Places & Spaces

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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about places. Places I’ve been, places I need to go to, and even the places I shouldn’t have gone. Land, either on or off the map. Little corners of the world that have somehow come to matter to me. Oia, Assisi, Munich, 61 Wyn Oak Dr., Chennai, Jacksonville, Death Valley, Singapore, London, Seattle. Why did it feel like my heart was ripping out when I sailed away from Santorini? Why do I still allow myself to desire to go to Chicago, even if the American Girl Doll store is now open in other cities? (which I have already been to in Denver…) Each place has carved out a little space in my heart. More often the question I ask, why do my current geographic coordinates matter so much to me? Its not like I can be in every single place I may be thinking about all at once. On that note, why do I even think about it so much? How is my emotional wellbeing so intrinsically correlated to my location, my place? Apparently the Germans call my state of being fernweh, or farsickness. Good to know it’s an actual thing and I’m not just some ambiguous dust particle without any point of origin.

I think recently my fernweh-o-meter has been particularly high. Maybe because I’ve been in some not so desirable places recently but I’m not sure. I know that my future has more places to look forward to; I just don’t know where they are yet. Most days I feel like I’m just waiting around until I get to go. But I kind of hate that about myself because it is entirely unrealistic. I shouldn’t let my hopes for the future get in the way of appreciating the place I am in today, like Furman. I’ve been essentially here in the same place for four years. While it has been a fight to graduate, sometimes more literally than metaphorically, its finally starting to sink in that this will no longer be my place. This is where I’ve lived with my best friends, learned some stuff, found community and I will miss it. Not even my desire to leave will make it any less hard to go.

I guess that’s the funny thing about place. No matter how much I want to be in a new one or leave the one I’m in, it somehow matters nothing and everything simultaneously. It matters everything because of the relationships and experiences we might leave behind in order to gain new ones. But it matters nothing because it still won’t be perfect. It still won’t be the final place. The most perfect of perfect benches next to a sea somewhere still isn’t the place where I will get to spend eternity with God. Whether its heaven or the unknown, its going to be better than any earthly place I could ever dream of. And it will have the host[ess] with the mostest. Now that is a place I can really get excited about, right now or later. So my wanderlust, while ESSENTIAL to who I am as a human, isn’t entirely unrealistic, just a little misguided. Maybe its not farsickness I’m experiencing, but homesickness.

“I lift my eyes up to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.”
Psalm 121:1-2

“I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” Philippians 1:23

PS- Some G-rated places I probably shouldn’t have gone…
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Love, Caroline

Love

In the words of my good friend Elizabeth Griffin, “I LOVE LOVE!” I think she may get a little more excited about wedding announcements than I do, but I still agree with her. However, Valentine’s Day? Not really my thing. Not in a “oh I’m so depressed that I don’t have a valentine” sort of way, just in a “I don’t really care” kind of way. Even when I have had a valentine, it hasn’t really done anything for me. So this year, instead of being mopey like some people, it was just a really great night with some ladies that I love. I got to watch my roommate’s boyfriend win a tennis match, had actually the most delicious pizza with my other roommate (Greek + artichokes + portobello mushrooms + Italian sausage = WIN), and had a really great night out in a swanky wine bar with fun conversation. I’ll take embarrassing first kiss stories over date night pressure any day! I did have a loving Valentine’s Day, just one of a different breed. I LOVE love!

And when I saw this little video, I fell in love. Darling Magazine is a new online magazine that preaches a seriously good message. They are totally taking what the world expects out of a magazine and turing it on its head. “Darling is a catalyst for positive change; leading women to discover beauty apart from vanity, influence apart from manipulation, style apart from materialism, sweetness apart from passivity, and womanhood without degradation.” Besides how much I like it based on the graphics or the photographs, I like what they have to say and this video they made for Valentine’s Day is no different. Kinda makes you think.

“Something that makes me whole.” Love comes from God. He gave us the ability to love and shows us what true, perfect, pure love looks like by sending his son to die on a cross for us. He shows us through our relationships with one another, though they can be messy. He shows us through the beauty of the mountains and the oceans, though they may cause fear. They are little glimpses into what his love for us can be and how much better he is in comparison. Thank you, God, for giving me Valentine’s Day to remind me that YOU are my true love, February 14th or any other day. Sometimes I get side tracked and fall in love with the wrong thing, but your love knows no bounds and guides me back every time.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

LOVE, Caroline

Windy Gap

I’m so spoiled. Just got home from a great weekend at Windy Gap Young Life Camp with a great group of freshman girls who let me lead them. Apparently, with over 580 in camp total, the Greenville area has officially brought the most people that Windy Gap has ever had. Even though I’ve been back probably 10 times since I did work crew in 2009, the memories from that summer have yet to be lost. I look at the big hill and see the time I face planted in grand fashion on the way down with Phoebe. I see the willow tree and remember the hours I spent under it, drinking Cheerwine slushies and laughing until my sides hurt. Entering the cabins, I think of the stats I clocked walking in and out, lugging buckets of dirty water and singing at the top of my lungs. Every time someone gets a scrape or a headache, I inevitably remember the pain of cleaning toilets and mirrors with two broken ribs and what felt like a broken arm after falling out of my bunk. (Yeah, I’ve always been THAT girl. The doctor and I were well acquainted) Before, the faces of those memories belonged to Turner, Kathleen, Ryan, Rob, Kayla and Texas Pete. The memories and faces are still there, but now they’ve expanded to include those of Elizabeth, Mills, Leah, Ellie, Clare and Lil’ Neon to name a few.

Though my life may change as I enter into different seasons, Windy Gap has been a constant to be thankful for. Now, I can look back and see how the Lord was working in my life in a way I could have never even imagined. While I still didn’t give him the full credit he deserved then, I know that I encountered him there. My summer on work crew was full of God’s ever-present love. I’m so spoiled that I get to return and relive that same love over and over and over again. How beautiful that I get to see, through memories, the ways in which he was providing for me then, ultimately leading me to the path I am on now. Memories that the girls I am now leading could be making, & that is the reason for it all.

Through the seasons:
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My beloved willow, always beautiful

With many friends:
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All memorable, all crazy, and all special. Even though it may be beautiful, the incredible people there make it what it is. Every time I go, I see someone from that summer. Some of my friends from work crew are married now and some have decided to go in other directions. Honestly, I don’t keep up with most of them. But I love them all, same as my Mann girls and fellow leaders. Those friends stood by me through mono seclusion cabins, cluelessness, camp crushes, and snowball fights. The best people in the world belong in the best place in the world, obviously.

Love, Caroline

P.S. Drew and Ellie Holcomb. Ryan Long. David Haskins. Cletus and Clyde. A program team to knock your socks off. Best program I have ever seen in all my YL camp attendances. Windy Gap Session 3 2009.

A Bountiful [and slightly orange] Harvest

“You crown the year with your bounty and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the wilderness overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing.” Psalm 65:11-13

Ah, a new year. Goodbye 2013. I will miss you and look back on you very fondly for the rest of my life. Between the bad (the very, very, very bad) and the good (interning with the Historical Society, living with my best friends, and of course traveling to India), I think I welcomed 2014 fairly unscathed. Especially when it involves a fire pit, s’mores, and great friends to share it with. Now that I am finally done with India work and have absolutely nothing to do until I go back to school, I have been enjoying doing just that: nothing. Today, not unlike the last week, was spend in my pajamas watching the Property Brothers on HGTV (they are SO cute). Don’t worry, I (usually) get up and do things, too. This afternoon I helped my dad and brother pick oranges, did multiple loads of laundry, took a daring walk with my mom on which we crossed a “busy” street, and went into downtown St. Augustine, where we ended up seeing a couple get engaged (!!!). Then I went back to the TV and watched the Jimmy Fallon memory lane special. In between the “What the heck am I doing with my life?” moments, I have really been loving my time at home, relaxing before going back to a fresh semester. For me, there will be no resolutions or expectations this year, just life. It’ll be grand.

Here are some shots from our afternoon of picking satsumas. A big freeze is coming so we had to salvage what we could. I just love them. I also love how Psalm 65 so beautifully captures this moment. We’ve had a great year, a bountiful harvest. The Orange Bowl, too, of course and now loads of these delicious things. All worthy of shouts and song. Go Tigers!

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Love, Caroline

PS- Feel free to check out this rather interesting video of my dad explaining why satsuma trees look weird. The other day I watched him dig up another orange tree in our backyard and replant it right behind our kitchen window. He is quite passionate.

My First Serious Blog Post Title

Why India? Why not.

Why Young Life? Why not.

Why Campus Outreach? Why not.

Why are you the way you are? I say why not be.

My two months abroad in India are rapidly disappearing before my eyes. Thursday is my last full day. Thinking about going home, hugging my brother, drinking syllabub, decorating our Christmas tree, and seeing my grandparents are all things that make me so ready. But so much of me wants to stay. Maybe forever. I will never get tired of the colorful hubbub, constant festivals and celebrations, and adorable brown eyed babies to stare at. Sometimes I feel like my life here is a dream and if I wake up, it will all be gone. One of my absolute favorite things about this country is the idea of peace and harmony. People respect each other here, different cultures, languages, and religions don’t affect daily life from happening. It is like God decided to put all of the world’s religions and the universe’s biggest paint set into a blender and out poured India. It is a rainbow of spirituality to say the least and I love it.

If India, a country stricken with extreme poverty and depletion of resources, can manage to harbor a community of mutual respect and religious toleration, why can’t the United States? Why was the most common question I received before I left “Why India?” and the second most popular comment “Be careful. Did you hear about [insert religious extremist circumstance here]?” Yes, India has more Muslims than Pakistan. Yes, India has had instances of extreme religious intolerance. So what. You know what else India has? India has the most welcoming, accepting, peaceful, helpful, truthful, and respectful people I have ever met. Organizations like NGO schools do everything they can just to pay their teachers while feeding us coffee, cookies and expensive clean water. People we have never met open up their homes and families to us. A panel of a Hindu professor, a Muslim professor, and a Chaplin taught us of the respect different religions have for each other. They finished each other’s sentences.  Hindus pay respect at Sikh temples and listen to Sufi music. While I am getting treated like a princess, people at home are still concerned about safety due to proximity of religious populations. Yes, religious toleration is definitely something I’ll miss.

I don’t think intolerance exists only on a broad level, either. It makes me sad to say it, but Furman even has intolerance within mutual faiths. Why is this a problem for us? We are all worshipping one God and we are all striving to represent him well by our organizations. The competition between groups is disgusting to me. It was a problem before I came to India, it’s just more on my mind now. I desire to live in a community of believers that support each other. I desire for that community to be larger than my close group of friends, but all believers. I desire for Furman students who attend the same church to recognize each other on campus instead of mentally segregating each other into different Christian campus organizations. We hurt each other by asking why on earth we would want to be part of a certain religious organizations. What we are missing is that by doing this, we are just prolonging the inevitable of a lost campus. Is that what we really want?

If staying in India meant no one asking me why I am a Young Life leader or why I am involved in Campus Outreach, I just might do it. We are too concerned with the differences between non-Christian religions than we are our own to even see the problem that lies right in front of us. This is my public statement acknowledging I will do everything I can to be a part of this acceptance and I hope if you are reading, you will join me. Being a Christian to me isn’t about forcing my beliefs on others or claiming to be better, but about love, acceptance and an understanding of those around you. I want to share what I know while still respecting those that might not agree. Hopefully if that is the path I take, it would be applied to both Christians and non Christians alike. Furman, the US, and even my own friends and family could learn a lot from this country. I know I already have and I hope it has changed me forever.

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” – Psalm 133:1

PS This music video from a movie I saw here is just incredible. You should watch it. NOW.

Love, Caroline

Indian Shenanigans Are the Worst

Well yesterday was a typical Caroline day. I couldn’t not write about it and it gives me a good opportunity to share about everything that I’ve been doing here! But I warn you, it might be PG-13…

I’m just going to jump right into it. I peed my pants yesterday. I thought it would be funny to scare my friend Alice in the bathroom so I climbed onto a chair and thought I could stick my head through the window. However, not to embarrass Alice but she didnt exactly have the reaction I thought she would and we both cracked up laughing. Now, the whole reason I was standing outside the bathroom was because I had to go and well, you know the rest.

The rest of the 24 hours went quite the same way. I woke up feeling sick and I hadn’t slept very well. So I skipped breakfast and went straight to lectures. During the second lecture I thought I was going to puke so I ran upstairs. I ended up just crawling into bed and falling asleep for the whole rest of the lecture. Oops. At least I felt a lot better when I woke up. But this afternoon I washed my clothes which was good, but then when I was hanging them out on the line and Praveen, our Indian best friend, comes running out telling me to stop. Apparently that was the telephone wire. Oops. And when I went back into my room and turned on my little desk light, smoke and flames started pouring out of it. So I ran downstairs like a chicken with its head cut off calling for Praveen and yelling FIRE! No harm done but it was scary for a second.

I think Dr. Knight was trying to comfort me and make me feel better, but when she was comforting me, she called me Christine. Twice. Not so comforting because I have literally spent almost all hours of the day with her, even before we left. But that’s ok. At least she tried. Don’t worry though. She was able to comfort me again with my actual name a few minutes later when I spilt pipping hot chai all over my legs. At least the shorts I was wearing were water resistant. I only had to stay in the same clothes for the rest of the day.

So yeah. I would say be thankful you aren’t me, but I am in India so at least I have that!!! Never wanna come back home!

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Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge. Psalm 119:54

Love, Caroline

mumBYE y’all

I’m going to India today. WHAT? I can’t believe the day is here. I spent the last few days finishing up my work, getting loose ends tied down, and mentally preparing myself (and my roommates) for the coming 2 months. In case you weren’t aware, I’m traveling to India for the rest of the semester to study. There are 18 of us on the trip and we have already bonded over our mutual lack of social lives the past month and a half. I hate leaving Alexa and Teresa, but I’m excited about how my friendships with our group will grow and for the new friends I will meet. Pray for me that I will find good community, exciting adventures, and lasting memories. I can’t wait to share all of my experiences and what the Lord will teach me on this trip. But I’m leaving for the airport in less than an hour and I need to finish making these chocolate chip pancakes with my roommates!

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Love, Caroline