Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Airport Saga

There have been a few times in my life when I have been stretched to my limit, in one way or another. For most of this semester I've wondered what would happen if I hit the absolute limit of stress I could take. I had a chance to find out somewhere between sunset on December 18th and noon on December 19th.

I had an amazing visit with Ferns. We spent the day of December 18th finishing up a last few things – taking group pictures, playing piano and violin. Mr. Fern showed me his t-shirt printing press. We went out to eat mid-afternoon. It was time to leave for the airport at about 5:00.

We were very quiet on the way there. I was tired, and I could hardly believe I'd hit the end of my trip; I was starting to try to adjust my mindset to what I'd face when I got home. The sun was setting on the drive there, and it was gone by the time we reached the airport.

I climbed out of the van and gathered up my luggage. I said goodbye to the Ferns, hardly knowing how to do so – goodbyes are awkward things. Then I went to check in my checked bag. After that it was time to navigate the Atlanta airport. Honestly, I was terrified of finding my way.

I had checked in online, so I just had to go straight to security. I waited in line, and then hurriedly sent my stuff through. I got through the metal detector and began gathering up my stuff.

An alarm went off at that moment. Security guards yelled at everyone to get against the ropes, and suddenly there was a flurry of uniforms as guards rushed around. I stood there against the rope in my socks, almost afraid to breathe.

“Secure over here!” a guard near me called.

I heard the cry echoed around me. A security official moved forward and said something I didn't catch, and then the lines started moving again.

Well, this couldn't have gone off without a hitch, I told myself. Now I've got all the trouble for this flight out of the way.

I braved the tram system, terrified I'd end up getting off at the wrong place. I found my terminal safely however, and then sought out the right gate. I settled down on the floor in a corner, my back against the cool, dark glass of a window. I had about an hour before 8:09, when my flight was scheduled to take off. I don't really remember what I did; I believe I read more of Mere Christianity. But then several anxious airport employees started rushing to talk to the lady at our gate. I watched somewhat nervously. Soon an announcement was made: our plane had electrical problems. A part had shorted out when the plane connected to the gate. They had to get a new part from another part of the airport. The flight would be delayed.

I didn't mind. I don't get bored easily, and I like having time to myself. I had my laptop in my carry-on, so I pulled it out and wrote in my computer journal a little. As time wore on, I got worried. My mother would be waiting for me in Shreveport, and I didn't know if she would know what was going on. I went to the attendant at the desk of my gate and asked where the nearest payphone was. She told me, and even gave me a complimentary calling card. I went over to the payphone, and started trying to call one of only two phone numbers I have ever memorized: my mother's cell phone. I tried... and tried... and tried... and tried. No answer. Eventually I gave up and went back to sit down.

It had been about an hour and a half since my flight was supposed to leave. A soldier on his way back from Korea was sitting in the chair beside me. A young mother with a two-year-old son was sitting across from me. The little boy had a small stuffed panda, and the soldier and I played catch with him. It made me smile.

I tried to call my mother again. Once again, no response. I was getting frustrated by now, not to mention tired. I went to a nearby coffee shop and bought a small iced peppermint mocha. Then I wrote the lyrics to Storm by Lifehouse in twisting patterns around my left arm. I was asked multiple times later that night if it was a tattoo.

Finally we got the word that we could board. It was about 11:30 at night. By now I was very worried, because I was afraid that my mother would be frantic with worry. We all hurried onto the plane, and I found my seat and settled down with my soft red hoodie in my lap. We took off, and started climbing slowly. I began to wonder why this plane was ascending so much slower than the last one I had flown on. I just wanted to sleep now though; I was so tired.

Within about ten minutes however, the captain's voice crackled over the intercom. “Well folks, I thank you for your patience tonight. I know the flight was delayed for a long time, and I realize that you all are trying to get to Shreveport...”

This can't be going anywhere good.

It wasn't. He told us that the electrical problem was not in fact completely fixed; the plane had not registered that the new part was installed. As a result, the plane had automatically activated emergency systems, which were primarily comprised of a large fan serving as a generator that had popped out on front of the plane. This is why we'd been accelerating so slowly. We couldn't maneuver. So we were going back to Atlanta.

At this point in time I felt something inside twist very, very tight, and then snap. I was going back to Atlanta. What if I was stuck there overnight? Where could I go? I didn't have the Ferns' number. I didn't have any phone. I didn't even know if my mother knew where I was or what was going on. I had very little money, and at that moment felt completely small and alone. I rested my head on the seat in front of me and sobbed.

I cried and prayed all the way back to the Atlanta runway. We finally landed. The captain told us another plane was waiting at another gate to bring us to Shreveport. We all got off the plane. It was about midnight by now.

We went to wait at the other gate, where the captain had instructed us to go. It was at this point that I finally managed to contact my mother via payphone. I told her I was going to try to get out that night.

It wasn't long before they told us that they would not in fact be able to get us out that night, because the entire airport was shutting down. They had just two desks open, and we all huddled in lines, waiting to get replacement tickets worked out.

I was standing by a girl who looked somewhere near to my age. I started talking to her, and soon she drew a guy about our age into the conversation. All three of us were college students, from schools in the East Texas or Louisiana area. The guy, Zach, was on his way back from a mission trip to Prague. Cali had been on a trip with her family. It was oddly comforting to actually talk to them for a few minutes; it felt like school. Normally this would not necessarily be comforting, but at least at this point it felt familiar.

Cali and her parents worked out a deal with Zach (who they had never met before that night) that they would rent a car together and spend all night driving back to Louisianna. I said goodbye to them, and then moved up to the desk.

The told me they could put me on standby for a flight at 8:30 a.m. They gave me a confirmed ticket for 8:09 p.m. They shoved me a little stack of papers, which they informed me were meal vouchers that I could use in the airport, and a hotel voucher. I gathered them up, and asked for more complimentary phone cards. The fact that I was even willing to ask shows how desperate I was. The two desk workers dug through their bags and handed me the few they had. Each card had just 5 minutes on it.

I hurried over to the payphone. I attempted to connect to the internet, but I had to pay for that. I tried calling my mother, and finally got her to answer after multiple tries. She told me that she was on her way home from the Shreveport airport after getting the word through another lady waiting for the same flight that my flight was canceled. I asked her what in the world I could do. She said I could do one of two things: first, find my way to a hotel and use my voucher. I had no idea where to find a taxi, how much it would cost, or even how to use my hotel voucher, so I said I really didn't want to do that. She suggested I try calling home, getting the number of an aunt who lives in that area, and asking her to help me. I had to hang up then, as I was running out of time.

I was fighting back tears again now. I called home. I heard my older brother's familiar voice on the phone.


Hey. I need Aunt A's phone number in the next 60 seconds.” I stumbled over the words, I was trying so hard to suppress a sob. I had to repeat myself, by which point more valuable seconds had ticked away.

My phone card ran out before he could get me the number. I started on a new one. My cousin, who was staying at home, gave my older sister the number so she could dictate it to me. I scribbled it down in the notebook I always carry with me, and then hung up.

I tried to call my aunt. I tried over and over. She wouldn't pick up. I had barely enough time for a single call on the phone card. I had no one else I could contact, no where else to go, no one to help me.

I banged my forehead against the metal case of the payphone until my vision blurred. Then I stood up and gathered my things. It was 1:00 a.m., according to my watch.

I started walking down the terminal. All the elevators were off. All of the escalators were off. I continued walking, crying half from exhaustion, half from a feeling of complete helplessness. I forced myself to keep going, Slooking for some employees.

Finally I found the cleaning crew. I asked them if there was any way open to get out of the terminal. They pointed to me one small escalator in a corner. It was a start, and I took it.

All the trams were closed down at this hour of the night. I saw maybe a total of ten other people in the hallways now. But I walked. I was going to get to the baggage claim area and take it from there. I knew from when I had flown in that the baggage claim was more than half a mile away. I walked as fast as I could, as fast as I do when I'm almost late for a class. My shoulder was aching from the weight of my laptop bag, but I didn't stop for long enough to switch shoulders.

I reached the baggage claim, and found my way outside. I wandered down the abandoned sidewalk for a little while before meeting up with Zach, Cali, and Cali's family. They were waiting for a rental car to arrive. I asked them if they knew how I would get transportation. They directed me to someone back inside I could ask, and then wished me good luck. I'll probably never see any of them again, but it was so good to have some people actually willing to help in what small way they could.

An airport employee directed me to a taxi. I told the driver where I needed to go, and she looked at the voucher. It wasn't a long drive. The air was heavy with a white fog, which I could only really see when we drove under the ghostly glow of streetlights. Finally we reached the hotel. I paid the driver, and got out with my things. I had $6.08 left to my name.

I gave the hotel voucher to a very tired looking employee at the desk, and had to fill out some paper work. I was given my room key. My room was on the second floor.

Once I was in my room, I dumped my purse and my carry-on on one bed. I turned down the thermostat, as the airport had been very hot and stuffy. I had no clean clothes; only what I had in my carry-on, which was mostly computer stuff and books. I crawled into bed at about 2:00 a.m.

My mind would not shut off. I felt like I had to be doing something to get myself out of this terrible mess. I begged God to help me to lay it to rest. I lay in the dark, softly singing worship songs and praying.

I was about to doze off when the phone rang. I sat up, debating for a split second whether I should answer it or not. The risk that it could be someone calling to help me and I'd miss it was too great to take. I picked it up.

It was my aunt. She was making some calls for me. She asked for some ticket information, and I dumped the vouchers and boarding passes out on the bed beside my carry-on. To this day I'm not sure how she got my hotel room number, but she promised to make more calls, and to call and give my mother her number. She hung up.

I had my laptop charging on a table. Now I opened it and put on some of my favorite calming music: For the Moments I Feel Faint, Pieces, You Are My Hope, Angels Fall Down, Come My Way, How Deep the Father's Love For Us, and Whispers in the Dark (Acoustic) are the ones I remember.

I dozed with the light on between phone calls for the next two hours, getting maybe a maximum of 45 minutes of light sleep in. Basically, my mother told me to contact her when I could tomorrow and let her know what was happening. She gave me her credit card information. She told me she had e-mailed the Ferns and asked for their number, but of course they were in bed.

My aunt basically told me that I needed to be on a shuttle to the airport at 6:30 the next morning in order to make the gate and wait on standby for the 8:30 flight. She said if I absolutely could not get on any flights, I could call her and she'd try to come get me.

I had nothing more I could do. I turned off the lamp and curled up in bed. There was no working alarm clock in my room, but I can normally rely at least somewhat on my mental clock. It was 4:00 a.m.

I woke up and grabbed my watch. It was 6:10. A few minutes later than I wanted, but the best I could expect in this case. I got up and gathered all my stuff together again. Even though I was in a hurry, I automatically performed the last check my father has always told us to do when leaving a hotel room – I searched around to be sure I hadn't left anything. Then I hurried downstairs and turned my room key in at the desk.

It was still dark outside, and the air was heavy and humid. I waited with several other people who were trying to get to the airport. The shuttle arrived at 6:35, and we all managed to get on, though it was very crowded. I was grateful that my carry-on was still somewhere in the airport.

The drive to the airport went by fairly fast. I got off the shuttle and went in to security, after making sure I wouldn't have to check in (which thankfully I didn't have to). I got through security without any problems, and went up to the terminal where my standby boarding pass listed the flight as leaving from. I went to that gate, and found that the gate for the 8:30 flight to Shreveport had been changed. A kind young soldier saw me looking a little lost, so he asked if he could help me. I told him I needed to find a gate, and he gave me directions to the nearest set of screens displaying all the flights and their gates. I moved out into the terminal. Dare You to Move by Switchfoot came on the radio playing throughout the terminal, and it made me smile. That's been one of my “theme songs” for this semester, and it was so encouraging to hear it then.

I found the new gate without too much trouble, and sat down to wait. The sun was up by now, though it was overcast outside and only a thin gray light filtered in the big windows. I watched planes taking off, disappearing into the thick cloud cover. I envied them.

The guy beside me started talking to me. He had also been on my flight the night before. Mr. Lee told me that he had been flying at least once a month for the past two years, and this was the first time he'd had any kind of trouble. That was vaguely comforting, as it meant not all my flights would be like this. He was generally encouraging, mostly just because he was so cheerful.

I watched everyone board the 8:30 flight. No extra room. All of us who were waiting on standby were told that another flight was scheduled to leave at 11:20. I moved out into the terminal to try to find this new flight. I was getting better at finding gates, so it only took me a few minutes. I knew I needed to call my mother. I pulled out my stack of complimentary phone cards. I made a guess as to one that might have a few more minutes left. I was lucky. It had 3 minutes left on it.

I explained to my mother what was going on, and that I was going to try to get on the 11:20 flight. I was so tired I was just hoping I sounded coherent. She asked me if I had anything to eat. I realized then that aside from a small bag of chips, the last thing I'd eaten had been at 3:30 the afternoon before. So I promised I'd use one of my vouchers to get something to eat.

Of course, I didn't want to leave my gate area in case an announcement was made that I needed to hear, and I definitely wasn't leaving the terminal, so I was stuck with whatever restaurants were there by me. The only one was a Burger King. All fast food breakfasts make me feel sick, but I had no choice. I ordered a breakfast sandwich and also, in a moment of abandon, a piece of chocolate cream pie.

I sat at the gate, eating my breakfast and watching the standby screen. My stomach very soon started telling me I would regret eating this. I forced myself to finish, because I know it would be better in the long run. After a few minutes I decided to eat the piece of chocolate pie. It actually settled my stomach considerably. It was messy, and I have no idea what the other people waiting at the gate thought, but it made me feel better in more than one way.

I still had two hours to wait, so I moved and curled up on the seats by the window. I wanted to sleep, though I doubted I would. I managed to rest for a while, but not sleep. I pulled out Mere Christianity and continued reading.

11:20 approached, and the gate attendant announced that this flight would be delayed. I wasn't quite as worried as I might have been, considering it was doubtful I'd even get on this flight, but I was impatient to find out what I'd have to do next.

The flight was delayed for half an hour. I stood waiting, watching everyone board. A few of the people higher up on the standby list got on this one. I prayed, as I so often had through the night and the morning, and I waited.

There was no room for me on that plane. I started formulating a plan of action. I could beg someone to use their cellphone and hope I could actually get in contact with my aunt and convince her to come get me. Or, I could just wait in the airport for another 8 hours until my confirmed flight left at 8:09. I realized I was crying again. I stared somewhat despondently at the screen, trying to find the courage to take one path or another.

I glance down for a minute. I saw Mr. Fern walking down the terminal towards me. My tired brain couldn't process it. Someone was actually here, someone familiar. It was going to be alright.

I must have talked Mr. Fern's ear off as we took the tram to where Elder Fern, Younger Fern, and their sister were waiting. Normally stress makes me really quiet, but I think I was just so glad to actually see someone familiar that I was babbling anything that came into my mind. We met up with the Ferns, and went out to the car. I felt his hazy glow inside that was not just happiness, but a feeling of complete safety. Younger Fern had mountain dew for me in her knitting bag. They had tissues for me (which I desperately needed), and trail mix, and hand sanitizer. They drove me back to their house, buying me lunch on the way.

That afternoon washed away the stress of the night and morning before. I showered, finally got some more cold medicine, watched some videos on my laptop with the Ferns, and just talked. I felt so fortunate to have an extra afternoon with them, even if the reason was not necessarily my first choice.

That evening Mr. Fern took me back to the airport. I said goodbye again. I went through security very quickly (there's something to be said for practice), found my gate quickly (despite the fact they'd changed it and not told me), and got to board the flight on time (which I could hardly believe). I got home and was met at the airport by my parents, Telpe, and Mar.

The experience was very stressful, and I can't pretend I was calm while it was happening, or even that I handled it well. But for me that really wasn't the memory that I took away from it. What I carried away from it was the fact that the Ferns came for me. I had to wander around lost for a while, but I was not forgotten; not abandoned. They were willing to do everything they could to help me. That's something I'll never forget. I may have been the main character in that story, but they were the heroes. God was making a point to me, which I'm not sure I really know completely how to talk about yet, so I'll leave it at that.

So that's the airport story. Props to anyone who read the whole thing.

God bless!

- Elraen

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Georgia Journey Day 4: Musical Endeavors

Tuesday was comprised of three primary factors: 1, music. 2, Christmas shopping. 3, my voice sounding more and more like John Cooper's.

Younger Fern and I continued our efforts to play violin and piano together with as few pauses as possible. We're definitely improving. I have the advantage, because not only have I been playing piano for longer, but I've been playing the pieces we're attempting for longer. I'll have to take some pictures of the music room before I go home.

Mr. Fern came in last night and pulled the enormous double bass out of the corner, and joined in with us. Adding in a third factor made it very interesting. I had been automatically adapting my tempo to keep pace with whatever Younger Fern was playing, but Mr. Fern wanted to actually stay on tempo (which obviously would be easier for him, considering the fact that he was sight reading... not to mention that it would then be correct). The result was that we often ended up in three different places. I found it very difficult to keep tempo with both Younger Fern and Mr. Fern at the same time – I typically ended up with one or the other, or somewhere in between. There were moments when it sounded really beautiful though – Into the West in particular.

After dinner Mr. Fern started teaching me some simple guitar chords (I would be continuing to practice them now, but I decided to blog; oh, the sacrifices I make for my responsibilities!). I learned G, C, and D. The challenge is to remember them all and learn how to switch between them quickly. I've wanted to learn guitar for a long time now, so it was fun to finally get a start. My fingers are definitely not quite flexible enough yet (piano flexible and guitar flexible are two totally different things), not to mention the fact that I have no callouses. But I enjoyed starting to figure it out.

We spent most of the afternoon Christmas shopping. I can't talk too much about that, because a few family members read this, but it was fun. I got most of what I needed, and even wrapped them all that evening. Which was good, because before yesterday I had only one present bought.

I also found something that I bought for myself: a LotR 2009 calendar. They didn't have one last year, so it was incredibly special to find one that has really good pictures.

I still had a sore throat. My voice got lower and lower, and more and more scratchy. This morning it feels a bit better, but it always does in the morning. I'm also coughing more now. Fortunately I'm not being called upon to do anything too strenuous, which helps.

I believe I'll wrap this up so I can post it and eventually wander upstairs to find Younger Fern (Elder Fern has work this morning). I can't believe I'm on my second to last day here...

- Elraen -  

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Georgia Journey Day 2 & 3: Raspberry Cheesecake and Pictures of Straws

Two in one this time; I was too busy Monday morning to write up a post.

I really enjoyed the Ferns' church on Sunday morning. First of all, it started late, which gave me some great sleep-in time. Second, and more seriously, I loved the worship and I loved the sermon. The music there is great; both Mr. and Mrs. Fern help with it (Mrs. Fern on the keyboard and Mr. Fern on the bass). The sermon was also very good. Only the Fern parents, Younger Fern, and I went, as the other Ferns were all sick. We got back, and those who had stayed home already had pizza ready for us for lunch.

The primary afternoon activity was making some raspberry cheesecake bars (gluten free so Younger Fern could have them). That was a lot of fun. I feel so at home when I'm working in the kitchen; I just worry I'm not helping out enough.

We also spent some time in the craftroom, where I was awed and amazed by the Ferns' quilting prowess. Being here makes me feel really lazy, because all of my work is done on the computer; graphic design, video editing, writing, and so on. They're always doing things with their hands, and I feel so pathetic!

We had a good dinner, after which we watched a movie together – Sneakers, which I believe was made in the 80s. It was a well-paced, engaging movie with great cinematography, and I very much enjoyed it. We ate the aforementioned raspberry cheesecake bars (which were delicious). I got to bed at roughly 11:00.

Monday morning started off with breakfast, followed by Younger Fern and I heading down to the music room. I played piano for a few minutes, she played violin for a few minutes, and then we started actually doing it together. It was a lot of fun, and I was amazed by how quickly Younger Fern could pick up melodies.

At 11:00 we headed out to meet Warrior Maiden. We met at Chick-fil-a (which was also a unique experience for me, as it's been many years since I've been there). We spent some time scrambling for conversation, as none of us are known for being loud! But it was fun to see Maiden in a smaller group of people than at the moot. Every time we had nothing to talk about, we started taking pictures of the most random things – like straws. Younger Fern, Maiden and I all have pictures of straws on our cameras.


We had to head back at 2:00 so Elder Fern could go to work, so we took group pictures and then split up.


Younger Fern and I spent the afternoon looking through moot pictures (I think I'm the only one with Mangy's pictures, so she wanted to see those) and iSundae II (one of the Ferns' movies) production pictures, as well as the full-length blooper reel once Elder Fern got back.

By this point it was quickly becoming apparent that I was catching the cold that had been going around the Shafer family. The primary symptom for me was (and is) a very tight, scratchy throat. This is always the primary symptom when I get a cold, for whatever reason. So I constantly had a drink with me, whether tea or a water bottle.

After dinner Younger Fern and I continued to play together in the music room. We must have done that for about an hour before the Dragon Keeper chat started (if you're reading this and you're not a Clean Placer, half the things I'm saying won't make much sense). Then I hauled my laptop up to the loft so we could all attend together. It was great fun to watch the legendary Ferns at the chat. I got to talk to my mother, as she is a regular chat attender, and I also worked on this blog entry.

I headed to bed right after that, cough drops in hand. Hopefully this cold won't be too severe – I don't mind being sick, but I don't want to bring it back to my family!

- Elraen -  

[PS: I haven't figured out how to re-set the timezone on my blog yet.  I most definitely did not post this at 5:45 in the morning; it was closer to 8:45]

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Georgia Journey Day 1: Airport Adventures + Dinner Guests

Yesterday I got on a plane for the first time in 14 ½ years. It was early in the morning, and I was very bewildered, but fortunately the airport personnel were very helpful in guiding me. I got on the tiny plane and found my way to my seat. I was sitting in a window seat just in front of the wing, and when I bent down to look out the window I could see the flaming sunrise reflecting off the wing.

I was sitting beside and elderly lady, who started to talk to me. I quickly found out that she was the wife of a very wealthy owner of an engineering company. She told me about owning her own horse stable, and casually mentioned flying to Germany several times a year and her friends in South Africa. We eventually got around to the reasons we were both flying. While I was flying to visit friends, she was flying to babysit her grandkids while her daughter hosted a corporate Christmas party. I repeat: she was flying from Arkansas to North Carolina to babysit. Talking to her was definitely a peek into an alternate universe.

When we took off we stopped talking. I was too busy looking. As the earth below stretched out in a darkened tapestry, I looked towards the east and had a perfect view of the sun rising. It was an amazing sight. I really should have taken pictures, but I was too caught up in the moment.

I dozed some on the plane, which was good, because I desperately needed the sleep. The flight went by very fast. We landed very early, but had to wait for nearly half an hour for our gate. I talked some more to the lady sitting beside me, and she wished me the best of luck in my education and told me not to get married until I had a degree. On that note I left the plane, and started looking at the signs for directions to the baggage claim.

According to said signs, I walked well over 3000 feet to get to the baggage claim. That's over half a mile, and it took me almost half an hour. Meanwhile, Ferns were calling my mother's cellphone, which I was supposed to have but had forgotten, wondering where I was.

As I got closer, my shoulder aching from the weight of my laptop briefcase, I was completely focused on getting to the baggage. Nothing else mattered. I'd get there, and take it from there...

I felt a light tap on my shoulder and turned around.

Hello,” Younger Fern said.

I was too surprised to know exactly how to react. They had apparently been waving to me and trying to chase me down, but I was too focused (or half-asleep, either works) to notice!

We found my baggage, and then we went and found their car. I was introduced to Mr. Fern somewhere in here; he's a lot of fun, and I immediately felt comfortable around him. We drove back to the Ferns' house, where I got to meet the two youngest members of the Fern family, and got to see Mrs. Fern again. The primary obstacle lunch provided was figuring out their kitchen, but fortunately they were glad to help.

At about 2:00 we took off again, headed to meet Rivus and runningtiger, two more Clean Placers. We had all met Rivus before (I had met him twice, but not in the past year and a half), but none of us had met RT.

Atlanta traffic on a Saturday around Christmas time is absolutely unbelievable. It took far longer than it should have to get to the Borders book store. But when we did get there, we easily found Rivus (thanks to the long black cloak). We went inside and spent a good deal of time hanging out together in the cafe area. I think I listened more than I talked, and I laughed more than I did both put together. It took a while for us to really get warmed up, but once we did we had a lot of fun.


I have to say this here. There are lots of people at my school. There are lots of nice people at my school. But I would willingly say I'd never see anyone at my school again if it meant being able to stay with those people around that table. I've spent very little time with people this semester; I've gone to a total of four campus events, and three or four walks with different friends plus Lissi's visit has made up the entirety of my “hanging out” time this semester. I've had an overwhelming feeling of never belonging anywhere, save when I'm alone. So to be there with these amazing people who actually wanted me there, who didn't mind talking to me, who absolutely fill my heart with light, to be able to laugh not because I thought it was appropriate at that point in the conversation but just because I couldn't help myself... it was something that felt entirely new to me, after so long. But it was absolutely incredible.

We were having such a good time that Mrs. Fern graciously invited Rivus and RT to come to dinner. After Rivus called and consulted his mother, they accepted. So we caravaned back to the Ferns' house.

Rivus played piano for us, and was amazing (though not so much so when RT pulled his hood down over his face). We had a wonderful meal of beef stew, garlic bread, and broccoli. The dining room was full, and we all talked and laughed and enjoyed being together. By the end of dinner my stomach was aching from laughing so hard. The whole Fern family has a great sense of humor, as does both Rivus and RT. The combination was deadly.

We finished off the evening by taking a few group pictures. I think it would have been hard to say goodbye if I had thought much about the fact that I quite probably would not see Riv and RT for months or years to come, but at the time I was so perfectly content I didn't think much about that. After that I spent some time just talking to the Ferns before heading to bed (early).

It was an amazing first day, and a very good way to start off the trip. God truly has blessed me with my friends. And I can't believe I still have so much more time ahead with the Ferns – I get the feeling it will seem far too short.

- Elraen -


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Do You Feel?

Right now I'm smack in the middle of Finals week (as those of you who have heard the groans reverberating throughout the state of Texas will know). Monday was the hump I had to get over. Everything after that I can handle; it was just Monday that needed to be dealt with.

I worked four hours on Monday, one of which was because my coworker was an hour late. I had two finals, one of which I had to get an A on to pull my grade up to a B in the class (that's Biology). The other one, English, I only had a few hours to study for. It was a long, long day.

The English exam that evening was insane. It was 9 pages, one of which was an essay. Everything else was fill in the blank and short answer; everything from critiquing poems and the declaration of independence to defining terms like “logic” and “rhetoric.” I finished with just 10 minutes to spare.

My friend Emerwen, who was in the class with me, had waited for me, so we started walking back together. We talked about the final, and the other finals we'd had that day. I started talking about my Biology exam, and my coworker being an hour late to work. I was exhausted by this point, but relieved, and ready to just rest. As we talked, I made the comment that it hadn't been the best day ever. A guy I know by face alone happened to be walking by, and he turned around and looked at me.

“Would you mind telling me why today wasn't the best day ever?” he asked.

I hesitantly and briefly explained, knowing I wouldn't like why he'd asked.

“Let me put it into perspective for you,” he said.

For the next 15 or 20 minutes he sat there and told me about all the horrible things that have happened in his life (from his brother getting sick on his wedding, to a guy dying under his hands, to his parents divorcing, to him having to go to military school and then Afghanistan). Every few minutes he said he was putting things into perspective for me. Emerwen and I would glance at each other occasionally. There was nothing else we could do. He finished by telling me I shouldn't ever complain about what's going on in my life, because it could always be like his.

I don't know if I could possibly describe how bitter he was; the anger and the bitterness burned behind his eyes with a coldness very like to hate. I wonder if anyone is ever going to tell him that God can heal bitterness. I wonder if he'd care.

That was an absolutely awful way to end an already stressful day. I felt so sorry for him – not necessarily because of the things happening in his life, but because he was so willing to drown in his own poison, and so lost in his own pain that he was willing to let it hurt someone else.

After talking to some friends about it online, I felt somewhat better. But I continued to think about it that evening. All day I had had a song by The Rocket Summer stuck in my head. The chorus is as follows:

Do you feel the weight of the world singing sorrow?

Or to you is it just not real?

Because you've got your own things

yeah we all have so many things.

It struck me that this characterizes us so often – like the guy who stopped to talk to me, we lose ourselves in our own “things,” our own issues, and in doing so we forget the bigger picture – the “weight of the world singing sorrow.” There are things out there so much bigger than me. I may be stressed out by a long day of finals, but in the end I have to challenge myself not to dwell on it, because there is a world out there that needs me to be a light in the dark - not just another shadow of lost potential, a remnant of abandoned love.

Also: I strongly believe no one should ever tell anyone else that they should not be hurting. That is the same to me as stabbing someone in the back. We do not have that authority. We can never know what's going on in someone's head and heart, what battle is raging behind their eyes. There have been days when someone has ranted to me about something, and I absolutely could not understand why they were upset. That's OK; I love them anyway, in whatever way I can. We all have our things. It's when we forget everyone else's things that we run into problems.

And I so often forget this. I walk out the door and all I can feel is the weight of my responsibilities, and my problems, and my pain, weighing down on my shoulders. But that guy who talked to me that night did give me a new perspective; not because I suddenly felt like I was unworthy to hurt because he had it worse, but because I understood that everyone – not just him, not just me, not just a pastor or a mother or a lover – has to look past our own problems if we want to let God use us to change the world. None of us can do this alone.

So I guess the challenge to myself is not to be paralyzed by my “things.” It's OK to have a bad day, and to hurt, and to be stressed; it's not OK to let it paralyze us into a state of introverted self pity.

What would happen if I stopped focusing inward on my own issues and how bad I've got it and started supporting others in their struggles? I think God could use that to change the world. In fact, I know He could, because that's called love.

Do you feel the weight of the world singing sorrow?

- Elraen -

Saturday, December 6, 2008

This is my latest poem for the current project we are working on for Clean Place.  The form is Terza Rima, and the theme is penance.

Broken Sky

Sooty clouds choke me, cause my vision to dance
as the scent of sulfur scorches my dull skin.
Chains rub bloodied sores as I breathe my penance.

I can't taste the wind of grace in empty sin,
and my chains assure me I was born for this.
Death is a demon, and he invites me in.

The last bullet is fired, yet I watch it miss
as His arms stretch out across a broken sky.
Please tell me, how did my penance become His?

Chains slide from bloodied wrists, and I know that I
came alive on the day that I watched Him die.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Semester 1 = Complete

Today I finished off my first semester of classes. I still have finals to survive next week, but the actual class time and homework side of things is over. And honestly, it’s hard to believe.

This semester has been interesting, in many ways. There have definitely been things I’ve had to adapt to, as a homeschooler going into school for the first time; probably most notably just having teachers and figuring out how to interact with them. I’ve learned to get over a lot of my fears about asking questions (though I’ve got a ways to go on that one). I think I’m a lot more able to carry on conversations without awkward pauses, though people still keep telling me I’m quiet (honestly, I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t). I have not learned much more about how to make friends, though I do know more about how to appear friendly (little things go a long way). I learned a lot – probably more in Biology than any two or three of my other classes combined. I tried to find the balance between home and school life… I’m still searching, and probably will be for a long time. I watched some relationships change. Through my mostly shallow interaction with my classmates I learned to value the relationships I have with the friends I’ve had for the past two and a half years, mostly through forums. I developed my poetry writing skills and went places I’d never been before in that realm. I worked a new job, and found out that some jobs actually are just a joy to work. I found out I love helping people. I developed what I refer to as my Theory of Grades, which guides my reaction when I fail a test or when I do really well on a test or when I’m doing homework – basically always. I turned to the dark side and started drinking coffee. I found some new music. I finally watched The Dark Knight. I skipped chapel more than I should have, but I was never once late or absent from a class. I didn’t answer e-mails or messages anywhere near often enough.

In many ways I couldn’t really form an opinion about this semester yet; it’s too early, and I’ve had no time to process anything. The whole thing is like a sooty smear across my memory; I can’t make out any clear shapes, and I can’t quite decide what color it is yet. I might as well say that I’m still not sure whether I’ll continue my education after this coming semester… it’s going to depend a lot on what God tells me and how He leads me over Christmas break and this Spring. Honestly, if I were going off my experience this semester alone, I would drop out in a heartbeat – not because of the academics, but because I’m tired of living two lives squashed into one and never having enough time for the people in either. But I think I need to keep going for a while longer, because my experience next semester may be greatly different. I won’t know unless I try… and I really felt like God had led me here. I’m not giving up on that unless I am told very strongly otherwise.

Over Christmas break I’ll be going to Georgia to see some dear friends, catching up on forums, hopefully writing, seeing a cousin I haven’t seen in eight and a half years, and most probably doing other things as well. However, most of all I want it to be a time of resting, thinking, reconnecting with God, and figuring things out – there has been very little time for that these past fifteen weeks.

I’m off to write a poem for the Extra Credit project on Clean Place. Have a great day!


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A New Blog


I'm not sure why this is, but I seem to want to have every single different social page on the internet.  This is my second blog.  I have three YouTube channels.  I have accounts on nine different forums (only three of which I am currently very active on).  I have two photobuckets.  I could go on.

Anyway, much as I like my old blog, there are a few different reasons for using this one.  1) I always felt like I needed to make really long posts on the other one.  This will not be the case with this blog.  If I do write a long, meaningful post, I will post it on my xanga in addition to here; however, this will be more for short tidbits.  2) Blogger is just better than xanga, honestly.  After all, this one lets me edit the HTML!  I am so going to mess with that when I have more time.  3) Most CPers use blogger, and I read several of their blogs anyway, so I might as well get one that's compatible.  4) I already technically had a blogger account anyway, because I helped out with the moot blog this summer.  5) I was already basically blogging through facebook; I recognized that my obsession with writing notes there might get old to those I tag, so I might as well just start a proper blog again.

My old blog is here: .  When I say old, I mean it's almost two and a half years old; I posted on it a bit this summer, but only once this fall.

Anyway, this blog is one of several projects I hope to develop more fully over the upcoming glorious Christmas Break.  For now I'm still playing around with it.