Friday, December 30, 2011

Lessons from 2011

Here I sit, on the cusp of 2012, with my cup 'o java and a quiet house. I can't help but reflect over the last year and as I do, I know it has been the hardest year I've known. It's a good thing my beautiful daughter offered to write the Christmas letter this year. I might have just written something like, "it was a crappy year..." Thankfully, for everyone, she wrote the letter instead. It was beautiful and poignant, and said what our hearts felt. Here's a quick recap of the year mixed in with some of my lessons on the way:

~ Idols are barbed hooked things that tear jagged in both directions and removal is bloody. Survival rates are minimal and scarring is unavoidable.

~Friends are not always that.

~ I put my daughter on a plane bound for college in another country.

~My husband of 23 years had to take a job 3 states and over 1,000 miles away.

~People will surprise you.

~Falling can be spectacular, although I do not recommend it.

~ My son developed a heart disorder.

~No matter what anyone says, hitting bottom is better than falling.

~ The need for approval is a noxious weed and is never satisfied with a small plot of land.

~I am worse than I ever thought.

~I am loved more than I ever dreamed.

~Asking for help can be the hardest thing.

~Some friends are all that and it's okay when they're not.

~Daughter is home for Christmas.

~Son is healed.

~Husband received promotion.

~I am approved by the One who matters.

~I count friendship precious and have learned to choose more carefully.

~perfectly imperfect is just fine with me

~churches are made up of people who disappoint

~people, just like me

~the trek back to Eden is a bloody one and we will never quite get there on this side - oh, but we try. I think, more and more, we were made to try.

~what a breath, this life is

~all of my people encounters mark me in some way, leaving some piece of each person with me for eternity.

~I stopped sailing the open waters with my cardboard boat this year - definitely a wise decision.

~failing is part of life

~ giving grace to let others fail is living.

~joy absolutely comes in the morning

~the morning is not necessarily the next day.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Absurd Grace

Jim comes home today! What more do I need to say? We are all giddy with excitement around here.

He's been away 3 weeks now. He will be home for 8 days. 8 glorious days!

The refrigerator is stocked with his favorite foods. My house is cleaned and organized - mostly. And we wait for his arrival -the sound of that distinct diesel engine rounding the corner that after 23 years, when I hear it, I confess -still makes my heart skip a bit.

I have been a partaker of unexpected blessings these past 3 weeks; touching expressions of kindness from friends who have moved in during this time to love our family. Many blessings have come from unexpected people and places - they have truly been absurd grace -blessings to me.

Thank you. You are all ministering angels-

you took my son's motorbike in for repairs;
another picked up my son's bike and delivered it to our home so he could work cherry harvest; you made time for me over a glass of wine even when you could have used your time for things more pressing;
you asked me to go for a walk and the fellowship of you - sister - was a balm to me;
you sent a message letting me know I can call on you anytime we have need;
you invited me to the lake to get me out of the house;
you encouraged my son as he fills some large shoes;
you commented;
you picked up the phone and called to say you heard... and are praying;
you checked up on us and on Jim even though you have too much on your own plate;
you understood and acknowledged our struggle and didn't just put a happy face on it.

Thank you for demonstrating Christ's love to us. Love is not silent, although many like to think it is enough to feel something deeply. But love is not a sham - it knows it only counts when it is spent. Thank you for loving us a hundred different ways.

Which brings me to my picture. If you look closely you'll see a crayon sign that reads, "Depart to Serve." This sign was placed over our mudroom door on the way to the garage; a door we use many times everyday. It was made and displayed by my husband, Jim, who wanted everyone of us in our family to remember our job - to serve.

If I could say one thing about my dear hubby it would be that he is a man who knows how to serve.

I just love him.

And in this way, we have been loved - by so many who know us and who are the beloved. Thank you for serving - because in order to really love it must cost something. When we serve others in Christ, our hearts expand.

We are only filled when we are most emptied.

It is a gloriously absurd exchange.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Long Road Home

It was still dark when we awoke, neither of us wanting to move. I grabbed his hand and he whispered for me to go back to sleep, but of course, I wouldn't.

On very rare occasions (and I stress very rare) I have been blessed with being able to see "defining" moments beforehand. Usually I see them after they've past and realized I've screwed them up. More often though, I see them, recognize them for what they are, and still screw them up.

Today I recognized the moment as we walked it together.

We poured strong coffee and sat on the couch and prayed.

We've talked about this for several weeks- months, really. But when it happened it happened quickly.

Our year has been a year of hard things. Hard things to receive because in order to receive we must first be emptied.

Being emptied is never a fun process.

The truck, loaded with tools, maps for three states, and some personal items will carry this man I love to a place where there is work. It is mid-summer; our last summer with our oldest daughter before she leaves for college in England. We imagined our last summer with her differently.

The weeks building up to this have been harder on Jim than I imagined they would be. For him, leaving is harder than for others, of that I am certain. I know it rips his heart out because I see it on his face.

I cannot meet his eyes.

God is good to make sure only one of us is discouraged at a time.

I have been strong, until today. Today I am not, but I do not let him know because it is hard enough. And he already knows me well enough to know what I do not need to say.

There is good work in North Dakota. We have talked about this for over a year; not seriously though - until recently. The last 2 weeks required us to look seriously at this option. We prayed for work, and this arrived, when nothing else did.

There is much to be thankful for. This is work, after all, I remind myself. I hold back because I know my heart is tempted to not be thankful. This - giving thanks for this - is our defining moment.

Giving thanks for where this may lead is harder.

We both know there is work - long term work- in North Dakota. Jim will be gone a few weeks, but we know this is a precursor to something that would require him to live there and to make a commitment to stay on for a year, or more.

When I look down that road - I am not strong. The words hiss in my head - I know deep down I am only good with him and I am afraid of this road. I am afraid of raising our kids while he is not here. I am afraid of living needy, without any family here to depend on. I worry - what if I must face another year like I had and have no one with skin on to love me at the end of the day? What if my car engine light comes on, or a sprinkler breaks or what if we have mice and I have to deal with that???

I confess, today it is hard for me to see the blessing, although I know it is here.

Then I remember, there is grace for today. I remember to unclench my fist, to breathe and I give thanks for this manna. This, literally translated, "what is it?" I do not easily recognize this bread.

Oh, but I do know the Giver.

If this is His gift, how can it be bad?

I am a firestorm today, wrestling for this grace and clinging to it for all I've got. I feel the serpent's stranglehold release;


the only anti-venom for hard graces, spurts through my veins and I know I have struggled to learn this.

One day it will course,

but today it spurts.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Last Day in N.Y.C.

Our last day in New York City did not disappoint! We checked out of our hotel and headed straight over to board the ferry for Ellis Island. We boarded from the New Jersey side, so the lines were pretty minimal. In fact, one of the more challenging things with a group this size (44) and a trip that is less than a week in duration - which means it is packed full of adventure - is trying to keep everyone moving at a pace that is - let's say - intentional. Sometimes, if you can't all get in line at the same time, you can end up easily adding 40 min. on to a trip if you miss a boat.
When we arrived at the ferry terminal we went through security and then realized the next boat was leaving in 4 minutes. We raced through the terminal, including one very put together lady in our group running barefoot down the pier with her shoes in her hands so she wouldn't miss the boat. We were quite a sight. I'm still laughing about that.

Here I will depart momentarily from today's trip to tell a funny story involving my friend, Tonya.I was in the ladies restroom when all of a sudden I heard Tonya yelling at some jr. high girls, who were not part of our group. She was accusing them of stealing stuff because she saw them rifling through a backpack. She came barging out of a stall, her pants mostly up, yelling at some very frightened girls to step away from the ipod they retrieved from one of those blue and yellow backpacks the company we were traveling with sends to everyone who enrolls.

I was listening to the events unfold from my stall and realized immediately what had happened. Now, I know some people might think the thing that happened next would be a bad friend thing, but I've been friends with Tonya for the past seven years. I weighed my friendship responsibilities and then decided the best thing to do would be to remain silent - it seemed the right thing to do at the time. Intervening would be too much like ruining the punchline to a great joke. A joke that God himself arranged. That would have been rude, maybe even irreverent.

I couldn't take the chance of that.

I would like to state for the record, that if Tonya began breaking out some sort of Kung-fu moves on the unsuspecting 12 year olds, I would have jumped in.

It took a little while but eventually Tonya realized those girls were with the same travel company as our group and they have identical backpacks - their own backpacks.

I was glad I was already in a stall because I was laughing so hard I would have wet my pants.

She apologetically pulled her pants up and quit yelling.

Traveling with people can be so entertaining.
(This is Tonya - she can totally take it)

We made the ferry!

Ellis Island was the primary entry point for immigrants to the United States between the years 1892-1924. Over 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island, or roughly 3/4 of those seeking to make America their new home.

The photographs in Ellis Island terminal are not to be missed. The huge black and white photos combined with quotes of those passing through offer a moving perspective from so many of our own ancestors. We owe them much for their sacrifice and hope that things could be better.

That is what I saw on the faces in the photos - hope.

After our time on Ellis Island, we caught the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. We snapped pictures from the boat - those are the best photos - and then quickly jumped in line to catch the next ferry to Battery Park.

The Statue of Liberty was striking! We had perfect weather and enjoyed our boat ride through the harbor so much.
When we disembarked at Battery Park, we noticed some movie filming. We were able to see Will Smith filming Men In Black 3. Yep - the tour is complete for the kids now!
Our last few hours were spent over a delicious lunch in Little Italy and walking around shops and of course, eating a little gelatto.
Jim fit right in.
New York's highline.

We said "good-bye" to New York City, our fabulous tour guide, George, and our amazing adventure! I am so glad we took this trip - it was such an unforgettable experience.