The 2am Man

Pretty much everywhere I’ve lived has been a thin line between “ghetto” and “acceptably safe and comfortable.” Sometimes I’m dealing with persistent cockroaches, and sometimes I’m dealing with random cars blowing up in the parking lot. But wherever I live, I go to sleep knowing that
Unless God watches over the apartment, 
The locks are locked in vain. 
Unless God builds my protection,
The walls are there for nothing.
Psalm 127:1 (my translation)
That sentiment has kept me through many questionable events and strange occurrences, which I hold onto as proof that God is good. He protects me when no one else is around and gives me opportunities to be a beacon of his love when no one else will.
Back in college, I worked restaurant jobs. I never kept them for very long–I bounced from one to the next out of boredom or stress or my flippant feelings of the place. One such job had me working the closing shift on Friday nights, which meant I didn’t get home until around 2am. It didn’t bother me, really. Everything was quiet and peaceful at 2am. And if it wasn’t for all the lights in my parking lot, I’d get to see the stars.
But one night, I came home to a lot more commotion than usual. Some guy was trying to get a car to stop for him as they drove through the parking lot. They stopped for a brief moment, but drove off while he tried to talk to them through the window.
I watched the car leave and the man collapse on the sidewalk–most likely drunk. He happened to be sitting right in front of my building and there was no way to get to my apartment without passing him, so I made a bit of a wide circle around him as I headed for the door.
The man looked up at me and raised a hand like he was reaching for me. “Help me!” he said. “Please. Just let me use your phone. I just got jumped and I need to call my girlfriend. I just need to call her.”
I stopped in my tracks. He didn’t sound drunk. He sounded desperate. The man tried to get up to walk toward me, but I could tell the effort was painful and he ended up crawling more than walking.
I couldn’t just leave him there. But I recognized that I was alone in the parking lot at 2am with a strange man. So instead of showing him immediate pity, I decided to be “smart” about the situation and get another set of eyes on me. So I lied. “My phone is in my apartment,” I said. “Let me go get it.”
My plan was to get one of my roommates to watch me from the window and call the police if anything went wrong. Usually at least one of them was awake watching some late night TV. But when I opened my apartment door, there was no one and nothing but darkness.
I took a moment to think about my options and decided to call a friend of mine in the same apartment complex. He usually stayed up all night playing video games, so I was sure I could get him to help. But he didn’t pick up his phone.
Looking out my bedroom window, I could see the poor man on the sidewalk, groaning in pain and trying to crawl his way down the sidewalk until he could find someone else to help him. But there was no one else out there. No one else saw him at all. Even the men that drove off didn’t really see him.
“God,” I prayed in the darkness of my room. “You’re the only one that’s watching me now. There’s no one else. So keep me safe.”
Then I took my cell phone out of my pocket and went down to help the man. He had crawled to the other side of the parking lot by that point and was sitting by some bushes, crying. “Here,” I said, “You can use my phone.”
He called his girlfriend and asked for her to come get him, but before she would, he had to resolve a bit of a fight that they had had earlier. I felt a little bad listening in on their relationship problems, but I couldn’t just walk away while he had my phone.
After he hung up, I sat and waited with him for his girlfriend to arrive. It seemed wrong to just leave him there on his own. “What happened?” I asked.
“I got jumped,” he said. “They beat me up and took my wallet…” it sounded like there should have been more to that, but he just stopped and shook his head.
“Do you want me to call the police?”
“No! No, I just need to go home to my girlfriend and get some rest. She lives in one of these…”
Now that I was close to him, I could see the bruises all over his face, arms, and legs. Even though we sat well away from the light, his bruises were deep purple stains on his skin.
We sat in silence a while longer. I wanted to reach out and put an arm around him, but I was afraid that it’d only hurt him more. In that moment, he didn’t feel like some strange guy in the parking lot. I may not have known his name, but after sitting with him on the curb and listening to him sob, he felt more like a friend that I was trying to comfort.
…A friend that didn’t want me to call the police… as suspicious as that was, I didn’t think on it too long. Shortly after that, his girlfriend came running from the apartment building right next to mine.
“Oh, baby, what happened!?” she ran up to us in a dress that was too tight to really run in, and bent down to put her face in his. “Let’s get you home,” she said, completely ignoring my presence.
I got up and walked back to my apartment building, turning to see them hobble back to hers.
That night has taught me that fear should not stop me from doing the right thing. God watches over me, even when no one else does. He saw what happened to that man, and he put me in a position to help him–to be a friend to him in the darkness of the night.

 

Original post: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/27030/posts/1081513397

The Ant and the Squirrel (in 50 Words)

“You’re not a butterfly,”
Said the squirrel.
“Those are leaves.”
He flicked his bushy tail.
 
“Haven’t you ever wanted
To be something other then brown?”
The ant straightened his wings
Which were drooping down.
 
The squirrel went silent,
Then darted off, but came back
As something new–
“I’m a peacock.”

Squirrel and Ant 001

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/writing-challenge-fifty/

Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence (a.k.a. The Angel Man Story)

When I first started college, I was coming out of some of my worst years, emotionally and mentally. I wanted to make a fresh start for myself, but that hope began to fall in before too long. I’m not entirely sure what set it off. It was probably a combination of things. But in any case, it precipitated several nights of wandering across my college campus looking to be alone, or to be found.

One of these nights, I was a little worse off than usual. It didn’t matter that I had caring friends that would have come if I had called. I still felt isolated beyond help, like the world was behind glass and I was locked away from it. I could see people congregate in the courtyard and imagine how I’d walk up and meet them. But I couldn’t make myself get near. By 10pm when the library closed, I was curled up under an arched bridge on campus. I was watching the turtles. At least that’s what I told myself. Shortly after, the college grew silent and the building lights went out. It was just me and the street lamps. And the turtles.

I don’t know how long I stayed there. I was losing my perception of time, even with the clock tower in my face. I wandered around the agricultural building and then followed the road off of campus. When I finally looked up to see where I was, I had walked into the off campus apartments. The ones that carried all kinds of stories of drug busts and murders. They were cheap living if you didn’t mind a little bit of risk.

I knew a guy who lived there. And maybe that’s why I had walked in that direction. I desperately wanted someone to talk to. But I didn’t have anything to say. And I didn’t want to listen to petty talk or even intellectual talk. To me, they were both just as shallow. So I didn’t go to his door. And I didn’t go home. I found myself stuck on the sidewalk. I looked at all the buildings around me and thought about how many people I was surrounded by, but none that I could say anything to.

I sobbed. In the middle of the night in a sketchy, poorly-lit street, I stood on the sidewalk and sobbed. I begged God to give me someone that I could talk to. Just anyone that would listen to me–really listen to me–and sympathize. I begged Him over and over again. And then I stood there. I don’t know how long I stood there. I was waiting for an angel to appear. Or maybe that guy I knew. I’d settle for him.

But an angel didn’t show and neither did that guy I knew. I was starting to shiver and shake–not so much for the cold, but for all the crying. So I decided it was finally time to crawl back to my dorm. If I could make it through the night, I thought, tomorrow would be a piece of cake.

I turned to leave, giving one last look over everything in case I missed the angel, and then I took a step towards the school. A dark car passed me and turned into the apartment complex–so close to me that I made eye contact with the driver. And not just a glancing eye, either. The man stared me down as he turned into the complex. I took a deep breath, hushing all of the rumors of danger in this area, and kept walking–faster.

I heard the car park and the door slam. Then I heard him walking. I was two blocks away from campus–and the campus police. I had the call stations mapped out in my head. “Hey!” He called to me.

I froze. I don’t know why I froze. Except that his “hey” wasn’t the threatening kind. So I turned around.

“Are you high? Or just depressed?”

“Depressed,” I said, trying to laugh at the thought of me being high.

“You wanna talk about it?”

I did. With every part of me, I did. But I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t even pinpoint what was troubling me so much. And then there was the practical part of me that saw that I was alone with a strange man in a bad part of town in the middle of the night.

“We don’t have to go anywhere. We can stand right here and talk about it.” It was like he was reading my mind. Or my face, more like.

But I still didn’t know what to say and the practical part of me was starting to scream. So I shook my head, “no.”

“Well, alright,” he said. But he didn’t turn away. I did.

I turned away from him and walked back to campus. He didn’t follow me. He stood there and watched me go.

By the time I was back on campus grounds, it hit me–he was my angel. He wasn’t shining with light and floating down from Heaven, no. He was dark and drove a beat up car. But he was everything I had begged God for. He had done everything right. And I had turned him down. I had walked away.

The original Writing Challenge Prompt:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/the-sound-of-silence/

Finding My Icon

I posted a story a while back that mentioned my struggle in middle and high school as a displaced missionary kid. I was what some have termed a “hidden immigrant.” I looked American and spoke American, but I didn’t feel American, and I didn’t want to be American.

To fix at least one of those things, I wore jewelry and clothing from Papua New Guinea. I had a black, turtle shell ring and gumis (rubber bracelets made out of engine seals), and a wrap around skirt. I went out of my way to look foreign. The new problem I ran into was that in middle school, different was shunned.

High school was a mixed bag. I tapered off my different-ness a tad, but shot myself in the foot when I decided I didn’t want to be accepted or involved in anything, anyway. I just wanted out of there. I wanted to go back home.

Sometimes I’d work myself into an emotional mess by silently insisting that I was not American. But my passport, birth certificate, parents, and classmates said I was. I had nothing to show for being born abroad except a lack of local friends and an identity crisis.

By the time I made it to college, I was thoroughly confused. My moments of emotional disarray left me panicked for something I could hold as proof of who I was. In year 2, I settled on the thought of getting a tattoo to help me cope. This was not unusual. Several other missionary kids I grew up with had done exactly that to ease the anxiety of their own identity crisis. We had even exchanged ideas of what design would work best as our badge. Some got “PNG” tattooed on them in elegant writing. Some got the flag. but most opted for the Papua New Guinean bird of paradise.

The bird of paradise is the national symbol. It’s on the flag, in the seal, on their jets, and on any packaged food that was made within their boarders. The bird of paradise is to Papua New Guinea what a star-spangled bald eagle is to America.

Bird of Paradise

I wanted that. Just the idea of having it branded on me was soothing. Finally, I’d have proof of who I was–something I could show anybody who thinks I’m just like them; something to stare at in those dark moments when I didn’t know who I was.

I didn’t get the tattoo. I was talked out of it on the basis that it was a tattoo. And my desire to be branded was outweighed by my desire to please others. So instead, I stood by in quiet longing as my PNG-raised friends got embellished, one by one.

I tried to comfort myself with Ephesians 1:13: “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…” I kept telling myself “I’m tattooed with God. That’s my identity.” It was a pretty picture in my head. I envisioned a wax seal on my forehead with a little Scarlett Pimpernel emblem pressed into it because I didn’t know what symbol the Holy Spirit would use.

But as pretty as it was in my head, I still felt sad that I had nothing physical to look at and hold on to. I couldn’t point to it and show everyone. It wasn’t something that came up in conversations. No one asked me where I got the Holy Spirit. So as much as I told myself about the identity that I was “tattooed with,” I couldn’t help but want something more.

And as selfish and worldly as it was, God heard my cry, and He answered me. Towards the end of year 2 in college, I received a gift from my mom–a ring flaunting the elegant bird of paradise. It was an answer to a prayer I had never prayed and a request I hadn’t vocalized. This ring was everything that I had wanted in the tattoo. It carried my heritage in it. It was a brand worn on my finger. I never wanted to take it off. And so, it became my icon–the symbol of my childhood and even more so, my life as a whole. It even became my icon–my image of Christ, his provision, and his calling for me.

The ring that saved my sanity.

The ring that saved my sanity.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/weekly-writing-challenge-iconic/

Getting Jordan to Smile

One of the hallmarks of being a missionary kid is the family photos. These horrifying and immortal moments get sent out to hundreds of churches and individuals each year to prove that we still exist somewhere. As an adult, it may be a happy and exciting way to keep all the old friends and supporters updated on your family. As a kid, it’s the most grueling afternoon of your life.

I could easily pull up a family photo from each year of my childhood that included my younger brother crying, my sister prodding me over something and my dad with his mouth open (because he can’t stop talking long enough to smile). But, the one picture that I remember most comes from a happy and free afternoon interrupted by my dad saying he needs a picture of us kids–now! So, we jump into halfway presentable clothes and run outside to find something pretty to stand in front of. And then we’re tasked with getting my brother to smile and keeping our eyes open. Our first try gives us this:

1997

Grapefruit was the prettiest thing to stand in front of.

This is actually not so bad. My brother isn’t crying, which is a more than we can usually say during a photo shoot. I’m smiling my very best school-girl smile so that this terrible moment can be over quickly, and my sister is pulling a Dad and won’t stop talking.

But obviously, this doesn’t pass. We have to get Jordan to smile. The harder we try, the more determined he is not to smile and the longer we have to stand there and wait for a good picture. It’s torture. And then a miracle happens. I honestly don’t recall what it was. Somebody told a joke or said the wrong word or something–something that probably wasn’t all that funny to begin with. But whatever it was, it gave us this:

1997 smile

Gorgeous. I don’t think I’ve seen a smile that big on my brother since

babies

Mapping it Out

Traveling is ingrained in our family. From what I understand, right out of high school, my dad couldn’t sit still for more than a few years before it was time for him to uproot and try a new place (which makes it nearly impossible to figure out his life’s timeline). And so it has been with my family. The longest I’ve lived in one place without getting up to live somewhere else is 4 years. I’ve stayed in at least 16 different countries–not counting airport pit stops. And in my 26 years, I’ve seen places that others can only dream about, experienced indescribable things, and met people that I will never forget.

Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea

My birthplace and Childhood home. We may have only stayed there 4 years at a time, but after each 1 year furlough in America, we went back to the same house in the center of Ukarumpa. So all together, I’ve lived there about twelve years. There’s no end to the most memorable memories of this place or what I miss about it. And describing my time there would fill a book. It’s my home. What do you say about home?

Mountains like this make anything else look boring.

Mountains like this make anyone else’s home look boring.

 

Europe

More accurately:

England, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Norway, England (again). We visited each place very briefly. My family and I hit Europe in July 1998 and were gone in a month. I got to celebrate my 12th birthday in a train station in on the border of France and Spain.

My most memorable memory of Europe was probably the topless beach in Barcelona, Spain. Enjoy these beautiful castles on the Rine River in Germany.

My most memorable memory of Europe was probably the topless beach in Barcelona, Spain. Enjoy this picture of beautiful castles on the Rhine River in Germany.

 

Waxhaw, North Carolina, USA

My next “home.” It took about 8 years before it started to feel like home. I can call it home now without cringing. My time in Waxhaw was marked with a lot of rough spots due to adolescence, cultural adjustments, and loss of my previous home. But I have since forged the kind of friendships that make this place special. Any place can be lovely when you’ve got friends. And after this adjustment experience, I’m quite certain that I could survive in the Sahara Desert if I have some good friends with me.

Where we picked up the weird family tradition of visiting very old grave yards. Aslan was here.

On a completely unrelated note, my family picked up a weird tradition of visiting very old grave yards. Call it strange, but it really is one of my favorite things.

 

San Pedro Sula, Honduras

After 1 uncomfortable year in Waxhaw, NC, we moved to San Pedro Sula for a year. My dad was flying for Samaritan’s Purse which was there to help with the hurricane relief efforts across the country. We were blessed by Samaritan’s Purse, who found us a nice house to live in. But right around the corner from where we were was a shanty town, where families used the river next to their houses as a bathtub, toilet, and kitchen sink. Their houses were made out of whatever they could find, but they kept them clean by sweeping their dirt floors down to hard packed soil.

Some of the kids from the shanty town would come by our house looking for work. My brother and I couldn’t speak Spanish enough to talk to them, but my mom made friends with them all and gave them food and sanitary items like soap. Eventually, we visited their shanty town with Samaritan’s Purse to offer medical services and Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. When one of the mother’s saw that we had a camera, she ran home to dress up her little girl for a picture.

Most memorable child to me.

Most memorable child ever.

 

Israel

We only visited Israel for a short month. But in that month, we traveled across the whole (tiny) country and were privileged to feel, walk, and see the history of the world. There was way too much to see in one month. And so much to learn!

There was no single place in Israel that I can say, “I loved this the most” or “I will remember that more than anything.” Everything in Israel was ancient, holy, beautiful, packed with symbolic meaning, and awe-inspiring.

Ancient Roman theaters inspire me to perform a musical.

Ancient Roman theaters inspire me to perform musicals with my sister.

 

Brazil

Brazil is very new to me. I’m still forming memories and trying to digest what just happened to me in the last six months. So much of it was meaningful and memorable–seeing my mother’s childhood home, witnessing God’s power at Iguassu Falls, gaping at the endless favelas crowding into every crevice of the hills around Rio de Janeiro. But what impacted me the most–that constantly surfaces in my mind–and what held true across the whole, giant country, is the kindness and friendliness of the Brazilian people. Everywhere I went, it was their genuine friendliness and good nature that made my trip awesome. Friends make any place lovely.

I met her in a glasses shop and within 25 minutes, she was my friend.

I met her in a glasses shop. I couldn’t speak Portuguese and she couldn’t speak English, but within 15 minutes, we were friends.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/writing-challenge-map-it-out/

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