dreams

Just Around the River Bend: Nobody gets me like Pocahontas does

The past few months have been filled to the brim with activity. Trips and adventures, anticipation and hard goodbyes. Since my last post I have been to my sister’s high school graduation in Louisiana, to my best friend’s graduation from her Master’s program (see the picture – Master Christina), on a weekend getaway to Washington DC, on an anniversary cruise to the Bahamas, to visit sweet friends Thai and Lanise in Wilmington, had our dear friends Brandon and Christy visit us and went to a Durham Bulls game, and had a crazy girl’s weekend in Chicago/Wisconsin with my roomies. We found a wonderful girl to keep our sweet kitties while we are gone, sold both of our cars, and moved out of our beloved apartment in Raleigh. We said goodbye to a place we love and many of our closest friends, and drove 17 hours down to my parents’ house in Louisiana to store all of our furniture and visit my family and grandparents (aren’t they the cutest?) From there we spent a few days in Orange Beach, AL on vacation with Jonathan’s family (which included the sailboat cruise pictured below  – most terrifying thing I’ve ever done) before making the 14 hour drive back up to their home in Cincinnati where we have spent the last week trying to fit our entire lives into four 50-lb suitcases.Durham Bulls Game Washington DC Bahamas Landscape Bahamas Christina the Master Grandparents sailboat

Girls WeekendI have cried more times than I can count, but I am still incredibly excited about the adventure ahead of us. While it has been harder than I imagined saying goodbye to family, friends, pets, and a city I have come to think of as home, the prospect of all we will learn and see and experience in Korea and wherever else we may make it to on the way has given me hope and excitement about the future. The world feels full of possibilities and even the most ordinary things seem beautiful.

A few months ago I was watching Pocahontas on Netflix (hurray Netflix for getting that contract with Disney, but boo for not being available in South Korea) and as I was singing aloud at the top of my lungs to “Just Around the River Bend” (what…you mean you don’t do that every time you watch a Disney movie? What…you mean you don’t just watch Disney movies by yourself?) I was really overwhelmed by the lyrics. Pocahontas is trying to decide whether to do what is expected and traditional by marrying Kocoum or keep chasing her dreams.

You have to admit, Pocahontas is pretty bad-butt.

You have to admit, Pocahontas is pretty bad-butt.

“Should I choose the smoothest course
Steady as the beating drum?
Should I marry Kocoum?
Is all my dreaming at an end?
Or do you still wait for me, Dream Giver
Just around the river bend?”

And I wept. (What, you mean you don’t weep openly while singing along to Disney songs in Disney movies that you are watching by yourself?) Because I knew exactly what Pocahontas was asking…well, not the marrying Kocoum part, but the rest. Should I choose the smoothest course (stay put, settle down, find a desk job, start a family)? Is all my dreaming at an end? Or do you still wait for me, Dream Giver? I thought, “Pocahontas really gets it.” She gets what it is like to feel deep down that there is something else out there for her, even though everyone else is content to stay where they are and do what is expected. Pocahontas understands what it means to follow the Dream Giver (even though her Dream Giver was probably some sort of weird-looking cloud spirit, judging from the controversial Mother Willow).

“Just Around the River Bend,” has become an anthem for me over these last few months. In the harder moments as well as in the exciting times I have been spurred on thinking about what I might find beyond this particular river bend. I think the Dream Giver is still waiting for me there.

Jonathan and I have set up a new blog to chronicle our Korean adventure together: Two Sore Thumbs…Because two redheads living in Korea stick out like sore thumbs. We would love for you to follow us there so we can continue to share life with you, even from the other side of the world.  Such Small Hands will stay up and may still be used occasionally for non-Korea related posts, but most of our adventures will be posted to Two Sore Thumbs. Hope you check us out!

The Wrong Person: Sometimes the Source of All my Problems is Me

Fall in North Carolina is glorious. For nearly three months if I sat up tall in my chair and looked through the pane of glass that makes up one wall of my cube, and through the open door of the executive’s office across from me and out through his window, I could see the rolling ribbons of saffron and rust and candy apple red trees running over the hills below us. And then, suddenly, in what felt like one afternoon, all of those precious jewels of leaves gave up and fell, leaving behind skeleton trees with their lonely, brittle branches.

This past weekend I celebrated my 24th birthday. Or rather, I observed it. It didn’t feel like much of a celebration. This was the first birthday I haven’t looked forward to. The first one I’ve secretly wished wouldn’t come. I know that in the grand scheme of things I am still very young, but to me, this birthday, this day when I pause to note the passage of time, to acknowledge the days of my life slipping away, I felt disappointed and somewhat afraid. Disappointed that life isn’t what I hoped it would be. Afraid that it never will be.

I live a small life. A life I could step out of at any moment leaving very little behind me. It often feels like a life lived on a stationary bike where I peddle myself into a sweaty exhaustion without having actually gone anywhere. If my 18-year-old self saw me now, she would think I was a complete loser.

Several months ago, my mom sent me this book:

When I first started reading it, I found it so difficult to digest I had to put it down for several weeks. This book is written by a woman whose words speak to my brokenness and to my discontentment and offer another way. I see the beauty of her ideas, and the transformation God brought about in her life. She speaks about being thankful, something I blogged about myself in my last post several months ago. And yet, I often hate this woman. If I were to write her a letter, it would probably look something like this:

Dear Ann Voskamp, you write about seizing the gifts of everyday life in spite of the monotony with such beauty and power. And you have had your share of hardships, so I appreciate your struggle. But you live on a farm with the wonderful sweet earth under your feet and you cook your meals out of food your family has grown themselves. You have the miracle of six beautiful children you spend your days raising and teaching and loving. And yet you’ve managed to maintain your career as a writer. You have an incredibly successful book and a blog that thousands of people read and you do pieces for several major publishers. You also advocate for Compassion International which means you both help the poor and get to travel to amazingly beautiful exotic locations to do so. Dear Ann Voskamp, you live the literal exact life I dream for myself on a daily basis. This is the life you chose. What do you really have to be so discontent with?!

Perhaps, somehow, as incomprehensible as it is to me, this isn’t the life Ann dreamed of. Or perhaps her message speaks more to the ways we in our sinfulness make ourselves miserable no matter how ideal our situation is. The ways in which, truthfully, even when we have everything we could ever wish for, we can still dare to be discontented.

I love North Carolina. I love the beauty of our surroundings. I love our colorful little apartment. I love our church and the friends we have made. I feel so good about this place we are in. I don’t think this is the wrong place. I think perhaps I am the wrong person.

Many of my blogs have to do with being discontent, with searching for contentment and recognizing that I must learn to be content where I am and to see the gifts God has for me each day, but right now that doesn’t seem like it will ever be enough.  Because honestly, I want to be joyful where I am, but I don’t really want to be content where I am. Because I don’t want to stay here. And I’m afraid I will grow content in being purposeless. I don’t want to embrace a directionless life. I don’t want to turn 25 in a year still working a soulless job because I need the money, unable to get out of the rut.

I know the things that I love: words, reading and writing them, making people feel good about themselves, baking delicious things and giving them to people and that moment when they take a first bite and smile. Going to new countries and experiencing new cultures. Cuddling babies and the imaginations of small children.  Making my home lovely, and sharing it with my sweet husband.

These are all of the things I dream of, and to me, they don’t seem like such outrageous things to want. And yet, just this weekend my computer got a virus and died forever and one of the cars broke and needed hundreds of dollars of repairs. And these things feel like something heavy is pressing down on me, making it difficult for my lungs to take in enough precious oxygen, let alone give life to dreams. So I push the dreams aside. I become responsible. I do the things that must be done to make ends meet. And I wait and I pray that one day I will become the right person. Because until then, I think I will always be discontent, even if I suddenly got everything I ever wanted.

Living Fully and Fully Living: Sorry, This is Not a How-to Guide

This past weekend was a difficult one in some ways. We were playing catch-up with laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping, so the activities themselves were not the most fun. But on top of that, this weekend was one of those times when Jonathan and I just didn’t click the way we usually do and we had conversations that were painful and difficult and exhausting.

I admit that there are moments when I wonder what I would be doing right now if Jonathan and I hadn’t gotten married. If my life wasn’t so intertwined with someone else’s that my decisions are no longer my own. These are not moments of regret for the choice I made or wish I wasn’t married, they are just moments when I marvel at how a small choice here or there leads to a life-changing one like getting married and how the life-changing ones shape who you are and who you become. When I’ve considered it, I’ve always assumed that if Jonathan and I hadn’t gotten married, if he hadn’t been in the picture, I would have ended up in Africa or England or Indonesia—somewhere distant and new and full of new experiences.

But on weekends like this past one, I am reminded of why the path I am on is right. Why God has asked me to walk this one instead of the one where I walk alone under a scorching African sun. It is in the moments that Jonathan lets me see his brokenness, in the moments that he looks and fully sees the harsh reality of my own, in the moments when we together are forced to confront the brokenness of us, our marriage, our hearts, our lives, that I know I couldn’t do without him. It is this brokenness that reminds us of our need, for each other and most of all, for Christ.  I am not saying that single people cannot do great things on their own or that God’s plan for everyone is to get married. I am saying that God has chosen to shape me and mold me and lavish his grace on me through this man. And he has (wonder of wonders) chosen to shape and to mold and to lavish grace on this man through me. So as much some days I sit in my cube and wish I was somewhere far away holding orphans or writing novels or watching the ocean swallowing up the shore, I know that I could never do these things without Jonathan. Whatever God’s great plan is for me, it is intimately connected to God’s plan for Jonathan. And that is a beautiful thing.

I’ve been thinking a lot since my last post about what it means to live with the tension between the realities of everyday life and the dreams that crowd my mind and heart. How do I live a full life with all of the experiences I want to have and also fully live where I am right now? Jonathan suggested to me that perhaps it’s unhealthy for me to lay awake at night, craving adventures. I’ve thought this over and I have to say, I disagree. In a world oppressed by apathy, I think it’s a tremendous gift to want something so incredibly much. I think these desires are something God has placed in me. But I do understand what Jonathan is trying to tell me. That it isn’t right to focus so much on my dreams that I am miserable with the present. That when I am so intent on where I want to be, I miss where God has placed me right now. And he’s right. (Sigh.)

Striking a balance between being content with and fully present where I am and still holding onto and pursuing the dreams God has placed in my heart seems like an impossible battle some days. Some days it doesn’t even feel like something I want to do. What I want is for God to go ahead and give me the desires of my heart RIGHT NOW! But since God’s not on my timetable, I know that I still need both of those things. I confess that I am a woman of extremes and I don’t know how to do balance. But how better to learn balance than from the Center of the universe (or multiverse, whichever you prefer.) The one who impossibly manages to oversee the constant expansion project of the cosmos and at the same time notices the three hairs that fell from my head in the shower this morning.

There are two ways that I am actively pursuing this balance in my life. One is by setting achievable goals for myself here and now. Things I can work towards that will ground me in the present. That will help my day-to-day life look more like a journey with a destination than a run on the treadmill. I have set goals, small goals, for loving my co-workers. For developing relationships with our neighbors. For getting involved in our new church. For taking a step of faith and applying to grad school. Even for training to run the Disney Princess half-marathon in February.  Because taking small steps towards a goal reminds me to live life on purpose and that I can do that even when I’m not in a position to pursue my long-term goals.

The other way I am pursuing balance is by asking God to help me recognize the gifts that saturate each day.  By opening my eyes to the miracles of sunshine in the morning, the fresh air filling my lungs with each inhalation, the job that pays me enough that I never have to worry about being hungry. And also for the gifts that are unique to each day: the gift of my husband making coffee this morning, the gift of the smell of damp earth this morning after a violent storm last night, the gift of an email from my youngest sister, just wanting to share life with me.

For all of you reading this, I would love to hear about your gifts in this day. I would love to be thankful with you for the tiny ways God whispers love and purpose and approval over you.