a new thing (or 5)

"See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?"

(Isaiah 43:19)

I perceive it, all right. Where do I start? Why haven't I written in so long?

Big deep breath. Here goes.

Homecoming weekend at Emory was fantastic. I finally contacted my favorite professor/friend/hero, Dr. Qualls, which I had been needing to do for ages. I hadn't told him anything about what has been going on in my life. It turns out that he already knew about my Graves' disease and medical withdrawal from school, but he nonetheless deserved to hear it from me. I'm not sure why it took me so long to tell him; I think I was afraid of disappointing him. Which was ridiculous, and I knew it. But still the mere thought of him--of all people--not being proud of me was so scary that I just hadn't been able to face the risk. But it had really been weighing on my heart, so at long last, I emailed him and arranged a time to meet with him. It was good for my soul to see and talk to him. He has taught me more than anyone else--about life, about people, about myself. I don't know who I would be if I didn't know him. It was a blessed reunion. He gave me a lot of helpful advice about the grad school application process, but also shared a lot of encouraging words about God's providence... and about the gifts I have and the clinician I'm going to become. Or am becoming. It was very uplifting, but also sad, because of our relflection on my senior year at Emory. I knew that he knew I was hurting then, but I didn't know until now how much it was hurting him. I should have listened when he told me I needed help. We both know that, but still, he didn't scold me. He didn't say he told me so. He just smiled through his almost-tears and said "Welcome back." I feel like he restored peace into my soul, sewed up the faint but still present wound of my feelings of failure and doubt, reintroduced me to myself.

Another joyous homecoming reunion: Dallas and Emory, together again at last. Having my best friend in my favorite place--and the place where we became friends--was tremendously exciting. It felt like the culmination of our semi-parallel healing processes. We took our typical Sara/Dallas middle-of-the-night walk around campus, ending at our typical spot by the duck pond for our typical discussion about the intricacies of life. So much has happened since the last time we did that. We are different. Our friendship is different. Everything is different. And yet, everything is exactly, mysteriously, wonderfully, the same.

All in all, it was a weekend of coming full circle.

The next weekend was also an exciting one. Joe and I headed to Boston to visit Jenny and Katie&Nathan. It was SO good to see them. Good friends are such a blessing, and the further away I am from mine, the more I appreciate them. We had a wonderfully fun visit. And I'm quite fond of Boston, I think. The highlight, however, was our trip to Walden Pond. I am a huge fan of Thoreau (and a general literature nerd), and it really was magical to be in the very place where Walden was inspired and written. I don't see how anyone could behold its beauty and not be transformed into a transcendentalist.

Having experienced the real thing, I want to read Thoreau's masterpiece again. Except I think my obsessive reading habit is going to have to come to a tragic end, as my day-to-day life is about to get really busy. For a few reasons.

First, my job is finally about to start. I've had my first day of computer training, and I have three more this week, after which I will start working for real. I'm still fairly unclear about exactly what goes on at the crisis unit, but it sounds as if I'll actually be doing something that requires specific diagnostic and therapeutic skills that (I think) I have. Which is exciting.

Second, I'm exponentially increasing my church involvement. Ever since I started feeling healthy again, I've been feeling a desire/need to serve in some capacity, but I really didn't know where to begin. I prayed that an opporunity would present itself, and sure enough, one did. Jo, a lovely woman who I dearly love, asked me to take over her role as senior high Sunday School teacher, which she has filled for something like 12 years. I regarded this request as a direct answer to my prayers and enthusiastically accepted. My plan is that we'll be reading and discussing parables indefinitely. This past Sunday was my first time teaching, and I think it went well. We talked generally about what and where parables are and then examined the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast (Matthew 13:31-35, Mark 4:30-34, Luke 13:18-21.) I figured it was a good one to start with since it's the only one that appears in all 3 of the gospels that contain parables. The kids seem to like me despite my demonstrating my nerdiness by coining the words "micro-kingdom" and "macro-kingdom" in my attempt to offer my interpretation of that oft-compared but never-defined "kingdom of heaven." I'm very excited about what's to come.

The thing is, I thought God was finished answering that prayer about service opportunities. I thought Sunday School was it. I checked "find a way to serve" off the list. But it seems that Sunday School was only the beginning. Another (bigger?) opportunity came along after church on Sunday, in the form of a message from my pastor, Gene, asking me to call him. I did. With what could only be understood as desperation in his voice, he asked me if I had any interest in leading the youth group. (Our youth director has just been fired, which I won't go into, because I don't really know anything anyway.) I told him that I'm getting ready to start a full-time job and the grad school application process and teaching a Sunday School class, and that I would be happy to help someone, but that I don't have time to be in charge. Trying to be polite, but clearly frustrated at my lack of understanding of the gravity of the situation, he explained that it's nice that I'll help, but he has no idea who I'd be helping. In other words, I'm the only hope. I'm really not sure how that happened, but I, too, am having trouble coming up with people who I think would want to take this (volunteer) job on. But, why me? Gene came over this afternoon to talk to me about it, and basically, the conclusion was.... I'm going to do it. Because I love youth. Because I love this church. Because I know how upset they are about their leaders leaving. Because I know how much some of them need a mentor and a listener. Because I don't want the youth program to die after we've worked at rebuilding it. I'm still very unsure about how I'm going to go about this, and I hope I can find someone to help me. I don't know how I fell into this position, but all signs seem to be pointing to me doing this. Except that I don't know if I'll have time. Or energy. But still, the idea is exciting. I'm still trying to sort it all out. I'm not sure if the take-home point is (a) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13) or (b) Be careful what you pray for. Maybe a little of both.

So, that pretty much sums up what's been going on with me. Except that somehow, accidentally, in the midst of all this, I fell in love.