Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Adapting to a “New” (old) Life

Its weird being thrown back into the “real” world. Expected to continue on as if life has continued with normalcy over the past two months. For nearly everyone I encounter, it has. But for me and 17 others, the past 2 months have been transformative, life-changing, EPIC. Beyond expectations and ideas I attempted to construct about how this summer would go, I now find myself bewildered at what I just experienced. It seems that as the trip has concluded, I am only now beginning to recognize the ways it has been, could have been, and will continue to be life-altering. It also leaves me with a plethora of thoughts that I am still trying to sort out.

**We rode all the way into the ocean, with me leading in the Mother Falcon, and it was every bit as glorious as we ever imagined it would be.

**The best memories are the ones you sometimes don’t realize you’re making until the it is long over. (a shared laugh or cry or story or event)

**I actually miss sitting in a van with the same folks for 12 hours a day. It becomes refreshing to have a routine, to love people well, to ask important questions, and also the ones that start with, “Would you rather…”

**A single smile can go a long way. Some of the smiles in photographs I’ve been looking through have certainly gone further than the photographed imagined they would.

**Facial hair isn’t so bad after all…

**I want a bike.

**I miss Chicago.

**All I have talked about for the past 48 hours is the team, our adventures, and how great it all was. Yet when asked best/worst moments, I have a hard time… because I can’t find one single “best” moment (there are so many!!!) and I can’t think of a time that was bad. This is a good reminder of how blessed we have been!!!

**I was actually sad to not be making deli sandwiches for 18 people today. If anyone wants one for lunch, let me know…

**It was strange to walk into a restaurant with my parents tonight and ask for a table of 3. I’d much rather wait and get a table of 18.

**The party is always better with “The Booze” J

**I dread going to sleep at night because I know it means I have to wake up without the team beside me in the morning.

**I am thankful for the way family continues to be defined and re-defined in my life. (And for the many reminders of those who have graciously included me in their “family,” no matter how near or far they are.)

**I love people. When I graduate, I want my work to revolve around how I can better love people. My prayers is that God will show me the doorway to how I can best do that.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Preparing for the Final Ride

Tonight is the eve of our final ride together, and it seems incredibly surreal.

We have had a long, hard, joyful, trying and life-filled journey. In the moment, words cannot fully express all that I am thinking and feeling. Love and excitement are in the air as we spend an evening in Annapolis together, laughing, playing games, fellowshipping over pizza and as we check in with the “real world” via the internet. There is also a solemnity in the air as we are all beginning to realize what the exciting end of this journey (we made it!!!) might actually mean and look like (it is likely we won’t all be together again).

Today was a bit of a rat-race around DC, trying to coordinate between where the bikers were and how the support vehicle folks could get to them in order to enjoy the day together… DC is a pedestrian (and bike)-friendly city… but isn’t great for those of us trying to gather with them from the car. It was a bit of a run-around and frustrating, but it worked out in the end and we have safely arrived in Annapolis, Maryland. It was a reminder of at least one reason why I will be relieved when the journey continues, though.

More than not, I am confident that I will be increasingly sad and somber as the end draws near. I am surrounded by folks I would never have known or become friends with in my “normal” life. I have been challenged in ways I did not fully anticipate, in ways that I know have helped me to grow. I have been a part of a strong, supportive community that has introduced me to new people, places, ideas, activities, though processes and ways of life. Through the good and the bad, I have spent a significant amount of time trying to process all that we have experienced together, and as the summer draws near, I am increasingly aware of the new ways I have done this.

Community is a funny thing sometimes. In this case, it was a forced community that came together to support a common cause. We have remained so focused on this cause and on unity, that even in this “close” community I have realize I may have more “walls” here than I have in any other place in my life. Its interesting to think that we have spent nearly 7 weeks together, and I anticipate this group will see “a whole new side of Jen” when my sister arrives on Saturday… for it is when I am with her that all of my boundaries are collapsed, my life is laid out into a place of vulnerability, and I find one of the safest places I know. There are few people I find more safety in that in the (brief) presence of my sea-star.

Glad as I will be to be home, I am thankful for this journey. The weekend will be interesting… but awesome. I am actually really looking forward to tomorrow, when we will ride into the beach, arrive at the ocean (finally!!!), celebrate and camp on the beach, share in communion, perhaps sing a few songs and have a great time together. I hope the arrival and fellowship are as rich and powerful as we have dreamt them up to be.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Night to Laugh about and Remember

Most hilarious (and inappropriate?) presentation EVER in Princeton, West Virginia today.

It was a long, hard day anyway. Then for the presentation Criselda got up to talk about Blood:Water and couldn't stop laughing. She said, "we are trying to build 1,000 water wells in 1,000 different communities..." and started giggling so much that David had to take over. We laughed a lot with and at her... but some of the folks that came to hear us didn't. oops! (haha... they weren't upset, either, for the record).

Then some stories I can't take the time to tell here (haha!) but I will say that Don and Mike introduced themselves as each other... and good stories can come from that as well, lol. Oh, how I love this team!

We spent the evening talking about personality types. Specifically, Don is really into the Enneagram. I haven't really ever looked at it... so I started reading through the types and saw myself in a couple. I took the free 2-minute "test" and it was interesting... but I think I'm too tired to think about where I actually fit into it. Don pegged me straight away as a certain type... and I can see why, but I'm not sure I 100% agree with him. And b/c he already told me, I'm not sure if I'm just being biased!?!?! Anyone who reads this and knows me well familiar with it? I'd be interested in hearing what you think. (either here or send an email!) I plan to read through them tomorrow when I'm better rested (if that will actually be tomorrow?) and see how it goes. Things like this are so interesting... and yet it puts people in boxes sometimes too, so its hard to fully appreciate them. But who knows... I do love the Myers Briggs test!!!

1 week to DC. Crazy.

oh, and by the way... we're staying at First United Methodist Church of Princeton, West Virginia tonight. Awesome, generous, hospitable folks. LOVE them!
In UMC news, we have elected a new Bishop, Rev. Dr. Julius C. Trimble of East Ohio, at our North Central Jurisdictional Conference. He will be annointed on Sunday. Keeping that conference in thoughts and prayers, and wishing I could be there! (but I wouldn't miss this for anything!!!)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Day with the Mother Falcon

Today was a crazy day of one long roller-coaster!

It was filled with great beauty of the countyside. Including me driving all day. I have realized I haven't put up any photos of me with the Mother Falcon (our beloved name for the van), so here's one. You can't really see the big white 8-foot trailer we pull behind it, but I think you'll get the idea. It was Drew's birthday, so we had a good time trying to make his day as best as it could be. I think we'll try again tomorrow b/c of some stuff non-trip related that made that hard today.

I got to talk to my wonderful friend Rosie over lunch, and we're going to meet up in DC!!! This made my day. Then we went to a cute local festival tonight for dinner. It was great. I got to talk to Alicia (my sister!) over dinner... often during my "normal" life we have dinner dates, where she sits in her apartment alone (now in NYC) and I sit in mine in Chicago, and we chat and eat together. Cheesey, I know... but it was nice to do so again tonight even while I was surrounded by teammates. Even better? I may have talked her into coming for a brief visit while we're in DC!!!! So not only will I get to see her, but she'll get to meet the team... and they'll get to meet her!!! It will be great... and they'll get to see another side of me in which I have no walls and can trust in knowing and loving that she knows me so very well. I can't wait!!!

I also got a crazy email tonight from a long-lost friend that I just discovered is into biking. I couldn't be more excited to be in touch with her about everything!

Lots of crazy downs today too. A dear friend lost her grandmother yesterday... so I'm heavily praying for them. I hope you will too.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's adventure: Princeton, West Virginia. I've never been to West Virginia. Honestly, I never thought I wanted to go, haha. But alas, I am thankful we're going to new places on this trip... West Virginia no exception! I hope its as beautiful as the past few days have been!!

...also on my heart and mind is the ongoing North Central Jurisdiction meeting of The United Methodist Church. Anyone with updates is welcome to call/text me!!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Preparing for the Mountains

Once again, it is late and time is limited, but I do have a few quick things to say!

Nashville was amazing. It was SO great, I absolutely love this city, and every time I visit, it lives up to the expectations I made of it before my first visit. I think I still want to live there some day. I just need to find a reason to now.

That being said... my highlight of Nashville was Saturday: I got to ride!!!! :) (and for the record, a picture to prove I was in full spandex and completely unashamed!) I had never before been on a road bike, but borrowed Criselda's bike to take part in the city ride. Got to hang out with and ride with some cool folks (Jesse, Brianne & Charlie) during the ride - a welcome encounter away from the safety of the van. I rode for a humble near 20 miles- not bad for a first ride, I say! I couldn't have felt better afterwards, either... I only wish I knew how to get my hands on a nice bike so I could ride when I get home in the fall...

We camped last night and it was AMAZING. I've loved all the people we met in random small churches, but I do wish we'd been camping a bit more. Its so... refreshing to start afresh with the sun and chirping birds in the morning. Awesome.

We're now in Knoxville, TN. I'm starting to get scared of the realization that this trip is going to end some day. A day next week, actually. ugh. No good.

Lots going through my mind these days. Lots of decisions and things God has placed on my heart that is making my mind run constantly, my heart beat faster, and my love grow deeper. Its awesome, exciting, and terrifying. and I would have it no other way. In some ways, it feels appropriate that this is right now. It seems I'll be battling some mental battles, climbing some mountains of my own as we move East into the mountains... and I say, bring it on. There is no mountain we cannot climb, no struggle we cannot overcome.

I do not often have time to write while online (in fact, I am giving up essential sleep to do so now), but I do check in often enough to get the short notes and emails you send. Thank you. PLEASE keep them coming (or start sending them if you haven't yet!). Emails, text messages, facebook messages... I get them. I love them. They make me smile and bring me a new, bright, exciting kind of energy that can come only from the fresh air of the life that goes on around us while we're caught up in biking. I love the team, but there is no way I'd have survived this trip without your support. Thank you.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Quick, Brief, Over-due Update

It has been far too long since I've updated, and for that I apologize to any looking forward to thoughts from the road. I've had only minimal opportunities to get online, and am often so busy with life on the road that I find minimal time to catch up by taking time to write!

Today is no exception... I think we have most of the evening free, but I have some miscellaneous tasks I must get done, and it is my goal to ACTUALLY get some good rest tonight. I haven't done that in quite some time.

Since I last wrote, we exited Texas, and entered into Louisiana, where we stayed for only one night but had the chance to go and meet Matthew's dad in the hospital. We also got to eat dinner as a whole team with Matthew again, which was great. To top it off, my good friend Katie McKay was able to join us... and it was GREAT to see her!!! So refreshing...

We had a brief run in Arkansas, during which time Matthew joined up with the team to ride for the week (until we reach Nashville). Turns out after his dad met us and saw how wonderful the team is, he kicked him out and told him to join us ;). We are glad he did.

Upon leaving Arkansas, we had a day ride through Mississippi and landed in Tennessee. In Memphis we had a great place to stay - Habitat for Hope. Initially we were going to camp on their property, but it turned out they had no one staying that night, so we were blessed to be welcomed inside, free from mosquitoes and dreadful humidity.

Yesterday we were in Jackson, where we stayed in a place far more "LARGE" and eloquent than any place I imagined I'd find myself in!!! Our hostess could not have been more wonderful, though... and I had a GREAT conversation with another hostess, Leighann, that blessed me so much! I loved chatting with her, and this brief stay absolutely made me wish we could stay in some of these places longer!!! Check out the ride:well site for pictures of this palace... it was gorgeous and I'm sure others got pictures.

Jackson did bring with it some terrible circumstances that have been resolved to be okay by now. As the house was out in the country and kind of hard to find, one of the bikers put her bike (less one wheel) out by the front gate so others would see it and turn in. It worked! Don said he almost missed it, but because of the bike, didn't. When the last riders arrived, we went to get the bike... and it had been stolen. It was kind of like a bad dream and incredibly surreal... Our hosts could not have been more understanding, compassionate, and wonderful, and were on the phone with others in the community within minutes. By the end of the night, a bike shop had offered a great deal (half price!), someone had offered to donate the money, and she had the exact same bike (except colors) with all new equipment - including a pump and computer. AMAZING. God is so good... I'm not sure how that all happened, really.

We rode into Dickson today. Its a short ride tomorrow to Nashville, where we will spend the weekend with Blood:Water folks. There's even a city ride! Then Sunday night there's a concert (Matthew Perryman Jones, Sixpence None the Richer) to benefit Blood:Water. I'm really excited for it. I'm also really excited to have some down time. I think there are dinners with the team and Blood:Water folks, but that is SO different from a presentation or something... the Blood:Water folks are becoming increasingly like friends more than anything. So it will be good to see them. We have the ride Saturday morning, then are free until the show Sunday. AWESOME.

A bug has also been planted... and there is an extra bike... and someone offered to fit me for it tonight... so if we can work it out, I might ride a bit tomorrow. The team is, by now, a bunch of beasts!!! So I KNOW I'll have a hard time keeping up... and I'm not entirely convinced I can whip out 46 miles on my first ride on a road bike EVER (after doing minimal exercise over the past 6 weeks), but I'm excited to see how it goes. I am, after all, up for trying anything once. And who knows... I might surprise myself, haha

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

An Amazing Weekend on Tour

The past few days have been the most amazing days of the trip for a number of reasons.

First, it was great to see Aaron and the Blood:Water folks. We were treated like royalty in Red Oak (I actually stayed in Cedar Hill) by the folks of Oaks Fellowship. I am not exaggerating. They were absolutely amazing. We were blessed beyond ways we could even have imagined or anticipated, and it was like heaven to have a sabbath day and the opportunity to rest in Paul's home with friends that have become family. It was sad to leave there... and we definitely still wish Paul and Candice could have joined us...

As if Dallas wasn't already too much, Tyler was astounding as well. We had riders join us for the day, a HUGE event including a Sara Groves concert, and raised $86,000 (and counting)! It was awesome to meet Sara and her husband Troy afterwards... I've been a fan of her music for some time, and it was a strange turn of events for her to come to where we were staying after the show because she wanted to meet us. I was later forwarded an email from Troy that concluded with, "Everyones gifts coming together for a greater purpose. The most satisfying night in our 10 year career." Absolutely incredible.

I look forward to the journeys ahead with great anticipation...