“Coffee Date” or “Where I’ll be Next Year” or “It’s February- Part Two”

                 It’s 5am, Valentine’s Eve, 2014— and I am clear-eyed awake. I’ve been getting up at 6:30am in lazy pain most days, so this is surprising. I beg my brain to go back to sleep for awhile, but it soon becomes clear that’s not going to happen. The powers that be decided that it is time to get up.

                 Chocolate chip pancakes, Bird by Bird, yoga and my laptop battle for my extra time as I walk down the stairs. As I speed walk across the living room, shivering from the Alaskan drafts that crawl through our back door habitually, I decide that I should start with my normal morning routine and figure out what to do with my spare time later, when I actually have it.

                 I make sure to put as much water in my 4 cup coffee maker as possible (about 4.2 cups) and then prance back up the stairs to get dressed. I can’t bring myself to take off my warm, torn, extra large, paint-splattered sweatshirt, so when I come back down I’m in half business casual, half hippie girl garb. I grab a couple graham crackers, smear them with Nutella (I don’t do it everyday, promise), pour some coffee and sit down with my Bible. I’m in the Psalms and read the chapters assigned by a nifty “Read the Bible in 90 Days” schedule I found through Google. I finish my reading with over an hour to spare. I see my journal sitting on the couch and decide that I should take some time to reflect on what I read— to pray.

                David writes in Psalm 40:1, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” I write down in prayer “Lord, help me be still and wait patiently for You.”

                I sit on the couch, with legs crossed like the Cherokee that I am. I feel my breaths and ask God to speak to me. Do I move back to Michigan and go to school or do I stay in New Stuyahok?

                I’ve been asking that question for weeks now— everyday. But, this time something is different. My hearing is sharpened in the silence. What I’m overwhelmed with is not where I should go— only that I need to let everything go. So, I do, or, I ask to be able to— and I rest there, with my heart open. Ready. I stare out the widow, determined to find light. I allow myself to be wrapped in the presence of God.

                This is when he tells me, with the kind of misty clarity impossible to explain, “Stay— give it all to me.” And, instead of standing up and cheering or saying, “Thank you for answering me! Let’s rock this thing.” I hang my head and ask, “Are you sure about that?” And, he says with the kind of authority I assume he used when speaking to the stuttering Moses, “Yep. I’ll take care of you. I fill your needs.”

                So, I sit there for awhile— first a little indignant…then washed over with the love of God— in awe that he really does fill my needs. That he has a plan for me and woke me up for a 5am coffee date to let me in on it. That he loves me.

                I cry— because that’s what happens when you are met by God (and an emotional person). I cry for the beauty and the surrender, the realization of the sacrifice coupled with the assurance that I’m going to be okay. In fact, I’m going to be better than okay, because God’s dreams are bigger than mine. And, they are certainly better. I won’t be tied to the altar, because Jesus was for me— I’m resurrected.

                There is a whole lot of mystery in the Christian journey. Sometimes our path isn’t as clearly outlined as we thought it would be. At face value, it wouldn’t have been wrong for me to move back to Michigan. And, I’m sure God could have used me there. But, it wouldn’t be best. It would have been very sad to fold on God’s plans and miss out on the blessings that come from following his will— namely, peace and the ability to fully receive the love of God.

                God doesn’t give us a clear answer most of the time, which is difficult…especially if you are terrible at making decisions, like I am. But we should never assume that God doesn’t have an answer; whether we are deciding to date someone, or deciding on a college, or trying to determine if an outfit is God honoring— we should pray, free our hands of all our dreamy trinkets and open them wide, then still ourselves while we wait for the gracious guidance of the Lord to fall into them— for his dreams to become our dreams.

                Shalom.

“Why Snail Mail?” or “Love is in the Mail” or “It’s February- Part One”

Ours is an age in which we have the ability to communicate with people hundreds and thousands of miles away- almost immediately. All we need is internet and a smart phone to connect with email or Facebook and send our thoughts halfway around the globe. I’m from Michigan and living in Alaska, so I definitely count this as a blessing. I’m able to ask my closest friends and family for advice about an event happening in 24 hours and, most likely, that will be enough time for them to respond with their sage wisdom.

When I talk about internet correspondence, I’m not only referencing online “chatting” or business emails, but also those longer notes to friends or people who are becoming friends. These are similar to traditional letters in composition and I have had meaningful and pleasant correspondence with my friends through them. So, with all the benefits of communicating through modern technology, why would anyone utilize the United States Postal Service anymore…other than to send back some pants you bought online that are too big?

As far as I can tell, it’s because almost anyone I’ve talked to enjoys receiving a piece of physical mail that is not a bill or advertisement. Why? WHY DO WE LOVE GETTING MAIL?

I’ve been thinking about this. As I was thinking, it occurred to me that mail can communicate in more than just one “love language.” Unfortunately most advertising companies haven’t tapped into their loving side, but friends and family often do. The love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, touch and gifts. Obviously it is very easy to send words of affirmation in a letter, so let’s move on to time spent.

It’s easy to send a note online. There have been a few notes I’ve labored over before sending, but if it’s a normal note I quick type it, press send and swoosh– it’s flown to Grand Rapids. When I write a letter with a pen, I am required to take my time. Quality time. I sit down at the table and compose, trying all the while to not shape my letters like a five year old. I make sure to put down what’s most important- I think beyond the immediate because this letter will not reach my friend immediately. I find the person’s address, label the envelope and slap a stamp on. Then, I include a trip to the post office in my schedule. Some people may feel loved by this as an act of service as well. On the other end, when I sit down to read a letter I’ve received, I’m very aware of this process. I spend time with this letter that is a part of my friend- her thoughts, her change and her schedule. Then, I begin to write back. The cycle of quality time being spent and acts of service being performed for another continues.

However important the words in a letter and the mailing of it may be, its value extends beyond. Bear with me while I try to explain how touch enters this conversation. Obviously you cannot physically touch someone who is not in your presence. So, I’m applying this a bit abstractly. If you’ve ever received a letter that smelled like the person who sent it or if you’ve been left with a loved one’s sweater when he goes away for a long time, it may be easier for you to understand what I’m trying to communicate. It’s more than just the smell that makes us smile when we pick up that letter or that sweater- it’s the fact that they touched it. That it was with them, almost a part of them. And, when we touch a letter, in a small transcendent sort of way, it is as if we are holding the writer’s hand as they talk to us from across the table.

For those of you who I am about to lose with this touch feely business, I’d like to discuss a love language that can be literally applied- gifts. One of the fun things about sending mail is that you aren’t limited to two dimensions. You can go beyond words. I’ve sent colorful leaves, candy, mints and a variety of other things through the mail. Today I received a box from my aunt. She sent a card and a variety of goodies (including popcorn, coffee and chocolate) and two books. It was like Christmas! Not only did I feel loved by her kind words, the time she spent putting it together and the fact that she arranged it with her own two hands- I also felt loved because she sacrificed to buy me things she knew I would enjoy. I cannot wait to dig into some Anne Lamott!

I think it’s unfortunate that technology has made sending mail through the post a rarity. Please don’t misunderstand me- I think communicating through technology is valuable and I have OFTEN felt very loved through letters that have been sent to me online. But, I have a proposal: If we enjoy receiving mail so much, why don’t we send it more often?

Indeed, it requires a bit more sacrifice, but that’s why it carries love.

Mail on, you Encouragers, Time Spenders, Servants, Touchy Types and Gift Givers. And, don’t forget to include a return address.