Category Archives: Life Lessons

When You Long for Home

I’m standing in the heart of the city, trains whirring past. Dogs barking. A hundred languages mingle in the chilled, pre-spring air. I’m in the middle of a vibrant, metropolitan city but my heart is a million miles away. It roams far green fields, sits on rock walls and watches the fog roll in from the ocean. It’s in a pub with lilting music, pungent air and a steaming cup of tea cozied elbow to elbow with friends. I’m standing in Vienna, but my heart longs for Ireland – for home.

When You Long for Home

I was standing on a hill, wind whipping my hair, sheep bleating in defiance of the rain that incessantly pelted their coats. I was in the middle of one of the most beautiful countries known to man, but my heart was a million miles away. It was lying poolside gazing up at a forever-blue sky, roasting in the summer heat. It was in the desert with cacti stretched tall in the orange-red-violet glow of a Sonoran sunset. It was in the living room with kin, drinking the memories in deep. I was standing on a hill in Ireland, but my heart was longing for Arizona – for home.

I was sitting on a beach, staring at a coast I never dreamed I would see. Incredible food filled my belly, and friends who had gone years unseen sat on either side. I was sitting on the Portuguese coast, but my heart was a million miles away. It was in my top-floor flat overlooking a city that never sleeps. It was wandering the streets filled with Mozart and Beethoven where the Sacher Torte is fresh and the coffee flows. It was in my own bed with the window that looks to the east and wakes up with the sun. I was sitting on a beach in Portugal, but my heart was longing for Vienna – for home.

I’m sitting in a pew, surrounded by people with hands lifted, hearts swollen – perhaps broken – with music swirling and words of praise and honor lifting high. I’m sitting among people I love worshipping the God I love, but my heart is a million miles away. It’s bowed low on golden streets, too awed to lift it’s gaze to His face. It’s strolling, weightless and carefree for the first time, hand in hand with the most beautiful Man it’s ever seen. It’s finally at rest, finally full, perfectly whole without an ounce of doubt or pain, not wondering if it’s good enough. I’m sitting in a sanctuary in a beautiful church, but my heart longs for Heaven – for home.

Do you ever feel homesick? Out of place? Like something just isn’t quite right? The longer I live this nomadic expat life, the more I realize that I truly do not have a home here on this earth. Home is so many different places, with so many different people. And it’s pangs run deep and come with a vengeance at the most unexpected – and often most inopportune – times. And the less at home I feel wherever I am now, the more keenly aware I am that I have a permanent Home ready and waiting for me. And it spurs me on to want more – to not settle for just getting by – on this spinning rock we call The World. It makes me want to love more deeply, laugh more heartily, work more diligently, and care more freely, because in the blink of an eye this home will for me be no more, and I will be finally face to face with the One for whom I loved, laughed, worked and cared. I will finally…be home.

So, when you feel the pangs of sadness, and you feel alone. When home just doesn’t seem to feel like home anymore, when you just can’t seem to find your place here, find your place in Him. He loves without demand, and will provide this forever Home to anyone who asks – anyone who dares to love Him in return. And you know what? It’s amazing how knowing where Home truly is, gives purpose and drive and reason to the season spent in the foreign land.

The Woman on the Corner

I see her sitting there everyday. Rain, shine, snow, wind, she’s there.

Her skin is dark, weathered, worn. Wisps of black-grey hair peek out from underneath her near thread-bare scarf, her long skirts gathered around her legs as she sits criss cross on the sidewalk under the tree. That big tree that leafs large in the summer, rains gold in the fall and stands tall and threatening in the winter. Some days she has no shoes; today she does.

She sits and rocks gently back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, one hand clutched to her chest. Eyes distant and empty and I wonder if she wishes she was anywhere but here? What is this city to her? Home? Hell?

The Woman on the CornerWhen someone extends enough mercy to make some semblance of eye-contact with her, she begins her plea…I’ve never been able to discern what language she speaks. Is it German? Gypsy? Romanian? I really can’t tell.

With one leathery hand she reaches out to anyone who will look; with the other she gestures to her mouth. Her eyes telling a story most of us don’t even want to imagine.

Often times I make sure I carry something extra in my purse – an apple, a granola bar, something – so I can hand it to her. I don’t like to give money. You never know what they will do with it.

Right?

Day after day I walk past her…multiple times a day I see her face, hear her garbled speech. And sometimes… I just get angry.

I wonder is she homeless? Where does she go at night? She’s never there at night. Is she embroiled in some kind of panhandling scheme? And will her handlers beat her if she doesn’t gather enough today?

Maybe she’s just unable to get a job. Or maybe she’s just too lazy to work, I think to myself on my worst days; and I hate who I am in those moments.

One day I walked past her and smiled gently, but shook my head no. Not today, I try to say with my eyes.

Later I came by again, bringing lunch home for my husband and myself. It’s our little ritual once a week on a day all the kids are in school: we treat ourselves to a tasty lunch.

I heard her mumblings before I saw her, and something stirred in my soul.

But I kept walking.

I didn’t even look at her.

After I got home, I let myself admit what I was trying to ignore down on the street: I should have given her my meal.

Even later, I needed to go to the grocery store and I told myself that if she was still there, I would buy her some food.

She was still there. This time, she didn’t look at me. She was reclining comfortably on one elbow and smoking a cigarette.

A righteous wrath burned within me. Are you kidding me?? I knew it. I knew it was all a scam. I’m sure she has enough food at home and this is just something she does for the money. How dare she!

However, while in the store I couldn’t shake that stirring from before, so I bought a bag of whole-wheat mini-baguettes.

As I neared her place, I found myself wishing I knew what to say to her. But I didn’t. We don’t speak the same language. So I just smiled sheepishly, and handed her the bread. Not knowing if she truly needed it; not knowing if she really was wanting money instead; just not knowing.

She took it and bowed her head. And then she looked at the bread as if it were gold. She looked at it the same way I looked at my first baby the moment she was born. She sighed a sigh of relief and neither one of us needed words.

I struggle sometimes balancing the mantel of being a “responsible Christian” and not perpetuating an already broken system, and having compassion and extending grace I’m sure I would hope someone would extend to me were our places exchanged.

I still have my suspicions about the legitimacy of her plight, but the truth is I have no way of knowing. And so I smile, and any time I can, I give.

And now I know her name and I can’t help but wonder…what if God is using me to call her by name?

I tried to have a conversation with her yesterday, but we speak nothing close to the same language. However, the smile on her face when she sees me coming tells me that Love rarely needs words and Grace is a universal dialect. So I will continue to operate upon the advice given to me by a friend: when in doubt, give grace.

And I will walk even more humbly with my God because what He is showing me about Himself through this woman on the corner.

 

 

5 Things I Learned About Myself on My First Ski Trip

Having grown up a desert rat in central and southern Arizona, skiing was always somewhat of a foreign concept to me. It was something either rich people did, or college kids on winter break. Certainly not an option for a girl like me: not an athletic bone in her body who lived hours away from any possibility of snow.

Then we moved to Austria.

During the week long semester break in February, just about everyone in Austria who has kids does one thing: go skiing.

My husband, who grew up with a ski-instructor for a father, also naturally grew up skiing. He’s told me fondly many times how he remembers skiing between his dad’s feet when he was only three or four years old. Our nomadic lifestyle, coupled with the fact that most of our adult life had been spent in either Ireland or Texas – two places not well known for great ski conditions – made it so it had been years since Seth had been able to ski, even though it’s one of his favorite pass-times.

So, this year we decided to embrace our inner Austrians and head for the hills to shoop-shoop-shoop (to quote my gal-pal Rachel Greene) down the slopes. tumblr_m0f36d7Yzz1r5idzso1_500

Guys, I was slightly terrified. Excited, but terrified.

I mean, what if I was awful at it? What if I hated it? What if I embarrassed myself, not even able to make it down the kiddie slope? What if I broke my whole body??

5 Things I Learned About Myself On My First Ski TripWell, friends, I am here to tell you that I not only survived, I really enjoyed it! I even learned a few things about myself along the way, that I’d like to share with you.

1. I’m physically stronger than I thought. My instructor (yes, I took lessons rather than my husband teaching me. We were told it would be best for our marriage…I believe “they” were right. Anyway.) started me out not with going up the mountain on any kind of lift, but side stepping our way up. “To help me get a feel for the skis and my body on them.” Ha. Also, once I did use a lift, it wasn’t the kind with a seat. It was just a rope that I had to grab onto for dear life as it tugged me up the hill, but also had to let go of soon enough that my hand didn’t get sucked into the vortex of death. You guys, I spent the day tugging, pulling, squatting, lifting, bending and all manner of other “-ings” and I’m not too humble to say I rocked it! I had much more stamina and physical ability than I would have imagined (Thank you Shuan T and Insanity!). At the end of the day, my muscles were totally shot and that’s when I learned the next lesson about myself.

2. I’m mentally stronger than I thought. There were several times when I just wanted to give up. Like the time I ventured higher on the run and bit it big time and slid halfway down the slope on my back. I briefly asked my husband to just bury me there and go on; and tell the kids I love them. But I got up anyway, and my mind gave my body the strength to continue on – without breaking every bone!

3. My husband and I make a pretty darn good team. This one I knew – it was cemented home in the deepest corner of my heart just how great a team we make after the birth of our first child. However, I was reminded of it again this trip. After the massive face-plant described above, Seth was encouraging me to try again from the higher spot on the run. I was – ahem – less than willing. He offered to go with me, and I reluctantly agreed. As I started down the slope, speed caught up with me quickly and I started to panic. That’s when I heard his voice behind me, “You got it. Pizza slice the skis. There you go, good. Now turn, gently. Keep turning, keep turning. Great! Now straighten out. Yes! You got this!” and so on. Man, guys, just hearing his voice – so calm, so confident – gave me the mental boost to get myself under control and do what I had been taught to do. Cross over into real life? Uh, yeah. In short, my husband rocks and he’s my hero.

4. I’m more of an athlete than I thought. I have used many words to describe myself over the years. Athlete or athletic has never, ever been one of them. However, as I was skiing down that hill, it hit me: I am actually quite athletic – as long as it doesn’t involve a ball, puck, or any other such device. I’m great at sports that require self-awareness, balance, and good body control. A friend bestowed the word “sporty” upon me when she saw a photo of me on the slopes on Instagram. At first I balked, but now, I take that adjective and own it proudly!

5. I’m still not an adrenaline junkie or extreme sport enthusiast – and that’s ok! I have spent most of my life (and particularly my childhood) wishing I was something other than what I was. I wished I was more sporty, or better at math. I wished I longed for adventure and excitement; that I would love the “thrill” of the free-fall feeling on a roller coaster. The truth is, I just. Don’t. I’m finally, at the age of 36, starting to feel at home in my own skin, and appreciate who and how God made me to be. I don’t want to waste any more time mourning the things that I’m not – and that Susie Smith next door seems to be. No. While I never want to grow complacent in life, and I never want to be unwilling to push myself and try new things, I want to spend my energies and time developing and honing the skills and gifts God placed in me from the beginning. Skills, gifts and talents He gave me on purpose. For a reason. To wish those away for some other trait or talent I see in someone else is not only insulting to my Creator, it is denying and wasting who I am.

So, there you have it. Some deep personal/spiritual lessons I learned about myself last week while undertaking a new and scary endeavor that I ended up loving.

When was the last time you tried something new and/or scary? Did you learn anything about yourself? Share in the comments!

What’s the Point of Singing “Peace on Earth?”

Bombs exploding around the world.

Children gunned down in their schools and classrooms.

What's the Point of Singing Peace on Earth??The “Land of the Free” and “Home of the Brave” ripped apart once again by racial tensions and ethnic divides.

The world is going to hell in a hand basket and it flies in the face of what we see and hear during this Christmas season.

We sing songs of Joy, Hope and Peace. We declare peace on earth and goodwill to our fellow man, and yet what we find when we step outside our doors or turn on our televisions or scroll through our Facebook feed is the exact opposite.

I read an article the other day bemoaning this exact state of affairs. The author shares her experience of how she no longer anticipates Christmas with excitement and jubilance, but rather with lament. She says,

Around this time of year I become a battering ram of lament, pounding against the season’s greetings and wreath-clad doors. We are dying here and there are none to comfort. Does anyone sense the dissonance between our Christmas songs and our actual stories? Does a quick scan of the headlines remind you that Christ, the deliverer, is a long way off? Does anyone care that West Africans are still dying of ebola, Syrian families hang by a thread and brown bodies are under constant threat in their own country?

When I first read that, my  heart groaned in agreement. Yes!, I thought. Why are we proclaiming peace and joy when we should be mourning and lamenting the state of the world and the godless existence so many experience?

Yet, something didn’t sit right with that thought alone. My heart laments the state of this world. It breaks under the weight of grief, despair, depravity, hatred. And yet, I sing.

Peace on earth, good will toward men is not some naive declaration of the way things seem to be every time December rolls around. It is not some empty platitude used only to fill the void and make an attractive Christmas card.

Joy the the World is not merely a rote exercise in remembering better days long past. On the contrary.

It is a prayer. It is a cry lifted to the Holy One, to continue to bring about His master Plan.

It is Hope embodied as I turn from that which is seen to that which is unseen yet so desperately hoped for.

It is a reminder that the best is yet to come, and this world hasn’t been fully left to its own devices. Yet.

These days, these dark times are but a glimpse of what humanity without Divinity would be. We are looking head-on into a dingy mirror of our own souls and seeing what would become of us if left to our own devices. If the Holy, the Almighty, the Great and Compassionate God were to remove the entirety of His presence from among us.

I sing JOY because I see what could be, and I see what He has done.

I declare HOPE because I see what Christ has rescued me from. It may seem now like a mere tiny candle flame in a Grand Canyon abyss of darkness, but it flickers there nonetheless.

I sing PEACE because I look ahead to the day when our Prince of Peace will come and make all things new; will make things as they were always meant to be before the decay of pride set in on that day so long ago under the apple tree.

The darker the day, the louder I will sing.

Because though my heart lament the Shadow of the Valley, my soul will sing His praise because the break of dawns glows dim on the horizon.

My soul grieves in the depths of me for the evil in this world, yet my heart shouts joy! because I’ve been lifted out of that miry, disgusting grave.

My view today is only as  a smeared image through a filth-coated glass, but I see it anyway and it burns hope so deep and so hot that song nearly bursts forth on it’s own.

These days are hard. They are dark. Full of pain and grief. Humanity groans just like a woman in labor for the pain. But I sing PEACE and I sing JOY and I sing HOPE all the stronger because I know Whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is more than able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.

Will you sing with me?

Gather the Fragments {Notes for the Broken}

We live in a broken world.

Broken marriages. Broken homes. Broken hearts. Broken dreams. Broken…

Whether you’ve just lost your job, lost a loved one or are dealing with the aftermath of a broken childhood, there are times when we all just feel…broken. Sometimes we don’t just feel broken; sometimes we are broken.

Be it from the day in, day out wear down on our bodies, minds and energy or the sudden, harsh stress of a traumatic event, the small, subtle cracks suddenly burst open and we find ourselves scattered and shattered all over the floor.

Have you ever been there? Or perhaps I should ask, when was the last time you were there?

I recently read a tweet from Lisa Jo Baker that really stuck with me:

 

 

The next day I read the following verse:

“And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.'” John 6:12 ESV

Gather the Fragments: Notes for the BrokenThis verse comes right after Jesus had fed a multitude of people on the side of a mountain. Jesus took the five loaves of bread and two fish a little boy had offered him and multiplied it and used it to feed 5,000 people.

I had heard and read this story literally hundreds of times yet this time, something really stuck out to me: that nothing may be lost. Another translation says, “let nothing be wasted.”

What on earth did the disciples do with those twelves basketfuls of leftovers they collected?

Did they take it to the local village and spread the wealth? Did they send a basket home with twelve family groups? Did they send them to the local homeless shelter? The Bible doesn’t say. All the Scriptures promise us is that these broken fragments – the ones nobody else wanted; the ones nobody else needed; the leftovers; the crumbswould.not.be.wasted.

I have been going through a season in which I am dry, weary, exhausted and…well, broken. To be totally honest, I had not been very grateful for the broken bread of my heart, as Lisa Jo so beautifully put it. I have been wallowing in fatigue and self-pity feeling quite justified in my low state.

It felt like all the pieces of me that had been broken off – either to serve others, or from the sheer beating taken by the storms of life – were being utterly wasted. Blown away in the gale-force winds of the world.

That nothing may be lost…

Why would God make sure to include this small detail of the account to be included in Scripture if He wasn’t going to tell us how He was going to use them? I am no Bible scholar, but perhaps it is in there for days like this when I read His word and words of wisdom from a Godly woman who seeks after His heart to remind me that through the hard times of life, when walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Doubt, when broken and run down and not-sure-this-is-what-I-signed-up-for that when I commit my ways and days to Him, nothing is wasted.

Perhaps He is gathering all these broken, leftover fragments together with a great plan to sustain the heart of another when we are whole again? Maybe He is saving up these un-wanted bits to work a miracle of which we could not even begin to fathom.

Friend, are you broken today? Are you tired, rundown, weary

Let me encourage you to bring your brokenness to the One who made you, and knows every part of you better than you do. When it seems that the world has eaten their fill of your heart and left the rest to dry and blow away like chaff in the wind, let Him gather the leftover fragments so that nothing will be wasted. We may not understand His plans for the broken bits, but we can trust His heart is pure, His love is strong and He has our very best interests in His heart, and His hands – so that nothing may be lost.

 

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