Saturday, January 26, 2013

2. Spain

While I was in Spain, growing and learning and being transformed, I missed my newfound friends. I thought about how I'd driven to a mystery themed party at Amanda's with a guy named Nate. He'd been really fun. I thought about my long conversations with the two Erics and about how nice all the girls had been. I knew they still got together sometimes, and they kindly continued inviting me through evites and Facebook events. When I learned that I was going home for Christmas, I was excited to spend New Year's Eve with them. I went over to Jon and Eric's house and we were required to email, in advance, a song we were embarrassed to like. (Listen to mine here.)
It was wonderful to be around my friends, if only for a short time before diving back into Spain. I was happy to go back to Spain, but one morning before I left, I knew I needed to return and be in Kansas City. Even if I had no idea why, that conviction stayed with me, and brought me home in June without any plans to return to Spain in the future. 

1. The Pilgrimage

I sat down to write with the intention of telling the story of how Caleb and I got engaged. But life is full, and we are so deeply connected with others. And so, I must begin before we met...


It was the August after I had graduated from college. I packed up my bags with three days worth of clothes and headed south for a camp, where my church was hanging out for the weekend. We do this to celebrate the spiritual practice of pilgrimage. We get away from it all, make space for each other, play games, jump in a lake, and have belly-flop contests. We practice listening to God and to each other and we see new faces. That year, 2009, we also had a dance party. A 1970s themed dance party. There were people wearing leisure suits, giant fro wigs, and high boots. And in the midst of it all, some people were dancing. I danced around, in and out of small groups of twos and threes. Two guys I had been bopping along with for some time, introduced themselves. "I'm Jon," said one. "I'm Ellen, nice to meet you!" I said. "Ellen, I'm Eric," said the other. Eventually the three of us rolled into another group and another until there were about ten people, and we shut the dance party down.

The next day, being the social butterfly that I can be sometimes, I didn't want to eat with the group that had quickly formed over busted moves under a spinning disco ball. I wanted to keep meeting new people. For one reason or another, I always came back to that small group. Even after the pilgrimage was over, we hung out at each other's houses, met up to chat at church gatherings. One girl, Carolyn, had even lived in Spain, where I was moving in only a few weeks. I grilled her for as much information as possible. 'How will I make friends? Where did you live? Did you find a church? How late did you stay out? Did you avoid punk teenage kids who steal things?"

This group of people was different than any other group of people I'd ever been around. They were inclusive, welcoming, in many different life stages, and had this extravagant way of being with each other (and with me). It felt expensive, no one was texting when we hung out, everyone was interested in learning more about each other, and we were able to laugh easily one moment and plunge into deep conversation the next.

Thus, it was with mixed emotions (but weighing heavily on the excited side), that I boarded a plane in late September for Spain. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

good afternoon.

"You're an old soul."
they told me when I mused about not fitting in.

As I reflected in the parking lot, apple in hand, arms outstretched like airplane wings as I balance-beam walked on parking lines, I knew it was true.

But as the rain misted my face and I whispered hello to the trees, I knew I was also a young soul, a very young soul, and I wondered if the two were the same.