Welcome back everyone! Sorry its been so long. From my trip to El Salvador to being busy with sports camps since the beginning of July, I have not had the time I need to sit in front of my computer and exhale.
So my apologies on my absence. It indeed has been too long and I will do my very best going forward to not take month long breaks.
Now before I begin, I’m going to pick up where I am. Right now. If I attempt to catch up from where I last left off, I will be perpetually behind (which would defeat the purpose of my blog). So if you are curious about El Salvador, that post is coming very soon. First things first–I need to find my rhythm again.
So here I am. Jupiter Outpost– Fulton Market, Chicago, IL. Chicago, the place where it all started. To understand the nostalgia, I’m going to give you a very brief Jason history lesson.
Its September 2010. With a $400 flight voucher, 3 weeks worth of
vacation adventure days stacked up, and a desire to gettheheckoutofcostamesaandspendsometimealonewithGod (yes, that’s a word), I booked a trip that would change my life as I knew it.
September 9th I departed on my 25 day (3 weeks with weekends book ending) journey that would take me to Denver (5 days), Dallas (2), Chicago (7), Philly (4), New York (4), Boston (1), Seattle (2), and San Francisco (1). Denver and Dallas I stayed with friends that were gracious enough to host me, but in Chicago the only things set in stone were the Cubs games for which I had tickets (Cubs fan for life). I landed at O’Hare, took a Holiday Inn Express shuttle to get me off the airport property, then walked until I couldn’t walk anymore, found a motel and crashed.
Chicago was quite a few firsts for me–the first place I ever couchsurfed, the first place I stayed with a stranger I met (a vagabond, a photographer, a lover of Christ, and the guy I’m crashing with again right now), and the first place I really learned to travel (and be) alone. In case you are wondering, my friend’s name is Joe Lieske (his photography can be found here, including our road trip to Portland). If you are at all curious about stories from my first trip, let me know and I’ll include them in future posts.
The greatest advantage traveling alone has is the amount of
strangers future friends you meet. Remember that. Better yet, try that. You won’t be disappointed.
Saturday morning I said good bye to UW Sports Ministry at Chicago Midway airport (my team flew off to other destinations, I requested to extend my stay in Chicago before I went home) and took the orange line into downtown. While riding the L (eLevated train), a friendly man on the train asked the people around him what stop he should exit to get to Millennium Park. Since I was headed the same way, I told him to get off at Randolph and Wabash. He thanked me and called his family. As he was on the phone, I noticed he was using a DROID2 (obviously I knew a thing or two about it). So when he got off the phone, I sat next to him to demo Google maps and its transit line feature (every bus and L stop is detailed along with running times). I told him I used to manage a store so I walked him through it as if I was still at my shop.
As we talked, he told me his name was John and he was on vacation with his family here for a couple days. Then, he told me they were going to a Cubs game on Sunday. A few moments later he said, “We have an extra ticket, they are great seats…” and I thought, is he going to offer me his ticket? He continued, “Do you know the best way to go about selling a ticket on short notice?” I wasn’t surprised, I mean, I had known the guy for five minutes, why would he offer me his ticket he spent a good deal of money on? I told him Stub Hub, but mentioned that if he couldn’t sell the ticket before gametime, I would be willing to give him some money for the ticket. My budget was going to be small–I was going to the Manchester United game that evening and had already been to a Cubs game–but some money was better than no money, right? So he took my phone number down, we exited the train and talked as we walked towards Michigan Ave.
Coming down the stairs, he noticed my Osprey backpack and asked why I had so much stuff. I told him I was wandering around, traveling alone and exploring. He told me he had a pack like mine, and that he did the same kind of adventuring when he was in his twenties. Not long after, we parted ways and went about our day. I met Joe at Intelligentsia (the coffee house he works at) and we hung out. That night I went to the Man U v Chicago Fire game at Soldier Field. Great fun.
The next morning I went to The Line, the church I had went to in September when I was here. The sermon I heard that morning brought me to tears. Over the past few weeks, I have been hit with this realization that I was not the great boyfriend to Jessi that I believed I was. Pastor Aaron articulated my feelings much more eloquently than I could have at the time. To quote him,
“Looking back on these nine years [of marriage], my idea of romance has shifted considerably,away from fantasy and toward fact. The reasons for this shift are many, but one prime mover was the discovery of my capacity for inflicting pain. In my head I would write poetry, bring flowers, build her a home with my bare hands. In reality, I was critical, detached, more prone to destroy than create anything.”
This sermon was delivered more as a story/monologue than your typical, free-to-ramble sermon. No silly, impromptu quips or self-deprecating jokes were to be found this Sunday. The way in which
Pastor Aaron delivered his message in the dimly lit pub-turned-art-house-style-church absolutely rocked me. I identified with his misled idea of romance and ultimately the unfortunate disconnect between the love he imagined and the love his wife received. Jessi used to tell me that I was detached and that she didn’t get “the Jason everyone else got”–which I would dismiss because, in my head, I was writing poetry and bringing her flowers. It didn’t make sense until now. Well now.. now, it makes too much sense. The gross injustice of love I committed, continually, weighs very heavily on my heart as I write these words.
I ask God, “Why? Why didn’t you make me aware of the iniquities sooner? Why not last year or before we got back together? Why now?” I haven’t received an answer yet.
While taking communion in a corner of the pub, I sat. A few tears rolling down my cheeks. And then the thought became bigger. Well if I did this to Jessi, I must have done this to other people I love. Mom and Dad? Check. Sister? Check. Close friends? Checks.
think know, in this year of travel and solitude, God is really going to change my understanding of love. Love for family, love for friends and love for my future wife.
There is much more to the sermon than what I have given you. He talks about Paul and his love for Corinth. I would urge any of you to take time out of your day to read it. It impacted me much more deeply and in more ways than I can convey in this post.
Before church had begun, I got a message from John:
“Jason! Hey its John Smith calling. I was on the train with you yesterday. Going to the Cubs game today if you’re interested…”
I sent him a text in response as church was starting saying I wanted to go and what he was asking for the ticket. He responded:
“Jason, we will give you the ticket. You can buy my wife and I a beer. 🙂 …”
Amazing. I was stoked. Great seats, great people, new friends, Cubs game. Does it get better much better than this?
I got there in the bottom half of the first inning and got to meet (in order) his wife Carol, daughter Molly, her boyfriend Andy, and son Jackson. From the second I sat down I felt like family. They were all so much fun and welcoming. They even invited me to stop by their house in Missoula, Montana to hang out, go to the river and go tubing. Am I going to go? You better believe it.
The game went into the 10th inning, the Cubs loaded the bases with one out, and won the game on a single. Cubs WIN! We said good bye at Wrigley, then met again on the street, walked to the L, then parted ways. What a fantastic day.
Dear Smith Family, I think Mr. Frank Sinatra said it best,
“Now this could only happen to a guy like me
And only happen in a town like this
So may I say to each of you most gratefully
As I throw each one of you a kiss
This is my kind of town, Chicago is.”
Thank you John and Smith family. I look forward to seeing you all in Montana very soon.
I got home, uncapped a brew with Joe and went to his roof to recap the day. What a place to converse with a good friend.
Tonight, Monday the 25th of July, I am doing dinner with Daniel (who works alongside Joe at Intelligentsia) and his wife Kristen Dake. Members of The Line church, they welcomed me into their home on my birthday last September 19th and made me dinner. What a blessing.
I love life. I LOVE life. I LOVE LIFE.
My friend Kylee, whom I know from Pennsylvania, commented on my Wrigley Field check-in on facebook, “haha, your ridiculous life. wow.” Its true. I am so grateful for the experiences shared with such wonderful people. Without you, none of this would have been possible. Joe, Daniel and Kristen, The Line Church, and the Smiths– thank you.
And God– You. You never cease to amaze me. I have no words that can accurately describe the emotions I feel. Even when you point out my greatest faults to the point where my soul hurts, I rejoice knowing its because you love me and are refining me. That’s James 1:2-4 right there. Keep it coming.
Friends and Family- Thank you again for reading. The El Salvador post is coming along with more Chicago stories. I love you all.