Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Escapism / Athens

Some nights you're just driven to write. I should be doing everything else. Reading the Economy of God - 32 days left and counting. Putting in that extra hour for the Converse job - considering I came in late today and left early, with a 45-minute "I CAN'T STAND IT ANYMORE" break in between. Paying the final payment on my one and only credit card that is due tomorrow, doing laundry so I can go to work without looking like a blind person raided a gypsy's closet.

But I'm writing instead, just like yesterday I was asleep at 8:00pm and after work today I went to the library and lost myself in "the Big Girl's Guide to Knitting." Something transpired in the last few days which has made me feel more like an adult than just about anything that's ever happened in my life - strangely. I can't talk about it but the weight of it has affected my willpower - and pushes me to write.

It was not the weekend, though, the weekend was good. Pam and I - that is, Pam my best friend, whom I never mention enough in my blog considering how many memories we've made together and whom I am about to miss dearly - have been having what we've come to call "Sunday Adventures." I should have been writing them all, I've just been so blasted busy. Well, I suppose I can give a little summary now, since I've made up my mind not to do anything useful this evening.

We decided to make the best of my last few weekends in Spartanburg by going to church together. We used to go "church hopping" in college. No, not like searching for a church and never being satisfied, never settling down. We both are more or less comfortable in our own church traditions. We simply did it because we love the Body of Christ and were trying to get a glimpse of it in all its beautiful (and sometimes ugly) diversity - its hour-late ex-addicts, its white-robed feminist priests, its sincere Bible lovers. We went to a lot of different types of churches in Spartanburg and learned a lot of things.

But anyway, that's background. Our Sunday adventures are more about introducing Pam to my world - the churches in the Recovery, spread across the southeast. We started with the church in Charlotte - tailing a college blending conference and arriving for its climactic overflow meeting. She loved it. I could hear her saying hallelujah every time we said amen. We went to Simpsonville, and, well it was Simpsonville. She enjoyed it. We tried to go back to Simpsonville and got lost and ended up at Fountain Inn First Baptist - where the saints were friendly and sincere - it was Thanksgiving and we popped up to give our thanks when the invitation was given. We woke up late and had to stay in Spartanburg, so we visited her church, St Matthews Episcopal, where at the Sunday School our frank discussion of the Bible was appreciated by some while leaving others clearly out of their depth. We caught the last half hour of another Spartanburg church that seemed to be more interested in the victory of Christ than the Victor Himself.

And then it was the Christmas holiday, and then we were back to the blending trips. Columbia was next. I know when Pam is spiritually comfortable - she starts to close her eyes and rock in her seat and not care whether her prayers are audible or inaudible. The saints there were, in her words, "kooky" - but just as endearing to her as they've long been to me. She even followed them to an Asian restaurant - a sure sign of her love of their company - she hates Asian food.

That leads us to this weekend. The past week was my first full-time at Converse. I know that a 40 hour workweek is completely normal and I am certainly blessed to have it - however I am not used to it yet. I probably won't be before I leave for the Training and have to get used to something entirely new. Anyway, I was busy, and hadn't made the preparations as I ought, but we'd decided to go to Athens for the weekend. The Lord works everything out, though. I decided on a whim to invite Pam to Simpsonville for the Wednesday night prayer meeting. There we found out my dear friend Anna L, who was on break from the training, was planning to serve in Athens and voila! Instant traveling companions.

I can't believe it had never occurred to me how famously Anna and Pam would get along. Two separate, very different aspects of my life - deep-rooted memories, deep-rooted friendships - thrust together and somehow it clicked. Like really clicked. Anna and Pam and I are, for lack of a better word, like-minded. I mean spiritually. It all goes back to the Body. We love the Body, and refuse to put it in a box, just as we refuse to put God in a box. But anyway, we picked Anna up, and immediately started fellowshipping, and fellowshipping some more and reading the Bible on the way to Athens, and all of the sudden I started to notice us coming into Atlanta, and we found ourselves 40 miles past our exit. Praise God! We turned around. He knew we needed the fellowship time. Anna bought us ice cream at McDonald's.

When we finally got to Athens, a good 5 hours when it should have taken us 2, we got lost directly in front of Sisters' House 2. I mean literally in front of it. We asked an old man walking if he knew where 110 Vista was, he didn't, we drove on not knowing it was literally the house behind where he was standing. We got to Sisters House 1 and greeted the sisters there. Pam and I brought our things inside - it was where we were staying, while Anna was staying at 2. That road in Athens is literally Acts in action. The part where it talks about living and meeting house-to-house. I mean, there are, I think someone said, over 50 saints living within a block or two, and you're always running into them - praying, praising, inviting each other for dinner, maybe Frisbee, maybe some board games.

We (Pam, Anna, Elizabeth Davis our host, and I) went to the Tello's house for a home meeting. We ended up being the only sisters, besides Gail and Katie Tello that is, the rest were college brothers. Pam got to experience male-female interactions in the churchlife firsthand - and base her less-than-positive opinions on cold, hard evidence. Most of the saints in the Recovery are practically Amish in their views on separation of the sexes. Hey, it's kept me out of trouble. The brothers were bashful, awkward, and somehow, according to Pam, oddly intriguing. It's that whole mystique thing. But anyway, all too young for her. Us, really. Dang we're old. Anyway, we played Wii with Katie's adorable son Daniel, and greatly enjoyed the fellowship, food, singing, and prayer. It's always a delight to see young brothers unashamedly adoring God.

After the meeting, we went to Hallie's house for game night. Well, we were expecting game night. What we found were a handful of college sisters drinking boiled ginger and trying to save an experiment involving cinnamon and potato bread - the feat ultimately being accomplished by a mixture of milk and chocolate. Chocolate makes everything better. The children of the house were asleep (and some of the grown-ups as well) so we realized if we wanted to actually play any games - especially boisterous ones like Taboo - we needed to relocate. After a half hour or so of debate and cinnamon-ball-eating, we ended up at Sisters' House 1 - the temporary home of Pam and myself. We played Taboo to hilarious effect, and taught half the crowd to play Spoons. Only this was a delicious chocolate variation whose "consolation prize" considerably lessened the the sting of losing. At half past midnight, we arrived at the decision that prolonging game night was not worth the cost of being zombies during the morning meeting, and the other sisters left Pam and me to get some rest.

To our surprise, the Lord's Day meeting was at the UGA student center, not, as I had expected, at the brand new Student Station recently built by the UGA Christian Students club with a little help from the church in Athens. The reason, come to find out, is because the upper rooms had not been completed so there was not yet any place for the children. The meeting was wonderful. Pam and Anna and I enjoyed it immensely. I was particularly pleased by the way one of the elders explained what we were about to do with the prophesying, why, and how. Good info for Pam, I thought. We gathered they probably did this kind of explaining every week because of the high possibility of new student walk-ins. We broke into groups (new, for a Sunday meeting) and read outlines and pray-read verses. I was touched by Ephesians 3:16-19 so when we came back together I read it to the saints. I was actually intending to do some kind of exposition, but I gave it to the Lord and He just wanted me to read and sit down. But it was cool. He knows...everything! Isn't it awesome?

Pam would have gotten more out of the meeting if she'd been a little more awake. She is very slow to gain coherence in the morning - we should have woken up earlier. but she still liked it a lot. One sister, in particular, shared something so simple, but so...perspective-altering. She said something like "If you think you have a problem, whether it's a situation or a problem with another person, it's really just a problem in your relationship with the Lord. Take care of your relationship, and you've taken care of the problem." Wow.

We had some lovely fellowship after the meeting, got to talk with some rarely-seen friends. Had a nice little conversation with Paul Tashman, cool getting to know him a little bit. There's something about him and Ashley (his wife of 1 year) that I just think is so cool. They're just cool people you want to hang around. I can't explain it.

There was going to be a wedding reception at the Station, and Pam and I had already discussed going, but basically decided against it since we didn't know the folks. Justin and Phoebe. But I really wanted to see the Station so I was a little sad. But God works everything out. We roped Anna into going with us to Five Guys - the best burger joint...ever. I actually have an odd memory associated with that particular Five Guys in downtown Athens. It was after the first (or second?) college training and groups were going out to eat. I was walking around Athens barefoot because my high heels were killing me, and I remember standing on a short wall outside of Five Guys looking in, waiting for the people I was with to decide it was too crowded to eat there.

This time, however, it was not crowded, and I didn't have to wait on some huge group to make up its collective mind. I introduced Pam and Anna to the exquisiteness of their burgers and fries, really if Plato had known about burgers and fries he surely would have declared that they had achieved the height, the true Form, of the art. Anyway, enough about the food. Except that, wow, they put fresh jalapenos in my cheeseburger. That was a kick. We had more excellent fellowship over an excellent meal. We were supposed to drop Anna off at the Station a little early for the reception so she could help set up. She was there in Athens to serve after all. That nicely tied with my desire to see this famous Station - I had been hearing about its awesomeness as a student hang out / fellowship / Foosball / feed&read spot for some time. Anyway, it was 2:00 before we knew it, and I stopped at the restroom while they started for the car - leaving my Cherry Coke / Barq's on the table. When I got out, I saw a guy wiping the table and I was just starting to say "oh no" in a sad voice when he looked at me and said "That's her" to another worker, who promptly produced my drink from behind the counter. Now that's service.

Pam and I ended up going into the reception anyway. We couldn't resist checking the place out, and we wanted to say goodbye to the sisters. It was not what I expected. The first thing we noticed was the beautiful landscaping, and the waterfall on the small cliff facing the front door. Inside it was kind of classy, it reminded me of the lodge at camp with its quasi-chandeliers and its rock chimney. Perfect for a wedding reception. Especially with the ice in the fountain - flowing over the rock like a gorgeous natural ice sculpture. Lots of saints there, lots of food (sushi! But I was actually too full to eat a piece, can you imagine?) and we said our thank yous and goodbyes.

Then Pam and I were free to indulge in a classic Lydia/Pam adventure. This time it was an awesome vintage clothing store with a colorful, talkative owner who wants to commission some fingerless mitts from me (hey, maybe that's a way to earn a little cash as a trainee...) and a homeless man for whom Pam bought some coffee and a brownie, and with whom we chatted and prayed. Athens, interestingly enough, has old parking meters converted for donations for the homeless, with a request not to pay panhandlers. But it didn't mention coffee.

I really like Athens. Pam could see why. She liked it too. And we loved the saints. It was very good. And now my story is told. I think I will to bed now. And avoid all those grown-up tasks that are beginning to pile up, at least for one more night.

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