27 January 2011

And miles to go before I sleep...

Training started yesterday and I realized quickly that it has been quite a while since I was last in school.  My sitting stamina and auditory attention span are pretty weak, and sitting in sessions all day long is fairly fatiguing.  Dinner is at 5pm every day and by about 6:30 it feels like it should be time for bed, the result of sedentary days and information overload.  The start of a new adventure sounds exciting, but while there is an element of that, there is also the typical paperwork and housekeeping details that are necessary in most organizations.  Fortunately there is an endless supply of coffee in every building.  There is also an impressive variety of flavored creamers available, of which I am a big fan.  Much of life at training is geared toward weaning us off of our American addictions. TV, soda, WiFi, cheeseburgers, chocolate, etc. are all limited or nonexistent on campus, so it would seem reasonable to think coffee supplies might be too.  But apparently the leadership is wise enough not to extend austerity measures to people’s coffee. I have to wonder if they tried in the past only to find that trying to train people who are asleep, or cranky from caffeine withdrawals, is not very effective? Whatever the reason, yay for easy access to hazelnut flavored creamer! 

We had a steady cold drizzle all day yesterday- what I call Paris weather.  While I enjoyed pretending I was back in my favorite city, I was even more excited when the rain changed into snow after dinner! Remember me talking about my list of things I hate? Well I have a much longer list of things I love, and snow is high on that one.  I like to think that maybe the snow was God’s offering to offset those hated goodbyes.  But if He had really wanted to do that it would have snowed a couple of feet!  As it was, it only snowed an inch or so but it was nice big clumps of fluffy flakes falling quickly through the darkness, and this Florida girl will take whatever she can get.  No one else seemed quite as thrilled as I was, so I bundled up and headed out to wander about campus and enjoy my treat.  I walked away from the buildings, out into the edge of the woods by the frozen pond.  Standing there in the blackness listening to a stream rushing somewhere nearby and watching the trees fill up with snow, I enjoyed the peacefulness that comes with a snowfall and tried to clear my mind of the many stresses and anxieties that have burdened it of late.  Snow is magical at any time, but there is an added mysterious beauty of empty snowy places at night. 

There are a lot of places where the Bible talks about snow.  It references the storehouses of snow and talks about God spreading the snow out like wool.  But probably the most precious imagery I was reminded of is from Psalm 51:7, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” That came to me as I stood there watching the snow cover the black trees so I looked up the rest of the passage later.  Verses 8-12 are as follows: “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” A great passage at any time, but particularly appropriate at this point.  It is easy to get overwhelmed if you stop to think about the magnitude of this undertaking and the many challenges that lie ahead.  So I am making that my prayer, for a renewed steadfast spirit, a clean heart, joy, and a willing spirit to sustain me. 

While I walked in the snow last night, something else remained stuck in my brain courtesy of my high school English teacher.  Lines from Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” kept rolling through my head.  So, Mr. Rohol, congratulations are in order. Seven years later I still remember what you taught me. You win. And, just in case you want to feel really proud, I did quote your favorite line by Polonius from Hamlet at dinner yesterday: “Oh, I am slain!” I think that deserves a cookie, but if you’re not convinced I’ll try to work in a Great Gatsby reference sometime in the next day or two.

And now, for your literary pleasure:


Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

*The snowy woods painting at the top is by a new favorite artist of mine, Leonid Afremov. A friend here introduced me to his work and I'm sold. He paints fall, rain, dancers, sail boats, and European cities, which are all favorite topics of mine, and he does it with an impressionist style with remarkable colors. Check out some of his other stuff here.  

25 January 2011

Here's Goodbye...

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I hate goodbyes. In fact, of everything on the substantial list of random things that I hate, goodbyes rank in at number one. They beat out olives, inept drivers, florescent lights, LSU, mushrooms, and the word “irregardless.” So as you can see, the competition was pretty tough.  Part of the problem is that I’m a fairly collected person.  I like to think that I’m rational and calm with a healthy level of emotional distance (which often leads to jokes about my lack of compassion and sensitivity).  But when it comes to goodbyes, all of that goes out the window.  Suddenly I’m transformed into an emotional, sentimental, teary mess. I’m not talking a delicate tear in the corner of my eye and a lump in my throat.  No, I’m talking a full on puffy-eyed, snot-nosed, can’t-control-it meltdown.  Believe me, it ain’t pretty. 

            Even as a kid it was the same.  I saw my grandparents twice a year like clockwork, but that didn’t matter when it came to goodbyes.  At the end of each visit when it was time to go, I’d hug my grandpa, he’d say “I love you, Hon,” and I’d promptly burst into tears and sob for the next half hour until the plane had reached a comfortable cruising altitude.  So as you can imagine, the last few goodbye-filled weeks have been a little rough.  I actually tried to write this blog post a few days before I left Daytona, but just writing about goodbyes was too emotional and I couldn’t get more than a few sentences in without ending up in tears again.  So yes,  goodbyes stink, but as someone told me when I said that during our tearful parting, they are supposed to.  

As I drove away, thinking about how much being separated from those you love hurts, and how painful goodbyes can be, that comment came back to me. Farewells are supposed to hurt. It’s really just a sign that you have connected and cared for another person, that you have invested in a relationship.  If it is easy to walk away, from a person or a place, then there probably wasn’t much closeness or investment.  So what the last few weeks of sentimental moments and sad goodbyes tell me is that I have been extremely blessed.  Each painful farewell is a reminder that I have a life filled with wonderful friends and family for whom I genuinely care, and that I’m leaving a place in which I am invested.  So when you think about it, I suppose there is a silver lining to those awful goodbyes after all.    

*Here's a song from my soundtrack for this next adventure. I heard this song on the radio in Arkansas this summer and it struck a chord.  This new journey was still just a far off possibility at the time, but when I heard the song I knew there was a day coming when it would say just what I feel.  It's called "Follow Love" by FFH. It's a bit sappy, but indulge my sentimentality this once, I think I'm allowed right now. I promise to compensate with an extra dose of sarcasm in my next post. :-)  You can listen to it here.

Follow Love
I'm gonna miss this simple town full of memories, 
I'm gonna miss just hanging out with all my friends,
Rainy days and summer nights,
Skipping stones by the river side, 
But I know... it's time to go.

So here's goodbye, here's so long,
I must go and follow love,
I feel my heart moving on,
I must go and follow love,
Carry on while I'm gone,
This is what I've been dreaming of,
I miss you so, but I must go,
Go and follow love.

I've got a heart that's full of dreams and a little bit crazy,
I can feel it pulling me to somewhere I have never been,
I'm packing up and leaving home,
To travel into the great unknown, 
It's time, I have to go


We're not guaranteed tomorrow,
So we must just keep on living for today,
And make the most of every moment,
Every step along the way.


I must go, go and follow love.