Switching Gears

Girl on Train SG
“Girl on Train”

This past week, I attended T4G, an amazing, challenging Christian conference about the gospel, leadership, Christian heritage, the fundamentals of the faith, current issues, and so much more. Any godly immersion is always a positive, but still overwhelming experience for me because there is so much I still have to know! And yet, I already have all the answers to all of the world’s most pressing questions.

I’m not sure if all of the allusions of this poem, written two or so years ago when I was very young, confused, and excited, work within my biblical theological framework currently, and I suppose at some point all analogies crumble, but when this mostly forgotten, slightly rough draft, modern piece composed on a train trip back to Detroit popped up on my Facebook feed today, I felt extremely grateful.

Going back to the moment that God filled my mind makes everything I perceive within or outside of my understanding pale, causing me to change my focus and creating a larger room in my excitement and questions for the greater glory; God chose me, and I am God’s forever and forever.

Switching Trains

It wasn’t the first time I was on the train at 5am today –
and, like every day, I had a ticket for the early trip
and left in the morning, going backward.
I didn’t intend to be traveling backward – I never do –
but I asked one passenger which way the train was facing
– he pointed –
then, I noticed his glasses slipping off his nose,
his upside-down newspaper.
His shirt was inside-out.
I didn’t follow his finger.
Dare I trust an idiot’s directions?

Not many people talk on the early morning train, going backward.
The wrong corners of buildings appear first.
I never see the warning signs.
The trees run away.
It’s dizzying – so dizzying
but it mesmerizes me into complacency –
I just stay there.

Moving is admitting a mistake.
Switching seats screams for stares.
And, in the awkward train jolts of the uneven aisle, I might
I might drop my baggage.
My precious things might break; my neatly-foldeds might scatter.
No, I have to stay there, whizzing backward, ashamed to turn around.

She has moved into my space. Very gracefully, it seems.
Baggage all intact, she sits across from me, facing forward.
She smiles.
I put one on, too.
Eye to eye to eye to eye.
Our knees knock.
She smiles again.
I take mine off.

It’s awkward to be face-to-face with a forward, smiling passenger
when I’m going backward.
I try not to look up and meet her eyes.
She obviously asked intelligent questions.
I was the idiot.
She says, cheerily, “I’ll be going to the dining car. You?”
“I don’t.”
And then, she’s gone, baggage still intact.

Another woman gets on and sits next to me.
She obviously doesn’t mind the early morning train,
going backward.
She doesn’t speak, but I’m satisfied. She is like me.
Our minds have married into the dizziness
mesmerizing our synopses, clipping and reattaching the grey brain matter.
“What do you take the train for?” she asks.
I was happy with quiet, but now I say, confidently,
“I always take this train.”
She is happy with quiet now.

By and by, she says,
“I get mental treatments at the hospital that way a ways.
I’m dying.
I have to take this train.”
I am suddenly startled with the quiet.
Our minds have not married.
She has to be here?
Don’t we all choose to board?

I tug the conductor’s sleeve.
“Do I have a ticket for tomorrow’s train, too?”
Do I have to stay here?
He’s confused.
“You have the ticket. I just run the train.”
He turns around and continues running the train.
I’m sick of seeing the trees avoid me.
The odd corners are wrong.
I don’t understand the signs.

Blurred Scenery SG
“Peaceful Scene Blurred”

Dizzy, I get up and walk toward the bathroom.
With my hands, I turn the faucet on.
I splash water on my face.
Head down.
When I look in the mirror, I see
water droplets sparkling down my cheeks,
catching on my bangs, plinking into the sink like diamonds in a wishing well,
slipping down the drain.
The mirror tells me that my glasses are sliding off my nose.
My hat is backward.
I’m only wearing one earring.

The train stops.
I hold tight to my baggage because I feel I’m getting off.
“Watcha doing?” the conductor shouts, angrily.
He tries to grab my arm.
“We’ll take-off again!”

Suddenly, I have switched. Very ungracefully, it seems.
I’m on another train now, trembling.
I’ve dropped a suitcase – it just fell from my watery hands.
My clothes unfolded.
Something broke.

Stumbling around, I hear,
“You may not want to stand there.”
Pushing my glasses up my nose, I see
a Man lay down his LIFE magazine.
“You’d be standing backward.” He says.
I can’t speak.
“Are these your things?” He bends down to pick up
my baggage.
He doesn’t flinch at the weight, the missing,
the broken.
He says, “Sit close to Me.
I’ll take your baggage.”

Originally posted on Tuesday Thursday Pen.


Letter to My(self) Younger Sister

My Marine FMLSMy little sister graduated from boot camp as a United States Marine last month, so this month she enters combat school to continue her training. I am thankful that God gave me a love of writing! I was able to write her several letters while she was in boot camp (she told me she got more from me than she did from anyone else), and I am undertaking a just-as-intense letter writing regime to support her during combat school.

This weekend, as I finished my letter to her, I realized that much of what I’d written was really stuff that I had recently learned that I wished I’d learned sooner. Stuff about God and people and life. It was a letter my younger self would’ve needed.

I decided to copy the letter into a document and save it. But there are so many “younger sisters” out there…

Dear Sister,

I don’t really know what’s going through your mind this weekend, but I want you to know that, this Valentine’s Day, you are very loved! By me and by many people in your life! I realize that you are probably not getting as many letters in combat school as you did in boot camp from the people who swore they were your forever friends, but don’t let it get to you.

First of all, recognize that your life is like a tapestry. Some people in it are the consistent border threads that run through all of your life, and some people are the brilliant flashes of color, threads that are only in one part of the tapestry. All of the threads make you unique, make you who you are as a person. You wouldn’t be you if any of them were non-existent, temporary, or permanent.

Bohemian Tapistry FMLS
Bohemian Tapestry

Second of all, if people tell you that they’ll always be there for you and they’re not, it’s their loss, not yours. It has to do with their personal character, not yours. It’s not that you’re not worth their time or that they don’t love you or that they don’t think of you ever; it’s simply that they haven’t had the maturity and the circumstances necessary to cultivate true loyalty and commitment, two traits that I remember you saying were planted and developed in you while you were in boot camp. Extend to these people the grace of a second chance. Give them other opportunities to learn to be loyal and committed. Let them still be in your life so you can be a model and a teacher of these two character traits for them.

Finally, grab for God. Remember that leap of faith swing you told me about on the challenge course? Going through life with God is a lot like that sometimes; you leap and grab, realizing that He’s there, that He’ll hold you – but you don’t get to see Him or what He’s doing or what He’s planned all of the time. I hope you still have the camo Bible you wrote all over. You should look up Job 23:8-10: “I go forward, but He is not there, and backward, but I do not see Him. On the left hand when He is working, I don’t see Him, and when I turn to the right, I don’t see Him there, either. But He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I will come out as gold.” This verse captures how I feel about God a lot when I look back on my life.

You’ve got to remember all that He’s already brought you through. Look back on your boot camp experience and reflect on the times you were so sure that you weren’t going to make it, when you were standing on those footprints in front of your drill instructor’s door at night, hand raised to knock, question, and quit, but you didn’t. You just didn’t. Maybe you thought it was all you, but know that it was all God. He wants you right where you are right now in this moment.

You know, God’s really a Marine; He lived and died by Semper Fi. You can call Him that when you talk to Him because He is. It’s great to have a personal name for God.

The reason why I write and keep journals about how God came through for me in the past is because those situations show me His character, and His character never changes.You can hold onto His character and re-claim verses and remember situations because He doesn’t change. He’s the loyal, committed, consistent thread in your life that holds you together, ever if you didn’t ever see Him in the past, or you saw Him presented the wrong way as a child.

You can hold onto His character and re-claim verses and remember situations because He doesn’t change.

Since my four year meeting God date just passed, I’ve found myself considering where God was in the jumble of childhood and challenging life circumstances. Accept that you didn’t see Him, accept that you didn’t always know where He was or what He was doing in the You-Are-Loved-MGmiddle of the action, but don’t ever believe that He wasn’t there.

So Valentine’s Day …don’t be lonely because you are loved.

Love, your older sister