It Won’t Be the 2nd Floor Apartment: Moving, Questions, and Short Seasons

The first few weeks I lived here I came home every night and watched the 2016 Olympics. I cried every time Michael Phelps won another Olympic medal. It didn’t really matter that I knew he was going to win before he jumped in the pool, the end of his career still stirred something in me.

I’m packing up my apartment and I knew this day would come. That’s the thing about apartments, you know they aren’t permanent. You know the end before it happens. You know you’re one day going to pack up all your boxes, take all the pictures off of the wall, scrub the cabinets, and try to figure out how to secure all the breakables.

Yesterday I sat in the office of a friend, he crossed his arms over his white plaid shirt and smiled, “Whatever the next step is, it probably won’t feel like a clear yes at first, it will probably just feel something like well, it’s not a no. Then, you’ll just keep taking steps and asking questions. And you might always have questions, but somewhere in there, you will find a yes.”

Suddenly, I was sitting on that street corner again, looking at myself ten months ago deciding whether or not to move to this city, rent this apartment, change my entire life. I followed that nudge, that well it’s not a no. I kept asking questions, and in the midst of it, however short it turned out to be, there was a yes.

There was always a yes. Nestled there in the crying in the kitchen, laughing at work, my plunger emergency, the literal ceiling caving in, sleepless nights and exams, my beloved Chick-fil-a man, learning how to let go, how to stand up, nearly dying from a migraine, hosting the best Christmas party ever, my sister getting married and then getting pregnant, having one of the most absurd “define-the-relationship” conversations ever, forming unlikely friendships. There was a yes, there in the deepest part of my soul, even though I had a billion questions.

“God didn’t allow this moment to make you weaker. Don’t let it make you weaker.”

His words were once again exactly what I needed to hear. Because questions can have that kind of power when we let them. They can make our knees feeble and our hearts weary, we can find ourselves doubting and uncertain that we’re on the right path, or that we ever got on the right one in the first place.

Having questions doesn’t mean you’re weak and it doesn’t mean that you’re on the wrong path. Sometimes it takes a person (who was a stranger just months ago), whom you met at a place (that some might say seemed like a “wrong turn”), to show you that questions and short seasons often keep you right on track.

Stop feeling guilty for your questions, your short seasons, things that didn’t work out like you expected, or for crying when MP predictably wins a medal or you predictably have to move again.

This moment doesn’t have to make you weaker, guilty, or fearful. There’s something ahead and it won’t really matter if it lasts for nine months or nine years. It will be the right turn, the right time, the right track. You’ll cry when it’s over and you’ll cry while it’s happening. You’ll gain and lose along the way, you’ll find the yes in the middle somewhere and you’ll keep asking questions until you find yourself asking a question that takes you to a different turn.

And one day you’ll move your boxes to a new place. You will set up the tv, turn it on and make a new memory. It won’t be Phelps at the 2016 Olympics and it won’t be Raleigh. It won’t be the 2nd floor apartment with the perfect sunset view or the closet that smells like Christmas. It won’t be right down the street from the Harris Teeter with the annoying kid who never stops talking. But it will be home again and there will be people there waiting to love you and people that you’ll hope to never leave.

But if and when you do, they are what you will know made this whole thing the right turn. Even though it hurts and even though it’s a lot of logistics, labor, inconvenience. The women who laughed with you, prayed with you, let you vent and cry in the hard moments. The bosses who sat with you, heard your questions, processed your pain, valued your voice. The men who kept you laughing, whose comfort and encouragement reminded you that honor and integrity are worth whatever the cost, who cheered you on when you thought you might give in. When you’re packing it all up–questioning why and trying to understand it all–they are what and who will make you certain that thought it wasn’t what you expected, you made the right turn after all.

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Getting Away

Sometimes, all we really need is to just get away.

We just need to drive up to the mountains with a friend. Sit in a cozy cabin, dunking coffee bags into mugs, while talking about how beautiful life really is. We need to laugh at all the ways we’ve changed in the last year. Sometimes, we need to feel that slight sting of pain that comes with realizing how nothing ever really stays the same.

You’re going to need to learn to embrace the moments of burying your head in the blankets as a friend asks the hard questions about love and about letting go.

While the cabin settles in and braces itself for what feels like a coming storm, just breathe and watch the leaves swirl outside the windows. When you do, I hope you have a moment when you realize that all you needed was just one second of that Still Small Voice. Even though it may not be a booming-voice-from-Heaven experience, that the three hour drive is worth hearing just one sentence that soothes the heart.

One beautiful word is worth all the miles, the money and the mess.

And you know, driving up that mountain is a lot like life. One minute, it’s smooth sailing and the next thing you know, you’re slamming on your breaks face-to-face with the side of a cliff. In that moment, you grab that wheel with both hands, take a deep breath. Go on and take that curve like you own it; ’cause baby, it’s too late to turn back now.

Meet some characters along the way. If you’re like me, you’ll find out some strange things like how “men are deer” and learn some lessons about “patience, patience, patience” and you will love every single second of it.

But don’t be afraid to come back home.

It’s easy to fall in love with the silent and simple life that is hidden in the rust colored leaves. In a place like that, you’re always going to consider just settling in for the long haul and forgetting what’s waiting for you 157 miles away in a town that never lets you forget the past.

You have to remind yourself that you need to come home. 

When you start your journey back, drink in the shades of blue that paint the evening sky and find yourself thinking about tacos and snow and how brave and yet clumsy you’ve spent the last year being.

Stop at the McDonalds that is a faithful staple in all of your past mountain road trips and order chicken nuggets while you cry about the things are far too big for your tiny hands to change.

You need some time to sort out the things you can change and to let go of the things you never could.

Close your eyes and count to one-two-three and say, one curve at a time. 

And when you get home and life kicks you in the gut again (and it will), plant those little feet on some solid ground.

Hold on just a longer, love.

Because hope is going to come again. All the things that make you feel alive and that symphony of laughter that’s being caged by your weary bones is going to return with a fierceness.

You will come home from your weekend in the woods and will look for more answers. You will start wondering how God expects you to keep going when things seem so dry and mundane here at home.

And then He will surprise you with a phone call from a complete stranger on a Tuesday night to let you know that He’s still got a plan.

When He does and hope starts to return, you’ll slowly begin forgetting all the lies you’ve been tangled in. All the voices that told you and all the reasons why can’t ran away with never could. All the ways you thought you failed and all the people you felt you lost will begin to only strengthen you because you’ll know in your core:

It wasn’t all for nothing.

There’s a gift waiting if you’ll just take some time to get away. Maybe you can’t go to the mountains right now. Maybe it will just be a few minutes on your back porch with the sunset. Perhaps you can wake up a few minutes early tomorrow and enjoy some time on your couch, listening for the voice you were made to hear.

Whatever the case and no matter the circumstance, I hope you get some time to get away soon. Because there’s hope hanging from the mundane and routine clouds above your head.

And Hope has got a smile on His face and some words for your heavy heart.