End Zones & Time Zones

Seattle SeahawksI was seventeen the first time I watched the Super Bowl all the way through.

I’m sure it was on other years, but I could never be bothered to watch. I’d float in for the halftime show or a few commercials. The game itself felt endless, piles of people crawling across the field, lacking the precision of baseball, the speed of basketball, or the precise single-mindedness of soccer. Had I been alive during the “Heidi Bowl” of 1968, I would have cheered when the game flickered off in overtime, giving way to an actual story, for once.

But when I was a senior in high school, the New England Patriots were playing the St. Louis Rams in a pre-Katrina Superdome, with a pre-everything, second-season Tom Brady. I’d recently decided that Gordon College, just outside of Boston, held the key to my future. With this destiny in mind, I decided to watch the Super Bowl. If I was going to be a New Englander, I best start cheering for my team.

And cheer I did. I remember little of the actual game now. (Honestly, if I remembered any specific plays it would be a miracle. Even this summer’s glorious final World Cup match has become a faint and distant memory.) U2 performed the halftime show, as the names of those killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks–just five months prior–scrolled on a giant screen behind them. The Patriots won, possibly in overtime.

When I came to Ballard High School the next day, where I was a copy editor for our school newspaper, I proofread the final draft of that month’s paper, and discovered a hole in the Sports section.

“Someone, write an article on the Super Bowl,” the Editor-in-Chief commanded. No response. “Didn’t anyone watch it?” Apathetic shrugs all around.

“I watched it,” I replied, breaking the silence as skeptical classmates turned to look at me.

“Really?” He raised his eyebrows, then shrugged. “OK, fine. Kristi, you write it.”

It was my first and last sports article, 200 words I’m still proud of writing. I think it is cut out somewhere, buried in a box in my parents’ garage. The first Super Bowl I cared about.

Of course, life didn’t turn out that way. A week later I visited Gordon, and a few months later I decided to stay in Seattle, picking my parents’ alma mater, Seattle Pacific University, for mostly financial reasons. I never became a Patriots fan, except in “lesser of two evils” scenarios.

I did watch more Super Bowls, though. I watched in 2005, when the Seahawks went to their first championship ever, losing to the Steelers under referee-related circumstances that my Ingraham ninth-graders wailed about loudly the next morning. After mocking my colleagues and students here in Germany for three years for the nonsense of staying up all night on a Sunday, last February I set my alarm for midnight and watched (most of) Seattle’s victory over Denver.

I still don’t love football, still find it agonizingly slow at times. I still choose sleep over watching most nights, even when, like during the NFC Championship, that proves to be a terrible decision. But a few magical times a year, football connects me with home, with family and friends, a giant cause that we all care about together. It’s just a game, of course, hardly the most critical cause in the world, but it’s something, a link of excitement to a city full of people I love.

With just about everyone in Seattle, I’ll be watching the Super Bowl again this year. And this time, I won’t be rooting for the Patriots.

Better, Stronger, More Realistic and Complicated

As my first period takes the first final of Exam Week, I’m reading news updates from Seattle, where a gunman recently opened fire on the campus of my alma mater, Seattle Pacific University. Yesterday, I read this letter to my students, promising that while the general discontent of American Literature is an honest response to the real suffering inherent to human life, we have better dreams, rooted in the love of a Creator who cares for us. This seems appropriate this morning, as I consider the broken world in which we live, and mourning with and praying for peace of those who are suffering in my home city, halfway around the world.

Period Five enjoying sunshine at our Literary Picnic on the last day of school.

Period Five enjoying sunshine at our Literary Picnic on the last day of school.

My Dear Juniors,

Happy last day of school! I know as well as you that there are a few more hurdles to conquer before we’re officially in Summer World, but as today is the last day of regular classes, it will have to do for a farewell, for now. For some of you, this is a first last day. For others, there have been more than ten, but I win this game, at least in present company. This is my nineteenth last day of school. I don’t expect that you’ll all become teachers, but for those who will, I’ll tell you that even on the nineteenth time, it doesn’t get old. The last day of school is still relaxing, the first one still thrilling, and snow days still a magical treat made of time and ice. It’s a good life I still get to live alongside you.

I used to be jealous of Ernest Hemingway, specifically the version of his life he portrayed in A Moveable Feast, the memoir of his early years in Paris. He described a life of simplicity, a pleasant parade of words, food and sunshine. I wanted that. It wasn’t until later that I realized that I have everything he has, and more. I am richer than Hemingway. Because for him, the picnics on the Seine, the trips to the Alps, the attic in which to write, these things were as good as it got. We’ve been blessed so richly, students, given this time and place in which to learn and grow, yet even when we leave this quiet, emerald valley, the glory doesn’t end. We go on living and learning, growing in peace and joy as we follow Christ down the wildly divergent paths ahead of us.

Coming once again through the brightly whimsical postmodern gates at the end of our journey together, I notice that the path of American Literature has hardly been a happy one. Though I enjoy every book we share, I know that none of them—not one—offers a picture of wholeness, peace or joy. While the Thoreaus of the world are hiding in their cabins, watching even the ants wage war with one another, the Steinbecks are still pestering us with the suspicion that human life is full of trouble and disappointment, that sometimes even the simplest dreams are out of reach.

Of course, we know all this. We know that life is full of both beauty and brokenness. Christ promised us that, while we live in this world, we’ll “have trouble. But take heart!” He continued. “I have overcome the world.” Having come to love and respect you, my students, I wish I could promise smooth roads to success, romantic dreams-come-true for all of you, but at the end of this year of sad and lovely literature, the true triumph is that these aren’t our stories. Though we’ll all encounter setbacks and disappointments, I’m confident that each of your futures, bound up in the unspeakable imagination of our Creator, is better than a house of your own, stronger than rabbits, more realistic than time travel, and more complicated than the most postmodern plot sequence.

Wherever you go, this summer or a year from now, take heart in the knowledge that you bring with you wide eyes to see the world around you, and strong hearts, full of the joy of Christ, with which to serve and love it. I am incredibly proud of the vibrant young people that you are becoming, and eager to see Christ’s work in you.

Peace in Christ,

Kristi Gaster

Brother and Sister

My brother, Noah, with his wife, Lindsey.

My brother, Noah, with his wife, Lindsey.

One of the best gifts of these summers in Seattle are times that I get to spend with my siblings, Noah and Holly Dahlstrom. Below are two unconnected, but still brilliant, examples of their greatness. I feel blessed to share some of the summer with them, and even more grateful to be the sister of two such extraordinary people.

That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.

Ecclesiastes 3:13 (NASB)

Around 10:00 AM, we’re scrambling to the top of Liberty Bell Mountain. We’ve come this early to avoid the heat, and our early ascent came at a cost: it was before four when my brother, Noah, woke his wife and me from where we’d camped a few miles down the road. Now, six hours later, we’re on the top, 360 degrees of the North Cascades greeting us with a stone-toothed grin.

I’ve never climbed this mountain, though I looked at it often for a great portion of my life. Liberty Bell Mountain is a popular destination of among alpine climbers, but its sheer proximity to Alaythia Fellowship, where I grew up in the Upper Skagit Valley, made me jump at the chance when Noah offered to take me along on this climb.

I’ve climbed behind him all day, watching in amazement the disciplined and precise actions of someone who knows this art, and knows it well. There are no wasted words or movements, just careful decisions that are calm and reassuring. Though an early foray into climbing has all but numbed my fear of heights, I still feel safer a thousand feet up on this edge than I would otherwise. Not just a master climber, Noah is a patient teacher and confident guide, and he’s made this day grand beyond imagining.

Holly36 hours later, I find myself in a concert venue in Seattle, this time to hear Holly play violin and viola, sing and tap dance with her band, Friends and Family. I haven’t heard them live in three years, and though their music is familiar, their showmanship has improved remarkably since then. The band has gotten a great deal of local positive press lately, reviews lauding them for their energy, intelligence, honesty and joy. One blogger wrote that “Friends and Family are from another Seattle, a Seattle where people read books, make jokes, and sometimes sweat from doing things other than bicycling.” High praise in a city of lackadaisical, many-layered irony.

For the greater amplification of her percussive feet, Holly stands on a platform that puts her a head taller than the lead singer, so she’s front, center, and tall on this stage. The music sharp and bright, just as excellent as I remember, but mostly I’m mesmerized watching my sister perform with the earnestness and yes, joy, of a seasoned musician. She plays and sings with skill and poise, as much in her element here as Noah at the top of Liberty Bell.

And it’s these elements that make me thankful, spending time with both of my siblings, as I realize God has given them both gifts and settings in which to use them. Both excel and find great fulfillment in what they’re doing, and it’s beautiful to see. I see it in my students, too, in the energy and excitement that they invest in basketball, in running, in writing, in ceramics. I love to see this marriage of passion and context, which leads these people I love to work hard with deep joy. It’s a gift, one that I see in my own life in teaching, and one that I’m happy to discover here too, this summer with my siblings.

Home is Wherever I’m With You

Brighton

Brighton

Brother Tom nodded understandingly. “It’s the memories, the old loyalties; they are so precious,” he said. “Things that meant so much, that stay present in the wood and stone of a place. If you let go of the place and the things that belong to it, you feel afraid that you’ll lose hold of the memory.” The Hardest Thing To Do, Penelope Wilcock

The window of this cafe offers a familiar view. I look out on an intersection, four corners beside a steep city street. I watch from one corner. The remaining three corners feature a vinyl record store, vintage clothing shop, and organic cafe, respectively. The weather is slate-grey and windy, but every so often a pair of pedestrians–dressed in the bold colors and thrift-store chic that is its own urban uniform–forges up or down the hill.

I’m in Brighton, a city on the southern shore of Great Britain, but it looks like Seattle. I close my eyes and hear the barista and servers speaking the French that is native to this patisserie, while the other customers converse in a million shades of British English. But when I open my eyes, I could be on Capitol Hill, having just ducked in from a tempest in another rainy city.

I’m reading Travels With Charley, Steinbeck’s memoir of his camper-and-poodle adventure across America in the 1960s. He recalls a conversation he had with an old friend in Monterey, arriving at his old California home after many years. He finds it different, predictably, irrevocably altered from what he remembered and knew.

“Let’s not fool ourselves,” he writes. “What we knew is dead, and maybe the greatest part of what we were is dead. What’s out there is new and perhaps good, but it’s nothing we know.”

It’s been three years since I decided to leave Seattle. In August, it will be three years in  Kandern, a place that has become a home, rich with community and simple familiarity. I often miss Seattle, but it is relationships that draw me most, seldom the city itself. Yet here in Brighton, a brief stop during spring break, I’m reminded of the one city I truly love, thousands of miles away but always close.

After only two visits in three years, I’ll return to Seattle twice this year: once in the summer, to bask in the best of Pacific Northwest seasons, and again in December, to get married. I hear Steinbeck’s warning: you can’t really go home, not to the home you knew. How tempting to believe that our homes and lives exist just as we left them, like a playroom with the light off, all the toys waiting for us to return and pick them up. But it’s not like that, I know. As I’ve changed in this time, so have the people I know and love in that faraway home.

It’s an experience I share with our students, and one I appreciate more the longer I live here. I see them oscillating between continents, these flexible young people changing languages, relationships and cultural norms half a dozen times a year. For many of them, there is Kandern, the country in which their parents serve, and the North American country of grandparents and supporting churches. If these places have any space in their hearts, being anywhere is a balancing act of longing and appreciating, seeing where they are and missing where they’re not.

Three years is different from a teenage lifetime, but I’m beginning to understand. Sipping coffee in Brighton, I miss the city it reminds me of, six thousand westward miles drawing me to itself. Paradoxically, in this grey and busy city I also find myself longing for the warm green hills of Kandern. Surrounded by strangers, I miss seeing people I know every time I go outside. I’m always missing somewhere.

The challenge, then, becomes living fully where I am. Waking each morning and remembering that God has made this day, that He’s here in this place, and that I live to serve Him. In Brighton, in Seattle, in Kandern. He is still my home, everywhere.

Seattle

Seattle

Things (And Mostly People) That Made Life Better This Year: 2012 Edition

Black Forest Academy–this ever-changing community of staff and students that flow in and out of this little valley on the edge of the dark hills–is a place of tradition. Do something once, whether it’s dumping someone in a pond on their birthday or granting crazy Christmas wishes, and it’s likely that you’ll be asked to do it again this time next year.

In honor of the many BFA traditions and in gratitude for the truly splendid year that is ending shortly, here is my third annual list of Things That Made Life Better This Year. I understand that many of them aren’t strictly “things,” but for now the mixed-media format works best to express the twelve factors that most played into 2012.

From Kandern, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  1. Students working in Oradea, Romania, on the Habitat For Humanity house we built for Caminul Felix

    Students working in Oradea, Romania, on the Habitat For Humanity house we built for Caminul Felix

    Community. Sometimes it came in passing, on a building site in Romania or a shared blanket at the London Olympics. Other times, I returned to familiar places, in Seattle and Kandern, to find beloved friends and family, people whom I’ve grown to know and love. In all cases, 2012 has been a year of learning to love and live with others, for however long God gives me the opportunity.

  2. German Language. While traveling in France and Romania this year, I found myself often thankful for the haphazard mastery of the German language that allows me to speak to neighbors and friends in this country I call home. Huge win for high school language study!
  3. Classic American Literature. In my fourth year of teaching eleventh grade English, I am still surprised and challenged by the depth of discussion and inquiry that are present in our most beloved texts. So thank you, Hester Prynne, Huckleberry Finn, Jay Gatsby, and George and Lennie, for the dreams you chase and the questions you ask, these tricky mazes that I get to walk through each year with new juniors.
  4. Growth. From co-leading a mission trip to heading an English Department, this has been a year of new roles and new challenges, all of which have helped me to grow as a teacher and a leader. Thankful for the opportunities, and the excellent managers who have helped me growth through them.
  5. Class of 2013 goes to France!

    Class of 2013 goes to France!

    The Classes of 2012 and 2013. Two classes more different than any I’ve taught, the junior and senior classes have delighted with depth and humor, inspired with questions and energy, and overwhelmingly impressed me with their love for one another and Jesus Christ. I’m thankful for discussions and essays, adventures and imagination. Two great groups.

  6. Technology. Easy to take for granted–especially when it’s broken–I still maintain that the Internet and its many tools have aided in life and learning, facilitating communication with faraway loved ones and providing English reading material for this English teacher.
  7. Dahlstrom siblings at Noah and Lindsey's rehearsal dinner.

    Dahlstrom siblings at Noah and Lindsey’s rehearsal dinner.

    The Dahlstrom Family. Between two visits from my parents and sister, and a busy summer at home in Seattle, I have finished the year doubly thankful for the now-five other Dahlstroms that make up my family. Thank you for hikes and climbing trips, two graduations and beautiful wedding. Most of all, thank you for your love, humor, support and understanding. I couldn’t do this without you.

  8. Asking For Help. Never easy for me, this has been a year of asking for rides to the hospital and train station, along with seeking mentorship and financial support. Thankful for the God who provides friends and family who are happy to step in and lend a hand (or a car) when needed.
  9. Kristi, Emily and Anna

    Kristi, Emily and Anna

    Roommates. Anna and Emily, the dear roommates with whom I’ve lived since moving to Kandern, have been constant sources of wisdom, safety, humor and friendship. I am endlessly thankful to God for arranging these beautiful households.

  10. Supporters. I had the privilege of visiting both Concrete Community Bible Church and Bethany Community Church this summer, along with meeting many of you individually. At the end of this year, I’m struck by the encouragement that so many of you have been to me, along with the incredible financial support that has allowed me to continue in ministry here. Thank you for your involvement!
  11. Timmy and I at Bodenseehof

    Timmy and I at Bodenseehof

    Fishbowl Dating. A year of dating Timmy Gaster in the BFA community has meant many opportunities to model a Christ-centered dating relationship to the always-watching students in our community. Which, in the end, makes all of the giggling, questions, photos and “Mrs. Gaster” jokes worthwhile.

  12. Seasons. Both the more-extreme temperatures of Kandern–from 0˚ F last February to over 90˚ F in the days before school starterd–and the changeable seasons of life, I’ve been more aware of seasons this year, thankful for both those past and those ahead, and that I serve a God who is with me through them all.

For more of 2012, check out some of my favorite photos from the year below!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I Carry It In My Heart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

E.E. Cummings

The Friday night recital has more people than usual, the perfect confluence of no other scheduled events and the novel introduction of clever advertising by an enterprising strings teacher. So we know who’s playing tonight, and the many of us too weary to consider other more ambitious plans are happy to sit quietly in the dark, listening to our friends and students play music for us. It’s delightful.

Having come mostly to hear one of the girls in our small group play her flute, I haven’t paid much attention to the other names on the program until the recital starts. To my pleasant surprise, I see that most of the performers are current or former students, students I’ve heard practicing for ages, their notes wafting across the hall from their practice rooms through the open door of my classroom.

I haven’t read carefully enough, however, to anticipate the familiarity of the music itself. A tiny girl plays a Suzuki etude, a taller one a minuet from later in the book. I hear a cello suite I played in college–albeit on viola. The quartet, though it plays unfamiliar music, reminds me unmistakably of the quartet in which I played for most of high school. With every note I’m transported to a younger self, from childhood to adolescence and back, each song a different era.

Toward the end of the concert, one of my current students sits down at the grand piano to play. Her piece is titled “Improvisation” and has no composer, the meaning of which I don’t quite comprehend until she starts playing. Her hands move slowly, gracefully over the keys, pulling themes and phrases from thin air. The music flows over us, a chorus of gentle rumination for a quiet Friday evening, this song she’s making up as she goes.

And tears fill my eyes, because I’ve heard this piece before. Not this one, of course–no one has ever heard this one, even the pianist herself. But even more than the other pieces, those fragments of twelve years of violin study, this music is home. Because this is how my father plays, the effortless improvisation of a music composition major turned pastor. I’m sitting in a series of living rooms, on the couch beside his baby grand piano, listening to music that was always and never the same. His music. Sometimes I would play along–picking up a viola or violin and hoping he wouldn’t stop before I was ready to join in–and more often I would just sit and listen to these notes, my father’s favorite voice.

My parents sold the piano earlier this week, something that my dad reflected on in eloquent detail here. In this busy week, I haven’t had many moments to think about it until now, listening to this student play. There’s a sense of loss, yes, knowing that whenever I make it back to Seattle, I won’t play with Holly and my dad in the living room again by candlelight. But then, the piano is only a product of larger change, not its catalyst. I live in Germany, after all. Times with Dad and his piano are in the past, anyway.

For a moment I see the world in tear-blurred double. On one side the distant past of the piano and the living room, the simplicity of the five of us living in that house by Greenlake. This past is Instagram-perfect, uncomplicated and warm. I know it isn’t completely true, but these are my piano-fueled memories, so I don’t bother them. The other layer, though, is the present, and when I return to it I see that it is just as lovely here. My students are playing and hearing music together on a Friday night, with snow in the forecast for tomorrow. I’m surrounded by friends, living in a quiet valley and doing what I love every day. When we’re done, I  congratulate my flute-playing small group girl and the quartet. I watch an older brother congratulate his sister not with flowers, but with a fresh pineapple. We disperse into the night, going separate ways and glad to have shared the music for a while.

And my family, the family I connect with all this music, remains nearby, always. They are everywhere, popping into the scene with lines of poetry, discussions about books, and of course phrases of music. I carry them with me, wherever I go.

And for these things, this past of blessing and this present of beauty, I’m very thankful.

Back Again

We didn’t fly much when I was a kid. We were a road-trip-and-camping family. These road trips were long affairs–typically way down to California and back–but they were for sure on the ground.

That’s why flying always seems like a miracle to me, and a bit like cheating. Driving takes time, but it makes sense. You see every mile pass the window. It takes ten hours to get from Frankfurt to Seattle. That’s a long time to sit in a plane–especially a plane without those little screens on the back of the seat in front of me–but the same ten hours in the car would have gotten me to, I don’t know, Amsterdam. Not to Seattle. Flying makes the world seem smaller.

That’s why this weekend–during which I attend the graduation of Holly and Donna Dahlstrom, my sister and mom–feels so surreal. A week ago, I sat in the auditorium of my new home, trying to memorize the faces of students I’ve known and loved for two years, before they disappear for good. Today, less than 24 hours after leaving Germany, everywhere I look there have been black-robed graduates and vaguely familiar faces, set against this background that I know and don’t know. I greet my old professors, see classmates also there to cheer on siblings or get master’s degrees, eat catered cookies and drink Starbucks coffee that taste exactly the same as they did when I started coming here, ten years ago. It’s been a while, but it feels like home.

This is my second weekend of graduation festivities, and the last two weeks of endings and beginnings, transition and travel, have reminded me of both the beauty and the tension of this international life. In the last two years I’ve come to carry around an image of the connections that we make, picturing each relationship as a brightly-colored rubber band that stretches and bends, flexible enough to encompass the wide distances that separate us from family and friends wherever we are. I think of the students that have just left BFA, even the ones that are merely spending summers away before returning in the fall, considering how scattered we all are, this community that usually covers only a few square kilometers.

For eighteen months, the bonds that connect me to Seattle have been the stretched out ones, and today I stand near my own family and old friends, thankful for this home that’s drawn me back to itself for this season. I’m thankful to be here, renewing the friendships maintained over long distances while I’ve lived in Germany. Proud of my family, blessed by the people who’ve raised and supported me to a Christ-filled adulthood, I’m excited to be home for the summer.

Holly, Mom and I at Ivy Cutting for Seattle Pacific University graduation weekend.

Summer At My First Home

Sunset over Shilshole Bay. Oh Seattle, how lovely.

Home.

In the last two years–my first away from the Pacific Northwest of my American childhood–the word  has stretched and grown, taking on new meaning in strange places, expanding to include cultures I’m just beginning to understand and people I’ve quickly grown to love.

But though this strange life now includes many homes, Washington State will always be my first, and I’m delighted to be returning there in less than three weeks. I anticipate a summer of connection and community, seeing many of you in person for the first time in too long. While much of this is still in process, here are the dates and schedule that I know so far for the summer.

  • June 7: Return to Seattle
  • June 9: SPU Graduation (Holly and Donna Dahlstrom graduate!)
  • June 24: Speaking at Concrete Community Bible Church
  • June 27: Bethany Missions Living Room Report with Emily Kelly (location TBA)
  • June 29-July 8: Attend BFA colleague’s wedding in Chicago
  • July 14: Noah Dahlstrom and Lindsey Maples’s Wedding!
  • July 28: Return to Kandern

I will also be holding a gathering at my parents’ house in Seattle in mid-June, the date of which I’ll publish as soon as possible. I am excited to share with you all the work God has been doing at Black Forest Academy over the last eighteen months. As I prepare to return to Seattle, I would like to ask for your prayer for the summer in the following areas:

  • Relationships: Pray for times of meaningful connection with friends, family and supporters. Through the magic of technology, I’ve been blessed to remain connected with many of you, even from a distance, but I am excited to spend the time catching up in person.
  • Communication: Pray that I will be able to communicate, clearly and effectively, the work that God has been doing at Black Forest Academy. It has truly been a privilege to serve here these last two years, and I am eager to share stories from the classroom, the track, and the many other places where I’ve been able to get involved here.
  • Financial Support: Due to rising costs of health insurance and German taxes, I am seeking to raise about $300 in additional monthly support this summer. Pray for provision and support, as I seek to continue the work that God has given me to do here at BFA. If you are interested in becoming a monthly supporter, or raising your current level of support, click here or contact me at kristi.dahlstrom@gmail.com.

As always, I am overwhelmed with the encouragement that so many of you have been to me during these last two years at BFA. Thank you for making Seattle a home that I love and look forward to seeing again!

Peace in Christ,

Kristi

Leaving Home, Taking Home

Sunset in Seattle from Safeco Field, 2009

If I travel all my life
and I never get stop and settle down
long as I have you by my side
there’s a roof above and good walls all around.

Well I’ll never be a stranger
and I’ll never be alone
wherever we’re together
that’s my home.

Billy Joel, “You’re My Home”

I’ve never moved away.

I’ve moved, of course.  Like many young adults, I’ve spent much of the last eight years drifting around Seattle from dorm to house to apartment, punctuated by family visits.  Every time was much the same: trolling Craigslist for leases likely to please us, cardboard-boxing our lives and then settling into a new home, unpacking and hanging pictures, breathing a settled sigh of relief as we ate pizza and watched a movie in our unfamiliar new home.  And though the homes have changed, the view outside hasn’t, much.  The grey skies and green trees follow me around the city, and I’m still surrounded by layers of water and mountains, whose outlines I can trace even when I’m sleeping.

But none of these moves were away.  I came to Seattle with my family when I was eleven, and since then have stayed.  I’ve always stayed.  And now I’m going.

I reflected on this change this morning in an interview with the Bethany mission committee.  The chairperson asked me what God was teaching me.

“I keep learning the same things,” I replied.  “Learning to trust God with the future, timing.  It’s always the same trust, everywhere I go.  Trusting God for what is the next step.  The next step has always been staying in Seattle.  Now I’m learning to trust when it’s not.”

At every juncture of life since high school, I have wondered if it was time to leave Seattle.  Like my parents, I am a traveler, interested in meeting new people and hearing their stories, curious to see the world from all sides.  Yet it’s never been time to go.  I graduated from Ballard High School with the conviction that the financial security of attending SPU, where my mother works, outweighed the glamor of going to a similar East Coast university.  I remember looking out of my first dorm room on Moving Day #1 and seeing my high school, smiling genially at me from across the Canal.  Four years later, as I contemplated teaching internationally, it still wasn’t time to go.  I had a sister I was just getting to know, a youth group to whom I’d committed for another three years, and a job offer at a public high school in Seattle.

For me, the lesson of young adulthood has been how to appreciate the beauty of investing in the community around me.  Not used to long-term residence or relationships, I’ve been learning to trust God in the indefinite termlessness of young adulthood.  What does it mean, I used to ask, to stay somewhere and to love it?

It means a lot.  It means renewing leases a few times, with a sigh of relief that we could put off moving the piano for another year.  It means growing up with people, sharing the triumphs and sorrows of many stages of life.  It means watching friends and family graduate from high school.  It means returning home, so many times, stepping off of planes or emerging from freeway tunnels to mountains and rain and grey, loving it more each time.

And now I’m letting go.  Firmly grounded in the love of this home, I am moving away, packing up my room on a Sunday night and listening to silly Owl City’s “Hello Seattle” while the miraculous May sunshine reveals how much dusting is still to be done.

I’m still a wanderer, still thrilled by the thought of riding a train to a town I’ve never seen, ready to love kids I don’t yet know. Yet, as I contemplate leaving home for the first time, I am see that God is still teaching me.  Stay, He’s told me, when I longed to keep running.  And now, Go.  I’ll be there, too.  So it will be home.