Friday, July 24, 2015

An update, days and weeks in the making.

My blog has taken a serious hiatus over the last weeks. Life was crazy. I wanted to write, but time. Have you all left me by now? 

So much has happened over the last few months. In just a few days, my husband (?!) and I will be celebrating one month of marriage. That is absolutely absurd. One month. Marriage. What life am I leading? It is still surreal and still so amazingly wonderful. It's been truly delightful. 

My best friend, Sarah, had twins. TWO babies! They are so beautiful, so sweet. They smell like fresh babies, except when they aren't super fresh and then they're so cute it's hard to mind. I am only 2 hours away, but it's hard to not see them really often. It's hard to know she's dealing with them by herself most of the time and just the hardness of being a first time mom and well, there are 2 of these girls! Working and being in school and getting married/moving stuff/being out of town, it's just been hard to actually BE THERE for her, which has been super hard for me. We text. Actually we text quite a bit, but it's not like being there to give her a break to rest or run errands or even go to the bathroom. 

My other best pal, Katherine, has been having a rough while. Her regular test for cancer antigens came back elevated. Months of tests and retests and then some back pain. She went for tests the morning of some wedding festivities. She had ovaries taken out as a precaution for the elevated tests just a few days after the wedding. And all that time, hardly anyone knew what she was going through (or at least anyone at the wedding). Since then, there has been confirmation her breast cancer is back in her bones. Her freaking bones. Metastasis. Cancer sucks. (She won't really say it, so I will.) I won't really go into her story here; she has been blogging again and goes into quite a bit of detail on her own blog: Her faith and strength are amazing. God is really carrying her. But hard times. This is really something I cannot fix. I cannot make the cancer go away. I cannot make her back hurt less from the fracture. Two of the four weeks I have not even been in town. I found out when on my honeymoon and she got confirmation when I was on vacation. All I can do is sit by and watch and talk and text and love. That sucks so much.

So in one month of marriage, I've been extremely thankful for this man beside me as I've collapsed sobbing into him more than once. I wish I could share all the consoling words he's spoken, the way his tone comforts. I have heard this is what marriage and spouses are supposed to be like, but I haven't experienced it before. I hadn't expected to ever find someone like this. I am so glad I waited for someone whose particular way of loving and caring fits so well with my needs and aches. I will say it again and again, but he is such a gift. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

He is a gift.

I am getting married in 11 days. To say this still feels unexpected and surprising is an understatement. Sometimes I look at that tall, dark-headed man with the cheeks I like touch and the hands I like to hold, and I wonder where he came from and when. Sometimes I look into his kind hazel eyes and wonder how he sees me as he says. How does this man I adore not see or mind my long list of flaws? Or how does he embrace the me-ness of me and dare to love me anyway?

It is a great mystery.

Sometimes I think about those sixty years we've promised one another, and I sober. I remember our life is fragile and fleeting and know the likelihood one of us will leave earth before the other is great. It is a big undertaking to think you vow how you'll live with and love another. Knowing that one of us will likely die without the other feels ginormous.

I sit there looking at him, thinking that at that point I hope he will know how much he is loved. I hope he will have felt and seen care, respect, encouragement, and big love. I hope I will have helped him see more fully the greatness of God.

God has given me such a gift in this unexpected beautiful and terrifying life-sharing. It would certainly be easier (in some ways) to walk away to avoid any hurts we may cause one another, avoid growing stronger and closer together because this increases vulnerability and the potential for heartache. But knowing the love I've experienced, I cannot imagine just walking away. I cannot imagine talking to God again if I were to turn away from this gracious gift I do not understand.

So, in 11 days, when you see me walk to the front of the Chapel I have loved since first visiting this town, which seems like a happy middle ground for our lives, and I see so many faces staring at me...when I see his face and walk toward him, know that I have considered the great responsibility and privilege I'm walking toward. Know that he is absolutely a gift, a mysterious gift.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

When not seeing all the things means seeing the important things

When I travel, I like to see the places others have popularized, maybe take in a museum, or go on a tour. But what I really like to do when travelling, particularly if on my own, is just take in the surrounds and life. What makes a place is its people.

While in Luxembourg, I spent most of the time doing very normal things. I slept in a bit (okay, so jet lag also hit me days after arriving in Europe, their sun stays up until nearly 11 pm, and I've been up way too late and very tired), showered and went down to breakfast, went back to my room and did a little work, took a nap, then walked out to go ride a bus around town. I got off of the bus, had a look around Notre Dame (of Luxembourg, not Paris), decided to walk back. I stop where I want to stop, stroll outside of the main thoroughfare, and basically meander the streets. It was lovely, and the weather was perfect. I did more work in the evening, went to a local eatery, lingered over dinner and my computer. It was pretty great. It's not exactly the thrill of SEEING ALL THE THINGS, but it's one of my favorite reasons to travel--to participate in another world and see how others live.

How many people? Are they out during the day or at all? Do they walk or bike or skateboard or take public transportation? Do they talk on the phone in public or stare into screens when at restaurants with their family and friends? Are they hurried or pokey? Do they use cash or credit? Do they dress up or wear workout gear around town? Do they dress in neutrals, dark colors, bright colors, patterns? What kind of expressions do they wear on their faces? Does it look like they are native or other tourists? When walking with others, do they link arms, hold hands, hug, etc? Do they walk dogs, and if so, what are the breeds and sizes? Do they smoke? Do they toss the butts down or litter? When they take their meals, do they take beverages? Soda or water or beer? How pleasant are they when talking to others? Do they carry purses, messenger bags, grocery bags? Which languages do they speak in or do they talk to those around them at all? Do they walk about mostly alone or with others? Do they chew gum or listen to earbuds when walking around or sitting on a bus? Where are their police and stations located? What kind of alarm do they have on ambulances? How do they wear their hair? What is in their newspaper? What are ads on the street and commercials on TV? Where are their homeless and what is the general sentiment to them? Where are their churches and post offices? What does the market look like or the library? Are the residences near businesses and are the buildings cared for? Are the lawns  maintained...are there lawns? Are bushes and grass in a pattern and trimmed? How are service people treated? Are there gardens in residential areas or large farms? Do the cows and horses look content? Has there been a drought, flood, or a catastrophe? What do strollers look like and how are the children behaving? Do they seem to prefer natural or artificial light?

These are all important questions. They tell you much more about the people who live in a place and about their culture than simply going to the top ten sights for your destination. So, sometimes when I travel and people ask what I saw, it's hard to put into word. How do you say you saw life, how another culture lives, and express your gratefulness for the experience of another part of the world? A part of the world that will only be as it was in the one time you were there, and next time might strike similarities but never sameness. Interacting with the present becomes your memory, but it will not be the same the next time you visit or when someone you know stands in the same place with different people in a different time. Memories etch, but often context is needed. How can I tell you how blue the sky was or describe that temperature and gentle breeze or the way the sun shone into the upper deck of the bus that made drinking it in so pleasant? How can I tell you the way someone smiled at me or describe the pride I felt as I figured out my way around a city that doesn't speak my language? How can I tell you of the simple delights as I watched someone reading a book in the cafe or the child surprised at his own hiccups or someone sitting on her back porch with her cat just enjoying the sun and watching cars go by?

It doesn't show in pictures and words do not do it justice. But this is why I go and see people and places for myself. The experience.

This is one of my favorite pictures from my strolls around town. I loved their train station. I have at least 10 pictures of it. This was across from my hotel too, where I arrived, and where buses depart so I spent a lot of time people-watching, though I actually caught this picture after cars had passed by and no buses were driving around. The picture was taken around 11:15 pm.