Beginning in the End 

I visited the catacombs today just outside of the Roman metropolis. I expected it to be creepy and a morbid part of me was excited to see some skeletons and shrouds. 

However, what I ended up finding: rows upon rows of empty tombs (the bodies in the areas open to tourists have been relocated) and frescos depicting the hope of eternal life and resurrection in Christ. It was as if, through these empty tombs, I was glimpsing a preview of a future freedom from death, which, in a place built to hold dead bodies, seemed ironic. So, as usual, I wrote some poetry to help me process this idea and truly experience through expression what I saw today. 

Please read and consider the following; though free verse, I wrote with both intentionality and emotion. 

“Beginning in the End”

Dark and cold and lonely,

Left in the grave- untimely. 

Memories dancing before eyes

Blinded to the present,

Blurred in remembrance. 

Had she ever seen at all?

Not many years:

Ten and seven

Yet few images felt recent, felt real. 

But now, though, was surely real;

This cold and dark and lonely. 

Shivering spine on harsh-hewn stone;

Shroud too thin a shawl,

The damp came next, trickled down

Baptism, immersing all. 

By this her soul was stirred

In that dark and cold and lonely. 

Something moved divinely 

And a prayer fell up from under. 

A prayer said at bedtimes past,

And sweeter now in this last. 

The words lifted her, warmed her. 

Their promise burned within her heart…

Her stilled heart. 

No longer beating with blood but hope. 

Then died the cold and dark and lonely

As she fell asleep, finally.

Yet sight renewed in bursting light

All-consuming, ever-bright.

A shock of air she’d felt before…

Not many years ago. 

Yet this was something far, far more.

No cold nor dark nor lonely

But glorious radiance only;

For a Christian tomb proves but a womb, 

And death as life’s true dawning. 

To the Hermitage of St. Francis

img_1144I’ve been abroad in Rome for the past ten days, but today I was- to the relief of my introversion- able to escape to the countryside of Assisi. There, I hiked to the Hermitage of St. Francis and every step of the way thought, “This is the most beautiful sight…wait, no. THIS is!” It was truly stunning and I was in awe of the Creator the entire pilgrimage.

Upon reaching the top, it was clear to me why St. Francis would choose to worship privately up there rather than only down below. Sure, I have toured some majestic and elaborate basilicas/churches over the past week or so, but none of them had the same awe-inspiring, spiritually-renewing effect on me that this hermitage and its miraculous view of nature did.

So, here is a little poem I composed on the march back down in accordance with this idea:

“No gold to have but sun will do,
And snow shall marble be.
The rocks shall serve as stair-step pew;
For columns we have trees.

The air is chill from wind- not dark
And tombs can flowers grow.
Above the sky’s a painted arc
From which His blessings flow.

This boundless house is Nature’s church
For worship, wonder, prayer.
Climb to that good and peaceful perch
To praise the Savior there.”
Also this: 

“Goodbye Home, I’m Going Home”

I hate packing, as I said about a million times today. And yes, it’s true that I loathe sorting through sweaters and deciding which jeans to take and DON’T get me started on trying to figure out how to carry all of my books. (I used two messenger bags and two backpacks and I’m still leaving behind so many favorites!) However, while packing is probably one of my least favorite things ever, it has two plus sides:

  1. It is a valid excuse to binge watch Netflix. I must have rewatched at least twenty episodes of The Office today.
  2. It provides a rare opportunity for reflection.

The second plus is much more intriguing than the first. Not only does packing make me evaluate what I really need, it causes me to reflect upon myself. Admittedly, though Michael Scott & Co. were getting up to shenanigans in the background, I was not paying them much attention. Rather, I was looking through my books, old journals, stuffed animals, decorations, etc. I was learning the meaning – no- the feeling of the word “bittersweet.”

I may be twenty years old, but I still had my dad come help me pick out a couple stuffed animals to come back to college with me. And, looking through them all, I remembered their names and the games I had played with them growing up.

Then I stumbled upon binders full of scribbled maps of the imaginary country I had made up for myself and my brother when we were children. All of our adventures seemed so real at the time and now, looking through the remnants of our creativity, it still seems incredibly real to me.

My journals of course are full of the major events in my life, but, more than that, show my personal evolution. My handwriting matured, the ink colors changed, and the topics I chose to write about shifted. Friends came in and out of my life and a few stuck around. I can look back on moments of fear and laugh.

I scanned over my walls and bookshelves next. I rested my eyes upon postcards from family vacations, paintings I used to be proud of, the glow-in-the-dark stars that still are stuck to my closet ceiling, the typewriter picture above my actual typewriter. And my bookshelves, two floor-t0-ceiling models that are my pride and joy…covered in books of all shapes and sizes, in front of which are tiny crystal pianos, a tiara, teacups, and a magic wand.

And then, as I continued packing, I realized I could hear my mom downstairs, making dinner, and my dad watching sports in the other room. My brother’s room was oddly silent since he went to camp for the weekend. My dog would bark periodically and my mom then shout at her to either “get off the table” or “drop it!”

Overall, I was struck by an overwhelming sense of home.

The memories made, the souvenirs collected, the family members who were always there, all of the people and things that have made me who I am… Surely this was home!

But then, not five minutes later, I remembered with a thrill of excitement that tomorrow I am driving back to college in California and was shocked to realize that my cozy dorm and roommate, my music friends,  a certain person whose smile I miss greatly, my favorite practice rooms, my little church with its stained-glass windows and adorable choir… All of these make Biola as much home as my house in Arizona.

It’s confusing, realizing that home can be divided between two places, and I have written my share of angsty poetry because of it. But it is comforting to think that one can both leave home and go home in the same one-way trip. As I said at the beginning of this ramble, it is a bittersweet experience; though the departure from either place is never easy, the homesickness for one is softened by the anticipation of arrival at the other, and both places are all the more dear for this.

 

A Lesson from a Hat

I remember Meg Ryan’s character in one of my all time favorite movies, You’ve Got Mail, saying of a wayward butterfly, “I believe he was going to Bloomingdale’s to buy a hat, which will turn out to be a mistake, as nearly all hats are.”

giphy.gifI recently learned from a particularly unique hat that this is not necessarily true. On New Years Eve, as a joke, I dressed up as Janet Snakehole, a character within a character from Parks and Recreation. Described as a “wealthy widow with a nasty secret,” Janet wears a vintage black netted hat, which I was able to purchase for $5 on Amazon. I was dared to wear it all day, including to a pottery place, Starbucks, the Phoenix Symphony, and the grocery store.

“I am going to look ridiculous,” I said, grimacing into the mirror.

My mom, in response, simply said, “Own it.” (Imagine her snapping sassily if that helps the image.)

“Own it” turned out to be the lesson of the day and one of my resolutions for the new year.

53040709This hat was a joke and I felt like a major dork (“Major dork!” *salute*). But I stood up straight, added a fancy black dress and fake pearls to the ensemble, and faced the world. I tried to pretend I did not notice heads turn and people point it out. I felt my cheeks burning, feeling as ridiculous as I had expected to. Until….

An elderly woman and her friend stopped me. “You sweet young thing, wherever did you get that hat? You look right out of the 40s! I wish more young people dressed so elegantly.”

“Oh,” my eyes widened, surprised. “Thank you!”

Not two minutes later, a young couple stopped me and asked where they could purchase such a hat.

Then more women stopped me to ask about it.

Best yet, as I walked through the grocery store, a butcher came running out from behind the counter to shout at me, “You look like you’re from Paris!”

Um. Um. Um. What?!img_6017

I wore this hat as an inside joke! And yet, somehow, it seemed to have started a small fashion riot.

I figured, in accordance with the You’ve Got Mail philosophy on hats that this little number would be a mistake, but I had not factored in feigned confidence. Act like it is intentional and people cannot help but believe you! Standing up straight makes any outfit work and owning it turns into true confidence.

This philosophy, realized through a ridiculous hat, extends to so many other areas of life. All of them, really. For instance…

In high school, my friends and I were music nerds and I remember being pressured by a couple “cool” friends to ditch them because the “popular” girls would think I was weird. But you know what? I’d rather spend my lunch hours playing improv games and singing along to musicals than gossiping. To all you teenage music nerds, OWN IT.

In elementary school, I hated sleepovers and always left them early. I know the other little girls thought it was strange, but guess what? I got more sleep! To you introverted little girls, OWN IT.

In junior high, I spent more time practicing piano than hanging out at the mall. And when I was at the mall, spent most of my time in the bookstore. To you bookworms of all ages, OWN IT.

All through my life, my mom has emphasized the “Own it” mentality, saying things like, “You’re taller than most people. Who cares? Own it. Stand up straight and be the tall girl.”

However, in college, I lost a bit of the “Own it” philosophy during my first year. Bless this bizarre hat for helping restore it.

I mean, I play the pipe organ. That might be the nerdiest thing ever.

SO OWN IT and play Phantom of the Opera at midnight!

Rather discuss books than go out?

OWN IT and work that copy of Plato like it’s a Kate Spade purse!

Don’t like contemporary music?

OWN IT and blast that KJazz!

Want to wear a modest dress to prom?

OWN IT and work that dance floor! (Or, in my case, ditch the dance floor and go play boardgames.)

Quirks?  OWN THEM.

Fandoms? OWN THEM.

DISCLAIMER:

DO NOT own hindrances:

Don’t own your mistakes; own up to them and move on.

Don’t own your anxieties; face them and own your victory over them.

Don’t own your temptations; own your strengths.

But overall, learn from the hat and own what makes you you! My favorite things about the people I love are the things that are most unique and “weird” about them and, once they themselves own these things with confidence, everyone else comes to admire them too!