Monday, December 1, 2008


A few days ago I was lying on my back on the grass staring up at the sky. I could feel the edges of the rough grass blades pricking my exposed skin, threatening to poke through the cloth layered on my body, but it didn’t matter. These minor annoyances were pushed away as I lost myself in the clear blue abyss of the heavens. The words that came to mind were “wide open expanses.” There was hardly a cloud – the few noticeable white streaks only accentuated the vivid blue. When I stared straight up and relaxed my body, I could feel myself being drawn into a different world. The blue became a magnet – pulling me – forcing everything else to fade into the background – as though it was all about to become non-existent. I refocused and let my eyes roam momentarily over the contours of the blue dome. Looking back at the center, I though how endless this still ocean of color seemed. I could almost imagine there was no horizon – that the curves rushed on – forming a perfect sphere – encompassing me. I wondered what it would be like to be floating in a ball of sky. Would I feel frightened by the lack of something solid or would I feel free? Would I breathe in the fragrance of hope and tirelessly swim through the sapphire stretches or would my heart constrict in desperation, longing to stand still and plunge my toes into cold, moist earth?

Perhaps these are childish fantasies – the musings of one whose weary eyes were fighting sleep. Maybe, like Alice, I was on the verge of falling over a precipice after some white creature into a beckoning dream world. Or maybe I simply found myself longing to cast off the cares of this world and catapult into another. Maybe, as the dredges of responsibility and worry clung to me, I couldn’t help but desire the glory of that which is yet unseen. Maybe, the “wide open expanse” that drapes this world was as close as I could come at the moment.

Deserving of ridicule? Perhaps.
Stirring up hope in one tired of reality? Definitely.

Try it sometime. But maybe you’d prefer a blanket.
The cords slowly constrict
Around my body
As I gasp for air –
My lungs burn
I struggle to break free
But the bonds tighten.
There is no escape

I release myself to
Rivets of pain
Longing, yearning
To be free
What is the world like?
I claw at my memory
But grasp nothing
All I see is the small, dark room –
My world now
Quietly, slowly
Words brush my soul:
There is no escape

I let it consume me
And fall back into oblivion
My pleading shrieks swim
Into nothingness
Echoing, pulsating
Fading into the silence
There is no escape

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ramifications of the Reformation

When I think of the impact of the Reformation, I usually think about the split from the Catholic church, the doctrine of salvation through faith alone, or the change in ideas of vocation. I don’t think I would ever have pictured it causing a small college in Southern California to take a week of the month of October and label it “Reformation Awareness Week.” But that is exactly what happens at Providence at the end of October, the week before Halloween.

I grew up celebrating Reformation Day when everyone else was celebrating Halloween. While little witches wandered the neighborhood, I sat at home and read the 95 Theses. Or attempted to comprehend 5 of the 95 Theses. You get the point. So, when October rolled around at Providence last year I was pleasantly surprised! It’s a week of learning about the life and work of Martin Luther and the doctrines of the church combined with a bit of fun craziness.

This year, we began again with a night of watching the movie “Martin Luther” while eating some amazing Ollie Bolen (an amazing Dutch food I had never tried before Providence since I am decidedly not Dutch :o) The next night our courtyard was alive with merriment as we sat around tables lit by candlelight, trying to see enough to tell where we were stabbing our pumpkin carving knives (although I’m not sure you could really call them knives…they were more like doll-sized bread saws). Although a lot of people got creative with their pumpkins (we had an Obama face), my roommate and I opted for the traditional triangle eyes and smile and contented ourselves to wander around with our customized caramel apples and admire the handiwork of others.

The next, we had finally reached it – Reformation Day! Booths were set up, balloons and streamers were hung, and costumes were donned as we prepared for the visitation of kids. The night’s activities included a Reformation skit, and choices from a fishing booth, donut eating contest, apple bobbing, cake-walk, and nailing the 95 Theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg (pretty much Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey). It was this last booth I was in charge of for most of the night, and I must say, it’s quite enjoyable to make people dizzy :o) So, the next time you’re wondering if anyone pays any attention to that guy named Martin Luther, wander down to Providence for a few days in October and join us as we remember the vital and long-lasting ramifications of the Reformation.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

These past two weeks have been that wonderfully horrible time of the semester – mid-terms. Since I tend to be fairly dramatic and can quite easily turn a little amount of stress into a lot of stress, mid-terms are something I dread. As I sit here right now in my room wearing a warm sweater and cozy socks I can feel my eyes drooping and I am extremely thankful I have only one test left to take. But more than that, I feel super blessed at this moment in time.

I got a letter in the mail from a friend from back home today. I had just taken woken up from my recover-from-my-history-final nap when I stumbled into the office to find a purple envelope sitting in my mailbox. The stories from my friend’s life and my hometown left me happy, but wishing I could be home. Then this evening, I was lying on the couch in the library reading Ralph Waldo Emerson wishing more than anything I could have a fire, a blanket, and a warm cup of tea. The ache I felt to be home was overwhelming. So finally, I wandered back to my hall and as I walked down my hallway I noticed my RD’s door was open and a peek in the doorway revealed Jen standing in her cozy kitchen wearing an apron and making cookies. I walked in and once again, I just wanted to be home. But I tried to push that feeling away a little bit and started just talking to Jen. After a while, I noticed she had a basket of tea sitting on the counter and I couldn’t help but exclaim over it. Before I knew it, I was sitting down with tea cup in front of me as I dipped a bag of orange tea up and down in the water.

This might seem like a strange story to you, but I just feel like God is so amazing and I couldn’t help but share it. I don’t really know how to explain the comfort I found in that cup of tea. It was like a soothing mixture of warmth, home, and grace swirling gently around and settling peacefully in the ceramic bowl. It reminded me to trust that God has led me to the right place. When I long for the home I can’t be at, God brings a little bit of home to me. A fellow PCCer flashes me a smile, my professor makes me laugh until my sides ache, and my RD offers me a cup of tea. And I find that in the midst of craziness, stress, lack of sleep, and tests, God pours out His mercy in my life – sometimes quite literally.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Regarding Retreats and Reminders

The deep black sky was open above us, threatening to rain thousands of clear, luminescent stars down on our awestruck faces. Meanwhile, half my body was cold, half was warm, I couldn’t straighten my legs out without kicking four people in the shins, and I was lying precariously on the edge of a mattress type thing attempting to keep off of the cold wooden panels. Welcome to star-gazing in Big Bear, PCC style.

The All-School Retreat is on of the (many) things I look forward to at Providence. All 54 students (along with some staff and faculty) load into three monstrous white vans and a couple of cars, and caravan up a mountain for 24 hours of worship, learning, and general craziness (notice I didn’t include sleep in this list).

When we stepped out of our vans, excited to be leaving our schoolwork behind, we were greeted with a flaming pink and orange sunset. It was as though God had painted the sky to remind us that we weren’t there just for ourselves, but for Him. I pray we remember that as we remember the warm gloves, the flashlights waving across the paths, the team posters and face paint, and, of course, the ridiculous banana and water bottle relay races.

I love that our school is able to do things like this – to spend an afternoon clambering over rocks and getting to know each other, but I also love that God doesn’t stop there. I love that we were able to be reminded that as much as we’d like to think it, we are not our own – we’ve been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). This means that each of us is set apart in this world for something different, and, because of this, our school is set apart in this world for something different. This retreat reminded me how important it is to turn myself and my school totally and completely over to the hand of God. For me, this crazy annual retreat was a time not only of rejuvenation, but also of rededication.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Slowly my bare feet padded across the grass. I stopped. My toes curled and my head tilted back, catching slivers of sunshine across my face. The straight, thin trunk rose up before me; the branches spread out in a canopy against the sky, woven together like the pieces of a basket or the threads of cloth. The yellowed leaves that still clung desperately to the ends of the branches dotted the grass beneath with their shadows. It was here I found my place of refuge. This tree promised protection, comfort, and beauty - a place I could weep or dream as the occasion called for it.

We moved away from the house with that tall tree when I was thirteen. As much as I regretted leaving behind the fruit which the tree produced for a few weeks out of every year, I also acutely felt the loss of my hiding place. It was a spot I had run to many times over the years, marching in circles around the trunk as I spit out words of anger or plopping myself down in the shade, pen and paper in hand, slowly scratching out the words of my newest poem. The grass around it was often watered with my tears or plucked up in contemplation.

Not too long ago, my sister and I drove by the house of our childhood. Over the top of the wooden fence one could only see sky and I was struck by how stark and empty it looked – too bright and unwelcoming. I mourned that there were no longer confident branches to spread their shade over the lanky body of a distraught nine year old.

I don’t really know what it is about trees. One day, while at college, I wandered across my campus to a lone tree that stands in the back. I clumsily arranged myself among the roots and then sat there with my back leaning against the rough bark. It seemed to me a place of peace as I felt the wind blow gently across my face and watched the sun as it hovered in the sky about to set and shoot out radiant colors. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was reminded of the days spent beneath a tree as a girl and I decided to come back often. I would come back to the tree which promised to shade me with its twisted branches and uphold me with its strength and deep-seated roots. For when I seek the shelter of a tree, I am encouraged to think of its Creator. I know it is not truly the strength or comfort of a tree that I seek, but the sheltering hand and unwavering faithfulness of my Sovereign Lord and Savior. He gives me physical places to escape to, but will not let me forget that these places are not permanent; I can find no true rest if it is not to Him that I fly. I find my true shelter under the ultimate tree: beneath the cross of Jesus.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Do you remember that old tv show called Reading Rainbow? For those who know me, I guess it should come as no surprise that I used to love that show. I mean seriously. A show about books. I don’t remember a whole lot about the show, but I definitely remember the theme song that would play as the show began each day. It said things like “I can go anywhere!” “I can be anything! Take a look, it’s in a book – Reading Rainbow.” As it played kids were shown to be transformed, transported to a different world – becoming princesses or sailors as they opened a book. I can’t help but find it incredibly ironic that there was actually a tv show that was all about reading. Even as I smile at the irony though, I must admit the thought to be refreshing. We sure don’t have tv like that anymore. But even if we did, I’m not sure it would make any difference. I look around and I see a culture that has lost the pure simple joy of reading.

I don’t know if the love of reading is inherent – often times I find myself thinking I must have come out of the womb longing to see those pages turn – but I’m inclined to believe it’s not. Perhaps some will inherently have a greater love of reading, but generally I think an enjoyment of reading is something that must be cultivated. Some of my favorite memories include listening to my dad read to my sister and I every night before we went to bed. He would come into our bedroom and sit on our bed as our pajama clad bodies snuggled around him waiting to hear his slow and steady voice unfold the next mysteries of the chosen book. How much I appreciate these times now! Now that I am too old to climb into my dad’s lap and beg him for “just one more chapter” and must content myself with dreaming of the day I too will make the words on a page come alive for my chlidren.

For me, books hold so much it’s funny to think about why I love them like I do. Is it our history – the friendless days, the expectant hours, the strict Sundays all spent pouring over the pages of a book – or is it simply the possibilities those pages hold? When I read a book, I read it for one of two reasons – pleasure or knowledge (which should be a pleasure though I do not always easily submit to it). Pleasure can then be divided into two basic categories for me – excitement and beauty. There are those books I read simply because I find them exciting and interesting. They make my mind spin and my heart race as I desperately wonder what will happen next. They are a sort of candy. I gobble them up because I love them but do not often take the time to savor them. Beauty, on the other hand, slows me down a little. I see in the words, the characters, the setting, the story something worth my time. Something captivating. Even when I withdraw from the story, I find my mind full of contemplations, tumbling around, filling me with the desire to discover what lies beyond the black type – what passions flowed through the author’s fingers and filled a once blank page.

I also read in order to gain knowledge and understanding, to enrich and grow this poor instrument I call my mind. Although I prefer novels to be the tools used to accomplish this, as time passes I am more and more urged towards greater discipline. The reading of words which reflect study, wisdom, and prayer is not something that is easy for me. I am forced to read sentences over and over and I grow easily frustrated with my failed attemps to rein my mind in. Still, as a Christian, I am convicted of the fact that I should be be always growing in my knowledge and appreciation of God and His creation and often this growth is more aptly accomplished by reading of the lives and studies of others.

My pastor commented once that without reading there could really be no improvement of the mind. Such a statement scared me. It scared me because I see so many who have no interest in picking up a book – they do not relish the thought of learning nor do they comprehend how such an activity can give them pleasure. It also scared me because, as passionately as I might speak of books, I am easily swept away by the busyness of life and the convienent forms of entertainment available. I recognize this and it dismays me. The improvement of my mind sits on a shelf untouched because I cannot bring myself to value it as I should. All I can do is pray. Pray that I will appreciate the mind God has bestowed me with. Pray that I will have the discipline to apply myself to knowledge. Pray that I will cherish the the study, thoughts, time and efforts of those who have gone before me.

Meanwhile, I meander the aisles of the library, running my hand over the aging bindings and faded words. I envy the pens of eloquence and I bask in the pages which are now forever engraved in history. I choose a book and gently open it. Then I draw it up towards my face and close my eyes as I breathe in the smell of inspiration.

Monday, May 12, 2008

My Sister

In, Out; In, Out
I lie still in my bed as
My sister’s rhythmic breathing
Interrupts the silence of the room

Sheets rustle as she turns
Her lanky eleven year old body seeking comfort
I close my eyes –
Longing for sleep, but memories flash

An obstinate six year old crouched in her bed
Praying for the same thing day after day
Small eyes widened in shock
When the news was revealed
Legs kicking in excitement –
Lying in bed once again
Wishing for an end to the suspense
Arms reaching out, then slowly pulling in
Gently cradling the black-haired infant

Now, the corners of my mouth curl up
A wave of love washes over me
As I thank God for the sister
Who was, so long ago,
An answer to my prayer

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


I’ve never been very good with change. I remember one time when I was younger, coming home from who-knows-where and discovering that the pine tree in our backyard had been chopped down. I could barely breathe for a minute. And then it was anger and hysterics, because my mom obviously had not understood how important that tree was for my climbing habits. For months, I stared at that large stump as it was slowly covered over with grass and I imagined that with the destruction of that tree, a part of my life had been lost forever.

I am so glad I was not an Israelite. As I read of their complaints about the manna something rings familiar. I can just see all that stress building up in me, hardly able to handle the change, so I turn my attention to the small things and gripe about them. It’s always so much easier to complain about change than it is to accept it, to pray about it, to be thankful for it. My gracious, if I had been an apostle… what with Jesus dying, rising from the dead, and ascending into heaven in such a short time I think I might have gone into cardiac arrest.

Going off to college almost killed me. New people, new places, new food. Thank goodness I was able to stay vertical. Coming back home hasn’t been quite as easy as I thought it would be. Somehow I think I was thinking that because I lived here for a couple of years before college it would be a cinch. But, more change. I had to leave the food, the people, the places I had begun to adjust to and adjust back. Not only that, I no longer have a room. I tried to ignore that change, knowing I would have to face it eventually, but not wanting to. Finally I did. And it slapped me up the side of the head like a two-by-four. Being the great sinner that I am, I haven’t taken it well. I don’t think I’ve ever really been grateful for any change besides my salvation. But God’s working on me. He’s molding me, sanctifying me. And little by little, I’m changing.