Berthoud on a Cloudy Day

Last weekend I drove to Berthoud Pass. Did you know there’s a trail there? I was unaware, so I went in jeans and a cutesy shirt—definitely not hiking attire. But I’ll go back soon enough and hike at the top of the mountain.

The clouds had started to roll in earlier in the day. It was my last full day of freedom before my life began again  on Monday with a new job and new classes. I had nothing to do after finishing my homework from the summer. My apartment was almost entirely packed and several friends were out of town. So I resorted to an old technique of wasting time: I got in the car and headed west.

The ascent to the Pass is not long, not in my little stick shift. It is long if you get stuck behind a transplant who doesn’t know how to drive on mountain roads; or truck who is struggling to manage the long haul to higher elevations. But on Friday afternoon I did not have either of those problems as I raced to the heights of the pass.

I stood on the edge of the pulloff while a tour bus unloaded for stiff legs, restrooms and pictures. The sky was drenched with heavy grey clouds, twisted and curled above the peaks. The sky was like fabric, tossed into the air, that falls to the ground in a crumpled heap. The layers, dimensions, the shadows and edges–both sharp and smooth–hung patiently over the Rockies, waiting for the wind that would push them away to the East where they might bring the dry land to life. There was grey like slate and blue like the distant sea after a long fought storm. There was curling silver around the tips where sunlight longed to break through.

The peaks were turned a blue brown, those still covered in trees looked black in the faded light. They were shadows, ghosts of ancient worlds that have long since passed. But the mountains remain, striving against the gravity that will eventually be their undoing. They look like waves on seashore, crashing into one another, peak on peak, endless jagged lines thrust against the thick clouds above.

No picture would do them justice. To be honest, no picture ever perfectly presents any sight in creation. Words, I thought as I shivered in my coat amid the thin cold air, words can never explain the beauty that God has given us. Not here in Colorado, nor anywhere else in all the world.

Creation, a professor recently quoted, is a silent orator, shouting the existence and majesty of our God. She cries out that there is more, that she is held together by another, and that this other, this Beyond, is God.

WHY: DenSem

I’ve talked a bit about why I decided to attend Seminary: the lust for knowledge, the drive to study, to research and write papers. I mentioned the heart for education, the hope that future believers would be well prepared for the world and the calling on their lives to take up their cross and begin their journeys—ever upward and onward.

I don’t know if I explained what drew me to DenSem. I can assure you that there was little desire to stay in Colorado; I had been trying to leave from the time I was in high school. In fact, DenSem seemed too easy of a choice. It was close to my parents, close to my teenage stomping grounds. I’d watch the seminary move from one location to another, I’d sat in the unfinished sections of the library during construction. I went to high school with a professor’s daughter, spent the night at their house. DenSem was too close to everything I wanted to escape. It was illogical that I might stay.

But that changed in January of 2011. I sat down with a professor who had helped design a program that was the first of its kind in seminaries across the world. We call it: Training and Mentoring or TM.

Each student meets for a certain number of hours with a mentor throughout the semester. We write character and skills contracts in which we describe either character traits or skill sets that we need to work on. Then, we describe how we are going to do that over the course of 60 hours in the semester and how we will measure our growth. We also meet with what are called Formation Groups, these are 7-9 students, led by a faculty member. There’s a covenant that each group makes with each other as they decide what they want the group to look like. It’s a promise to love and serve one another as you stay with this group through the entire TM program; it’s also a promise to be authentic and not disclose the group’s time to outsiders. At the end of the semester, students set up a meeting with their mentor (some have two mentors), their formation group leader and their mentoring director (who approved their learning contract).

TM is a way of assuring that students have a chance to look back on seminary as a season of intellectual and personal growth. It’s DenSem’s attempt to protect us from turning into a grave yard full of well thought students who can parrot something that they forgot to believe many years ago.

I listened to the professor explain the system to me and describe the heart of the staff that had created it. I knew, as he settled back in his chair in the student center that this was the place for me. That I would do well here: intellectually, relationally and spiritually.

So, in the same city that I had so longed to escape, I settled down and committed to another 3 year stint. This semester I begin my first step of the TM journey. I have a mentor, a half finished character contract and a fabulous formation group.

In my second year of seminary, it will be exciting to finally experience the thing that made me choose this school.

whoops

Want to hear a funny story?

Yesterday I posted about what I thought was a lovely Friday morning in the library. Turns out it was actually a lovely Thursday morning! With no work this week except catch up for school and errands….I can’t keep track of the days.

So here’s to another Friday morning where I get to finish that homework and head to the mountains for a hike. Pictures to follow! Have a great weekend my friends!

A Friday Morning

With haze drifting over the mountains from distant fires and with lower temperatures outside I’m reminded of sharpened pencils–that smell of hot wood as they are burnished to a fine point–and the taste of lumpy apple sauce after a long day of studying–the hints of cinnamon and nutmeg washing away memories of citation styles and page numbers.

But today, I am most reminded of the hush in a library.

It’s my first day back in several months… And it feels good to be home.

all set for a day of research

WHY: the move

I’m moving some time in the next two weeks. I don’t know where yet, or how, but I do know why.

It was about a two month process in deciding to move. I didn’t want to leave my apartment, with the refugees, the heat, the highway, construction and the noise. But there were so many things that I needed to finish. I drive about 40 minutes on a good day to get to school and work, I run through a tank of gas in six days which is over 400 miles. I needed a place to study so I could come home at night instead of living in the library throughout the week. I wanted to be closer to friends, to church, to community, to my boyfriend.

In the end, I chose to move, to be closer to my life on the opposite side of Denver. It was a hard couple of months. I felt selfish and self absorbed as I considered my needs for the first time in ages. I didn’t want to leave my roommate and the ministry that she had worked so hard to create in our neighborhood; and the painful joy of joining her in occasional attempts at ministry that I could fit in to my obscenely busy schedule. I didn’t want to leave the girls that I was getting to know, and I didn’t want to just “give up” when things got hard.

But I also learned in those two months that it was okay to consider my nerves, my needs, my hopes and desires. I was affirmed by several people that God wouldn’t mind if I considered myself and not just the desires and hopes of others. I had so much encouragement spoken over me about this chance to care for myself as I’ve never done in the past–and I was assured that it was not narcissistic. In fact, it was healthy and it was a way of honoring the way God has gifted me and the way he is directing my life: seminary, theology, education and ministry within the church.

So I’m moving at the end of this month. I don’t know where I’m living, only that it will be with my friend S. In many ways, I don’t know how it will work with school starting a new job finally taking off. But it will work. God always makes things work out in my life–and usually at the last minute.

this adventure is no different.

Sheet Rock (Dry Wall) + Foot = Another Injury

E called Monday while I was out with a friend. From the tone in his voice it was obvious that he was either very tired or something had gone wrong. Because E is always tired after a typically twelve hour day I had a feeling that this conversation was going to be more about something bad that had happened at work.

He fumbled for words. I would find out later when I yelled at him and cried that it was because he didn’t want to worry me. I took the stumbling sentences as added seriousness about the situation. He wasn’t supposed to be at the house today, he was supposed to be in the mountains painting while a dry walling crew put up sheet rock. We had eaten dinner at the house the night before, a dinner of black eyed peas, avocado, tomatoes from our garden, corn and a few other ingredients tossed in a tangy dressing. We sat on the deck where they haven’t yet built the rail and dangled our feet over the cement below, littered with scraps of metal, wood and flaking paint. But for some reason he had been at the house, helping with the dry wall.

His coworker L had lost a grip on a massive sheet of the stuff. He clawed the open air but never caught the wall. I can see the look on the poor college kid’s face–he’s a good kid, quiet and reserved–as he watched the dry wall crunch into E’s shin and slide down till it pinned his foot. They had to pry it off with a 2×4 because it was too heavy to lift. 400 pounds too heavy.

I went over the next night and sat with E for a little while as he iced with a package of frozen peas. “these are the best for icing,” he said with a cheerful smile and settled onto the couch.

I cried because it’s been a long couple of weeks and I’m stressed and worried about nearly everything in life. Ethan just wrapped his arms around me and reminded me:

We don’t have to be stressed, and I don’t have to worry–about where to live, where to work, or how E’s job can at times be a little sketchy. God takes care of us, and he protected E’s foot from serious injury. In fact, the number of close calls E has had at work are remarkable and we can thank either dumb luck or thank God that he has an eye on us.

Our father is so good.

Not just for saving E’s foot, his shin etc. Abba is very good for giving me a man like E who constantly reminds me where to place my trust and peace; something I need reminded of nearly every day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

WHY: Honesty

I leaned over to a friend yesterday and asked her what I should blog about. I’m out of ideas kids. Other than the one called “Why I don’t vote” and I think that should be saved until at least October. She thought for a moment and then said quite simply:

Write something honest.

I laughed, because that is totally something C would say. She’s all about honesty. I get lectured about it. Not about lying, because I’m  not a pathological liar or something. Honesty for my friend includes telling people how we feel, not lying to make someone feel better but speaking the truth in all situations and remembering the truth about ourselves as found in Jesus Christ.

But after a moment of laughter, I sobered. I don’t know how to blog about something honest. I read once that knowing the balance between being vulnerable online and not overwhelming people with your problems is a hard line to draw. I think in many ways I’ve erred on the side of overwhelming, sharing too much.

To blog about something honest first requires that you actually have something to write about. More often than not, I don’t. There isn’t much in my life that is interesting to the masses. I’m in grad school, and a Christian one. I work four jobs, but not in anything thrilling. I climb, I hike, but I’m not the best photographer. I read voraciously but not books that I think most people care to hear reviews on. I used to write–I used to write so much–but lately the well of creativity has dried up. And so, I have very little to tell you.

I’m sure you can tell sometimes. There are posts where I’m just grasping at straws to say something–anything–just to make sure I have a post up on Wednesday and maybe another before the weekend. Blogging is a burden a lot of the times. Because the honest gospel truth is, I have nothing to tell you.

And that’s probably the most truthful thing I’ve ever written on here.

Parenting

I’ve been a nanny over the summer.

If there’s one thing I learned, it’s to never tell God you’d like to learn patience. Don’t say it lightly, or he might just send you a pair of difficult children in what was already destined to be a hard season of life.

It’s been a real pain in the ass.
It’s also been a real season of growth.

There will be more posts than this one, to be sure. But what I wanted to say today was that I’m learning how to thank God for trying, annoying and frustrating learning experiences. G loves to remind me that sanctification is never easy; that’s what makes it sanctifying. This summer, as a nanny, I’ve re-discovered my selfishness and my incredible laziness. Half the time I want the kids to do their “chores” because I know it will be good for them in the long run (learning responsibility). The other half I want them to do their chores so that I don’t have to do the work for them.

It’s how my newlywed friends describe marriage: a mirror. One in which you are suddenly confronted with all your faults.

I’ve been paid really well, I’ve gotten a nice tan, and I’ve had some good adventures with the girls. But what I am most grateful for is not the money, the excursions to the aquarium, the pool side afternoons stung by the scent of chlorine and swim diapers. I am most grateful for the chance to learn, to grow, and to realize that it’s a dang good thing I’m saved by grace and not by works or I’d be in a heap of trouble.

WHY: txtng

I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions. But this year I had decided I would stop texting and driving. I read an article that someone else had blogged about how they were obsessed with their smart phone to the point where it was interfering with their family life. He made the comment that texting and driving put not only him in danger but also his family and others on the road who he didn’t even know. Recognizing that it was a bigger deal than just the one texting pushed me to quit. It worked for awhile, but I’m really good at texting without looking at my keyboard. It’s probably because I am on my computer so much and I never look then either; I can feel the board on my phone too so I can walk, drive, hike, etc without looking down to see what I’m typing. So it seemed that I didn’t really have a chance of putting someone–even myself–in danger.

Last night I saw two accidents on my drive home. In the darkness near an exit ramp that isn’t well lit, the entire highway was blocked off and there were two cars that had been crunched to unusable scraps of metal. In the flashing lights of emergency vehicles I could see a stretcher. and it wasn’t being carried to the ambulance. It was just sitting there, the red and blue lights eerily reflecting off the metal of the stretching that just sat there, useless.

Then, I had to swerve to miss another accident on the next highway. Six cars blocked up three of the six lanes, surrounded by four or five cop cars, and two fire trucks. I caught a glimpse of them pulling a woman with stringy blonde hair from a battered black jetta.

It was like a horrific flashback to the accident in Seattle when I drove past K’s car, hardly recognizing it in its precarious perch on top of another. I couldn’t stop thinking of the ER, where Keeleh and Anthony had to leave the room as I adjusted K’s leg, with blood spilling from the knee cap. I remembered the endless hours at the hospital, most of which she won’t ever recall thanks to the “happy button” of morphine that dulled the endless, gnawing pain.

And while I don’t know what caused the accidents last night, even though K’s accident wasn’t because of texting, I turned my phone over so I couldn’t see the screen and I said to myself that it just isn’t worth risking. It’ll be hard because I’m attached to that little hunk of blue metal, but I’m done texting and driving.