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?

Oh Barcelona! We came…we trained…we explored!

Training in Spain!  A land of sunshine, beaches and so much warmth!  Who wouldn’t want to go to the coast of Spain for any kind of conference or training time!  You get to spend time with people you love and who challenge you in a common calling.  You are served wine for lunch and dinner….every day!  Oh, and did I mention the SUNSHINE!  Being in Germany this last year was pretty dreary and cold – a record-breaking year, I’ve been told.  So this past trip was a true delight.

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Here we are..some of our Young Life staff from all across Europe…

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A walk along the coast of Platja d’Aro

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A new way of eating fish….loved the tails in the mouth!

Making The Most of It!  Brent and I are learning, that when we go on these trips all across Europe – for training or helping with Young Life camps, we need to plan for some exploring time – if possible.  So this time, we decided to “See Barcelona” as we waited for our evening flight to go home.  We offered to take our awesome friends Liz and Aaron to the airport at 4:30am.  This was a no brainer, not only because we love these guys, but also because it gave us a full day to explore the city.  Ok…I can hear some of you now…1 day for Barcelona????  It’s the best we could do, for now.

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The city is alive with street art everywhere!

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Allie way near the Cathedral

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It’s amazing what you see when you look up!

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Sculpture that represents the “castelliers” – human towers, a popular sport in Spain.

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Even Christopher Columbus loves football!

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Lot’s of “Live Statues” everywhere!

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Etched on a vacant business’ window painted white…so cool!

Like every other first timer to Barcelona, we  visited Sagrada Familia.  It’s been called “An architectural bible”.  This church is facinating.  Living in Europe we’ve seen many churches.  They all have history,  all were designed for worship, and became the center of community for years.  Yet this one stands out, for many reasons.  Every part of this church symbolizes something.  It tells the Biblical story as well as a story of worship and adoration. Because of the lens I am using (an 85mm fixed lens) I was not able to get a good shot of the whole exterior of the church, but found more delight in the details anyways. (Actually, there was so much scaffolding around, it took away from the exterior.)   By no means am I able to describe and explain all the meaning found in this magnificent church.  That’s something you would do well to read about on your own.  Yet, here are a few photo’s that stand out to me.  (You know there’s many more than these.)

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Part of the Passion Facade. At the Front of the church are different scenes depicting the Passion of Christ – those last days before his death. The other side of the building depicts his birth.

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At the entrance…part of the Passion Facade

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One of the panels on the doors to the entrance.  Each panel had another word in gold, such as Grace and Hope.

At one point, it began to rain and we heard the loudest crack of thunder.  I have never experienced the type of echoing that took place within this structure. It was incredible!

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The ceiling decor

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The columns give the feeling of trees. Acknowledging God as the Creator.

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The suffering Christ at the altar

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Magnificent stained glass throughout

 I felt many emotions while walking through this structure. I must admit, there are many churches we have visited that I questioned the extravagance, the gaudiness of the interior.  For some reason, this is not the feel I had here.  To me, everything was built and designed to be an expression of thankfulness to God.  An act of worship to Him.  (I would strongly suggest to purchase the audio sets to explain all the details. Not sure I would have had the same reaction if I didn’t understand those details of the architecture.)

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Lot’s to ponder!

So much more to see in Barcelona!  Can’t wait for the next visit when we get to return in May.

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.

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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

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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!