First off and totally unrelated, I went to the store tonight for milk and eggs and came home with New! Chocolate Chex Cereal (it has all the whole-grain goodness with a touch of cocoa) and a warm delights peanut butter fudge brownie—you know, those ones you heat up in the microwave. I forgot the eggs. Someday I will follow my genealogy all over the world and end up in England on Count Chocula’s doorstep. That would really explain a lot.
Anyway, tomorrow is the last day of July. It might not seem that important, but my lease ends tomorrow, and Sprinky takes over on Wednesday. I will become a couch dweller in her apartment for three weeks, a construction worker in Belize for 2 weeks, a backpacker in Europe (or maybe just a luggage-rolling tourist) for six weeks, a teacher in Belize for 4 months, and after that, who knows.
For me, tomorrow starts the end of Here, and the beginning of There.
I’ve been in a panic trying to pack things up and ship them off to different parents’ basements and garages and closets. My essential items have been condensed to a trunk, a bookcase, and one shelf above the washer and dryer. Not bad, for a girl once accused of running a black market mall from her bedroom. I’ll admit, however painful it was to pick out my most favorite coat, my top 10 pairs of shoes, my 3 best hoodies, my 5 favorite books, my 2 best pairs of jeans, my cutest dress, my favorite purse and my least expensive prescription, it feels fantastic to shed the excess in my life and to carry with me only the essentials.
It’s good practice, anyway.
But it’s the strangest thing: when you become aware of how different life is going to look in the next few months, every little ordinary thing becomes extraordinary. For example, I was at Henry’s on Saturday with my friends, and we ate chips and salsa like we always eat, and Laura counted her coins like she always does, and Sprinky and Ty got beer like they always get, and I ordered dessert like I always do, and we told the same old stories and laughed about the same old things, and it was so comfortable, I could feel myself grasping for the table and never letting go—not for Belize, not for Europe, not for anything. Just me and my friends and Henry’s forever.
I asked if anyone ever wished they could freeze frame a moment.
They all kind of looked at each other like, Oh great, here she goes again.
And I said, “I feel really…I’m just…I feel…”
And Sprinky said, “Drunk?”
And Laura said, “Full?”
And Erin and Ty looked at each other and laughed because they thought I was just totally lost in my 3 layer chocolate cake.
And I said, “Nope. I feel happy. Everything is just perfect.”
And they all laughed at me.
But I’ve had one of those experiences almost every day. With kids from the Boys & Girls Club, who I’ve seen daily and weekly for almost 8 years, since first and third and fourth grade when they were all wearing Ninja Turtle outfits and candy-cane turtlenecks. Now they look like Pussycat Dolls. With every double cheeseburger at Rally’s or McDonalds or at the Pizza Hut buffet, in the movies, at the library, with every forced recital of the definition of a drug and the 5 steps in the decision-making process, I want to hug them and tattoo my name and phone number in their arms in case they ever need anything.
It’s happened with clients and supervisors and even in cleaning out my car. I pulled out pacifiers, preemie diapers, blocks, rings, clothes, cards, butt paste, legos, wipes, vouchers, applications—anything and everything that made me good at what I do. You need a teething ring? Hang on, I’ve got one in my car. The number to Community Harvest? Right here. Child care referrals? No problem, I’ve got ECA on speed dial. The food bank for your zip code? Sure. I’ve got the 211 list in my glove compartment. Your baby has a rash? Well here, have some butt-paste.
Those provisions—the security in helping and in being good at helping, in knowing what kind of help and how to provide—those things are the measure of what makes me “good” here, useful and competent. Stepping outside that world is like a terrifying dream where you realize you are standing in the school cafeteria, naked.
Lucky for us (though most days I think Jesus sits across from me at McDonalds like I do Rita or Adrian and shakes his head like, you think you’re so cool? I remember when you wore Velcro LA Gear high-tops, spiritually) we’re whatever He sees us as. Whatever gifts we have, however we know to use them in whatever capacity and environment we’re granted, we’ll be used and He loves us regardless.
Plus, I know God is creative, and I’ve decided it’s my favorite thing about Him. I like to think of my life is a giant canvas, and that everything I try to do—every interest explored, every gift or lack thereof exhausted—is a splash of color. Whether I am silly or serious or successful or a total failure, or even if I change my mind halfway through and pick up an entirely different can of paint, I hope what I end up with is a beautiful and colorful and unique expression of praise and thanks: for arms and legs that work, a brain, a voice, fingers to type, health and ideas and passions and the freedom to check everything out in this giant, beautiful place he created. He’s got to love that, right? Being the ultimate artist, and all.
At church on Sunday—which, by the way, is a church I went to years ago and every time I walk in the door I see my entire old life standing there, like they’d all been hanging out for 7 years waiting and I kept wondering where everyone was in this city (old professors, old basketball coaches, old boyfriends, old friends, old friends’ boyfriends—in a good, warm and cozy way with lots of hugs…)
ANYWAY, at church on Sunday we sang this old song, which I hadn’t heard in ages, and I had to stop right there and write it down with my new journal and 24 pack Sharpie colors, which I think God likes because of the creativity and all:
Take my life and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days
let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands and let them move
at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice and let me sing
always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold
not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
every power as You choose.
Here am I, all of me.
Take my life, it’s all for Thee.
Take my will and make it Thine
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is Thine own
it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord I pour
at Your feet its treasure store
Take myself and I will be
ever, only, all for Thee.
Take myself and I will be
ever, only, all for Thee.