Somewhere in the span of a few weeks, I scrambled to complete my last assignment for university, heart-spinningly moved house after being in the same room for three years, gobbled up the BTI Graduation Breakfast, and got on an eight-hour flight to the town to which I belong– well, more significantly, to the people whom I call home.
You have these moments where you try to make sense of life. It doesn’t always happen when you write or even talk to your closest friends. My first few days back, I absent-mindedly answer any questions. How long are you here for? Til January. Going back to New Zealand? Yes. Got a job? No, I’m applying for them but haven’t been successful. What I don’t say is that, quite frankly, the thought of a full-time teaching job in the New Zealand school system scares me– but when was teaching ever easy? Therefore, though student loan looms overhead I want to just be for a little bit– even if it’s just for the summer (yes, it is my summer break here, it is funny to think of in the Northern Hemisphere).
So, you have these moments where you try to make sense of your life past. You lay in your bed on quiet mornings and play reruns of all you’ve leaving. Incredible muesli (granola), lush green grass (no sprinklers needed!), and people who understand the odd, beautiful life of BTI (it is always a paradox of oddity and beauty). The past three years have been mapped out quite simply, quite gloriously– close friends made and countries that were once foreign becoming home. Yes, yes, you want to go back to it all even though you are going “home for Christmas”. You still have a home in the place you have lived your past three years.
Then, you have these moments where you try to make sense of life ahead. Those times often scare you the most. Should I do more? Should I do less? Should my CV (resume) be changed? Should I get my lecturers to proofread everything more? As if controlling all of those details of a teaching application could make God’s mystery of next year become concrete. For the first time in my life, I don’t have everything mapped out for me– and yes, I know it is the classic university graduate conundrum. But experiencing it is certainly different from watching a stray Gilmore Girls episode with the same storyline.
Usually I just scare myself too much– or give up– realizing that any amount of thinking about it will not get me certainty for next year. Well, not the steadfastness I long for. Only God can give that and in the waiting I have to believe that he is up to something good. I don’t know what I’m going to get, but it’s going to be good, so the mantra went in Newcastle last year.
Finally, you have these moments where life makes sense.
Bolting through Arrival gate doors into the arms of brothers you have not seen for one, two, three years. Chomping on Costco pizza, steaming and cheesy, with all your family members at one table– not scattered between four countries. The sun dipping underneath the Kailua Bay horizon. The giggles of your one-year-old niece in the Port YWAM pool, the Norris sisters wandering around stores with shopping lists in hand, pies in oven impatient for Thanksgiving dessert. All snapshots of life in the present– small moments floating like a raft on river that’s been cluttered full of milestones.
At the beginning of this year, I certainly didn’t see myself as being this happy right now. I had just crashed my raft off of an incredible, heart-warming trip as heart-broken– because the people I loved were left in Australia and were not in New Zealand. What could be better in the future than what I had just lost? Yet Jesus constantly reminded me, pounded it like poi into my concrete heart- the best is yet to come. And He was right. He is right.
I certainly didn’t see myself sitting cross-legged on a Hawaii Walmart floor late at night, laughing about many nothings with my brother as he chose bodyboarding fins. I didn’t ever expect me and him and my sister-in-law cruising down Ali’i Drive on another night, pumping Mexican music with the windows rolled down on our red rental car, laughing as we danced from our seats. I didn’t ever dare hope that we could all be sitting around the same table on Thanksgiving Day…
For the past month, I’ve tried to make sense of life by all the “somethings”– those big, important moments– like a graduation breakfast ceremony, a ball night with oodles of photos, a twenty-first birthday party. Rites of passage, yes, and very necessary. But when I think of all these nothing-moments? Impromptu Target runs, tub-time with my baby niece, a calm red-orb sunset? Kathleen Kelly put it best in You’ve Got Mail:
But I just want to say that all this nothing
I’ve experienced so many humble, beautiful ‘nothings’ in the past month, despite many loud ‘somethings’. Somewhere in the span of a few weeks, I finished university, moved into a new house that is full of home, waved goodbye to good friends I’d spent the past three years with, and cried hello to the town to which I belong–
but, more significantly, cried hello to the people whom I call home,
who can take any moment
and make it a gift from God.
He always said the best was yet to come.
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say on that day:“Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.”
-Isaiah 12:3 (ESV)
Photos: Sunset in Bethlehem, Tauranga; lecture notes; op-shop finds in Greerton, Tauranga; BTI Country Ball lights and daisies; cafe in Devonport, Auckland.