Harvard Home

Last night at Harvard House felt so typically post-grad. 

Lindsay, Haley, and I forewent our wine bar plans in favor of renting Sweet Home Alabama on demand. After a rain-chilled day, a restful night was just what we needed.

Lindsay came over early to catch Beth before she went out for the evening. Beth perched herself on our kitchen countertop, and Lindsay and I sat on the barstools, while Beth filled us on in on her hiking date earlier that day. We jumped off our stools and danced around when she said it went great, the first great date in this city in awhile. While we chatted and laughed and pressed for details, I melted better and stirred in sugar to make cookie dough dip to eat with the movie. Using the stovetop always makes our kitchen warmer.

Katelyn and Rachel came through the back door, hauling basketball-player-sized cardboard boxes from Ikea inside, leaving their car with its blinking emergency lights blocking the alleyway behind the house. I slipped on my Birkenstocks and helped carry one up the slippery deck steps, through the door, and into the dining room. We saved the stairs for another, less lazy day.

Beth left, Haley arrived in her Uber, and we settled around the kitchen island, spreading pepperjack cheese on Trader Joe’s crackers and dipping pretzels into the cookie dough dip. We talked about crying after work and nit-picky supervisors and the strange way that perceptions become reality. Sam came down for a minute to pour a glass of rice wine and went back upstairs to continue making her school lesson plans.

Before Katelyn left to go have dinner homemade by some Italian friends, she showed me how to rent movies on the tv. Haley and Lindsay and I carried our red wine glasses into the den and settled on the couches and into our movie, the story of a small-town girl who moves to a big city but finds her heart still tied to home.

I think every one of these women – Haley, Lindsay, Beth, Katelyn, Rachel, Sam, me – feels this, too. That tiny little tug in the gut and the heart. This homeward longing.

As a dear friend reminded me yesterday, we are meant to long for home. By design, we will never be fully satisfied or content on this earth, because this earth is not our true home.

But I am so comforted and grateful for this temporary home on Harvard Street, this safe place to land as we whirl around making our lives in a big city, holding onto each other even as we never let our feet fully rest on this earthly yet hallowed ground.  

But in the meantime, we’re making a temporary home down here on Harvard Street, a safe place to land as we whirl around a big city, holding onto each other even as we never let our feet fully rest on this earthly ground.

Safe in my heart

I keep meaning to write an update here. Mostly for my own records. But also as a small way of speaking the personal things I usually keep close, only to me.

I am “working from home” in the National Portrait Gallery atrium, a light-filled open space with small circular tables and fake wooden chairs and a glass ceiling. A group of women sit near me at two tables pushed together covered with watercolors and paper and writing utensils. In my four hours beside them, they have not stopped chatting and chuckling in the loveliest way. I think they are a creative group. I like being in their company as I type out course descriptions and emails for my work.

It’s Friday, and this weekend is the first I have made no plans. I’m insecure about this. Fearful that this open weekend is indicative of my every weekend in D.C. to come. But I know this isn’t true.

My sophomore year I listened to the cheesy tragic love theme of Titanic, “My Heart Will Go On,” more times than I will admit. It came back to mind the other day, and I’m reflecting on this line:

You are safe in my heart.

Davidson begins again this coming week. My friends and church and RUF, the library desk and the trails and the two big secluded armchairs outside the Union gym. Even the health center. I won’t study at Sloan on Sunday afternoons anymore or camp out in the coziness of Old Summit upstairs.

Of course I’ll find my D.C. equivalents of these things in time. New study spots and favorite runs and companions. But that’s the thing. They’ll be equivalents. And an equivalent can’t exist without an original. And today, this weekend, in this atrium, I’m grieving the originals. I’m keeping them safe in my heart. 

On being a light

Somewhere I learned that I needed to be a light in this world. To be an encouragement, one who brings brightness, one who envisions hope. I must be one who brings light to the classroom and my office building. My college apartment, then my red brick row house. To all my meetings and small groups and family dinners and one-on-ones. Because you believe, my theology said, you must be the light for those who don't. Always.

But there must be a time for darkness. Because only the lights of night clubs and diners and Wal-Marts stay always one. The most wonderful light in the world goes down at the end of the day. And even the Son, the Light of the world, went dark at the crucifixion. There was darkness over the whole land... the sun's light failed (Mark 15). 

In my striving to be a light in the world, I forgot who was the real Light of the world, the original flame of a candlelit service. 

Scripture often references light. In the beginning, God said, Let there be light. The Psalmist prayed to walk before God in the light of life. He called the Word a lamp to his feet and light to his path. John wrote that the true light has shined in Christ and the darkness has not overcome it. And he concludes in Revelation that in eternity, the night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light (Revelation 22:5).

But not once in all the Bible did I find a command of me to be a light. Not once.

All I could find was this: Matthew 5:5, the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said, You are the light of the world. 

Light is not something I must be or become. No, Jesus said. Light, you already are. Light, I already am. Not because of anything I did. Because of how He made me. 

There will still be darkness. Jesus knew darkness, too. The Light of the world has shined. And made in His image, we reflect His light. And the darkness has not overcome it. Amen.

 

Picture: Light from our basement shining through the floorboards.

MacBooks and book books

I made an appointment at the Apple Store today to get my MacBook fixed. The disk drive was still set to the European zone from our spring abroad. Why disk drive functioning changes by continent, I don't know.

Apple Stores all look the same: clean, bright, white, modern. "Techy," a made up word I found in my reading at work today. All the employees wore short-sleeved simple navy t-shirts. So many screens. People gathered around them. People (including me) needed help fixing their screens. And while we waited, we stared at more screens. I found myself craving a book, with real crinkly pages and an old book smell. When I looked in my big black tote, I found my MacBook, an iPad, and an iPhone, but no real book.

We talk and think and write a lot about the problems of technology. But if we honestly searched our lives and our bags, would we find any actual books there? Today I didn't, but tomorrow I will.

Elmo's and boring work

Katherine and I sat at a freshly wiped, diner-style table. She ordered a deliciously smelly salmon cake sandwich. I asked for poached eggs, avocado, a fruit bowl, and sunflower bread (progress!). We caught up on the themes of our past year, the celebrations and stumbling blocks. It's wonderful to catch up with close friends after a long while because you have the space and already established vulnerability to honestly reflect on the deeper things of your time apart. Then we checked in on the right now.

I described my copywriting internship, how writing about ridiculously luxurious Lamborghinis and pinpointing just the right style for Kawasaki motorcyclists are not exactly my idea of a dream job. I remarked that the shift from college to career was abrupt, from the mentality of edifying myself to the mentality of building up a company with its own agenda apart from mine. In my senior year especially, I poured thought and time and effort into crafting my own writing style, the hallmarks of my own voice. Now at my company, I had to shed that skin and step into one that felt dry, foreign, and honestly a little bit boring.

Katherine gently reminded me of the real skill the company work was strengthening in me: doing something I don't really want to do with diligence. Taking good care of someone else's agenda. There will always be parts of every job I ever hold that I dislike, and yet I will still have to do them. And if I'm honest, even projects I deeply enjoy can become burdensome and frustrating as I work through the middle phases. Stretching this diligence muscle now will help me immensely when my day-to-day work is truly my passion project. And, her words reassured me, to see these tasks through is the beginning of a life of unselfish service.

(pictured: two recent wonderful graduates)