In the midst of seasons of change, there are defining relationships that mold and shape you. The ones that grow you. The ones that hurt you. The ones that leave a legacy of hope when you feel alone and unsure. It is a reoccurring theme in my story that relationships like this seem to take root on porches. While reflecting on the reason for the location, I came to the realization that my back porch friends are often creatures that overuse words and over think life. Porches are great for both. And for smoking.
As I returned for the final year of college, I was a bundle of contradiction. I knew that my life was not my own. I knew that the next step for me was to attend seminary and further my education and calling. But I still had 9 months of college life and I wasn’t sure how to compartmentalize this ever-growing clash of lifestyles. After a summer of full-time ministry, I drove into Waco with a conflicted spirit and unsure of how these next few months would play out.
I was a senior and my brother joined us at Baylor that semester. I was living in an apartment with 3 other girls, one being my sister. We were all sorority sisters and our apartment was known as a gathering post. #1104, as it was affectionately known, was notorious for late night and great times. With the addition of a handful of 18 year-old boys that were more than excited to have multiple ID wielding seniors around, our porch was never empty. These boys were characters. There was entertainment and stories when the guys from Penland were visiting. There as never a shortage of laughter, Swisher Sweets or Mad Dog 20/20. I have been sworn to uphold the code of sisterly silence for most of the tales, but I can still recall them quite well.
There was one particular personality that was bigger than the room. From the first time I met him, I was sure that the swagger, accent and lingo were an act. As I got to know him, I realized that not only was it the real deal, but it was what made him so damn endearing. Almost immediately I found myself in late night conversations about all things, well, just all things. We laughed and talked and most conversations included a sisterly “that’s not a good idea” or “you should think about that more.” Sometimes, I would just flat-out disagree with whatever the bright idea of the moment may have been. He didn’t seem to listen to me or care about my very advanced life stage and hard-earned wisdom. But I knew he did. On more than one occasion, I would be sleeping in my bed and hear pebbles hitting my window. The first time, this was endearing. By the fourth or fifth, I was annoyed. But every time I would go to the window, I would hear, “Hey, guuuurl!” That voice immediately meant less sleep and more porch time. And I didn’t care at all.
As I walked through this strange process of applying to seminary and leaving college, those talks on the porch reminded me of why I love people. I love to hear a good story. I loved to hear the whole thing – the good and the bad, the hard and the wonderful. Our porch stories were filled the epic tales of mischief and the longing of future hopes and dreams. They were bound together with laughter and maybe a tear or two, but always with the knowledge that whatever was to come would be enough. I cannot think of two college students that were at more different forks in the road, but there on that dirty furniture, the world’s problems seemed to be solved. I was writing essays to go across the country to pursue ministry as a vocation, while another’s ‘all in’ college experience was just beginning. And our common ground was the porch.
When I came back for my second semester, I was resigned that I was leaving the state. I was severing ties with my past. I had stopped drinking to honor the Ethos statement of the seminary to which I had applied. My life was changing rapidly and within a system of rules, I felt safe. I had devised a mental checklist of right and wrong that was easy delineated by standards rather than heart. I would quickly learn that the heart is a powerful thing.