I look at this picture and remember living on First Berg, my hall, for four years in a row.
I look at this picture and remember moving in my freshmen year and the excitement and energy I felt that day.
I look at this picture and remember the short years that allowed me to make lifelong friends with many of these men.
I look at this picture and remember the challenges of living with a bunch of bros, and wonder if some of them ever figured out how to take a shower regularly.
I look at this picture and regret things I would have done differently.
I look at this picture and think of things I would never change no matter what.
I look at this picture and remember being an RA for two years here and investing in the lives of these guys.
I look at this picture and think how I'm glad I grew up since then.
I look at this picture and think of how I made so many mistakes and how God met me with more grace than I ever needed.
I look at this picture and wish I could go back to those days and have a late night talk with Steve and Jordan one more time.
I look at this picture and wonder what happened to many of these guys and wish that I had been more intentional with my time with them.
I look at this picture when I tell my RA staff what "community" is about because I experienced it and lived it and know deep in my bones that this is a picture of what the Kingdom of God will be and is and has been.
I look at this picture and think how God used these men to shape my life in ways that I probably won't fully grasp until I'm old in years and have clearer eyes.
I look at this picture and pray that every college student experiences the richness of a community like this.
I look at this picture and am thankful to know that community is more than a trendy word, but is a reality.
I finished reading Berry's "Jayber Crow" a couple weeks ago, and still find myself ruminating on the beauty of this novel. Out of respect for Berry's notice of prosecution or banishment to a desert island full of other critics at the beginning of the novel, I will refrain from dissecting the meaning of this work or analyzing it. Instead, I want to share a bit of how this novel impacted my heart and some of my favorite passages.
This is the kind of book that makes you want to give up your job, your career, everything, and go to a small town that you haven't heard of before, buy a small house, and listen to the sound of the wind as it passes through the tall grass. It is the kind of book that reminds you that there is more to this world than can be explained or that can be understood. Wendell's words force us out of our busyness, out of the Economy, out of our perceived reality and ask us to look at the world with fresh, clear eyes to see the beauty and love in the world.
I honestly cannot do this novel justice when describing how it has impacted me, which is what I'm assuming Wendell would rather have me experience. Wendell's book has reminded me that I am human, and that is a very good and hard thing. And that I am capable of having such deep and meaningful relationships that require grace and mercy as much as I do. And that my faith is what makes me have more meaning and value than anything else in this temporal world. And what I do with that faith means more than how many accomplishments I attain, how many friends I have, or how much money I have. And with that, I leave you with one final thought from Wendell himself:
"This is a book about Heaven. I know it now. It floats among us like a cloud and is the realest thing we know and the least to be captured, the least to be possessed by anybody for himself. It is like a grain of mustard seed, which you cannot see among the crumbs of earth where it lies. It is like the reflection of the trees on the water."
I do, however, want to spend some time talking about some significant events of this semester. Earlier this year, we had a student pass away, and the repercussions of this event have been far reaching and deeply impacting. It has been a difficult time for students, staff, and faculty here at JBU and something we have struggled with together and we try to process and make sense of recent events. The Res Life staff has been on survival mode for the last month+, and Spring Break came as a welcome reprieve. While it wasn't a "fix-all" cure, it was a much-needed Band-Aid, though it feels like the kind of Band-Aid you put on your finger that comes off with every flex of your hand.
The reason I found it necessary to blog about this is all thanks to one of my favorite authors, Frederick Buechner, and his book, "Telling Secrets". In this short, little gem of a book, Buechner describes the importance of story and memory. His thesis: our stories make us most human, and when we are in touch with those stories, we are most in touch with God. He goes on to say,
"The God of biblical faith is the God who meets us at those moments in which for better or worse we are being most human, most ourselves, and if we lose touch with those moments, if we don't stop from time to time to notice what is happening to us and around us and inside us, we run the tragic risk of losing touch with God too."This semester has brought up stories that I have not dealt with yet. Next month marks the anniversary of a student that I took on the first mission trip I led. Josh's death last year significantly changed campus and has impacted my life in many ways. While I was not as close to Josh as many others were, his passing has still impacted me deeply. This semester's events have made it clear that I still have work to do in processing both this year and last.
I believe writing has power, and one aspect of that power is the cathartic ability for God to intervene in my world, in my past, in my present, and to begin to heal these hurts in my life. I write this not to gain sympathy, but to encourage you to think about the stories in your life that you need to tell. What stories have you forgotten that you need to bring to the surface? What stories need to be remembered, to be brought into the light? Because, at their heart, our stories are what make us most human.
For those of you who don't know, I just finished my second and final year of graduate school here at Taylor University. It has been excellent to enjoy sitting on our front porch and reading books or playing games. I am perfectly fine feeling bored for a change now that homework doesn't fill up our evenings together. I am really excited about the things ahead, especially my first "real" job. Starting this fall, I will be a resident director at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, AR (which, for posterity's sake, I feel that I should say stands for Arkansas. Yes, we are probably the first people you know who are moving to that state). But seriously, I am beyond thrilled about my upcoming job, and Maria and I are quite excited about our adventures.
I could go into how sad I am about leaving this place or about how hard it is to think about saying "see you soon" to so many good friends; however, I'm here in Upland for the next few weeks until we move, so I'm going to put that on hold. I do want my blog to be more thoughtful, but I can't dive back in so quickly. Thanks for your patience.
Instead, I'm going to share how excited I am about reading books again. Here are the books on my bedside table for the summer (I love making lists):
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
- Creators by Paul Johnson
- The Sacredness of Questioning Everything by David Dark
- Here and Now by Henri Nouwen
- Speaking of Jesus by Carl Medearis
- Maria and I are engaged. It's been incredible. Here are some of our engagement pictures taken by my future sister-in-law!
- I just started on my thesis that will consume the rest of my MAHE career.
- ManChurch, our annual Men's Ministry event, went incredibly well and I was super proud.
- I traveled to Dearborn, MI, with a team of 13 others for Spring Break to minister to the Muslim population there. It was an incredible learning experience.
- Light drives out all darkness.
- I really like Sufjan Stevens now. I know, it took me awhile.
- Some music I'm listening to: Matthew and the Atlas, Laura Marling, The Head and the Heart, William Fitzsimmons, and The National.
- "If you don't feel passionate, be faithful." - Tim Herrmann
- The Civil Wars are great live. Maria and I stole away for a concert down in Cincinnati last week and it was incredible. Here's a taste and my new favorite song by them.
As Maria traveled halfway around the world to Jordan and Israel on January 8th, 2011, she opened a letter Andrew had given to her before he left for Philadelphia a few days earlier. Inside was the beginning of what would be twenty other letters, each with a special message. Each letter was a mark on the timeline of their relationship, reaching back to when they first met, their first date, the first time Andrew said "I love you". Andrew, very pleased by his work, called this their "Timeline of Love". Each day while they were apart, Maria opened a new letter to find a new mark on the timeline all thanks to Dr. Kevin Diller who so cleverly delivered Andrew's letters while in Jordan, and to Scott and Jenny who delivered them upon her return.
Maria, expecting Andrew to arrive back in Indiana later in January, was anxious to get back to Taylor and tie a yellow ribbon around a tree while she waited for Andrew to get home. Unbeknownst to Maria, Andrew booked his flight a few days earlier than he had originally told her to surprise her. Originally planning on flying back on the 26th, Andrew was waylaid due to an intense snowstorm that nailed Philly. Thanks to Travis Yoder and some quick planning and lots of prayers, Andrew was able to fly back on the 27th.
Maria arrived back to Taylor on the evening of the 27th. Her parents and sister took Maria out to dinner at Cracker Barrel and Scott continued to order catfish while stalling for Andrew to get back. In the meantime, Andrew and his parents were frantically making their way up I-69 to reach Taylor. They went to the Upland Bridge, a special place for the couple, and set up several tea lights in the lightly falling snow.
On their way back from dinner, Maria's family dropped her off by the bridge and told her someone was waiting for her. As she exited the car, she saw Andrew standing on top of the bridge. The two embraced for the first time in a long time, thrilled to see each other again. Andrew gave Maria the last of her letters, including one more to make up for the day he had missed due to the snowstorm. After reading a section from "The Little Prince" and some Scripture, Andrew got down on one knee.
She said yes.