What I’m Into: September 2016

September. proper noun. The month in which  Joe Fox would sent us a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if he knew our names and addresses.

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I blinked, and September was over. It was a whirlwind of new beginnings and discoveries. Here’s what I loved during this full, tumultous, beautiful month.



Criss Cross – Lynne Rae Perkins. A most delightful book in which very little actually happens, but what does happen is told in such a charming way that it won a Newberry Award. This book contains the ordinary, overlapping stories of a group of middle school students. The descriptions of the characters’ thoughts made me laugh, because they are spot on with my 7th graders.

The Crossover – Kwame Alexander. It makes me so happy when my students pick up this book. (Maybe that’s just because it makes me happy when they take my book recommendations in general.) It’s the story of an 8th basketball player told in hip-hop style poetry. The language is sizzling, the characters are real and relatable, and the story ends in a completely unexpected way.

The Gilded Years – Karin Tanabe. This is a fictionalized account of how Anita Hemmings, a black woman, passed as white in order to attend Vassar College, a valiant effort. It’s an intriguing premise, and I loved the setting. However, I never quite connected with Anita’s character. She seemed too passive, and when she goes along with a decision that will obviously have terrible consequences, I decided finishing the book wasn’t worth my time. If anyone read and loved it, convince me I should finish the last half.

Dead End in Norvelt – Jack Gantos. Jack gets grounded for the summer, and is only allowed out of his yard to assist an old woman with writing obituaries for the local paper. This book’s tone is similar to A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck – it’s is full of small-town stories that seem ridiculous when retold, but which somehow have an air of possibility when you’re reading them.

Raymie Nightingale – Kate DiCamillo. In order to win Little Miss Central Florida Tire and bring her father back to their family, Raymie takes baton twirling lessons. She meets unlikely friends and learns what it really means to do good deeds. DiCamillo tackles heavy issues, like absent fathers and poverty, with gentleness and grace. A hope-filled way to introduce kids to challenging issues. I want to write like Kate DiCamillo when I grow up.

Kristin Lavransdatter (part I) – Sigrid Undset. The boyfriend sent me this book last spring, but I’m just tackling it now. It’s a coming of age story centering on Kristin, a young girl living in 14th century Norway. Kristin falls in love with a man who is not her betrothed, and the scandal thickens as the story goes on. This was not at all what I expected from a book written in 1920 by a Nobel laureate – there’s much more intrigue and seduction (!) and surprise. The story moves quickly, the writing is matter-of-fact but beautiful, and I enjoyed it enough that I’ll check out the sequel very soon.

Currently reading: The Justice Calling – Bethany Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson; Rook – Sharon Cameron.




The Hollow Crown. The boyfriend and I have been watching through this series, a BBC adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V. I appreciate Shakespeare infinitely more when I watch it instead of read it, especially because this version has an amazing cast (I now understand the Tom Hiddleson buzz) and is so well done.




Walk Off the Earth’s cover of Closer. Their covers are wacky but wonderful. Watch for the surprises. Their cover of Hello is also brilliant.

The Smartest Person in the Room podcast, where Laura Tremaine interviews experts on their work. She’s currently posting on Hollywood experts like producers, directors, and security guards (one of my favorite episodes), and it’s a fascinating peek into an entirely different world.

A lot of NPR… I am becoming my mother, and the Weekend Edition of NPR is one of my new favorite things.




Stylebook app. This app is supposed to streamline your closet. Once you take pictures of all your clothes, it has a bazillion features, like a Looks page to put together outfits, a tool for price-per-wear analysis, and a calendar to schedule your outfits. I’ve only used the Looks element to keep track of outfit ideas, but it’s been so helpful for storing inspiration from blogs or Pinterest that I would otherwise forget. Fair warning, taking pics of your clothes is a bit of work on the front end, but if you see it as an opportunity to clean out your closet, it’s worth it.

Having a boyfriend in the same state! After being long distance for a year and a half, being able to scout bookstores, cook dinner, get ice cream, try new churches, read, and take walks together has been utterly delightful.

The bullet journal. This journaling/organizational method turns a basic notebook into your own customized planner. I’ve been using a calendar with blank pages at the end to keep track of meals, outfits, and adulting to-do’s each week. I’ve discovered that making a bunch of decisions at one time, and having all the information in one place, is making my life simpler. I use a modified version to keep myself on track at school as well. This tutorial was helpful for getting started.

The blog project my Advanced class is doing. I get to focus on writing with my Advanced kids this trimester, and we’re doing a blog project to practice writing in a variety of different genres. So far we’ve only done an About Me post and a goal-setting activity, but it’s been an awesome way to get to know students, give them some creative freedom, and teach them about writing for a real audience. They seem to enjoy it as much as I do!

My school. This month has reminded me that I am incredibly blessed to be working at such an amazing school. One example of many: I had car issues one day, and I had at least three teachers check on me, one leave me chocolate, and one offer to follow me home and pick me up the next morning.




Teaching! We kicked off a brand new year, and so far no one has died. Actually, things are going quite well. We’re hitting grammar hard, the kids are just starting to read The Outsiders, and at least one student thinks I’m 30 years old. I’ve had more moments of “wow, I really enjoy this” so far this year than all of last year combined, which seems like a good sign.

Heading to the lake one last time. My sister had a whole crew of friends to our cabin for a weekend at the beginning of September. I was almost incapacitated with tiredness – that first week of school is rough – but it was lovely to squeeze in one more round of waterskiing and sunshine.


Attending a talk on medieval Christianity with a local Christian scholarship organization. This is not typically my area of interest, but when you date a history major, sometimes you attend events that end up surprising you. We’ve joined two reading groups as well, and it’s been good for me to meet new people and read outside my usual fiction zone.

Celebrating 2 years of dating the boy with Sebastian Joe’s ice cream. Those early days of library study dates and almost breaking visitation hours seem so long ago! I’m so grateful for him.

Watching my alma mater’s homecoming game. Well, sort of. My siblings and I stood on the sidelines and talked and occasionally paid attention. I got a free t-shirt, so I officially feel like a graduate now.

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PC: Brita/the photobooth

Avoiding renter’s tragedy despite a serious ceiling leak. While I was watching the presidential debate (another kind of disaster), my roommate informed me that our ceiling was spouting water. It started with one stream from the bathroom ceiling and ended with seven individual rivers flowing down from an overflowing tub in the apartment above. A variety of buckets, two late-night maintenance calls, one water-filled light fixture, and a soggy patch of carpet later, everything was solved with no significant property damage or tears.

Praying every day that my car will start. As mentioned above, I had a minor car fiasco earlier this month. I was stopped on a busy street waiting for a car in front of me to turn left. When the car turned, I stepped on the gas, saw lights flash, felt the gas pedal lock, shifted into park, and couldn’t shift any more. After I called 911 in a panic, was pushed to the side of the road by a kind police officer, and restarted the car, everything worked and I made it to school safely. My car and I are currently having some trust issues, but I am grateful that everything worked out okay.

After this month, my students now think my life is highly dramatic. Or that I am a barely functioning adult. One of those is true – you decide which one.



I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer – head to her site for more recommendations! Or comment below – what have you been into this month?





Remember. verb. “To have in one’s mind an awareness of something that one has seen, known, or experienced in the past.”

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Fall is here. The school routines have found us. I’m awake before the sun now, and I wear mascara every day. We fell easily into these rhythms. It feels like what we’d always done. (It is.)

Already, the easy breezy days of summer seem long gone. They were sweet, full of ordinary surprises. Sometimes I fear that I will forget them. The memories will disappear from my head, poof, like the definition of cosine and the way to fold a fitted sheet. So I write them down, just as I send myself reminder emails of online resources and copies to make. This is my to-do list: do not forget these moments.

I toted books to the park most days. I used to live minutes from the one with the lake. I brought lemonade and a blanket and, in the pages of a mystery, stopped fighting the quiet gift of rest. Teens playing Pokemon walked by, and I peeled back the layers of memory lying over the grass and walking trail: walking with the boy when our relationship was young, running long laps around the lake, eating sugar-laced beignets, following my brothers on rented bikes, paddleboarding at sunset.

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We slept outside on the dock one weekend. The air was clear and cool, and scattered stars kept us awake. We found constellations, and talked sleepily as sisters do, and listened in the pauses to the chatter of two teenage boys on a dock further down. We curled up under our sleeping bags and drifted off to the lullaby of shooting stars and waves against shore, the one composed just for us. I woke early, to bright sun and a lake shining like glass.

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We went sailing one afternoon, on the bowl of a lake. I sat near the bow, ducking as the boom swung and tripping over the keel every time we tacked. The boy sat in the stern calm and confident, framed by blue sky and blue lake and blue polo shirt. We’d talked of going sailing, just us, for years. When we finally did, I wanted to freeze time, bottle it, to return to sun and sweetness on lonely winter days.

We drank iced tea and ate tuna tacos at our favorite restaurant, up the shore on Lake Superior. When we were no longer hangry, we tripped down the steep shore, climbed rocks, skipped stones, snapped pictures. The water was clear enough to drink. Stones – heart-shaped, striped, perfectly round – loaded our fists, just as they did 17 years ago when we looked on the same shore together.


I hold these moments as I look at the end-of-summer sunshine out the window. It reminds me there is still time left: time to go outside, to wander, to rest. So I strap on skis during our last lake weekend, even if the water is cold and the air colder. I bring my book to our tiny patio after school. I walk through parks, avoiding the geese headed south, on Sundays. The slow, sweet moments return. I won’t forget them.

May (2016)

May. proper noun. The month when summer is so close, you can almost taste it.


We’re keeping it short and sweet this month. I’ve been busy, and trying to hold my sanity intact as students get antsy for summer has taken up lots of mental space. The only thing I’ve been consistently good at is making crack broccoli. I’m still posting because routine, thy name is Anna, and because there are still some gems here. If you want further recommendations, hit up Leigh Kramer’s link-up.


All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven. Enchanting but heartbreaking. School weirdo Finch meets grieving, popular Violet on top of the school bell tower. Violet is contemplating ending her life. Their romance is unexpected and sparkling and tragic. Similar to The Fault in Our Stars, but with mental illness instead of cancer.

Currently reading: Saving Francesca – Melina Marchetta; Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh.



I cannot recollect one movie or TV show that I watched in May. This is the truth.



The Sorta Awesome podcast. Megan Tietz and her rotating crew of co-hosts explore all kinds of topics that make life awesome. These podcasts are chatty, but also reflective and informational. I’ve really been enjoying them.



We need less Christianese and more of this.

This delightful summer salad recipe.

Almay Intense I-Color Liquid Eyeliner for blue eyes. I am not necessarily good at eyeliner, but I know that this eyeliner goes on more smoothly than others I’ve tried, and I love how the flecks of gold that make an ordinary brown eyeliner seem prettier. Plus, I can wash this off without eye makeup remover.

All teachers will tell you that this is so true. Especially the end-of-the-year-teacher pic.



Surviving at school. We are ready to be done. I had one kid tell another “You are slowly driving Ms. Christenson insane.” That about sums it up. Except I’m going to try harder to be positive than that. My eighth graders wrote some short stories that are fun to read, and right now they’re in the middle of giving speeches. Sometimes they’re hilarious. My kids actually showed improvement in grammar and vocabulary. And best of all, we only have 5 days left.

Catching up with my boss/mentor from my RA days and getting to see her cutie pie daughter. I love good conversation and entertaining kiddos.

Spending an evening with just my parents. My mom had an appointment in town, and my parents decided to fly out of Minneapolis to surprise my sister while she was on tour with her college band. Before they left, my mom and I got pedicures, we went out for dinner, and my parents helped me grade homework. They should come to town more often.



I discovered later that night that my toenail polish glows in the dark. I find more joy in it than I would like to admit.

Spending a week with the boy in MN. He was an usher in a wedding. I met the bride and groom at their rehearsal (an interesting dynamic) and got sunburned while helping set up at their wedding. We also went swing dancing, discovered that you can effectively use one paddleboard with two people, and spent some low-key quality time together.

Attempting to go dairy-free. I started on a hastily researched whim as an attempt to reduce cystic acne without going on medication, and my highly scientific experiment has told me it hasn’t made the situation worse? It may have improved? I’m still undecided about the whole thing. I do put almond milk in my tea and have an excuse to buy the expensive gelato because it doesn’t have milk in it…but I also eat cheese when necessary (read: too often?).  I may cut out everything dairy for another few weeks and see.

Frantic job applications. I didn’t get the summer school position I was hoping for, and I’ve been scrambling ever since. I am hopeful that I’ve have a solution soon.

Getting a new roommate. I have to admit, I have been incredibly blessed to have found kind rent-sharers on short notice/by miraculous coincidence.


What have you been into this month?


Graduation. noun. The receiving of an academic degree; a ceremony marking the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another. See also: commencement.


Dear freshman Anna,

On Friday, you graduated from college.

Right now, you think this day will never arrive. And when it finally does, you will not have high expectations.

On the morning of graduation, you will be a cranky monster. The day will seem anticlimactic, since many of your friends will have already graduated and you’ll have four weeks of student teaching remaining. (You’ll stick with that double major you’re doubting right now. It will be painful sometimes, like when you have to continue student teaching even after graduation, but hopefully it’s worth it.) Worries about being late and not wearing the right thing and still having to go to school on Monday will be overpowering. You might have accidentally say “Can we get a move on?” out loud during rehearsal.

But graduation day will turn out to be surprising and complicated and sweet. In fact, your whole college experience will be surprising and complicated and sweet.

Right now, the campus buildings are still becoming familiar. You still don’t remember exactly where the registar’s office is (much less what a registrar does). In four and a half years, those halls and classrooms and sidewalks be stamped with memories.

You’ll spend hours in that office in 3rd floor Naz. That professor intimidates you now, but eventually you’ll work for her and she will find out all of the details of your life. You’ll learned the value of a juicy red pen and write sentences about a grapefruit named Ruby, who will go on dates and have picnics by the lake.

You’ll pound out workouts in the gym with the basketball team. You will be forced to play intramural volleyball games at 11:00 pm, and you will barely tolerate it. During the basketball season, being a freshman benchwarmer will knock the perfectionism right out of you.

You’ll live in Hartill 254 and 255 and 155 and 259. Now, you tote an Audrey Hepburn poster and a vague hope for community as you walk into Selah 2. You will find: some of your dearest friends, 2 staffs of Hartill RAs who will share stories and laughter and birthday cards and movie nights, a hall of girls you’ll lead and love for a year, much late-night conversation, brownies eaten straight from the pan, and the ability to hang decorations without nails. Your sister will live in two of those rooms a few years later, and that fact will amuse you.

On the island, you’ll swim on warm evenings and canoe on spontaneous dates. In a few weeks, your hall will go stargazing there, and when you’ve finished singing worship songs, you’ll accidentally witness a boys’ dorm initiation. An entire hall will streak by in their boxers, jump in the lake, and run back, yelling. They will never knew you were there. (You’ll also live in an apartment with the RA who organized this stargazing trip, which will be a random gift from God.)

You will not do much homework in the library. When necessary, you’ll find the tables by the big windows passable. The people-watching is the best there. Don’t go upstairs, where it’s too quiet, unless there’s a nice guy who you need to study Chinese with.

You will never establish one precise spot to sit in Maha, though you’ll prefer somewhere the right side, a few rows down. You’ll sing worship songs every Friday, and learn the names of people you will never meet as you scan their IDs, and tell 500 freshman about your search for identity. In this same auditorium, you will graduate.

On graduation day, you will walk in behind the World Languages banner, though you could have fit equally well under English & Literature or Education. You will feel a flicker of accomplishment when the president congratulates you for your honors, when you move your tassel and become alumni. Your boyfriend will surprise you after the ceremony. (Yes, you will get a boyfriend, if you follow the library and Chinese studying instructions.) You won’t be expecting him for another five days, and you’ll almost lose your mortarboard when you see him walk toward you, bearing flowers. One your current roommates will be there, catching the ceremony between her brother’s hockey games. She will have shared endless YouTube videos and buckets of support with you in the past years. Your family will take you out to dinner at one of the coolest restaurants in St. Paul, a former warehouse with tall skylights and excellent salmon. You’ll forgot your car on campus and the Public Safety officer on duty won’t ticket you when you call and beg for mercy. You still won’t like talking on the phone. The day will end with Sebastian Joe’s ice cream cake, a sweet finale.

Right now, as a baby-faced freshman, you think that this graduation day is a magic ticket to being a competent adult. You watch the seniors, who walk around campus so purposefully, and assume that in four and a half years, you too will have everything figured out. You think that you might have a job lined up, or the promise of a ring by spring, or maybe even style.

Hate to break it to you, honey. But at graduation, you will still feel as clueless and uncertain as ever. Right now, you value your own efficiency, discipline, and ability to excel. You place your identity in those things. In four and a half years, you won’t anymore. You’ll lose confidence in your own merit. You’ll realize how messy life is, and you’ll lose hope that working hard can fix everything. But you’ll gain more important things. You’ll find composure in front of a class of middle schoolers. You’ll discover passion for investing in relationships. You’ll gain definition in your cheekbones. And the things you’re learning in life are just beginning.

Every graduation speaker will tell you that commencement does not mean end. It means beginning. (Pretty sure you said this in your own high school graduation speech, actually.) It’s horribly cliché. But it is also true. You’re launching into the rest of your life soon, a new beginning, and it’s scary. You won’t ever feel totally ready.

But if you’ll learn one thing over the next four and a half years, it’s that you’ll make it, even through the scary and unknown and intimidating.

Have fun, kid. Make some memories.

– Me


Holes. noun. Empty spaces, where absence is felt.

Lee Morley via Flickr

Lee Morley via Flickr

Holiness has most often been revealed to me in the exquisite pun of the first syllable, in holes – in not enough help, in brokenness, mess.

– Anne Lamott

Every year, it bangs me over the head, how much I expect every moment of Advent to be glittery and Kodak-worthy. It never meets expectations.

Paper snowflakes and stockings hang from our walls, baby bulbs from our baby tree. The chalkboard whispers Christmas wishes. I wear all the plaid and play all the music. Presents are wrapped in kraft paper with care.

And underneath the twinkle lights, I’m still scared. I’m still lonely. I’m still broken.

I’m longing to know what my future holds when my concrete plans run out. The boy is too far away, and it looks like he will stay there for too long, and I’m too angsty about it. My control muscle keeps spasming, when the 7th graders won’t stop talking in class, and when the months ahead feel too uncertain, and when the student loan payments loom, and when I can’t patch my messes.

The world feels it too. Others have holes much deeper, more painful, than mine. While we light candles and hang ornaments, the hunger and abuse and terrorism and racism and violence remain. We flail in fear. We look for answers no one has. God’s people cry, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and there is silence.

It hurts.

This Advent, I pray that we would let it hurt. This season centers on the longing of a world not yet perfect. We are watching and waiting for the Lord, praying for his presence as we see our need. We will still have fear and loneliness and brokenness. But this Christmas, I pray those things won’t lead us to solitary panic, or desperation for Christmas Eve engagements, or cynicism.

Instead, in those holes of hurt and longing, may we seek the quiet presence of God with us.

When we can’t be merry because life is hard, may we admit it, and hear the holy words “Me, too.” When we struggle, wondering when the Prince of Peace will reign, may we pay attention for his presence. When we hurt, may we search for the Healer and Counselor, holding fast to the promise that Emmanuel shall come. May his presence, his holiness, his promises, fill the holes in our broken souls and our broken world.


Thankful. adjective. Expressing gratitude or appreciation. A series appearing on Thursdays in November.

Victoria Bjorkman via Flickr

Victoria Bjorkman via Flickr

This week, I have been afraid.

I was in DC when Paris was attacked. We were walking from the Revolutionary War memorial in the twilight, making plans, when the boyfriend stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. We stood still while he scrolled through breaking news. As we grocery shopped and ate dinner, more unfolded. Now the world is afraid. We’re fighting evil and fighting fear, and sometimes the two get confused. Opinions rage about whether we let in the poor and oppressed, and whether the risk is too great. My heart breaks. They want us to be afraid. And we are.

I was saying goodbye to DC and the boy. We stood by the river, the planes cruising over the Potomac, and I cried. For a moment, a weekend, everything was okay. His hand was in mine. When I boarded the plane, to return to real, separate life, I didn’t know what would happen. I still don’t. We’re stepping into new phases, seeing if our lives will draw together or apart. It scares me.

I was driving to school, to the fresh new placement. The first day had been overwhelming. The school held more people than my entire hometown, big kids who yelled in the halls and no longer looked at teachers with awe and appreciation. Our classroom didn’t have windows. I forgot where the water fountains were. I knew one person in all 1300, barely. At 7:13 a.m., as my windshield wipers flicked, I felt terribly alone.

All of these things were bearing down on my heart this week. And then a friend shared a verse that I can’t get out of my head. The psalmist is talking to God, laying out his grief over the world. But then he backpedals. “I’m still in your presence,” he says,” but you’ve taken my hand. You wisely and tenderly lead me, and then you bless me.*”

You’ve taken my hand.

This week, I am thankful that God takes my hand, and your hand, and the world’s hand.

Things are frightening, the future is uncertain, and life in our broken world seems so hard. We can’t ignore the pain. We shouldn’t try to, bandaging it with Christian clichés and trite words. Instead, we need to do the work of sitting in our hurt and watching for our Father’s presence and his comforting hand.

We need to trust that we have a God who is here, walking with us, giving us what we need. We need to find comfort and love and peace and stability in his grasp. We need to seek the beauty and truth of his presence. We need to open our ears and eyes and hearts for his gentle leading. We need to say, even with voices that tremble, “I’m still in your presence, but you’ve taken my hand. You wisely and tenderly lead me, and then you bless me.”

I am thankful that these things are still possible. I am thankful we have not been abandoned. May the world, and you, and I sincerely believe that this week.


*Psalm 73:23-24, MSG


Interim. noun. An intervening time, a temporary or provisional arrangement.

jblaha via Flickr

jblaha via Flickr

On a tired evening, I read a post by Emily Freeman. She shared these words, from John O’Donohue in To Bless the Space Between Us:

You are in this time of the interim where everything seems withheld.

The path you took to get here has washed out; the way forward is still concealed from you.

You cannot lay claim to anything; In this place of dusk, your eyes are blurred;

And there is no mirror. As far as you can, hold your confidence.

Do not allow your confusion to squander.

This call which is loosening your roots in false ground, that you might come free from all you have outgrown.

I stopped scrolling mindlessly. I read those words again. I let them sink and felt them resonate.

Because I am in this time of the interim.

The last of summer just slipped through my fingers. Not long ago, we had a golden day, a gift in Minnesota October. It was eighty degrees and sunshine and bursts of fall color. I sat outside in shorts and read Fitzgerald. And then, the next morning, the wind snatched the door from my hands as I left my apartment and blew in steel gray clouds. The temps waver now. We have blessed mild sun today and I forget my jacket most mornings, but the leaves are crumbling. I know what’s coming soon. I’m bracing for it.

I’m nearly done with my seventh week of student teaching. I’m prepping and teaching all but a tiny handful of kiddos. The battle does not rage, but rolls on, day by day. We’ve finished 18 hours of conferences, so many hours in the small room for the number of families who show. The assessments for state licensing are so much work, typed in 11-point font on too many pages, with so little payoff. Sometimes I feel like a real teacher, worrying what videos my third grader is posting of herself on YouTube and wondering how to authentically incorporate music for the boy who sings Wiz Kalifa while staring at his journal. And sometimes I feel like a fraud. I have no paycheck, no year-long commitment to this school and these students. I am still a college student, tied to supervisors and seminar hours and my university email.

I don’t know where I’m going. I have eleven more weeks of clarity, three with my elementary kiddos and eight in  7th grade Language Arts. And then my life is blank, all haze. Job boards and program applications offer many options and little clarity. “It will be interesting,” I say. “It will all work out.” I believe it because I have no choice, because belief precedes sight in my brand of faith.

Relationships get complicated. We muddle through the everydays of long-distance and wonder if it’s worth it, if it will work out. This is no easy business, the in-between of “I like you” and “I do.” I’m feeling desperation to be permanently attached to someone, to come home to the same arms every night. I see it happening for friends on my Facebook feed, while I sit solitary in my apartment and burn with quiet cynicism. It’s not yet time for me. Maybe it won’t ever be. For now, I buy a plane ticket and pray and try to build a life anchored on more than one boy. But still the distance, the unknown, the unfulfilled ache.

I don’t know what I’ve outgrown. I can’t go back, to classes with familiar professors and the friendly faces in chapel and close circles with girls in the dorms. I don’t want to. But there are holes left. I used to know my place in community, sitting on industrial carpet under twinkle lights, or standing in line to buy cookies from the cafe after chapel. Those everyday intersections are gone. The connections remain, a little dusty but still whole and real. I need to reach out. I need to be known.

This is the space between student and adult, between classes and jobs, between past and future. This is the interim. This is life. We live and move in the moments between, the moments of not yet, the moments of mystery and blind faith. And through it, the blurry and the broken, we keep moving. We keep growing. We keep trusting that God makes cosmos from emptiness, life from dust, and beauty from our cracked little souls.


Trust. verb. According to Google, “to believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” I’ve struggled with it ever since trust falls on 9th grade youth retreats. I am struggling with it now.

photo: Nathan Rupert via Flickr

photo: Nathan Rupert via Flickr

I’d been going to yoga. One Thursday I showed up to a toned pixie with messy hair leading the class. We started in child’s pose.

I sat on my feet, hips trying to touch heels, folded in half so my forehead touched the ground. I pressed back through my palms, feeling the tension. The teacher claimed that hips carry a lot of emotion. I almost believed her. “This week in my classes, we’ve been talking about trust,” she said. “So tonight, meditate on trust. Where do you need more trust?”

I’m sometimes oblivious to burning bushes, signs from God. This one was hard to miss.

Wednesday had been hard. Some of my distant, hopeful plans for the future toppled. My ideals were looking, well, idealistic. The months ahead looked hard, like work and angst. Letting go of my tentative outline sucked.

I thought I knew exactly what I wanted for the next few years. I predicted how much hard stuff I could handle before my measly strength gave out, how far my emotions would swing in a few months. “I can’t,” throbbed in my mind when all I saw were my own trembling hands, knuckles white with pressure. So I held my own little whispered hopes close. I’d just started to give voice to them.

And then, one conversation, and my plans crumbled.

I spent the day grappling with the mental aftermath when not wrangling kids. I wanted to stomp, stick out my bottom lip, and cross my arms, like the diva seven-year-olds I work with. It would have been so much more satisfying than sitting quietly, watching the playground, wondering if I’d get my way.

Two weeks later, I still want to pout most days.

I should be better at this. The past months are littered with evidence that I have something to trust in. I got a miracle job for the summer. A random conversation linked me to a roommate just in time. Just days ago, my cranky car got fixed without leaving me stranded for more than an evening. Clearly, I have not been cosmically ditched. And still I forget. Still I refuse.

It sucks. I want to stretch into the mythical day when all will be well and I will be content. I itch to instantly unfurl branches that reach further and touch more: more warmth, more adventure, more happiness, more space for the life I long for. But I’m stuck, rooted here and now. Growing is slow. It hurts, the cracking of stiff bark, old ideas, to make room for new shooting of fresh leaves. It goes inch by inch. From my stunted height, my plans still seem best. I ache for them to be fulfilled.

There has to be something better. I want to ask “What if?” with hope, not fear. I want to believe that those June evenings I spent reading in my boyfriend’s room, him listening to lectures, our knees touching, won’t be the only golden days. I want to believe that college was not the height of God’s provision of community and purpose. I want to know what it means for the Lord to be my strength and my song.

“Trust yourself to try something new,” the yoga instructor said. That night, I tried. I tried growing branches in tree pose, stretching my fingers towards the sky. I tried taking my peace fingers, grabbing my foot, and straightening my knee. I wobbled and broke the position. I tried again.

Now, I feel like I’m failing at trusting. I keep feeling the tension, losing my balance, and breaking the position. It hurts. But I have to keep trying again.


Golden. adjective. The color of late summer, of the minutes before sunset, of serendipity.


We’ve been eating peaches all weekend: they are golden rimmed in red, edible hot sun and sweet rain. A pie turns to juice in our mouths and disappears. The white fan moves the evening air, all humidity and laughter. The brothers who eat and tease, the dad who listens, the mom who sasses, the other family who color the conversation, sit around scratched-up wood tables. They tell stories about people I don’t know, of wedding crashing 50 years ago. Their words mix with the lake water in my hair and the smell of piecrust, simmering into joy.

The twenty-somethings and moms gather on the lawn, yoga mats sprawled. The leader, in hot pink leggings, intones “inhale, up dog; exhale, down dog.” I lose my breath, and my Warrior One wobbles when she nears. “Left hip down, right hip forward,” and I shift, muscles stabilizing. I hear “good adjustment” and wonder if it’s for me, the girl who knows no one and feels too young, too tall, too much into cardio for this. But still I try. When I lay in stilled savasana, breath slow, eyes closed, tongue dropped from the roof of my mouth, golden sunlight fills my palms.

The pictures blur, twenty-two candles and golden glow. We eat cupcakes, extra frosting on hand, even though we’ve had dessert twice already. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this birthday, the first without my family around the table and my sister’s flourless chocolate cake. But I am sandwiched between two friends who planned an evening of surprises, with breadsticks and minions and girlish chatter. Though I’d forgotten to invite it, love joined the party.

It’s too late. I’m the only one who ever mentions it. I yawn. I don’t know how he does it, the boy a time zone ahead of me. Someone finally clicks and the call ends. Though this is hard, this communication through computer, I glow golden as I brush my teeth. He cares what I think, even when my words are scrambled. He loves me. He admits it in front of his roommates.

The professor in the movie, wearing a beanie and jeans, claims, “We should concern ourselves, not so much with the pursuit of happiness, but with the happiness of pursuit.” Hector, the psychiatrist on an international quest for happiness, finds it in a flight home. When he asks the stewardess if the plane can go any faster, his face is golden, lit with love. I know where I’d fly for happiness, given the chance. But apparently happiness doesn’t take miles of travel to find. I don’t know exactly what I’m pursuing. But I want to be surprised by happiness here. I think I’m learning how.

July (2015)

July. The month of the Fourth of July and my birthday. Also the month of the year that seems to fly by the fastest.


Linking up with Leigh Kramer to share the things I’m loving this month. Head to the link-up to get some great recommendations.


A lot.

Just One Day – Gayle Forman. In high school, I remember spending an entire summer afternoon reading If I Stay, another Gayle Forman book about a girl in a car accident, and crying for nearly the entire book. Going into this book, I expected similar emotional manipulation. This story is about Allyson, a rule-follower who spontaneously decides to spend just one day in Paris with a mysterious street actor, and spends the entire next year getting over the experience. Beware: much boy angst and wanderlust for Paris ensue. This book wasn’t particularly deep, but when I read the ending, I might have actually stared, open-mouthed, at the book and said aloud, “That’s the end?,” so I guess I got my emotional manipulation after all. Overall, an enjoyable read that made me remember why, as a teenager, I could read for afternoons without stopping.

Dear Committee Members – Julie Schumacher. This book, by a writing prof at the U of M, was a clever story told in the letters of recommendation and business correspondence of a fictional writing professor of a small university. After working in a professor’s office and overhearing many conversations about inter-department politics and budget cuts, I found this book additionally amusing. The writing is smart, funny, accessible, and though sometimes it’s hard to find an overarching plot in the letters, the end is surprising and makes the entire book work.

Rules of Civility – Amor Towles. This is possibly my favorite kind of book: an exploration of different, fascinating characters where nothing particularly explosive happens but little events keep uncovering new revelations. Rules of Civility follows Katey Kontent, a young New Yorker, and the vivid people who shape her life in 1938. The story felt like a book version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, with a sharper, less flaky narrator. The writing was clear, with clever descriptions and simple flair. Simply put, I loved this book.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks – E. Lockhart. This YA book, about a girl who hates being underestimated and tries to infiltrate a boys-only secret society, is fun. It has a few traces of interesting social critique, but it wasn’t a stand-out for me.

Found – Micha Boyett. I stumbled across this in the library, and what a serendipitous gift as I lived out a quiet, seemingly unremarkable month. This was a gentle, grace-filled book about prayer and motherhood. I’m not a book underliner (especially in library books), but this book made me want to be one with lines like, “Stability is not something you do,” and “The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest. The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.” Loved it.

Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity – Lauren F. Winner. Why do I feel the need to clarify that one can read books about sex without having sex? Now that we’re clear, this book. It focused on chastity, or basically doing sex within God’s intentions. It did more than toss out a few verses from Paul; Winner went deeper into the theology of the body and sex, busted common myths, and shared her own story. Though I didn’t agree with all of her ideas, and I’m curious how her thoughts have changed now that she’s no longer a newlywed, I’d recommend this for the fascinating conversations it sparked and ways it made me question my unconsciously-held ideas.

Persuasion – Jane Austen. My dad claims that all Jane Austen novels/movies are exactly the same: sisters lacking money search for men. There is minor disaster and someone has a scandalous history. It ends happily. That isn’t exactly true… though this one did have all the major ingredients. It also had a little more rawness. Austen nails the descriptions of pining after lost love, perhaps because this novel supposedly based on her own lost romance.



Hector and the Search for Happiness. What a delightful movie. Hector, a bored psychiatrist, goes on an international journey to learn more about happiness (and find it for himself). He learns that happiness is such things as “being loved for who you are” and “avoiding unhappiness is not the road to happiness.” It’s tender and funny and insightful. (It’s also rated R for a few f-bombs and some implied sex, but I didn’t think it was too offensive. My mom recommended it to me, if that tells you anything.)

The Minion Movie. I have great friends who take me to children’s movies on my birthday. It was exactly the kind of silly you expect from the Minions. Nothing deep, but all kinds of cute. I still want a minion of my own.

Sleepless in Seattle. I got to introduce an uninitiated friend to this movie, which I feel is one of my callings in life.

The old Footloose. I prefer the new one, honestly. Is that heresy?

A little FRIENDS, and when I needed a something new, a little of The Vicar of Dibley. Alice, particularly her story about I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, makes the entire show worth watching.



Dan + Shay – Nothin’ Like You

Tried-and-true favorites like NEEDTOBREATHE and Ellie Holcomb. I need something new – any thoughts? What are you loving this summer?



Still jamming on salads in a jar, especially one with ranch, salsa, rice, chicken, corn, guacamole, cheese, lettuce, and crushed torilla chips. The perfect summer lunch (and a cheaper Chipotle substitute).

Mail. Few things make me feel more loved than getting cards.

This Instagram account, a guy who records his adventures as a third wheel, is hysterical.

Free outdoor yoga classes. A park down the road from my apartment offers free yoga a few times a week, and I’ve been trying to hit them when my schedule is open. Though one time I stumbled into a PiYo (pilates and yoga fusion) session and thought I might die, the other sessions have ended with me feeling incredibly relaxed.

These realistic-looking images of Disney princes. Yessss.

Skype, the savior of long-distance relationships (and it’s free!)

Freshly updated dressers. I spent one evening spiffing up a beat-up dresser. All it took was a sample size can of paint of interior paint – just enough to cover the drawers – and some new drawer pulls from World Market.

I suck at decorating pictures. But for a beat-up dresser, I like this.

I suck at decorating pictures. But for a dresser dug out of our basement, I like this.


Working with kids at the park. Pros: my job includes tasks like going off a massive zipline into a pool, playing laser tag, and giving piggyback rides in the pool. Cons: my job includes tasks like dealing with kids with selective hearing or ones that cry because they can’t get their shoes on, and I have been asked by children when I am going to replace both my phone and my car. At least it’s different every day.

Celebrating the Fourth of July at the cabin, complete with an extra day off, naps in the hammock, sparklers off the dock, and terrifying tube rides from my brother. Don’t trust 18-year-old boys to drive their older sisters.

Looking patriotic

Looking patriotic

Visiting my longtime roommate and friend. I got to hang out at her house, cackle at ridiculous Backstreet Boys and N’Sync music videos, craft, and drive around Minnesota’s Iron Range. I miss having her around!

Hull Rust Mine overlook

Hull Rust Mine overlook. Both photos from the lovely Janae.

A truck tire from the mine. For context, I'm 6'1".

A truck tire on the vehicles that work in the mine. For context, I’m 6’1″.

Gearing up for a sweet friend’s wedding with a bridal shower. I can’t believe that someone I became friends with on my first day of college is about to get married!

Thrift store dress for the win. Photo credit: Rachel's mom, who actually remembers to take pictures at events.

Thrift store dress for the win. Photo credit: Rachel’s mom, who actually remembers to take pictures at events.

Celebrating my birthday with dear friends. I got an evening full of surprises, complete with a visit from a faraway friend, dinner at Eddington’s with lots of breadsticks (a classic for us), the Minion movie (because nothing says 22 like animated movies), and cupcakes with candles. I felt so loved.

Feeling 22!

Feeling 22!

Hanging out with my family for another lake weekend. We ate a ridiculous number of peaches and spent many hours on the water. I swam all the way across the lake and failed at getting up on one ski. It was perfection.


Classic. Anna says “We’re going to die!” while Caleb says “Go! Faster! Gun it!”

What have you been into in July?