23 July 2009

Leaving The Beech House

(See beginning of previous post for more explanation.) So this one is a bit long. Unless you were a part of it, you probably won't find it too interesting. But you might be surprised how many people were a part of it...so maybe you will.

July 1, 2009 - Leaving The Beech House
Today we moved out The Beech House. Well, for the past week we have been moving out. But today, we were finally gone from our little house at 5817 NE Beech Street. As we surveyed an empty house that had served as a sanctuary for so many more people than just the five of us who lived there, I realized that it was over. And as I drove away for the last time, I cried in the way one cries for something that was so perfect and then lost for the simple reason that things cannot go on the same way forever. And I began to wonder what it was that made this house so special; what made this year so uniquely perfect for this specific time in our lives.

It was all the little things that, somewhere along the way, turned into the things we will remember forever.

It was the moments of complete and utter honesty, full of so much vulnerability that it felt like the room could barely contain all our truth. Moments when the pressures outside of our little refuge managed to seep in and forced us to address them– pressures to be parents to our parents, to be therapists to our peers, to be adults when we too often still felt like children. We would cry and talk and hold each other, trying to make the reality of the world a little lighter when shared by friends. And those moments were always followed by something much lighter and easier to handle – dinner with friends scattered around the living room, marshmallow-darts aimed at each others eyeballs, stealing each others toothbrushes and hiding them in the scarecrow man hanging on our wall from Halloween.

It was the nights spent watching the same episodes of Friends over and over again. So much so, that our lives became dictated by that one little show. Everything reminded us of something that Joey or Ross said; we began to talk like Rachel and Phoebe; some of us even began to act a bit like Monica and Chandler (you know who you are!). Even more so, though, this was the show that brought us together. As the roommates trickled in at the end of a long, hard day, it was Friends that allowed us space and safety to breathe. Some nights we would simply sit and watch, letting the last of our busy day go out with some laughs. Other nights we would end up talking over the episodes that played, allowing the characters’ friendships to serve as background noise for our own.

It was the drinks we created out of leftover coconut rum and cream soda that somehow seemed to ease the torture of three-hour-long night classes with the most misogynistic, pompous, disrespectful professor. The nights we would walk down to our own tiny neighborhood bar, Peter’s 19th Hole. Then, when we were just a tiny bit drunk and didn’t know what else to do, we would…watch Friends of course. Champagne Tuesdays, Champagne Wednesdays, Champagne Thursdays…well you get the picture. Never irresponsible and never disrespectful – just a lot of fun when we needed to let go of things for a little while.

It was the house parties brimming to life with laughter and friends and love (and a bit of alcohol as well). There were Halloween costume parties with a big crayon-box costume left by the previous tenants serving as a replacement for anyone who was silly enough not to wear their own. There were Christmas cocktail parties with our best party attire, perfectly pink cosmos, and white-elephant gift exchanges where the red checkered apron was modeled all around and an old version of Catch Phrase was ruthlessly fought over. There were St. Patrick’s Day parties with Irish car bombs and Cinco De Mayo parties with margaritas and a huge sombrero. There were birthday parties and “just-because” parties, and there were even parties that no one knew about except the two people who decided to have one when they were home alone on a Friday night.

It was late night chats that began as a simple goodnight on the way to our room, but lasted hours just because we loved talking to each other. Chats about boyfriends, or our lack thereof. Chats about families and senior projects and plans for the weekend. Chats about our busy days and the busy days ahead. Chats that weren’t so huge in the grand scheme of things. And yet, these chats sustained us – the act of sharing ones life, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, with someone who cares.

It was meals made with each other and then enjoyed amidst friends and community. Breakfast-for-dinner, potlucks, and crab fests where the crabs started out alive and ended up in our bellies…well, some of us couldn’t bear to stomach that one. Regardless of what we ate, it was never really about the food, it was about the act of breaking bread in authentic love. It was the understanding that to eat is to share in community, and to cook it together beforehand is even better.

It was small groups of people who would come together once a week to share life and walk alongside each other. It was already-friends striving to achieve more intentional and genuine community. And it was new-friends coming together with nothing in common but our church. How amazing to find out that the most unlikely of people can become great friends if they all share one love for one Creator and a willingness to see the world through each others eyes for a moment. It was groups where we would, just for a few hours, try to understand how to drop our walls and remove our masks and be honest about our lives and our walks with God. We would share our struggles, our doubts, our joys, and our wisdom in such a vulnerable way that sometimes it almost seemed to be too much. But we always muddled through together inside the walls of The Beech House.

It was the people who came to visit…and those who came to stay. It was the boyfriends and fianc├ęs and long-lost friends and random people who entered our lives. It was the old friends coming to visit and the new friends coming to experience our unique life inside these four walls. And it was how all these people made such a huge impact on our identity as The Beech House. They brought life and reality and fun and even some really tough times into our little home. They brought tea and beer and occasionally some good food. They brought themselves – their questions about God, their difficult pasts, their honest doubts and fears, their joy. They brought love.

It was the five roommates that occupied the four rooms in one little house. Our personalities so different and similar, our relationships so complex and simple. For a little while we let each other in – to know and be known. We were allowed to be our most honest selves. We got upset about silly little things and some not-so-little things. We got hurt by each other for stupid reasons. And yet, we loved each other unconditionally, in a once-in-a-lifetime way that will not fade, no matter where we all go or what we all do in our lives. There will be Beech House reunions. And we will watch Friends and drink coconut rum and cream soda and roll around the floor laughing so hard we forget that the world outside our little sanctuary is there. Just like we did in our little house at 5817 NE Beech Street.

I don’t really know what it was about The Beech House that was so perfect. What it was about this year and these people that was so unique. All I know is that for a little while I knew what it felt like to have a home – to have a place where I felt safe, knew I was accepted unconditionally, and understood what family truly looks like. Just for a moment, and for the first time in my life, I had sanctuary. It was God perfectly shining down on us for just a little bit. And I will always be thankful for that.

My Ode to Portland...sort of

As I sit in my newly furnished room in my newly built house in Tahoe, I am trying to find the words that somehow explain why I miss Portland so much; and why I will miss it so much. I look back at journal entries that I have written over the past few months and think that, although I don’t really enjoy the idea of posting my diary on the world-wide-internet, maybe they can explain it better than any “ode to Portland” I try to conjure up. So here you go, friends. Two journal entries that somehow sum up a few years of ridiculous, frustrating, imperfect, bliss. Hopefully all of you who have been such a huge part of my life (you know who you are) will appreciate it and realize how much I truly and deeply love you. You have all meant more to me than words will ever begin to express.

May 18, 2009 – Leaving the Rain
The rain falls outside of my window. How many times over the past four years have I sat, listening to the rain wash over the world? How many times have I tucked my hair into my jacket, pulled my hood close to my skin, and ran through the rain towards some sort of shelter? Always trying to get out of it, but sometimes (not often enough) letting myself simply rest in its divine and perfect wetness. Now, as summer thankfully approaches in Portland, I realize that this may be the last time it rains before I leave. So I sit, like I always have, and let the sound of the rain wash over me. It sounds ridiculous, but the rain truly does wash over my spirit and cleanse it. Even in the middle of the winter, when it feels like the rain will never stop, it always seems to make me feel comforted and safe. I think it is the peace in knowing that there is this blanket of water covering the earth: sustaining growth, reminding me that everything washes away and eventually becomes new again – we just have to be a little bit patient. The cold air from the open window nips at my arm as the rain falls outside. There is a frog somewhere out there, happy for the rain to soak into its dry skin. I will miss the rain. Even if it rains in California or in Washington, DC or wherever God leads me, it will never be quite the same as Portland rain.

I am biding my time. Trying to make the last two months really count. Going to all the places I always wanted to, reading all the books I never had time for, spending time with friends who will seem so far away in just a few short months. These two months have to count for something big. But when I think about it, this year has counted for quite a lot in itself. That is why I am finding it so difficult to leave. My tears are not so much out of sadness as they are out of gratitude, passion, and unyielding faith in this city and the community of authentic love and vulnerability that I have built here. It is like the rain that falls not to drown us, but to fortify our souls, my soul. I realize from these tears that I have made it count. I have made every relationship – even the impossible ones – count. I have made every conversation, every Sunday at Mosaic, every laugh and every tear count for something. These little details – all the little aspects that I have stepped towards with intention – will sustain me as I venture out into the world. For these are the details that have formed my identity; formed my character. In those times when I feel as though I am alone in a place so far from those I love, I will draw upon these details for comfort and peace. And I will draw upon our nights of Friends marathons, just as much as our nights spent in deep conversation about our families, our world, and ourselves. All of it has counted for something that helped me discover who I am and who God is calling me to become. I will look back and see this time as a period of rain, falling down, cleansing me from who I thought I needed to be. And what is left after all the rain? I suppose it’s me.