly. celebrate christmas, enthusiastically. pretend to be vegan.

january: new year’s surprise. visit hospital. chop firewood.

february: win super bowl (vicariously). return to roberts.

march: launch new blog and website.

april: overhaul wardrobe; just say no to decade-old clothing.

may: freshly pressed.

june/july/august: work, move, work, move, work, implode.

september: launch…new blog (that sounds so familiar…)

october: get busy. in the PG way.

november: get ridiculous. not in the black eyed peas way.

Oh what a year it has been! Honestly, it’s been nothing like I thought a year after a sizable life event would be. I’m not exactly sure what I thought it would be like, but I think I assumed it would be more settled. Which I find to be a logical assumption, seeing as how I had just spent three months covering hundreds of miles each week in a circular trek around the country. I think I also assumed that the mini van would be a magic portal through which all of my problems would be solved. I’d enter in September wondering what to do and where to live and exit in November with answers, experience, and 10 fewer pounds.

I think that’s what we call being young and stupid.

The experience of the roadtrip is something that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I learned plenty of things I expected to learn (how to harvest potatoes and shovel manure), a few things I wasn’t planning on learning (Texas road rules, a raw foods primer), and one thing I never saw coming (nouns, I’m looking at you).  I met so many wonderful people. I saw so many breathtaking sights. I figured out how to survive off of dehydrated foods and hot beverages.

I was able to see a dream become a reality.

That, in and of itself, made the trip worthwhile, not to mention the host of other factors that made it worthwhile. All in all: the roadtrip was a victorious endeavor. Mark it down as a W.

This is the part where I’d like to wrap a bow around the year that followed. I want to say that it was equally ambitious, life-changing, and just plain cool. But the truth is that it was a year. A year that defies tidy summaries. It was a year in which I was granted unbelievable blessings: having my dad’s health restored, watching the Packers win the Super Bowl, growing as a blogger and photographer, forging new relationships in an old place, deciding to stay and wholeheartedly embracing that decision. But it was also a year in which I struggled. Mightily. I tried to figure out what it means to be consistent in the midst of anything but consistency. As unlikely as it seems, I really think there was more change after driving through 30 states in three months then there was during the whirlwind tour of the country. Since last November I’ve lived in four different places. I’ve worked (at least…I’ve honestly lost track) seven different jobs. I’ve started and stopped a thousand new life plans. In short: I’ve floundered.

Life pre-roadtrip looks linear: I had one job. I lived in one place.

Life during-roadtrip looks adventurous: I set out to accomplish something and saw it come to beautiful fruition.

Life after-roadtrip looks…messy. I’m working an ever-increasing number of jobs. I’m living in one place but I’m hardly ever here. I have a million and five goals but no clear-cut career. I’m trying to stay but finding it difficult when there’s so much to DO.

Perhaps this is the problem. The same unbridled determination that carried me around the continental US still lives in me. I still have the intrinsic desire to do big things. But right now, all of that drive feels somewhat aimless. Like revving a parked car. The motor is running, the engine is raring to go, but there’s no forward motion. I’m throwing energy and enthusiasm around like crazy, but it feels directionless. And what’s left is a bunch of overzealous clutter.

Or, more likely, perhaps this is the problem. I’m reading Watch for the Light, a book of advent readings, and this selection from Henri Nouwen’s Waiting for God has me written all over it:

“A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere (hello, defining life direction for YEARS). The moment is empty. But patient people dare to stay where they are. (Hello, this blog.) Patient living means to live actively in the present and wait there. Waiting, then, is not passive.”

“We want the future to go in a very specific direction, and if this does not happen we are disapponted and can even slip into despair. That is why we have such a hard time waiting: we want to do the thing that will make the desired events take place. Here we can see how wishes tend to be connected with fears.

But Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary were not filled with wishes. They were filled with hope. Hope is something very different. Hope is trusting that something will be fulfilled, but fulfilled according to the promises and not just according to our wishes. Therefore, hope is always open-ended.

I have found it very important in my own life to let go of my wishes and start hoping. It was only when I was willing to let go of wishes that something really new, something beyond my own expectations could happen to me.”

Waiting. Patience. Letting go. Gets me every time.

I sometimes feel like I’m the kid on Christmas morning who runs down the stairs to the tree and methodically shakes every box beneath. What’s in the shiny one? What’s in the big one? What’s the BEST one? The kid who is so caught up in figuring out the gifts that await that she misses out on the gifts that are already happening: there’s a feast going on the the dining room, complete with baked french toast and hot chocolate. There are people hugging and laughing and celebrating the joy of being together. There’s a palpable, blessed tension in the air from the profound meaning of the morning.

But she can’t see the forest for the (Christmas) trees: her efforts to guess the gifts are not only futile, they’re foolish. All the while, the gift-giver knows what is in each wrapped box. He knew exactly what she wanted and needed and picked the gifts out accordingly knowing that each would be an individual delight. He has a purposeful plan of which she is to open first and which to save for last. He won’t hold any back or make her earn them by guessing what’s inside. That would be antithetical to his cause; he carefully selected each one and derives joy from giving them freely.

So why can’t I let God give me each gift when he’s ready to give it to me, instead of shaking everything underneath the tree? Why am I trying SO HARD to figure everything out when he already has it all figured out, and perfectly so?

That, my friends, is the mystery of this post-roadtrip journey in a nutshell. If the story of the roadtrip was defining nouns, then the story of the year that followed was learning how to let God write the sentence.

I think it might take longer than a year.

the dailies : 11.14.11

daily word: This one’s a tie between two verses from Ephesians. The first one stood out to me in a new way this morning: Ephesians 4:28 – “Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.” I swear I’m not a closet clepto. I just found it interesting that the person who no longer steals but works with their own hands doesn’t do it to provide for themselves, but to have something to share with those in need. That seems especially convicting, at least for me.

And the second one just seemed to be particularly meaningful today: Ephesians 5:15-17 – “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

daily sweat: I slept through CrossFit this morning! AH! But that’s ok, I kind of needed a day off and wouldn’t have taken it otherwise so it was a happy accident. Nothing a little extra work tomorrow can’t fix.

daily dish:

IMG_7632

Almond Joy Oatmeal. Breakfast decadence. 250 calories. Recipe coming soon.

daily miles:

People, it was ONE YEAR AGO today that I came home from the roadtrip. A whole year has passed! I can’t believe it! Now, no one loves a sentimental summation of events as much as I, but at the moment, I’ve got nothin’. And…I’m distracted by the Packers MNF game. This is no time for reflection. This is time for disrupting the peace in my building. But I really want to take some time to write a thoughtful post about life since the trip, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, here are the concluding daily miles!

Day 68b: it’s just a two story kind of day

Day 69: christmas (thai)me

Day 70: america the beautiful

Day 71: be it ever so humble

prologue: on bolting

I used to think I was a classic Type A. I also used to think that I’d graduate from college and have a conventional life: career, marriage, offspring, suburbs. But the unexpected reality is quite the opposite. I’m 25, decidedly single, living in the city, and working as a photographer’s assistant/juice bar associate/nanny. And surprisingly, I’m happily enthralled with every unconventional inch of my crazy creative life.

But if there were one thing I would change, it would be my attention span (and, let’s face it, the fact that I start to look like a Chia Pet in the humidity). My regrettable attention span is particularly regrettable when it pertains to geographic locations, contentedness, and being committed (not as defined by mental institutions). For someone who hates change I tend to seek it out fairly frequently. I’m always on the hunt for a new job/place/plan. Even in the physical sense I’m always on the move, only staying at parties for 5 minutes longer than the socially acceptable amount of time before leaving, never making time to sit down and have a conversation on the phone with someone without simultaneously doing 8 other things.

Exactly one year ago, I left the comforts of home and all things known to drive around the country for 3 months on a cross-country roadtrip. When I left, everyone commented on how difficult it must have been to travel all that way, to be in so many different places and meet so many new people, all by myself. But the reality is that it wasn’t really that hard. There were times, of course, that were challenging. Like when I was crashing into other vehicles and pulling foreign objects out of the ground. But continually leaving? That wasn’t hard at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m good at relationships and good at loving people and places and things, but I’m also good at bolting. By the end of the trip I realized this personality glitch and wrote about it, but I haven’t done much since then to work on it. It being the inclination to bolt.

Said inclination runs deep within me. It’s been my game plan for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure why staying represents such a threat that I avoid it like the plague. It’s an avoidance that has caused me to travel through over 30 states in the past year. Even since I’ve come home from the roadtrip I’ve lived in four different places and had seven different jobs. Consistency, though it’s something I actively seek, doesn’t come easy for me.

So when the opportunity to have consistency arose, you’d think that I’d jump on it like a linebacker on an unprotected quarterback. Nope! I fought it with every fiber of my being. My temporary employment in Rochester was ending and I was on the lookout for a new job and a new place. In my mind I was already in North Carolina or Southeastern Pennsylvania, anywhere outside of New York, but especially outside of Rochester. Anywhere that didn’t involve staying put. (And anywhere that had a Chick-fil-A and temperate seasons, but who’s counting?)

But, like the good father he is, God chose for me what I wouldn’t have chosen for myself. He gave me everything I wanted, everything I was asking for (except for a Chick-fil-A…and temperate seasons), but precisely where I didn’t want it. I got a great job where I would have the opportunity to grow as a photographer. I got another great job where I would have the opportunity to be immersed in the world of nutrition and fitness. I got a beautiful apartment in the best part of the city. I got to be surrounded by more good friends than I deserve. But I had to stay in Rochester. That was the catch.

At first I consoled myself by thinking that it was “just for now” again. That I’d stay until I found something different.  That I’d take all of the blessings but ignore the context. But that would be like eating a handful of blueberries, a tablespoon of butter, and a spoonful of sugar and calling it a pie. The ingredients are there, but the concept is all out of whack. It’s not fulfilling it’s true potential, not nearly as good as it was intended to be.

I realized that to take advantage of all of the great things happening for me in Rochester, I had to commit to staying. In Rochester. To staying in Rochester.

(Ulcer ulcer ulcer.)

So I went to the Post Office.

I may have had a minor panic attack when the clerk asked me if my change of address was permanent. (PERMANENT?!) And I may have let out an exasperated sigh when I replied affirmatively. (PERMANENT?!) But I’m hoping that in choosing to stay in one place geographically I’ll soon choose to “stay” in other areas of my life, specifically the ones you see listed above.

In conclusion: Romans 12 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. While reading it the other day this verse stuck out to me:

Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

That’s something I truly desire. And through his ways, not my own, he’s already changing the way I think about staying and leaving. So here’s to many more changes in the days to come. Here’s to staying!