Tell me about a time…

You were on a team and it impacted your life.

The pastor leading the group discussion sits down to my left and angles toward me. I’m already uncomfortable. I’m sitting in the second seat, stage right of a U-shaped seating arrangement. It only occurred to me after I sat down that it was most likely left untouched for one of the two pastors leading our group. To think, I nearly took a seat in the back. I wish now that I would’ve but as my hand skimmed the top of one of the furthest open chairs, my eyes squinted toward the screen. I should have brought my glasses.

The pastor leaning in was too polite to concede that I’d displaced the unwritten seating arrangement but the fact that I’m now sandwiched between the two speaks volumes. Whether he senses my internal dialogue or not is unclear as he opens with small talk. How far was my drive? Am I from here?

“Not far but I’m not from here. I’m from a city outside of Detroit. My husband is from up north. We met at school and live here now.”

I catch myself before nerves propel me to divulge more unprompted facts but my halted speech is abrupt. I parrot his questions, asking him the same as if he didn’t give us his story last week.

“Oh right. I knew that,” I confess as he tells me again.

After more get-to-know-you conversation, the pastor brings my attention back to the group question he posed earlier: Tell about a time I was on a team that made an impact on my life. My thoughts come quickly, stumbling over one another in attempt to move the “right” answer to the forefront of my mind. I’ve been on plenty of teams. What type of team? What type of impact?

The pastor senses my struggle. He wants to know if I’ve been on a sports team where we worked to accomplish a united goal. I have.

“I was on a volleyball team that was conference champs,” I shrug. It was fun but it doesn’t feel too impactful outside of the adolescent lens. I rifle through more sports memories and one stands out: Soccer.

“I was on a soccer team in high school. Our coach ODed during the season. It made the news. So that was… pretty impactful…” I trail off.

Discussion opens up and we share our stories across the room but I keep coming back to my response. Did I go with the right one? Everyone else shares about teams where they built each other up and leaned on each others strengths to cover their own weaknesses. They’re beautiful stories of teamwork. But mine? How was I impacted? I replay it in my mind…

They called us into a room. I can’t remember the details but we were making jokes, coming up with theories on why we’d been called together instead of heading out to practice or the game. I think someone might have made a joke about someone dying. It could have been me.

Our head coach’s eyes were already puffy when he walked through the door to tell us the news. Our assistant coach had died over the weekend and they would let us know all of the details for the funeral arrangement as quickly as possible.

Our assistant coach was young with the biggest smile. It always made sense to me because he had the biggest heart as well. For his love of the game and his players. For his fiancée who was coming in from out of state the same week the team clustered together in a classroom to learn of his passing. He was funny. He had a way of getting your head back in the game when high school drama threatened to come onto the field.

The funeral service was short. Too short. Perhaps in homage to a life not aged but I wager it had more to do with the fact that his OD made local news. No one seemed to know how to reconcile his death and his life. At least we didn’t. We looked to each other. To our parents. To our school.

The soccer team, well, we wanted to donate a permanent scoreboard in his memory; we were denied. I went to a small Lutheran high school and, although I wasn’t in any of the official conversations, it was relayed to us that it came down to politics. We shouldn’t honor the way he died. I think that’s what they said. We wanted warm up jerseys with his name on them. We got pale blue t-shirts with a white letter at the bottom of the shirt that was hidden if we tucked it in.

It might as well have been red.

I sit in that second seat and absorb as much as I can about the conversation at hand. We’ve moved on from telling our team stories to race and the gospel, the topic we’re meeting on today. We talk about what it takes to have difficult conversations and how important they are to our relationship with God and to each other. We talk about the cost of those conversations. We talk about unification and reconciliation. I think about soccer.

I think about soccer all the way home. I’m angry. I think back on my shared team story and on everything I didn’t say to the group of individuals sitting in a U today. About how those high school girls were failed by their faith community. How we mourned in isolation and conflict because they focused on politics over people. Sin over grace. Separation over unification.

I’ll tell you this: I don’t think we can change as a Church until we can see ourselves as the villains in the stories we read. I know all about how we’re the lambs from Sunday School but I’m older now. God providing, wiser. And I’m learning about all the ways we’re Pharisees too.

Past Influences and Parties

Fact: I feel sexiest when driving in my car, windows down, music up, night air, wind in my hair.

I drove from Grand Rapids to my parents’ home today. I arrived home just in time to catch my mom and her friends mid-celebration for one of my high school teachers; it was her retirement party.  Not only do I love being able to see my mother hosting events (her and I have both worked to better ourselves as of late and her social prowess has grown immensely in the endeavor), but it was such a treat to see the faces from my past! The retiring teacher was a favorite when I was in high school. She had a lot of influence on us and made us look at our lives more so than she was required to do. In fact, the blog I wrote about my life in 2004 was taken from the scrapbook I made for her Psychology project. What a blessing to have someone with the foresight to make me capture my own, now cherished, memories in a manner that I wouldn’t have thought of myself. 

How strange to think that students entering my high school will not have the privilege of seeing the same faces that shaped my four years there. They won’t know it, but they’re less fortunate for that. Cheated, in a way. I loved my high school experience and I attribute as much of that to my faculty as I do my friends.

I also had the opportunity to see my Spanish teacher from high school. My mother had mentioned that she was coming but it’d slipped my mind until I saw her. It’d been so long, she was probably slightly uncomfortable at my awestruck response to seeing her. She and the retiring teacher had taken me, my friends, my mother and other chaperones over to Spain, Portugal, and France for a study abroad trip in high school. We spent a good portion our time around the table recapping all of the stories that ensued from our trip and those they had taken with other classes. It’s funny how many little things you can forget in life and how quickly they can be recalled. Anyway, she was always terribly blunt when she taught at my high school; it’s a quality I always admired of her.

My Spanish teacher drove over from her current hometown to mine with one of our family friends from my earlier years. It’d been ages since I’d seen her as well. Our families used to do everything together. One of their daughters even broke her arm at the jungle gym at my house when she was little! When they moved, we made trips out there to see them every so often but time has caused those occasions taper off. Now I suppose my parents go and see them while I’m busy with something else or they make it an “adults only” get together (and everyone knows that you become an adult when you grow older until it comes time for seating charts at holidays or adult gatherings among your parents and their friends ;)) Haha. C’est la vie.

Sitting there and soaking in their company, I realize that I miss them and the effect they had on my youth. I wanted to give them all hugs goodbye but I think that time does funny things to adult-child relationships. When I see them I am immediately brought back to my youth and although I am now comfortable sharing conversation with them at an adult level, I still look up to them. I gather that the opposite doesn’t occur so naturally. I think they probably see me now as an adult and feel a disconnect from the girl they knew to the woman before them. It’s just my theory based loosely on observation but I think it may be true.

Either way, I think it’s so healthy to reminisce and I’m glad for the opportunity. It can be unhealthy too, but I think nostalgia is a beautiful emotion. It shows us how we’ve grown.

“Jungle Drum” Emiliana Torrini – You need to listen to this song! Feel good and move your feet.

My Life in '04

The title to tonight’s blog was taken from a scrapbook I made for a psychology project. It’s dated December 16, 2004. Inside, it holds truths which remain constant today, those which have turned into untruths following time/experiences/growth, and also those which remain true though less prominent in my interpretation of the present. It’s worth reviewing. And updating.

5 1/2 years later – Past and present broken down:

  • 5 words used to describe me:
    • 2004
      • stubborn
      • confident
      • respectful
      • athletic
      • caring
    • 2010
      • traveled
      • excited
      • relaxed
      • funny
      • optimistic
  • I like that I am:
    • 2004
      • Passionate about the things I believe are right
      • Honest about my thoughts
      • Open-minded
    • 2010
      • Open to new opportunities
      • Comfortable in my own skin
      • Surrounded by good people
  • I need to learn to:
    • 2004
      • Organize my life
      • Hold my tongue
      • Let go of past hurts
    • 2010
      • Quit over analyzing
      • Organize my life
      • Make my own way in the world
  • I want to:
    • 2004
      • Stop allowing fear to paralyze me
      • Strengthen my faith level
    • 2010
      • Stop allowing fear to paralyze me
      • Always follow my heart
  • My top values are:
    • 2004
      • Faith
      • Respect
      • Family
      • Kindness
      • Trust
    • 2010
      • Faith
      • Respect
      • Family
      • Friendship
      • Growth
  • My talents:
    • 2004
      • Sports
      • Singing
    • 2010
      • Communicating
      • Forgiving
  • Tomorrow I would like to be:
    • 2004
      • More Responsible
      • Health Conscious
    • 2010
      • Further along with my paper
      • Aware of my daily blessings
  • Two deep concerns I have right now:
    • 2004
      • Relationship with [my boyfriend at the time]
      • College
    • 2010
      • Living situation
      • Career
  • Favorite quotation(s):
    • 2004
      • Play your game: Don’t focus about what anyone else thinks. Play for you. – my parents
    • 2010
      • Many are the plans in a man’s heart but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:21
      • Live in the now. Act spontaneously. Embrace the unknown. – self
  • If I were anyone else, I would be:
    • 2004
      • Rich and famous
    • 2010
      • Entirely disappointed
  • I am a(n):
    • 2004
      • Christian, daughter, friend, sister, grand-daughter, girlfriend, cousin, role model, counselor, niece, woman, writer, singer, artist, student, athlete, Taurus
    • 2010
      • Christian, daughter, sister, relative, friend, traveler, role model, mess, comedian, artist, disciple, lady, enigma, wanderer, listener, talker, learner
  • Two experiences that affected me in a personal way:
    • 2004
      • Soccer with Adam Danielczyk: We were his girls. He cared for us more than he cared about himself.
        • [ Side note: This is something that still pains my heart with joyful remembrances and always will. We were lucky to have him.]
      • Spring Hill: Strengthened faith life
    • 2010
      • Alzheimer’s
      • Heartbreak
  • My biggest fears:
    • 2004
      • Being forgotten
      • Growing up
    • 2010
      • Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? – Matthew 6:27 …
  • I would like to be remembered as a:
    • 2004
      • Role model
    • 2010
      • Role model
  • 10 experiences I would like to have:
    • 2004
      1. Own a bulldog named “Boomer”
      2. Live away [CHECK!]
      3. Marry
      4. Become a mom to little boys (a soccer mom)
      5. Study abroad in Europe [CHECK!]
      6. Decorate my own house
      7. Own a black minivan
      8. Become a recognized photographer
      9. Be an aunt
      10. Be a spoiling grandma
    • 2010
      1. Sky diving
      2. Camping weekend
      3. See a bald eagle in nature
      4. Live in Grand Rapids
      5. Live outside of Michigan
      6. Be published as an author
      7. Obtain a motorcycle license
      8. Run a marathon
      9. Learn to sew
      10. Road trip with friends
  • My favorite TV show:
    • 2004
      • Laguna Beach
    • 2010
      • Cougar Town
  • Favorite article of clothing:
    • 2004
      • Jeans
    • 2010
      • Scarves!
  • I see my sister as:
    • 2004
      • Beautiful
    • 2010
      • Strong
  • When I grow up I want to be:
    • 2004
      • A kid!
    • 2010
      • A kid! 😉
  • I get most frustrated when:
    • 2004
      • I don’t succeed immediately
    • 2010
      • I feel embarrassed

Those are the highlights documenting how I’ve changed and how I’ve remained the same. It’s an interesting project to keep around. I suggest you start one today and pick it back up in a few years. You might be surprised/saddened/impressed/embarrassed at the things contained.

For me, 2004 points out my youth (as I would expect) but also my crippling inclination to project into the future past any predictable cues – and with goals that are unachievable on my own. Hopefully 2010 feels a bit more independent and a bit more present. It ought to. It’s now.