Does anyone actually ever read the FAQ section on websites? I wonder…if enough people checked that section, would the questions have to change because those Frequently Asked Questions wouldn’t actually be up to date Frequently Asked Questions?
If I had an FAQ section for my life, right now, questions 1-3 would be the following?
- So, you work at Penn State, right?
- Where is that again?
- How do you like it?
Honestly, the third question is the one that I’ve probably heard the most since moving to Pennsylvania, especially now that the school year is over. I’ve struggled to answer this question for several reasons: a) I want to be truthful b) I feel like the answer everyone wants to hear is “Oh, it’s great!” c) Does the person asking actually care about my answer or are they just being polite?
After weighing these factors, I usually say something along the lines of “Ya know…it’s interesting! I’m really glad I’m here, but it’s been interesting.” Bait. Depending upon the person, I’ll either receive a response of “Good, good.” or “Oh, really? How so?” Hook line & sinker. (Side note: I don’t really know what the phrase “hook line and sinker” means because I don’t fish (does it even have to do with fishing?), but it seemed appropriate to type here). Then, from there I can go into more of an explanation about how I feel about Penn State.
But here’s the thing, I’ve decided I don’t like my typical response. I think it’s been wrapped up in fear. All year long I have been afraid to let myself be completely a part of the culture here. I’ve been afraid to share certain parts of my heart with the people I now “do life” with. I have been afraid to fall in love with this beautiful, messy, wonderfully hard thing the Lord’s allowed me to be a part of.
I am continually being reminded that the life I’m living up here has little to do with me. The mix of lovely that I’ve found here was not new because I showed up, it was already up and running long before my North Carolina license plate passed the “Welcome to State College” sign. I’ve been blessed enough to be welcomed with open arms and loved by a community that also needs to be loved. Y’all, a lot of hard things have happened this year. There has been a lot of suffering and there will continue to be. Parents have passed away, grandparents are no longer with us, babies never took their first breath on this earth. Jobs decided to move in other directions, internships have fallen through, and battles of depression and anxiety made school almost unbearable. We are certainly living in a world of brokenness. But we are not living without beauty. Couples have been joined together in marriage, young lives have been brought into this world, funding for projects has been provided. New friendships were formed, safe communities to share and be vulnerable were built, and there has been enough laughter to fill a cathedral.
In this tension of beauty and brokenness, already but not yet, I have found love. I am learning to grow where I am planted, to be where I am. I want to let my heart get so deeply attached to this small town and the people here. I want to grow fond of the way the particular mulch at the bottom of College Avenue smells. I want to spend too much money on lattes at Saint’s Cafe because they are just that good. I want to continue to get lost on the trail behind Sunset Park and get caught in the rain miles away from my car. I want to let the women in my Bible study and the friends I regularly hang out with know that it means the world to me that I’ve found a safe place in their company and that I’ve learned so much from each of them.
How do I like Penn State? Truth be told, I love it. I’m not talking about the school or the town, or even my church necessarily. Rather, I’m referring to all the parts of the school and the town and my church that I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of. The Lord has been kind and I have been cared for in ways that I didn’t even know I needed.
It’s freeing to come to terms with my own feelings. So, I’ll end with this: Don’t be afraid to really be where you are and love it. Playing it “safe” isn’t really helping anyone. We have to learn how to commit and live with conviction. We have feelings, own ‘em. We have places to live, love ‘em.
May I live and love not just in word, but also in deed]