July 31, 2010


To Christian- a favor done. Written at 3:00 AM, July 23/24

I was trying to sleep just now when the ocean woke me up. It appeared out of nowhere. Not the regular ocean, the one outside my Colorado window. It starts with a growl of wind, like thunder trying to breathe, and ends with pounding the glittery aspen-leaf-shore. I hadn’t found my way to sleep yet, but it’s a full moon, and apparently now the tide is coming in. Now sleep will probably evade me for a while.

The newly laid shingles on the roof beckon. There are no screens on the window and I have a thing for roofs. I have “a thing” for lots of things actually- hummingbirds, the ocean (the real one), vegetables. But this thing for roofs has to do with surrender.

The last time I crawled out on the roof at night was last summer. Then, as now, I couldn’t sleep. I had a lot on my mind. I was moving in the direction of a boy I loved and a dream that had been simmering for 4 years. But I knew my heart and wondered if I was holding on tighter to those desires than I was God’s hand in moving towards them. I hugged my knees on the summit of the house, staring out at the opaque outline of Pikes Peak and gave them all up.

I offered God the dirt of my life- the image from a dream that I felt like was true. In it, I was a garden that was dead: tubers of potatoes and rotten peppers spread out with arching roots uncovered. Messy and unsatisfying. But on the roof I asked if God would till me; compost those nasty, finished parts of what I had become and make me into new soil and do something new in me. If that meant something without this boy and this far-off enterprise, so be it. I needed a grip back on God’s hand.

But, the truth is, I got them both. I crawled into bed that night, slept, woke up, and still felt good about the direction I had. I took a flight with love letters in my hand.

Here we are now. Pikes Peak is at a different angle from this house, but still magnificent even at a profile in the half-light. The waves continue to rustle all around me. They wash up a fox, clear as day, hunting in the shallow waters of the front yard.

What next Lord? Today my shreds of hope for a promising job ended as “we’ll get back to you next week” got swallowed up by 5:00 pm Friday afternoon. I had already cried about it several times on “hump day” so today was a relatively numb realization. This week tears have come like these fictional waves outside my window- often and unexpected.

Am I mourning a season that ended just as unexpectedly? Am I running into dead-ends as I walk foward because that season’s exactly where I’m supposed to turn back to? Am I still in love with this boy I knowingly walked away from? It’s too much for me to know. But who else can know it? It’s all out here on the roof again, resting in my open empty hands.

It feels colder when the moon disappears behind the clouds. The moon reflects the sun’s light, but not heat. Still, it’s the darkness that makes me shiver, not the cold. It does feel dark.

Someone said once, “Don’t change direction in the dark.” In other words, make your decisions when things are clear- a clear conviction, a clear word from God, a clear next step. Put your hand to the proverbial plow, and go for it without stopping to look at other fields or wonder if the one in front of you was not the one they meant for you to plow.

I strain to think of the last time I felt clarity. I knew I couldn’t prolong my stay overseas. The clarity came in friends around every corner saying, “You need to KNOW you should be here.” I knew being near my family felt right. Even now that has been my only compass: “Here, not There.” But there are so many more things I want to know about it all.

I like to think of sociological experiments in my free time. My brain actually does this on its own when free from conversation or activity. So a few weeks ago as I drove through the starkness of Utah for 8 hours, there was a new one I came up with. It was really more of a survey. I must have been thinking about the countless relationships I have seen bloom and fail; or bloom, fail, and revive. “What makes them live?” I wondered, and decided it would be fascinating to chronicle people’s responses to the question, “What can love overcome?”

No sooner than I had formed the query in my mind and tried it out on myself, I heard the voice that I am slowly learning to recognize: a thought that comes from a source I know is not myself because it shocks me every time.

“I can overcome anything, Anna.”

So Lord, this is my rooftop prayer from this island I am stuck on in the middle of a windy sea: Will you please overcome? I don’t even know what I need you to defeat, but would you do it? Will you do battle like the wind battering these trees and help me out of this place?

July 24, 2010

A Car Door Slams

I’m sitting inside my mom’s house, and for some reason, every time I hear a car door slam outside I expect it to bring someone I have been waiting for. But the weird thing is I’m not waiting for anyone tonight- no one has made plans to visit me.

This confuses me.

Maybe it’s because I miss my brother Michael. He’s been in Michigan for the past 2 weeks, and I can’t wait for him to come home so we can watch youtube videos and laugh with Nathan; so I can roll my eyes at his puns and scold him for terrorizing Nathan and the cat. He’s a great friend of mine, and maybe my heart wants him to drive up, slam the car door and be home.

My next thought is maybe it is a gentleman suitor of mine. This is a distinct impossibility. And actually, I am not necessarily mutually admiring of this suitor. He gives me the feeling that he is looking for a person to fill a role, not necessarily me, but why not me? But maybe he is the sign of something else: of possibility and hope and love. And so maybe my heart wishes it was him, driving up to surprise me and just have a little time talking on the lawn.

My last thought- no, longing- is that it’s my dad. This is indeed impossible. He has been gone for 12 summers, and there is no way that he will pull into our driveway this evening, closing his car door and opening our door to greet us after his day. But I wish he could. I wish that he would just stop by and have a piece of pizza with us, listen with furrowed brow, and say, “Well Anna…” followed by some kind of wise advice. It wouldn’t even matter if it was hard to hear. I just need a little advice.

So with every approaching neighbor I feel my deep needs for companionship, love and insight. I feel so lost right now. And a lost heart looks for meaning even in the slam of a car door.

June 24, 2010

Friends I've Never Met

I had a cool realization last night.

My friends in China have a family who will be joining their team soon, and they were in Colorado this week for training. I called them and invited them over last night to connect with them about our mutual friends and interests.

I was bustling around the kitchen making iced tea and scrounging for acceptable "guest food" when my brother Nathan came up.

"What are you doing?" he asked.
"My friends are coming over so I'm just putting together some snacks," I said.

Then Nathan started asking a bunch of questions more irritating than truly interrogative, which happens to be his particular specialty.

"How do you know them? Do they have kids? How many kids do they have? How old are their kids?"

And my answers were.... "Uh..." I'd never met the Johnsons, and didn't know the 'how many' or 'how old' of their kids, or really very much about them at all. But I knew they were my friends. It must've sounded weird to Nathan that I had friends I'd never seen before, but it struck me as something really cool.

Being a part of the Body of Christ means we can claim friends we've never met. We have friends and family everywhere.

I'll never forget being overseas in 2004 and meeting a woman who was a secret believer. Neither of us spoke the others' language, but she was told I was a Christ-follower, and when she saw me, her eyes sparkled and she gave me the most thankful sincere embrace I have ever received. Sister. Friend.

May 24, 2010


Jolanda and I at The Bookworm

Here's a (relevant) Robert Frost poem I copied on a scrap from this bookstore in China:


Some things are never clear.
But the weather is clear tonight,
Thanks to a clearing rain.
The mountains are brought up near,
The stars are brought out bright,
Your old sweet cynical strain
Would come in like you here:
"So we won't say nothing is clear."

September 2, 2009

written in Amsterdam, May 8th, 2007

a hospice house
this is a house for the inevitable
children who will
come to this garden home
they are surrounded by light and beauty
so that the last things that fade away leave a rosy glow on them

what if all inevitabilities were cared for?
death, yes, but what about the ones in life
you will be hurt
you will hurt
you will gain and lose things
you will be confused at all this

and in a rosy colored building
they would nurse you and prepare you
for these tragedies
because they cannot be helped
but maybe a glow can be set upon them too
so that you can go into the world
and face the impending