Peace, even on harried Mondays

It started with the dreams, muddled and confused as the chiming of an ill timed alarm broke into them. The world outside was dark and still, with only the faintest rumbles of the city coming back to life. A truck slid on its way up the snow covered drive from the parking lot, tires failing to grip the icy asphalt so cold and uncaring.

And then, in the kitchen, with breakfast on the stove and a half packed bag, waiting for clothes and books beside the lunch of last week’s tacos. Barefeet pacing back and forth, and the knock on the door; apologies for running late and further rush as I went between rooms, gathering, discarding, chewing half cooked oatmeal and wishing for more time.

Finals week descends upon the seminary like a slow and creeping illness. We saw it from a distance but the advance was crushingly fast when it came overthe last hill and hurtled upon us. He has six papers due by Friday, I have two for Wednesday and she is scrambling for three presentations. There is ice on the ground and we’re skating uncontrolled through the end of the semester, hoping to finish strong, praying for good grades and earth shifting revelation amid blue books and scantrons.half cooked oatmeal and wishing for more time.

E is working late, pulling longer shifts of deconstruction, tearing down shelves, cabinets and wall paper. He lives before the sun arrives and watches her retreat long before returning home to dinner and fevered study-time on the couch. For it’s finals week and I’ve picked up extra hours at work, I’m walking home through frosted night and scrounging time to memorize dueteronomistic history, shades of free will and latin phrases we inherited from an ancient mother hidden in cathedrals  and far off lands. There’ll be roast chicken for dinner, crisp and lush, brined and finished in the crock pot—the miracle worker of women who work and cook from scratch. And there will be cider to keep awake in the black night of study.

It’s the fourth week of Advent; we’ve met God the Father, Holy Spirit, Hope and now we’re to find peace, sense it and know it the way I know the darkness of my soul. But we’re pushing to buy a truck in 21 days, send out jam and Christmas cards, thank yous and wedding gifts. I’m barely functioning somedays, always sluggish and torn in too many directions. The shock of bitter cold December tears at my lungs on the walk to and from school. The kitchen is piled high in crusted dishes, there are clothes on the floor and hair in the bathroom sink.  There’s war in the world, strife in our homes and stress in our lives. I’m to know peace, but in the midst of this?

Yes. In the midst of this.

In the freezing walk beneath brilliant stars.
In the moment of encouragement as the door closes and the professor prays over students about to be examined.
In the meals of free ingredients from the local food pantry.
In the warmth of my quilts as I shut my eyes to the mess and climb wearily into bed.
In the love of arms about me, in the fleeting moments we have together.
In the hope of the future, in the remembrance of the past, despite fear and stress of the present.

Peace, in all this, and more—so much, so all pervading that it cannot be described or exhausted.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

WHY: Roommate

I contemplated living alone for a while. I thought: “I need a place to study, a place to bake and not be in anyone’s way, a place to have my HS girls and not worry about inconveniencing, a place to sleep amidst my odd schedule, a place to be away, to be alone, to just be.” 

Well, I couldn’t afford a place on my own.

So instead, I got a super loud, super intense roommate.

E calls her Sassy Stacey. It’s a perfect description. From facial expressions to the snarky way she swivels on her heel, from her teasing manner to the bite in her green chile (yum!) my roommate is a sassy little woman. She’s absolutely fabulous. She’s loud and crazy, her life is too busy and she leaves me love notes all the time–on the table, on my bed, and the ladder to my loft. She loves well, she is strong but wounded as is every human being you’ll ever meet. She’s beautiful and I love her to pieces.

Tonight, after a long day of data entry at work and a noisy night at the food pantry, I came home to her, sitting on the futon under two flannel blankets, knitting a purple scarf. I made myself tea and then sat down beside her to listen to her story of the day. It’s a familiar tale; much like my own. Customers are annoying, inconsiderate, and demanding. Her coworker was slow or too chatty, they ran out of something, the drawer didn’t balance, etcetera, et al. But she didn’t tell me about her day. Instead, she started crying and told me what she’s struggling with these days. I held her hand, sipped my tea and listened.At some point in the evening, she apologized for crying but I shook my head. No, I said, I like it when you cry. It reminds me that I’m not too busy to listen. And it reminds me that I have feelings too.”

“Of course you have feelings!” she practically exclaimed, “you cry over homeless people and old men.”

I laughed and then found tears in my own eyes. I didn’t say outloud as she prattled on with more stress and fears but I did think to myself that this is why I live with a roommate. Yes, money was an issue when I looked for a new place. Yes, I don’t like being a single woman by myself at night with all the odd people living in our world. But mostly, I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted someone to live with me, to challenge me, to frustrate me, to love me and to encourage me. Someone I could build into and serve and forgive when days were hard. I wanted to live with someone because I wanted to be reminded of my humanity and my constant need for community.

Maybe it’s just me but, I think that might be why the body of Christ is so important for believers: to remind us of our fallenness and our absolute dependence on God and one another. More than that, though, the body reminds us of the imago dei and the ways in which we shine like stars in the universe as we grow up together into maturity in the faith. We remind each other of what our humanity is, what it should be and what it will be as we slowly grow into who we are and who we are called to be.

love my roommate.

White Mornings

Wednesday night, while I was at youth group in flip flops and an old down vest over my 3/4 sleeve sweater the weather outside went from rain to snow. E and I are sharing my car because his serpentine belt popped off. So after he drove me home from youth group, as we crossed the street he looked up into the falling snow and said, “do you want to go for a walk?” I squeezed his hand, “just let me change out of flip flops.”

So we walked to the downtown of where I live and amid twinkling lights we strolled through storefronts older than our grandparents. We stopped in at on old world, English style pub that we’d never noticed before and ordered two mugs of piping hot chocolate. We sat in the window and watched the snow blow in the wind before settling to the ground in clumps of thick wet flakes. Trees were covered, their branches coated and their leaves hidden. It looked as though someone had begun frosting the town or painting it white for a party we hadn’t been invited to but had stumbled upon anyhow. As we walked the empty streets we found Narnia: an old wrought iron lamp stand, covered in part by the leaves of a low tree, bent beneath the weight of snow that clung to his branches. It glowed like a distant star, yellow and orange and cast its feeble rays across the snow on the ground at its base. We shouted for Mr. Tumnus but he never came. So we trudged to my home, and arrived around 11pm, tired but bright eyed and rosy cheeked from wind and pure joy of changing seasons. I snuggled in bed with an extra blanket, heard the boiler heater click on and I thought that Colorado must be the best place in all America.

The nextmorning, when I stumbled out of bed into our living room, this is what greeted me:

Tell me that isn’t one of the best and most beautiful sights to wake up to. The snow makes my heart happy. Clean, bright, pure and restful. I could dance for joy.

goofy roommates

this is why I love my roommate.

 

My favourite seat in the library has a pretty great view of the mountains. On Thursday, as I pretended to write a paper on child sacrifice (more to come on that), I could see a storm coming in. At first I could make out the edges of the dark grey clouds as they edged over the mountains, but eventually those edges had crawled far east of the seminary campus and the sky was a blanket of granite slate. The mountains had turned grey blue and I could hardly make out the foothills. I knew my roomie was planning to go to RMNP (she was set to borrow my pass before it expired) so I sent her a slightly concerned text which caused the following conversation:

S: not to be mothering but because I like you : I can see a storm coming in over the mountains, so if you go to RMNP and do Trail Ridge Rd, please be careful! :o)

St: Not going anymore and thanks mom. I am playing with your camera today though. : )

S: Enjoy the camera. :o) And you’re welcome, awkward-older-than-me-daughter… wow this ish just got complicated. :p I might be tearing up as I try to not laugh in the library…

 

yep. that conversation happened.

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.

WHY: we build stuff

On a recent drive back from Colorado Springs (after watching 8 of our favourite children), one of E’s favourite country songs played on the radio. It was somewhere near the crest of Monument Pass, where you could see the smoke puffing up among trees on the slopes of Waldo Canyon and you could imagine the fires raging nearby. Though we were safe, and our friends were too, it was a sobering sight. The song that came on helped to lighten the mood. E turned it up at full blast in that little VW Jetta that he affectionately nicknamed “Gretta” many years ago. I don’t know the artist or even the title but the song always make me think of North Carolina and how I imagine backwoods, country folk operate. I think that’s why E loves it so much–it reminds him of the good times back home. One particular lyric that always catches my attention says something like “If it’s broke ’round here, we fix it.” Well, that’s certainly true of E. Little Gretta has over 300,000 miles on her, because when she looses a part, he replaces it. My bike was bought at a goodwill for $40 and now it’s worth around $200 thanks to some work from E (and his years as a bike mechanic). I’ve heard the song so many times, and on that long drive back home I couldn’t but recount all the things built from scratch rather than being purchased at a store. And let me tell you, there are quite a few….

When M and I first moved into our apartment we didn’t have much counter space–we still don’t have much. So, while she was on a road trip, I set up a collapsable table in the corner of our eating nook and threw a twin sized sheet over it. There’s no point lying: it looked trashy. Eventually, there were stains not he sheet from paint and various foods. When my mum reminded me I had a crockpot and blender in the basement of their house I nearly threw a fit for lack of space. I snapped. I called E to vent and announced: “I’m going to find some wood–like old pallets or something–and I’m going to build myself a fricking shelf!” Well, E knew my shelf would probably collapse so the building process was more like… Sara rips nails out of old pallets and E assembles them into something useful and magnificent. He brought it over two or three weeks later on the top of his VW Jetta and we were rescued by some Burmese men as we struggled to get it up the stairs and into the little home in Denver’s third-world.

A couple of months ago, E built a loft for my bed. I don’t have any pictures of it currently, with the mattress on top and the book shelves beneath, sporting theology, grammar and copious class notes. There’s a shelf that runs over the head of the mattress where I keep a lamp, a few candles, three or four books, the unplugged alarm clock and my mouthguard that prevents morning headaches. The ladder has uneven steps and it’s made from an assortment of wood but it may be the most ingenious thing I’ve ever had built. It makes my room twice as large since I can now have two or three bookcases sitting under my bed just to the left of a laundry basket and still have room to sprawl out with my laptop and school books. It also makes my room the running novelty of our apartment: the kids want to climb onto it every time they come to visit.

In the same day, we went to E’s old house downtown to salvage the last of the 2×6 and 2×8’s that we hadn’t used on my loft. E had been living in a one bedroom just a few blocks from the heart of Denver. Yes, a one bedroom with three other guys. The bedroom is where my loft came from: the had a loft large enough to hold two queen size beds high in the air so that they all fit into that one bedroom. Intentional Community, or something like that.

Anyway, we grabbed the last of the boards, sorted through the few things that roommates (and roommates from previous leases) had left behind and then headed to his new place where we (and by we I mean E) set about building our garden boxes. I’ve talked about this briefly in my description of our garden but I didn’t tell you about why we built the boxes instead of buying planters and I hadn’t put up pictures.

There are a few reasons we build things. One is that we’re both very cheap (or rather–we’re frugal–I’ve been informed that’s a more respectable word for such personality traits). So we use scrap wood from previous building ventures or wood that we can acquire just by driving across town.

We also build things because it means using our hands. As a student, a nanny, personal assistant and church staff member, I sit inside a lot. Holding up a 2×6 as E drills holes into it or screws it into something else has a certain pleasure that you cannot experience elsewhere. I feel like a strong woman when I yank nails from old pallets that once transported food, building supplies, furniture, etc. There’s the moment when you know the nail is about to come free but it fights you for every last moment, screaming as you wrench it from the wood it has long called home. And with a grunt it comes apart and the board springs upward, no longer bound to the shape it was forced to. I think I looked at each nail as I took it from the back of the hammer and giggled slightly when I tossed it to the ground. It’s the same feeling I have when chopping wood for fires: the ax goes above my head and there’s a moment just before the descent where you fix your eye on the middle of the log, marking where you’ll strike to snap it in half. It feels like determination has flooded your veins as you decide that log is mine. And then, the ax whistles through the air and slices into the wood. The ax might stick the first few times or send chips flying to the air. But eventually, it cuts straight through the wood and you have two halves, ready for burning.

E says he feels so much joy when he is building. It’s the chance to create something new, to be creative when you’re using limited supplies and the chance to do something. So much of our lives are spent indoors, seated at desks or running copies, chilling in meetings with stale air running through the A/C.

But to build is to create which is to share in the divine initiative, to act on the image and likeness of God in us as creator and artist. I think that’s why we, and others, experience such pleasure in building things, in planting, sculpting and designing. Because, in the most cliche (but also true) way: it’s the way God made us.

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salvaged pallets, shelf on the car (built from pallets), assembling the loft, building the garden boxes

Friends

I should have blogged on the Fourth of July. I tried. I thought and thought about what I could write. I considered writing about fireworks, the perfect blooms of light that are one of my favourite events each summer. But, thanks to the fires, there were no fireworks this summer and felt bizarre to write about them. I considered patriotism, but that is something I have long struggled to understand. I feel a surge of pride when I see my brother in uniform, watch him tip his wings as he comes in for a landing in his jet. But there is an unease in my spirit regarding our politics, our culture, our “american dream.”

So, in the end, I didn’t write on Wednesday though it is my usual day for a post and it was a national holiday. Instead, I spent the day packing my boss’s kitchen as he and his wife are currently out of town and are moving this weekend.

I did, however, have a few friends over on the Fourth and that is worth talking about.

E and I had a BBQ, which we hosted at my boss’s house in the big backyard full of dead grass because it’s been a brutal summer and the sprinkler system on the rental has ceased functioning (if it ever did). We were slobbered on by their Newfoundland–Sydney–who is one of the happiest but laid back dogs I’ve ever known. She’ll be great when the new baby comes home to their new house, they’ll just have to be even more vigilent about wiping her face and loose jowels that leak a thick dribble when she pants in the summer heat.

We had our friends J and K over, they’re married and both at seminary with me. I went to high school with J and had a huge crush on one of his best friends. It’s funny now, to laugh about all that, to know his wife K and realize that we often don’t marry the people we planned and that life never turns out as we imagined (K told him no three times before she consented to a first date).  They brought their dog Abby who explored the backyard with ceaseless sniffing and hope for great adventure. Sydney watched the process from her perch on the patio at our feet, her chin resting between spread out paws.

We ate, we drank, we laughed and over three hours passed before we realized the time. We had to catch up on a good deal of life that we’ve missed in the past two months and then we talked about current plans, some hopes and dreams, confusions and concerns in the church…etc. It was a grand evening of absolutely no plans, no contrived conversations or ice breaker games.

It was just good.

It’s been a long time since either E or I had friends like that. We talked about it the next day, how thankful we are that God has provided us with good friends to share life with, to pray with and for, to simply enjoy. It’s been a long week. I’ve packed my boss’s house (mostly) and I helped E pack and move his own apartment last night. The girls I nanny bickered off and on all day yesterday, and if it wasn’t for a neighbour girl to break the tension, I think they’d do the same today. My digestive system is on the fritz again and I seem to be forgetting almost everything on my to-do list.

But Wednesday was a good night because I was allowed the chance to remember that life isn’t to-do lists, it isn’t assignments at school or long days at work. Life is friends and beauty and joy (just as much as it is sorrow and pain in the darker days). Life is about enjoying each other and enjoying what God has blessed us with, even when those blessings are the smallest things.

Like a week of housesitting.
A dog to walk.
A cool evening rain, observed from the covered patio.
A national holiday to enjoy a day off.
Money to buy meat for burgers.
And good friends to share a meal with.

Because friends remind me of God and how he loves us, how he stands by us no matter what and how he just wants to be with us–not because he is lonely but because he delights in us, in his creation.

Wednesday night was a great evening to celebrate shared life, a shared journey and a shared quest for the glory of God and the hope of the coming promise.

Cheesecake

In the past month I’ve made two cheesecakes. Actually, I’ve made seven, but five of those were mini cheesecakes which don’t count as much (all though, I did sort of make up the proportions on my own, so I’m quite proud of them). A friend remarked, when I announced my intent to make the first one, that she thought cheesecakes were a lot of work. I don’t remember exactly what I said in reply. It was morning, I was in a hurry, and I was running through a list of ingredients that I had recently memorized.

Cheesecakes, in my opinion, are not very hard work, they are simply time consuming. They aren’t the date apple pie or peach cobbler or even the tart apple crisp which I can whip up in under 35 minutes if need be. A chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake, on the other hand, takes an afternoon. The most recent cheesecake was started at 415 and finished near 7pm by the time all was said and done. There is, however, something delightful in the time it takes.

I baked for three different people this month: the first was a birthday present for G and myself as we share a birthday weekend. E and I went down for a weekend, took the kids to the pool and enjoyed a late night of conversation with our wonderful friend (J is out of town for the summer). The second was for a friend who covered E’s shift while we attended a concert (in fact, you may be reading this while we are at said concert). The miniatures were for E to take to a friend’s and for me to bring home to my roommate.

I love watching the mixer cream and churn the ingredients, whipping sugars into smooth silk and smushing the eggs so that their bright orange streaks through the batter and livens the bowl. I love the way my fingers stick together and I love the chance to stand in my bare feet, hips swaying to music in my mind while I wash the bowls and lay them on the counter to dry; all while smelling the waft of joy and delight.

I also love that cheesecake is not something that most folks make for themselves. I love that it’s an opportunity to share a rare treat and love on people who have done good things to me. It’s a chance to pray for them while I whisk together the vanilla and sour cream; a chance to thank God for them as the crust is crunched down into the silver spring form pan–ready and waiting for the bounty it’s about to receive. I find a moment of thrill in the faces of the ones I love as they taste that first, rich morsel (and then dive in for more!).

 

I love cheesecake because it is fun to make and it is a great gift to share with others.

 

 

postscript: keep praying for rain and less winds! the fires are getting contained, but the work is not yet finished!!

WHY: the cleaning doesn’t matter

I had a long day yesterday. I’m not entirely sure why. It was just one of those days. I was having a hard time adjusting to reality after a lovely weekend in the mountains near a river that still had ice in the early mornings. I arrived at work on time, but my boss wasn’t ready to start my training. So instead, I sat outside, chatted with a friend and attempted to catch up on three weeks of homework that I’ve  been skimping on for my online class.

And then I arrived at E’s where I made him an orange smoothie slushy thingy because I knew it had been a long day at work. I laid down on the bed with a novel (again the procrastination) and waited for him to arrive in the hour long gap he has between jobs. There’s no couch in this apartment, just an odd little two person bench probably purchased at Ikea. So, while the bedroom was dark and a messy disaster after camping, it seemed a more comfortable alternative to the bench thingmajog.

I made dinner, had to throw out some hummus that had gone sour. I threw out two loads of trash. I sat and read while he finished up work and then just sort of…glazed over. I cleaned up after dinner, just like I cleaned up after dinner last night, or whenever I cooked for him last. I went into the bathroom to blow my nose for the umpteenth time today and glanced around sort of miserably at the fuzz, the hair, the dirt that has stuck to the sink when he washes his hands after working outside. The floor has markings, water droplets that have caught dust and trapped it on the tile. The kitchen floor needs swept which it does almost every night after I cook (I’m a messy cook).

He collapsed on the bed ten minutes before we left to meet friends for my birthday and said in a despondent voice, muffled by the pillows, “I made a mistake….I laid down.”

I didn’t want to go in at first. I was feeling quite selfish, in fact. This is my birthday. This day belongs to me. But G used to tell me things that annoyed her about her husband and she would always follow it by saying “I remind myself, G, this is you showing love to him. So just get over it and do it.”

So I went into the bedroom with the clutter of camping and life strewn all about the floor and I sat on the bed beside E and rubbed his arm. Not much. I’m still a very selfish person.

But as I walked out of the room, I heard the boyfriend of the woman who lives next door. He was out in the parking lot again, screaming in that voice, deep and hollowed out by heavy sobs and tears. One of her dogs was barking, the small one that thinks it’s as big as the pit bull. But all I could really hear was his voice, pleading and begging just like he did two weeks ago when E wouldn’t let me leave the apartment for fear the guy might do something unstable.

And I thought, my God has done great things for me. We have multiple jobs–six between the two of us–and we don’t have much money or free time. He’s almost always tired after work, and depending on the job, I usually am too. Our respective apartments are both messy. My fridge desperately needs a clean out and his bathroom is even more precarious to someone who occasionally struggles with germ-phobia. But we have these apartments and we have jobs and we have friends and we’re doing so well. I don’t stand outside an apartment, begging to be let back in.

And that’s not because I’m awesome and popular and everyone throws their doors open wide to let me in. It’s because God has healed me of some incredible brokenness and he has blessed me with friendship, love, security and he has gifted me Himself. It’s because my God found it worthwhile to save me and blot out my transgressions for his name’s sake. And so I’m whole and I’m hopeful and I’m grateful and…and none of this makes sense. But I was just struck that afternoon, the man next door; he doesn’t know hope. He’s lost and broken and hurting. While my life is not perfect and I’m not always the happiest of people, how can I worry about small things like the bathroom and the trash and the never ending dishes when I have been given such a great gift in the salvation offered by my God?

High School Graduation

Last week I attended a “senior celebration” at a high school within walking distance of my apartment. If you haven’t picked up on this yet, I don’t live in the best part of town and the high school near us is no exception to that general rule. Granted, it’s not like the school where I took my SAT, where there were rumors of weapons and gang fights (most of it was probably made up by the easily frightened white kids at my own suburban high school). But it doesn’t rank very high in Colorado. According to CSAPs the freshmen were 48% proficient in Reading last year. Now, I’m not a statistician but that doesn’t seem very good. A group called “Great Schools: Involved Parents, Successful Kids” only gave it a 3 out of 10 and the over all district received the same score. I read on another site that it’s the 128th district out of 136 in Colorado. Let’s assume the stats are somewhat accurate, despite the fact that I only just googled the information about five minutes ago.

Danny, Laisa, Haley, Sara, Helen, Emmerance, Tshite

Even with a reasonable margin of error, that high school still isn’t doing well.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from my neighborhood is a place like Douglas County where I later attended the graduation party of a young woman I once nannied during my college years. It was a very different experience from the previous night, and not simply because it lacked tedious awards ceremony with perfunctory speeches which no one will recall by the end of summer. It was a party with food in chaffing dishes and cupcakes that cost $3 each at the shop where they’re made. The women were in dresses, the graduate in heels. I wore my chacos and a pair of loose shorts that were $7 at Goodwill last summer. But it is more than that, the clothes and fancy food are only symptomatic. This young woman is attending CSU with the plan of graduate school afterwards.

I’m relieved my neighbor was accepted to two colleges and even has a small scholarship to help cover some first costs. When we leftthe ceremonylast week, another friend who had attended hooked her arm into a younger sister’s elbow–another refugee who will be a freshmen next year.

“Four years!” she said brightly as we skipped down the stairs outside in the warm night air. “We’re going to see you here in four years, right? You’ll be getting awards and scholarships too!” The new freshmen giggled but agreed.

That is the difference. Most days, I’m happy the kids in my neighborhood can read and that some can write. The syntax is often a mess, the grammar is usually backwards. But this is at leasttheir second language, for some it’s a third. I want them to graduate high school because I want them to have a chance in life. Education in America is the beginning of anything. It’s hard to communicate that to our refugees, but there are a few students who seem to understand.

The young woman in a wealthier part of town–I love her and I’m thrilled about her future plans. But for her, for me, college was just an expectation. It was a factual part of life that followed soon after high school. This is what is different about the children where I live. College is a dream. High school graduation is a journey.

But it’s the beginning of life in America. The start of life in a new land to which they’ve escaped, where they are rebuilding everything from the ground up. High school is no longer just a fact of life, it’s the foundation for a future that was vastly altered the day they left their homes and set out for this place.

High School Graduation never meant so much.