December 28th 2015:
The plane lifted into the air as I sank back into my seat ready for the flight into Chicago. I’ve flown my entire life, across oceans and continents and I still get this nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I glance around the plane, observing the passengers around me, most are already drifting off to sleep, some are shoving their headphones into their ears. The guy across the aisle from me is digging around in his bag looking for something. So I take a moment to observe him. I don’t know if it’s the writer in me or that i like to soak in the details of people and file away.
He looks to be about my age, maybe a few years older. His dirty blonde hair looked like it had been styled that morning, but at some point his fingers had become restless and decided that they needed to comb through his strands a few times. His profile was strong, and the blue collar shirt he had on was snug against his chest.
He sat up quickly, pulling a bag of mints from his pack. He turned his head toward me and our eyes met. I jerked my head to the right, away from him, embarrassed that I had been caught staring. I shook my head, reaching for my book in the seat-back pocket in front of me.
I turned left towards the voice, placing my hand in between the pages of my book to mark my spot.
Across the aisle guy was looking at me, holding a mint out in his hand.
I looked down at the mint and up at his face again. “huh?” I squeeze out. I hadn’t had a conversation with someone since mom dropped me at the airport at 5 that morning, which was three or so hours ago.
“Would you like one.” He reached his hand further into the aisle closer to me.
“Uh, sure.” I shrugged, grabbing the mint from his hand, “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” He replied as I ripped the wrapping off and popped the mint into my mouth.
His hand still extended into the aisle. “I’m Stephen.” He offered.
“Cameron,” I shook his hand. “Thanks for the mint.”
“You heading home Cameron.” His eyes, a shade of green, looked at me waiting for an answer.
I sat for a moment contemplating if I wanted to have a conversation with this complete stranger or read the rest of my book.
“No, visiting some friends,” I replied, “and you?” Conversation it was.
“Well I wouldn’t call Chicago home, I’d say it’s a resting place, for a much bigger journey.”
“What do you mean by that?” I asked him.
And so we began talking. He told me about this job he’s been at in Chicago since he finished grad school a few years ago. That he likes it but he’s wanting to do bigger things with his life.
I talked about all my failed jobs, about my desire to travel and care for those in need, about my first degree and now nursing school.
He would talk and I would ask questions, then he would ask questions and I would talk.
“I don’t even know why I am telling you all of this.” He said at one point after telling me that his trip had been to see his girlfriend who in the end broke it off because of distance.
“Well, Stephen that’s the thing about conversations in airplanes. It easier to say everything without holding back because you know deep down that you’re never going to see the other person again. Sometime it’s easier to share secrets and life with strangers than it is with people who know you.”
“You really feel that way?” He asked.
“More recently I have.” I half smiled.
He smiled handing me another mint as the Captain came over the speaker to tell us we would be landing shortly.
Stephen sighed. “Well all I can say is that you seem like a woman with a thousand stories behind her eyes, just waiting on someone who will take the time to look and to listen.”
“Oh really, you can tell all that by a conversation.” I laughed.
He smiled at the stewardess walking by and then looked at me. “I can tell all that by the way you listen to the conversation. You listen with the intent to listen. With the intent to hear people’s stories and add them to your collection of stories that I’m sure you hope one day to tell.”
“For real.” I smirked looking down at my hands in my lap. Feeling uncomfortable with him reading me.
“For real. You extend grace with a listening ear and if you ask me this world needs more grace. Someday whenever you’re working as a nurse that grace will be important. It’s something we tend to forget. you know?”
“Yes. I do.” I responded looking up from my hands.
We talked some more as the plan landed and taxied into the gate. Grabbing our bags from the overhead bin, we reached the walkway into the airport.
Feeling awkward cause I never know how to end conversations with people. We’re standing in front of the flight screen as I’m looking for my connecting gate, now that my first flight out had been cancelled and he’s heading to baggage claim.
He holds out his hand to me.
I look at the mint sitting in it and laugh.
“Thank you,” I say taking the mint from his hand and putting it in my pocket. “I’ll save it for later.”
His hands still kind of hanging there in between us. “Thank you.” he smiles as I shake his hand. “It was so nice to meet you and talk you.”
“Yeah” I say still shaking his hand, “You too, good luck with all your plans.”
He releases my hand. “You too,” He begins to turn away and then looks back at me. “And Cameron.” He smirks.
“Uh, yeah.” I say reaching for my headphones.
“Never forget grace and never forget their stories.” He smiles, waves, and walks aways.
And i’m standing there staring after him, wondering if I should do something, wondering what just happened, wondering if I just missed something important and then a lady rams into me with her suitcase and I’m aware of all the people flooding around me to see the bored and I slowly back away, my mind retreating within itself wondering, thinking about the conversation I just had and how badly I had been wanting someone to talk to. that I had needed to get all my thoughts out my head and expressed to another human being.
And it’s crazy to go back and read about this in my journal. To relive through this crazy notion that I met this complete stranger on this random airplane who I’ll probably never see again, who spoke into my life when I needed it. Because these past 6 months have been a real struggle.
It’s been this sudden realization that these dreams I had aren’t the ones that I’m meant to live.
It’s like loneliness that has become in most cases unbearable. But it’s hard to explain. I mean you get told you're ugly enough times you start to believe it. You’re rejected enough times and you start to reject yourself.
And there are these moments in my life where everything feels like one huge mistake. In the moments of groaning, so deep, so painful, that I just want to run. run from it all. and then maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much. maybe life wouldn’t hurt so much.
And I have to remind myself that what I am doing is not a mistake, that these things are not a mistake. but that they are living, breathing forms of my story. and they are leading me to something beautiful.
I have to remind myself that a sad moment does not equate to a sad life. and that this may be a sad chapter, but I am not a sad story.
And I must follow them. These stories that are swirling in my soul.
I must follow Him.
I want. I desire to live on the jagged edges of faith, but most days I lack the courage to do so. Courage comes in doing a brave thing, but I am just a timid creature mimicking braveness in little huffs. My mind is an unquiet one, words and thoughts and impulses constantly crashing into each other. i find it hard to focus, hard to concentrate, hard to hear that still small voice whisper “Be strong, be courages, I am with you. I will not leave you. Come my daughter. Come follow me.”
I finally took down the blanket that was covering my windows, keeping the sunlight from coming in. and I finally washed and changed my sheets, and lit that new candle, and put my clothes away, and washed my hair. And I can celebrate in those things.
I came across a blog the other day that said this: “Jesus didn’t issue a command to act like him. Jesus gave an invitation to walk with Him.” Between the “follow me” there is space for stumbling, for questioning, for turning around and saying “Sorry Jesus, this is too tough I’m going home!”
But i think Jesus wanted us to know that being uncertain, messing up, and making mistakes IS a part of following Him.
And I hear Him whisper. “ be brave, even when you are afraid.”
And sometimes I just get tired, so tired of people telling me everything will be just fine, that it will all work out, that i need to this and i need to that. that I’m not reading my bible enough, or that i need to pray about it.
But how do you pray when everything come out in fits of anger and spit. When life is not what you thought it would be. and when all that’s inside you howls in frustration. How do you solve that with words flung into the air?
And it feels like I’m not doing anything. like I’m not doing enough, never doing enough. There are faces etches in my mind 8000 miles across the sea and all I want to do is reach for them. Antone, John, Caren, Suzanna, Joy, Susie, Flora, Mary, Elizabeth, Mateo, Ester, Saloma. Names etches into my heart. Stories burned into my soul.
And it’s hard to be still. It’s hard for me to accept that God has placed me where I am to better serve His Kingdom in this moment. And He’s teaching me that some seasons are less activity and flash and some are more ache and healing. And with ache and healing comes Grace.
Olive Chan wrote, “It is grace that has brought us this far. Grace that will sustain us. Grace that will eventually get us there.”
So it had to be Grace that swirled me up and dropped me into this life. There is no other way. And so by Grace I struggle. By grace I reach toward braveness. Even when there is fear in my heart.
I reach toward the stories that need to be told.
For the people dying while we flip channels.
For the children orphaned, sold and bought, raped and killed.
For the injustice not just in other countries but my own.
To stand up even when I am being still.
I’m tired of people using religion to justify the terrible things they do. And I am tired of doing nothing.
I’m tired of storing up grace and never giving it away.
Even thought life is not where I thought it would be I know it is where God wants it to be. And He knows the groans of my heart, for He groans with me.
Even in that aching and the healing.
I will give grace.
I will be brave.
I will follow Him.
Aching, Healing, Finding Grace,
HIS and yours,
“the whole creation has been groaning… not only so, but we ourselves groan inwardly as we wait. We hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” -Romans 8:22, 23-25.