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.

dsc_8967

Are Your Coping Mechanisms in Place?

UP, UP AND AWAY!  We’ve spent a lot of time in planes these past two years.  Because of our job, we have the opportunity to visit many countries, as we support our Young Life ministries throughout Europe.  Sometimes we are able to drive to where we are going….but then there are  those times, when we need to board a plane and soar through the deep blue skies.

DSC_0975

When Fear or Anxiety surfaces!  While most people either love flying or really don’t think about it much….I am one of those folks that have some sort of fear.  I find this quiet interesting, since all I ever wanted to be, growing up, was a flight attendant.  My father was a pilot for United Airlines for over 30 yrs. and I was sure I would, one day, be up there in the skies with him.

If you are like me…what helps you get through the anxiety you feel while flying?

 I’m usually ok, but I have a few Coping Mechanisms or rituals I go through each time there is turbulence or a noise that freaks me out:

  1. First thing….I tell myself…there’s nothing I can do to change what’s ahead.  I trust that I am in God’s hands no matter what.
  2. “Think of it like being on a bumpy road! ” Words from my Dad, the pilot.  He always says, that planes do not crash from turbulence. After living in Haiti for years, I totally can envision this!
  3. Movies become my friend!  I’ve been known to watch 5 movies in a row on our longer flights.  I try reading, but can be easily distracted.
  4. A glass of wine never hurts!
  5. My husband’s arm becomes a place of comfort to hold on to – if he’s with me.  Why do I do this?   Do I think that Brent can save me?
  6. I watch the flight attendants.  Some how, their calmness helps me to be calm.
  7. And finally….my new coping mechanism!   On a recent flight, our landing was quiet rough.  As we got closer and closer to the runway, the turbulence increased, sending my heart into a bit of a dance.  As we finally touched the ground, the most breath-taking event happened.  A little girl sitting behind me began to laugh and clap her hands.  You see, for her, this was an exhilarating ride – like one you would find at Disney World.  She loved the plane moving from side to side.  The more movement, the better.  She exhibited pure delight.  There was absolutely no fear to be found in this precious little one.  I sat there, breathed deep and smiled.

They work!  We just returned from Spain and of course it was a rough flight.  I went through each of my coping mechnisms…except the wine this time….and it helped.

I’m learning a lot about  these systems we put in place to deal with the life we live – and how important they can be.   Now that’s something for another day…but for now….its smooth sailing!

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

DSC_1559

Beautiful embroidery….would loved to have bought these!

DSC_1679

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.

DSC_1942

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

DSC_1999

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!

it’s not about……SIZE ZERO!

DSC_4564 - Version 2

This is a window display in Luzern, Switzerland. The rest of the sign says….size zero, but I can’t remember ever wearing a size zero, so I will have to fill in my own ending to the statement!

Greatest weight loss program EVER!  Here’s a new thought for me…instead of wearing jeans that, at this point of time, are just way to tight…I decided to buy a pair of jeans one size up.  Can I tell you how scary going up a size can be…but Guess what?   NO MORE MUFFIN TOP!  It worked!

Ok, before you think I’ve totally lost it….let me explain.  There’s a serious reason for this post.  A recurring theme of my posts have been about Grace.  Once again…I am needing to put into place, the posture of Grace…this time for myself.

For too many years, I have struggled with how I look and have been obsessed with my weight.  It can determine my mood and emotions at any given moment.   It’s something that I remember thinking about and struggled with since I was 8 yrs old.  Weight was always a focus in our family.  For many years I had struggled with one form of an eating disorder or another.  I have faced this beast in my life head on and have won and lost many battles.  I have dug deep and understand the depth of where these struggles come from.  God has brought healing and health in many of these areas in my life of which I give Him praise!

I AM NOT DEFINED BY THE SIZE OF MY JEANS:   So before you may think that buying a larger size of jeans may not be the best form of taking care of myself…I disagree!   You see for me….getting to a place where I can love myself no matter what size of jeans I wear is the BEST place for me to be.  Yes, I will continue to work on losing the extra pounds I have put on these past years, I will win some times and I will lose some times.  But it will be because I desire to be healthy, not for my worth and value.  This is a long journey I am on, for the struggle is very real at times.  Yet with the affirmation of a loving husband and amazing friends – I get to listen to truth from their point of view and not the destructive messages I choose to many times to listen to in my own head.

So…it’s about this….:  My worth and value is in who Christ is and who he is making me into be.  I am more than the size of my jeans, I am more than what I’ve done or what I will or will not accomplish.  I am loved and I am of value, I am worth dying for!  It’s all about perspective!

Being faced with our past

DSC_4332 - Version 2

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!

Baby Steps!

Finally.    It’s been a  while since I’ve blogged.  I have a lot of catching up to do.  It’s been hard to gather my thoughts.  The best way for me to start back, is to start small – one thought at a time – “Baby Steps” you might say (hehe).  (I said small not short)

WE ARE GRANDPARENTS!   Wow….this is big enough to blog about for weeks – I’m sure for years!   It’s exciting.  It’s overwhelming.  It’s…it’s….wow.  Aren’t I to young for this yet so ready for this?

Our son and daughter-in-law’s baby girl was due in January.  Yet, that was not going to be how her story played out!  She was to come early – 6 weeks early to be exact.   She entered the world taking that first breath of  air right after Thanksgiving.  We had the privilege of  traveling to the states to be with our  families during the holidays and were able to spent sweet times with this new little one.   She’s perfect….she’s strong…she’s been growing and coming into herself a little more each day.  How precious it was to just sit and hold her.  To kiss her checks, hold her little hands…try to comfort her when she cried.

Things aren’t always how you imagine:  It’s interesting , now, to think of how many days it took for the reality to sink in , and to have the feelings of connectedness I was supposed to have with her.  Everyone say’s, “Your life will change the moment you see the baby!”  To be honest…it took a few days.  She was in the NICU for 10 days, which caused some distance.  I also never got to really see Katie pregnant, since we live in Germany – I still needed to get use to the idea that this was real.  I felt helpless in those first days – I came to help, but there wasn’t anything to “do”.  I had in my mind what this would look like and what kind of roles I should play.  But until you go through it…you never really know what to expect.  It took time.  It helped talking with my kids about our feelings and expectations.  All our roles were changing…our relationships were going through transitions (as parent and child roles are constantly changing through out the years).   It didn’t take long though, as I  was able to spend more time with this precious baby, for my heart to melt. Aww…there were those emotions and feelings I was looking for!   Again I am reminded to relax, breath and let go of mis-placed or unrealistic  expectations and see each day as a gift!

Roles Being Redefined:  Before Ian and Katie got married, Katie asked me what kind of grandmother I wanted to be.  I said…Present!  Well, as I sit here in my living room on this sunny, snow-covered day in Kandern, Germany….I’m not sure how that is going to work out.  But as I talk with my friends who are in the same situations as Brent and I….we will figure this out.  We will find new and creative ways to be present, new ways of engaging.  It may not look the way we thought, and I may have many days of tears for missing out on my families lives.  I may have days where I need to grieve the way I thought things would be – and they’re not.  to let go of those expectations.  Yet, I am willing to allow God to have this area of my life and redefine it.  I choose to not look at what I am not able to do with or for my kids and grandkids, but what I am able to do and do it well.

Final Thought for the Day:  We try to plan everything out, but just as our sweet baby girl came when no one was planning…she came when she did for a reason.  I see all kinds of blessings because she came early.  I believe she has been a gift in our families lives – in ways of healing, hope, dependence and moving forward.   And that’s what letting go and allowing God to redefine us looks like – moving forward…towards the best that  He has for us!

Here she is:    She’s beautiful!

531949_4610493695152_668963737_n

When a light hearted Post turns SERIOUS!

This is a picture my friend Candy took at the Lennon Wall while at our YL Staff time in Prague.  Pretty cool uh?  Lot’s of colors, people’s thoughts, words from Beatles’ songs and pretty much whatever the writer wanted to say.  I have a thing for graffiti, so I love this wall.  I posted this picture on Facebook, even made it my profile picture.  Then I saw the writing at the bottom! I’m pretty sure none of us saw this when we were taking pictures.   Sorry if anyone finds this offensive.  I debated whether to crop it out…but thought it’s pretty much what I like about it the most.  Love…yes…I love “Love”!  It is all we need.  (someone pointed out you could read “All you need is Amy”….but that’s not it 😀 )

Yet, then there’s this…..  “$#%^ Happens”!

When Life Sucks:  Coming home from church on Sunday, I was sad.  Being in a German church and still not knowing the language well, keeps me from relationships that I desire so deeply.  As I shared my thoughts and struggles with Brent, and he listened well….this was his final response.  “I’m sorry your life sucks!”  He meant it with love and compassion.  I thought about this.  I’ve used this expression many times.  But today my response is different.  Here’s what I think:

“No..life doesn’t suck.  Life is good, it’s full of color and movement, it’s full of creativity and emotions, it’s full of loved ones and things that are good.  Life is beautiful and should be embraced!  It’s way better  than the alternative (and before you think that I don’t think Heaven will be amazing…bear with me here!)  What sucks, is many of the circumstances we find ourselves in.  That’s what it is really…not life!   It’s the circumstances that come our way, that we either embrace, accept, change, or allow to rob us of any kind of joy or peace.  It’s those things that break our hearts – the events, the losses, the experiences, the brokenness of the world around us or my favorite….mis-placed expectations!  Life is there – to be experienced (a thought that came from a movie we just watched “The Way”…check it out!).  It’s how we allow the circumstances that come our way, to constantly redefine how we will experience it.  It’s why I see friends living with peace in the midst of great pain….or our Haitian friends that laughed and lived life with gusto in the midst of poverty and hardships.  Or others that retreat into the darkness of their pain.

What is my answer for now?  I have different mantras that I try to live my life by.  Here’s one of them:  “My circumstances do not define who God is!”  I have to cling to Truth because sometimes I don’t feel loved, or feel like He cares or is with me…sometimes I chose to believe those lies.  So, today I am challenged , to have fresh eyes for the situations I find myself in.  Am I willing to listen to truth or lies?  Am I willing to embrace where I am and allow God to do something new in my life?  Am I willing to change those things in my life that rob Life?  Am I willing to let go – when it all feels so incredibly heavy and impossible, when “@%$# Happens” – and let God be my source of Life?  Do I allow Him to define the worth of my life and not my circumstances?