Trapeze Prayers

trapezeJules Léotard soared above the amazed French crowd. They had never seen anything like him. The world had never seen anything like Jules. The ‘daring young man’ created the art of the flying trapeze act in 1859. He let go. From one trapeze to the next, he flew through the air—an enchanting mystery of bravery. He’d grab the next trapeze in just a few seconds, but for the moment, he swung suspended only by air and strength, conquering even gravity. In his day, there was no net.

Here I am, swinging between trapezes. Suspended between what I’ve known and what will become known but now remains distant, these are the years of adventure. They are the years of freedom and beauty and flight. They are terrifying, and it seems like gravity could win at any moment and I could crash.

These final days of college bring back memories of the trapezes of my early days. The leap from day to night ended with a prayer, “And God bless Mommy and Daddy (and Hannah and Rebekah) and Sarah and God send angels to watch over her and protect her and give her a good night sleep. Amen!” My dad’s prayer fell perfectly between the stuffed animal story and the closing of my eyes.

Sometimes, I didn’t remember my dad’s prayers. In the forgetfulness, fears slipped in. I remember clutching the white Bible my grandparents had gotten me for Easter, wondering if the words I couldn’t completely read would protect me from the burglars I was sure were going to come and steal my baby doll. I read Genesis 1:1, afraid of car crashes that could take my parents like they took my grandfather. My daddy’s prayers were the words I couldn’t yet really read, the words of hope to the greater Father. They covered me as I swung from the trapeze of wake to sleep, of day to day.

And, somehow, I grew up. I laughed with friends and stayed up later to read stories on my own, and somewhere along the way, the prayers were no longer part of my nighttime routine. My fears changed—I was scared of this new future. I was scared of the great trapeze leap from middle school to high school, and then, from high school to college.

My parents and sisters filled the van with all my new stuff. We unpacked, and we ate a last lunch. For the first time, I walked my parents to their car instead of the other way around. Under the trees that were green with hope, my sisters gave me sweet hugs. Then, as a few quiet tears escaped my mom’s blue eyes—just like they did when she dropped me off at kindergarten—my daddy prayed: “… and God bless Sarah. Send angels to watch over her and protect her… Amen.” They drove away. I walked to my new dorm room.

In four lovely years, my dad’s prayers have been answered. I’ve been blessed. I’m more loathe than I’ve ever been to let go of the trapeze. It is as if someone is slowly pulling off my fingers, one by one, and I’m sure I’m going to fall instead of fly.

Heavy with the fears, I climb the stairs to the writing center. Four years of hours spent in the peaceful room hit me as I realize I’m encountering another last. My favorite ‘student’ comes in. She has learned the hardest and best lessons of life for sixty-nine years, and still she comes to me for help with papers. She sparkles with energy I envy. She’ll show me pictures of her great-grandchildren, and then we’ll dive into the editing; it is a tradition on which I can depend.

We finished her final paper, and she asked if she would see me around next year. I told her I was graduating, and she asked if she could pray with me. Hands that cradled baby dolls in 1952 curled around mine. She gave me the best benediction I could imagine.

I’ll miss tutoring with Ms. Sylvia. I’ll miss my breakfasts with Mr. Bob. I’ll miss donut dates with Kayla. I’ll miss nighttime prayers with Stephanie. I’ll miss sitting next to Hannah in class. I’ll miss JRol’s jokes. I’ll miss the late nights of laughter. I’ll miss the mornings of joyful learning as I scribble down every bit of Dr. Borchert’s psychology wisdom, of Dr. Pettegrew’s history facts, and of Dr. O’Neal’s literature lessons. I’ll miss Dr. Butcher’s daily benediction, “Go forth and conquer, oh you mighty ones.” I’ll miss making tea with Ruthie and Brittany. I’ll miss the old leather couch in the BCM office. I’ll miss the times Gary the mailman takes my letter and says, “this one’s on me.” I’ll miss Thursday breakfasts with Jonathan and Marco. I’ll miss library trips with Rebekah. I’ll miss the adventures with my friends. I’ll miss the way I know where each path leads. And as they begin to fade, I’ll miss even the memories.

But, God has surrounded me and protected me indeed. Unlike Jules, I have a net. My net is also my Sustainer and Creator, my Refuge and my Strength. He is the one to whom I swing. He is the one to whom these prayers that bookend my college experience are offered.

I let go, but I don’t swing alone. These friends and all the things I’ll miss are just a glimpse of the Father whose love surrounds me and never lets me fall. Though my fears that I’d thought I’d have outgrown by now only grow more intense, the love has grown with the fears. But in the suspended moment, I best remember that Christ is my hope, my strength, my song, and my swing.

Power Outage

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Silence woke me

Then there were the beeps

Of life leaving appliances

Buzzing in the hallway

A weeping fire alarm

 

My roommates, eyes blurry

Greeted each other in the

Shelter of the dark doors

Questions filled the quiet

Is school cancelled?

 

The answer at first disappointed

To bed we did not return

A plate of apples, peanut butter

And friendship

Was our feast instead

 

I washed my face by flashlight

Strange glows on the mirror

The darkness reminds me

How well and how poorly

I know my life’s path

 

The wind echoes loud

In the eclipse of the halls

In the shadows of silence

I realize just how dependent

I am

On Power

When the Peanut Butter Moon Calls

2016-01-24 20.38.12-1.jpgSix friends went to the grocery store just to get cheap peanut butter. It was national peanut butter day. I wanted to have a peanut butter fight, but my friends wisely talked me out of it. Something about “You’ll get peanut butter in your hair, and it will ruin your clothes, and when you try to wash it away, you’ll clog your drain and you won’t be able to shower for a week.” It is nice to have rational friends.

So instead, Addie made peanut butter cookies and Hannah and I worked to make fudge. As soon as I set the fudge in the fridge, I left to print some schoolwork. Someone said, “hi, Sarah,” as I opened the building’s door. I turned to reply, carrying on a conversation even though I couldn’t quite see who was greeting me. Halfway through the awkward relay, I gasped. “What?” the girl asked, and I figured out who she was. I gestured behind her and said, “THE MOON.”

I called the friends I’d left in my apartment. “Hello,” was the hesitant reply. It had only been a few minutes since I’d left and I could hear the timer for the cookies beeping in the background. “THE MOON!” I repeated, “You guys have to leave everything and come as fast as you can to the Front Circle. Hurry!!” I hung up and quickly skipped across the cobblestone.

It was a moment that didn’t belong in this world, but because it did, it reminded me that beauty abounds here. The moon shrank as I watched. I walked to the edge of the lawn and climbed upon the statue near the front of the school.

The swirls in the moon were a muted orange. The massive moon reminded me of a galaxy far far away. My friends finally arrived and were duly impressed. I knew life was great when one friend remarked, “That’s no moon.”

The cold soon rushed us back inside to continue our peanut butter festivities, but the memory of the moon lingered.

The same moon looked over a bizarre land of transition: America at the turn of a century. In the late 19th century, skyscrapers were being built with horse and carriage technology. The world was changing so quickly that even changes could barely keep up. New York City bulged with too many people and such overwhelming hope. A bridge was needed. The bridge would be the tallest and strongest structure in North America.

The very concept of a bridge marks transition. The idea that people needed to be moved from one way of life to another signified something deeper than a simple morning commute. Our country crossed very literally over from what it had been to what it would be with the building of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Tragedy laced the building of the engineering feat. The master of bridge design, John A. Roebling, set out to design the amazing structure. On the work site one day, a ferry hit the place he stood, he fell, and three weeks later died of tetanus. The impossibility of constructing such a monument to connection fell to his thirty-two-year-old son, Washington. Like his father, Washington was involved and injured on the work site. The paralyzed young man watched the progress with binoculars while his wife, Emily, took over the family’s bridge building business. Some say she was the first female field engineer.

The bridge remains an image of industrial beauty today, but in the process of being built, at least twenty workers were killed. Counts range in number as some people might have just fallen to their end, unnoticed, from the blooming bridge’s heights. Thick in the era of political machines, millions of dollars were swindled through the building process.

But the many deaths and thefts did not stop the city from celebrating when the bridge was finished. President Chester Arthur and Governor Cleveland led the procession across the bridge, meeting Emily Roebling on the other side. Speeches and feasts lasted through the day; businesses closed in celebration. People stood higher than they had ever stood, looking down to see seagulls flying beneath them. New Yorkers saw the strange city in which they lived from a different perspective. The celebration ended with the largest fireworks show the country had ever seen. Five-hundred rockets were shot for the grand finale.

The bridge was open, and the bridge was used. On Memorial Day in 1883, the usual 20,000 people were crossing the bridge. A woman walking down the narrow staircase tripped, and someone yelled “the bridge is sinking.” Panic ensued. Onlookers from below wondered at the black cloud floating from the bridge. The cloud of lost overcoats and top hats paled in comparison to the tragedy of human cost. Twelve people were trampled to death in the panicked stampede.

The next year, P.T Barnum herded twenty-one elephants across the bridge, reminding the world of celebration and that the weight of change would be supported even after the tragedies. The bridge wouldn’t sink under elephants—surely it wouldn’t sink under the weight of humans.

Progress hurts. Change comes with some negative side effects. I’m living in the bridge days. My moon is shrinking.

There are moon chasing, peanut butter sculpting moments when this giddy fear stirs deep within and I want to bottle up the moments. I get into this introspective, tea-drinking mood and then I list every good thing in my life right now. This shouldn’t be bad, in fact listing blessings is a good way to remain thankful, but then the worries start to crowd the pleasant thoughts. ‘In 99 days, I’ll gradate, and all this goodness will disappear,’ I think to myself. In a few months, I’ll know if I have been accepted or rejected to my future. And I miss a moment because of the fear of missing the moment.

I wonder if life will always be like this. It is certainly a lesson I’ve learned (and written about) too many times already. And here I am, staring at a tilting world and forgetting everything I know.

One of the items on the (horrible) “things I better cherish now because soon they’ll all be gone” list is a class called “Medieval Women Mystics.” One of these wise women, Clare of Assisi, wrote,

“What you hold, may you always hold.
What you do, may you always do.
Never abandon it.
With the swiftest, lightest steps
that stir no dust,
and on feet that don’t stumble,
may you walk securely into the future
with joy and speed
along the path of wisdom, happy.

May your steps be practical and sure,
as the Spirit of the Lord calls you.”

Clare was born to the wealthy Count of Sasso-Rosso in 1194. At eighteen years old, she was inspired to dedicate her life to God. Because her family so violently opposed her decision, she fled everything she knew through the medieval death door. Clare knew about change.

The morning after I had called my friends to see the moon, I walked the familiar path to classes. I crossed the little bridge outside my apartment and looked to the sunrise. There, I saw the moon. Slightly hidden behind pink clouds and the orange glow of the rising sun, the moon’s glory shone in a different way. But it was there, the color of daytime clouds instead of midnight embers.

From moonrise to sunset, I’ll watch my world change. I hold the truth of God in my heart, and that I will always hold. What do I do, that I’ll always do? I chase peanut butter moons, I embrace bizarre histories, I contemplate too deeply the paths of the future, and I see God’s grace as the Spirit of the Lord calls me again and again—the promise of hope drowning out fear’s threats with His voice and in His love.

Italy: a preface from the end

20151230_145348 (1).jpgIt is the penultimate day of 2015 and I write from the last row of a dark airplane. We’re 3081 miles from our destination. We’re 1398 miles from our origin. We’re flying from France, but Paris wasn’t our true origin. Neither was Florence or Pisa or Venice or Rome, the cities in which I’ve spent this Christmas vacation. For this Georgia girl, born in Ohio, raised by parents from North Carolina, traveling the world has taught me that my origin stretches across more centuries and stories than I know.
I have kissed the Blarney Stone. I’ve climbed both the Great Wall of China and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. As a five year old little girl in twirly dresses and blonde bangs cut too short, I have watched the changing of the guard at a British palace. I have splashed in rainforest of Costa Rica while white water and I’ve jumped off a waterfall in the warmth of an Alabama August. I’ve walked where Michelangelo and Lincoln and Galileo and Paul strolled. I have leaped across rocks in Giant’s Causeway and repelled down rocks in Alaska. I have rowed a gondola under a bridge in a Venetian canal. I have sung the song of wild elk in the Rocky Mountains. A private coach has taught me the art of Kung Fu in a courtyard in China. In cathedrals and quiet fields, I’ve stood in silence before the graves of Mark and Newton and Tennyson and Peter and the unknown soldier and my grandfather. I’ve gasped at the beauty on the edge of the Grand Canyon and I have been soaked by the mist of Niagara Falls. I have seen the sunset over a Volcano in a small village in Mexico. Eels have brushed my ankles near my favorite beach.
I’ve tasted enough of the world to know that I have seen so little. I have a home here on this beautiful planet full of mystery and intrigue. But all of the beauty I have seen fails to compare to the beauty in the people with whom I have seen the world. I see galaxies in the gazes of my sisters as we laugh together. I know the prayers of my parents are stronger than any mountain I have climbed. My friends make the leaps and songs exciting.
I know my origin. My origin is in the love of my traveling companions, my adventure friends. My origin comes from the poets who have penned beautiful thoughts to serve as a soundtrack for all of the wonders. Great ancestors who fled their country, believers risking it all to build an ark and an arch—they laid a foundation. Grandparents risking vulnerability, promising love, and honoring those promises every day—little choices and monumental decisions. That’s my distance from the origin, so close and yet impossibly far from my understanding.
The distance to my destination is another story entirely. I don’t know how many decisions and days I have to travel before arriving. But I am confident that the destination holds unparalleled beauty: worship more profound than the waves, worlds that put all of the words to shame, and wonder and found wandering that will last forever. I’ll arrive sooner than I know.
Until then, I will taste of new lands. I will keep meeting new people and listening to their stories, knowing their origins. I will strive to share my destination and this, the greatest journey of faith, with every stranger turned friend. I as many windows in this broken world that I possibly can, and I will point out every glimmering mountaintop and monument through the glimpses.
Why do we travel? To learn about new lands and cultures to take in smells until the smells trigger memories. To get lost and rejoice in being found again. To grow tired beyond the very point of exhaustion and still continue on. To be reminded of the things that matter most, to laugh in the same language that the whole world speaks, and to know our very selves: this is why we travel. Why do we love? For all the same reasons.
Distance to destination: 2882 miles. Distance from origin: 1603 miles. 521mph.

A Different Note to an Unknown Soldier

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Historical Note: Sarah got a love letter. Major Sullivan Ballou wrote to his beloved wife: “Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God’s
blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.” He died a week later. Sarah Ballou has come to represent all women of the Civil War era. But not all women of the age faithfully tended to the children, wrote their emotions in diaries, and gracefully fought from the side lines. Some fought on the front lines. Approximately four to six hundred women from both the North and the South disguised themselves as men to join in the battles of the war between brothers. These women are not remembered by the love letters they received like Sarah Ballou. In fact, they are very rarely remembered at all.

Dear America,

Is it alright if I call you so? See, a mere century and a half has passed, and we’ve forgotten your name. You wanted to fight, but you were a woman. And you were the rarest of these rare.

Why did you go? Were you like Mrs. Black, accidently placed on a draft role? Were you just a teenager who read dime novels of heroes dressing up like men to fight for patriotism and beauty? Did you abhor slavery? Or were you romantic like Hattie Martin, a newlywed who’d just promised to follow your husband all the way to the grave? Somehow, I don’t see you as a romantic. Were you fleeing? Did you run from the abuse of a war at home to a different war? What drove you to don the disguise?

America, your grandkids, if you had them, saw the world at war.

Did you cut beautiful long locks behind closed doors? Did you bury blonde tresses or chestnut curls beneath the dirt, a funeral for your feminity? How did it feel to wear pants for the first time? Did you steal the oversized uniform? Or were you rich like Loreta Valzquez who had custom “shoulders” built out of wire? Something makes me think you were poor.

America, can you believe it, the country’s one again?

Did you keep from singing when the young boys played so your soprano wouldn’t give away your secret? Did your heart beat with the drums, scared of death and aching for change? What was your first battle? Were you at Shiloh, Gettysburg, or the Battles of the Bull Run? Who did you turn to when you saw the bodies, the missing limbs, the blood soaked fields? How did you wash the blood of your friends from the hairs of your arm in a company of men? Did your secret keep you away from brotherhood?

America, you must have found someone. Or someone found you. Because you weren’t just one of the known female soldiers who disguised themselves as men to fight. You were one of the six that fought while with child.

Who was the baby’s father? Was he the boy who you romantically followed to war? Was he a Confederate, and you, a Yankee? Was he cruel? Did he discover your secret and attack—was that why he didn’t encourage you to leave when he found out? Had he been killed? Was that why you wept; why you stayed?

America, today, would have gotten an abortion?

When did you discover that while boys died, life grew inside of you? When morning sickness attacked with the force of a rebel yell, did you duck behind a bush? Did you chalk it up to the gruesome battle? Could you cry?

America, the country’s fighting still.

Most women gain twenty to thirty-five pounds. How did you hide the extra weight when soldiers were supposed to be starving? Were the men that dense, that distracted? How do you hoist a rifled musket when your stomach bulges with newness?

America, why didn’t you leave? Why wasn’t the fight over for you sooner? What kind of world were you bringing your baby into? Maybe you didn’t know where your home was anymore. Or was it that you’d grown to love the cruelty of war?

How did you feel when your story was in the paper? You, a series of secrets, made the headlines. Adrian Root wrote home to his mother, “A corporal of a New Jersey regiment who was on duty with the pickets complained of being unwell… His officers had him carried to a nearby farmhouse. There the worthy corporal was safely delivered of a fine, fat little recruit for the… regiment!” Did you have a mother to write home to?

You were relieved of your picket duty when you were discovered. Was this your first child? Did you know what to do with a squalling babe? How long did it take for your hair to grow long again? Was honesty as unfamiliar as the dress in the winter of 1863?

America, you make me wonder what I’m missing.

Sincerely,

A daughter of the broken nation you fought to mend.

Fear’s Defeat

2015-11-16 22.43.44.pngWhen the wars of the world feel too close to home, when we’re reminded that our lives are perilous treasures, when cities are attacked and the answers are not immediate, fear threatens to win. Suddenly, my friends are turning on the news, downloading the BBC app, talking about the draft, and debating the difficult questions.

And still we go to Walmart to buy ice cream. We splurge, spend an extra dollar, and buy Breyers Chocolate Truffle instead of Great Value. We laugh at the images of tacky Christmas cat shirts.

This isn’t the first time we’ve experienced terrorism. Or natural disasters. Or anxiety.  It will not be the last.

We visited the art museum this week. Friday was college night. In the middle of the American Art exhibit, my friend asked, “Did you hear about Paris?” My answer was a confused “no,” so she told me: “there were attacks. The city is under lock down. They don’t know what’s going on. France’s borders are shut down.”  The wave of knowledge that I will always remember where I was because there I was, finding out about another tragedy, overwhelmed me.

On Saturday night, some friends and I drove out of our way after a beautiful concert to find a Krispy Kreme. We prayed that the hot light would shine. We rejoiced in its welcoming red glow and we devoured a dozen. Across the world, others fear the red glows because destruction follows.

Fear makes us do strange things. This world will fall. We will all die. Whether war or old age or a car wreck or cancer ends the chapter, life has an expiration date.

So what is our response to the terror? I don’t know. I know ignoring it isn’t the answer. I know being consumed with fear and not living is just as dangerous as escaping it all with ignorance.  Maybe, the answer is found somewhere in thanksgiving. I can begin by thanking the Maker that he has given me life. I can rejoice in each breath, and I can strive to still notice the beauty, to see the life that swirls around us in a beautiful dance. I can take that beauty that overflows from a heart in love and pour it into the crevices of this broken and weary world. What is known is passing away; what is coming is a beautiful eternity.

And so we give everything away until eternity comes, because that forever is what we’re living for. To the refugees, we give a home. To the orphans, we give a family. To the heartbroken city of love, we give our prayers. To this world, we give Christ. But that’s too often easier said than done.

So tonight, we prayed. We covered cities of this hurting world in prayers. We cried together for the brokenness of this world. We hoped for a savior. I still scroll through Facebook, I still see the debates and I feel as if I could never read enough to understand, to find the answers. But then I remembered this summer. I was charged with writing a column about books. I pulled one off the shelf of my favorite library called The Silence of God. Written in the year of Stalingrad, during days of struggle and turmoil so similar and yet even more horrible than now, German theologian Helmut Thielicke wrote sermons that grappled with deep questions and subjects. Tonight, on the Monday after Friday’s fear, I’m reminded of his words.

“The surprising thing in the biblical message is that it finds in love the opposite of fear and anxiety. There is no terror — one might equally well say anxiety — in love, we are told in I John. The surprising thing is that anxiety is not opposed by fortitude, courage or heroism, as one might expect. These are simply anxiety suppressed, not conquered. The positive force which defeats anxiety is love. What this means can be understood when we have tackled anxiety in what we have tried to see as its final root. That is to say, anxiety is a broken bond and love is the bond restored. Once we know in Christ that the world has a fatherly basis and that we are loved, we lose our anxiety. . . . If I am anxious, and I know Christ, I may rest assured that I am not alone with my anxiety; He has suffered it for me. The believer can also know that Christ is the goal of history. The primitive community knows that this One has not gone forever, but will come again. It thus has a new relationship to the future. This is no longer a mist-covered landscape into which I peer anxiously because of the sinister events which will there befall me. Everything is now different. We do not know what will come. But we know who will come. And if that last hour belongs to us, we do not need to fear the next minute.” (8-9)

Let us fight with love, let us sing with grace, let us kneel in hope, and let us remember always that we know Who will come.

Adventure and Inconvenience

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” –G.K. Chesterton

At 4:00 on Monday afternoon, my arm fell asleep. Feeling like a mature adult, I tried to explain it to my friends as I balanced the grocery bags on my useless arm. “I might have pinched a nerve during my hour long conference call?” They told me to put the call on speaker phone next time.

By 9:00, my arm had not awoken. The tingles had

spread. My kind friends asked if I needed to go to the hospital. They would ask me again at least ten times before Friday. I shrugged their suggestions off with a simple, “Its ok. I’m right handed.” They went to their meeting.

Stephanie captured Colorado stars.

Stephanie captured Colorado stars.

By this point, my right arm just hung limp, like a teddy bear left out in the rain. I brushed my teeth, my mind swirling like the greens of spearmint and by 10:00, I was safely in my cloud of comforters. If I passed out, it wouldn’t hurt—or so was my rational. I sent a text to a friend or two, telling them that something more than just my arm was wrong, but that they shouldn’t be concerned. Then I remembered.

My family was flying back from Ireland, a week spent with my favorite people in my favorite land. There are few things in this world that I love more than airplane food. It absolutely astounds me that they can make food that hot at 30,000 feet. I suppose I should be more amazed by the fact that we can travel that fast or fly through the sky, but no, it is the food that has always left me mystified. We were an hour or two over the Atlantic when I told my mom I didn’t feel well. My words came out slurred. The left side of my face drooped. The spicy pasta was no longer delightful, I tried to explain, but my words came out wrong. The Irish flight attendants asked if I usually suffered from a speech impediment. Was I having a stroke? Would I ever be able to think well again? What would this mean for my future? I soon forgot about all of the blurred fears because they moved me to first class. “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.” I asked for a “spone” and they brought me a warm scone. My sisters, back in our original seats, got a cold scone in a plastic bag.

So, at 10:30 on Monday night, when my roommate returned and laughed at my current slurred speech and sideways face, I was determined to make it an adventure instead of an inconvenience. The next morning, I went to classes. I treated life like normal, until life brought me to my knees.

My adventure wasn’t going away. I made it through church Wednesday night only to pass out in the car on the way back. My friend caught my head. I called my parents instead of letting my friends call 911.

On Thursday, I broke everyone’s rules and still went to a meeting. But then I rested. By resting, I turned in another application to graduate school and interviewed some of my heroes for another article I’m writing. I also painted fifteen greeting cards.

By Friday, I was exhausted. But Thursday was my day of rest, so I was supposed to be healed. I’m still not entirely sure what happened on Friday morning. I went to class, answered questions, and came back to my room to research potentially going to a doctor. I accidently called a radiologist. The neurologists were not very nice. They told me to go to the ER as well. I called my mom, then my dad, and then my mom again, forgetting completely that I’m a so called independent adult. They took over the phone calls. I sent an overly dramatic message to my friends. I might have passed out again. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stop shaking. I was alone. Tears traced an unfamiliar pattern on my face as my head hung upside down on the pillow. I didn’t bother lifting the troublesome thing.

 “In a world where the pursuit of success, wealth, and even happiness is relentless, where exhaustion and stress are the norm, do those around you see a person who is at rest in the presence of their God?” –Heidi Johnston

My friends got out of class and helped lift my head. They gave me ice and orange juice and they took me home where my mom helped me see that maybe I’d been living by the wrong quote. Instead of bringing home clothes or any personal things, I brought my laptop so I could continue writing articles and working on homework. Stress had brought me to my knees, literally, and I refused to stay there.

In the beginning of the semester, some friends and I drove to a nearby mountaintop to see a meteor shower. We spread a quilt and put our heads in the middle, forming an August snowflake. The glory and the power in a trail of light left behind a flying rock made the night a treasure. Wind whistled, echoing our awe of the dance of stars the wind watches nightly. A bat flew above us. We laughed and sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to the stars themselves. We knew we had school in a few hours, so we made a deal. The last great shooting star that all of us noticed would be the last note of the night. It was a bold hope. I don’t think we’d all noticed but two stars together all night long. But the hope did not disappoint. The last star we saw was the most glorious.

There are shooting stars in sunlight. I remembered that as I looked at the clouds on this dreary November day. I was still dizzy, but I wanted to take a walk. Meteors still shot across the sky somewhere in the world, but from my perspective, I couldn’t see them. So often, stress and even beautiful distractions keep me from appreciating the beauty of the falling leaves and the hope that there are falling stars.

Next time I get dizzy, I’ll try to remember that this world is turning quickly, that stars are falling, and that people are suffering drastically greater pain than the inconvenience I encountered this week. Rather than something to be ashamed of, I will strive to see rest as a way to worship. I will return to my tasks with joy. I’ll let dear friends and family lift me up, even as I encourage them. Free from the bondage of stress, I will strive to schedule with the intention of including rest. And maybe then, the stars will not be in my vision but reserved for the sky. It is a bold hope, but hope does not disappoint.

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5