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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When Question Get Answered!

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Grain fields in Poland!

What’s Outside Your Windows?

We have a joke in our family.  It starts with these words: “Grain Elevators….”.   Here’s the story.  Our daughter-in-law asked Brent and I one day, how we felt about having video players in the car for vacations.  Me…I said, “YES!   There are times on long trips, that putting on a movie to have the kids stop fighting and bugging each other, is needed for them and for the parents”.  Brent, on the other hand, said…“NO, you should sit and look out at the window and count grain elevators.”  Since none of us knew what he was talking about, we thought it was pretty funny.  Then he explained.   You see, when he grew up in Canada, he remembers gazing out of the car window looking at all the grain elevators – a fond childhood memory.  Yes, we don’t let him forget this, but not to mock him…cause we love him!

When you sit in a car and stare out the window…what comes to your mind….where do your thoughts go?  Because of my infatuation with graffiti (I’m talking about street art more than just markings and tags that seem aimless and without thought), this is what I focus on every time I’m able to soak in my surroundings (I mean…not while I’m driving, of course!).  It catches my eye and draws me to the colors and expression of voice.  Yet I constantly have the same question:   “How do they do this on busy highways, and train stations and bridges and buildings – without anyone seeing them and stopping them?”  I imagine them sneaking around in the dark and having looks outs, etc.   It’s a simple question and not very deep or one that the answer would change my life, but it’s a  reoccuring question every time these images pass me by.

Graffiti wall at the Schlingen Bahnhof, near where we live.

Graffiti wall at the Schlingen Bahnhof, near where we live.

Finally…I’ve been given an answer to my whimsical questioning!   While exploring the off beaten streets of Freiburg one weekend…we came across this:

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and this:

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An Unexpected Treat!   

Can anyone out there feel my excitement?   As we came around the corner and saw this…it’s as if my breath skipped a beat!  I know you’re saying….it sure doesn’t take much to please or entertain Amy….but seriously….it’s as if my question has been answered and I’m at peace.   No one cared, no one stopped these folks.  It just happens!   I think city life has just accepted this as part of the culture and has learned to turn a blind eye.  I loved it!  Having not lived in a big city, I know, it sounds crazy that I’ve never seen anyone doing this.  But I loved just sitting there and watching these young people creating – expressing – communicating through their own way.

It makes me think about all those questions in my life, those ones that I think – if only I could have the answer – once I have the answer…will there be peace….will I move on….will life move on to what’s ahead?

What Questions are stuck in your head and will it make a difference in how you live your life – if the answers were there?

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!

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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?

The Christmas Markets are coming…..wait…they’re HERE!

How many of you out there know what I’m talking about?    I KNOW…..it’s so exciting!   Christmas in Germany (and France because we live only 15 mins. away) is pretty magical.  I love the decorated streets, the hanging light-up paper stars, our little neighborhood man who has already started selling greenery and trees (mostly, I think, for all the Americans who have to start putting up their Christmas trees right after Thanksgiving.   I’ve been told, it is more typical for Germans to put their tree up on Christmas Eve – someone stays back at the house while the others go to church services.  Then when they all arrive the tree is there.  Oh, that sounds so magical…I just can’t wait that long to be honest!)  Yet, the best part for me….the  Christmas Markets  –  Weihnachtsmarkt  –  Les Marches de Noel!   There’s nothin’ like walking through the markets drinking  Gluewein  –  Vin Chaud  –  Hot Wine on a cold day.  Eating a sugary waffle  or  crepes with Nutella  or  flammkuchen – tarte flambee  makes the experience even better!

Good times!!

And to think…I feel like a stranger in a strange land!

A Space Waiting To Be Filled!

A home away from home: On Thursday,  I was able to go to a refugee camp just across the border of Switzerland and Germany.  I went with my friend Alice.  I’ve driven by this camp many times…mostly due to taking the wrong exit coming home from the Basel Badischer Bahnhof (regional train station).  It’s a familiar area now, and sometimes I drive this way home instead of the AutoBahn, just to feel like I know my way around – without my GPS mind you.  It’s funny to think  how unaware I have been to the surroundings I have been driving through on those particular days.

We didn’t do much….filled out paper work….walked around to see where we will be volunteering.  The woman who showed us around and spoke with us was sweet.  She is part of the pastoral care team.  I liked her.  I felt comfortable with her.  I would go to her if I lived there.  She’s Italian. She’s Catholic.  She’s petit.   She speaks four languages.  You can tell, she loves these people.  People would stop her in the hallway, to tell her they got an interview or some other kind of news. She’s always greeted with smiles.   She say’s she hangs out in the lounge areas to just be with people…only going to her “office” when privacy is needed.  She tries her best to communicate with everyone, at times using all four languages.  I like her!

Faces:   I loves faces….I love stories….I love diversity….I love seeing the differences and then the things of commonality.   As we walked through the hallways…so many faces….so many skin colors…so many reasons to be here.  So many cultures in one place;  Africans, Middle Eastern, Eastern Europeans, and beyond.   I look forward to learning from these brave, scared, sad, lonely, amazing people.

Our role?   We will be helping with the children and mom’s with their babies.   There’s a room for us, small yet decorated with all kinds of craft projects.  There are couches and toys.  A nice playground is right outside this room.  We are welcomed there.  Three volunteers at all times, no less, no more.  As our hostess educates us on what it is like in this camp of over 500 displaced people – families,  she is very clear with one thing.  She understands the village we come from…Kandern.  She knows that there are many “missionaries”, people of faith that have come to help and to serve.  Our role at this camp….it’s not our mission field!  These people are not a task for us.  We cannot fix their lives, we are there to love…to give value and worth.   I appreciate her words.  They are needed and they are important.

Not our Mission Field!  As I keep thinking about this statement over and over again….isn’t that all we are called to do, really?   I am called to love God and love others.  Not to save, not to fix.   Purely to love.  That is my mission.  I desire to be with people who’s stories are so different from my own.  Being a foreigner in a foreign land – I feel I can only imagine what they are going through in the smallest of ways.  Having lived in Haiti – I can only envision the circumstances that may have brought these folks to this camp.   Mostly…I look forward to having my life change a little, just by knowing these precious people who have found themselves as strangers in strange land!