the man with the saab

yeah. he has a saab. a 93 aero. It’s purty. It’s that sleek silver with black edging and a license plate displaying his retired position from the Marines. It says, “baby I know class, but you’re damn right I’m bad ass too.”

He comes to the coffee shop a lot. He has befriended my bestie Ethan. They bonded over bicycles, cars and fly fishing. Recently, when asked about his living situation, Ethan confessed extreme discontent. To which the man replied: well we’re going out of town this weekend, why don’t you crash at my place?

So, he has a saab. And an Exterra. And a Highlander. And a ’66 Mustang covered with a tarp that we lifted up just to get a glimpse of the classic beauty. She’s torn up inside but the seats are faded black leather that still has a sheen in the garage lamp light. She’s no automatic–no this ride’s a beauty of a manual sticking up from those dirty floorboards that deserve a good vacuum and scrubbing. The paint is red and she needs some touch up. But man. She’s a purty little thing.

And besides that Saab and Nissan Exterra and the Mustang, he’s got a killer grill on a patio lined with sunflower plants that give a whimsical feel to the very masculine house (adorned with photographs of his helo).

Today I texted Ethan from outside on the patio that I was going to make a face at him, “grinning, cheeseball style, chin up and eyes squinty and all that jazz.” Apparently Ethan knew it was coming after he had sent me something sweet and snarky at the same time. So he told the Saab man (who was standing at the counter) to “watch this. she’s gonna make a face at me.”

I barely saw him turn around and lean so he could see me as I screwed my face up into the classic Sara B— grin.

I came in a bit later, and was talking with Ethan while Saab man’s wife watched us slightly. I think she was wondering about the connection or why I had been laughing so loudly as she strode into the shop to join her husband and two boys.
“who is that?” she asked her husband.
“Sara. And I guarantee she was at our house while we were gone.”
at which point Ethan looked over from talking with someone.

“What?”
“You heard me.”
“Heard what?”
“Oh you heard me.”

But the best part is this:
yesterday the man with the Saab brought Ethan and I cucumbers grown in the community garden. I’m eating mine for dinner tonight. And we talked about F16s and helos the other day. And today he asked how my job search was going. And he knows he has a sick grill. And he knows I was there to use it with Ethan and a few others the night I crashed the party to shower off something I mistook for bed bugs and wash my clothes. And he doesn’t mind.

He’s great.

I mean, seriously. He drives a Saab. That means you’re either a prick or you’re awesome.

(and he certainly isn’t an uptight prick)

Engagement!

No, no, it’s not my engagement.

Caitlin called me recently. She stuttered a bit awkwardly as she announced the news. “Um,” and I think I knew the words before they came out, “Twaan’s engaged.”

there was a short pause. And then my hands flew up in the air.

“I win the bet with Daniel!” I exclaimed. And I can just imagine Caitlin’s startled face on the other end of the phone line some 1400 miles away.

“That was not the response I was expecting.”

But more than just the bet, I was legitimately excited. Sure, we all call him “the boy I was supposed to marry” but in the long run, we know it isn’t true. We’d’ve driven each other crazy within six months of marriage. And clearly, it’s weird to think of him with someone else. I’m sure she’s sweet and precious and loving but sometimes it’s still weird to think of Twaan saying I love you to someone other than me.

And yet, it was such a relief to hear the news. First from Caitlin, then from Jana.

When I broke up with him, Twaan sort of scared me. He cried. Most boys don’t cry. And that was the worst part of it–knowing that I had hurt someone so deeply that they would be unable to hide the sorrow and pain that I had wreaked in their life.

And I thought to myself: What if he never finds love again? What if he never finds another girl? What if I’ve ruined him?

But this woman, she looked at him and took his broken pieces and said that they would put them back together again. I love that. I love her for that. I don’t know her or anything about her, but I’ll tell you what I do know.

She’s a better woman than I was. She’s kinder and more patient and loving than I could ever hope to be. Its’ funny to think of him with someone else. It’s bizarre to bless the name of the woman who will soon be living out what were once my dreams. But it’s so glorious to know that God healed the broken heart that I had ground under foot and that He has blessed a very good man so richly.

And I think it’s a great testament to the power of the Holy Spirit that I am thrilled for him.

I’m not even jealous.

I’m just plain and simple happy.

He’s getting married! He’s going to be a father some day! He’s going to have someone to love and to hold and to cherish and they are going to be so cute and happy.

ah, Notee. I wish you the best. Seriously. She seems wonderful. I can only hope someday to be as lucky as the two of you.

The End of Childhood

That’s what they said while we waited in line for near four hours and then another two and a half in the theatre. They wore costumes and did their hair. They came into our theatre and pretended to fight each other–putting on a battle of dodging and weaving that was fairly worth the watching. They shouted it as they sat down and scattered about and munched on popcorn and hummed the ever present theme music.

“this is the end of my childhood.”
This.
Right here.
Starting at 12.01 on July 14th for 2 and a half hours.
Our mutual and cultural childhoods ended.

Or, as Daniel pointed out: our childhoods ended when the book came out several years ago and we all read the hard and beautiful end of Harry Potter’s battle with evil that threatened even the non-magical world of Muggles.

Yeah, that’s right. I was at the midnight showing of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows pt 2, where ended a long saga that has dragged out since fifth grade when my mum told me I wasn’t allowed to read anything that suggested of witchcraft and almost wrote the teacher who had introduced them to our class.

And with the battle of Hogwarts, with the dream at Kings Cross Station, with the final horcrux, and with the dead lying on the floor of the Great Hall where they had been sorted so many years before…my childhood supposedly died.

I don’t think that’s entirely true. It’s a bit melodramatic. It’s a bit of a pathetic view on our joint (and separate) childhoods. But let’s be honest. Harry Potter is a cultural phenomenon.  You may like him or dislike him, but when I say his name you see Daniel Radcliffe and those taped glasses and you know your opinion on the matter before I’ve even finished his name.

I was talking with a friend about this recently. We both had seen the movie and we were analyzing not  only the film itself but also the experience. I went to the midnight showing. There literally was a battle staged by teenie boppers dressed up and scurrying around the front of the theatre shouting “Crucio!” “Expelliarmus!” and “Engorgio!” (I’m not sure what use an engorgement spell would be in battle, but I heard it). Finally, the evil side filled with Death Eaters and a man who had painted his face to look like He Who Must Not Be Named fell to the ground and we cheered for the victors.

Seriously. I clapped. I clapped excitedly.

Kyle went to a showing where no one but he clapped during the movie–not even when Mrs. Weasley screams at Bellatrix LeStrange “not my daughter you bitch!” and then battles the murdering witch until Bellatrix falls to the ground, dead.

How could they not cheer at that moment? It’s brilliant!

I clapped at some stupid teenagers wearing black robes probably borrowed from an older sibling’s high school graduation. Kyle’s audience didn’t respond at all.

And then, as we talked about it, we came to the point of discussing why people in my audience cheered. Why we waited in line from 530 on that night. Why we were willing to go to work the next morning despite not getting home until near 3am. Why people dressed up and ran from theatre to theatre putting on battles.

Harry Potter is a brilliant series. I love them. I read them for the first time last fall and blew through them in barely two weeks. That’s about 4000 pages, or 1,084,170 words. And I’ve re-read several of them since then. But I don’t think it’s just Harry Potter that is like this. I think there’s more to it than that.

Stories like this teach us. They remind us of who we were supposed to be. They remind us of things we were supposed to do: standing up against adversity. Being willing to die for what we know is right. Recognizing that sacrifices must sometimes be made (and yet–acknowledging the pain of those sacrifices!). And also just remembering that sometimes we simply have to fight. People aren’t drawn to movies like Harry Potter for the special effects, they aren’t drawn to Braveheart so that we can relive that time period, and they’re not drawn to Star Trek just so we can see bizarre looking creatures out of someone’s imagination. They’re drawn to it because deep inside of us we are longing for a story where there is a battle to be fought and we want to know, deep down, that good will win.
.
I think we all knew what was going to happen to Harry in the end. I think somehow we knew he had to die to defeat Voldemort. And I think we knew that Dumbledore wouldn’t make it. We were suspicious of Snape but we knew, we knew he had to be good. He’d had so long and he’d done no wrong! And we resonated with Malfoy because he was caught. How can you not become a Death Eater with parents like that? But how can you remain a Death Eater when it means killing the boy at school who saved your life? Good will out.
.
We cried when we read about Harry dying.
But we were proud.
.
He met his death with honour and bravery.
He met his death willingly.
.
He was like Aslan who was willing to die for the people he loved though he had done no wrong.
And that is what we both loved and mourned.
No one should die for that, because no one that good should have to die at all!
.
There’s something in us that longs for such things.
In America there is a longing for meaning–and meaning is found in such things.
.
We like stories of bravery because we want the chance to be brave ourselves.
We like stories of sacrifice because we want to remember that something is worth sacrificing for.
We like stories of danger because we want to know that this placid life isn’t all there is.
We like stories of love and heroism because deep down we long to be rescued from this hellish world.
.
Because deep down we are all longing for the story that has been told and known since before time.
.
Don’t you think? I cried for Harry dying in a similar way to how I cried on Good Friday. Your heart breaks in the book as he looks in the Great Hall and says to himself that no one else will die. No one else will be sacrificed for him, or more aptly said: no one else will be sacrificed for the great evil that has overtaken the world.
.
For you and for me, that great evil is no Voldemort.
That evil is you.
That evil is me.
.
My sin yelled crucify louder than the mob that day.
Maybe even louder than your sin (for I’m a noisy, petulant child).
And Jesus died.
And he came to life.
And he rescued us.
.
His blood, like the blood of Lily Potter covered us from the curse of sin.
His blood, like the blood of Lily Potter was a covering that could not be broken.
His blood, like the mark on Harry’s forehead was a seal and sign.
His blood, like the mark on Harry’s forehead said that we were bought and paid for.
.
It was juvenile, perhaps, to sit for 7 hours at a movie theatre and to cheer for children fighting a battle that probably began before they were born or old enough to read the books which tell of it.
But, more than juvenile, it was human.
Because each human longs for the glory and heroism of God.

Gwah

I think I ate a piece of wood last week.

I’m not even lying to you.

You see, last weekend (or rather, through out last week) I moved into an apartment complex where my roommate and I are the only single girls, the only women who work and…the only white people. We are something of a novelty. It’s lovely. I have people who stare at me every time I walk into the courtyard. Some of them just stare, some look a bit peeved by my existence, and the old women point when a boy and I carry in equal stuff. We’ve made friends with a ton of children, most of them are refugees from Nepal (the ones who have befriended us).

Their names are:

Pooja
Anjana
Ankita
Purmila
Ta
Yiyi
Kumwe
Loksmee

The other day, two of the girls came by and decided to teach me a hand-game we call “five” or “rocks.” I’m pretty terrible at it, which they find both amusing and frustrating. I’m getting better. Sometimes I even manage to finish the first level!

On Saturday, while playing rocks, the girls handed me something that at first glance looked like a nut. Maybe a walnut or oversized almond. “What is it?” I asked. Pooja grinned, “I don’t know in English. We call it gwah. You chew it.” She showed me one between her own teeth and then handed another to Anjana who also began to munch on the bizarre nut looking thing. So I thought to myself, why not? I poppped that thing in my mouth and it was not a nut.

The Gwah

It tasted sort of like cardboard. I put it back on the right side and kept chewing as Pooja decided she would play rocks for me…I think they were a little worked up over how many times I kept dropping those stupid things. And somewhere around the level where we push the rocks through our fingers (which are on the floor, while tossing another rock into the air and always catching it in between flicking a rock between our splayed knuckles) I actually began to like the gwah. It had a curious feeling on my back teeth and it was sort of helping that oral fixation I have.

And I thought, afterwards, that my teeth felt cleaner. Is this like the ancient Egyptians who used to rub their teeth with sand to clean them? A little piece of wood to clean my teeth and make my mind think I was eating, getting nourishment, even though I was doing nothing of the sort? Is this how people manage in refugee camps that burn to the ground? When they hike through jungles where food is scarce? When they can hardly make ends meet in the land of dreams?

or is it really just a piece of wood and the girls were playing an elaborate trick on me? I don’t think so, because Komala asked me the other day how I could have lost my gwah…I didn’t have the heart to tell her I threw it out; she already seemed pretty disappointed in my lack of stewardship skills…

I’m obsessed with community

Like the fact that asking two guys to help move beds to the apartment turned into five guys from all sides of town.

Or that we sort of kidnapped Liz after a bad day at work and drove through water that I could feel under the floorboards of my car. I love stick shift in the monsoon storms we’re getting here in Colorado.

And the way that I keep getting hugged.

And people give me free stuff–like quilts and chairs and junk for the apartment.

Or how the boys who moved our stuff loved the Nepali children that tackle us with hugs every time we enter the apartment common area. “It’s just like India!” Ben said with sheer delight as a little boy “helped” him carry a book case to the apartment.

And the way that people say things like this to me on sweaty  nights when the treadmill won’t work and I’ve been feeling terribly unattractive: “those guys are all idiots. They are interested in shallow beauty, not true beauty. Believe me. I was there. I dated a model because she was hot not beautiful, just hot…there are times when I just want you to realize how beautiful you are and how confident you should be. I wish there was a way I could just show you what I see.”

Yeah. I like this place well enough to stick around for at least a six month lease.

passing home

I told Jesus last week he could take me home. I wasn’t depressed. Just felt done. I had dropped a friend off at her house, stopped at the bank where I saw Nate from afar and paid a whole $15 to my credit card. I was headed back to “work” and the sun was so hot the road simmered in the late afternoon. I was humming a merrry tune on a Christian station and I just had this passing moment where I felt finished. “you can take me home, anytime,” I thought or prayed or said–I’m not entirely sure which.

Yesterday I was hiking with friends and we trekked through a shallow stream with deep holes that soaked up to my thighs as we scrambled moss covered walks on our way upstream to the waterfalls. And then we climbed the waterfalls–on the high steep bank covered in graveled sand. It was steep and it was a high perch where we crossed over and back down to the rear of the falls. I had to make Daniel come back for me. I was stuck, frozen in place in a precarious position with my barefeet gripping anxiously at the angled hillside. I held Daniel’s foot and scrambled for a tree root. But then, I turned around, thinking to scoot across on my rear. Almost immediately I lost my footing and slid forward a few inches towards the edge. “Shit!” I squealed. And Daniel called to Shawn to grab me. I swore again and then muttered to myself, “I told Jesus he could take me home, but I didn’t mean to go like this.”

Shawn laughed as he helped pull me across. “It’s not such a bad place, I can imagine worse places to die.”

I looked down at the water crashing happily over the smooth worn rocks into the shallow poool below. For a brief (and somewhat morbid) moment I imagined myself lying at the bottom of the rocky base, eyes vacant and soul flitting up to the wide blue sky. And I glanced at the banks marked with trees and the high rocky ridge above and felt the sunshine blazing across our backs–there are far worse ways to go.

Of course, I made it across with Shawn’s help, slid down the other side and washed off in the water with Stacie before we concluded the hike and headed out to Sonic for malts and slushes.

But I’m still done with the world. I shared a meal with a friend recently who had first come into my life as a perky and innocent young woman eager for success and full of great big dreams. But the woman I saw across the table from me at that meal was broken and empty. She’s watched her life be ripped away from her–by a terrible series of managers, two boyfriends and lately her family has almost disowned her. She’s putting a good show on. She almost convinces you that she’s okay. She wanted to be with him that night, though its cost her so much. She’ll be put to rights with her family in a few months once she straightens out some details. She’ll even find a new job soon–except she hasn’t applied for any.

I hurt for her. She’s had everything taken and she doesn’t even know Jesus to hold her together. And she’s not the only one. I have loads of friends like her. We used to joke about corrupting students at school who’d been homeschooled before arriving at college. It seemed amusing to those of us who went to public high schools and even at 17 or 18 had friends who were alcoholics and drug addicts. But now, I’ve watched people be corrupted, and I don’t like it. It’s painful and messy and the worst part is:

there’s no coming back.

Once the damage is done, it’s over. You can’t undo it. There’s healing, for sure. But there’s no complete healing htat takes it all away. Jesus is good and Jesus heals the broken hearted. But he can’t give my friend back her virginity and he can’t give another friend back her childhood with a father who wasn’t abusive or alcoholic. And he can’t give back the cousin (and brother) who died when the van wrapped around the tree. He heals, sure enough. But Jesus, I thought, I’m so done here. I’m done watching the world go to pieces and having to stand at the side watching it tear itself to apart. Just take me away.

I know I’m still here though, so apparently I can’t go home. Not yet, anyway.

And it’s not as though I’m going to throw myself into traffic. It was just a fleeting moment that said…I could be ready. And I wouldn’t necessarily mind. In fact, it might just be the best thing ever.

{and I told her you went wandering down the halls of the hospital crying, 
“oh sweet Jesus, just take me home.” And I’m sure it was
bad then, but it’s a good laugh now, you know?}

change. or: everything stays the same by changing

Last night, driving home, I hummed along to a rather terrible song on the radio by Pitbull and someone else who I cannot recall and am currently too lazy to research. The lyric that consistently sticks with me from this song is “Can’t promise tomorrow,  but I can promise tonight.” That line has always struck a chord with me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sleeping around and having loads of one night stands (sorry boy! can’t say what I’m doin’ tomorrow but it sure isn’t gonna be you!). But I do understand where he is coming from in a way.

I sat in Garbanzo with Nate almost two months ago and I said, munching on falafel, that he would leave. He gave me this rather incredulous look and asked what I meant. I avoided eye contact and shrugged dismissively, “you’ll leave. Whether you want to or mean to, you’ll leave, because everyone leaves.” He shook his head, “what if I don’t want to leave?” I think I threw a fleeting–perhaps even hopeful–glance in his direction and then shrugged again. “You will.”

And he has. I almost laughed outright when it happened. I should take wagers on these things, I thought, I’d be making a good deal of money. But, then I would be hypocritical if I didn’t say that I often do the same thing. I’m all about leaving. I’m going to have two really good friends leave at the end of this summer and I’m losing a good portion of my staff at GC, and I’m moving and the family I live with is moving, and most of me wants to be the first person to ditch all this change. I almost drove to Seattle last Sunday night as a gut reaction to the chaos. Nate and I weren’t “official” but he seemed to be the most steady thing in life and when that tanked there didn’t seem to be much worth sticking around for.

I keep looking at the future and it is very daunting somedays. Most of us still don’t have a clue what we’re going to do longterm. I’m starting a business with a friend, and going to seminary, and moving and starting a sort of Bible study thing with friends, and yet…where will I be in five years? Liz says she wants to be with Adullam in twenty years–ever since Hugh made that comment about sticking around. I must have looked horrified in her kitchen when she told Ethan and I that. I mean, I’d been crying, so I already looked bad enough. But to live in one place for twenty years? Colorado’s pretty…but it’s not that pretty.

I think I am trying to figure out what I want. I think for a long time I have always struggled with finding my identity in other people, or in the way I can help them. I think that’s why I have struggled with burnout. I think it’s also why I’m afraid of change. I’m a chameleon, sure, but it’s hard to find the perfect camouflage every few months. I do know somethings: I like storms and driving in the rain. I like dancing in kitchens at 1am and singing until my voice is hoarse. I still cry when I listen to Elias and I consider goat cheese comfort food. I like creamy peanut butter and cold weather.

And most of all: I am coming to terms with the fact that I’ll follow Jesus wherever.

I’m not always keen on Christians. I’m not always comfortable with the church. But I told Jesus the week before he took Nate away that I would go wherever he called, and I’d go whenever. And I’d even go if I was alone. I told him he could have Nate. I told him he could have anyone. Because..in the midst of all this change…Jesus is the one person that never lets go.

I wish I could be more philosophical. I wish I had something intelligent to say about our haphazard culture that searches for stability in all the wrong places–while always keeping our options open. I wish I could say that I didn’t cry when Nate said goodbye or freak out about how nothing seems concrete. But mostly, I’ve realized that I live in fear of God taking things away because that’s what he’s always done. And then, I’ve realized that perhaps Jesus takes away so that someday (or even today!) he can give something better–like himself.

{you’re the same and you never let go}

And of course, as I’m thinking about the future and the great many possibilities which are pockmarked with uncertainty, I noticed on a friend’s facebook this simple verse:  She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future… Well, that’s certainly something to be considered and meditated on.