college

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 35: Epic College Roommate Reunion

After a whirlwind first week in America I left my hubby and new home and headed up to Chicago and then Wisconsin for a reunion with my college roommates at our friend Anna’s family lake house – a place that holds a lot of sweet memories for all of us of our time in college and beyond.

To be honest I was nervous to see these girls after two years living abroad. While we’ve all been friends for a long time now, through five post-college years and different life stages I was anxious about whether it would feel the same to come back together after being gone for two years during which I grew and changed at what felt like an accelerated pace. It also felt strange that the other girls had all seen one another without me on multiple occasions during my time in Korea and frankly, I was worried about whether or not I still fit.

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Together again! We all made it! 2 from South Carolina, 2 from North Carolina and one from the Chicago area (where we all met).

I was relieved to find that even though some things were different and I had moments where I felt disconnected from the lives and experiences of my friends, for the most part I still felt like we clicked and meshed well together. And more importantly than our different life experiences over the past few years, we still care about each other and are genuinely interested in each others’ lives.

One of the most exciting things about the weekend was celebrating Christina, who is getting married this month, with some special bachelorette activities. (And by bachelorette activities I mean Christina wore this headdress and we gave her lingerie and lots of dubious marital advice and drank tequila).

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Asharae describes this headpiece as her crowning achievement in crafting and I am inclined to agree! My favorite part of this picture though is Taylor in the background eating chips and guac and saying something with her eyes closed.

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Unfortunately, it was fairly cool (for August) and rainy during our weekend at the lake, so we didn’t do a lot of our usual lake activities like sunbathing and water skiing. We did make it out on the lake for some casual boat rides around the rain, but mostly we stayed cozy inside eating tons and tons of foods, talking each others’ ears off, playing games, and watching movies. Basically, it was perfection.

I brought my friends some gifts from Korea – superhero minion socks, scary face masks, and hilarious lip masks, all of which we tried out on the spot.

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Since I’ve gotten really into makeup and makeup artistry over the past year or so, my friends graciously allowed me to do makeup experiments on them  – some more successfully than others – to try out new things and practice looks for Christina’s wedding.

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The best part of the whole weekend was that this time when we all said goodbye we knew it would only be 4 weeks til we will be reunited again at Christina’s wedding which three of us will stand in as bridesmaids while Asharae and her husband do the photography.

I am so incredibly thankful for these women and for their friendship over years and miles. It’s kind of a big deal. ; )

Thank you also to all of you who have sent such kind and encouraging messages during a very busy and stressful time. Now that moving and my travels are done I am ready to get back to more regular posting here and to figure out what normal life will look like in this new season. I admit that the transition has been both easier and harder than I anticipated, but more on that later. For now, thanks to the many of you who have shown such kindness and support over the past few months and especially the past few weeks. It is genuinely appreciated.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about our not-so-extreme home makeover you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

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When Swearing is Caring: Because Sometimes “Shit” is the Right Word

We sat in the corner of the faculty room in the cafeteria, beside the window that looked out over the “Saga ‘O’”, a circular drive at the front of campus where people often caught rides. I could see the new (and somewhat contested) Jumbo-tron on the football field sticking up over the trees, and the ever-present train tracks that bordered our college campus to the south – a clear line between our little community and the rest of the town. My college had a program called, “Dine-with-a-Mind” where a student could get a coupon to share a meal with a professor. It was the spring of my senior year and it was the first time I had tried it.

I sat with my professor, an unpretentious, no-nonsense sort of woman in her late 30’s. I’d taken several classes with her over the years and had come to deeply admire and respect her. That semester I was auditing a class she was teaching on women writers. I was twenty-two years old, I was engaged, and I hated men with a fury that scared me. I sat at that table with my professor hoping that she had a magical answer for how to reconcile everything I was feeling with the wedding I was planning and the life I was about to start as one man’s wife. I loved Jonathan. In my mind, my relationship with him was something altogether separate from how I felt about men. But the intensity of my rage was problematic, even if it wasn’t directed at him.

So I sat with my professor and I told her, “I’m getting married this summer, and I think I hate men.” I told her how the things we talked about in class had moved me – men and their unacknowledged privilege and their dismissive treatment of women. Men, with their sexuality that seems biologically designed for dominance and subjugation. “How do you reconcile all of that with marrying a man, loving him well, being a wife?” I asked.

It was hardly a question I could expect a simple answer to. And she didn’t give me one. Instead she asked me about the men in my life. I told her, haltingly, apologetically, stumbling around the words that felt too big in my mouth that “I guess” my feelings had something to do with my grandfather who was an alcoholic and my brother who was an alcoholic and my father who was manipulative and verbally abusive, and who ultimately left me at the age of 8 and who I hadn’t seen since.

She looked at me across the table, looked straight at me, not uncomfortably away like so many others have, and simply said, “Lily, I’m so sorry.”

I shrugged, looked down at my plate, gave a half-smile. “It’s ok.”

“No,” she said. “It’s not OK. It’s shit. Let’s just call it what it is.”

“Ok,” I whispered. “You’re right. It’s shit.”

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If you know me, you probably know that I don’t use a lot of profanity. In fact, it’s pretty rare for me to curse unless I’m repeating something, reading something, or occasionally, trying to use the shock value of it to make my mom or husband laugh (rightly or wrongly – you can judge me for that).

I’m not usually offended by other people cursing, but I grew up in a conservative Christian family and attended a conservative evangelical Christian school from kindergarten through high school. I didn’t listen to secular music and had only seen a handful of carefully-selected movies that were rated higher than PG. Growing up, I don’t remember ever hearing either of my parents curse. I once tattled on a classmate for saying the word, “crap,” at recess (In retrospect, I’m sure my teacher was horrified when I told her I’d heard him say “the c-word.”)

Swearing was always an easy measuring stick for determining what kind of person someone was. Everyone knew that God didn’t approve of that kind of language, so if someone used it, it was pretty clear where they stood with God. After all, Christians were supposed to be “set apart,” and being set apart was all about the things you didn’t do – no drinking, no smoking, no cursing, no gambling, no sex outside of marriage, no pornography, no secular music, no R-rated movies, no “sinfully erotic” dancing. (That last bit was an actual line from a Community Covenant I once had to sign).

Sitting across the table from my professor, I admit, I was a little shocked to hear her say, “shit.” But while I was surprised, I wasn’t offended. Part of me thought, “You’re supposed to be some sort of mentor here. Why aren’t you telling me that God wants to heal me and encouraging me to pray about it more?” The other part of me thought, “Thank God, she actually gets it.” And even if it wasn’t what I expected to hear from my Christian professor (maybe precisely because it wasn’t what I expected to hear), it was exactly the right thing to say. Because telling me, “No, it’s not ok. It’s shit,” gave me permission not to make light of something that was really pretty terrible. To fully acknowledge it for the wrong that it was (is).

When my husband read this piece he said, “But couldn’t she have used another word that communicated that she understood how bad and wrong the situation was?” And the answer, for me, is no. She couldn’t have used a different word with quite the same effect. It was the use of this particular word from someone who doesn’t throw it about flippantly that made me understand the fullness of what she was trying to say to me. She could have used a prettier word. Something more polite. But it wouldn’t have been the right word. It wouldn’t have been true.

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In my childhood and young adulthood I looked down on curse words and those who used them – as if this handful of words was inherently so much worse than all the other hateful and ugly things I could say with the right combination of non-swear words. Growing up, I got in trouble for saying “sucks” or even (occasionally) “that stinks!” In those situations, my parents always claimed that the problem had more to do with my attitude than with the specific words. While I think it’s a little over the top to punish a kid for saying, “that stinks!” I have to say, I agree with the sentiment. At its core, I think profanity is about what’s in our hearts more than it is the specific combination of syllables we’ve uttered. Profanity is a verbal overflow of the unkind, ungracious, and unloving corners of our hearts.

To me, profanity is any time I use my words to hurt or demean others. It is any time I am careless or dismissive in what I say – whether that’s using a curse word flippantly as a filler in my conversation because I can’t think of better adjectives, or swearing out of frustration when I miss the green light. But I believe it can also be profanity to use a trite Christian platitude to dismiss a question I am too selfish or lazy to think about. Sometimes profanity is calling someone an insulting name or using a word like “fuck” to devalue something as beautiful and holy as sex. And sometimes, it is saying, “I’ll pray for you,” when we have no intention of doing so. Sometimes it’s telling someone, “God works all things together for good,” instead of sitting beside them and stretching your heart to help them hold their pain.

There’s a sort of trend among the new hipster evangelicals to embrace this new sort of “cool” Christianity that says it’s ok to like craft beer and make your own whiskey, to have tattoos and smoke pipes and swear. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. It’s that person who thinks that being a Christian who swears is such a notable attribute, they make sure they include it in the “about” section of their DIY blog. Even though I like some of these things too (tattoos and DIY projects for example), I want to make it clear that I am not writing this to become a member of the “Christians Who Curse” club where we congratulate ourselves on how we have rejected the legalism of our parent’s generation by fully embracing all we once stood against. This is not about championing the things we used to avoid but now embrace. It is about asking the right questions.

As a reader (and a writer) I believe that words have power. It is important to me to find and use the right word for a feeling, an image, a situation. And sometimes the right word isn’t a word you’d hear in Sunday school or from a pulpit. It might sound like I’m advocating cursing or encouraging people to do more of it, but really, that’s kind of the opposite of what I’m saying. I’m saying that if we see our words as precious and powerful, we will understand that the very power of these words is in restraint. Because when we reserve our strongest words to express some of our strongest, most complex feelings, in some small way we are redeeming them.

There’s a reason that “curse” words are curse words. It’s because they express something deeply wrong in the world, in our situation, in our relationships. They express brokenness, irreverence and contempt for something sacred. And sometimes, in our moments of greatest pain, of greatest need, of greatest confusion, I believe they can be the right words to express the depth of the wrongness of what we are experiencing.

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There is a family I know whose 3-year-old son was diagnosed with a rare, life-threatening disease for which there is no cure. By all accounts, this family has handled the situation with astonishing grace and have become beacons of hope in their community. But I don’t think that grace diminishes the pain, the fear, the anger, and the questions they must also feel. And every time I see a Facebook update where they beg prayers because their son is in the hospital again – because he isn’t responding to his medication and their final resort will be a lung transplant (and how do we pray for a pair of 3-year-old lungs to become available?), because they’ve had to take their older children out of school because their son’s immune system is too fragile to handle to threat of the other kids bringing home germs – when I see these real, honest, big and terrible needs, I can’t help but feel angry at the responses. “I know your miracle is just around the corner! God works all things together for good! I’m believing that God has promised him a long life!”

This isn’t my story, and these words might be tremendously encouraging to that family (I hope that they are). But if that was me, those kinds of responses would make me sick (in fact, they do make me sick). If that was me, I would be screaming, “Bullshit! You dont know that my miracle is around the corner. How could you possibly know that?!” I would want to say, “Yes, God is still good, yes, God works all things together for good, but all things are not good right now. Right now things are broken and wrong and I need you to meet me in that now, not tell me that I should be looking past it.” I would say, “God never promised any of us a long life. You can’t just believe something because you want it to be true!”

People don’t say these things to be cruel. Oftentimes I think they say them because they simply don’t know what to say. But that doesn’t make those words any less hurtful. I’m not the one in this situation, but if it was me, I think I’d rather have someone hear my desperation, hear that nearly unbearable pain, and instead of being frightened by my pain and by my need and trying to put a band-aid on it with a little, “Everything’s going to be ok,” simply sit across from me and look me in the eye and say, “That’s shit. I am so sorry.”

A Sobering Moment: What Do We Do in the Face of Real Grief?

Those of you who are Wheaton friends are already aware of the sudden loss of 2011 alumnus Josiah Bubna on Saturday. For my non-Wheaton friends, Josiah was a year behind Jonathan and I at Wheaton, a big, strong guy who had grown up as a missionary kid in Africa and played on Wheaton’s football team.*

I am sure that some of you reading knew Josiah better than I did, and I won’t try to claim that this loss is greater for me than for any of you, but Josiah’s death has touched me in a profound way. While we in the Wheaton community have suffered several tragic and difficult losses in the last few years, this has been the one that has hit closest to home for me.

I worked with Josiah in the nursery at Blanchard Alliance Church. He was this huge, strong man with such a gentle heart. I can vividly picture the way he looked with a toddler up on his shoulders. His parents are missionaries supported by Blanchard Alliance and we often spoke of them and prayed for them in services. Josiah also often hung out in the office for the Wheaton Record where I was an editor. While we didn’t have the same group of close friends and didn’t hang out outside of our mutual activities, he was a familiar face to me and he was almost always smiling.

Beyond the grief I feel over the loss of someone I knew and the collective grief of our community, I have been overwhelmed by compassion for his fiancée. How do you go from planning your wedding and your future with someone one day to planning their funeral the next? I know that God is mighty to heal even this depth of hurt, but if I were her I don’t think my first reaction would be to turn to Him. If God had taken my fiancé or my husband now, I can’t honestly promise that I would respond with grace. I have been praying that God would give her a supernatural peace and surround her with people who can support her.

Jonathan wrote an article for Relevant magazine’s website recently that discussed the complexity of the problem of evil and how impossible- and even inappropriate- it is to give a simple answer to the question of why evil exists, or why bad things happen. It’s situations like these that really make you ask those questions. And it’s situations like these that leave you without answers other than  to accept the truth that Christ on the cross means that God is good, even – impossibly – in this.This has been sobering for me. It is an all-too concrete reminder of how little control we have over our lives and how none of us are promised a long one. Josiah was 22, but he did more with those years than many people do with 80. He played college football, got his degree, made many friends, helped in the nursery, moved to Japan to work with Samaritan’s Purse, fell in love, asked a beautiful woman to marry him and she said yes. He was a wonderful son and grandson and brother and friend. And even having lived so fully, it feels so wrong that he should just be gone. That a man who had that much to give should be taken. Beyond the sadness that I feel for his family and friends there is the grief of the wrongness of the whole situation and the deep conviction that things like this just shouldn’t happen.

I think it’s only right that we should feel this way. And I think that Jesus, too, felt this way. I am reminded of the famous story of Jesus weeping at Lazarus’ tomb. We use this story to point to Jesus’ compassion and his love for Lazarus and his sisters. But I think this is also instructive for us. I think that we forget sometimes that Jesus already knew the outcome of this situation. And not just on a grand universal scale. He not only knew that death would ultimately be defeated and that there would eventually be eternal glory. He also knew that in literally 5 minutes he was going raise Lazarus from the dead. So how could he get so worked up over this guy being dead? I think it’s this exact feeling we have when things like Josiah’s death occur. We are wracked with grief because the world is not as it should be. Our hearts are torn because, even though we have the hope of eternity, in the present things are broken. I think Jesus shows us by example that it is appropriate, even correct, to grieve for the brokenness of the present even as we hold the hope of the future. What is more horrific  in the present than the stark contrast of the way the world is now against the glorious way it was meant to be and will be in the future?

For me, this has also caused a lot of personal reflection about how I spend my time and what I am doing with my life. I have a lot of dreams. A lot of things I want to see and do in my life. When I express frustration with my job being something I don’t care about or with my present inability to pursue some of the things I want to, people often say to me, “But you’re only 24. You have your whole life to be able to do those things. Just because you can’t do them now doesn’t mean you’ll never do them. The things you don’t like about now are just a season. You won’t be in this same place forever.” I’ve always tried to see things that way. Not to live dissatisfied with where I am and always be looking for the next thing. But Josiah’s sudden death screams at me the opposite reality. That there is no guarantee. Perhaps today will be the end of my “entire life.” Perhaps today is all that I have. How can I know that this isn’t, in fact, my final season.

I don’t think the answer to this is fear, and I am trying not to respond in that way. But I do feel deeply convicted that I want to spend as many days as I can doing things that matter to me and that matter in eternity. I can’t spend any more time doing things that aren’t life-giving. I’ve been in my current job for almost a year. That’s over 2,000 hours I’ve spent doing something that holds little value or joy for me. I don’t want to spend my next 2,000 hours this way. Whether that means finding a job that’s more fulfilling in itself or simply finding a job that will give me more time and energy to invest in the things and the people I do care about.

I would ask all of you to sincerely join me in praying for Josiah’s family and especially his fiancée. I would also challenge you to consider, as I am, the reality of how fragile and fleeting our lives are and the importance of how we spend them. Josiah knew Christ and he loved and served people. It was apparent, even to those of us who didn’t know him that well. I want to live that kind of life, every day, for as many days as I am given.

One day I hope I can truly look at this, and things like this and say, “O Grave, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” But today I am still feeling Death’s sting.

                                                                                                                                                                                                               

*I know for me, it’s painful to have to go through the details of what happened over and over much less write them down myself, so I’m just going to paste the official email from Wheaton here for anyone who doesn’t know the details.

It is with deep sorrow that we report to the Wheaton College community the sudden and unexpected death of Josiah Bubna, class of 2011, who died Saturday afternoon (July 7).

While exercising at the Wheaton College track, Josiah sat down to rest and then collapsed. He had been running with his fiancée, Rebekah Falcone. CPR was administered immediately at the scene before the arrival of paramedics. Josiah was transported by ambulance to Central DuPage Hospital where it was determined that he had not survived.

Josiah and Rebekah were in the midst of planning their wedding set for August 11. They had met a year ago in Japan where they were both serving with Samaritan’s Purse.

Josiah’s parents, Joel and Elin Bubna, and his sisters, Angele (age 15) and Nadia (age 13) were all in Wheaton preparing for the wedding. The Bubnas are a missionary family ministering in Senegal, Africa. Rebekah is from New York state.

Pastoral care for the Bubna family is being provided by the staff of the Blanchard Alliance Church. Visitation will be held on Wednesday, July 11, from 5—8 p.m. at Hultgren Funeral Home, 304 N. Main Street, Wheaton, IL. A memorial service will be held on Thursday, July 12, at 12 p.m. at the Blanchard Alliance Church at 1766 S. Blanchard Street, Wheaton, IL.

A complete obituary can be found at the Hultgren website.

Please uphold the Bubna family and Josiah’s fiancée, Rebekah, in your prayers in these very difficult days.

Face Your Fears

My sophomore year in college I lived in a suite with three other girls. The rooms were set up as two bedrooms with an adjoining bathroom, but it was fairly common to “super-suite” the rooms so that all of the beds were in one room and the other room housed desks and a couch or some type of living area. We had done this to our rooms, but had the beds set up in a unique configuration that was the envy of the whole dorm. In all fairness, I can’t take any credit for it. Two of my roommates (Julia and Christina) had arrived a day or so ahead of me and Taylor and had managed to assemble a masterpiece of bunk beds, desks, and dressers. Three of the beds were triple bunked, but the middle bunk, rather than being directly between the top and bottom bunks, was lofted perpendicularly with one end supported by the top and bottom bunk and the other end propped on top of a dresser. The fourth bunk was lofted high on top of two desks with bookshelves so that it was even with the top bunk of the triple-decker and left room for two people to sit back to back at their desks underneath. Those two highest beds were so high up that after crawling into them, there was only 12-18” between you and the ceiling. To this day I cannot figure out how those girls did it without any help.

From Left: Julia, Taylor, Christina, Me. Because it's cool to take pictures like this at 19 and think they're cute

Being very accident prone and generally afraid of heights along with my propensity to get up and pee at least 2-3 times on an average night, I happily slept on the very bottom bunk all four years of college. Except for one fateful night. I had been at the library with my then boyfriend (now husband) until it closed at midnight. As I stood outside my door, digging through my bag for my key card a note on the outside of the door caught my eye. “Face your fears,” it read in Christina’s distinctive handwriting. Having no idea what this meant, I laughed a little. Big mistake. I went in and stumbled around in the dark getting ready for bed. I had pretty much forgotten about the sign until I made it over to my bed. Just as I was about to collapse into it I realized…there was someone in my bed. Christina. I tried to move her, but was unsuccessful. I shrugged to myself and climbed up a level to Taylor’s bed. There was someone in Taylor’s bed. It was Julia. I did not consider moving Julia because it had now become completely clear to me what was going on. “Face your fears.” This was what it meant. Shaking, I climbed up a level to Christina’s bed. And there was Taylor, sound asleep. Which left Julia’s bed, vaulted to the ceiling and still missing the extra long ladder we had ordered for it. I knew I had a choice. I could have turned on the lights and yelled. I could have pushed Christina over far enough to wedge myself next to her in my own bed. I could have slept on the slightly skuzzy couch in the next room. But this was my moment. Life had handed me an opportunity and I was going to seize it. I was born for such a time as this. So, I crawled over the sleeping Taylor into Julia’s bed in the stratosphere and wedged myself between the wall and my mattress, using my (thoughtfully provided) pillow as a barrier, should I begin to roll in my sleep. The morning came as mornings do and I woke up, stiff, but victorious.

There is a point to this story (I think.) I was reminded of it because in some ways I think God has been asking me to face some fears in the last few weeks. Fears about where we’ll end up, if we’ll have good jobs, if we’ll have enough money, if we’ll be happy. Even fears about God himself and whether or not he really is good, true, and faithful. Whether or not he really has a plan. Sometimes when you are confronted with a particular fear, you realize that it really isn’t as frightening as you thought it was (i.e. me and the really high bed.) And sometimes, you realize it’s every bit as frightening as you thought it was. But that doesn’t change the fact that deep down at a core level there are things that can never be taken from you. If the worst thing that you can imagine actually happened, then what? S

ee, a lot of my fears stem from the one big fear that I will not be allowed to have good things or that the good things I have will be taken from me. And it occurred to me as my husband and I walked through this decision about moving and jobs that I am trying so hard to hold on to my good things that I don’t even recognize that I already have the best thing. I have the love of a God who poured out his life for me, regardless of whether I am in a moment of belief or of doubt. Because even if I lost all of these things I so desperately fear being separated from—my husband (not that he’s a thing:) ), my home, my family, my friends, a career, living a place I love, dreams for the future—this I could never be separated from. Nothing can separate me from the love of God. Not even me.

We have decided to stick with our original plan and move to Raleigh. Although the other opportunity offered a lot more security, we ultimately didn’t feel a strong sense of God’s calling towards it. We are scheduled to move right after the Fourth of July, but the rest is largely unknown. Thanks to all who have listened and loved and prayed. You are all evidence that when God asks us to face our fears, he doesn’t ask us to do it alone.