Homesick

You make me homesick

You white hills and lonely trees

You farms and fields and far away beauty

Homesick for white hills and crop stubble, for lonely trees and sunset silhouettes, for farms and fields and far away beauty

*

You make me homesick

You gravel roads and country lanes

You homes and hearths and clean-made beds

Homesick for gravel roads, for country lanes of dirt and dust, for home and hearth and a clean-made bed

*

You make me homesick

You starry skies and fresh snow

You belted hunter and big dipper and great bear of the night

Homesick for starry skies, for fresh snow and glittering frost, for the belted hunter and big dipper and great bear of the night

*

You make me homesick

You smiling baby girl and little boy with shy hugs

You friends that stand and hug and fit just right

Homesick for a baby girl who smiles in my arms, for a tall boy and his reluctant hugs, for my father who stands and hugs and I fit just right

*

You proud cities and crowded streets

You highways and horizons and roads to everywhere

You make me homesick

Homesick for places you are not, for streets no longer mine, for highways and horizons and roads that lead everywhere but home

*

I am homesick

*

Homesick for all that does not exist

Homesick for the home I cannot find, for the people we no longer are, for the sun on the horizon that used to be

Homesick for the lonely tree that is not mine, gilded by winter frost and cut down by summer lightning; those autumn fields that grow yellow and red before someone else’s eyes; the great bear of the night that waits beyond the fringes of this city’s greedy lights

Homesick for the easing of the ache for better things, homesick for the final turn in the lane when the prodigal comes home, homesick for the promises too great and glorious to be found in the dust and stars of this place

*

For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

*

Letters From An MBI Student – 1/20

Dear Family,

I don’t think I have ever been so glad to see a Friday. Oh, glorious Friday, you came. Or the end-of- Friday, at least. You wonderful end-of-Friday you.

Brief recap: tour was great and fairly chill (but a little weird). But this whopping version of the flu started around right before tour, picked up a few new members on the bus, and settled in my lap on the ride home.

Yay. It’s been a dandy, with a cough that eats up your insides and the fever wobbling between 101 and 103 for four days. I managed to do the baby amounts of homework for each class the day before, so I wasn’t actually late on anything. And Lady was a champ, even if her reactions were totally different than mine.

I got ready for class Tuesday morning and lay down again instead of going. All Lady said was, “Good.”

I went to work, made it 2.5 hours, and went back to sleep. Lady didn’t wake me up in time for Chorale.

Wednesday I didn’t even bother doing anything. Lady brought me Perrier.

Thursday morning I decided I was going to go to class. I got everything together, made it to the bathroom, and had a rather embarrassing episode of needing to poop, puke, and pass out all at the same time and having trouble deciding which was most important. I may or may not have still had a fever and was a little delusion. Lady woke up in the midst of this little crisis, picked me up off the floor, and helped me decide my priorities, which included this insightful gem: “I don’t think you’re going to class today.”

I didn’t, but after sleeping, getting fed and babied all day by Lady, and finally kicking the fever into normal territory, I toddled my way to Chorale that afternoon and found a friendly chair for an hour and a half, because you can’t fall over if you’re already sitting down.

Today I went to class for the first time this week. In fact, I made it to work, to class, to sleep, to class, to a class that was cancelled which was glorious because I could sleep again, to work, and now heading back to glorious, wonderful sleep. Thank you, end-of-Friday.

Tomorrow I intend to do nothing. Except, maybe, the mountain of homework since I did almost none of it this week. And laundry. And cleaning. And things that living human beings do. On the other hand, I could just sleep, because the living do that, too, and that’s what I think will make me most feel alive.

Cheers, family. If you need me, I’ll be sleeping.

~Rae

P.S. One silver lining to all of this? I think my weight loss has finally reached the realm of “impressive.” Considering that this is my fourth time getting the flu in the last six months, it’s about time.

Letters From An MBI Student – 10/30

Dear Family,

There is never a dull moment in Chicago. And that includes studying.

Tonight I escaped off campus to drink coffee and read the 400 pages I needed in order to write a paper. It was a predominately unsuccessful endeavor, for three reasons.

  1. I drank coffee (duh) in order to stay awake (yay) because I was so tired (sigh) that I was going to fall asleep (yep). But caffeinating an exhausted body is like putting electricity to Frankenstein: weird things happen.
  2. I sat by a window, because sunlight and sunlight and please let me see a sunset so I won’t be homesick.
  3. My coffee shop was on an unquiet street corner, and it was the weekend before Halloween.

So instead of reading my book and sipping my coffee, I kept popping up like a livewire and watching the parade of strangeness right outside my window:

Like the avacado that nearly got hit by a car. He was too busy talking to Mario to pay attention. Or staring at Mario’s impressive mustache, like I was.

Shortly after them was a leopard who, apparently, found Waldo!

And Goldilocks in a pink dress, with a beard and a beer bottle…or a lumberjack with a blonde wig and an identity crisis.

Then a black widow spider got into a taxi. Unsure if the driver made it.

The cats were out in droves, including a few that should never have been let out of the house, and that is no longer figurative.

Big Bird was…big. And obnoxiously yellow.

Catwoman didn’t chase after him, but probably because her pants didn’t let her do much more than shuffle.

And, of course, a parade of superheroes like Batman, if Batman wore a yellow belt and a t-shirt, and Thor, if Thor was 100 lbs skinnier and wore dark blue shorts and a shiny red cape that only came to his waist.

I dressed up as a very tired college student, and I really think I nailed the look. The heavier-than-I-am-backpack was the clincher, although I thought the sweatpants and sporty lanyard were a great starter kit.

So, all in all, it was a scintillating night! Drinks and a show, basically.

Now I just have to go finish my reading with all the other people doing Halloween as college students. I’m sure it’ll be exciting!

Ha. Sarcasm over, here was tonight: sometimes you get homework done, and sometimes you sit back and let Chicago do its thing.

And sometimes you watch someone in spotted brown onesie scurry over a crosswalk while holding her tail.

Maybe missing you,

~Rae

Letters From An MBI Student – 9/12

Dear Family,

I’m writing to share proof that I am at a Bible college. I can now confirm that the stereotype is true, and so are comments like these: “I don’t know math! Why do you think I came to Moody?”

It’s not Moody’s fault, per se, but it’s just the way of things here. Sadly, the relative lack of STEM individuals is demonstrative all by itself that Moody is a Bible college. Now I just have documented, quotable proof of it. Enjoy.

[This conversation is directly transcribed from an incident that took place in front of me, in class, during the break. Today. All individuals are college students who are at least juniors. All individuals were male, but how that influenced this conversation is under review. All nicknames are pending.]

[I have no clue how this conversation started, but I do know that all individuals involved were serious in their opinions. Save us all.]

Young Daschle – “The Pythagorean Theorem. You know, a + b = c.”

Baby Einstein – “What?”

Ex-Thor – “You know, if a is b and b is c, then a is c.”

Young Daschle – “The Pythagorean Theorem.”

Baby Einstein – “No, that’s a2 + b2 = c2

Young Daschle – “We’re not trying to find the circumference.”

Ex-Thor – “That’s 2πr2. Boom!” *mic drop*

Baby Einstein – *headdesk*

[True story.]

Maybe missing you,

~Rae

 

 

Letters from an MBI Student – 8/22 Notes

Dear Family,

So how is school? Well, it’s the first day of class, and here’s how it started.

6:00 – Alarm #1. What is happening?

6:05 – Alarm #1.1. I must have hit snooze? Why am I waking up to birds chirping? This is weird.

6:10 – Alarm #2. Bells. Huh? Oh, right. New phone, new ringtones, still the same Dismiss button.

6:20 – Alarm #3. My poor roommates. I forgot to tell them this. Hope they don’t hear. Or mind. Snooze.

6:25 – Alarm #3.1. Five more minutes? Snooze. Or was it Dismiss?

6:30 – Alarm #4. Oh, now or never. Dismiss. But I’m up.

6:50 – I will be late, or maybe not. “Wonderwall” by Hurts takes me halfway to PT.

7:30 – PT is done and I am back and starving and leaving before having breakfast is as terrible an idea as I thought it would be. The first and only time I will leave my room before sustenance.

7:40 – Stuff my face, stuff my backpack, do dishes, make a list – these all happen somewhere in here.

7:50 – Makeup is overrated. Today is a Husker shirt day. What do I need? What am I supposed to be doing? What is today?

8:10 – Monday morning and Joe’s is open. Two old floormates to greet, one kid in a suit to run into, my full name is written on a coffee cup (that hasn’t happened in a while), and the new counter at Joe’s is exactly where the broken-hearted dudes sit at a bar. The kid in the suit agrees. He takes a seat.

8:20 – where am I going? I’ve turned into one of those kids who walks and is on their phone and will probably run into a pole, but Hallelujah, I have a phone that works and it doesn’t take me 15 minutes to log in and look up my classroom.

8:25 – in my first classroom, not lost, an acquaintance next to me, and the perfect seat.

I could continue, but you get the point. Basically, every minute is full and I feel like I’m hitting Snooze to give myself five more minutes until the next thing. But I’m not adding time to my day, I’m just pretending to.

Welcome back to Moody. Maybe I’ll write to you in class next time, since sitting in a classroom is the only time I have to catch my breath so far.

Maybe missing you,

~Rae

Letters From An MBI Student – 6/1

Dear Chicago,

You know I don’t hate you, right? You know that I don’t hate your trains, your traffic, your yellow clouds at night, and your cardboard signs on every corner. You know that I don’t hate the claustrophobia of the Purple Line at 17:05, the ambulance sirens at 1:15, the taxi horns at 6:30, the dogs and crickets and slurred speeches at 20:00. You know that I don’t hate the smell of coffee and bagels and trash and homelessness, the sounds of angry drivers and weary travelers and untethered foreigners, the looks of the curious and tired and filthy and ordinary, the feel of a city that wants to be remembered for more than its violence, and the knowledge of a place with its head in the clouds and dirty feet on the ground.

You know that I just don’t always want to be here, right?

You know that you can’t be everything to everyone all of the time. You know that it is never silent here, never still, never quite real. You know that the little pockets of serenity here are man-made and hand-carved, with a thin line between the city and silence–or maybe just a fence–and the stale breezes of The Windy City are always trespassing between them. You know that you teach us to make our own silence by making our own noise, to find our own space by choosing what to fill it with, because there is nothing here that has not been drilled, labelled, approved, pegged on a map somewhere, and tagged with graffiti and yesterday’s gum. You know that your streets and shops are in collusion against the sky, because there are too many potholes and pickpockets and people to be able to look up long enough for the clouds to get in our lungs. You know you have taught us to stare at the ground and everyone around us with distrust and disillusionment, because nothing and nobody is as good as it is supposed to be. You know your billboards are a conflation of need and selfishness: you tell us to demand the best, donate the rest, never be satisfied, find it in gleaming steel and something out of a bank account. You know the spaces you are crafting into the next best thing are littered with cigarettes and angry car horns and the appreciative whistle appreciated by no one.

You know you are the city. You know you are layer upon layer of good and bad and ugly and no matter how high your buildings, how crystal your windows, how promising your developments…you are still most beautiful when your windows are red with a sunset you did not paint, when your streets are splattered by a rain you did not manufacture, when your walkways are covered by a lake you did not carve, when your buildings and alleyways and streets and scaffolding are bright in the sunlight you do not own. Did you know that it is the things you cannot control that keep us sane?

Don’t try too hard to make me love you, Chicago. Try as you might to dazzle and sparkle and glitter brighter than everyone and everything, you will never quite be enough. You will always have your passion and your violence, your pinnacles and your projects. You will always be trying to be better and you will always never be enough. And that is okay. Because don’t forget: you were created, too. You were built by those who are forever confronted by their inability to create utopia and forever confronted by the Creator who will. But He won’t call it Chicago.

~Rae

Letters From An MBI Student – From the PO Box

PREFACE:

Dear Family,

So, I wrote you some letters. Quite a while ago, actually. In varying states of finished, but all “unsent” or whatever the internet equivalent is. But you know that PO Box we had, that we’d remember every few months and go open up and bring home a treasure trove of 95% junk mail and 5% something important that we would have liked to have had before? Think of this post as that equivalent. Welcome to a PO Box post and a few postcards of life, just a few months late.

Maybe missing you,

~Rae

 

*******

10/5

Dear Family,

Today I decided that ChiTown is beautiful and I am happy. Please don’t freak out; I’m still a country girl in heart. There are a thousand-and-one things I miss about my beloved Midwest countryside, but I’m finding many things to love about this city God has placed me in. If I don’t compare them, I will be happy.

Here are five of the latest:

  1. The Nighttime. When it is night here, the streetlights shine as fierce and yellow as fireflies, and the buildings stay lit at all hours, and it is so, so beautiful. At night, there are fewer taillights to chase on Interstate, and Lakeshore Drive is glittering and it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road.
  2. The Fog. A city in fog is a stunning thing. The buildings are all suddenly equal in height, stunted by the fog that eats the tops of them all and I love it. At night the fog turns yellow and orange and gray and it’s even more spectacular. It makes the city seem a little smaller and cozier, wrapped up in blankets.
  3. The Sears Tower. Ahhh, need I say more? I could stare all day, and all I would need is a bucket for my drool.
  4. The buildings. They’re eccentric and bold and dirty and pristine and have every color you could want. It’s a perk of being downtown: if you don’t like your view, just look at a different corner.
  5. Little things: The Montgomery Ward building has what I call the Peter Pan statue, and it’s a perfect silhouette in the sunset. There’s a funny lighting shop with a giant white horse statue on the roof-terrace-thingy; it’s actually a lamp and the horse head with the lampshade over it looks down over the street from two stories up and still makes me laugh. I can get a pretty good view of the sunset from the top of the parking garage, and going to work in the winter means seeing the sun come up over Lake Michigan from one of the tallest places in the city. I realized the other day that our freshman t-shirts from Moody have a crane in the city silhouette printed on it, because of course the Chicago skyline would not be complete without that.
  6. I could fill this space with things that are individually underwhelming but collectively take your breath away because who knew that you had so many things to enjoy?

I can’t make a list of things I miss about the country right now, because that’s a long list and I’d like to enjoy this one for a while. I used to think that “choose joy” was just a kitschy thing on a plaque, but I think it may be…ahh, that’s another post for another time. Just know that today I chose it and the result was some pretty cool things (and this list).

Maybe missing you, and the country,

~Rae

 

********

12/16

Dear Family,

Well, once upon a time I thought I was smart. Or good at taking tests. Or even a generally well-behaved, genial, uncompromising sort of person. Ha. Welcome to Finals Week, where you feel either clumsy, dull, crabby, or frantic–or all of the above.

I only had four finals. Six, if you counted the two papers that were also due. So no big deal, until I met the girl who had NONE. Lucky [insert designation of your choice].

But I learned a few important things! New things, the sort of things I didn’t learn at community college where I could have skipped the finals and still passed the classes.

  1. SLEEP. ALL THE TIMES. Except during the actual final. Otherwise, truly, honestly, you will feel like the stupidest person alive, and that will be true if you don’t sleep.
  2. Study before finals weekend. I know everybody says you should do this, but, guess what? They’re right. Memorizing Spanish vocabulary is so much easier when you’re not trying to review 9 vocabulary lists the day before the 2 hour final.
  3. Sometimes the finals aren’t actually terrible. Truly! We had a trivial pursuit final for my ed class, and basically everyone ended up getting an ‘A’, but only because we worked together and learned the terms. It helped that I memorized nearly all 90 of them the day before, but getting the first ‘A’ was only good for my ego.
  4. Give yourself plenty of time. I only had one final on Monday, and I was going to work the rest of the day, because what was I going to do with my time? I decided not to work and was able to study for Tuesday’s finals. Another bonus: the extra time allowed me to realize that I’d written my research paper twice as long as it actually needed to be. Just a small detail. Ha.
  5. If the prof suggests a way to study, do it. Like, when he says to review his notes from previous assignments so we don’t make the same mistakes, it’s probably a good idea. Then you probably won’t get that note from your prof telling you to add periods, for the third time.

There are plenty of things I think I learned, but I’m going to take my own advice and sleep. For a week, preferably. Because right now my brain is drifting into the stupid category and I’m going to pretend it’s lack of sleep and not reality.

Maybe missing you (but missing my sleep more, sorry),

~Rae

 

*******

12/22 [warning: sappy sentiment to follow]

Dear Family,

Campus is a funny place at Christmas. It becomes this paradox of attributes, a weird mix of dark and bright, cold and warm, lonely and lovely. After finals week campus becomes a big empty place with Christmas lights and dark places. Locked doors usually mean secrets and warmth at Christmas, places where presents are stashed and surprises are lurking. Moody after finals week means those locked doors just hide dust and emptiness.

But they still have Christmas lights. They have all these beautiful Christmas trees in every color, and the lights in Joe’s are always glittering even when no one is allowed there. So it’s this faraway Christmas, that makes you more homesick for the Christmas you can touch and taste and feel.

And the city is beautiful. I visited the Christkindlmarket and got swallowed up in a place of spiced cider, hot pretzels, glass ornaments, and cuckoo clocks. My favorite ornaments were the ones we already have: little sledding men and the wee man who does jumping jacks when you pull the string and tiny stoic nutcrackers. I found some new favorites, particularly the painted glass globes, but even those that I loved best were the ones that looked a little like a place I used to call home.

How do we make new, lovely Christmases when everything we enjoy is a poor copy of what we actually want? I got to see huge, astonishing Christmas trees, but I ranked them based on what it felt like standing next to them. Because when I was a kid and we turned off all the lights in our living room, the sense of color and Christmas was as distinct as the first sip of hot cider in the fall.

I’m doing it again, aren’t I? Comparing things? At some point I think I’ll enjoy Chicago and Moody and their Christmas just for what it is. But I’m not very good at this thing yet. Right now I enjoy their Christmas because it satisfies the part of me that wants to be home for Christmas, with my own fireplace and that droopy fake tree that I wouldn’t trade for a million blue spruces, even if they are 63 feet tall.

So here I am, keys in hand, and a playlist ready for that drive home this afternoon. First up, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”

~Rae

 *******

3/29

Dear Family,

I think I’m going crazy. Or maybe I just need to come home. Or maybe I just need to be reminded that some things are not A Big Deal. Here’s the thing about Moody: they have these things that are A Big Deal, and there aren’t any nice billboards that remind me that, in life outside the Moody bubble, they are Not A Big Deal.

Examples? Here are two:

  1. Classes. Registration opens this week, and you get to sign up for your class based on how many credits you have. Seniors have first pick, juniors next, etc., and you have an exact time of day given to you and you can’t sign up before that time. This is what is known on campus as A Big Deal, because if you do not get the class you want or the schedule you want or the whatever then there are many problems. I did not realize this was A Big Deal, so last semester I just, meh, picked a few classes a few minutes before my time slot opened up, and managed to get a schedule that worked for me. Afterwards I found out that I should have been stressing out all semester about getting my classes. Oh.
  2. Rooms. Also A Big Deal (many things are). Because you will have a very bad semester if you do not get the right dorm floor. Or room. Or roommate. This is apparently very stressful.

The thing about these is that…well, they’re A Big Deal if you make them A Big Deal? There are a lot of things that could make the list of Things That Are A Big Deal: Meal plans, 8:00 classes, the right professor, the wrong room, the terrible roommate, the ability to work…they can make college easy or hard. But I don’t think that should make them A Big Deal, let alone A Very Big Deal. Why do we look at everything difficult and say, “Oh, you must be worth stressing out.” and then stress out about it?

Acknowledgement: things can be really stressful. It can be really stressful to not be able to get your classes in and wonder if you’ll graduate on time. It can be really stressful to have a class schedule that doesn’t let you work and pay for school. It can be really stressful to have early-morning classes and late-night jobs. It can be really stressful to have back-to-back-to-back classes and a roommate who hates you or a dorm floor that doesn’t believe in quiet hours. They are all difficult things. But not impossible.

I guess I feel really, really, extraordinarily fortunate to be at school, in school, doing school, getting to have this. I don’t like 8:00 classes or not getting lunch until 14:00 on Wednesdays. I don’t like studying until midnight on Thursdays or wearing work clothes to Chorale or writing papers on Sundays. I don’t like being tired or feeling sick or wondering what the haystacks I’m going to eat this week. I don’t like getting a weird prof and a difficult class. I don’t like having loans or bills or facing the cost of living in Chicago with food allergies that complicate everything.

But none of the things I don’t like are A Big Deal. What is A Big Deal? Today: this lovely gift of Today that I have been given. A Big Deal this week was that I fell asleep during my quiet time last night and today is different because I missed that. Everything else that could be A Big Deal is really just A Thing To Do.

Whew. That’s easier. And vastly less stressful.

Maybe not going crazy,

~Rae

 

*******

5/14

Dear Family,

I SURVIVED…

[Freshman year (and all the glories of being the old newbie on campus), finals week (again, but now it’s old hat. Almost.), and graduation (for other people, without squirming). But’s that’s all secondary to…]

…ROOM CHECKS.

Ha. Who knew that the weirdest part of all things end-of-semester would be Moody’s insane [batty, preposterous, deranged, irrational, cuckoo, loony, bonkers, bats-in-the-belfry] dorm policy? Okay, so the thesaurus expansion might be a little overboard, but hear me out here. It’s finals week, okay? You’ve signed up a week or two in advance for a room check: your own, for the night before you leave. It may or may not be different than your roommate’s room check. You pack and clean everything, move your stuff out, do a room inspection, and leave campus. Normal procedure, right? Let me break it down a little more.

  1. It must be the night before you leave. If that’s different than your roomie, tough luck. Get ready to pack up way early or be left with cleaning duties you didn’t want.
  2. Pack up everything. All the things. No paperclip left behind. Everything – as in, box it up and put it in the hallway as a fire hazard for the evening your room check occurs, and put the room back to the way it was when you entered in August.
  3. Clean everything. And in the process, find out how badly the room was cleaned before you as you scrub down more than just two semesters of living. Also, don’t forget to wipe down the mattresses and the air vents and the blinds and then go hunt down the floor vacuum that a dozen other people are waiting to use.
  4. By 22:00, the hallway will be filled with whoever else is leaving the next day, which may be everyone on your hall, which may leave six inches of space to crawl between boxes as everyone’s lives are teetered precariously outside their doors. Wait until your room check comes, which may not be until 23:30 and prepare to have to clean some more things, get marked down for a fine because you nicked the edge of the desk, and want to crawl away and disappear by the time the RA has run a finger around the inside of every empty desk drawer.
  5. Then move all your things back into your room and flip a coin to decide how important it is to put sheets back on the mattress. Feel guilty taking a shower, breathing, or generally sneezing a speck of dust back on any surface in the room.
  6. The next day, wait in line with DL in hand to check out a cart that you can use for two hours, which is just enough time to move yourself (maybe). Try doing that with five people, and end up spending all (yes, all) afternoon moving too much stuff from one place to another. Oh, and turn in your room keys by 17:00 or get fined.

Okay, so maybe I’m ranting a little bit. The whole move-out-but-stay-another-night procedure was just so bizarre to me, and it made for a very exhausting evening. Part of that was my fault, for packing everything up in one day and having room checks that same night. Also, I should probably have made the effort to take my blankets out again so the night after room checks wouldn’t have been sans sleep because I was so cold. And move-out day wasn’t terrible because I loved the work of it and the people were fantastic. We all just dug in and plowed through and cracked jokes about the insane amount of stuff and it was okay. It was hard to move into an apartment late because the owner wasn’t gone yet, it was hard to move into an apartment where every space in the kitchen needed a bucket of bleach, it was hard to see the pile of five people’s things overwhelm an apartment. But the irony and sweat and cheer of working together to move all the things was fantastic.

So I survived. I know the /why/ of some of the dorm check policies, and I shouldn’t complain just because I was expected to clean up after myself (and other people). And I can’t complain about poor inspections because we passed ours and all was well. Yes, it was way weird and yes, there are now many things I intend to do differently next year [possibly involving a dumpster or living out of my car; I haven’t decided yet].

I just know what to expect a little better, and it’s like everything at Moody: it may not be great, but you’re doing it with great people.

Maybe done with my rant,

~Rae