Where Are the Birds?

cottoncloudsWhere are the birds? I wondered as I drove. It was as if they went further south for the winter, except it was almost summer. I couldn’t remember seeing them for a long time. Strange, especially since I looked for them, high above the stretch of interstate I traveled practically everyday.

As I drove, I noticed the trees had grown green and full, almost overnight. When did that happen? The sky was blue, and the clouds were fluffy like expensive cotton balls, flung in all directions.

It seemed the days had been dark and grey for months.

I felt like I’d been in the sticky mud and murky water of a swampland for quite a while, not getting anywhere fast and in fact, lost. I didn’t know which direction to go because there was no arrow pointing the way, only silence although I’d been begging for something more. Asking and praying and wondering and searching, crying and hurting and desperate (and Googling because that’s easy, instant and sometimes helpful).

The birds always seemed to soar through the air with powerful wings, weightless and graceful as they circled the trees and played above the interstate, heavy with cars. As a kid, I had heard about God taking care of all of us, even the tiny sparrows. And if he takes care of them, he cares even more about us and holds us with his great big hands. I guess seeing the birds reminded me of that.

But if God was holding me in the palm of his hand, it sure didn’t feel like it. I felt left and lonely, afraid and anxious. No! What if that’s not enough for me? What if I need more than that? Why are YOU taking so long? I don’t know what else to do. I cried angry tears and felt a little guilty for talking to God like that.

But I also felt a little relieved.

Heard.

Maybe even understood.

And then I saw a single bird swooping around the deep blue sky with cotton ball clouds, and my face felt hot as it hit me. It wasn’t the absence of beauty but the heaviness of life that had been my focus.

The birds hadn’t left; I’d stopped looking. My mind was too full of the what-ifs, whys and hows to even notice what was around me, yet the beautiful scenery had been there all along. Just like God, who holds me in the palm of his hand when I’m angry about being lost in the swampland, waist-deep in the mud, with no arrow pointing the way.

 

Welcome To My Table

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Pub in Kinsale, Ireland

Imagine walking into a cozy house where those inside are waiting just for you. You are welcomed with smiling faces and hugs all around. You’re here! On the table, there are steaming bowls of soup and plates overflowing with warm bread dripping with honey butter. Sounds of laughter and buzzing conversation fill the air.

In this space, there is time and a place for everyone. Time to talk while others eagerly listen and honestly but lovingly respond. There are stories of exciting adventures intertwined with difficult ones, told with tears streaming. Here, it’s okay to let tears fall. This is a place of safety, where no one is perfect but accepted despite flaws that come with being part of humanity.

Time seems to pass without anyone giving a second thought because here there is connection. And that is what we want, what I have always wanted, to connect and absolutely know I matter.

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Greece

I have always enjoyed cozy gatherings with those I love surrounding me. There is just something about sitting with knees pulled up to chin and shoes off in the midst of deep conversation. It’s like being wrapped up in a warm blanket and engrossed in a book, oblivious to everything around. Whether it is eating with loved ones, playing games, working a puzzle or reading next to someone else reading, I am in my element. Introverts like me love that.

I am drawn to cozy spaces that whisper, Come. Relax. Stay. It’s no wonder, then, I have pictures like this from trips I have taken over the years. Many of them, I settled into for a while. Others, I passed by. feeling I missed out terribly on something precious.

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Dingle, Ireland

This is what I’d like this space to be. Precious. Read my stories, and share yours if and when you are comfortable. Occasionally, there might be a recipe or quote to share, but mostly, there will be stories of adventure–> life, forgiveness, growth, stories that have a glimmer of hope even in times of pain or desperation. I haven’t always done this well. Things have been tough. Life is a messy adventure, after all, and it’s never too late.

So, here, you matter in the midst of this messy adventure. You are welcome to my table.

Come. Relax. Stay.

An Unexpected Lesson (Review)

A couple weeks ago we were on our way to sun and fun. Swimsuits, flip flops, beach towels were packed (sunscreen was forgotten–isn’t there always something?). Despite the packed cooler filled with goodies for the drive, we had to make a stop for M&Ms and kettle chips. Oooh, junk just adds to the fun of going on vacation!

It was my turn in the driver’s seat, and Brian settled in for a nap.

If you’ve never driven through South Carolina, let’s just say there’s nothing redeeming during that journey. Flat and boring, boring and flat. If you have to go to the bathroom, take some toilet paper since you might drive for hours without finding an exit or even seeing a billboard. This particular drive felt like the real neverending story without that almost-cute-but-just-too-strange dog-faced creature (children of the ’80’s, do you remember that movie?).

So, I drove on and on and on and saw a green and yellow car on the side of the road, flashers on. Whew! That sucks. It’s such a hot day, I thought and then actually closed the vents, since the A/C was a little too cold. As I passed, I noticed the lone driver was pregnant.

I continued on. We have vacation to start! Yet, as I tried to forget her, I felt a little less excited about getting there and a little more like a heartless heap of snot.

Why didn’t I stop? What could have I done anyway? Who knows if and how far she would have needed us to drive her? This could take all day!

And then, I realized even if I did nothing else, I could have given her a very cold bottle of water from our cooler packed with goodies.

But I didn’t. And I didn’t go back (I felt better since there was no exit anywhere nearby to turn around, but then I felt even. worse. for her since there was no exit nearby).

About a hour later, I passed someone else whose car was parked on the side of the road with the hood up. As I kept driving, he was walking…walking down this monotonous road on this incredibly hot day. At least there actually happened to be an exit about half a mile away.

Once we reached our destination and for days filled our stomachs with deliciousness, I walked past a woman crying for food in a place where people spend money like it truly does grow on trees. Ah, I didn’t have my wallet with me and couldn’t have helped her. So glad I dodged that one! It can be so… awkward.

You know, I still wonder how it would have been if I would have just stopped to talk to her like the couple I later saw who did that very thing. Oh, and on our initial drive, eventually, that green and yellow car sped past us, but I didn’t feel much better.

I was reminded that I have been on the side of the road with a flat tire waiting for help to arrive. No strangers stopped to help me, either. As I sweated in my car for close to a hour, I saw hundreds of cars and trucks speed past my own with a force that shook me.

I have not, however, been the crying woman asking for food.

If I needed money so I could eat, I would want to be seen and heard and treated like a living, breathing and very hungry person.

We see these kinds of situations everyday. While at times I’d like to jump in and help, it’s true to say that most of the time I don’t. Is it just easier to walk as if we have blinders on or to tell ourselves that it’s “safer” to stay away? After all, we’ve heard the stories of people who make the choice to beg for money instead of taking an available job or appear to be homeless with a nice car parked around the corner. And oh, the dangers! (Really, I am aware that putting myself in certain situations is not safe, but this is not my point.)

Our vacation was fantastic for a lot of ways. One unexpected reason is that I have remembered what I teach my students and apparently, need to keep learning and practicing.

We are all people with very real needs and hurts with a desire to be seen and heard and loved. Everywhere I look, I want to really see and treat people as if they are in fact, precious. And newsflash: It’s just not my job to decide if they are being authentic or not.

So, giving money doesn’t feel right? Well, even a kind word and a smile can make an impact.

Is this something you struggle with, too? How do you decide in those moments how to deal with it?

Vacation!

I love getting out the suitcase and heading just about anywhere! Well, all over the past few weeks I’ve been to the beach, visited out of state family and had friends stay for weekend fun.

While I love having time off from anything, I always find myself itching to get back into my own real-life routine. It’s like leaving the exhilaration of being somewhere else for my own kind of comfy comfort. So, I’m back, and I’m thankful you are, too!

Here are some pics from some of our adventures:

Yes, happy birhtday, America!

Eat More Beef at Brookgreen Gardens (we call it Bacon!)

View from Waterfront Park in Charleston, SC

Funny how riding this was my idea. NOT funny how I hated every minute of it despite the air conditioning.

How many people can you fit on a sailboat?

Brookgreen Gardens

I love this! No yard. A few flowers… and a dog door with a window?

Huntington Beach, SC

Having a Place To Go Is a Home

My older brother and I were usually with my dad and stepmom for the 4th of July. There was just something about watching the fireworks from the roof deck of their apartment and then making the mad dash down the seven flights of stairs to beat the rush to Friendly’s for ice cream sundaes.

If we were back at home (with our other parents) for the holiday, we loaded up the car with watermelon and other yumminess after cooking out in the summer heat. We always found a fireworks show and ooh-ed and ahh-ed with everyone else, before sitting in a very long line of cars, all trying to make it home. Still, I love watching fireworks.

After reading my friend Joy’s post this morning, I was reminded of those days of splitting holidays with both families, something that became a part of me–so much that it still feels like something is off if I don’t travel for Christmas or Thanksgiving.

It’s ironic then, that the past two weeks held travels to two homes to see family, which included both sets of parents. One house, I haven’t even seen in almost ten years and wondered how I would feel once there. The other, well, I never lived there, but it is special just the same.

Last night, after some time of catching up, plenty of food and hugs for the road, the car was loaded and the journey home began. There’s something about being alone for a couple of hours. My mind wanders….

There is a framed card on my fireplace mantle that I bought years ago when I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere. The picture is of a dilapidated blue truck with a family’s belongings piled on top. Even with the absence of excess packed in boxes marked kitchen or bathroom, there is happiness. How do I know? Well, the people inside–the ones crammed inside the truck are smiling

The caption says: Having a place to go — is a home.  Having someone to love — is a family.

I am thankful that during those childhood days of the drives and flights back and forth from one set of parents to another I had a place to go. I had two places to go, even though things were not perfect in lots of ways. With two families, I have lots of people to love.

I am also grateful for the ways they love others.

I am amazed by my older brother’s love and strength and humility when it comes to his adopted daughter. His selflessness shines through by just being there for her and loving her and trying to help her navigate her teenage years. He also has been a source of support for my other brother who, well, just needs more support than anyone of us really know.

Then, there is my sister, who has cared for our mom after surgery. She has a huge heart and will get up in the middle of the night to help someone even is she is sick herself or has to work the next day.

For quite a while, my dad and stepmother were the primary caregivers for my aunt, who could no longer care for herself. I doubt this was part of their retirement dreams way back when, but they stepped in and did it anyway.

No one can prepare for any of the tough stuff that happens. It’s just what life hands us. During difficult situations, we find out what we are made of; don’t we?

When everything about life is unpredictable, I know to the depths of my soul how much I am loved.

After driving for several hours through lightning and driving rain, I made it back to my own home sweet home. I am thankful for my own place to go.

That Piercing Light

When was the last time you drove somewhere at sunrise?
                                           Sometimes the morning light is absolutely overwhelming. Piercing.  It’s so bright you can’t help but close your eyes, a scary thing to do when driving. You fumble around blindly for your sunglasses but they’re on the floorboard and out of reach. You feel anxious, worried about getting to  your destination. Then, you pry your eyes open a sliver…just enough to see that amazingly, you are right where you need to be.
                                                                                                                                        We don’t always see where we are going in life. There is uncertainty everywhere we turn–the economy, job security, that doctor’s appointment we put off, even the weather. As hard as it is for all of us to remember from day to day, especially during our loneliest, most heart-wrenching of times, God will keep us on track if we just close our eyes and let Him drive.

5 Minute Friday: Path

I don’t know why I love this so. Maybe it’s the beach, the wind-beaten fence, the narrow road. I fell in love with this place when I was visiting Ireland a couple years ago.

This door hidden in the earth is intriguing. Who knows what one might find on the other side? Treasures of some sort? A whole world of newness and adventure waiting to be discovered?

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go. He’s the one who will keep you on track. ~ Proverbs 3:6

I believe we can hear God’s voice in the clouds above, a stormy day, standing at the top of a mountain observing the beauty of the landscape. Wherever we are if we listen in the stillness, our path will be made known to us–down a winding road or through a waiting door.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

*Check out thegypsymama, who started this 5 Minute Friday fabulousness.

An Adventure of My Own

The purpose of life it to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

I love this quote, and have had it posted on my refrigerator in one apartment and three different houses as we’ve relocated from place to place over the past decade. Why? Well, it’s a reminder to live something new and wonderful every, single day. I’d love to say that I’m an expert at that, but there are plenty of times I have gotten up, gone to work and gone back home without doing anything spectacular. I’d love to say I’ve visited lots of remote places and eaten turtle blood soup with people of little known cultures. Yep…right after I climbed Mt. Everest and ran a marathon (or even two miles). I used to think I had to do those things to expand my life, and believe me, I’d LOVE to (minus the turtle blood soup), but I’ve come to see that life is an experience if we just experience it, which also requires jumping in and getting started.

It’s surprising that these are a glimpse of a few of my meaningful adventures: the time my older brother and I were kids and wanted to share the experience of riding together down the big hill by our house. We connected ourselves by about six feet of string–one end tied to my index finger and the other end tied to his.  Naturally, the ride began at the top of the hill, he on his skateboard and I on my bike. Well, that was so meaningful, we somehow coordinated running to our house, screaming as our fingers turned blood-red by the tightened string. It ended horribly, but it’s something we can laugh about today (and we both still have all 10 digits). There was also the time I was going to win the fifth grade girls’ 50 yard dash on field day. I won the blue ribbon the previous year for my class and was ready to reclaim my prize until my foot got “tangled” (as she remembers) with my best friend’s, and I fell on my face, a dusty pile of sweat and tears. Something else? In 7th grade, I was on the homecoming court. “No one has messed this up; don’t be the first” was what we were told after being given the directions on how to walk in and stop to have our picture taken. I’m not quite sure what happened, but my picture with my embarrassed date is probably the only one in school history that is different than all the others. On an adventure quest, I climbed to the top of a 50-foot high telephone pole and jumped for the trapeze that seemed like a mile away. I missed it and climbed right back to the top. I never reached that stupid trapeze, but the best part of that story was that I tried again.   

So, clearly, some of these experiences didn’t go so well and others had happy endings… if I change my perspective a bit. I learned that all of these things are a part of who I am. Still today, I can laugh about a lot and throw out a “remember the time when…?” Sharing the journey with others sweetens my existence and my relationships. That’s why I am choosing to continue my own kind of adventure and jump into this blogging thing without rules or promises of any kind. I am learning that the best way to get started is to just. get. started (and thank you, Cheryl, for putting me on a deadline :)).