Four Year Later

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This post is not a normal Erin post.  It is a post that is filled with snippets from past posts.  Although I would love to write about every single experience from my past four years at AU, I cannot; otherwise, I’d be writing for days.

 

December of 2009, I received my acceptance letter to Anderson University.  January of 2009, I wrote this:

What I do know is that I have had such a wonderful time with all I did and experienced last year, that I would want to recreate it once again. But the thing that I have learned is that you can never recreate an experience….because life always throws you something new.   I’m ready for a new adventure, whether that is being a freshman in uni….or galavanting somewhere entirely different.  I’m ready for some new memories that 2010 will bring, and I’m quite excited for them.

 

February of 2010, we lost dad.

I never knew how much my heart was going to break at the beginning of 2010.  It was a heart that was already extremely heavy from having to leave a country it wasn’t ready to say goodbye to yet.  However, nothing could have prepared my heart for the darkest days ahead.  When I spoke at dad’s memorial service, I talked about how MS had brought about many unseen blessings.  How I would cherish the memories we created as a family walking alongside and supporting dad through his difficult journey.  I remember standing up on the stage and thinking to myself, “He can’t be gone, how am I suppose to keep going without him cheering me on? How am I going to survive AU?”  I almost lost all composure at that moment; although, I knew Uncle Ace had my back if I needed him to step in for me.

 

August of 2010, I began a new adventure at Anderson University.

I met my forever roommate, Hope.  Who knew that Jen, my freshman RA, would become one of my dearest friends.  I met my dear friend Justin, the boy that walked five times around Hartung hallway with me looking for a room that didn’t exist because we were in the wrong building. I fell in love with all my classes.  I began my adventure in education and met a boy named Cody who would become one of my best friends.  I started volunteering at ASF and cemented some wonderful forever friendships and memories.  Officially, my rapscallion kids captured my heart.

 

August of 2011, I began my second year at Anderson University.

I became a student leader and led my first peer mentor group.  I was sick for the first three months it seemed, and during that time we lost Grandmum.  I was granted 5 days to sit beside Grandmum and say goodbye.  The night I received the phone call, my dear girls sat on my bed, crying and laughing with me.  Hope, Cody, and I began a tradition of going to a poetry night.  Those Thursday nights brought priceless memories of sick harmonies and cats screeching.  Room 400 became the center of study and countless nights talking about the future.  It witnessed my sheer joy at purchasing plane tickets to head back to England. It also witnessed my roommates dressing up like cats and mermaids.

 

August of 2012, I began my third year at Anderson University.

So I can say that Samara, Long Eaton, Ohio, and dare I say Indiana have become essential places to my personal story.  The quote above rings true.  These places are not just another pin on the map, these are places where I have family, these are places where I love and a part of my heart will always stay.  That’s why I go back and will keep going back because these are places that I have experienced genuine love.

I began my second year as a student leader, helping another great group of freshman through their first year.  This was the year of the Lemon Peel.  I cringe and laugh thinking about the countless hours Jen and I cleaned the house, and mum scrubbed the bathroom like no one’s business.  This was the year that the Mayflower Project was formed.  The year that I created friendships I will forever cherish.

 

August of 2013, I entered into my fourth and final year at Anderson University.

I remained at the Lemon Peel with a new batch of housemates, all equally lovely and whom I have created forever friendships. This was the year of doubt.  Another year of heartbreaking goodbyes.  However, it was a year to live courageously through the hardships.  I fell in love with my students and God answered my prayers by bringing me joy each day.  I remember during my first education class wondering if I was really cut out to be a teacher and now I know that I am.  However, it isn’t in the traditional sense that we normally acknowledge.  As I climbed the stairs to shake President Edward’s hand and accept my diploma,  I hoped that dad was able to watch that moment.  There is something comforting about imagining your family cheering you on from heaven.  I was thankful to have mum and Jane there cheering me on, and for the friends who came to support us.

 

 

April of 2008 I wrote:

    I love the fact that when sadness comes and starts to seep into my day I can go lose myself in God.   He is my ultimate comfort.   And I love how Rilke says perhaps you have undergone changes through this sadness.   YES!   Through every one I have changed, I have grown, and I have survived.   As I was running, I kept thinking how it was just like my life.   How each house I passed is a different story, whether run down or beautifully built they represent a different chapter of my life.   Sometimes it’s scary to start a new chapter, to get out of the comfort zone, to leave the familiar, and then I remember all the other chapters of my life when I did and think “Oh boy, what will God do next?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Two Roads Diverged

Two months ago I had to make a choice.  Emotionally, physically and spiritually I had reached rock bottom and I couldn’t breathe or think straight anymore.  My life had gotten to the point that I knew if I didn’t reach out for help, I would shut down.

The thing is, I’m the type of person that tries to fix myself.  I look up solutions online when I think I’m suffering from an illness.  I become my own doctor and try to self diagnose.  Maybe it’s because mum’s a nurse and I hate going to the doctor. Sadly,  I couldn’t self diagnose myself this time.

In reality, I was suffering from depression and anxiety.  I wasn’t handling the semester as well as I would have liked.  As much as I tried to power through and tough it out, I couldn’t anymore.  I became reclusive and had many sleepless nights.  Each morning was a struggle to get up and I had to give myself pep talks as I blinked back the tears all the way to school.  I didn’t recognize myself anymore and the joy that I had for life had disappeared.  I lost my laugh.

I can’t begin to describe how dark my life felt.  So when I hit rock bottom, I knew I had to make a decision.  I reached out for help and it was hard.

There’s a stigma attached to depression and anxiety especially in the Christian world.  We are taught not to let fear or anxiety rule our lives.  If it does then something is wrong and maybe that is the problem.  If we admit that we are struggling then perhaps there is something wrong with our relationship with Christ.  So it gets bottled up and we pray that it will disappear so we can pretend to be fine on the outside.  I hate that.  I hate that we have to feel like we need to pretend that everything is okay.  Why are we so afraid to be vulnerable to the people who are suppose to love and support us most?

I had to learn that reaching out for help isn’t a sign of weakness.  It’s a sign for hope.  Life doesn’t always go the way we expect or plan.  We will be hit with hardships and we will be hit with loss; just like grief, working through depression is a process and it looks different for everyone.

This semester hasn’t been easy for me and I never truly realized how much I missed my old self until I was able to discover my laugh again.

Thank you to those who have been lifting me up in prayer, to those who have been showering me with love.  I appreciate you all for not giving up on me.  You all mean the world to me.

Musings of Change

These past few weeks and months I have been battling serious doubts over the degree I have set my mind on obtaining.  Maybe the fear stems from the senior position I have at school and that the unknown future is quickly approaching once I graduate.  It is always disconcerting for me not to have some type of plan, especially once school has been completed.

“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.”
― C. JoyBell C.

Change has never been easy; however, over the years I have learned to embrace change and to trust God that He has my back, even if I am reluctant at times.  I was once asked where my courage came from and I didn’t really have an answer.  I may have actually shrugged it off. However, I would like to answer that question for you, dear reader.

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” ― Victor Hugo

One of my fondest memories of my dad is when I was in first grade.  I had just received my first pair of glasses and they were absolutely hideous.  You can imagine how traumatic it was for a six year old to have such a face altering change.  The night before the big reveal at school, I could not sleep nor could I stop crying.  I laid in my bed, sobbing, thinking in my head that nothing could be worse than this.  When Dad came into the room to say goodnight, he laid next to me and held me as I cried.  He stayed there with me until I fell asleep.  There is something about knowing you are protected and loved at such a young age.  Working where I do, I know how blessed I am to have had that comfort and peace in my childhood.  My dad loved me unconditionally, hideous glasses and all.

My dad was courageous, he was strong, and he loved God fiercely.  When MS finally took away his ability to walk, he never lost those qualities.  When my friend died, he still held me in his arms and cried with me, only this time I had to crawl onto his bed. He always tried to protect us to the best of his abilities.   When he physically could not care for himself, he still trusted in God.

The day he died, I crawled into his bed, wishing he was there to hold me as my heart broke.  If only I could have gone back to first grade. The night I thought it could never get worse than owning a pair of hideous glasses.

Everyday dad showed me what it meant to live life with a smile amidst pain.

“At times the world may seem an unfriendly and sinister place, but believe that there is much more good in it than bad. All you have to do is look hard enough. and what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events may in fact be the first steps of a journey.”
-Lemony Snicket

My mum has become one of my best friends.  She is someone that I can talk to about anything and it never really use to be that way.  I think our relationship started to turn around the summer of 2007.  That was a summer of transition for the entire family.  Mum is one of the most courageous women I know.  Not only did she work full time, she took on full responsibility of caring for dad and she took on the responsibility of caring for her mum.  I, honestly, do not know how she managed and sometimes I think it was more than what she could handle; however, she persevered and always found ways to keep us together as a family.  She often sacrificed her own desires to make sure dad’s care was provided.

My mum taught me what it means to put others before myself.  She taught me what unconditional love looks like in the hardest of times.  She showed me true strength and courage.

After dad passed away, one of the desires of mum’s heart was to go on a trip to work in an orphanage somewhere.  I had been encouraging her to accompany me to England because it would make the transition easier on her if she decided to pursue the orphanage idea.  That and I also wanted her to experience the country that completely stole my heart.  However, she refused saying that she would probably never travel outside the US.  The time was never right.   And then one day, as I was talking to her after church, mum announced that she signed up to go to China and she did.

Every once in a while there are days when the clouds seem darker than normal but then the sunlight breaks through and shines gloriously.  Those are the moments I have come to embrace with all my heart.  Seeing a picture of my mum on the trip with a  genuine smile of pure joy was one of those moments.

Both my mum and my dad have shown me what it means to live courageously and I am so thankful.

Courage is to live life fully not knowing what the future may have in store.  Courage is to embrace life in all it’s forms of joys and hardships.

A Drop in the Ocean

I love my job but there are days when it can be extremely challenging.  Normally on those nights I end up going to the track and running off steam.  Lately, it’s been a reoccurring theme.

Yesterday was a particularly hard day and I ended up walking one of our boys home to make sure he arrived safely.  I’ve seen every side to his behaviour.  It ranges from being extremely respectful and being a thoughtful helper to being the devil unleashed and maintaining an “I’m going to beat up that punk” attitude.  He exhibited the latter behaviour yesterday and I think most of us were just physically and emotionally drained by the end of the day.

This will be my fourth year working at the club and each year I come to the point when I end up questioning my sanity.  I come home discouraged, angry and extremely frustrated because we’ll take two steps forward one day and then three steps back the next day.

My heart and spirit were definitely broken as I walked back to the house yesterday.  I kept asking, “God, what are we doing here?  Are we making any type of difference?”  Later, after my run, I found this quote online.

“What we do is less than a drop in the ocean. But if it were missing, the ocean would lack something.”~Mother Teresa

Many times we focus solely on the bad and forget about the good.  We get so frustrated that we miss a smile or the beautiful laughter that is occurring nearby.

So this is my pep talk to myself.  Erin, you are one measly drop in the ocean.  You may not feel like you are making a difference but without you, something would be missing.  There is always a ripple effect.   Our actions and words have an impact and we may not see it every day.  However, I can make sure, even through the frustration, that my kids know I love them.  Why else would I come back every year?

I am one measly drop but sometimes that one measly drop is needed.

A Short Synopsis of My Life

Work.

Online Classes.

Sleep.

That describes my summer in a nutshell.  Wait, did I just type summer?  I don’t even know what defines summer anymore.

So once Springs classes ended, I started up Summer classes.  Once Summer classes started up, for some reason, coffee did not taste delicious to me anymore.  WHAT IS THAT?!?   I don’t comprehend a life without coffee and suddenly it just so happens that I lose my taste for it.

As you can tell my world was turned upside down.  So naturally I turned to chai.  I’ve always loved chai tea; seriously, I can drink multitudes of it and never get sick of it.  So that is what I did.  I drank chai every day.

Let’s see what else happened?

Sadly, I did not have any random date proposals at McDonalds this year while I worked on homework.

Oh I bent the oven rack at work, you know, those industrial, rotating convection ovens.  Oh yes and I also punched a hole into a huge metal baking pan.  WHO DOES THAT?!?!  Apparently I do.

What else?  Oh, I slipped and threw a whole pan of mashed potatoes onto the glass doors of the hot case at work.  It reminded me of the wonderful time I had in the Moscow airport.  I didn’t fry anything this year that wasn’t suppose to be fried, that’s a good thing.  However, I did drop a whole pan of macaroni and cheese inside the oven and then had to climb into the oven to dig it out.  Hanzel and Gretyl anyone?

Oh yeah and then Tay and I had to tackle the Lemon Peel nature preserve.  A month’s worth of growth leads to a full day’s work of breaking weed whackers.

I grew my first jalapeno peppers this year.  HOW DID I DO THAT?!?! Normally, I kill everything I plant.  Though I am impressed with my rosemary and basil.  They are still alive… barely.

Oh good news.  I didn’t get chased by any dogs this year.  Normally I have at least 2 dogs that go after me on my runs.

What else?  Oh I met some random guys that my friends met randomly on a movie set.  That was an experience in itself.  I’ve never giggled as much on the inside as I did during that day.  On the plus side I got to experience the Indy Art Museum for the first time and we had a fun drive guessing which direction was Carmel until the GPS started to work.

I accidentally made my mum’s car alarm go off while sitting inside it.  I couldn’t do anything to shut if off and for some reason when mum hit the button it wouldn’t shut off either.  So some random guy from Illinois saw me laughing hysterically on the inside as my mum was in a panic on the outside.  Needless to say, he was laughing with me.

I had a 60 year old customer ask me if my coworker was smoking some Wacky Backy.   I’ve never been as astonished in my life and it was the first time that I outright laid my head on the counter and started laughing.

OH WAIT! I did have an awkward experience this summer!!!  Some random older gentleman (when I say older gentleman, don’t think cute.  Think strange.)  came up to my friend and I telling us we were too pretty to fill our cars.  He also stood really close to me and wouldn’t take no for answer until we told him for certain we could do it.   He then rode off into the distance on his bike.

I accidentally threw a cake (it was a tripping moment) in the air and hand planted to catch it.  Not my finest moment. It was my first impressionist cake.  I also may have cried.  Makes for a great story though.

Last but not certainly least.  I love dancing to Tom Jones “It’s Not Unusual.” Yes, I dance like Carlton.  It’s great exercise, almost as great prancerize.

The Poverty of Loneliness

My mind has been on past conversations these last few weeks.  It hurts my heart to know that so many in my life feel unloved, unwanted and lonely.  One specific conversation put me to tears and I had to deeply think about my own actions.

It is so easy to walk through the day minding one’s business that we forget there are others around us.  Others who are grieving, who are terrified about the future because they have no idea how they will get by and provide for themselves and their family.  Maybe some feel like they have no one who truly cares about what happens to them.

Mother Teresa once said:

Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.

My family has been through quite a bit and I can say confidently that God has been by our side through the ups and the downs.  However, I also know that as much as that has been my experience, there are some that do not feel the same way.  I don’t have a cure or answer for this nor do I know why some things happen that are not expected.

But I do know that I have the ability to change my own actions and feelings towards others.  And I hope and pray that each day I can be an encouragement to someone who may be struggling.  I still remember one of my favourite customers who I lovingly called Wallace or Gromit, depending on the day.  He had the natural ability to brighten a very stressful day for me.  Maybe it was his smile, his carefree attitude, or the love for his wife that I witnessed but he had a profound affect on my attitude.

I truly hope that everywhere I go,  I treat as my mission field.  To love unconditionally and to help provide a bit of sunshine to someone’s day.

Moving Forward

How can one word evoke so many different levels of emotion?

Change.

That word has been notorious in my life.  It has moved me overseas, out of state, and into school.  I have said so many goodbyes and yet have experienced so many hellos.  Maybe what makes “change” such a scary word is the uncertainty that rides with it.  The uncertainty of the future, the uncertainty of making new friends, the uncertainty of losing old friends.  Change is the moment of reckoning and begs the question, “Will I step out of my comfort zone and live?”

We are experiencing change in the Lemon Peel household. Graduation is soon approaching and the uncertainties have begun to creep into our thoughts.  Sometimes it is terrifying to think about the next few months of transition, and yet it is so exciting. But time seems so short.  We rush around filling in our slots, to catch those little moments with those we care about.  We wring out every last second, not wasting our words and sometimes just sitting in the silence to process.

Change.

Of course nothing will ever be the same again.  We evolve with change and we adapt to our new situations.  This is how we experience life.  This is how we survive.  And yet, deep down we still hope that everything will be the same.

Thankfully, nothing stays the same.  Whether it is good or bad, we continue to be surprised by life.

Although change sucks at times, and we hate to say goodbye to a good thing, change is necessary.

There is a prayer by Thomas Merton that I truly love:

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

God is with us, no matter what life may bring to our tables.

Through the tears

Three years ago tomorrow, I sat in the kitchen in complete denial as my brother hugged my sobbing form.  The news he had just told me rocked the very center of my existence, and beyond all hope I prayed that there was a mistake.  Suddenly, the complaints of the week disappeared and the instant regrets appeared as we drove to the hospital to say goodbye to dad.  Three years ago I asked the question, “When do the tears stop?”

Three years later those tears have yet to stop.  They come randomly as I walk through the valley trying to remember dad’s voice.  Sometimes they come when I pass a McDonald’s or listen to a Cleveland Indians game.  They come sometimes when I sing some of his favourite hymns. When I stood in Margaret’s kitchen and picked up the phone to ring home, the tears came as I realised Dad’s voice would not greet me on the other side.   They come randomly as I walk through town with Ellie.  There are days when the memories just hit me and there is nothing I can really do about it.

In these three years of random tears and various emotions I have experienced, the lyrics of this song have been true for my life.

There’s not a prayer I’ve prayed
That You haven’t heard
Not a tear I’ve shed
That You didn’t feel
You’re the God who comes to raise the dead
I know You’ll raise me up again
I know You’ll raise me up again

Who can praise You from the grave
to see the life you gave
Just to see the life you gave

Just to see the life you gave
Every fear in me You’ve put to rest
It’s the song sing I bring
Of Your faithfulness

And every tear has led my feet to stand
Where the ocean meets the land
Where the ocean meets the land

Sink or swim I’m diving in
Where the river starts rushing
Where my heart starts beating
For the rhythms of the testing
And the songs of the trials
I will lift a cry up to You
Sung with hope inside my eyes

Sink or swim I’m diving in
To the passion of Your heart
Where love starts

I lift my hands if my hands fail me
I’ll bend my knees if my knees grow weak
I’ll raise my voice and sing, I’ll sing
I know that You love me

Give me a song to sing 
And I will sing it

Give me a song to sing 
And I will sing it to You God 

 

Through my tears I will still praise You God.

A Story of Humility

It’s amazing how each year is completely different from the last.  When I was younger I use to imagine myself at the age of twenty-two and had a whole story-line written.  I was stuck on the idea that I would be like Belle from Beauty and the Beast.  Of course, my story did not include marrying a Beast or finding my prince.  No, I was convinced I would be a librarian with the same exact lay-out as in the castle.  Then a couple of years later, I became stuck on the idea that I would work in an orphanage some where, mainly in Russia.

Each year I dream and think how maybe my life will turn-out.  I plot and plan my moves, and then toss it out the window once the day starts because life never turns out the way we expect and it is always an adventure.  Each year has held a surprise for me, whether it be wonderful or quite horrible.  But each year I have learned and have grown from every experience I have encountered.  I have learned that in the toughest and most heart-breaking moments I have a choice to either let God work in my life or shut Him out.  If I am to be completely honest, I have done both.  The choice has never been easy, especially when anger motivates a person the most; but I have found when I finally do let God work in my life, those are the moments I have treasured  most.  The choice is always there for us to grow and learn, we can’t blame anyone else if we choose not to.

Wollaton Writing

This year has been an adventure.  In some ways it turned out better than what I could have written, and in other ways I never would have thought what happened would happen.  I humbly look back and am thankful. I am thankful for the tears, for the laughter, for my family, and for my friends.  I am thankful that God never gives up on this stubborn soul.  And I am thankful for all the learning moments and the story my life continues to write.

Cheers to a lovely new year that is about to begin.

James M. Barrie once said,  “The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.”

Thanksgiving

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” ~Anaïs Nin

Thanksgiving is coming upon us once again.  A time of being with family and friends and reminiscing about all that has happened this past year.  As I look back and think about the memories, I shake my head in disbelief and amazement that I have survived all I’ve been through so far.

I’ve been blessed with the friends in my life.  I realize this every year, and each year I am reminded that I do not deserve the people I have in my life but somehow I have them!  Each person in my life has opened up a whole other world, they bring something new and complex and make life so much more interesting.

I’m thankful for my friends back home, for the support they show me even when I’m not home as often as I use to be.  They are a constant in my life, and they bring joy to my heart when I see them.

I’m thankful for Laura and Jenny, my two best friends that I know will always be there for me, even if we are separated by 12-14 hours.  Contact is sometimes few and far between but I know that whenever we are together it’s like we haven’t been apart.  These are two girls that I would never trade and am so thankful that God gave me.  Their honesty and sometimes even bluntness is what I need for a good dose of reality check once in a while.

I’m thankful for my friends in England, Scotland, and Ireland.  My life would not be the same without each and every one of them.  I have no idea what life would be like without them.  The love, support and encouragement these past four years has gotten me through many ups and downs.  Through many moments of sorrow and grief, I have felt love and prayers from them even with an ocean separating us.

And my friends at school?  Well they are all nut jobs but I love them.  I was so scared that I wouldn’t find anyone when I first started.  Now I’m sitting in the living room whilst watching 3 Men and a Baby, and once again thinking how blessed I am with the people in my life here. We have had some fun and crazy times and the memories created are ones that will last a lifetime.

I cherish them all, and once again am reminded just how much God has blessed me with the friendships in my life.

Friendship is what keeps me going, what helps me keep sane.  Even with all the crazies in my life, but without their craziness life would be mundane.  And who wants a mundane life?  I certainly don’t!