• Turning 30 and other post 20s things...

    This summer turned out to be a lot more eventful than I thought it would mainly because of a surprise trip back home to North Carolina. But I’ll extend back to the end of June when I turned 30, and the next decade of my life began.

    David did so well in getting lots of friends involved in throwing me a surprise party. What’s funny is that I had actually asked him to do it. Only someone like me would understand the idea of semi-planning your own surprise party! I didn’t know the time or place: I just gave David a list of people and a few ideas and then let him run with it from there. It was a ton of fun having a crowd of folks from our life here in Redding huddled in our small town house living room. I did learn one thing: I don’t really ever need another big surprise party again. It was lovely reminder, though, that my husband will still stretch himself for me. It wasn’t the easiest thing for him to put an event like that together, so once it was over, he was truly happy he had actually pulled it off. What a sweetie and a real catch.

    In July, my mother went into the hospital with some intense abdominal pain. It turned out to be a cancerous mass in her colon. She went into surgery the next day to have it removed, which was successful, but the home doesn’t run itself while you have to sit in a recliner and recuperate.  Graciously and providentially, my cousin was able to give me a buddy pass of his as he works for an airline, which meant a killer deal from San Francisco to Charlotte. David, selflessly willing to see his wife leave for two weeks, was a huge factor in my ability to go home to help. It was a fantastic and intense 14 days in North Carolina. The cool, green mountains were a respite to my soul after almost a year of the dry California sun.

    Spending time with my parents was overall a tremendous blessing for me. It gets weird at times with parents as you grow up and change and become quite different than they might have imagined or expected. My parents and I are on this journey of figuring it all out – working out how to be what we need to be to each other after 8 and half years of me being married and no longer under their roof. I’ve been saying for a while now that someone desperately needs to come out with a book on how this relationship – parents and their adult children – is supposed to look like, because from my perspective, it’s been a real heart breaker in some ways. I’m currently learning to honor and respect my parents a little more than I have in past several years, and I’m getting the sense that there’s a lot more sacrifice involved than people ever talk about. I’m desperate for more than just the cliché stressed relationships of adult children and their parents that you see in popular culture and movies. I’m aiming for Kingdom family, and I’m eager to learn how spiritual family can include your biological family, too, not just other folks you meet along the way that take you under their wing.

    The four foster children (aged 3, 4, 5, and 8) my parents took on in June were a huge part of my visit. Unfortunately, my parents need more time to sort out a permanent arrangement for them, and they have since gone into the care of another family since my return to Redding, but there is no doubt they know my family’s love through it all. My experience in July with them left me more confident than ever in my desire to start a family. I was so tired by the end of the day from my general schedule while in NC: waking them, picking out clothes for them to wear and getting them off to daycare, cleaning and doing laundry or organizing some part of the house left untouched for a while during the rest of the day, cooking dinner, playing with them, bathing them, and then finally getting them tucked in for bed and having a bit of time with my parents in the evening. But I realized how incredible fulfilling those days were. I said to myself at some point, “This will be my 30s. This will be an offering of a good portion of my life unto the Lord,” and it filled me with such joy.

    As I haven’t updated at all this summer, many of you don’t know that David and I are not doing the second year of BSSM. We decided this back in July, when we realized the finances were not coming together for our tuition plus paying rent and life expenses. As you might have realized, I have not worked all summer; I never got any positon anywhere. David took on two jobs, which has allowed me to stay home for now. Second Year seemed a further stretch than we were willing to make at this point in time. Besides, if I want to become pregnant, it makes more sense to not be doing school while I prepare and let my body absorb a new life growing in it.

    So here we are: trying to get pregnant, David working hard, and us doing what we do quite best – loving people well. There is this new sense of our role here in Redding we have in this season, which is to be friends and support to people, a safe place, and one to go to for love and community within the Bethel culture. Our housemate for the summer has left, our original lease partners are back in the house, and we’re enjoying the quiet yet dynamic life we have here. Since we didn’t have to pay $8000ish in tuition, we were able to register for the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) class that starts this week. We’ll have that once a week until March and receive a certification in the program that will hopefully lead to open doors in teaching English as a job either back in NC next Spring or in England the following year.

    The plan is just this: finish my book while I get pregnant, have the baby hopefully next summer while in North Carolina, move back to England with said baby January 2016. These are the basic directional things we know and feel confident in God’s leading. The rest is a day to day journey in hearing His voice on each matter. It’s a brilliant way to live.

  • My Writer's Declaration

    My writer's group from the year decided to keep meeting throughout the summer to encourage each other's summer writing plans. We've recently challenged one another to write our own declarations - a sort of mantra to speak over ourselves as we continue honing in our craft. 

    If you're a writer, consider writing your own and then plaster it somewhere you have to see it. Begin to believe in your talent. (Do this for all sorts of areas in life.) What we think we are, we become. Here is mine:

    I am a poet laureate, a voice to a nation both in America and England. I write local color, the flavor of my people and my time. I am a ghost writer only I get credit. God planted words in my spirit, but He asked ME to nurture them. I write with pith and purpose, and those things will get me noticed. My craft is a work of redemption, reconciling a desperate world of hope deferred to an abundant Kingdom of dreams restored and creativity that breeds more of the same. My words, then, are mulitiplied into a collective much bigger than them or myself, so, Christie, here this: your writing is not a solitary act. I write with rhythm and occasional rhyme, because there is also this infinite song within me. I am a novelist with projects that stick and fruit for my labor. I write and culture shifts one word at a time because of my patience and longevity. My words are not merely marketable - they are timeless and universal and they will not be forgotten. 

    Now you can hold me accountable to these words I've written about myself. If you begin to see me as I have described, then surely the hope within me rises. Please direct me to your own declaration, if you choose to write one about yourself for whatever capacity you desire. May our words bring life to our spirits. 

  • Living Out Transition

    This week has been the real start to my summer in Redding. It’s taken a month or so to transition out of first year at BSSM, which was a shock in some ways. I went from my days being intensely scheduled to wide open. It’s been eight years since I graduated college experiencing that shift from classes to summer. Not to mention that BSSM is spiritually intense, and the culmination of the year there at the end, as I’ve written about, was brilliant and fulfilling and happy. But then there was suddenly nothing. I quickly realized if I wanted to still be connected this summer, I was going to have to be intentional. People talk about Redding/Bethel in the summer – they say it’s slow, it’s weird, it’s more of a representation of what Bethel is without its students. Well, it’s definitely different, but I’m liking it.

    We moved house literally the day after graduation. When you only own your clothes, some books, a few knick-knacks (because what is a woman without her knick-knacks?), basic linens, and a suitcase, it’s not that hard. It took us 2 hours or so to pack up, and 5 max including transport and cleaning. But out of the move, we were given two futons for free, simply because I threw it out there on the good old facebook that we were looking for one. But God works from abundance, and one of those two was only a few houses down from our new place so we literally carried it down the street to our new home that day. If I can just pause here for a second: I live in absolutely no doubt anymore that God takes care of His children. Friends, you know the scriptures that talk about this. Well, they bear witness with me. This whole journey was a leap of faith, but God has filled me with so much of it that it’s becoming easy. His burden is light, my friends. This whole thing is often not like we imagine it has to be.

    So we moved in to a cute townhouse in a more central location with a smashing couple from Oregon. They have all the stuff! Couch, recliners, entertainment system, kitchenware, even the bookshelf and table in our new bedroom is theirs. Their willingness to share their stuff and a home with us is so Kingdom minded – I mean, most of us in the BSSM community do this to live out here on a budget. But this is their first time as last year they lived on their own – and rightfully so – they are only coming up to their 2nd wedding anniversary this autumn, so they were smart to have time on their own in First Year. Anyway, they were only here for a week to settle things in the house before they left for Oregon for the summer to work his Dad’s farm to finance their second year here. After that week of transition, we had about 5 days on our own in which our housemate for the summer (another fellow student that is renting out the couple’s bedroom to help financially until August) moved her things in, but then went on a trip to So Cal to visit her family. She’s currently back and living here now, and as we get to know her, we all get to play house with our friends’ things. We’re just so taken care of, and it’s sweet, because our summer housemate said she had prayed she could live with a married couple a bit older than her to glean from. What a privilege to get to pour into someone else just by living together! My mother was going to make a surprise visit in the midst of all this since my parents couldn’t make it out to our graduation, but our life was a little too crazy at that moment, and she couldn’t get the logistics to work on her end either (that makes North Carolina seem so far away to us), and we had our friends from England scheduled to come out on May 22nd as well.

    Steph and Michael are from David’s hometown and the place we lived when we were there last year. They attend and lead worship in our church back there, and they were afforded the trip to come see us and get as much from the Bethel environment as they could in their 10 day stay. Only they can speak for what took place in their hearts, but from my perspective, God really surprised and showed up for them. They learned a lot, received some beautiful ministry time here in our home from our friends, and Michael was healed of his lactose intolerance right before our eyes as we got to watch him eat several milkshakes and cheese as he pleased with no adverse effects anymore! It was our first time having visitors and therefore the first time two of our worlds (it seems we have three: Redding, NC, and England) collided. It was an intriguing experience. As we’ve not left Northern California since we arrived last September, we haven’t seen what it’s like to be “out of the Bethel bubble,” if you will, and we still haven’t, but it was fun to see how we experienced old friends after having gone through the intensity of First Year. I have decided it made me feel antsy. Part of me felt a responsibility to make sure they got everything they came for and anything else that could come their way. Some of that is just my personality, but some of it is probably the pastoring side of me that I’ve seen grow in my heart this year. Thank the good Lord that Steph and Michael are some of the most laid back people we know, because they were just as happy when there wasn’t anything very “spiritual” going on. I don’t want to be antsy around people though, so I’ll be working on that. The other part of me experienced a great excitement and affirmation of our planned move to England in January 2016. We see so much greatness in this couple and are excited to partner with them and many others in ushering in revival to Thanet, the area of England we all have a heart for.

    I explain all of this to say: this past month has been, looking back, amazing, but at times it felt a little hard. The entire time during the stuff mentioned above, I was also looking for a job. I’m still looking for a job. If you’ve been there, you know how tiring and, frankly, annoying it can be. I feel a job is just around the corner, but when you don’t have one and you aren’t a student for the summer break, your mind starts messing with you. What are you doing with your life? What’s your purpose and identity? How are you going to finance second year if you’re still just covering rent? And you beat yourself up about it because You shouldn’t have these thoughts; you are a BSSM first year graduate, you’re not supposed to feel down or discouraged or unclear about things. And it’s true, I don’t have to live there, but it wasn’t until I realized I just needed to give myself some grace before I stepped out of the fog a bit. The truth is transition takes time and emotions and processing if you truly want to transition healthily and get yourself fully able to move into the next season. If you skip that and suppress your process, you’ll just be going through the same stuff the next time around, and living in the same emotional cycles year after year sucks. It holds you back from doing the stuff you want to, the stuff God wants to partner with you on.

    So here I am: one interview down, another resume to a job I really want submitted, and a heart full of expectancy for this summer and the rest of this last year here. I turn 30 this month, a new season for sure. Who am I? What am I doing with my life? How am I going to finance second year? I am a daughter of God. I’m continuing writing my book (have made some progress already this summer). I’m living every day following the Spirit. I’m meeting new people in the community. I’m applying for jobs. I’m celebrating my birthday, and I’m trusting God for each day that brings me closer to second year or whatever it is He has for me.