Letting go and breathing in the newness!

Wow….it’s been such along time since I last spent any time processing life through this blog.  Not being able to sleep due to jet lag has brought me here in the stillness of the very early morning.  That, and the realization that two years ago today, our journey to Scotland began. Once again, there’s a need to process, to grieve and to celebrate! So here I sit, with a fresh cup of coffee, my comfy joggers (that’s sweat pants for you Americans) and a fully charged computer. This will be long, but I’m making up for lost time.

dsc_5017 Two Years Ago Today:  Picture Brent & I sitting in our newly painted and nearly empty German apartment, waiting on our moving company to come and take everything we owned off to Scotland.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day.  It was sad and frustrating, and yet so very sweet as dear friends came to say goodbye. Our good friend Kim stayed with us and kept us laughing  as we waited and waited until the last item was put on the truck and we turned off the lights for a final time late in the evening. We loved that apartment. We loved knowing it offered rest and warmth and a much needed space for so many.  We loved the fellowship and laughter, meals, holidays, and games nights that took place there.  We loved living right in the middle of our beautiful village of Kandern. We loved leaning out our windows when parades came by and knowing that friends would be coming by to enjoy the events with us. Not only were we leaving a home, we were leaving very dear friends and three years of some of the most amazing experiences we have ever had while living in Europe. We grew so very close to our co-workers throughout Mid-Europe and there we were, leaving this region we had felt so intimatly apart of, to start a new life in a new coundsc_5049try with a new community. This part of our journey was coming to an end, and we were then about to begin a new role, new experiences, new friendships, new challenges, and of course a new time in our lives, to be once again, stretched and shaped to be the people we are created to be. It was a journey we knew we were being lead and prepared to take,  and there was peace and assurance in the midst of the letting go of what we had.

Two years ago we began our new life, here in Scotland. After living here for a while, people would ask me how it felt to be in here, and the first thing that would always come to my mind was, “I feel like we breathe differently here in Scotland”.  Not in the way that we breathe in and out physically, but in the manor of which one would move and breathe-in life and experiences.  It was more of a state of mind.  As much as we loved living in Germany and the people we met, we lived in a country where we struggled with the language and was always reminded of not quiet belonging. Somehow it felt different here.  Maybe because Brent is Canadian and being in the UK felt like home to him. Maybe it was due to the fact that when we needed to get a bank account or buy our car, we were able to communicate well and come to an understanding quickly and without much effort. Maybe it’s because our American and British cultures have many simularities that it was easier to laugh about the mistakes that were made in the choice of words we might use.  It might just be a combination of all of this, but non the less, there just was no better way to express what I was feeling.  I just breathe differently here!

I believe that for the most part of our time during those three years we lived in Germany, we were in the midst of so many transitions.  New culture, new language, new community, first grandchild was born so very far away, saddness with watching our daughter and son-in-law experience many miscarriages and not being able to be near them, experiencing being empty nesters as our youngest went off to college, and the list just went on and on. Transitions can be tough, but I’ve always known that I was moving through and beyond the transition, once I felt grounded and could move forward with eyes wide open and with expectancy.  To be honest, I was beginning to be in that place of being grounded.  I had my friendships in place, I felt valued and needed in ministry, and I was ready to dig in deep to learning German. And then….we moved. So there we were, two years ago, walking through a new set of transitions, again.

dsc_1677As I look back at these past two years, we’ve experienced some amazing times.  We’ve seen a part of the world that is beautiful and some how reminds us of Colorado often. We’ve met lovely people and have started to build lasting friendships.  We love our new region as we feel valued and accepted. But I can’t help but also define these years as follows.  From the moment we arrived here at Loch Monzievaird Chalets, we began to work. We spent a month with the previous owners to learn the business of self-catering lodges, and then started to manage and keep this business going as soon as they left. We worked long hours working towards providing a space, called Cairn Brae, for our Young Life leaders and staff to love kids and give them “one of the best weeks of their lives” as they get to experience the love of Jesus Christ in this beautiful setting.  We hosted people and opened up our home, once again, to provide a place of rest and a home away from home.  All of this we’ve loved doing.  It has felt natural and apart of who we are.  But these past two years, if I’m brutally honest, has taken a bite out of us.  The task of developing a Young Life camp is big, yes. Movidsc_1400ng to a new culture and adjusting is big, yes. Trying to build relationships once again and investing in deep friendships is big and hard, yes. Trying to make the time to travel to see family is hard, yes.  (Ok, here’s where I need to speak for myself, for Brent’s story is his own. Even though we might share our stories together, this is my place of processing) But I believe what we’d forgotten or pushed aside is what folks like to call “Self-Care”. Some how along the way, the task became the focus. Some how along the way, the need to produce took center stage. If I’m again honest, so many have believed that we could do what was asked, and damn it if I wasn’t going to let them down! We were encouraged to take times of sabbath, a time to rest, but there was just so much that was before us to get done, that we just needed to push forward.  Now I know that as I process this, there are others out there that can totally identify with me. I know we are not alone in this! I also know, you know the rest of the story!  We became overwhelmed and exhausted. For me, I entered each summer with a tired spirit and unmet expectations.  In the midst of God doing amazing things in kids lives, I wasn’t always able to see or experience that joy I so desired and needed as my strength.

img_4269It’s been hard for me these past months, to not look at the past two years and only see the places where I fall short.  Those places I “could have / should have done better”, “could have / should have been a better friend”, “could have / should have been more spiritual”. It’s held me almost captive and held me back from living life freely.  I’m embarrassed  to even admit it.

But I see these thoughts as they are, lies.

It’s a New Day:  Here’s the beauty I am choosing to hold on to.  As with this new beginning in our journey that started two years ago, a new culture, a new job, and a new community…this I know to be truth:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Or as it say’s in the Message:

“Forget about what’s happened, don’t keep going over old history.  Be alert, be present, I’m about to do something brand-new.  It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?” 

I have grieved and I have celebrated the past and it’s time to move forward. In deed I want to learn from these past two years as well.  I want to take that which I can change or improve on, and do it!  I want to be a person that offers grace to others and myself. I have a new mantra:  “Just be kind to yourself Amy, just be kind!”

I also, want to celebrate and move forward with a grateful heart. I feel the craziness of the past two years is lifting and again…I want to breathe a little differently!  Not to win favor or acceptance or value from those around me or even from God. I choose to breathe in God’s undying love, goodness and faithfulness. To rest in the truth that I am loved,  just because….I am loved.

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Facing my own…….(fill in the blank)!

We just returned from visiting Istanbul, Turkey.  Great time with friends, lot’s of walking, lot’s of great food, and lot’s of history lessons.  This was our first time in Turkey and to be honest we didn’t know what to expect, yet we were excited to see  this new and different culture.

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque

Puppeteer Street Performers

Puppeteer Street Performers

Beauty in the Details:  I loved the sounds of the city and the colors.  We stayed in the older part of the city, so were definitely among a multitude of tourists, but even so, the movement of people was welcoming and invigorating.  One thing I love to do anywhere we go….take photo’s.  Istanbul is a photographers paradise.  So many opportunities to capture culture and beautiful details.

Pottery in the Grand Bazaar

Pottery in the Grand Bazaar

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Beautiful embroidery….would loved to have bought these!

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The Green Mosque in Iznik, Turkey. For those of the Christian faith, Iznik is where the Nicene Creed was adopted by the first ecumenical council, which met there in the year 325. Iznik is also a sweet little town famous for its pottery / tiles.

Beauty through Faces:  Beautiful architecture, mosaics, and colorful pottery are more than enough to captures one’s eye.  Yet, my favorite is people.  I love taking pictures of people to tell the story of a culture.  They are the ones’ that capture my eye and my heart….they are the shot’s I remember the most.

As women, our heads needed to be covered to enter an active Mosque.  If we didn't have a scarf, they provided on - as well as something to cover our exposed legs.

As women, our heads needed to be covered to enter an active Mosque. If we didn’t have a scarf, they provided one – as well as something to cover our exposed legs.

A woman selling seed to feed the pigeons

A woman selling seed to feed the pigeons

Shoe Shine Man

Shoe Shine Man

Our new best friend that worked so hard to sell us some scarfs.

Our new best friend that worked so hard to sell us some scarfs.

A woman making flat bread at the restaurant we ate at while sitting on pillows on the floor.

As we sat on pillows eating dinner one night, this woman was making flat bread. I’m sure it’s for tourist…but it was fun to watch none the less.

Kebabs or Donner's.

kebab or Dönner’s.

A sweet young girl playing her accordian for money.

A sweet young girl playing her accordion for money.

A day of fishing on the bridge.

A day of fishing on the bridge.

Elivs is in the house!  I could have taken photo's of him all day...but he kept looking at me

Elvis is in the house! I could have taken photo’s of him all day…but he kept looking at me

A restaurant owner and his employee that became favorites of ours.  They definitly went out of their way to serve us...even giving us apple tea - on the house - just for passing by them every day.

A restaurant owner and his employee that became favorites of ours. They definitely went out of their way to serve us…even giving us apple tea – on the house – just for passing by them every day.

There are so many things that I come away with from our 1st visit to Istanbul.  Just thinking about how Istanbul was the center of the Roman Empire under Constantine who made Christianity the religion of the empire.  And now it is where Islam meets the west.  And how these Mosques that were once Christian churches, are now places of worship for the Islamic religion – it is a lot to process being a person of the Christian faith.

Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey.

Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum.

Signs of where the Christian cross is bleeding through the Islamic covering

Signs of where the Christian cross is bleeding through the Islamic covering

Beautiful details.

Beautiful details.

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Beautiful mosaics uncovered and displayed throughout the Hagia Sophia museum. This one depicts Jesus enthroned – 11th century.

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A door that once had a cross was changed to fit a house of worship for Islam.

So I started this blog posting off with the title…”Facing my own….(fill in the blank)”.  Why?  You see, the things that hit me the most in going to Turkey, is how, again….being in another culture I am faced with my own.

#1: Facing my own Fears:   I realize I am a product of my own American culture.  I will admit that going to an Islamic culture brought out some fear. I think…in my opinion…we are a fearful culture due to past events in American.  Being in Istanbul, helped me work through this – I’m always thankful for having an opportunity to see things with new eyes.

Women coming out of a mosque after afternoon prayers

Women coming out of a mosque after afternoon prayers

#2:  Facing my own Judgements:  Even though I have seen women in their burka before…my thoughts kept focusing on these women.  As I watched one woman – in her full burka, sitting among tourists and among many other women with just their heads covered….I wondered what she was thinking.  Does she look out on other women, with condemnation or is she looking on with a desire to be more “free”?   Just this comment alone shows my own judgement and conception of what being “free” means.  To me, I see a form of oppression – my eyes can only look on the outside and  form an opinion.  I admit, I know so little of this religion and it’s people.  As I walk away from our visit to Istanbul, it has reminded me again how important our stories are.  How important it is to be in relationship with others, to learn from each other.  I may never fully understand these women’s lives and I may never even agree with it.  Yet to have an opportunity to sit with them and learn from them would be a true gift.

I have so much to still learn and experience.  Today I am thankful for the opportunity to be exposed to so many different cultures!

Being faced with our past

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Tonight I was able to go watch “Les Miserables” again…for the second time!  Watching this musical/film the first time left me with the following words:

  • Haunting
  • Powerful
  • Grace incarnate
  • Redemption
  • Transformation
  • Raw Emotions

To say the least, it effected me for weeks after seeing it.  I have always loved the story.   Yet seeing this version on the big screen left me greatly impacted.  I didn’t get caught up in comments about whether the actors voices matched those known for the stage productions. I just loved it.  I loved the cinematography, I loved the angles and the placement of the singers on the screen.  I loved seeing the raw emotions in their faces on the close-ups. I cried as they cried.  The scene in the beginning where the masses are singing about the poor hit me deep to the core – the images – powerful!   Now having seen it a second time…those emotions I have for this film are even stronger.

Yet here’s something new that hit me after this showing.  The first time, I saw this movie was in the USA right before Christmas.  This time, I was able to see it in France.  We live 15 minutes from this theatre – it was in English with French sub-titles.  As the lights came up, I noticed the older  French couple sitting next to me were drying their eyes.  And then it hit me…this story  is part of their story.  Their history is being played out before them…the cost of freedom and those who paved the way!  I never focused on that part of the movie…I focused on the spiritual connection I have with the movie.  Then I wonderd what they were thinking.  If they felt a spiritual connection.  If watching their history moved them deeply.  If they thought about all the Americans that were sitting around them watching this and did we really understand that part of the movie that was part of them.  You see, I felt that way when last month, we watched the film “Lincoln” in the same town in France, with Frenchmen surrounding us.   I remember watching a part of my history being played out before me.  I was faced once again with my cultures past and parts of it was not very pretty.  I remember wondering if our French neighbors could fully watch  “Lincoln” and feel the same emotions I was feeling.  I’m not sure…..

There’s something about our past, our history that goes deep about who we are.  Yet watching “Les Mis”….. this man was given a second chance.  A chance to become a better man.  A fresh start. A man devoted and given over to God.  It changed his past, his present and his future forever.  Not only his life, but others he came in contact with.

May I not live or dwell in my past, but allow the grace that God has shown me, change me for a life time!   Alleluia, Amen!