Funny How the Times Did Fly

I am approximately 19 days away from hopping on a plane to move to Europe, and part of me just wants to bury my face in the sand.

On my high school graduation night, after the whole ceremonial ordeal, I sobbed my way through the Medford countryside all the way home. It had been one of the greatest years of my life, I had come into myself; exercised my thespian bone, exercised physically via cross country (an inexplicably stupid yet exponentially satisfying sport), and was surrounded by precious people.

 

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I mean, look how much fun we’re having

 

 

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Graduating with these two bonnie lasses from grade school

 

Soon though, “home” became somewhat of a foggy notion. Home began to feel like Eugene. Friendships formed like anchors in sticky mud, my eyes and my heart were opened in new ways. I didn’t even know it was possible to have people know me so well. Academically, I pounded down anthropology courses like a starving man crashing a wedding, and historic preservation studies–a concept of restoration that desperately excited me–like a rabid weasel also crashing a wedding. Most of all however, these four years saw me through a time where I began to hunger and thirst for God–whoever He was exactly–like never before. I spent spring days under trees reading C.S. Lewis, early winter mornings at diners discussing the Bible, months of wandering through parks in prayer, and summers entrusted to God in Central Europe.

Central Europe. Well, more specifically Slovakia.

 

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Year 1

 

Strange Guy, God. Remarkable though, entirely remarkable. I first visited Slovakia the summer of my freshmen year, I enjoyed it. I love high schoolers, to begin with, and enough summers spent on the Oregon Coast at Bradley has instilled in me a passionate love of all things “camp.” My parents to this day, still refer to me as the “Camp Director.” I suppose it’s better than “the Mortician” or “Dawdling Dora” which were other historically hyperbolized and occasionally accurate nicknames of mine. But nevermind that. I knew about Czechoslovakia, but I wasn’t really ever aware that they had split up, but over the course of that summer and the following year, my heart for what I shall now refer to as “the Jewel of the Europe” or “Sheepland” or “”PotatoDumplingland” or “PowerfulCheeseland” or “Decrypted-And-Numerous-Ruinsland” (still deciding on an appropriate nickname), began to grow.

I really didn’t have any plans to return anytime soon, but something about that place I couldn’t shake. I’d be thinking about a genius new way to utilize the FaceSwap app, then BLAMO, I’d be back in the Communist era school building listening to Milan talk about his country. Enjoying a Eugene rain shower on my walk home, and KABLAOW, I would remember sketching mediocre pictures of students while we laughed together. I won’t say I was haunted by it, but that was kind of how it felt. Over the months before I committing going back (a choice I made at the last possible minute) I felt a little ridiculous for holding such an affinity for some random country in Europe. I mean, what the heck could I even do there? Didn’t God need more people, in like, China?

 

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College lasses

 

Nevertheless, like an apple on a vigorously shaken tree, I was doomed to obey gravity (in this case gravity is referring to what I believe was God and His will for me to return there) (I am deeply apologetic for my terrible allegories, however I cannot nor will not stop). And so like a starfish being tugged at by an extraordinarily muscular seven-year-old, I yielded to His sticky paws (poetry, pure poetry, I’m the next freakin’ Yeats). I spent that year reading and reading and reading about Slovakia. I wanted to know about it, I was interested, and the more I learned about it, the more I developed an affection for the people, the culture, and a hope to see it restored.

Don’t get me wrong, America has her share of problems, and I LOVE the U.S. I want to be a part of its and the people’s future here, I want to see America become a place that is full of people who love God, love each other, and love the world; but something about this rascally little country kept calling me back. I spent my second summer in the pulsating heart of Europa and loved every, freaking, minute of it. On one of my last nights, I sat up on a porch watching the people pass around below, dozens of them on evening walks, and while I sat and prayed, read my Bible, and listen to Josh Garrels croon the songs from his album Home through partially busted headphones, I started to wonder. Was this where I was supposed to be?

 

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Year 2

 

God has really held my hand through this entire process, the more I loved Slovakia, the more I simultaneously loved Oregon and Eugene. I feel like I have grown to really care about the people, the hippies, vegans, rare but outspoken conservatives, militant eco-warriors, the pot smokers and the dog owners alike. It is a broken city, but I love it. It needs healing, but I have hope for it. But here we are, at a cross section. It had been mentioned to me earlier that summer, that perhaps I could come teach at the high school. I really wasn’t too hot on the idea, but as the summer progressed and I packaged baby gift baskets, printed labels, and worked the embroidery machine for my mom’s business, I again could not shake the idea. By the time I committed to leading the Slovakia trip in 2016 (which would be my third summer there) I knew I was in danger of moving there myself.

 

The people, gosh I love them so much. I feel a genuine passion for seeing the Slovak people encouraged and strengthened in their walks with Jesus and their hope for their own people, their own country, and then ultimately the whole world. My hope is that God might use this country as a focal point for reaching Europe, and He certainly could. And then, in the middle of my junior year, I felt like God gave me a verse to for my time that summer:

Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.

Jeremiah 29:7

Last summer I returned with the hope that I might get an answer about whether or not I was supposed to move to the Europe’s proverbial tootsie roll center, and when I was there 3 things happened that made me feel very certain.

  1. I got to share my heart with a few of my friends over there, and they were really encouraging. I finally felt like they understood why I was there, and they said that I should come. I was honored. So very, very honored.
  2. I asked God beforehand if he really wanted me to move to Slovakia, would He so kindly give me access to Mexican food. Because decent Mexican food is an urban legend in Central Europe I was really only joking, however, an authentic Mexican restaurant had just moved to downtown Bratislava.
  3. I shared my Jeremiah verse with Caro (one of the teachers at the school, she is incidentally from Mexico) and it turned out that that was her verse for Bratislava as well.

 

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Year 3

 

So here were are. A year from last summer, a year from my initial commitment to move. And I am sad. Oh, believe you me, I am also pumped out of my find for the journey I am about to embark upon. I am so excited to see what God does in my life and in the lives of my Slovaks over the next few years–He has good things planned. For the time being though, I am sad to leave. I have done my fair share of sobbing, for several reasons, first, I am having to move and I love clothes and books (things which in large quantities don’t travel well. Secondly, I have to raise what seems like an inordinate of money in a very short amount of time (plus facilitating “financial ministry partners” is not a jolly walk in the park for me, it is humbling. More like a rattlesnake-sucking-on-your-left-ankle kind of walk in the park or a both-my-kneecaps-are-blown sort of park walk, but it is good for me). Third, and obviously the most serious, is that it is hard to leave these people because I love them too. So much.

 

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Some pretty rad foolz

 

It is a painful thing to have the people you love spread all over the world. There was a rare moment this year, when my friends from Medford, my friends from Eugene, and a friend from Slovakia sat around the same table. It was amazing, and maybe that is what heaven will be like, but for now, I shall entrust my friends to Jesus with tears in my eyes, and embark on my next adventure. From a country that I love to a country that I love.

The Quiet

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In a world of over stimulation, it is a living nightmare to have those moments of absolute quiet. The times where it is just me and my brain sorting through its disorganized filing cabinets of imagination, commercialism, nostalgia, hope, and scripture are like massive vitamin D pills that I swallow when I haven’t seen the sun for a long while and I’m feeling a little down. I’m a product of a generation whose very core is burdened with the threat of a moment of life lived un-entertained. Every minute, every second, every moment has to be filled with something to protect me from the terror of boredom. Oh, fearful phrase. And so I avoid it actively, with every turn there is a new television show to watch, a book to read, a new song to listen to, something, anything to resurrect my imagination from its hibernation (while I meanwhile don’t have to do anything but absorb).

Today I ask the question, is absorbing enough? Is there something to be said about staring at a blank wall or the ceiling and not letting something else direct my thoughts? To step away from the constant stream of entertainment is an alluring, but often a terribly impractical thing to do. How often I just want a silent evening to walk with only the singing birds to keep me company, but turn to a cacophony of buzzing music and chronic email checking. The Sabbath is a dusty thing on my shelf that I remove without enough frequency or joy. For me, this pulling away from the noise and the craziness to seek what I identify as both truth and rest is a precious fire extinguisher that rests in a “Break in Case of Emergency” box in a back closet somewhere. I find myself at integral times sprinting for the extinguisher when I accidentally create a metaphorical grease fire, praying that it’s not out of date.

More than a few times have I collapsed in a pile of tears after promptly refusing to slow down. Who says I shouldn’t fill every waking minute with people to meet, educational documentaries to watch, or bills to pay. If I can’t rest until it’s all done, I’m never gonna rest–and I’M NOT EVEN THAT BUSY! I know from the 30,000 older people that have told me, you will only get busier as you go along. Restraint is something I must learn now, or I will be in hot water when life really kicks it up a notch. I am not sure if this is a new phenomenon, but it seems like the people in my generation tend to be absorbed in busyness. We bury ourselves in school work (or our jobs) and our social lives that we don’t have a second of availability to think or breathe, or for me, flood with spontaneity. The last term I was planning get-togethers with friends 3 weeks in advance–for someone that thrives on spontaneity and feels like planning is drinking poison, it was very frustrating. Over the last few years, I have developed some tactics to keep myself from going crazy, but it never seems like quite enough. It is only during the long summer days of working with my hands without music, people, or podcast to distract me this sort of rest is experienced.

During the school year I have to actively work to get this head space, on my walk home from school sometimes I’ll turn it all off (though often I’ll use\ that time to respond to people’s text messages and emails) but often being tired from the day I don’t want to entertain myself. I deeply enjoy life, all of these things I’ve mentioned above from meeting with people to podcasts are things that bring me immense joy, but too much of a good thing really does seem to have consequences on a person’s spirit. I mean, God often notes in His Word the importance of rest.
I guess this is just a way for me to process what I am experiencing and perhaps grow and change my way of living to more reflect the way we were made to function (anthropologists would even argue for the human race’s history of rest). I have found that during the times I make space for the seemingly unreachable quiet I encounter something; someone much grander and more wonderful than I could have hoped. I make it out to be such a difficult thing to rest, but it’s not, it is a choice, plain and simple. Stepping away from the noise and choosing to reside in a quiet place is costly because, in a land where time is money and your value as a person is seemingly dictated by how many things you check off your to-do list, this practice opposes it at its core, but it is worth it.

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Wonders

One way that I relax is by taking a walk. I am lucky enough to have access to a car and about a half a dozen beautiful places I can drive to in 15 minutes to get completely out in the woods. Part of me wonders if it is some primeval necessity to be out in the woods running around, even if that’s not the case I cannot deny myself the joy that comes from glancing up through the canopy as rain drizzles through the cracks or closing my eyes as sun shines through the trees at dusk.

I always find this pull to nature the strongest during times of added stress. It is one of the mechanisms that I utilize to reassert my perspective that there is a big world and a bigger God that supersedes the “big” things in life. This week it is finals, another week might be taking a social hiatus to examine my heart, or sometimes I just need to think about Jane Austen. So after spending 3 and a half hours in Denny’s writing, and another few hours taking a final, I was inconsolably ready to go.

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My new favorite place to hike is Elijah Bristow State Park. It is almost always completely empty of people and while its trails are well organized, they are almost swamp like in the winter, so they comes with the guarantee that I’ll be getting muddy. If I am being honest, the mud is a main selling point for me. There is something so satisfying about clopping around in the mud. The main issue for the park’s maintenance team (I’d imagine at least) is that a few of their trails have been completely washed away by the river. I am genuinely astonished about how much water it on the trails. There are a few sections I am learning to avoid because they are several inches full of murky water.

I was walking along the riparian path (amongst the most flooded) when I came to an impassible section of trail. I decided to turn back, but I saw that there was a little side path right up to the bank, and as I walked up to the river, I saw some sort of brown creature burst out of the brush and sprint across the path. “Otter?” I wondered aloud. I love otters.

As I approached the bank my mind was irrevocably directed to that moment Judges when Gideon was assembling his army to go fight the terrifying Midianites. He first tells everyone who is afraid to go home and the army of 22,000 drops to 10,000, and then they get to the river and God tells Gideon to send home anyone who laps like a dog from the river or kneels to drink, and that leaves him with 300 men. I have always read this story and been frustrated with why God decides to send people home because of this. The point of the story is clearly that God’s power is not dictated by our strength or our cleverness. He is the One that runs the show. And one of the things that makes Him so fascinating. He likes to stun us. A wonder is wonderful because it is unexplainable, shocking, incomprehensible . The reason this story irks me just a touch, is that I would HATE to be one of the ones that gets sent home.

I found myself reflecting on my weaknesses. I am not the smartest, the strongest, the most charismatic, the wisest, the “Godliest,” the kindest, or the most self-sacrificing. SO what would make God choose me? What do I have not offer? Answer: nothing.

Remarkably though, God sees it fit to hamper His army to reveal His glory. God, I want to be a part of the adventure, and if my weakness is a necessity for revealing Your glory, then make me the weakest of them all. Can you believe that? God actually takes our weaknesses to show the world His strength and power. That is what Paul is talking about when he says, And He has said to me,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2nd Corinthians 12:9)

The thing that sent the majority of Gideon’s army home was fear. The opposite of fear? Faith, baby; its faith. I scooped up some water in my hands and flecked it onto my face (I didn’t drink it because I don’t want river cancer). I want to be a part of God’s wonders. I don’t need to be afraid of anything, my O.G. is the baddest (goodest?) Son on the planet. Oh that my weakness could be center stage for people to see God’s majesty.

At that point, I felt tempted to pray to see that brown little creature again. At first I was like “this is stupid, I don’t wanna just ‘test God,'” but then I was like, “hey, I can actually pray for anything I like.” I asked God to let me catch a glimpse of the animal. I waited for a bit, he didn’t come back after a few minutes so I started walking away from the bank and back to the main path. I turned around right before bank was out of my sight. Suddenly I saw movement. The little otter was running through the reeds towards me, it took a while because I was far away at that point. He ran all the way up to me, came out of the brush and we just stared at each other for several long seconds. My mouth was wide open as the little otter stood there just a few feet away. “No way! Thank You God!” After those few seconds the otter backed up and ran to the river, I watched until he disappeared.

“But as for me, I would seek God,
And I would place my cause before God;
 Who does great and unsearchable things,
Wonders without number.”

Job 5:8-9

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Here what an otter looks like–I had to confirm that this is what I saw. It was indeed.

A Few December Photos

Okay, so here’s the deal, I got my graduation present a little early–a flipping Canon Rebel T6. It has approximately taking 4 hours to fall deeply in love with it. So unsurprisingly, expect my future posts to be decorated with a smattering of images. I really enjoy portraits, so here are a few photos from today’s family time.img_0086Lord Cramer is possibly regretting this gift of a camera to his daughter.img_0085The Duchess of Cramerage is definitely in the regret stage at this point in time.img_0122It has been really nice to be back with ma boi. It has been almost a year since we have had real, quality time.img_0102Andrea showing off her super fly sweatshirt, purchased during her time in Japan.img_0066This thug is one of the good one.img_0021My dear and wonderful friend Sasha is spending Christmas with the Cramers which add an extra bit of spice to our already wild crew. img_0017Patti Jean, the queen of my heart and my house. Perhaps my greatest joy in living.

Eagar Beaver Readers and the Haunted Janitor

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(A tasteful depiction for your edification)

When I was in grade school, I and several others got really into hanging around after school while waiting for our parents. There was a sort of mystery about Griffin Creek Elementary, it was an older school and the gymnasium was especially creepy. It had peeling paint on all the door frames and its ancient wooden benches creaked with the ferocity of a click of hungry cats. There very idyllic murals of “eager beavers” in the top corners of the space and a vintage scoreboard that hadn’t worked since the early 90’s. The raised stage’s orange curtains were ornamented with dusty, yellowing tassels  and hemmed with a sort of satin-esque substance. There was a pull-up bar near the back that haunted the minds of children who were doomed to fail the presidential fitness tests (I was only successful at the flexibility test) and a horrifying rope bag of half-filled soccer balls. The newest addition to the school was a fancy rock wall that had a mural of all things Oregon–a pond, a mountain, about 3000 beavers (our mascot–if you hadn’t guessed), and pine trees. The kids in our class used to say the girl’s bathroom in the gym was haunted, and this myth created in me–and several others–a dangerous sort of curiosity. From a young age, I had a fascination with the old building and a determination to put myself in compromising situations, so these stories did not intimidate me but rather challenged me.

(Please enjoy these two photos that came up on google search when I put in “Griffin Creek Elementary gym”, the orange curtains are notably visible on the left and the rock wall can be seen on the far right as well as the pull-up bar)

We would make sure our parents were occupied with conversing with one another while we prepared our escapades, and as we could be certain that they would be distracted for a long enough period, we would head off to explore.

Side note: I think it is worthwhile to note that even to this day, I am unsure as to whether or not my mom was willingly distracted and ready to have her children be occupied (granted, while making trouble) or if we really did successfully pull the wool over her eyes so that we might get away with playing in the empty gym–I am inclined to believe that it was the former.

Anyways, after our parents were distracted, myself and usually my friend Andrea, and often my brothers, sometimes Carmen, if we could convince her to break the rules (this did not happen very often), and occasionally the odd rando would accompany us to the gym entrance. Recently, we had begun to suspect an elderly custodian did not want us running around the gym that she had just cleaned–mostly because she had found us several times wandering around the gym and told us to go home. But that had not yet stopped us, it just spurred us on. The small group would have to psych ourselves up before we got into the building in case we,

A) Saw a ghost and had to run away

B) or Saw the janitor woman and had to run away

One one particular day Andrea, Matt, a rando, and I decided that we would try to break in to see if we could find a ghost. Carmen politely declined our offer for her to join by calling us idiots and waiting for her mom on the curb. We put our heads together and to plan out what needed to happen, “We must be really sneaky!” Andrea said , “I saw the custodian cleaning the classroom across from the gym a few minutes ago.” She was always the more perceptive one, I tended to be more reckless.

“Okay, let’s go!” I said, “but let’s hurry, we need to investigate these ghosts before mom comes looking for us, plus she said we are gonna get Slurpees today!”

“Wait really? Awesome!” Said Matt

“I know, I’m totally gonna get a blue one–I love blue flavor…” I responded.

We checked the first entrance, locked. The second, locked. It wasn’t until we reached the far side door that we were able to get in. This process of checking all the doors was not unusual to us, it was a practice that we had developed when we realized that every once and a while a door would remain unlocked. “YES!” Matt and I cheered.The door creaked open a

“Hush!” said the rando.

The door creaked open and the four of us slithered in through the door. We crept through the gym–trying to be silent–and we made our way to the girl’s bathroom. To get there we had to pass through the dark, dilapidated hallway behind the stage, there was all kinds of weird things behind there, everything from strange cut outs to bizarre and ancient props from some theater production from bygone days. The bathroom door was a heavy teal color, we stood there together, looking at it as if it were some sort of portal to another world.

In the middle of the unlit hallway, there was a small, dark alcove that led the way into the bathroom. The door was a dark teal color and the heavy metal door was riddled with threatening dents; we stood there together, looking at it as if it were some sort of portal to another world.

Andrea, “Miranda, you should go first.”

Me, “Andrea, why don’t you go first?”

Andrea, “This was your plan.”

Me, “Matt, you go first.”

Matt, “No way!”

Rando, “You guys need to keep it down, we don’t want the janitor to find us! I’ll go.”

The newest and least important member of our party was, in fact, the bravest. She started pushing the door open and she flicked on the lights. Everything inside the small bathroom was mint colored. From the stalls to the tiled floors, all except the cream colored sinks. They might have been white once, but decades of use and abuse by hordes of small children making excuses to get out of a few minutes of gym class has aged them. The four of us huddled in the bathroom as the lights turned on. We stood there for a few seconds in silence, and I immediately got an uncontrollable urge to scare my friends, so, as I was standing close to the lights, I flipped them off and screamed as loudly as I could–in turn, they all screamed as well. I flipped the lights back on and started laughing hysterically. “LIKE GHOSTS ARE EVEN REAL!!” I blurted out. They were not amused.

Suddenly there was a roar in the room next to us, and what I presume today to have been an air conditioning unit turning on, in that moment I believed the bowels of hell to have opened up in the room next to us. My comrades appeared to have believed the same thing. We tore out of the bathroom, into the main gym, and up to the door that we had entered through–locked. Panic like nausea fled up into our throats and nostrils. The roar had not subsided in the least but seemed only to be getting louder. Screaming at that point didn’t even seem to be an option. In a mass of hands and feet, the four of us ran in an awkward cluster to the next door, locked. The true horror of the ghost seemed to only be intensifying as we realized that we might be trapped in the gymnasium for eternity. As we made our way to the next door we were suddenly met with a terrible debacle. The Janitor we so feared could be seen walking away at a steady pace. We had two options, be murdered by the janitor or be murdered by the ghost. We decided to take the one with the cleaning supplies and the ability to tell the principal over the prospect of being entrapped by an army of ghosts for the evening. Shrieking and banging on the window of the door at the retreating frame of the custodian at first seemed hopeless–she was too far away to hear us. But miraculously, she turned around.

There was a moment of doubt that we had done the right thing as she turned around. There was a look in her eyes at that moment that was nothing short of absolute fury. However in her kindness, she walked back over to the door and slowly panned through her keys to find the right one, she slid the key into the lock and as soon as we heard the click, we burst forth from the gym and without a look behind we yelled thank you and ran to our parents. Carmen–still on the curb–saw us approaching, looked us over once, saw the terror in our eyes, and shook her head and said, “idiots…”

At that point we were super ready to leave the premise since there was a good chance that we would get in more trouble if we hung around for any longer, however, our mom was in an even deeper conversation than when we had first left her. We tried to get her to move a little quicker, telling her that we REALLY were excited about those Slurpees and how we should probably get home to start homework–but it was futile. It was not until the janitor came up behind us to talk to our parents that the great fear caught up in our throats again. True and utter panic captivated our hearts in that brief moment.

After a few minutes of discussing the matter with our parents the lady janitor nodded solemnly at us, and then I heard my mom’s voice over the surging fear in my heart–“Miranda… can you come here?”

Needless to say, we did not get Slurpees that afternoon.

*no facts have been checked, however, this is what I vaguely remember happening

Boys Boys Boys

For a long time, I’ve treated the “boy” issue with as much caution as a wedding cake delivery man–20 miles under the speed limit and eyeing the stop sign 300 feet away to start applying steady pressure to the brake. Let me explain. When I was an eleven-year-old emotional eggplant with a compulsion to document everything that ever happened in my life and my mind (I remain unchanged today), I came across a small dilemma–I had a crush. The thing about emotional eggplants, is that at some point in their life they find themselves with an inability to express emotions–for whatever reason, fear of judgment, they’ve been hurt, they think crying is weak (I was probably a mix of all three)–and they have to turn to an outlet. My outlets have been:

A) Interpretative dance to Disney songs

B) Baking either something very complicated or very messy

C) or Journalling out my heart

In this particular situation, the latter of the three was my personal choice. I had a small, white binder covered with flowers and filled to the brim with perfectly sized, lined pages. I have always had a thing for new notebooks, and this little binder was itching to know my secrets. So I told it. All of it. How the handsome 5th grader that sat across from me that had a large nose and sticky-outty ears was (I remain unchanged today), this fella–we’ll call him “Kyle” (because that was his name)–had the most perfect bleached tips and thick dark eyebrows.

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Kyle, Andrea, me, and Tristen. (As I don’t have a picture of us all, imagine Kyle is batman and Robin is Tristen–this will help you visualize the story better–you’re welcome)

We were paired up as a group of four for our desk arrangement, me, my friend Andrea, Kyle, and Kyle’s friend–we’ll call him, “Tristen” (because that was his name). Andrea and I sat on one side of the table, and Kyle and Tristen on the other. I’d spend every day trying to make eye contact with Kyle across the table, but alas to no avail. Over several days I began to document my love for Kyle in my journal,

“His eyes are so nice, he is SO funny and handsome, I LOVE his basketball shorts! Red and orange look so good on him, I think I will marry Kyle, etc”

However, it donned on me later that I was having such trouble making eye contact with him because he was so often looking at Andrea. This realization hit when I sat next to Tristen during a field trip.

Normally Andrea and I would sit next to each other, I would draw slightly offensive pictures of people in our class and she would egg me on, but on this particular day, we were split up. I was by Tristen and Andrea by Kyle. Tristen made nervous conversation and continued to scoot closer and closer to me. I moved farther to the window –trying to keep a healthy 6 inches between us on the bus, but eventually I was trapped against the cold metal bus siding and the prospect of an ever closer 5th grader. I would have panicked more (as the thought of touching another human was repugnant to me), however, I was very distracted by two things. Firstly, the fact that Kyle was laughing very loudly at whatever Andrea was saying, and secondly, I was processing the fact that Tristen had just spilled the beans about Kyle liking Andrea. The horror.

I had no other choice, but to give up this Kyle business. Now, this is not because I was the best of friends or so unselfish, but in my heart of hearts I thought that it proved my worst fear to be true–Andrea was prettier than me. Better, more deserving, etc. When you are the shorter and pudgier friend, this thought haunts you. I say this not to be dramatic, but to correctly document the emotions that get tied up in something as a silly crush. Or at least for me. My little binder was retired to the back corner of my bathroom cabinet–safe, I thought. Never to be unearthed, never to be remembered nor discussed. Obviously, the story will continue with the unearthing, remembering, and discussing of the journal and its contents.

About six months after I had fallen in love with Kyle and then discovered his feelings for Andrea and then thus shelved mine (amongst dodging Tristen who thought that it would be wonderful if while Kyle tried to date Andrea–who by the way was having NONE of it–Tristen could date me) I got into an argument with my brothers that ended with me saying, “WELL, AT LEAST YOU’LL NEVER KNOW WHAT’S IN MY JOURNAL!!!!”

I thought its hiding spot would be undiscoverable. Wrong.

Andrea and (my other friend) Carmen were over on the day of that particular argument, and approximately 45 seconds after shouting that they would never even have a chance of finding my precious log; Matt found it.

I have never been a skilled runner, and that day continued to fuel my understanding of this fact. As much as I tried to protect myself from my own words, it was too late. Matt was shouting in our front yard, the words I’d scrawled in a desperate attempt to make sense of my emotions, that I HAD A HUGE CRUSH ON KYLE. HUGE CRUSH ON KYLE.

HUGE CRUSH!

KYYYYYLLLLLLEEEEEE!

CRUSH CRUSH CRUSH.

Crushed was right. I couldn’t have been more embarrassed. I had tried to lock away this notion of appreciation for Kyle only to have it reopened and on display for my family and my two closest friends. And I was not happy about it, let me tell you. If Kyle ever got wind of it, I thought I might die. It was here that a certain untruth got fastened so firmly in my brain that it has taken over a decade to acknowledge and unravel (actually I’m still probably unraveling this one). My new belief was that I was now to be banned from ever holding any sort of romantic sentiment towards another person. My family continued to tease me about Kyle, with every joke, I would secure the door to these thoughts even more. I was suddenly the bro to end all other bros. The girl you didn’t have to worry about liking you because she didn’t like anyone like that.

“It’s because I’ve got brothers, I just don’t think of guys like that.”

Note to younger self: MIRANDA, YOU ARE A HORMONAL TEENAGE GIRL, OF COURSE, YOU ARE GONNA THINK OF GUYS LIKE “THAT.”

Nope. I’d chant that to myself every time it seemed like I might possibly have a growing interest in another person. I carried that all the way through high school. I can recognize the good in it, I never had another broken heart (in the romantic sense), but it did harden me in a way. High school was a series of running away from situations that might compromise my new identity. I SHALL NEVER LOVE AGAIN! It wasn’t until college that I had that fresh start. Immediately, a friend of mine starting to like a guy that I had noticed, so I killed that in me again (I was getting really good at turning off any attraction to another person), however, it was around this time that I started to think about life and God differently. In doing so, my view of myself started to change a bit, I still would go back to that comfort zone of “I am not worth anyone’s time, there is always someone better for them” but something was coaxing me out of that mindset. Something good, something alluring that made me okay with the danger of trusting someone.

Over the years there have been situations that have drawn me out of this–though I should specify that I identify the key feature in my growth in this area to a more solidified understanding of who I am in Christ and my worth because of that notion. However, these strides have not been without testing and situational opportunities. There was a guy that I met a few times and had deeply admired his passion and leadership abilities, I could safely have a crush on him because he lived far away from my circle of friends and family. From far off I could touch, analysis, interact, and really consider what I was experiencing without the danger of having to act on anything–it was great! It was like a little arena to grow in. I liked that zone, it was so comfortable and safe. I got to spend some precious one on one time with him a few years later, and ask him the questions I had so desperately wanted to know, and suddenly the feelings I had held onto for so long began to crack–but not in a bad way, I had for ages begun to suspect that they were not real. After I could see that my feelings were little more than a reaction of self-defense and genuine admiration for who he was and his dreams, it was time to move on. Last spring was very stressful in the sense that I was forced to confront several, less “safe” situations that I had been desperately avoiding for years, the list is as follows:

A) The stranger that asked me on a date (and I went), it lasted for 3 hours–we talked about him the whole time

B) The dude that lived far away, was awesome and loved God, and was taking more initiative than any guy had every done before, but I didn’t feel the same way

C) The one that would do weird things to get my attention, but nothing was ever articulated–so I was always just stressed out about that

D) and, The older guy who was handsome, smart, kept asking me on dates, loved dancing, but didn’t love God

Literally all happened at the same time. I had also just come off of a concussion, so I was not feeling up to the challenge, but it meant that with every step I had to run back to God and the people around me for insight and comfort. I had to do something that made me a little uncomfortable, I had to trust other people with my feelings. Today, I feel like I am more receptive to these sort of things, (again, still something Jesus is having to hold my hand through). While I still have days of reverting back to my emotional eggplant days, they are less and less. I suddenly am able to empathize with people in ways that I never believed was possible. I can understand why they feel the way they do about these things. My years of being a cement block have started to be washed away. It’s a good life. There is hope if you have some issues–we all do. Trust me on this, if you want help, the place where I’ve found healing, light, and hope has been in searching for Jesus Christ (p.s. I found Him too).

That’s all to say, come at meh.