I have these shoe boxes in my room, probably four or five of them, filled with memories from throughout my life. I started collecting mostly, but not completely, various important papers, in probably fourth or fifth grade, and I have gotten quite the collection over the years. I have everything from plane boarding passes, to name tags of kids who have been in my VBS crew, to birthday and Christmas cards, to copies of my church’s board meeting minutes from when I became an LMC, and to little trinkets from Brazil. I collect these because, for me, they serve as memories. Whenever I go somewhere, I typically don’t buy myself things to remind me of all the memories I made while I was there. Instead, I make memories and use photos and the things I collect along the way to remind me. I do this for a few reasons. First, it saves me money, because, let’s be honest, why bother buying a figurine that will just sit on my dresser until I lose it or it breaks but I’ll never throw it out because I am too worried I’ll forget the memories? Second, it saves space (although maybe five shoe boxes full of memories is not really saving space). I don’t have to take a lot of things home with me, nor do I have to keep a lot of physical things laying around. Thirdly, I am all about the practical. I only buy souvenirs for myself if they are practical– if I am actually going to use them for something other than to just sit there and look nice. I have very few decorations or useless trinkets in my room that don’t serve a purpose or have a memory associated with them, because, to be honest, I don’t care. And, whether I am trying to remind myself of a trip I took or a lifetime journey, I enjoy being able to look back at important things I collected along the way. Finally, I have these shoe boxes of memories because my love language is not gifts, but rather quality time and words of affirmation. So, for me, I use these boxes as ways to store up for myself memories of quality time and words of affirmation.
All the boxes are labeled with years, and every once in a while, I go through these boxes. Rarely do I throw anything out; usually I just go through the hoards and try to remind myself of the memories. But, occasionally, I forget what memory something is supposed to remind me of. Or, I decide the thing, or the memory, is not worth saving. So, I remind myself of it one more time and then I throw it away. Tonight, I was putting away a memory when I was inspired to go through some of the boxes again.
I did not go through them and throw things out. Nor did I go through everything in all the boxes. Instead, I pulled out the things in each of them that meant the most to me– the letters people have written me over the years.
You see, words and time are the way I like to express my love to others, and they are the way I deeply desire people to express their love to me. And, right now, I am in a weird and kind of difficult place where time seems to be messed up and words often seem to fail me.
Right now, I am in a place of waiting. I am in a place of being excited (and also scared) for the future, but also so content to just be in the present. And it is a time where I am struggling to know what to do and how to handle everything. Because I so desperately want to detach from everything and everyone I know and feel connected to in order to make the future goodbye easier. But, I also so desperately want to soak up these last few months by living genuinely in the moment. And I am torn because I know if I focus too much on the now, I will neglect to prepare for the future and the goodbye will be that much harder. But I know if I focus too much on the future I will forget what it means to be present in the now. I texted my support squad a few days ago after a particularly trying day in which I was torn between the future and the present. After pouring out my soul and having them assure me that everything was going to be okay I said, “I’m sorry. I’m probably going to be real annoying for the next few months and need constant reassurance that I am making the right decision.” And the problem is, I know I am making the right decision. I have never been more sure of anything than I am that God is calling me to seminary and that I am being called to leave. But, I am struggling to completely come to terms with it, and to understand how to be still in the period of waiting.
One of the reasons I think I took so long to finish my applications was because I never know what to do with waiting. And, I knew by submitting them I was making my dream a reality and bringing my future closer to my present, but I also knew I would still have to wait. And I was not sure I was actually ready for that. So, I’ve been having these feelings of doubt, confusion, uncertainty, excitement, and fear for, honestly the past year, but really the past week since turning in my applications. I have all but one application submitted, and the schools are waiting on transcripts and recommendation letters before they make their decisions and let me know. Well, except for one school which has already accepted me and is hoping I’ll go there to learn more about Scripture and God’s call for my life.
I have this thing for collecting Bibles. (You’d think that I would have been able to see my own call sooner considering how much I have always loved reading Scripture and collecting Bibles.) And, I have a thing for words and for the people that share words with me. So, ever since I knew I was leaving, I have known exactly how I wanted everyone to say goodbye to me. I want to get a Bible for people to write notes to me, highlight their favorite verses, or mark verses they think will help me on my adventure. And today was payday, and it was exactly two weeks since I submitted my first application (plus, I can’t waste time on Netflix so I had to do something) so, I was looking at Bibles. And that is probably what spurred another one of my crises of living simultaneously in the future and the present.
So, I opened a shoe box to place in it a letter a friend had written me earlier this week, and I decided now would be a good time to go through and read all the letters people have written me. Because, here’s the thing:
I don’t know for sure where I am going (Although, I have a strong idea). But, I know what I am leaving behind. I am leaving behind memories. I am leaving behind people. And, while memories can’t be left behind, they can be forgotten. And I know wherever I am going, I will not be able to take four or five shoe boxes full of memories with me. So, I have to create more in the now so I have more to remember when I leave. And, I know I can’t take the people with me. I can no longer spend quality time with the people I am leaving behind (except through Face Time or expensive plane tickets). But I can take their words. I have spent half my life memorizing words– the words of Scripture– but these words I could spend decades memorizing and still never remember. Because I need to read them to remember them. I need to read them to remember the people and the memories behind them.
So, I read the letters from my shoe boxes full of memories. Because, eventually, I am going to have to start sorting through my stuff– including my boxes of memories– and deciding what I can take with me as I make new memories. But, I also have to allow myself to make new memories now. So, tonight, as I am struggling with this concept of present and future, I reminded myself that, even though I have boxes waiting to be filled with new memories, I also have boxes already filled with memories. And, most importantly, I have people behind those memories who are going to be a part of the boxes I have yet to fill as well as the ones I have already filled. And, I am thanking God for them that they can ground me in the now and also reassure me that I am making the right decision for my future. Because I have water fall sized dreams and shoe boxes full of memories and a life full of beautiful friendships. And these four or five shoe boxes full of memories may not come with me into the future, but the letters written assuring me in the present will never be left behind.