Thursday, December 11, 2008

Of the Beloveds

The tide returns, washing over the beach as it has so many times before, caressing each grain of sand, carving gouges through antiquated deposits, leaving a new layer of sediment, changing the face of the shoreline...

The page turns; a chapter closes; the past is sealed and cannot be relived but in memory. And soon, no matter how vivid the memories be now, they too shall fade and be lost, drowned in the tides of time, unidentifiable amid the swirling silty waves.

Though Hope College has challenged and pressured me in many ways, I do not regret this semester. Though I shall soon - God willing - move on to another institution, I do not look upon the past months as wasted. The time spent here was God-given and the Master Craftsman's chisel was not idle upon my rough stone in this place.

I shall sincerely miss the blessings God has lavished upon me here. There are many here that I have come to love dearly over the course of the semester and they have become a part of me. To leave with the knowledge that I may never see them again will, I know, tear a piece of my heart from me, rend a leaf from the book of who I am. They have shaped me and how can I explain their unique personalities and what they mean to me to people who have not lived, laughed, wept, and brushed teeth with them as I have?

I have promised never to forget them. And I mean not to. But lest the image fade with time, losing color, texture, and sound till it become but a vague silhouette in some recess of my mind, I here take down a brief portrait sketch of the Beloveds of Hope; those who have filled the lonely void of family and friends with their love and care.

My room-mate, Reneé (I finally put the accent in correctly): Ah, what would life have been like without her? What will life be like without her? Without concern for each other's family, encouragement in study, understanding of each other's sleeping needs, random conversations across the dark space between the beds at 1am? What will I do when we cannot tease each other about how Reneé "takes out her eyes" every night? I will miss the laughter at my silliness, the way she drew me into her social life and surrounded me with friends, the Spanish she forced me to speak and helped me practice - the Spanish which spoke from her heart. Who will remind me in Spanish to "trust God" and "take one day at a time?" I am forever grateful for how she tried to understand me even when I broke down or couldn't explain everything. We are so much alike in a mind set that "I am right." Tonight, I will lie down and wait for the evening ritual but she will be much farther than five feet from me. She will not whisper in Spanish nor will I. Our nightly "Buenas noches" will be one sided from now on. How I will sleep without it I do not know.

Michelle: From the moment I met her she warmed my heart with her motherliness. Always the gentle teaser accusing us all of being "saucy," always ready for some silliness over the latest, be it important or just plain meaningless. My heart went out to her during her early room-mate troubles and I am glad now that she will take my place. But I ache to think that I shan't take part of her cheering presence.

Araksya: Oh, how I will miss her! She could match Snap for teasing - especially to Reneé . So gifted, yet so humble. Honest and frank is she with a piercing insight that surprised me many times as she guessed in a flash secrets I had hoped to keep hidden and simply told them to me as observations. Her way of describing the world refreshes my spirit.

Ziye, Xisen, Christina, Leonie: They have drawn me out and loosened my throat to laugh many times. They share with me both their unique personalities and tidbits of their culture. I'll never forget spending late night hours before an exam squeezing German cookie dough with all my might through a large frosting cone and tip in lieu of a cookie press. I have not words to describe their personalities accurately, but they each of them cared for me in a special way and I hope that I have in some small way returned that love.

Mikella and Rebecca: Oh, girls! How glad I was to be your partner for the research poster and presentation. Both of you brought your fun-loving attitude to the project, tempered with a serious, hard-working spirit.

My Lab Partners: I'll have to admit there were times when I was frustrated with both of them, but they cheered my heart, made me laugh, and I'm certain there was not a group in the lab that had as much fun as we three did.

Dan: From questioning theology on bus rides, to 7:30am prayer, to Bible Study he's been a friend I know I can rely on.

And Monday Night Bible Study group: You all have brought so much to my life. Though your worship and theology sometimes made me more than squirm, your child-like faith, trust, and hunger for God's Word encouraged me and challenged me to faithfully confess in a setting similar to those in which I had previously suffered and inflicted much confusion. I'll miss you all - testimonies included.

Jess: What a wonderful RD! The first to welcome me theologically and understand how important both orthodox doctrine and conservative worldview are to me. Theology Sister, she once called me. I'm so grateful that she made liturgical prayer available in the mornings. I needed both the fellowship and the rest in the Word of God. I'll miss her, her tea pot, and her dog.

The Phelps Scholars and my Hall in general: I love you guys! The community we created together was vibrant and supportive. Squeezing people around a table in the cafeteria, the life we shared, and the discussions we had stimulated my mind and afforded me the comfort of a virtual family.

My Professors
Dr. Green: Only he could have called us all the names he did and only provoke laughter in response. We took him seriously on some things, but at a certain point we knew the seriousness had vanished. I'll never forget hearing his voice shouting in the basement only to find a very pleasant conversation taking place when I turned the corner.

Dr. Brouwer: I thank God he was my advisor. He cared for me with a pastoral air, listened and advised without pressuring me. I'll forever think of him as a wise Teddy Bear.

Dr. Yelding: His perspective on many things was different and interesting. He saved our research project when the data seemed to be running amuck.

Profesor Moreau: To think that I wasn't even going to take an English class! I would have missed my (almost) all time favorite professor! Demanding but very human and caring, he made the two hours fly by and cranked the papers out of us before we ever knew we were working. Constructive criticism defined him. His wife's cookies and treats endeared the class and the professor to us even more. I'd write well just from knowing he'd receive the paper and that he believed in my writing capability.

Profesora Swain: She re-awakened the fire of Spanish in me (with the help of Reneé). She was a real teacher, instructing us with everything she had, forcing us to speak, using Spanish from the beginning of the class, giving us helpful tips and methods of remembering facts. She even investigated the differences between the words for "goat" just for me.

Professor Schmidt: I have to laugh whenever I think of her. She was more of a kid than we were. Always energetic and enthusiastic whether we were working out, or in lecture. When supervising the cardio and weight rooms she'd run up and down the stairs between the two, stopping to chat with each person or singing with the overhead music. I'd almost play sports just to have her as coach.

Dr. Richmond and College Chorus: I'm so very glad I took College Chorus even though it wasn't for credit. Dr. Richmond took us, no matter how inexperienced, and made us tick. He infused us with morale and by his very presence captured our attention and effort, focusing it to one goal. Somehow, he turned us into an vocal organism tuned entirely to the subtle motion of his hands and body. He also very deliberately explained the theological importance of certain song lines and insisted on proper "Queen's English" pronunciation.
I really grew to appreciate the warmth and friendliness that grew between the members of the Chorus as well.

My Community Placement: I enjoyed the interactions with the dear seniors there and I will miss the personal quirkiness of each one.

And finally, my dear, dear Orthodox Christian Fellowship:

Joanne: She's always been the quiet mover and organizer from the very first day. The shy, hungery one, eager to learn, warm and loving. I'd trust her with anything. Indeed she was the first person to know I was leaving Hope and she never breathed a word.

Alex: One of the non-othodox present from the beginning. Always quirky and theologically well read.

Andy: another non-orthodox friend of Alex. Quietly thinking lover of history. He always listens in silence, speaks with humility even though I'm sure he knows and thinks more than he says.

All the other students who passed through OCF on occasion: I'll miss their interesting questions, personalities, and input.

Christina: Ah, strong Othodox champion! She mothered me and I know that even if she dearly would like like me to convert to Orthodoxy, she always has open arms for me if I need to weep for a moment or just need to feel safe. She's challenged me to consider and weigh carefully history and dogma and I have taken her challenges seriously.

Father Steve: Perhaps I'll miss him most of all. A heart for his student learners and heart for the church and it's history. Not as eloquent as some, but what he had to say was always well worth listening too. Wrapped as much in kindness as in his black clerical garb, he explained theological implications of church history with an eye to his own Reformed origins as well as Orthodoxy. Gracious about my inattendance at Evening Prayer, he also used only Trinitarian prayer to close the Study portion of the evening. And the incense he lighted for Evening Prayer always brought images of Emmaus to my eyes as well as tears.

I'll miss the Othodox group and learning about Orthodoxy. Despite our disagreements, I felt ideologically safer and more relaxed with them than with the Evangelical Protestants.

I'll miss - strange as it sounds - the bathroom too. That's where most of the girls on my floor caught up on the doings of the day. I hope nobody where I am headed minds songs late at night in the shower. I'm so grateful my floor girls didn't. I'll always remember the shower head of my favorite stall that came apart and shot it's metal inside piece at me, spraying water every which way. And the Norovirus posters warning us to wash our hands. Ha!

I know I have forgotten someone somewhere. But I hope that these brief sketches will aid my memory in years to come. I would not forget the days I spent here. I must put them now to rest and pack up my possesions for the move tomorrow. Tonight I go to OCF one last time. Tomorrow I sign out and depart - perhaps for a life time, though I pray I shall be able to return to visit the friends I leave here.

Tomorrow, the tide retreats. Tomorrow the ink dries, the page turns.

What will this day be like? I wonder. What will my future be like? I wonder

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