Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Table is Set

We've been here two weeks today. Unpacking, resting up, getting settled. It's been so great to be together day in and day out. I don't think it's really registered with me
that I live in Virginia. It doesn't feel like home, yet.

Our house though is wonderful. In many ways it feels like retreat- a sanctuary. The back yard is small but beautiful. A courtyard, really. Shaded by trees. A brick patio with a fire pit and chairs in a circle. Every night some, if not all, of us venture out to sit under the lights. We listen to music, talk, laugh. Just hang out. If I didn't know better I'd think I was sitting in the courtyard of a winery in Sonoma. It's peaceful and soul-restoring.

So, the journey to Virginia has ended. Another one has begun. Who knows where this leg of the race will take us. Perhaps we will stay in Virginia for a long time- maybe even the rest of our lives. I doubt it  knowing us. Perhaps in 18 months we will be packing up again to begin another adventure. For now, I'm content to be here. To be where I am.

Last night at dinner Noah kept asking if he could stay up late. Did he have to go to bed at his normal bed time. Over and over he kept asking. Finally, Harrison looked at him and said, "Dude, do you know what living in the moment is? Stop thinking about bedtime and enjoy your dinner."

When Harrison said that it reminded me of one of my favorite quotes. It's from a book by C.S. Lewis- from his space trilogy.  "The meal in front of us is the best meal we've ever eaten." That's it. That sums up how I want to live my life. In the right now. What is in front of me right now is the best.

Steve and I have committed to one another not to talk about what's next for us-not until the Lord brings it up. For now, we are here. In Norfolk. In the the neighborhood of Ghent. At Kempsville Presbyterian Church. Feasting on the meal that is before us today.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

No Great Expectations

Two weeks until Maddie graduates. Three weeks until the move. Harrison has already moved up and is looking for a summer job. We have the house on the market and a potential renter. The basement is full of boxes. It's happening.

And reality is sinking in.

Yesterday, I ran into my neighbor at the YMCA. She asked me where we were moving and when I told her we were leaving Charlotte- moving away-  she looked at me with huge eyes and said, "Is that okay with you?" What? I was speechless. She is the first person, besides Steve, who has asked me that. And with Steve he didn't ask me in those words.

Am I okay with this?

All this week I have been full of anxiety. The pressure of having people come look at our home- having to keep it clean and be gone so much of each day has been overwhelming. It seems like such a small thing but it hasn't been -it's been huge for me. I HATE anxiety. Hate so much feeling this way- like I can't breathe. I can't think clearly and even doing the simplest task feels like too much.

I never really believed we'd live in Charlotte forever. But I wanted to. And, Steve and I did talk about it. We talked about how maybe this would be it... our last assignment- the one that we could spend the rest of our lives doing- invest here for the long haul. It hasn't happened like I hoped.

But then again, I know me. I know us. We are adventurers. We like a challenge. We like the new and unknown. I guess it was just easier when I was younger with younger kids. Now, I long to settle somewhere- to build a lifelong community with the people around me.

But, can I hope again?

Yesterday morning over breakfast, I told my friend that I have no expectations. I'm making this move with no expectations.

But hope isn't expectation and maybe I expected too much from living in Charlotte, from our assignment here. This was the first place we had lived that truly felt like home. From the moment we found our house and moved in- Charlotte was home to me. I wanted so desperately to raise my kids in the same house - to see them grow up with the same friends. I realize now I put my hope in where we lived.

Maybe I'm anxious about the move because I have no hope. I've confused hope with expectation.

I want to be hopeful. Hopeful that the next two years will be an oasis for me, for my family. That after three years of being apart so much, that we can begin to rebuild what's been lost and build on what's been gained. Because, there have been things that have been gained. There have been good things about the last season of our life.

Maybe that's hope. Looking back and seeing the beauty from ashes. That even though these last years have been painful that God has been doing good things. So, perhaps the next couple of years will not be easy. But, they can be good- if I hope in Him who is working all things out for His glory. And my good.

It's not about where I live. But Christ, living in me. My hope and my glory..

Monday, April 22, 2013

Hitting the Wall

I recently decided I was done with blogging.... again. I've come to this decision many times and for various reasons. This time is was because I've hit the wall. I've run out of steam with this whole moving thing. I'm tired of thinking about it, talking about it and definitely tired of writing about it. Who cares, anyway? We're moving. People move all the time. Steve and I are separated. Couples are separated all the time.

I've run out of endurance.

I'm ready for a new chapter. A new plot line.

Then Monday happened. April 15, 2013. The Boston Marathon.

In 1998 Steve and I were living in Boston. We had just moved to the campus of Gordon-Conwell, where Steve was getting his M.Div. The whole marathon thing was new to us.  The Monday of the run we were watching the race on TV, sitting in our den, and I'll never forget the moment. Steve looked at me and said, "I'm going run that next year." I said back, "You should!"

Now, at the time Steve was not a runner. He was in good shape and he has always been an athlete but running a marathon? That's a whole new game and we had no idea how he should start. He found out in order to run Boston you have to run another marathon first and qualify. Steve's mind was made up so he set out to make it happen. Pretty quickly he realized he was going to need some help. I was more of a runner at the time, but not distance- maybe 3 - 4 miles a day, but we set out on this adventure together.

He heard about a guy on campus that had run the Boston marathon so Steve sought him out and asked him if we would help him qualify for Boston. Rob gave him some great tips, even running with him some. We trained for 5 months (I decided to train for a half marathon) We picked the Disney marathon to be his qualifying race.

It was a long, difficult training. Steve had never run more than a few miles and that was in high school when we was playing soccer. He was training through the fall and into the winter (in Boston, remember??) Running in rain, wind, snow. And, to top it all off, one day while playing with the kids, he tore his left ring finger almost off. After surgery and a few days of recovery he was back to running. Of course, he had to run with his arm above his head and with a grocery bag tied around it! Yeah, this was definitely against the doctors orders.

But, after our long journey (I say "our journey" because I was training too, but also if you are the spouse of a marathoner then you know..... it's a joint effort to get them to the finish line!)

Over Christmas break we drove down to Florida to run the Disney marathon and half marathon. In order for Steve to qualify to run Boston he had to run the race in 3:10. I finished my run and painfully, slowly made my way to the finish line of the marathon where Steve crossed at 3:36.  To say he was devastated would be an exaggeration, but to say he was disappointed seems a bit to mild. Hey, we'd both just finished our first big races and I'm pretty sure 3:36 is a great first marathon by anyone's standards but still no Boston for Steve that April.

THEN.... we got back to school and Steve told Rob all about the race. Rob's response:  "There's one more race you can run to qualify. It's right here in Cape Cod. I'll get you ready and run it with you."

WHAT?!?! The Cape Cod marathon was less than two months away. But, naturally Steve jumped at the chance and Rob began training him. The week before the race it snowed almost 30 inches. The day of the race we woke up to sub zero temperatures. Steve and Rob had driven up to Cape Cod the day before so that morning Katy (Rob's wife), the kids and I drove up to be there for the end of the run.

We got to the finish line and looked down the course to see piles of snow on either side. I'm talking two walls of snow! There was a huge clock showing the time and it was about 2 1/2 hours into the race. We waited and cheered on the few that did cross.  It was the 3 hour mark. No Steve, no Rob. I knew for them to do it sub 3 hours would have been amazing so I wasn't too worried. Then 3: 05, 3:06. Now, I was worried.

Two guys, running side by side. They were too far away to tell if it was our guys. Yes, no, maybe? Katy and I are yelling, screaming. People around us start asking questions about who were cheering for. We tell them our husbands, who are trying to qualify for Boston.  A guy beside me, in typical Boston fashion says, "Oh my Gawd, they better hurry." Yeah, no joke. These guys running were not Rob and Steve.

It's 3:09. I start to give up. Start to tell myself there is always next year. Then two runners turn the corner for the home stretch. It could be them... maybe? Everyone at the finish line starts yelling. I still can't tell if it's them, then someone says, "one of the guys is shirtless!" It's Steve! I know it! The colder it is the better he runs! We are literally going crazy by then. Jumping up and down, screaming, grabbing each other. Steve crosses the finish line at 3:09. 36. He makes qualifying by 24 seconds!
To this day, it is one of the most exciting events I've ever witnessed!

That April. April 1999 Steve ran his first Boston marathon. Harrison and I were on the side line- just a few feet from the finish line. It was a great day.

Last night, Maddie and Ellie went to a run. A Boston marathon memorial run. In 1999, Maddie was 4 and Ellie 2. Now, they are young women. As they left to run, Ellie wearing one of Steve's medals from Boston, I cried. I cried because I was so sad. Saddened by the devastation of Monday, by the horror of what so many witnessed up close and what the rest of us witnessed from a distance. I cried because I am grieving. Grieving for the families of the lost and injured. But, also because I was so proud. Proud of my girls for going out at 9pm on a Tuesday night to take part in a community effort to honor and remember what happened at the marathon. I was proud that they wanted to stand up and say, "we will  not give in to fear, to grief, to the horror. We will stand for light and hope. We will endure!"

There is another finish line right now. This time I am not on the sideline but in the race. When the bombings happened on Monday I could feel myself falling behind even more, tempted to drop out all together. Sometimes, it's just feels easier to give up and honestly, sometimes I think it's okay to drop out. I believe there are times you need to give yourself a break- give yourself grace.

As I think about how hard Steve trained that first year, how much we worked together to get him to that first Boston finish line I can't help but feel a small stirring in my heart. A renewed desire to finish this race. I want to feel the pride of knowing it was a race well run. I've just got to get over the wall. Endure. The finish line is around the corner. Virginia Beach is in sight. Living together as a family again.... we can make it!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Goodbye Old Friend

We said goodbye to a dear friend recently. Our trampoline. We've had a trampoline for 14 years, since Harrison was 6. I don't think a day has gone by that someone hasn't been outside on it - weather permitting. Or sometimes because of the weather.....

Noah and Lydia making snow angels on the trampoline. 

I could always count on looking out the kitchen window and seeing the kids, the neighbor kids or sometimes Steve out there. We all loved it. As Harrison, Maddie and Ellie turned into teenagers they still managed to find their way out there when there friends came over.

Noah wouldn't believe the trampoline was gone until he could see it with is own eyes. The day our friend came to take it we weren't home. On our way home that afternoon I told him when we got home the trampoline wouldn't be there anymore. All he could say was, "Stop teasing me! I know you are joking." Even after assuring him over and over, until he was standing in the backyard he wouldn't believe me.

This move will be full of many goodbyes but in some ways the first goodbye will be the hardest. It's more than saying farewell to a friend that we love but will see again. It's saying goodbye to childhood. To the physical reminder of Harrison, Maddie and Ellie's childhood. Hot summer days spent doing tricks, learning flips, butt busters- even playing chase. I think of the countless times I had to run outside to the sound sound of one of the kids yelling, "Mom, come see! Watch what I can do!"
The endless "shows" put on by the kids while jumping.

It's hard making this move out of state, away from family and friends. It's even more difficult because it's coming at a time when we are going through changes as a family. Maddie graduating high school and going to Texas. Ellie entering her Senior year and last year with us. Lucy leaving elementary school. Noah starting kindergarten. Lots of changes.

I have always enjoyed the seasons of life of our family- but sometimes I just want to hang on to the way things are right now- here in the moment. And sometimes, I wish I could go back in time for just a bit. Maybe a moment where I was holding Harrison, wiping away a tear or bandaging a knee. A hot humid day when Maddie's hair was blonde and curly and sticky. When she had dirty hands from making mud pies. Or when Ellie was three and wore a red scarf everywhere she went!  I can see her now with that long red scarf tied around her head and flowing down to her feet.

Life moves on and we say goodbye. Goodbye to the people and things that have been dear to us. The ones that have made our life what it has been. My life has been rich so far. Sweet and bitter. Full of love and laughter. I wouldn't trade it. And I'm thankful for the memories. Even though we're not taking our trampoline with us to Virginia we're definitely taking the memories.

Goodbye faithful tramp.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Road Trip

Six hours on the road. Stopped to eat lunch, pee, rent a video from Redbox, get gas. Ellie in the front seat with a blanket over her head for most of the trip. Lucy, Lydia and Noah in the back. Six hours in the car with sticky gum wrappers, emptied water bottles, ground in goldfish, whiny, sleeping, happy, crying, talkative kids. It's amazing the emotions you can experience in six hours.

We arrived home to a tightly locked house. Maddie at work and me with no house key. So, we all pile back into the car and drive to Smoothie King to get a house key. I'm exhausted.

But, the weekend in Virginia Beach with Steve was definitely worth the trip (twice). The trip up had much less stopping and much more anticipation. Ellie and I chatted much of the way, she drove for a good bit for me. The kids in the back laughed, talked, played games and were happy to watch the one video I did bring along. Funny how anticipation is so different from the mundane. Returning to our life in Charlotte. What we know, what we live, what we are enduring now so we can make it to the end.

I stood in the kitchen tonight fixing dinner for the little guys. They sat at the bar asking for water, more chicken, more cheese and crackers. I stood there feeling every second tick off the clock. But, for a split second I wanted to really feel the moment so I made myself be still. I could feel the weight of my body pressing my feet into the floor. Feel this moment. Be present here and now. Hear the children, listen to their constant chatter. Be present, take it all in.

But it was gone as quickly as I willed it to come. Fatigue and impatience set in and all I can think is, "go to bed!"  Them and me.

I'm thankful for the small moments of being aware. Thankful that I have even that. But, the impatience far overshadows  those moments right now. I'm snappy, barking orders, giving killer looks to my kids so often I surprised I have any left. (kids, that is)

Today though, I'm taking refuge in the small victories. A quick snuggle, a kiss, a prayer at the end of the day. When we remember to say " thank you" or "I love you". These are the moments that are getting me through right now. I'm praying that these moments will begin to overshadow the fatigue and loneliness. That love will burn brighter than fear.

Perfect Love cast out all fear. So it must cast out all grumpiness, too. I'm counting on it.

Day 19. 102 to go!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Long and Winding Road

121 Days. 17 weeks. 4 months. However you think about time- that is how long this journey to Virginia Beach is going to take us. It's a long road.

Steve in Virginia. The rest of us in North Carolina. Separated by 350 miles.

Today is day 6.

Last Friday was day one and Steve, our three oldest kids and I caravanned up to move Steve into his temporary digs. We spent the weekend getting to know the area, unpacking a few boxes of books in his new office and meeting some future friends. We also celebrated our Ellie's 16th birthday.

We walked on the beach (more like ran out there to see it and ran back) It was freezing! We discovered a great authentic Italian restaurant we'll be frequenting. Oh, and a fun sushi place. Ellie loves sushi.

It's been a whirlwind of a couple of months. Thanksgiving weekend when Steve's off-season with NASCAR began, we'd not thought of living in Virginia Beach. We'd not thought of taking a position as an interim pastor - a two year commitment. Yet, two and half months later- here we are. Living what feels like in many ways, someone else's life.

But, it's not. It's ours. We chose to have this adventure. So, no matter how hard it is right now- it is ours.

Over the last three years Steve has averaged being away from home about 120 days a year. We're just cramming all 121 days into the first part of the year and then we'll be finished. No more being apart. Together. Forever....maybe.

Who can ever say what the future holds?

Were doing it this way so our kids can finish the school year. Mainly, so our daughter Maddie can graduate from the high school she's been at for the last four years. I couldn't bear the thought of making her move her senior year. We've moved so much in her lifetime. Seven times. But, we've lived here in Charlotte since she was 10. This is her home- where all her lifelong friends live. At least for now. She'll be moving on in the fall anyway. But why make her do it prematurely?

This is a choice I never thought I'd willingly make. Living away from my soulmate. But, over the last few years of being apart so often I learned a few things.

I learned Steve is my soulmate but not my Source. I learned to really be in the moment you are in and to appreciate the days as they come. And,that just because I am without my husband it doesn't mean I am alone.

I learned I'm stronger than I thought.

So...... here we go!!  The long road to Virginia Beach. It's going to be quite the journey, I can tell.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Take Heart!

Today I had to ask someone for help. A favor. A pretty big one, too. I held the phone in my hand for a solid five minutes before I made the call. This was after putting it off for hours. She was so gracious and kind and of course, said yes. Yes, she'd love to help me.

Yesterday, I reached out to someone in a text that I hadn't talked to for several months. Someone that I saw every week for over a year. We were pretty close. Her response to my text? "Who is this?"

You win some. You lose some.

It's fascinating to me how even the smallest gesture of vulnerability can feel excruciating. We are all part of the human race. We all have needs. A need for help, for contact,  for connection or community. We all feel the need to be seen and valued.

And  yet, putting myself out there in these two small ways- with very little risk- felt so risky.

I guess along with shame comes the fear of exposure. Being exposed for who I really am. Being truly vulnerable means allowing others to see me at my weakest. I don't know anyone who wants to have their neediness exposed and yet, when I think about the people who I know that have taken the risk to let others see them in that way,  I'm always amazed at their honesty. I'm always encouraged by their courage.

I recently listened to a devotional where the speaker says that Jesus was hard on the Pharisees because they were hypocritical. They hid who they really were- presenting a false piety to the world.

Jesus was never hard on anyone in scripture for being weak or real. In fact, he often brought out their weakness so he could address it. So he could heal them, forgive them and make them whole. An encounter with Jesus is always exposure without wounding.

Unless you are a Pharisee. The Pharisees were the opposite of vulnerable. They were proud and arrogant in their own strength. These men Jesus wounded. Yet, even for them -and for those of us today who are afraid of exposure- there is healing in his wounds, if we allow our weakness to be exposed by him.

I'm realizing these days that vulnerability is not weakness. It is courage. It's strength.

And, even if I'm not rejoicing in my neediness being exposed, at least I don't have to be afraid. I can take heart that Jesus is there to step into my weak places with hope and courage.