Ya’ll ain’t ever seen the Lykes of us

While I pay no mortgage, no utility bills, and don’t spend more than a few weeks time there, I feel part owner of 3150 North Otter Creek Road. David and Fontella Lyke may live at this address but I know myself and at least twenty other family members feel like it’s their home too. This house was destined to be more than just walls and a roof. From it’s beginning, it was waiting for the Lykes to take over. My Papaw recently told me the story of how they came to own this place. In 1990, he was traveling for work and he took out a half sheet of paper and wrote the following requirements: red brick, four bedrooms, central air, patch of land. He recalled how later he showed the list to my grandma and said that was the standard. He had no idea that at the time he was building his list, someone else was building his house on the other side of town. A couple years later, in 1992, they saw in ad in the paper for a home for sale by owner and the ad read “secluded.” It was, in fact, so secluded they passed the house entirely the first time they went to see it. After turning around, they slowly drove down the half -mile driveway until it curved and Papaw knew he was in trouble. In the clearing, there sat a red brick house with four bedrooms and central air located on 15 acres. He said it was divine intervention.

The house has been a place of rest and joy not only to our family but also to local ministries, friends, and other out of town guests. Walking throughout the house, any guest will find trinkets and treasures from missionary trips, more books than one could read in a lifetime, and, most prominently, pictures. There’s a wall in my grandparent’s home filled with portraits. Panning across the mismatched frames against the muted pea green wall, no face stands out amongst the crowd. Smiling faces of senior pictures and family cards blend together in this unofficial family tree. Guests can trace the developments of each branch as toddlers in Christmas pajamas change into college graduates displaying degrees. Every moment of joy frozen in time displayed at the center of our heart’s home. It’s those frames of nostalgia we revisit each holiday and weekend visit. The entire house is littered with images of the past. Each side table, armoire, and bookshelf contains hidden treasures of bath time, birthday giggles, and group naptime. Standing amongst the nineties pastel palette are dark brown sepia tones with burnt vignettes closing in on the portrait. These ancient relics recorded during the early days of photography mark our starting line.

My papaw spends most of his time learning about where he came from. His favorite thing to do is to show off old pictures of great-great-greats and tell stories about our messy hillbilly foundation. The importance of family history can be seen throughout their home. But it’s not evidence of people who can’t let go of the past. Honestly, between both of my grandparents, there are many stories I’m sure they would be happy to forget. Before most holiday meals, Papaw says, “If it weren’t for her (pointing to my grandma), and God in my life, none of this would be here. I could have been a drunk, very easily could have been my path, but look what we have now.” Then we join hands around the table, sometimes there are 12 of us and on lucky occasions there are over 30, and sing the Doxology.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Praise Him all creatures here below

Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

Amen

As the final harmonies hold out the last syllable of “Amen”, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by the connected spirit in the room. The faces of who we were, younger versions of ourselves, watch as we capture new moments of joy. Walking through my grandparent’s home, you see a story unfold from a young couple starting a family in Michigan into a network that spans the country. Except those pictures are only moments out of the larger narrative. There may be joy, laughter, friendship and love inside the frame, but it’s what’s outside the frame that tells our true story.

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A wandering soul

wanderlust: noun 1. a strong desire to travel

fernweh: a German word that is similar to wanderlust but with more intensity. It describes a feeling akin to being homesick but instead of long for home, a person is farsick, longing to see distant places.

I can pinpoint the moment (more or less) that my traveling bug was activated. But let’s back up. As a family, we traveled around the Midwest quite a bit. My mom’s parents live in Michigan and so during major holidays we made the trek up north to Monroe. At some point, my aunt and cousins lived in Florida and we took a trip to see them. We went camping in area campsites, traveled to Norris Lake as often as we could, and found ourselves on a lake most weekends when the weather was nice (or what my dad qualified as nice). I remember taking a trip to Arizona to visit family friends and see the Grand Canyon. The most vivid memories of that trip include waking up to 6 inches of snow (I was very confused since we were supposed to be in the desert) and the overwhelming anxiety of my dad standing too close to the edge of the Grand Canyon (probably where I realized my fear of heights). In 5th grade, we went on a cruise for spring break and while I enjoyed the tropical beaches, I was too young to appreciate the countries I was traveling to. I was more concerned about getting my hair braided, the ultimate badge of honor for a tween traveler.  

While those trips showed me a lot about having adventures, it was actually a class project that started my fascination with traveling. At some point in elementary school I had to do a research project and I researched London, England. I read book after book on life in London and became totally preoccupied with Big Ben. I cannot explain the logic of my gradeschool mind but I just had to go and see this giant clock tower. As I grew older, I held on to this desperate desire to go to London, and it was only spurred on as I studied British Literature and fell in love with the classic language and dark landscape. In high school, I looked up airline prices and searched for tours. When I started looking for colleges, they had to have a study abroad program that included studying in London. I even tried to talk about studying abroad during high school. I just wanted to go out and see what existed across the pond. Unfortunately, none of those plans ever panned out. In high school, I had the opportunity to tour Greece and Italy with my art class and I figured- what the heck. It wasn’t England but it was new and it was across the ocean.

This trip fueled my curiosity. I travel because I’m a curious person. I think I have pretty well established that I love to learn, and, for me, traveling is the ultimate classroom. When I travel (international or national) I get to meet new people, and most are more than willing to share their story, experiences, talents, and knowledge. Nigerian author, Chimamanda Adichie, speaks on the danger of the single story in this TedTalk. She talks about how we can become narrow minded in our view of the world if we always accept what is present to us. One way to fix this issue is reading challenging texts, but another way is to actually go out in the world and see the diverse perspectives people have to offer. It’s like the old saying goes, you need to walk a mile in a person’s shoes before you can fully understand his story. Before I went to Australia, I read Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country which pretty much terrified me and made me never want to step foot in Australia. Besides the intriguing historical and political information, he clearly spelled out that everything in Australia is out to kill you. He described in detail the spider situation and as a person who gets her cat to kill spiders instead of facing them herself, I was immediately regretting my decision to go. However, I went anyway. And yes, there were some spider situations, but I also experience the beauty of the sunburned (and sometimes forgotten) country. His book prepared me but reading about Australia is not the same as actually going there. Traveling provides me an experience that reading cannot always give me.

Instead of just looking at a picture of the Cliffs of Moher, I got to feel the wind whipping across my face as I watched the waves crashed against the rocks-continuing to create this craggy formation. Instead of reading about the Sistine Chapel and viewing sections of it, I got to stand underneath it and have my breath taken away by intricacy and enormity of this monument of history. I got to walk to streets of Granada hand in hand with a great friend. I also got to have that same friend laugh at me and help me up when I tripped over one of the pomegranate statues that line the streets of Granada (seriously though- those things are shin height-I can’t be the first to have done this). I had the chance to learn (and taste) classic Australian food from a good friend and award winning cook. I also got to share some of my own American food with that friend (Pulled chicken sandwiches, baked beans, biscuits, and s’mores). On several occasions, I got up close and personal with kangaroos and koalas.

Now, if you can believe, I have yet to step foot in England. Not even in an airport for a layover to somewhere else. The one place that inspired this expensive hobby has eluded me for years. I’ve been blessed to see parts of Greece, Italy, Ireland, Spain, and Australia. However, this summer, my roommate and I are visiting the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, and…England. I’m finally going to see the place where it all began.

I find it hard to articulate what travel means to me. Traveling is such an important part of self-discovery and I believe is a cornerstone of lifelong learning. The world is too big and too beautiful to let it go undiscovered. The best way I can sum it up is to steal a song from my favorite Disney princess, Belle.

I want adventure in the great wide somewhere

I want it more than I can tell

And for once it might be grand

To have someone understand

I want so much more than they’ve got planned

*Previously posted on Debunking Debacles on 5/28/2014

What’s in a name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

I’m reaching that stage in life when the frequent topic of conversation is about baby names. Particularly around my sister and her husband. It’s quite entertaining to hear the back and forth, debating the pitfalls of a name due to the possibility of an unfortunate nickname, and listing the merits of family history (the name “Oscar” has been at the center of both camps). It’s an important discussion to have for young married couples on the verge of starting a family. Your name defines so much of who you are. It’s the beginning of your life..and you don’t even get a say in it.

As you get older, more names are put on you and each shape your identity in a different way. We resist being labeled as much as possible. We are taught the warnings of name calling and stereotyping others but it happens all the same. If you’re the oldest child then you’re a leader. If you’re the youngest then you’re the baby. If you’re the middle then you’re self-sufficient. At school, you’re tracked into groups based on your ability. Scholarship, remedial, advanced placement, resource. You’re athletic, dramatic, geeky, popular, promiscuous, or alone. With each label we accept, we change.

Unfortunately, we start to believe these labels that are put on us. We change our behavior to fit whatever mold is being placed around us.

While at Miami, my cohort called me Hermione. This was based off my tendency to raise my hand to answer every question and generally be a book worm. However, my love of Harry Potter spurred the behavior. I felt it was expected that I start a class discussion. I had to have something to say in order to uphold my title of Hermione. I couldn’t let her down.

My family often reminds me that I can be sensitive when it comes to arguments or confrontation. It has been said so frequently that when I’m in arguments, I talk myself out of my feelings. I convince myself that I’m being overly sensitive and I don’t hold the other party accountable for their actions. Now, sometimes, I really am being overly sensitive and I need to be aware of this. However, other times my feelings are rightly hurt and I should be allowed to express that. But I don’t.

At my job, I’m the quirky new English teacher that sort of looks like a student. When students get their papers back, I’m the impossible to please college professor. When they need someone to talk to, I’m a counselor. When they need homework help, I’m an editor. On top of that, after school demands even more of me as I’m also a coach and a director. My work day requires me to be a chameleon withstanding the ebb and flow of the dynamic classroom.

When I’m feeling insecure, I believe the label, put on me by several destructive relationships, that says I’m not enough just the way I am. This sense of inadequacy can be overwhelming when I’m around someone I like and I begin to overcompensate. I laugh too hard, make inappropriate jokes, and try to present myself to be exactly what this other person might want. I act out in desperation and it’s ugly.

I add my own weight of labels with my desires and aspirations, including but not limited to: writer, professor, adventurer, and traveler. Anyone else starting to feel overwhelmed? Besides these labels created by myself and those I interact with, my surrounding culture adds a hefty list of names as well. As a young woman I should be: sexy, smart, independent, in need of a relationship, financially successful, athletic, fashionable, easy to approach, fun, and an excellent future wife and mother. Now lets take into consideration that I’m a Christian. Those labels include: chaste, pure, faithful, respectful, quiet, kind, courteous, submissive, graceful, helpful.

It’s a lot just for one girl to juggle.

It’s so much that sometimes I forget the only name that matters.

Child of God. Beloved. Cherished by He who created the universe.
The world will call you a lot of things. It will try to change who you are to fit its own needs and expectations. But remember your true name and let that shape your actions. Believe you are carefully looked after and loved by the God who sacrificed His son so that you could be with Him. You might walk just a little taller.

*Previously posted on Debunking Debacles on 4/10/2014