The Twin Cities Rainbow Chaser

moving across the country…to discover what God has in store

This Rainbow Chaser’s Future

Great White Northern Regions

Great White Northern Regions

In my last post (yeah…back in March…whoops), I mentioned that I was planning to spend future posts looking at the future.  I hinted that I was going to continue avoiding the box and I think that I will be successful in my avoidance.  While I am following a path that seems natural and expected, it feels adventurous and new to me.  I feel like I will be completing something, coming full circle in a lot of ways.

When I graduated from college a year ago (crazy to think that!), my life was up in the air.    To see what I was feeling at that time, check out these posts.  I felt like there was a lot undone, as far as my education went.  I had a degree in Elementary Education that I didn’t want to use, at least in the traditional way.  It was missing pieces and I was missing pieces…what to do, what to do.  Patience and trusting God eventually led me to a position as a literacy tutor with AmeriCorps in Minnesota.  I knew that more schooling was in my future…but I didn’t know where or when or how.

So back in the fall, I started looking into graduate programs.  That required the GRE.  This is the part where I get a little giddy.  When you take the GRE, you can automatically have your scores sent to four schools.  At that time, I was applying to three…I figured though, why not?  Let’s just add one more for kicks and giggles.  Being the bold individual that I am, I put down the number one graduate school for education…Vanderbilt.

This makes me giddy because, as God would have it, Vanderbilt was to be my place.  After having my GRE scores sent there, I figured that I should probably go ahead and apply.  Turns out that they had the type of program that was right up my alley, so applying with enthusiasm was easier than I had expected.  And accepting their offer of admissions was easier than I had expected.

Last go around in Nashville

Last go around in Nashville

Yes, yes.  My friends, the Twin Cities Rainbow Chaser is relocating to Nashville, Tennessee.

And you don’t have to warn me about the “hotter than hell” summers…deep down in some hidden part of my soul, I am southern.  Southern born and raised.  I know about the heat, the twang, the swayt (yes…I meant to spell it that way) tay (that too), and having doors held open by well-raised young men.  In some ways, it’s kind-of nice to think about returning to my roots…just one state away at least.  See what I mean about coming full circle?

I’m completing my educational experiences (although I will never stop learning) and I am circling back to my roots (hopefully I  never have to get any closer).  While I don’t know exactly what my future holds besides this cross-country move, I know that the Twin Cities have been good to me…thanks to God’s merciful hand.  And I can trust that Nashville will be the same.

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Think Global, Act Local: Poverty

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Be aware: we’re about to get seriously philosphical (if I can spell that word)…philosophical…there we go.  I wanted to be independent and figure it out on my own; youshould be impressed with my epic spelling abiltiies…argh.  Abilities?  Yes.

Spelling…that is a global issue that affects me locally.  No…I mean yes.  It could be a global issue, but that’s not what’s on my mind on this snowy Minnesota day.

WEALTH.

photo Yes, wealth is on my mind.  I am currently reading a book called Crazy Love and I just read a chapter that made the hamster in my head start spinning on its wheel (His name is Winifred, by the way).  If I am to be perfectly honest, most of the chapters send Winifred into a frenzy, but this particular chapter connects to today’s prompt from The Daily Post.  It’s called “Serving Leftovers to a Holy God” (Chapter 5).  Chan, the author, counters the oft-seen idea that many Christians are lukewarm.  Instead, he says that being lukewarm means that someone is not a Christian.  That is a frightening thought for someone who has described herself as a lukewarm Christian (yes, I am referring to myself here…take a look at the original name of this blog!).  He highlights the problem of poverty in many places that make me, an AmeriCorps volunteer who receives a twice monthly living stipend, look rich.

(WOW!  I am in a coffee shop right now and it just got ridiculously loud…not cool, peoples.  Not cool.)

photo-1I have developed this tendency to look at the people around me, the people who have real jobs and receive a real salary, and I think about how wealthy they are.  A morning at a coffee shop isn’t a big deal for them.  Filling up their gas tank isn’t nearly as painful for them as it is for me.  And they can give to God without feeling it right in their gut.  Wow.  That last one really makes me think.  I’m going to be perfectly honest and lay some guilt right out there for you.  I feel like I’m giving my widow’s mite when I drop a check in the offering box on Sunday mornings.  Talk about a “holier than thou” attitude!

My coffee and cinnamon roll this morning would likely break the bank for half of the world’s population.  And I feel proud of myself for surviving on less than minimum wage for a year. So, how do I take the thoughts that Winifred has spun up for me and put them into action? At this point, changing my perspective will be the stepping stone, I think.  When I take myself off of the pedestal and realize that I am rich, I might have hope of action.

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Conclusions of a New Minnesotan 2

Sometimes I get confused…very, very confused

Sometimes I get confused…very, very confused

In August, St. Paul, Minnesota became my home when I migrated from the southern half of the U.S. to take part in an AmeriCorps program.  By the time that September rolled around, I had come to a few conclusions about my new home and the native creatures.  Several months have passed since that time, enough months for me to draw a few new conclusions.  So this is a continuation of that initial post and a few addenda (apparently that’s the plural of “addendum”).

We’ll begin with the addenda, of which there are two.

 

 

 

Conclusion 1a: Minnesota’s summers are gorgeous.

Conclusion 1b: Minnesota’s winters are beastly.

Seriously.  Have you ever spent a winter in Minnesota?  A few weeks into November I was preparing for the worst.  And then, after the first massive snow that dumped nearly a foot in our driveway and front yard and on top of my car, I was thinking that squirrels and bears have the right idea.  Hibernating in winter is pure genius.  If you hibernate, you do not have to DRIVE.  During my first excursion (perhaps ill-advised on a Sunday morning while the weather was verging on blizzard conditions), I was prepared to pull over and just hibernate right there until everything melted.  Also, there’s this whole FREEZING COLD CONSTANTLY factor.

Conclusion 4a: Biking is awesome!

Conclusion 4b: …except in winter.

Did you read the above rant about the quantity of snow that can fall within a twenty-four hour period?  Well, that pretty much covers it.  My bike is hibernating.  Some days, I would like to join it.

Looks like all of my addenda have to do with snow…hmmm.  Can you tell what’s been on my mind?  Speaking of what’s on my mind…let’s move on to the new conclusions that have been reached.

Snow…snow…and more snow

Snow…snow…and more snow

Conclusion 6: Minnesotans are resilient.

Have you seen how much snow these people get?  It’s ridiculous and, no matter how much it is, they just keep going.  This is a strange concept for someone who grew up in, umm, I dunno, let’s just say Arkansas.  In a place like Arkansas, two flakes is cause for mild panic.  Five flakes is a cause for mass hysteria.  And ten flakes is cause for hibernation.  Somewhere around eight flakes it becomes impossible to find milk, eggs, or bread at any grocery store, gas station, or farm.  But in Minnesota, they just keep going.  Think “energizer bunny.”

Conclusion 7: The best time to go to Wal-Mart in Minnesota is in the middle of the Vikings vs. Packers game.

So, one volleyball game doesn’t seem much different from another volleyball game.  Wait…the Vikings do play volleyball, right?  Kidding!  They play baseball.  Anyways, I went to the grocery store without thinking about it.  Boy, did I make an AMAZING decision.  The store was dead.  It reminded me of the time that I went to buy beer in Missouri when the Cardinals were playing in the World Series.

Conclusion 8: Ice fishing is for real.

I had heard about it…but now I know someone who does it.  What has my world come to?

Proceed with caution.

Proceed with caution.

Conclusion 9: Starting your car before you get ready to drive in the morning sets the tone for your day.

This can really make or break your day.  If you do not pre-start your car, then your day will be cold and unforgiving.  If, however, you do pre-start your car, there is hope for warmth and happiness throughout your day…but only if you pre-start your car.  My fingers normally go numb while I’m driving, especially the left pinkie.  You think that’s a joke; unfortunately, it’s not.  I wish I was.

Conclusion 10: Minnesota is a land ripe with opportunities to DISCOVER.

What is it that you would like to discover?  How to survive if great quantities of snow?  How long should you actually wait for a lift bridge? Where is North?  What does a gigantic mall look like at 6 am?  What does nice mean?  Whatever it is that you would like to discover, you’ll find something worthwhile in Minnesota.  Put on your curiosity cap; let the state surprise you.

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A van is…

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A van is something you live in…or so I was told by a kindergartener the other day.

Comments like that stop your heart when they come from the innocent and pure lips of a bouncy five year old whose greatest concern is making it to the bathroom in time.  How does a five-year old come to a place where she defines a motor vehicle as “something you live in?”

Having worked in a few different schools, I have encountered a variety of students: students from affluence, students from poverty…students with supportive families and students without…students who find school easy and students who don’t…The wide variety of students has allowed me to practice various techniques and to find strengths wherever I look (or at least try).  I have known of students to be excited by  a free pair of socks or rolls of toilet paper.  But a student who identifies a van as a place of residence…it’s new to me.

And it puts things in perspective.  Right now, my concerns are paying for groceries with my limited stipend.  But apparently I am not too concerned…I just took a mini vacation (couch-surfing included…pictures and stories to come at a future date…be excited).  And I know that if my budget gets too tight, my parents will help me out.  So in the grand scheme of things, my concerns are non-existent.

I’ve never lived in a van.

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Construction Equipment

I don’t know a whole lot about construction equipment.  And when I say that I don’t know “a whole lot” I mean that I know next to nothing.  I do know that there is this piece of machinery called a bulldozer.  From what I understand, this machine pushes things over to make way for something new. (Remember–I know next to nothing about this stuff.)  Generally, people aren’t compared to bulldozers.  I think that would be seen as a negative comparison.

Another negative comparison would be a “push over.”  My limited knowledge has no recollection of a piece of machinery called “push over.”  It’s just something used to identify people who can’t stand their ground.  Like I said, a negative comparison.

So, I’ve had this thought rolling around in my head for a while: “Am I a push-over or am I a bulldozer?”

In my newest position as an AmeriCorps tutor in an elementary school, I have actively been trying to make a decision.  I have to provide a certain level of respect to all of the classroom teachers…all the while fulfilling my duties.  I have used the bulldozer/pushover comparison in describing the situation several times.  It is quite the conundrum and I have no answer.

Maybe I should simplify.  I will decide to be a hammer.  There are two sides to me…I can smack someone down or I can pull someone up!  Yes.  I am a hammer.  Multipurpose,…essential on every carpenter’s belt.  Don’t mind me as I beat my way towards building a more literacy-filled future for St. Paul’s youngsters.

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Conclusions of a New Minnesotan

Having lived in the Twin Cities for approximately six weeks, I feel that I can now draw some conclusions. I’ve taken time to observe everything from the weather to the people to the food.  As of now, here’s what I know.

Conclusion 1: Minnesota has gorgeous summers.

A glimpse of beauty from a Minnesota summer

No joke.  For someone who is accustomed to the heat and humidity of the Ozarks (northern Arkansas/southern Missouri), this mild-mannered summer is a dream come true.  Back “home”, I couldn’t imagine going for a bike-ride in the middle of the day.  Up here though, the world is just warming up to the low 90s (on a hot day!) and mid-day isn’t frightening.  I’ve heard loads of people complain about this extra-hot summer…I just chuckle.

Conclusion 2: St. Paul’s hills are beastly.

…and I live smack dab in the middle of one of them.  Either way I chose to go when I leave my house is a hill, up or down.  I can start out by going down, but eventually I have to go back up!  There’s no rest for the weary around here.  A couple of weeks ago, I decided to check out a new bike trail.  Heading out of the trail head was a breeze…literally.  Coming back in to my car–beastly.  I will confess: I walked my bike partway up.

Freshly-picked produce

Conclusion 3: The Twin Cities residents are very nature-oriented.

Hair products…weekend plans…fresh produce.  The people up here like to know what’s around them and how they can use it.  It is so refreshing to be surrounded by people who are turned into nature like this!  I am inspired to stop showering, bike everywhere, plant a vegetable garden and raise chickens.  Okay, that’s an exaggeration.  But I do find myself hitting up the farmer’s market on a regular basis, sometimes on my bike! (Okay…confession: I drive to the bottom of the hill, park, and then bike the rest of the way to the farmer’s market.  Remember–beastly hills!)

Just an average day in a not-so-average place

Conclusion 4: Biking is awesome!

Need I say more?

Conclusion 5: Minnesotans are curious.

When Minnesotans hear that my move up here was my first visit to the state, they are impressed.  When they find out that I didn’t know anyone up here, they comment, “You’re brave.”  And then they proceed to ask me about my work, my family, how I found a place to live, and what brand of underwear I wear.  Okay, maybe they don’t go quite that far.  But they do ask a lot of questions!  The first few times this happened, I was a little freaked out.  There is no reason for complete strangers to know my whole life story.  But now I have the whole story practically scripted.  And then there’s my roommates, bless their hearts.  They always want to know about my day and my parents and my lunch and… I’m still trying to get into the swing of sitting down and chatting whenever someone walks in.

 

After six weeks…that’s all I’ve got.  With ten and a half months ahead of me, I have plenty of time to learn a bit more about these Swedes and draw a few more conclusions.  There are others swimming around in my head, but five is such a nice, round number!  Why would I want to muddy that up?  Stop by later to find out what else I’ve learned.  Supposedly winter will be brutal for a newbie like me…we’ll have to wait and see!

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Out of My Control

I like control.

I never have control.

This is something that I am continually noticing as I progress through my life.  When I graduated from high school, I had a plan.  Screw that.  As I approached my senior year of college, I had a really great plan.  Screw that.  I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Just throw a hammer at that.

Time and again, I am reminded that I am NOT in charge of my own life.  That often makes me nervous (see first sentence in this post).  But then some little thing happens and I become thankful that I’m not in control.  God has a way of popping into my life at the moment when I need Him most…when I am about to get lost in my own head.

I was sitting around, trying to figure out a budget.  As an AmeriCorps member, that is very important.  My income is pretty tiny…and, as anyone can tell you, living is expensive.  So, I have these numbers swimming before me (there are also numbers about volunteering hours, intervention scripts, interstates…but those are for another day).  I am wondering how much I can really afford to spend on food if I want to be able to drive to work.  A new song pops onto Pandora:

I’ve got waves that are tossin’ me

Crashin’ all over my beliefs

And in all sincerity, Lord

I wanna be Yours

You Lead by Jamie Grace

This isn’t a new song to my ears, but in that moment the words were so deep and fresh that it seemed new.  I do not belong to this world or the restrictions of my budget in this world.  I belong to God.  And even when I don’t see how things will work out…He’s got it under control (as long as I don’t busy-body my way in to the driver’s seat).

The song goes on to say, “I know what You got for me is more than I can see.”  Just another reminder that God had waiting for the right moment and the right time.  My eyes pick up on the “right now.”  I have spent the past week in trainings and orientations…and it has been pretty miserable.  My brain is so wrapped up in the details that my heart has lost sight of why I am here.

1) God put me here.

2) I have an opportunity to do what I LOVE.

3) No one expected me to move halfway across the country to not get paid (I love surprising people)…that’s just bonus.

With all of that being said…man, it’s great to be reminded who’s in control.  And fifteen minutes later as I am wrapping up this post, Pandora continues to surprise me.  Who knew that God controlled the radio?!?

How great is our God.

Sing with me….

(Chris Tomlin)

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Changing Weather Patterns

So, I just moved to Minnesota.  In every conversation that I have with a native, the topic of weather comes up.

“Have you ever experienced a winter?”

“You don’t know how to drive on snow, do you?”

“Do you have a coat?”

The list could go on.  The inquisitiveness is just one of the things I’ve noticed in this breed of Scandinavian-blooded people called Minnesotans.  There have been a lot of subtleties catch my eye, but none more significant than their phone use…or lack thereof.  This is one of those things that could be associated with their age (most of the people I’ve been spending time with are over 25…I’m fresh out of college).  But I do think that their background plays a hair of a part.

I am use to having half conversations with people.  There is always someone or something at the other end of the cell phone interrupting, butting in.  Whenever there is a dull half of a moment, the phone comes out.  If you are in a group of five people, chances are at least one person is active on their phone…chances are it’s more like three.

But things are different here.  I have whole conversations with people.  I have conversations without ever seeing the phone!  I was beginning to doubt that was possible!  I am so relieved, though, to find out that it is.  So, what does this mean for the breed called Minnesotans?

It means that they are more real and independent.  They don’t require connections to people 24/7.  Instead of losing themselves in a virtual world, they would prefer to invest their time and energy into you (or whoever happens to be standing next to them).  I love that!  These people make me feel like I, an AmeriCorps volunteer hailing from Arkansas, am significant.  It took my best friend and roommate of three years a lot of effort to make me feel that way.

Best Garage Sale Find Ever

 

These people are great.  And, in case you were wondering, I do have a coat.

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No Turning Back

I just moved halfway across the country to a state I have never visited.  I am living with people I have never met.  I got a job that pays less than $900 a month (technically, it’s a “year of service” with a living stipend…AmeriCorps).  And I am more excited about the possibilities ahead of me than I have been in a very long time!

I no longer feel the need to write about “Chasing Rainbows.”  Right now, I am content to rest under a warm, blue sky and bask in the glory that is radiating down from God.  Not glory on me…but glory on all that He has done.  Moving to the Twin Cities was never part of my plan…it wasn’t even on my radar!  Working for AmeriCorps was also never on my radar.  I am a walking testament to the truth that “God’s ways are higher.”  There is reinforcement from every side that I am in the right place.  Doubts flooded my mind these past couple of weeks as I prepared for the move; but God has continually reassured me that this was His plan all along.  In thinking on this, I came across a verse:

The heart of  man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)

I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. (Proverbs 4:11)

I tried so many plans on my own…but they were all my plans, on my own.  It wasn’t about me.  It has never been about me!  This is all about His will and His timing.  So as I dive into this new adventure, I will be holding tight to that truth.  He has designed a path for me…better than any I could imagine.

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