Life in Northern Virginia

Some more thesis excerpts. I've been trying to capture the flavor of different parts of Northern Virginia as I write about the events that transpired there.


I turned into the girls’ neighborhood, weaving my way through streets lined with parked cars, past houses of fading pastels and lawns of sparse, weedy grass. I registered this with surprise, contrasting these aging homes with the luxury townhouses in my current neighborhood and with my image of what life should be like in the richest county in the nation. I had yet to understand that like DC, Fairfax County is an area of unlikely contrast, that beneath the veneer of wealth and perfection, there is a middle class, even poverty.

* * * * * * * *


We sat on white plastic chairs, coated in a summer’s worth of dusty film, and we cracked open beers and hard cider and a bottle or two of wine. There was something comfortable about this neighborhood, something refreshing in the simple fact that it had been here longer than we had, that it lacked the startling uniformity of Fairfax’s newer neighborhoods and strip malls. This house and those around it had existed in the fifties, and there was a sense of that here, of a time when life was simpler and slower and people really did sit on the porch sipping lemonade and talking.

Post-College Realizations

Here's some of my latest thesis writing, about my first night in Northern Virginia almost six years ago now. Who would have thought then that I'd still be here now?

When I tell the story to friends now, after almost six years of Northern Virginia living, I can laugh at the utter loneliness I felt that first night, knowing the end of the story. But at the time, I simply felt sorry for myself. This isn’t the way it was supposed to be, I thought as I sat in the family room of a family I didn’t know, listening to the darkness of late summer settle. My idealistic visions had left no space for a moment like this. Over the past four years, I’d grown accustomed to living life in community, with friends and acquaintances my constant companions in eating, studying, exercising, partying, praying, even in walking to class. I’d grown accustomed to the rhythms of dorm life: the comfortingly irregular pattern of stereos blasts, slamming doors, and conversation fragments; the hum of the florescent lighting overhead; the gentle scrapings of my roommate’s pencil across the rough pages of her sketch book. Here though, there were only solitary sounds, frightening in their unfamiliarity: breeze rustling tree leaves I’d never seen, crickets chirping in grass I’d never walked, the cars of people I’d never met rolling into driveways up and down the street.

Thesis Writing

Sorry I've been MIA from the blogosphere for a few months! CJ and I got engaged in December, right before Christmas (hooray!), so between wedding planning and thesis writing, I haven't had the time.

Anyways, here is an excerpt from my latest thesis chapter (about my experience with the Navigators in college).

There were roughly 100 or so students in the chapel that first Friday night, and everyone seemed friendly and genuinely excited to be there. The worship team consisted of vocals, piano, acoustic guitar, and bongo drums and felt more calm and mellow than any of the other groups. I found myself relaxing, able to unwind from the stress of that first week of classes and to simply enjoy singing to God. And the best part was that when the meeting was over, everyone gathered for an “After Navs” activity, this week at the house of the head campus staff couple, Dave and Cathy Bowman. I piled into a car with a group of people I’d just met and headed off to see what it was all about. After all, I figured, there was nothing to lose. I didn’t feel like crashing frat parties with the other girls on my floor, and there wasn’t much else to do in a college town on a Friday night.

The Bowmans’ house was warm and comfortable, a standard Pennsylvania middle class home complete with quilts, nature paintings, and a wood-burning stove. In the various rooms both upstairs and down, students and staff members mingled, playing games, eating brownies and chips and carrots, laughing, talking. People were quick to introduce themselves, to invite me join in whatever happened to be going on. I was impressed. Instead of spending their Friday nights out partying, these people wanted to be together. Instead of hooking up with random strangers, they appeared to be building something that felt, even as a newcomer, like community. This was exactly what I was looking for.

Sin and Grace

I've been writing today about the words sin and grace, about how I'm drawn to the sound of grace and repelled by the sound of sin. Unfortunately it's not always because I hate my sin, but more because I hate being reminded of my sin, hate having my pride confronted with the truth that my sin is serious enough to merit God's wrath. I guess what I'm realizing is that grace does have a sweet sound, but that its sweetness is actually weakened when I ignore the abrasiveness of my sin. A few excerpts....

I hate the sound of the word sin. It is sharp and biting, its abruptness leaving no space for excuses or escape. It penetrates and condemns, the very sound of it like an arrow slicing the air and then piercing deep into the flesh. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The wages of sin is death.

Grace is soft and round, slow and soothing. It slides off the tongue smoothly, the final sound dissolving into silence, so that the word itself seems to linger in the air, comforting, upholding. For it is by grace you have been saved. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Sometimes, when I read the word grace, I hear it in a thick Scottish accent. I picture my hand in the weathered grip of an old Scottish pastor, imagine the sparkle in his warm eyes as he says: Grace to you, lassie, grace to you.

I like the sound of grace, but I can’t escape the reality of sin. It creeps up everywhere, boils up in fact from the deep places of my own heart.