Tuesday, March 31, 2009

For the Clean Placers: Three Years

Community. It's a word I've thought about a lot these past few months, for a variety of reasons. Essentially, what it embodies is the concept of not walking alone – of walking in honesty, and in love. It's something my involvement with To Write Love On Her Arms has solidified in my head. Today especially the idea of community is heavy on my heart.

Three years ago today, at roughly 3:00 in the afternoon, I knelt beside my younger sister, who was sitting at our parents' computer. I explained to her how to spell “Telpënen,” and she had to copy and paste it into the forum registration form because of the special “ë.” She finished, and I sat down and registered. There it was. I was a member of a forum, for the first time.

Something I've only recently really started to admit to is that I did not want to join Clean Place. My mother made me. I had been writing for as long as I could remember – as I like to say, I write for the same reason I breathe: it keeps me alive. But for me the benefits of getting regular feedback on my writing would be outweighed by having to be on the same forum with my younger sister (believe it or not, we were not on speaking terms half the time before we joined Clean Place, which changed everything).

It was Telpe who had suggested we join. Linte had gone on a mission trip over Spring Break, where she ate breakfast with Kalmiel (a childhood friend). Linte came home and ended up on Clean Place. Telpe talked about it a lot, and suggested we both join. I remember reading over threads before joining (back then, you could see almost everything without registering). My primary memory is thinking that Punkin had an adorable baby in her avatar, and whoever that ChildoftheKing person was, I probably wasn't going to talk to her because she had a Narnia avatar.

When I joined Clean Place, I was 14 years old – it was 3 weeks to the day before my 15th birthday. For the past year, I had had no close friends, no one I even knew well enough to enjoy spending time with. I was very bitter, and very angry. I had no interest in getting close to anyone.

But within my first few days on Clean Place, something quickly became apparent: the angsty 14-year-old was absolutely desperate to be loved. I was far too nervous to message with anyone, but a few people messaged me. The first person I ever messaged with was a girl named Bethel. The second was a member named Fidelity, better known as Faith.

Through the forum I was reunited with childhood friends Kalmiel and EveningStar, who I had not seen in 7 years. That led to a meeting to perform a Live Action Role Play for their younger sister. That was May 19th. I got to meet another Clean Placer who lived in our town. Emerwen scared me half to death the first time I met her – she became loud to account for being afraid, and I became very, very quiet.  In time that changed, of course.

That first summer was interesting. Because of Clean Place, I now had a small group of friends – we called ourselves the Fellowship. I struggled with interacting with them constantly, which mostly showed on the outside in the form of either anger or silence. I honestly had no idea how to be a friend, but I was trying to learn, and it was a difficult process.

Months and years slid by. I met an out of state Clean Placer, my adopted brother, in February of 2007 (as written about on my blog earlier). Over time I watched the face of the forum change. Members came and left. That first year we went through some devastating losses. We were younger in the beginning, and looking back, that definitely made interactions different – I'll never forget the time I blew up at Midget over the Relient K vs. TobyMac controversy, or all the arguments that occurred due to that first RPG I was part of (and the last RPG I will ever do, as I was so traumatized by that one). Then there were fights that broke out in the Win Game, or the time one member started posting hate mail around the forum about another and I was running around in the areas I moderate trying to delete it... not times I miss, though I can laugh about them now.

I thought it might be fun to just share a few of my memories of the past three years... things that a few people reading this may remember.

...whole afternoons spent in the games section (which was much smaller but more active back then)

...the day Rivus and I posted on every single thread on the last two pages of Next to the Sink

...June of 2006, when I promised myself I'd work as hard as necessary to win the squabbles that month, and I actually managed it

...writing out a sort of “alternate ending” of Lord of the Rings with Sarrasi through PM

...that first SuNoWriMo, and the satisfaction of finishing a novella for the first time

...the feeling of awe when I got into the IS and found out what everyone looked like

...taking Child's music recommendations and subsequently becoming obsessed with Relient K

...filming my movie, posting updates on Clean Place every few days

...long walks in cloaks

...starting a thread on “Trust,” which quickly became a very in depth discussion that I wasn't ready to have

...the day Mattropolis nicknamed me “The Country Elf”

...the day Mar got Soni to add the above nickname to the list of official nicknames

...when a lot of Cpers started listening to Pieces by Red at about the same time in Spring of 2007

...talking to Lissi on the phone for one of the first time and having no idea what to say

...talking to Lissi again a few weeks later and being asked if I was talking to my boyfriend (!?!)

...watching Legossi climb down into Twilight Vale alone, at her insistence, even though she'd broken her leg two weeks earlier

...trying to convince Legossi to slow down (she got ridiculously fast on those crutches...)

...the night Rivus wanted me to start using g-mail, and he tried to e-mail me there but I had forgotten my address and just made a guess so he ended up e-mailing a complete stranger

...seeing the “Whispers in the Dark” lyrics in Emerwen's g-chat status in April of 2007 and asking what song it was, because the lyrics were so beautiful

...Midget's shock when she messaged me Red songs and I actually liked them

...having a really incredibly terrible 16th birthday, which was only kept bearable by all the incredibly sweet birthday notes and graphics from Clean Placers

...winning the poetry poll twice (because Wolfsong wasn't entered either time)

...SuNoWriMo 2007, writing 101,000 words in one month, and watching Rivus post all over the forum about it after I told him my word count

...getting Nia and Twinkie as new mentors and thinking I would never listen to them because they weren't Mangy

...being proved wrong about Nia and Twinkie

...listening to Maranar and Rivus singing “The Hairbrush Song” together and wondering whether to laugh or choke

...copying hundreds of pictures to my computer and making slideshows

...sitting at my computer crying, looking at the moot 2007 pictures

...sitting at my computer crying again, looking at the moot 2008 pictures, but for totally different reasons

...sleepovers with the Texan Clean Placers, listening to music and taking ridiculous pictures until way too late into the night

...word wars, and remaining undefeated on my word count

...countless hours of poetry feedback

...writing a paper on Mangy for my first college class, and having my teacher announce that she sounded like an incredible person

...walking up to Mangy's back door and hearing screaming from inside the moment my cloak was spotted (and wondering if now would be a good time to turn and run in the opposite direction)

...sitting on the road side waiting for the police, listening to Caspian and Nia tell stories about car wrecks

...way too many laptops in Panera

...IMing with Legossi every morning because we were typically the only mooters up and online before 8:30

...finally singing Relient K with Child

...staying up late at Mangy's, talking with Mangy and Silver as we got food ready for the next day

...driving up Pike's Peak with a leaking transmission, listening to Epicon over... and over... and over again

...Caspian combing his hair with a fork

...Wolfsong stealing the marshmallows (which resulted in a chase over the mountain side)

...driving home from Colorado, thinking for hours at a time, and realizing that I wasn't the same person anymore

...finally being persuaded (due to Nia, Twinkie, and Wolfsong) to try freeverse poetry

...the insanity that was Snapshots

...walking home from a tutorial session one night and being glomped by Lissi, who was randomly standing in my front yard

...playing Skillet on the jukebox in the student center, rocking out with Lissi and Telpe

...flying for the first time in 14 years to see the Ferns

...riding in the car with Rivus and runningtiger, laughing too hard to keep an eye on the Ferns' car up ahead

...laughing more in four hours than I had in four months

...playing piano and violin duets with Younger Fern for hours on end

...watching Elder Fern spin and dye (every single time I smell anything even vaguely resembling the smell of yarn dye, I get flashbacks)

...being rescued by the Ferns after one of the most stressful events of my life

...receiving an incredible collection of talent and memories in the form of a moot scrap book

...walking out of class to see Anywhere walking towards me

...playing forks with Legossi, on the floor in cloaks

I could keep going, but that's more than enough.

Essentially, when I think about Clean Place, I think about community. A group of people who are living together – not in the sense that we're in the same physical location, because we rarely are. But because we live together. Late nights talking about life, death, hope, God, love, and pain. Prayer requests, PMs with the simple message hold on, ridiculous and random conversations, conversations that changed my life. That first year in particular, I spent a lot of time messaging with people and crying just because I couldn't believe people were actually willing to talk to me. That feeling has never fully gone away.

Clean Place has, in a sense, been the church body I never had. It's my family, it's my sanctuary, a safe place I go to over and over again. It's where I learn, it's where I play. I have grown so much as a writer, as a Christian, and as a friend through the years I've spent there. The people there are so beautiful, so gifted, so alive, and so very brave. I've walked with some of them through very dark hours. Some of them have carried me through my own dark hours.

When you're a teenager, a lot can happen in three years. God has changed everything I am in that time. I feel so fortunate that He's been able to use Clean Place to accomplish a lot of that.

God bless,

- Elraen, the Wandering Star

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Christian Book Expo

Well, I had an incredible and unique experience yesterday. I went to the huge Christian Book Expo in Dallas. It was the first event of its kind. It was also the first time I had ever been to anything like that.

My mother, Telpe, Anywhere and I got up early in the morning to drive over there. We listened to the Les Miserables soundtrack on the way. Telpe had taken the book Do Hard Things from our friend Linte's family's house (they were gone on a Spring Break mission trip), and I started to read it because I knew the authors, the Harris twins, would be at the Expo. I was immediately drawn in, and I ended up reading half the book on the drive over. I had to stop every now and then to just look out the window and take in what I was reading. I couldn't believe they were brave enough to say what they were saying. I started to feel incredibly warm and peaceful inside as I read it, because it started to resolve something that had been unresolved in my head for a long, long time now. I think I'll write a review of the book after I actually finish it.

We got to the Dallas Convention Center with surprisingly little hassle. We didn't even get lost. We did have to park a little ways out though, as the place was quite crowded. We walked down a rugged sidewalk and then into the building. It was quite large, so we had to ask directions once or twice to find our way to registration.

As a side note here, I've found something interesting these past few months: ever since my ordeal in the airport in December, I haven't cared about getting lost places or finding my way anymore. I have no problem with asking people for directions or instructions. I don't feel confused. It's funny, the way it worked out.

Anyways, we walked a long way before we reached the registration booths. After my mother checked herself in, we had to go to the family check in table to check Telpe and I in. I'll admit that I found it hilarious, ludicrous, and a bit humiliating to be checked in as a child. Because it was exactly a month before my 18th birthday, I could get in for free, but I had a different wrist band and was officially classified as a child. Anywhere and I were tempted to switch bracelets (she had to register as an adult), but that wasn't possible because mine would have torn. I realized somewhere half-way through the day that that was probably the last time I would ever be classified as a child. Oddly enough, the thought didn't bother me.

We went into the massive exhibition hall. I was very overwhelmed at first, as there were rows and rows of booths and displays. All I wanted to do was to find Legossi, who was there with her father, Mr. Davis (the author of the Dragons in Our Midst series). We must have looked lost, because someone who looked official came and asked us who we were looking for. We told her, and she said they had been over in the kid's area. So we followed her over there. The walk seemed to take ages, but that was just because there was so much to look at on the way. When we got over there, they weren't there, so the official-looking lady asked someone else, who said she had seen them over in the seating area.

So we walked back across the room again, and almost immediately spotted them. At this point Anywhere admitted that she'd noticed them when we came in, but hadn't thought it was Legossi. I felt rather silly for not noticing her.

One way or another, we met up and hugs and greetings went around. It was so good to see Legossi again. She was one of the first Clean Placers I met – she came and stayed with my family for three days back in September of 2007. Her parents are both really neat people too, so it was good to see them again as well.

Telpe, Any, and I were a little lost, so we just followed Legossi. We ended up in the children's section again. There we were greeted by Legossi's sister, “Mr. Bunn.” I had no idea she would be there, so that was a nice surprise (I met her last summer at the moot). She was getting her face painted.

We spent a long time in the kid's section. Legossi got her arm painted, and then was waiting to see if the lady would be willing to paint in her autograph book.

Oh, I have to mention this: Legossi had one of her hippo friends, PJ, with her. PJ had an autograph book, and Legossi was helping her collect autographs. Anywhere, Telpe, and I all signed it and left little notes for PJ. All day Legossi was busy getting more.

Anyways, we listened to a reading of a kids book, met Mr. Davis's publicist, and just looked around. By this point I was feeling really out of it. As most people who know me are well aware of, I am extremely dependent on caffeine, and if I don't get the right amount at the right times my whole system gets thrown off. So Anywhere, Telpe, and I decided to go find the Starbucks we had seen somewhere else in the massive building. We left the exhibition hall to go find it.

As we walked out, we passed two young guys who were walking with and talking to an older guy. One of the guys nodded to me as we passed. As soon as we had passed them, Telpe whispered “that was the Harris brothers.”  I just nodded.

It was incredibly weird to just walk past the authors of the book I'd just been reading. I had totally not been prepared for it, so I got really hyper and shaky for a few minutes. After that I calmed down. I sort of have this “meeting famous people mindset” I can get in where it's not weird at all to me anymore to talk to people who would be considered “famous.” But it always takes a few minutes for me to get into that mindset.

Anyway, we found the Starbucks, and all got drinks. I started feeling a little more normal almost immediately. We went back and found Legossi, after which we watched a reading/dramatization of the children's book The Princess and the Kiss. It was kind of cute. There were some guys there helping out with the dramatization who were from a town near ours, and apparently trained in sword fighting. Legossi told Telpe and I that she had seen them carrying swords just like ours (shanais), which made me guess that they might even be part of the Christian sword fighter's group that our teachers had been part of.

Well, we went to talk to one of the ladies who had coordinated it, and I was right. They knew Telpe and I's swordsmanship teachers. That was really exciting to us, to have that connection.

It was around this time that we met up with our mother again, with the general intention of finding something to eat. We three girls were fine with the idea of skipping lunch, but my mother wouldn't allow it.

However, on the way I did manage to get her to lend me some money so I could buy a book I've wanted for a long time – Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. I haven't read it yet, but I've read about it, and I've heard enough to know I really want to read it and see what he has to say.

Donald Miller was by the book display actually, signing. So I went over to get my book signed, as I figured this was a once in a lifetime chance that I would be crazy not to take. Not many people were at his table at that moment, so I got lucky. We went through the preliminary greetings (authors and musicians must get so tired of that), and he signed my book for me.

Now, this whole time I'd been wearing my cloak. So he commented on it, and asked why I wore it. So I explained that I'd been really into Lord of the Rings for years now, which had started it, and that I'd been wearing cloaks since I was quite young. So then he asked if I knew whether Peter Jackson was directing The Hobbit movie or not.

Before I knew what was happening, I was standing there discussing the details of The Hobbit production plans, how close to the books the script is likely to be, and how it will pan out with making two movies instead of one. Somewhere in middle of this the thought crossed my mind: Wait. I'm sitting here talking to Donald Miller about Lord of the Rings. How surreal is that? But I didn't really care, because it was a fun conversation.

I think a lot of people would say I wasted my time talking to him. I know I didn't. These past few weeks have totally changed my concept of meeting “famous” people. First I met VOTA, DecembeRadio, Bread of Stone, and the Newsboys, and then I met Donald Miller and later the Harris twins. One thing I've had confirmed for me, more than ever before, is that they're just people. They're cool people, people who God has chosen to use in a special way, but they're no more “special” than I am. They're fallen humans, redeemed by the grace of Christ. They laugh, they cry, they smile, they hurt, they tell jokes, and they make mistakes just like any other person would. Because of that, I've had this realization that I'm not going to have really intense, powerful conversations when I meet people like this. After all, I'm a poet, but no one expects me to spout off beautiful poetry in casual conversation (or at least I certainly hope not!). In the same way, it's almost more meaningful to me to talk to people (like Don Miller) about real, normal things. It proves they're real. It proves they're human too. It proves that no one is any more “worthy” of fame than anyone else. In the end, it's just a matter of who God chooses to use in certain ways, or (in the case of secular celebrities) who He allows to succeed for reasons we as humans couldn't possibly know.

So anyway, all that said, I had a good chat with him. I got to talk to him for a while, after which I went back to rejoin my group.

Telpe, Any, my mother, and I got lunch at a little snack bar, the only place selling food. The food was ridiculously overpriced. Once we started actually eating our sandwiches (we three girls were sharing two sandwiches between us), they just upset Anywhere and I's stomachs, so we gave up.

We went back and found Legossi again, as well as her friend. The five of us went and played the famous clapping game that Telpe and I taught everyone at the moot. We also played “forks” (there was an absence of spoons). After that Telpe, Anywhere, and I headed down the escalator to attend the Harris brothers' seminar.

We got there early, and I drank some water to try to feel a little better. We went in early, and Brett and Alex came over and introduced themselves to us, got all our names and where we were from. They were such friendly guys. I found myself wishing they went to my University.

They gave a great talk about the concept of Do Hard Things, as well as having a question and answer session. I enjoyed it very much, though I was feeling somewhat spaced out. Afterwards there was a signing. I went and mixed some of my caffeinated energy drink, which didn't really help much, but it at least mostly stopped me from shaking. Telpe had Linte's family's book with her to be signed for them (of course they had no idea she even had borrowed it), so she went first. Brett took it, and Telpe asked him to address it “To the _____” family. However, he accidentally just said “to _____” at first, so then he was trying to right over the “to” and make it “the,” which totally wasn't working. Alex was teasing him, but he also whispered that he should just get a new one. So Brett took Linte's family's book and slid it under the table, and then grabbed a new one and signed that. I couldn't help but laugh.

After that I gave them Telpe and I's book to sign, which they did. Then Anywhere got a picture of Telpe and I with them. I felt ridiculously tall, which makes me feel extremely awkward, but that's normal for me.

Afterwards we went back to find Legossi again. The afternoon is kind of a blur to me, because I started feeling really dreadful... I think it was a combination of not enough food, not enough water, not enough caffeine, lots of walking, lots of adrenaline, and the fact that I've slept really badly almost every night for the past two weeks. We did a lot more walking around and looking at things.

The Davis family left, and we had to say goodbye to Legossi. It felt like we hadn't been with her anywhere near enough time. About an hour later my mother got out of her last seminar, so we headed out to drive home (and get dinner on the way).

Overall, it was a very unique experience. It was fun to hang out with friends, it was fun to meet authors, it was fun to get new books and new experiences. For me, I've found it's a lot easier to enjoy myself if I got out of town. If I'm here anywhere in my home town, I can't stop thinking about everything I'm not doing – the homework at home, the dirty laundry, the unanswered e-mails. But when I go out of town my brain just accepts that I can't do anything about it. People ask me often if I enjoy something that I've just done. I never really know anymore – it's not a matter of whether or not I enjoy something, it's a matter of what I have to do and what I can't allow myself to do. But I think I enjoyed yesterday, for the most part. I'm not 100% certain I did, but I'm pretty sure.

God bless,

- Elraen -

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring Break '09 Thus Far

I don’t really have the mental or emotional energy to write a full blog post, so you’re getting a somewhat choppy one. I just feel like I should be doing something to update it.

I am on Spring “Break.” More like “Spring Extra Work” for me, but I’ve had a few extra hours of time, which I guess is better than nothing. Here’s what I’ve done since Spring Break started early on Friday afternoon:

- Ruined a pair of shoes puddle jumping

- Was practically begged by a blacksmith/martial arts teacher to take his classes

- Was followed home by a new sword (no, I had nothing to do with its sudden appearance…)

- Was called “Blondie” by a random old guy and told that I’m too tall so I need to be chopped off at the knees (can you say c-r-e-e-p-y?)

- Went to Starbucks, got an espresso and wasn’t even vaguely effected

- Printed 53 random pictures

- Watched Anywhere draw all over Telpe’s socks

- Spent two mornings doing inventory at the Library

- Streaked my hair blue with Sharpies

- Discovered that it’s very possible to sneak around the lobby, balconies, and dressing rooms of my University’s performing arts center without anyone finding you

- Discovered that keyboards are much more complicated than pianos and sound a lot worse

- Made my sister wade into a dirty pond (in the name of art)

- Headbanged in an elevator

- Swung on a swing for the first time in years

- Played piano by candle light

- Headbanged by fire light

- Burned a short novel’s worth of Biology notes while laughing gleefully and singing Skillet

- Listened through Relient K’s first two albums

- Spent an hour and a half sorting through records of government documents and attempting to match up bar codes

- Wrote a poem primarily consisting of Relient K’s song titles

- Discovered it’s a bad idea to try to dance to Switchfoot while holding a plate piled with hash browns and ketchup

- Did not do enough homework

There you have it, in a few words. I’ve finished up the absolutely necessary homework for two classes, and need to start in on my Biology paper and my Exegesis paper as well as starting research for a group presentation in Communications and beginning work on my History paper. “Break” is a relative term.

- Elraen

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Newsboys + DecembeRadio + VOTA + Bread of Stone + Meeting all of them = Awesomesauce

So, last night I went to a long awaited concert. Newsboys is on tour, and they came to my school (with the opening bands Bread of Stone, VOTA, and DecembeRadio). I had been looking forward to this for some time. Newsboys has always been a little special to me. The very first contemporary Christian song I ever heard was Shine, when I was at a skating party at 8 or 9 years old. We've never listened to that sort of thing at home – growing up the only “bands” I ever heard were Beatles, Beach Boys, and ABBA. I didn't know anything about the music world, or even what instruments they used, or that normal people listened to that kind of thing all the time. All I knew was that I loved the song, and every time I went to a skating party with our homeschool group I awaited it eagerly. It always made me smile.

That was about ten years ago now. So perhaps it's understandable that I'd be a little sentimental about finally getting to see them live, after so many years.

We got there early. I had a seat in the sixth row back from the stage. Everyone else I knew well was up in the second orchestra, so I was alone, but that's OK. I like going to concerts alone – in fact, I don't like going with people. Music is too special, in some ways. Concerts belong to God, and to honesty, and to abandonment of masks and pretenses.

We had some announcements from both my school and the local radio station who was sponsoring the concert, and then Bread of Stone came out. I had never heard them before, but I very much enjoyed them. Videos may be inserted later, if I manage to get YouTube to cooperate (it's just become slower and slower every month since I first started using it, I swear).


They didn't do that many songs, but I really enjoyed them. They reminded me almost more of Korean pop-rock rather than American.

After that, VOTA came out. I had only heard of them because my friend Joy had mentioned them on her blog – I had never heard any of their music. I had no idea what to expect from them.

I was absolutely blown away. They were by far my favorite of the opening band. With a unique style, great lyrics, and an explosive stage presence, I could easily see them gaining a lot more recognition in years to come. Indeed, I hope they do. The lead singer actually came down into the audience and was holding the microphone up to different audience members (he was all of 4 or 5 feet away from me).

They slowed it down a few songs in, and I started filming, because I loved what he was saying. Then they started playing a song, as I continued to film. It was the song Honestly (which I also intend to upload at some point). That was the song that hit me hardest by far out of everything that was played all night.

After that they sped it up again. The lead singer turned over his guitar to reveal big letters saying “VOTA LOVES TX!” on the back. I wish I'd caught it on camera. It made me laugh.


I was very sad when VOTA went off stage, but before doing so, they offered a free digital album to everyone in the room, which made me glad (because honestly, I'm too poor to afford a CD right now, but I really wanted to be able to get some of their music).

DecembeRadio came on next. They'd played for worship in Chapel that morning, so I knew what to expect. They were also a lot of fun. I love it when bands look like they're totally enjoying their time on stage – all the bands were like that last night.


After DecembeRadio, Duncan (Newsboys' drummer) came out and introduced the president of Join the Tribe, the mission this tour is supporting. He spoke for a while, which was really good, and thought provoking. I don't have any pictures of that. Afterwards we had an intermission. I went out to wander around and get some water, and Linte came and found me. We walked and talked, and got back into the auditorium right about on time.

Newsboys opened up with Wherever We Go. I can't remember the exact order of all their songs – it went by way too fast, and I was having too much fun to bother with remembering exact orders. I filmed and took some pictures.


One of the most memorable moments for me was they they started up playing Shine. I have a video of it, but it's not upload-worthy, considering I was jumping up and down and screaming and singing along so loud you can hear it in the video, and you really don't need to see/hear that. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed it very much.

Then they played The Breakfast Song, which was also pretty much awesome (once again, a video belongs here...). Of course towards the end they had to do the classic spinning drum set which they're famous for. That, of course, was cool.

And they finished off with I Am Free and another worship song. Afterwards, I went out, saying hi to friends I met along the way. I worked my way through the packed lobby with Linte, who then went to find Telpe. I really wanted to talk to VOTA. I found the lead singer, and hung back for a moment, terrified. I'd never talked to a band member before. He finally noticed me and said hello with the friendliest smile imagineable, so I shook his hand and talked to him for a moment, just to tell him that I really enjoyed their music and it was an encouragement and a blessing to me. He was really, really nice. I was too nervous to ask for an autograph or a picture, but I was glad to get to talk to him. Fortunately, he was so nice that I felt much more confident talking to other bands later.

Then I went back to find Linte and Telpe. I found Telpe with my friends Basil, Ian, and Caleb. Linte was apparently now looking for me. Eventually we all got back together. It turned out that Mercy had been given a sticker that would get her into a personal autograph line with the Newsboys – most people were only getting them if they signed up to “Join the Tribe,” but a lady had an extra, so she gave it to Mercy. So I borrowed Caleb's cellphone and called home to let my family know we'd be late.

Since we were waiting around, I decided to be brave again. I went to wait to talk to DecembeRadio. I took a picture for some other girls, then Telpe took a picture of me with the band. The first one was blurry, so she had to do another. As we waited, the drummer cracked a joke, so we all ended up making faces!


Then Telpe got their autographs, and I took a picture of her with them.


They were great guys – they were really funny (obviously, considering the above picture incident).

I went over then to talk to Bread of Stone. They were really nice guys, and I got them all to sign as well as talking to them for a minute or two. They're sort of small and unknown still, and I hope they do well.

Then, as Caleb, Basil, Telpe, Linte and I waited around, the same lady who had given Telpe her sticker came and said she had more extra, and she didn't want them to go to waste. So she gave one to the rest of us, and directed us to the signing line.

We were all freaking out. We went to stand in line, just about bouncing off the walls of the hallway we were so excited. I was afraid I'd be too impatient to stand in line, but I was having fun just talking, so it wasn't too bad. My line friends:


Then we actually got to the band. We all got autographs, and we got to chat briefly. Linte asked Peter, the lead singer, if he's ever actually barbecued and eaten hamster (a reference to the song Shine). I have no idea what inspired her to ask that, but it made me laugh.

Then Caleb asked for a picture, so we all got a picture with the lead singer:


We went out the door, and after a few minutes just broke down in random exclamations. None of us could really believe that had just happened. We were beyond hyper.

The boys walked Linte, Telpe and I home, and we all said goodnight and went inside. Any was there, as was Mar (who came home long before we did – he was also at the concert). Telpe and I were talking non-stop about everything that had happened, and Any was just listening and watching and laughing and laughing. It was late, but we couldn't calm down.

It was a special night. Not just because I got to meet some cool people. Not just because I got to hear some good music. But because sometimes it's good to step back, re-evaluate why I enjoy what I enjoy, and why I so rarely allow myself to enjoy it. I don't know if that makes any sense, but I'm still kind of in a daze. And I was given a few things to think about. Hopefully I'll have the time to actually do so.

God bless,

- Elraen -

[PS - in case you're not sick of pictures yet, there are a bunch more on facebook: here's the public link.]

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Anywhere's Visit: The First Two Days

Since Anywhere is blogging this and I'm reading it, I feel it's only fair for me to blog it as well from my perspective (though mine will most likely be a little less detailed, and less often updated).

The past three or four days have been incredibly stressful, not strictly because of school, but because of some other things going on. By yesterday I wasn't even sure what I felt anymore – I just wanted to be told that everything would be alright.

When I walked out of Speech class at 3:30, I noticed Linte, Telpe, Emerwen, and Anywhere walking down the hallway towards me. I think I smiled a little. I wasn't sure whether I should speed up and walk faster, or slow down, or call out, or make eye contact – fortunately moments of transition like that never last long. Before anything was said, Anywhere and I hugged and held on. It's been so long since someone dared to hug me like that.

We were joined by a friend from school (who had been in Speech class with me), Che, who stood in the hallway with us and told us stories about the exploits of great soldiers. I was mostly either watching Anywhere when I knew she wasn't looking (which is probably going to creep her out when she reads this) or trying to decide whether I should watch her or not. I do a lot of watching and figuring people out (something Linte and I have in common, which made me watch her and wonder what she was figuring out).

Eventually Che went back to his room, and they decided they were dragging me home because it was 4:00 and I hadn't had lunch yet. We said goodbye to Em. I see Emerwen more than I see most of my family members, so goodbyes mean almost nothing with her – I always know that within less than 24 hours we'll see each other again.

We went home, and I didn't really feel like eating, but Linte wanted me to. I felt a bit better about eating once we found out that Anywhere hadn't had lunch either, so I could make her a sandwich too so I wouldn't be the only one eating.

We looked at some older slideshows and movies on my laptop. It made me realize exactly how long it's been since I made one. Telpe had to go to work, but Any, Linte, and I (later joined by Mar) went to check my mail. On the way we met Draug, and introduced her to Anywhere.

We had hotdogs for dinner – there was a beautiful sunset out the window. I told Maranar that the sky was on fire. I don't think he appreciated the poetry in that statement as much as I did, considering he went off on some tangent about the atmosphere burning like in Doctor Who and how impossible that was.

I needed more of my caffeinated energy drink mix (which Ferns probably remember from my stay there), and Mar needed some things, so we decided to do a Wal-mart run. I suggested we all wear cloaks, and asked Mar if he wanted to. He was in a very hyper mood, so he easily agreed. I wore my beautiful greenish-gold cloak out in public for the very first time. Mar of course wore his black cloak, our older sister wore her cloak, and I offered Anywhere Mar's first cloak, which Telpe and I often borrow now. She said it was her first time wearing a cloak, which made me really excited for her (yes, I am a total cloak nerd, and not ashamed of it).

Maranar continued to entertain us throughout the car ride. We had fun in Wal-mart, as we always do. I managed to get a few pictures.



I think the check-out lady thought we were insane, especially when I started piling coins in Mar's hands to pay for my drink mix (I had had to dig through the bottom of my backpack and find old coins that had been under picture frames in order to afford it). On the way out, a couple asked us if we were with a play. It took me a moment to realize they were referring to our cloaks. Cloaks are so natural to me, even though I don't wear them anywhere near as often as I once did (cloaks, backpacks, and college classrooms don't mix very well).

We came home, and I had to face the fact that I was 140 pages behind in Bible and 10 in Biology. The others decided to watch Monk, while I settled into my customary corner at my desk to read and listen to Anberlin. Anywhere came over before going to watch Monk with my family and gave me a hug, which surprised me, but made me very happy.

By the time it was 11:30 and I had read 90 pages on different philosophies and world views, I decided enough was enough and went to bed. Anywhere was on her laptop across the room from me, right behind Maranar.

I was tired, and not even ready to process anything at this point. I didn't sleep well due to some really disturbing dreams (the only good part being Wolfsong blowing up a dam and surfing on the resulting massive wave using only his tennis shoes).

This morning (Tuesday) is my lightest school day by far, so my mother had planned an outing to the local Daffodil Farm. Two friends of my mother arrived to come with us, and Linte arrived at about the same time, so we all loaded into the van and headed out.

We had to drop Telpe off at art lessons, leaving my three youngest siblings, my mother and her friends, Anywhere, Linte, and me in the car. The drive is roughly 40 minutes. Being with a new CPer and being in the van, sitting the spot I sat in on the way to Garden of the Gods, Pike's Peak, and Camping really brought back moot memories – I talked about them for a while, which I hope didn't bother Any and Linte, considering the fact that neither of them had been at the moot to share the memories.

We got to the farm, and spent a good long while driving over dirt roads before finally parking so we could take pictures.







The last picture was taken on a second (and final) stop.

We went home, and I had a few minutes to eat something before rushing to Bible class. Class was good, but I was struggling to stay awake, which is unusual for me. The past few days have been so exhausting emotionally that my body, mind, and heart are all starting to shut down at once, and I felt sick in pretty much every possible way. I got home and tried to do precal for a while (Anywhere, Telpe, and Mar were on campus together), but I couldn't focus at all so I went and curled up in bed to try to read more of my Bible textbook. After about half an hour my brain started to shut down (as it invariably does if I try to do homework in bed). I ended up dozing for about 15 minutes with my textbook over my face. Which probably looked ridiculous, but I didn't care. I woke myself up exactly when I wanted to wake up and came back downstairs to finish precal.

All this is rather unimportant. Suffice it to say that Anywhere went off with Emerwen for the evening, Linte, Telpe, and I had our customary monthly Literary Society meeting to attend, and then I went to work.

Emerwen and Anywhere came to meet me towards the end of my shift, and we walked together. Em parted ways with us to go back to her dorm, and I got just a few minutes alone with Any as we walked back to our house, which was very special to me.

Telpe was lying in wait for us at the house, so we made tea together and then watched the moot play. I love watching that. It makes me so happy. I hadn't seen it since I last watched it with the Ferns, which made me miss them.

I really didn't feel like doing any more homework that night, and I'd done a lot that afternoon, so I watched an episode of Monk with my family and Anywhere before coming to write this.

There have been some hard things going on lately that have been testing my limits in new, creative, and painful ways. But something comes to mind as I think about the past week: before this, I had several weeks where I was happier than I had been in months. Not because of anything happening in my life, but because I was absolutely drowning in the current of God's love, and I felt absolutely lost in and in awe of Him. At the time I wondered what in the world was going on. Now I realize He was strengthening me with His strength. God's just awesome like that.

I have a separate blog entry that needs to be written as far as thoughts on this topic go, but that comes later. For now, I'm just going to say that... life is crazy, and insane, and I'm glad God knows what He's doing, because I definitely don't. I love having Anywhere here. On the one hand I keep feeling like I should apologize for who I am, and all I do and don't do – the way I'm awkward and withdrawn, the way I don't always have the right words to say, the way I forget I'm supposed to smile. I remind myself I felt this way for the first 8 days of the moot. It doesn't help much.

On the other hand, whenever I'm actually actively interacting with Anywhere, I'm happy and content. She is so gentle. I don't know if I can explain it, but it's something I admire so much more than I could say. It's something I strive for, but never quite reach. It's so... refreshing, and calming, to be with her. I love to listen to her laugh. I love her hugs. I love the fact that she loves Sharpies about as much as I do. I just love to be with her. I get to see just little pieces of who she is, and it's beautiful.

These next few days and weeks will be interesting. Over and over I remind myself that some days – most days, if you're like me – the best we can do is take it one day, maybe one moment, at a time, trusting God to love us through it.

- Elraen -