Friday, May 25, 2012

France in 3 days

We left Paris this morning, and although we packed quite a punch into our three-day tour, I had the sad feeling that there was much left unseen and undone.  Maybe we'll get back another time?  :)  In the end, all's well--we were getting a little tired of the Parisians snubbing our Chacos.  I wondered about every ten yards why I didn't pack a cute pair of ballet flats in the one backpack I took for a month. Oh yeah.  Because I took one backpack and we're walking a gazillion miles.   But those impeccable, stylish, haute French.  They don't give ya any leeway on the footwear scene.  

Here are a few highlight pictures, because we've already taken over 200, and I'm guessing even our most dedicated friends don't want to see that slideshow.

Walking along the bridges of the River Seine was dreamy

The Concierge - amazing old medieval arches and also a prison during the Revolution

Notre Dame definitely overwhelmed us with her grandeur

Napolean's Arc de Triumphe is huge

When we first got to the Eiffel Tower, it was foggy, but we stayed around long enough to eventually see the whole thing

Had to pay a visit to Mona in the Louvre

Last day in France we took a day trip to Giverny, site of Monet's home and garden

The immortalized water lilies of Monet (a giggling French high schooler took this photo for us)

After Giverny, took the train to the coastal town of Dieppe

Marveled at the old castle overlooking the beach (old old things never cease to amaze me, and they're everywhere over here)

There's France in a quick recap.  We made it into Turkey about 4:30 this afternoon, off the airport escalator and into the arms of my sis and her fam.  There were tears.  We've got some fun adventures planned for this leg too, trips to Cappadocia and Istanbul.  More updates to come!  But for now I have to go enjoy sleeping in a bed that's not in a hostel room with 10 other peeps.  :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Begin day 2 in Paris

Well we've made it over the pond. Let's just say, sleeping on a plane is not ideal.
We got in a little before noon, found a luggage locker in Gare du Nord and headed out. First stop: Sacre Coeur. Climbing the stair, dodging street venders trying to put bracelets on your wrists, we turned to find the hazy landscape known as Paris. And Sacre Coeur is gorgeous. However, we were more overwhelmed by the beauty of Notre Dame. Pictures can do little justice to describe the God praising awe. While you feel so small, you are capture by the light floating across the buttresses, pointing your eyes toward heaven.
After reading Tale of Two Cities, we had to visit the Concierge where many were imprisoned during the French Revolution including Marie Antoinette. Surreal to touch walls and walk on stones with so much history.
Today we try to see the Eiffel Tower, some jardins, Arc, and finish with the Louvre. Then we take a day trip up to Giverny and the coast.
Good night America, good morning Paris.
Pictures from the plane and our hostel.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Well hello there

We're leaving! Sitting in our first airport as I type. For the next month, we'll be traveling through Europe and Western Asia. The blog will look a little different, as I will mainly be posting from an iPod, and can't type long discourses with one finger. :)

For family and interested friends, this space will be updated as we can with pics and short messages. I'll be back in July with normal posting, whatever normal means!

Here I am with our stuff and here's one of Aaron at the airport.

We'll catch ya next from the city of love...Paris!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A day for my mother

I'm convinced that my mom's life is a miracle of God.  

I've been typing and backspacing for fifteen minutes now, trying to figure out how to tell my mom's story yet preserve the dignity of those I have loved.  How to tell the truth which magnifies the redemption.  Yet in the end, it is not my story to tell.  

She is one of eight kids, and her childhood was filled with pains that my sister and brother and I have never had to experience.  I've heard the stories.  Now that I am older, I know some of the stories have probably been left unspoken.  There are some hurts that do not need retelling.  

And then there was Jesus.  Jesus, the turning point of all stories which begin with an ache but end with glory.  My mom was smart, and she got a scholarship to college, and she left the town of coal mines.  And just as He did for Israel in Isaiah 54, God threw open the boundary lines of my mom's life and gave her a new inheritance.  

One of my earliest memories of mom is where I would find her upon waking.  She was always on the living room couch, Bible laid open.  Some mornings, she was kneeling beside the couch, and I would tiptoe back to bed, knowing something was in progress that I shouldn't yet disturb.  

She prayed for us.  She prayed for my dad.  She prayed for her home, that it would be godly.  She spoke it to us often, how deep her desire was to have a godly home.  The very antithesis of the one she had known.

Oh Mama, how the Lord has given you the desire of your heart.

I am so thankful for you, Mama.  For your gentle heart of compassion and service.  For the way you can talk to anyone and everyone.  For how your table is always open to one more.  For the Truth you clung to and taught us to love.  For the unending intercession you have offered up on our behalf.

I see Grace flung near and far over you, Mama.  You have believed in a heavenly Father who is everything your own dad was not, and you have not been disappointed.  His faithfulness to you has birthed your faithfulness to us, and now, your children stand up and call you blessed.

Sister, we missed you muchly.  :)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

the Gift

When all your songs are dried up, when your melodies are lost, when the tune that used to lift your spirits does not do so anymore,

When you ache to be done but robotically continue, when you need a vacation but the calendar does not agree, when your shoe soles are all worn thin,

When the quiet thick of 4 am waking feels scary and big, when the morning coffee ceases to be a savior, when the promise of a new day does not seem like a promise,

When you are burnt-out, dried-up, all-used,

this is the place,

the place of the whisper,

the place of the broken,

the place He meets you.

When you realize the things that scaffolded you up are broken and creaky, when you stop chasing the glitter and see that it is dust, when all the other gifts are not enough,

He gives Himself.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Garage sale lessons

It is garage sale time, baby!

The past 9 months, we've been on a mission to earn/save money in as many ways as we can.  We've kept a record in my crazy pink paisley notebook, writing down each penny as it came in.  I've waitressed.  We cut back our grocery budget.  We sold random things on Craigslist: Aaron's old orchestra tuxedo and a gas grill someone gave us.  We did odd jobs -- cleaning, taxes, handyman help.

It's been a lot of fun.  Okay, some days of waitressing were not that fun.  Short Blonde Hair Lady, I'm really sorry that your potpie wasn't hot enough.  But overall, the process of saving for something important has been a good experience.   Now we're t-minus two weeks to departure date for a trip that we never could have afforded on our normal spending/saving plan.  And I get to see these faces!!  Eeek!  That right there is worth every grumpy customer.

The garage sale is our last "fundraiser" if you will.  My mantra for the garage sale is, "I will not be a hoarder."  Yikes.  The biggest problem with being a thrift store + garage sale aficionado myself is I bring a lot of crap (sorry Mom; it's the most apt word) into our house.  But by golly, it's not gonna stay!

I've been combing through our house the past week or so, taking out things that we could sell.  Last night, I got to the magazines.

"Oh man.  I know I want to keep the Country Livings."

Aaron looked over, bemused.

"And maybe the Better Homes.  But what I really want to do is go through them and clip the pages I'd like to keep."

Bigger smile from Aaron.

"I think I'm definitely keeping the Martha Stewart Livings."

I have a magazine problem y'all.  Some were given to me as gifts, others I bought myself for rock bottom $5 subscriptions or something irresistible like that.  Give me a stack of magazines anyday over Pinterest.  I could sit cozied up on the couch with my glossy friends for hours.

When I said I couldn't part with the Garden Gates, Aaron saw the moment for intervention.  He reminded me it's a slippery slope.  Before I know it, I'll go from keeping a shelf of magazines to having 45 cats and wearing a moo-moo all day.

Thank you, husband.

"What if I just keep what I can fit in this cubby?"  I bartered.

"Um, no.  I know how that game goes.  You can fit a lot of stuff in one cubby."

What a hardnose.  Sheesh.

I'll skip to the end of the story for you: I'm getting rid of the magazines!!  It is a sorrow to part with Martha.  What if someday I need to know the exact way Bedford stakes peonies???  And how will I know when to polish my brass antiquity collection without her calendar???

I can't help but wondering, though, as the pile grows in the sunroom, if maybe, just maybe, the things we don't want to part with are exactly the things we need to give up?  

Sometimes it takes a magazine to remind you:

Open hands is the best way to live.

After all, no one really looks good in a moo-moo.

Monday, May 7, 2012

What if our legalism was love?

She fiddled with her wet hair, turning it into a long, sleek spiral.  "I think God is asking me not to date, to just be with Him for a while."

We sat on our deck, the 90 degree May weather weakening as evening fell.  It was the night before Cinco de Mayo, the night before the night our moon would be as big and bright as it gets.  We could see the moon from our plastic patio chairs, glazed in a layer of cracked clouds.

I knew as soon as she spoke the words what the other girl felt.  I could see the heavy across her face, the doubt, the confusion of where she stood compared to what her best friend had just verbalized.

"So does that mean I'm wrong for dating?  I mean, I feel like I have to be in the wrong place when I hear someone say that."

These two girls, I love them so deeply.  I have journeyed with them for three years now.  There have been sleepovers, shopping, movies, Facebook (and more Facebook), confession, prayers, the sharp spear of the Word dividing bone and marrow.  They are a decade younger than me, but they are my friends.

"You know what?"  I asked.  They nodded, inviting more.

"I think that there are some things that God doesn't give a prescription for.  We know certain things are wrong based on His Word-- lying, greed, sex outside of marriage.  But other things?  I think He has a different plan for different people.  Some Christians would set up rules for you about dating.  Absolutes.  But what if what God wants most is for you to follow Him, not rules?  If you live by rules, then one of you is wrong.  But if you live by relationship, if you live by pressing in close to Christ and listening as hard as you can to His voice, then you both can be right.  Both seeking Him."

I've thought a lot about that conversation since Friday night.  About the extra rules that we as Christians have created.  You know, we're not the first group to struggle with this.  Jesus socked it to the Pharisees for the same thing.  "They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them."  (Matthew 23:4)

It's so easy to do.  What a sneaky trick of the enemy: a holy rulebook for life.  Don't get me wrong, I firmly believe that the Bible is very clear on issues of sin.  I'm talking about the things that aren't clearly spoken on in the Bible.  Things that we get caught up in "being right" about.  Personal convictions that we force upon others.  Good ideas for us that we turn into heavy packages of law for our neighbor.

It is heaps easier to live by rules.  It's heaps easier to take someone's prescription and set my face towards doing it as well as I possibly can than to fall on my face before Almighty God and seek His heart.  

So we get out our pens and we scribble away:

"Don't use birth control."

"Don't date."

"This is the only way to study the Bible."

The woman who told my mom that if she sent us to public school she didn't care for our souls.

Lines, rules, can'ts.  And it seems to me that the more of these we create, the less love we live in.

What if our platform, our campaign, was simply Jesus?

What if we encouraged others to listen to Him instead of us?

What if we offered to walk alongside others as they figured out life, praying with them, being with them through the struggle, trusting that God's voice will indeed speak louder than ours?

What if we let go our of rules and took hold of relationship?

What if we made love our legalism?  

What if the issue that the world accused us of being unmovable about was love?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

can't carry the heavy

"Why can't life be easy?"

We were sitting on the living room floor, underneath the fan turned on high (we will make it without the AC this month, we will make it), and Aaron knew I did not want an answer.  He rubbed my back as the ugly cry began.  You know the one.  Please tell me you know it.  :)  Mine sounds like a high pitched animal squeal, followed by a minute or two of silence as I gasp in air, eyes pinched shut, and then the squeal begins again.  (I'm glad new mornings help me see the humor in it.)

It's been a hard year.  I've picked my way through most of it, and enough hope always crept through the cracks to begin another day, another week.  I thought things would slow down, give a little, trickle off before we packed our bags and flew away.  Yesterday I realized they weren't going to, and it all felt like too much, you know?  The whole hard year, one big lump, bearing down on me, bowling me over.

"I can't," I sobbed.  "I can't have anyone else over for dinner.  I can't have anyone else stay overnight.  I can't go to any more functions.  I can't have any more one-on-ones.  I can't work the seven days I have left."

I've mentioned it here before: the tension I feel with our life, how it tends to suffocate a soul that breathes best in silence.  I have no idea if it is a legitimate thing to be an introvert, or if it's an excuse I use.  That's something I am praying about, and I have no conclusion yet.  But I do know that I wear out more quickly than my sweet husband, who finds energy from being around others.  Mostly, time with people feels like a exhausting work-out session to me, especially this year.  Is it because I was working 25 hours a week on top of K-Life?  Is it because my sister moved across the ocean, taking along one of my safe places?

I don't know.

Today, at the request of Aaron, I'm taking the day off.  I'm canceling the two meetings I had with girls, and I'm not going to K-Life tonight.  Work can't be cancelled, but that's the only thing I have to do today.

Part of me hates taking a day like this.  It makes me feel weak, fragile, like I don't have it all together.

Yet.  I am supposed to be weak.  

How quickly I forget.

Today, I'm plunking down my lawnchair at the campground of the weak.  I'm checking into the hotel of Not on Top of It.  I'm asking to understand once more the secret of His life for mine, His victory for my defeat, His strength for my weakness.

"He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."  -1 Corinthians 15:57

Oh thank goodness for that, because I sure enough can't find it on my own.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Process over perfection

So, let's talk about an issue here.  And as we talk, I'll intersperse some random Easter pics, okay?  Because a blog post without pictures is boring.  Here's the issue: sometimes I don't blog for a very long time.   As Mom said the other day, "You blog in spurts."  So true.

Aaron hates these kind of pictures. Can you tell by his smile?  I'm sure I said something ridiculous like, "But babe, it's Easter!"

There's this pressure I feel when it comes to blogging.  I think this pressure is self created.  Aaron reminds me often that I judge myself through other's eyes.  I assume people are feeling a certain way about me/the way I do things, but really they are not.  Here's why I feel pressure:

1) I started this blog during an intense season of my life (hello living in Kolkata), and I had a lot to write about what the Lord was teaching me.  Now, I don't have as many deep or heartwrenching or in-your-face experiences, and I feel sort of dumb blogging about everyday life.

2)  I was an English major in college, and while I now realize that this degree does not open many practical employment opportunities, I should, at the very least, be able to write a good blog!!!

I feel like I am going through a season of rediscovering my vision for life.  What does this have to do with blogging?  I'm not sure, but I'll try to enunciate the connection.

Wow, Dad, thanks for capturing this precious moment.

I was trying to explain the vision void to Aaron as we drove home from my grandparent's house today.  I am in this weird limbo season of coming close to the finish line of the ministry that's been our life for three years and not knowing what's next and then there's the mommy card.  Most of the blogs I read are written by mommies.  Mommies with a beautiful purpose of raising up arrows for Christ.  I really do want to be a Mom at some point in my life.  Whether through adoption or birth.  Most of my friends are having babies right now. I feel this pressure (going back to the weird, created pressure I put on myself) to join the club. Like this is the stage of life where I am supposed to start having babies.  Like it's been three years and that is long enough, now get busy.  (Only a few people have mentioned our childless state; I really do think that I am creating the pressure...don't be afraid to talk about babies around us; we  do love them!)  I read the Mommy blogs, and I think, "Wow, what a ministry they are having in their own home; what a difference they are making; they are moms, and they are gosh darn cute!"

I asked Aaron in the car today, "Where do we stand with having kids?"  The basic summary is that we're both not quite ready to start a family.  As I fretted over how other people would perceive that, he gently reminded me (again) that our story is not anyone's but our own: that we serve an intensely intimate and personal God who writes all our stories with wildly different lines, but with one grand Purpose.  That is beautiful.

So hmm.  I'm not sure I have reached a conclusion.  But there are my thoughts tonight.  Honestly, the blogs I enjoy best are not the ones meticulously crafted by an over-achieving English major :), but  those real-life, every-day bits kind.  Because no one's life is staged.

Maybe I'm entering a new stage of blogging.


This is my life, and I don't know right now what makes me passionate or excited, and I grow weary and weak in His field (thank you Andrew Peterson for that line), and I want be a FULLY ALIVE woman, but I am okay with that being a process.

That's all.

Is it okay to write from the process?

I want to.