Scattered Stones

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I don’t know how many times I’ve read these verses in the last six months. As the inspiration behind the theme “Living in God’s Time,” these verses provided the structure for Bible study and worship this summer at Shetek. Consequently, I spent a lot of time reflecting on what it really means to live in God’s time as well as thinking about what different seasons I have passed through in my own life. I’ve experienced times of weeping and times of laughing, times of searching, times of new birth, times of silence, and times of speaking, just to name a few. However, currently I find myself in a season I haven’t experienced for a while: a season of uprootedness and a season of scattering. Maybe it’s the crisp autumn air and quickly changing leaves that always makes me a little bit homesick; maybe it’s all of the incoming Concordia StonesHomecoming Facebook invitations; maybe it is the list I just received in the mail of the upcoming retreats at Shetek; maybe it is the Snapchat of my beloved Concordia roomies all hanging out at last Saturday’s home football game; maybe it comes in the form of a song, or a movie quote, or a memory captured in a photograph hanging on my wall. Whatever the cause, I have been missing my friends and family back home a lot lately, and to be honest, I feel a lot like a plant that has been uprooted or a stone that has been scattered. And I’m not sure how to feel about it.

Before I continue, let me clarify that I still LOVE Colorado. The mountains still take my breath away (literally and figuratively), and I don’t think I could ever tire of exploring the hidden treasures of Denver. My Urban Servant Corps community is one of the most incredible support networks I could ever ask for, and I have learned more about life in the last month at my service site placement than I ever could have imagined. (And I work with some really, really cool people. And then I get to come home and hang out with some more really, really cool people. So in that respect, life is very good.)

There is no doubt in my mind that I am exactly where God has intended me to be. My heart is very much at peace with that. But that doesn’t erase the dull pain of missing all of those who I love best—my family and those who have known me my entire life, the friends who were by my side all through elementary and high school, the camp friends who became a whole new kind of family and who probably somehow know me better than anyone else ever could, my beloved Cobber friends: roommates, campus ministry superstars, psychology nerds… The list goes on.  Hence, the feeling of being scattered and uprooted.

Although it is painful, I don’t know that my current state of uprootedness is a bad thing. It is forcing me to look at and experience life from a new vantage point—one without the comfortable safety net of those who have known me forever. I can certainly feel love and support from home crossing state lines, but my USC community has become my new immediate support network. And I have gotten to become part of theirs. There is something really beautiful about the vulnerability that comes along with suddenly having to completely open yourself up to 14 strangers. (Although by now we’ve all definitely moved past the “strangers” stage. I’m telling you, these people are wonderful.)

This season of uprootedness, scattering, and vulnerability has also helped me better allow myself to understand the lives of the people I work with every day at The Gathering Place. Sometimes, as a white, privileged young person with a brand new bachelor’s degree from a private liberal arts college, I feel completely like an uprooted plant plopped down in the midst of suffering that I’ve never before had to face or, if I’m being completely honest, ever had to fully acknowledge existed. This new season of uprootedness has forced me to see the harsh realities of poverty, homelessness, and mental illness. And in return, it has allowed me to begin to truly embrace individuals facing those circumstances as fellow journeyers on this crazy, messy adventure we call “life.”

This new season also allows me to understand myself better—to rediscover and reaffirm the areas of life for which I am most passionate. To apply the knowledge I’ve been collecting in classrooms for the last four years (or really 17 years) to the “real world.” To perhaps catch a glimpse of where my life fits into the much bigger picture of God’s creation.

And yet, maybe instead of a total uprooting, I am experiencing more of a “root extending.” Every day, Denver starts to feel a little bit more like home. (I’m not there yet, but it’s definitely happening.) Yet, in my heart, home will always be my family’s South Dakota farm. But also Keeley Island on Lake Shetek. And the campus of Concordia College in the Moorhead tundra. My definition of “home” continues to expand, so who’s to say this definition won’t one day expand enough to include Denver and this beautiful community here? Perhaps the growing pains brought by this season of uprootedness and scattering will lead to new growth, a beautiful new creation that is still just an abstract thought. However, in the meantime, I will continue to pester my wonderful friends and family back home (or in the places to which they too have been scattered) with phone calls, letters, and obnoxious Facebook posts. And I will continue to step forward day after day into the Denver sunshine (and occasional thunderstorms) and into the arms of a God who is every bit as present here and now in the midst of my uprootedness as in any other season.