Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Odyssey

It took 4 days and a lot of hours but eventually I made it Montana! And somewhat in one piece to boot. A new member joined the traveling crew: Dee the Garmin. She saved me from my own HORRIBLE sense of direction. She was actually a present given to me by some wonderful friends. Do you know anyone that seems to have been created with the specific purpose of being an example of God’s love? I am so thankful that I do.

            It was an amazing experience to see so much of the country in such a short amount of time. The beauty and range of God’s creation is a bit overwhelming. I wish I had been able to leave a bit earlier so I could stop at times to really take it all in and spend more time with the friends I visited along the way. One night was definitely not enough.           

I played a game with myself where I summarized my experience in each state to one sentence or less so I could remember what I thought of it. Sure, at times I had all sorts of poetic descriptions going through my head of the beauty and majesty (and other times all sorts of angry rants of frustration) but the rule was one sentence. Extra points if I could do it in one word. I had to entertain myself somehow! Here is what I came up with:

Florida – wide variations
Alabama – beautiful trees, smelled like pancakes
Mississippi – smelled like someone left those pancakes out for a while
Tennessee – the land of expensive gas
Arkansas – corn
Missouri – long
Kansas – beautiful rolling hills and huge prairies
Colorado - green
Wyoming – Silhouettes (Someone had made these black silhouettes of very western things, like a cowboy riding a horse or a buffalo, and placed them on top of bluffs and such. Seeing those makes you think for a while that you’re witnessing a real cowboy who rode his horse to the edge. It’s not until you get right on it that you realize it’s fake. It’s pretty cool. P.S. This is an explanation and not in a description, so not only am I within the sentence rule, but get extra points for one word.)
Montana – mountains everywhere

So there you have it. The trip in a nutshell. Except the craziness of the last day…

I stopped to get gas at some little town in Wyoming after not having seen another station for almost 2 hours. I got back in, thinking Ethel and I were both refreshed, when suddenly my check engine light came on. In my past experience, anytime my check engine light has come on it’s been a major, expensive repair. My heart sunk. No, Ethel! I did what any reasonable person does whenever a car has any slight issue: I called my Dad. Not sure what I expected him to do for me from 2000 miles away, but it seemed like the only logical thing to do. Then, I took Ethel to the service station that was fortunately just the next exit away. The mechanic checked her out for free and told me it was my internal computer, something I had just replaced already not even a year ago. After weighing all my options and making some other plans, I finally had the most manageable solution. I would continue to drive Ethel the 600 niles to Helena and drop her off at the dealership there so she could be repaired while I was at orientation. The mechanic couldn’t tell me for sure if Ethel would be able to make it the whole way or not, but that was really my only choice. I was terrified. 600 miles to go with hours between cities in a place I didn’t know anything or anyone.

The warranty issue was something else all together. I was 2 days under the year warranty but 1,500 miles over the 12,000 mile limit (basically, that trip). I’d like to say that I held my cool and calmly explained my reasons why this was unexceptable… But I won’t lie, I threw a fit. A hissy fit. And it worked for the most part. I’m not proud, but it went from an $800 repair to a $200 deductible. The Helena dealership was very nice in helping me, and the service center in Douglas, Wyoming didn’t charge me a thing after helping me for over an hour and a half. I made it, my new friend Jared (the Vista who served in my same position last year) picked me up and got me to the hotel, and Ethel was fixed by Thursday afternoon.

            It took me a while to figure it out, but as my sister reassured me, there must be a lesson in this. It dawned on me finally that I’m not going to be able to do anything this year without trusting God. I can’t even get to Montana without riding on the backs of prayers rising up from all over the country.  This year is not about what I am able to do, or how I am able to help people, it’s about being 100% willing to be a vessel to God. Because without him I’m stuck, unable to move forward…

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Night Before The Night Before.

I've had an awesome time visiting family and friends in The Burg. I didn't get to see everyone I would have like to, but that always seems to happen. Mom and Dad threw a shindig over at the house for a church members and old family friends. Sarah, my best friend since I can remember, and I took a day to goof off in Orlando at Disney quest. As you can tell from the picture, we are very grown up. A trip to Ft. DeSoto Beach with my sister, Brenda, and our friend Mary rounded out my time in Florida.

I'm still packing. I don't know how. I mean, I packed everything up in Pensacola and moved it down here so you'd think it would be packed, right? WRONG. When I saw how much stuff there was in both cars I knew I would have to spend way more time downsizing. I also realized that a year is not a very long time in the grand scheme of things and there are a lot of items I can probably live just fine without. Craft stuff, yet again, seems to be the only area I can't bring myself to compromise. My trip is pretty much all in order. I'm stoked that I'm staying with old friends I haven't seen in forever at each stop along the way.  Ethel got a clean bill of health, and my car storage system is going to arrive tomorrow, and I went to the record store and loaded up on a bunch of used cd's to entertain myself. There is nothing to it but to do it.

I told a friend of mine today that I'm getting excited so I don't have time to get sad. I've said goodbye to the many people I love in Pensacola and now it's time to say "so long" to the loved ones of St. Petersburg. Tonight, I went to tuck my Mom in (It's a thing my parents do. When one of them goes to bed, they announce it to all those left awake to see if anyone would like to stop whatever it is they are doing and go into the room to wish them good night. It's pretty sweet). While I was laying next to her, just relaxing for a minute, she showed me a journal in which she's been writing about spending time at her Aunt Honey's house when she was younger. Aunt Honey just recently passed away. In the book Mom states that she doesn't want to forget all the memories she made there. I volunteered to read it to her while she was falling asleep. We ended up reading through the whole thing. It was neat to hear about Mom getting in trouble for only picking the biggest blueberries, or how the bird named Joe would trick everyone into thinking the phone was ringing.

Mom packed up everything and moved to Florida from Ohio when she was 18 years old. Obviously she liked it or she wouldn't still be around. She took a risk. She made a choice. And she's never looked back. That doesn't mean she loved the people she left behind any less. To me, it means she knew she was loved so strongly that love would follow her wherever she went. That's what I'm trying to remind myself. Saying goodbye is not a rejection, it's a projection out into the world of all the love that I've been shown. I take with me every kind word, thoughtful action, and loving deed that so many have bestowed upon me. The bonds of love are tighter than the ropes of proximity.

As the song says, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine..."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It's just the beginning...

Everything from Pensacola has been packed up and hauled across the state of Florida back home. It took 2 cars, a generous friend offering to store a few things, a helpful roommate, a determined mother and sister, and a lot of tearful goodbyes, but we made it. Ethel was packed almost to capacity. She has to get used to it before we head off to Montana! I have no idea how to fit everything I'll need for a year into one carload so I'm looking into a car rooftop storage option. Maybe from -- thoughts or suggestions?
The duffel bag was my company.

I need to figure out some sort of packing system OR have a small accident that leaves the crafty part of my brain compromised. It seemed like craft supplies, or things that I think could be used to make something crafty, or crafty items I've made took up at least a third of the space traveling back home. Its a symptom of my disease which renders me incapable of leaving anything plain. What is this disease you ask? Creativity. I've heard some cases may be fatal.

Which brings me to my next thought... AmeriCorps was the perfect opportunity for me to indulge my idealist nature and utilize my newly earned college degree (woot for education). My assignment is working to improve community awareness about domestic violence and also to research and write grants to fund a transitional home for people in dangerous living situations. I'm becoming increasingly aware of how ill-prepared I am for this task. I know NOTHING about domestic violence. My degree is in theater (another side-effect of my disease) and I have minors in history and religious studies. I have no formal experience in grant writing. Most of my developed skills revolve around using all those little crafty stowaways. Not to mention the fact that I was born into a lovely home with blessings aplenty and two parents who have always loved and cared for my sister and I, as well as each other. I'm niave, I know. And I'm grateful for that in many ways. But now it's time to open my eyes to help this world that God made, and humans made imperfect.

God does not call us because we are perfect for the task, or the most experienced, or even the most skilled. He calls us because it is according to his will and purpose. He doesn't need us to be perfect, he needs us to be willing. So here I am! Send me! Ethel and I will be ready for the journey soon enough...

10 days until the voyage begins.