Getting a Glimpse

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Back in December, I posted this on Instagram:

Just a Glimpse

We had been back in the States for about 4 months, with zero clue as to what we were doing next. We had no idea if we would head back overseas or stay here in the U.S.

I remember during that time, however, I had so many, many moments like the one above. Moments where my breath was stolen by a love for this place like I’ve never known before.

I was born in Arizona. Other than a few short years in my early childhood, I lived here for most of my life until I got married and we started our whirlwind expat adventure. But never have I felt such a stirring deep in my soul as I did last winter.

I remember this day. And I remember feeling terrified to love so much. I didn’t want to let myself feel because if I let myself truly fall hardcore in love with this place it would be that much more heartache when we left it.

I had no reason to believe we wouldn’t leave. That’s kind of what we’ve done our whole adult lives — and definitely what we’ve done the past few years.

I was tempted to put up a wall. To not let myself feel the full extent of the yearning that comes with falling in love. Tempted to fight the awe one of her sunset brings; tempted to ignore the flutter of palm trees silhouetted against an all-blue sky.

I also remember wondering why. Why in the world was there suddenly this fresh stirring in my heart for a place I’ve known all my life? As a kid I tolerated it. As a young adult, I couldn’t wait to leave it. As a newlywed jet-setting around the world, I appreciated it. But suddenly I was truly loving it. Loving her people. Loving her culture. Seeing beauty where I used to see…nothing.

Of course, we did end up staying here in Arizona, and we’ve made our home not too terribly far from where that photo was taken. Our windows look out over the foothills that made up my childhood home and my kids are stomping the same grounds I did all those years — something I never thought I’d have the privilege of seeing.

Getting a GlimpseAnd I’m so grateful. I’m grateful that I had the impulse to share that image on social media, not so much because you would see it, but because I could look back and see it.

I see now that God was giving me a glimpse of what was to come. Just like He planted a love for Ireland and her people, then Vienna and her people, He planted a love for this place that He knew I would need on the dark days when I couldn’t see the forest for the cacti.

Because when reality hits and the dishes pile up and the 9-5 grinds us down and we look around this place and wonder what in the world have we done?….I can see.

I can see that this is the right place, this is the right time and whatever hardships or difficulties or annoyances we are enduring right now don’t negate that we were placed here in this house, this neighborhood, this school for such a time as this.

We have something this place needs. And that photo, that glimpse, reminds me that this place, these people, have something we need.

And so if you’re in a hard place today, I want to encourage you to go back. Look back to the place, or that time, or that note in your journal or that seemingly random photo on a website and remember.

And pay attention. That longing you can’t put your finger on? That flutter in your belly like a smile from your crush and you can’t figure out why because you’re just doing the same thing you’ve always done? Maybe you’re getting a glimpse. Maybe you’re being given the gift of seeing a tiny piece of the puzzle that is preparing you for what you can’t yet imagine. Tuck that away, dear friend. Don’t let yourself forget, but the time will come when you’ll need that glimpse like an anchor in a storm to remind you that you are where, you are who, you are what you are supposed to be.

When You’re Not Who You Thought You Were

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I slowly sipped the steaming coffee, letting it soothe me with it’s warmth.

As I cupped the mug in my hands, my eyes lingered on the faded Scottish flag painted upon it. We had bought it while in Scotland on a work trip back years ago. Back then there was no mistaking the stark white X slicing through the vibrant blue background. Today? You have to know what it used to be to recognize it.

I feel like that mug.

I’m not sure if it was a thought or a prayer, but I couldn’t let it go.

Some days, the reality of our 10 years of expat life is vivid and strong, shaping and informing the way we see everyday life.

Other times, like today, it seems faded and dull. So much of that lifestyle made up who I was and I couldn’t escape the thought:

I’m not who I thought I was.

When You're Not Who You Thought You Were

You know, I was the American girl living in Ireland, then Vienna, sharing inspiration about marriage, motherhood and faith. I was the one who would post surreal photos of a Viennese cafe or rolling moss-covered hills and declare the goodness of God that could be found there.

This place has sat quiet because I don’t know what to offer you anymore.

It’s a strange thing reconciling this faith journey and where life has taken us.

Can you relate? Have you ever woken up one day and realized you aren’t who you thought you were?

Needless to say, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to know who you are.

Identity.

And what it means when you just. don’t. know.

I started thinking about the woman at the well. You know, the lady who offered to give Jesus a drink of water and He ended up calling her out on her promiscuous lifestyle in the the way that only Jesus can. The way that convicts and cuts you to the spiritual quick, but endears you to Him in the most magnetic of ways. And she ran to her village — the village the had shunned her; treated her like such an outcast that she had to run her errands at the worst possible, most illogical time of day just to avoid running into them — and declared, “Come and see the man who told me everything I’ve ever done!”

Her life changed that day.

Her identity changed.

The more I look at Jesus, the more I see that time after time, when someone encountered Him, they woke up realizing they’re no longer who they thought they were.

Fishermen no longer fished — instead they told other men about the best story ever.

The shamed prostitute no longer damaged and soiled — instead, she was the one given the honor of preparing her Lord for burial with the most fragrant of offerings.

Friends, I still don’t know. I don’t know exactly who I am in this new phase of our lives. I do know as a follower of Christ my purpose never changes, but the manner in which that purpose is carried out sometimes does.

So, I think, dear ones…I think I will look to Jesus. I will seek Him. I will let Him call me out on where I’ve been unfaithful, let His words cut tdeep so that I can adore Him all the more.

And all those years spent overseas in that other life that seems like an eternity ago and only yesterday at the same time? I will choose to believe they weren’t wasted. Because I can still see their imprint on my soul. I may have to squint in just the right light; and who I was then may not be exactly who I am now, but I can’t be who I am now without having been who I was then.

Do you need to join me today? Do you need to run — or crawl, or hobble, or collapse — into the waiting arms of Jesus to let Him speak over you your true Identity? Then do it.

Don’t worry about words or fancy prayers. Let’s just open our hearts, open His Word, open our ears and let Him change us in the miraculous way that only He can.

Shall we?

When You Realize Your Own Insignificance

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I woke up with a jolt.

Something wasn’t right.

I sat up in bed and surveyed my surroundings. Pale blue light seeped lazily through the slats in the vertical blinds, and my husband slept, undisturbed, next to me. No children stirred down the hall, no bird welcome the day with his song.

I’d heard something. It was a pop. Or a bang. Or a…I don’t know. But now all was silent. All I could hear was my own heart pounding in my ears as I became aware of the cool beads of perspiration lining my forehead.

I scanned the room, the doorway, and listened.

Nothing.

I looked at the clock. 4:00 am.

All was silent, but for the gentle rise and fall of my husband’s breath as he slumbered beneath the covers.

I eased myself back onto the pillow and fell into a fitful sleep.

Later that morning while scanning the news, I was made aware of what had roused me.

Photo by: Deibel Photography

Photo by: Deibel Photography

A large asteroid had entered earth’s atmosphere, causing a sonic boom and hundreds of meteorites to scatter all over central and southern Arizona.

A strange feeling washed over me when I read that. Kind of like that feeling you get just after the roller coaster clicks over the crest of the tallest drop.

While I had spent the previous week working, cooking, folding laundry and playing with my kids, this massive rock had been on it’s own journey. It had hurtled towards earth with God-only-knows-what speed, and God-only-knows how many others could potentially join it.

I could suddenly see in my mind’s eye the vast expanse of outer space and all the magnificent goings on that would steal our breath and bring us to our knees in awe if we were to witness them firsthand.

A feeling overwhelmed me. A feeling similar to when I had awoken to the news that our friends halfway around the world had experienced a large earthquake. We were going to the grocery store and talking about schooling for the fall, while their livelihood was being threatened in a dramatic and violent way.

Or like the feeling I got standing on the end of the pier looking down in the dark depths of the Pacific Ocean, imagining all the amazing and wondrous creatures stirring below.

I spend so much time focusing on my momentary and immediate wants and needs, and so little time considering the vast enormity of everything else.

Suddenly I feel like that beloved cartoon character standing beneath the expansive night sky shouting, “I’m significant!”

Except I know that I’m not.

In no universe, other than my own, am I the center-point. There’s no version of this story of humanity in which I am the fulcrum about which the rest of creation swings.

It’s in these moments — these momentous, yet altogether mundane moments — that the severity of my insignificance smacks with the full force of a thousand hurricanes.

In the grand scheme of things, my plans, my agendas, my purposes, don’t mean a single solitary thing.

I am utterly and completely insignificant.

Not in a self-deprecating, I-have-nothing-to-bring-to-the-world sort of way.

No.

I’m insignificant in the most gloriously significant way.

When I see my true place in this majestic, glorious, chaotic and dangerous world, it is then that I am truly free to fulfill the deeper purpose for which I was placed here.

It’s when I realize the petty nature of my shallow desires that I am released to pursue the dreams and callings of eternal significance.

When I remove any claim — albeit a false claim because nothing was ever mine to begin with — of control of my surroundings, I am empowered to reach out with love and compassion to my fellow brothers and sisters traveling this sod of earth alongside me.

I hope to never lose the wonder, and terror, of moments like I had the other night. I don’t want to forget the awe and trembling of the unfettered realization that there is something so much bigger, more powerful, more wild and dangerous, yet more compassionate at the helm. And that He owes me no explanation.

And while I walk along the daily to-do’s and want-to-do’s and passionate-to-do’s of this life, I never want to lose the awareness that there are infinitely more things, people, heartache and joy happening all around me than what I can see with my feeble eyes.

And I never want to stop being grateful for the opportunity to realize my own insignificance.

The Exquisite Ache of Learning Something new

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I started a new job last week. And after a decade of living the non-traditional expat lifestyle, I can tell you the learning curve was steep. Not just the learning curve, but the mental energy stamina.

It’s been a LONG time since I’ve used my brain in this way.

Oh, I’ve learned new stuff while we lived overseas, sure. Languages, cultures, how to parallel park on a busy European street with cars flying by.

But this…its stretching me. Its awkward and humbling and it stings as the proverbial muscles in my brain stretch and torque in ways they haven’t had to for the largest portion of my working adult life.

And I’m loving it.

The Ache of Learning Something New

Oh sure, I’ve had to go to my boss, red-faced and sheepish to admit when I messed up. A lot. It’s not totally dissimilar to learning a new language. Just like when we moved to Vienna, I wanted to be able to have all the complex conversations by day 2, I found myself the second day on the job frustrated at myself that I couldn’t remember all the myriad responsibilities that accompany my job, and unable to independently navigate the databases I had never seen until the day before.

Sometimes we shy away from learning new things because it’s uncomfortable and hard and awkward. We wobble around like Bambi on his newborn legs, and hope no one notices when we slide, limbs akimbo, across the ice.

But the thing is, the struggle makes us so much stronger. So much more flexible. To quote the incomparable Tom Hanks from the movie A League of Their Own, “It’s the hard that makes it great.”

Though my feet are more firmly planted in my new role than they were last Monday, I know that I will still wobble and slip for awhile yet. But I’m really loving the feeling of accomplishment at the end of my day. The delicious mental exhaustion that reminds me that I’ve used my mind, struggled, and overcome.

So, I ask you dear reader, what are YOU going to learn new his week? This month? This year? Are you shaky-legging it in some new venture? Or are you sitting on the sidelines, worried about falling flat on your face? Let me encourage you, to get out there and wobble, Bambi-friends! I’ll be right there beside you.

The Safety Net of Silence

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This has always been a very safe place for us, friends, hasn’t it? We’ve always been able to talk freely, and be vulnerable with one another. We’ve talked about everything from parenting funnies to spiritual constipation to culture shock to hair styles. And we’ve always been there for one another, lifting each other up, encouraging one another.

That’s why I love it here so much; why I work so hard outside this space to connect with you whether it’s sharing snippets of life through photos, sharing incredible words from other amazing writers and leaders, or using humor through 149 character quips slightly dripping with the sarcasm I so freely offer.

my voice

Its also why it’s been such an odd time for me here lately. The last three years have been…a strain for our family. I’ve not known exactly how to convey the depth of our experiences, but also been afraid to say too much. Be too transparent. So I’ve opted, instead, for the safety net of silence. However, I fear that perhaps my lack of transparency has given the impression that the past three years have been spent in utter despair. When in truth, these years, while painful and raw in many ways, have also been beautiful, eye opening, and have lead us into a deeper understanding of the Truth, of the goodness of our Father.

I recently wrote about my journey as a writer – of finally being able to call myself Writer without feeling like a complete and total imposter. In that post, I asked you all to fill out a survey about what you’d like to see more of in this space. The survey is still open, so if you haven’t taken it yet, I’d love for you to! Your comments there have been so kind and encouraging to me. Thank you!

However, the results of that survey so far leave me at a bit of an impasse. Most of what you all say you’d like more of are more of my own spiritual journey, and more about my life as an expat.

The spiritual journey thing, that I can do. I simply need to put my big-girl pants on, sit down, and share.

However the expat part…I have spent over a decade either being an expat, or preparing to be one. A large part of what I have shared here has been our experiences of finding our way in the rushing waters of culture and language acquisition. And many you are here for that very reason – you, too, are in a land not your own, and there’s a camaraderie to be found among us.

But now, I find myself with the title of Former Expat, and I’m not sure what to do with that in this space. I hope to always be a source of encouragement and insight to those still living that gloriously chaotic lifestyle. However now, you will see our experiences of re-entry into our home culture. A lot has changed, you know!

My point to all of this is…I don’t know if I have approached our time of transition and loss the right way or not, in regards to this blog. However, I know many of you are also struggling with how much to say. How much truth do you truly share in the circle of chairs in Sunday School, or to the friend with the kind eyes over a cup of coffee.

My advice is this: you don’t have to go into nitty gritty details, but I’ve come to discover that community is planted in the midst of vulnerability, watered with the flow of conversation, and flourishes in the warmth of encouragement, support, and gentle admonishment.

But share, dear friends. Open your hearts to one another; to me. We have so much to learn from one another, and we were not meant to walk this journey of life and faith alone. Even Christ fueled up with intense time alone with the Father, and then joined the community he had painstakingly worked to build.

So, friends, I’m working to untangle myself from the safety net of silence, and rejoin the warm waters of community here. Are you with me?