Things Paros Taught Me

In an email exchange with my mother (who deserves an award for being so wonderful and beautiful and coming all the way to Greece to see me in TWO WEEKS!!) I told her about how 5:00 pm is the weirdest time of day for me, because I always get a little homesick – right when it’s officially “evening”, right when the whole family would be home from work and school and practice and we’d be starting dinner and watching crime shows and getting our dog riled up to play because he’d been inside all day. She responded to said reflections with “Why don’t you made a list of things you’ve learned in Europe during your lonely time?” – did I mention she deserves an award?

So here it is – at least the beginnings – of a list that I’ve learned from being in Europe:

1. Greek people do what they want when they want and they always have something else to talk about. I love that about them.
2. Anyone can make art – art is not reserved for “artists”. We force ourselves and each other to “grow out of it”, but we must keep creating.
3. What it means to be in love with Jesus.
4. What it feels like to only have Jesus, nothing else. I’d recommend it to anyone wishing to see Jesus more clearly – just take everything else away! He’s pretty clear in those moments 🙂
5. That sometimes, you just need to write a poem. And that poem needs to be raw and rough and maybe even a little sexy. Trust me, it helps.
6. That I’d never once celebrated the human body. What a treasure it is!
7. How to develop and print black and white film photographs.
8. That I’m really, really bad at updating my blog.
9. Who Apollo was.
10. What being free feels like. Truly free. Jumping in the ocean all alone and smiling while you avoid the sea urchins. That kind of free.
11. How I don’t want to parent my children.
12. How valuable being quiet is.
13. That I hate the sound of loud motorcycles.
14. That the Law and the Gospel are not the same nor are they different, but that they are in a beautiful dance together glorifying Jesus on the Cross, the Resurrected King. I haven’t really learned that yet, but it’s coming along with a few brain explosions on my end.
15. Letting go is worth it.
16. Everything is going to be okay.

That’s all for now. This will be continued.

Sun Burns!

Back again to ramble, partially out of feelings of obligation, partially because I’m bored out of my mind (that’s what you get for moving to an island where your only responsibilities to live and go to school and accept the free stuff people give you). I’m finally getting sun – the weather is beautiful. About 75 and sunny every day. It’s hard to study when the beach is closer than school, but I think I’ll manage.

I made a list of funny things I miss about home the other day. It’s funny because the majority of these places/things are so small and unimportant in my life, but it’s what I miss (not the most, but you get the point). Here it is:

1. The corner in the downstairs of shriver, right between where the bank ends and the market begins, where people always are set up trying to get you involved in something else that you really don’t have time for. And sometimes they’re selling cookies. I stop at those tables.

2. The Books-A-Million in Bridgewater Falls and Chik-Fil-A milkshakes (so many hyphens, so much goodness). Bible study, where ya at?!

3. My back yard, especially at sunset. Woof.

4. Al’s Pal’s

5. The Oxford farmer’s market and the cute little band that always plays there.

6. Evenings watching crime shows with my family. They all end the same – Dad’s fallen asleep twice, Mom and I always know the ending, Matt would rather be watching Duck Dynasty.

7. Speedy Freezes, my life blood.

Being here, not only away

Greetings from sunny Santorini!! My sweet friend Marialeen and I jetted over to the island for the weekend to celebrate my 21st birthday, and it’s turning out to be a very happy birthday, indeed.

I was thinking about this blog today as I laid on Kamari Beach (with black sand! cool!) today, and I realized that my blog has not been very good about keeping y’all updated on being here. Being away from home, however, is totally a different story. A lot of this trip for me has been about finding a balance between being gone and being present all at the same time. I know what I’m missing at home, but all of this glory to behold here won’t be my backyard when I get home! So consider this my manifesto: I will be present and not just away. That being said: let me tell you about this weekend:

Yesterday was my birthday. Mar and I spent the first minutes of it with our friends Kostas and Rafa at a bar that we frequent. The owner, Yannakos, sent me a beautiful (I mean beautiful) bouquet of garden roses from his home. They all gave me hugs and wished me well and I even got a drink with sparklers in it, so that was fabulous. Marialeen and I then had a sleepover, and when we woke up we jumped on my bed and it was the perfect start to my 21st year, I mean it. We then got ready and headed to the ferry (not, of course, before we stopped by our favorite bakery). The boat ride was long and hilarious, because the local high school was taking a school trip to Santorini and high school people are so funny. It made me miss my friends at FHS and Fairfield Young Life so much, but I’ll see you all soon – LAKE CHAMPION JUNE 7-14!

When we arrived at the port of Santorini, we were far less than impressed. You literally pull up to a big rock, that’s all you can see. Rock and water, and some dingy cafes. Super sketchy. But we needed a ride, so we stopped in a cafe to pull up wifi and check out our reservations. As we sat down, the waiter struck up a conversation, asked us where we were going, and then offered us a ride to the next town. Now usually I’m pretty wary of taking rides from strangers, but for whatever reason, we told him we’d love a ride. So we hopped in his VW minivan (that was comforting – not many kidnappers I know are into VWs..) and he dropped us off at a scooter rental store. Our plan was to get a cute little scooter to zip around the island, but we were informed quickly that unless we had a motorcycle license, that wasn’t an option. Our only option was an ATV. So we got a dang ATV! I’m gonna give you some space to laugh.

I KNOW! It’s so funny! We got pink helmets, too. More space.

Dying. We look ridiculous. But it’s cool because it’s kinda baller. Anyway, the rest of the night was nice and quiet – we checked into our hotel, went to dinner, came home, watched a movie, loved life went to bed early, etc. It was a great day.

Today..you guys..today has been a dream. We slept until 10ish, went downstairs to be greeted by the most delicious continental breakfast I’ve ever heard of, and then got massages. Full body massages. My life changed in that 50 minutes, y’all. I’m talking everything. My EYEBROWS got a rub down, for pete’s sake! I didn’t know it was possible for some of the muscles she was rubbing to be tight. It was crazy. My calves haven’t seen that much action since Katie and I tried to run stairs at Yager Stadium (she threw up and it was hilarious).

After the massage, I rinsed off all those essential oils, and we hopped on Bruce (that’s what we named our ATV, because I was thinking about the Reds. BRUUUUUUUCCEE) and rode over to Kamari. The drive was chilly but beautiful. We took the lower road next to the farms and it was unbelievable. We got to the beach, stayed for a while, ate some delicious food, and made the journey back. We just got back from watching the sun set. It was beautiful, I think the sunset anywhere in Greece is beautiful. Especially Paros. Sweet, sweet Paros.

That’s been my weekend. Two days. I’m so happy, I miss home, I’m so loved and so grateful for that. I’m also caked in dirt and essential oils. That needs to be taken care of.

Heavy Eyes

Y’all..it is 4:19 in the morning and I’ve already been at the airport for an hour. This time of day, I am convinced, is not natural and when it was created, God had no intention of anyone actually seeing it. I feel like I’m sinning by being awake this early. And after three days of nonstop walking through the streets of Paris, my entire body is feeling the strain. I may have completely destroyed my feet. I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out soon that my heels have disintegrated and are now just pulp. But it’s alright. This city is magic.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in Paris. Cafes and cigarettes, I suppose, both of which were in abundance. But there truly is a whimsical air. (Almost) Everything felt like it could be in a movie. Come to think of it, most of the things I was seeing are, in fact, in movies. But that’s beside the point. Here’s what I’m saying: to all of you who said “Paris isn’t that great. It’s a tourist trap and it’s kind of dirty”, I say “Did you try the macaroons?”

This is day 10 of being away from my little Paros and I’m ready to get back, for sure. City life is so fun, for about this amount of time. I’m ready to go back to the slow mornings (and afternoons, and evenings), and my own bed (and shower!!!), and class, and all of this that has become my reality. It’s so odd, though, because I feel that I’ve been on vacation from vacation, and now I’m going back, not to return home for another month and a half. I missed a wedding today (well..yesterday) of two dear friends, and I know that as I type this, many of my friends are still dancing and eating and drinking and laughing together and it’s ripping my heart out. Okay..I’m being dramatic. But it’s times like this, when I’m exhausted and in a smelly airport, that I really just want to be home. Home home, not just pseudo-home.

It’s really too early to be processing these things. Let alone publishing them on the interweb for all to see. But this is real life, my life, and you’re reading this blog on your own watch, so I’m not going to apologize 🙂

See you soon, Paros!

Praha and It’s Funny Buildings

Back again! This time from a trendy hostel right off of Old Town Square in Prague. Y’all, this city is BANGIN’! Happy Easter, by the way! Prague has adorned herself for this celebration with blossoming trees (note: the blooms are all fake), dripping with streamers and flowers in all of the colors. It is so spectacularly beautiful, and rightly so. We’re celebrating a Risen King, people! Hallelujah! He is risen indeed!

This was my first Easter away from home, and it was so surreal. Easter is one of my absolute favorite times of year, and being away from the people I love most was difficult. My sweet dad sent me a picture of an easter basket that he hid for me. Unluckily for him, that means that I know exactly where it is and that chocolate is gonna be gone within the hour that I return home. Suckers… 🙂 More than that, though, this was my first Easter not being surrounded by my blood-bought brothers and sisters – at least, not physically. But let me tell you something, the Body of Christ isn’t only efficient when all the parts are in the same room. No, I’m sure that biblically (and logically) that would mean that the Body was totally ineffective. But what I’m saying is that I was SO encouraged on Easter, even though I was worshipping on my own here in Prague. E-mails, text messages, instagram pictures (especially the one of my David in that powder blue sport coat..phew!) and even bits of fellowship gold here.

I had the blessing of entering into a Baroque cathedral close to a communism museum with my classmates, and this place was unreal. The high altar is my favorite part of cathedrals. I learned when I visited St. Paul’s in London that the decadent ornamentation of the high altar is meant to represent the glory of God, His splendid holiness. Now, each cathedral I enter, that’s where my soul (and thus, my body) gravitate. And in this particular little cathedral in an obscure corner, I knelt on the bare boards, where the paint had been worn off by the knees of saints old and new for years and years, and praised King Jesus. I’m crying just thinking about it. What a faithful Lord I serve! What a beautiful family into which I have been adopted!

We leave Prague tomorrow and board a plane to Paris. I’m sad to leave, but so anxious to see this new city! Our stay there is shorter, which is okay with me, because traveling is difficult for me emotionally, and physically, and spiritually..I’m exhausted, y’all. It will be nice to get back to island life, naps every day, coffee with my sweet barista friend, Eleni and familiar faces. Though, it still isn’t home. Bittersweet, so much of my current reality is bittersweet.

Here is a list of my favorite things about Prague. Ready? Here we go. In no particular order..

1: The baristas at Starbucks stores here are by far the most friendly human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure of ordering a vanilla latte with skim milk from. Ever. Ever.
2: Everyone here is so well dressed. I love looking at them. But it makes me feel like a bum. Oh well.
3: All the streets are cobblestone. So quaint! And labor intensive!
4: There is this traditional dish, I don’t remember the name. but it’s this roasted beef tenderloin that is served with Czech dumplings, which are more like dense pieces of potato bread than any dumpling I’ve ever had, and it’s all soaking in this unbelievable sweet but savory gravy/sauce and it’s garnished with cranberries. You guys. I would eat it every day if it didn’t mean diabetes by age 29. Holy delicious.
5: A lot of the cafes are decorated in Art Deco style, so I perpetually feel like I’m living in the Great Gatsby – I can’t wait for that movie to come out.
6: The skyline is littered with tall gold roofs. It’s so sparkly and dreamy. In the morning, the fog drifts up from the river and it’s hazy and perfect. I’m in a post card.
7: My sweet friends Rory and Jess bore with my antics the other day and we ventured to find a tea house that Agnes recommended. From the outside, this place looked like an abandoned orphanage..maybe an asylum..and when we walked in we feared we would be arrested for..something or other. But we found it! And it was so cool! Thanks Agnes!

That’s all for now. Paris tomorrow. I love you Prague! Thank you for loving us back this week!

(Unbelievably) Early Morning in Piraeus

As I write, five of my dear friends rest their eyes and bodies in rather uncomfortable chairs in a cafe in this dingy little corner of Athens. More and more locals join the line for their daily cappuccinos, gazing curiously at our dreary bunch (probably judging us, but..YOLO). We’ve been at these tables for an hour or so, before that, on a boat for roughly 6 hours – we’re all exhausted. Today, we’ll board a plane to Prague for our spring break trip. We’ll stay there a few days, then to Paris, then back home to our sweet little Paros. I’m starting to love that island more and more each day. It has a charm all its own and that reminds me of Oxford and of my family. I’m forever thankful for that.

I’ve finally adjusted to life abroad, I think. More than “life abroad”, it was island life that took the most adjustment. Siesta time every day — EVERY DAY! No one’s in any hurry. Running for exercise doesn’t even make sense, but I’ve been doing that anyway. What a blessing to sweat all over the world! #meatheadprobz

Here are a few things that I’ve been learning/experiencing/living that I didn’t expect:

1: I LOVE CAPPUCCINOS! I thought I hated them at home, maybe they’re different, but I’ve been getting (at least) one, almost every day. Uh oh.
2: I’ve started being able to communicate – in the most elementary, one and a half year old manner – in Greek! I ordered a donut and a cappuccino at this cafe this morning all in local language. I’m loving that.
3: A band called Wake Owl. Look up their song “Wild Country”. I’m listening to it now and it’s smoothing out the rough edges of my tattered, tired soul. Also look up “No Silver” by Chris Bathgate. In love over here!
4: Greek women’s style is so interesting, and I’m buying into the trend. I went shopping for the first time the other day and bought a “greek sweater”, which isn’t really a thing, but I bought one anyway. A few things are hard for me to understand, such as the abundance of sweatpants, at least in Paroikia (the city in Paros where I live). Everyone wears sweats, all the time. Still not used to that. But they all look so cool! One day, maybe..
5: I’ve learned that when I get excited, particularly about a landscape (i.e. a visual representation of the greatness of my Creator, which are all over the place in the Cyclades) I start running. For example, last weekend we took a trip to Naxos, a neighbor island. We took a bus up into the mountains and parked about half way up the tallest peak, Mt. Zeus. Our plan was to check out an artisan fountain built at the foot, but I couldn’t help but jet up the side of the mountain on a trail covered in sheep tracks (and evidence of the efficiency of their digestive systems..). I made it about half way to the peak before I turned around to see the most beautiful, majestic, God-filled landscape I’ve ever had the honor to behold (Behold!). Tears filled my eyes, and I didn’t run anymore, because I was alright and I didn’t need anything more than knowing just that. I am alright.

I’m about a third of the way through my stay here in Europe. A month has gone by, can you believe it? It’s an odd reality, the one I’m living. It’s an adventure, and I’m having so much fun. I am learning, however, that I value so much my home and a routine and familiar eyes to look into when I come home. But my God is faithful and faithful and faithful, regardless of my circumstance and THAT is my comfort and joy.

Kisses from Greece (and Prague, and Paris, and wherever else I end up today). And look up those songs!

Morning Sun & Rose Tea

As I sit here at my little vanity (the chair is still broken), eating Honey Nut Cheerios that don’t really taste like my breakfasts at home, as the sun streams in the windows to my left and as I take a break from preparing for the day, my soul is stirring in truth and conviction from Psalm 9. Hear this:

Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death, that I may declare your praises in the gates of Daughter Zion, and there rejoice in your salvation.

Okay, so here’s what’s happening in my soul. I’m reading this today, and I’m in Greece, and it’s beautiful and I’m still wrestling and trying to figure it all out. And I’m praying that He might make me not so homesick and all of this, and I’m drifting here and there and feeling like a crazy person and then BAM! Here it is. “Have mercy on me that I may declare your praises and there rejoice in your salvation!” Note that David, the psalmist, does not plead for mercy to overcome missing home or to not be so sad or any of that. Mercy leads not necessarily to change in circumstance, but to recognition of and rejoicing in the PRESENT REALITY OF OUR SALVATION! That’s so much better than one or two less heavy sighs while perusing my newsfeed!

So that’s where I am. Rejoicing in my salvation even though the milk after my cereal is a little off.

Island Living

Hello from the Island of White Marble – more commonly known (at least to me) as Paros! I write from a warm little apartment, more specifically, on a broken wicker-bottom chair provided for me by my landlord, Jimmy. He’s a very nice man. He takes good care of us.

I’ve officially been away from home for more than a week and boy oh boy has it been a roller coaster. Never in my life have I experienced such a vast array of emotions (in their utmost intensity) in such a short amount of time. It’s exhausting, really. But what a beautiful exhaustion it is! This place is a treasure. No kidding. The water here is the most beautiful, rich shade of teal. The whitewashed buildings only look the same until you get close, when you see the sweet, soft colors of each of their doors – my favorite so far has been a delicate lavender/gray. Beautiful.

Life is slow and steady – everyone’s up and going by 10:00, not 8:00 as I was used to. You bid one another “good morning” until 2:00 pm, when everyone closes their shutters and rests until 5:00, at which point you’re allowed to switch to “good afternoon”. It’s a late night city, Paroikia, with restaurants and bars open until far after my breathing has slowed and my dreams come alive. It would be perfect if I didn’t have the circadian rhythm of a 90 year old man.

This place is so far from anything I’ve ever lived, and yet, this is my reality for the next three months of my short life. It’s sometimes a struggle to live in today, right now. My yearning flesh leans its heavy weight on the security that my romanticized future promises. But what a thief it is! My real time is wonderful – I’m fighting to believe and rejoice there.

The hardest part thus far is not being with the souls I love so dearly and only being able to see their pixelated faces on the screens of my apple products (which I am thankful for!). Oh what I would give to wrap my arms around my Texans! My sweet family! My triad! My bible study! My team! My Maniak! But cyberspace will work for now.

You wanna know my favorite part of this whole thing? The quiet streets. The life is so evident, but unseen. It’s mysterious and inviting and coy. Paros is a whisper and I want to draw nearer to hear what it has to say. Unlike home, where there’s no missing anything, and if you miss it, you learn to deal because the world will move along without you. This place has secrets and it will wait for you to discover the missing pieces and I love that. I used to play this Nancy Drew computer game and it’s sort of like that, only with less death and explosions.

I don’t have much else to say.

Day 1

I write this from a rather bland terminal at the Port Columbus International Airport, heart racing, eyes heavy (I got so little sleep last night). Let me describe what’s around me:

To my left is my sweet grandmother, accompanying me to London. She’s playing a word game where she unscrambles letters to make new words. So far she’s turned “Tacue” into “Acute” and “Kroob” into “Brook”. To my left is The Great American Bagel Bakery, whose wood paneling throws a touch of warmth into this long, gray room. Across from me is a young Asian man who has shoulder length blonde hair, so that’s interesting. A few seats down from him is an athletic young woman trying to read a book, but can’t, because an adorable Indian man is asking her questions about every aspect of her entire life. To my right is a wall of windows, our boarding gate beyond it. A few businessmen look dapper on their bluetooth headsets and sweater-vests. I’m so out of my league here, people.

I’m feeling excited, anxious, hurried and lagging. It’s all pretty confusing. But it’s good, and I know Jesus lies ahead and beside and behind and all over, and I’m thankful for that. I really can’t believe it. I’m leaving the continent! I’ll arrive in London around 6:00am Ohio time (11:00 am local time) and my adventure begins immediately. I’m nervous about being too tired to enjoy anything, but that’s not the worst that could happen, so it’s okay.

Here we go!

A Countdown

13 days – that’s the time I have left here in the states before I embark on my euro-journey.  13 days to make sure I have everything together, 13 days to say my “see-you-laters” and cry my eyes out, 13 days to live with my sweet Texans, 13 days to go to Fairfield whenever I want, 13 days to eat Orange Leaf (fro-yo…please…Agnes…?).

And then, in 13 days, I will board a plane to London with my hilarious maternal grandmother to spend some time on those drizzly streets before hopping on another plane to Athens, and then a boat to Paros.  I’ve been on my school’s website for the past hour and my soul is literally wrenching out of my body at the beauty of this place.  Take a look:

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Seriously!?  Can you believe this?!  My brain/heart is exploding!  I get to paint and write and pray and rejoice here, people!

But my heart is heavy to leave sweet little Oxford, my home and my life.  It’s such an interesting thing, going on a trip.  I think I would go on more if going someplace didn’t mean leaving another.  If only the latter could come with me.  But I suppose what I bring back is more precious (and more willed by God) than my remaining here in O-H… (anyone?)

As I look and pray forward in the next days and hours and moments, my spirit and my body are tired from the push and pull of worry and excitement.  My eyes and heart are heavy, and yet I’m eagerly making lists and eyeballing my wardrobe, deciding which shoes are absolutely necessary.  I’m feeling conflicted and it’s exhausting, but I’m finding peace in the constant and unchanging gospel of Jesus.  Without it, I fear I might go mad – but it’s here, and it’s there, and in me and in Paros and I believe it fully and rejoice fully and expect fully.

So here we go.  13 more days!