Monday, November 23, 2009

late fall in chicago: community, place, getting dirty, drinking deep

I traveled to Chicago this past weekend with Sarah, Lindsay and Taylor to visit our very dear friends Laura and Jer who married and began settling into a new home in Westmont early this fall.


(Note: Sarah wrote about our travels more promptly than I, so for our shared readership, please forgive the inevitable repetition!) It was wonderful to see Laura and Jer -- we miss them so much back here in GR -- and to establish an accurate image of their new city and apartment in my mind. The six of us wandered together, cooked together and laughed together. Because of shared values, loves and experiences, comfort in this community runs deep, and that is a very beautiful thing. Community itself is a very beautiful thing. Yes, it is hard to establish and to maintain, and it really is kind of a crazy endeavor, but oh! how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

Then, on Sunday, Sarah, Lindsay, Taylor and I journeyed to the Rogers Park neighborhood to visit a wonderful community coffee shop called The Common Cup.

We loved it. Clearly.

As we drove through the city towards the coffee shop in North Chicago, past row houses and old architectural beauty, rundown neighborhoods brightened by community gardens and people on sidewalks under buildings market by graffiti, I was overcome by a desire to go and, once there, to stay, to invest in a place, sinking my feet in deep and being part of it, cultivating hope and making things more beautiful. I hungered for adventure and change and envelopment in something bigger and more powerful than I am. I was drawn not to any specific street in Rogers Park or to any particular place at all, really, but rather to the act of jumping into life completely and without abandon or fear or hesitation, immersing myself fully its enormity and overwhelming complexity.

And as I felt all of this, I wondered where it all came from, these firm beliefs about and desires for community and city and place and intentionality that course so deep and so fiercely within me now.

And then I wondered what to do with all of it.

I was somewhat overwhelmed, to be honest. I want so much from life, and I hadn't realized this before. I want so many experiences; I want such depth of feeling and passion. I want complexity and difficulty and unpredictability, because that is what is real. I want to get dirty, to run as fast as I can straight into the mess of humanity and its intersections with space and environment and God and to live right in the middle of all of it, forever, until I die. I want to reach out with hands cupped together tightly, to fill them with water and to drink deep of life, renegade drops splashing my eyes and soaking the front of my shirt.

But though I want so much, I am so small. It is hard some days to fit my dreams within a world that necessitates money and health insurance, a world of broken structures that complicate the path. And yet, I am hopeful, because although I remain unsure of what my very near future holds, I realize that whatever comes will be beautiful. Staying would be beautiful. Leaving would be beautiful also. Wherever I am and whatever I am doing, I can and will drink deep of life and settle right into its tangled center.

This weekend refreshed my spirit and renewed my vision for life. And if that wasn't enough, there was Ethiopian food, a trip to Trader Joe's, innovation and the casting of dreams, relational problem solving, seeking ways to change the world and giving thanks for grace.

In closing, a reminder to do your part to save the world: recyle.
Ahem... pardon, recycle. Thanks, Sarah.


  1. "I require so much!"

    And also. Gerard lives in Rogers Park! We like the neighborhood a lot, actually, especially for where we are in our lives now.

  2. wow Stace, this is amazing. Thanks for posting this. and for that incredible picture. really really good. I just appreciate you so much.