What you see below is the fruit of my limited artistic endeavours over the past winter. I didn't have a great deal of free time due to the craziness of transitions and other commitments, but when I could, I worked on these little numbers for my nephews and niece. Last year I experimented with similar name cards for a pair of newly-ish born babies in my clan and enjoyed the brain-stretching experiment so much that I decided to produce some more for the rest of the dear kidlets in the family. Fun!
February 21, 2015
As we're in the middle of the very last semester of seminary (say whaaaaat), Wayne is busier than ever doing pulpit supply for local churches. This means we go to a different church every other week (mostly) and meet lots of new people! This is generally how I feel that I look whilst standing in the lobby waiting for the service to start -- or while awkwardly drinking church coffee out of ridiculously tiny CRC coffee mugs (two gulps and that thing is EMPTY!). Fortunately I don't actually have a glowing sign on my forehead, and I must not really look this semi-panicked because typically people do come say hello. Usually.
Let's also just take a moment to acknowledge the giant elephant in the room -- This looks nothing like me. I cannot draw self-portraits, and besides my utter lack of patience, I have a feeling it has something to do with the fact that I don't actually look at myself whilst drawing it? Perhaps? Maybe?
January 11, 2015
A few months back W & I were sitting in a Panera and I said, "Wayne, what would you do if a giant beaver walked into the Panera, ordered a coffee, and sat down at a table?"
He responded with raised eyebrows and a confused laugh and a shrug and a look that said, "Suzanne, you are so special to me in so many inexplicable ways."
I responded by drawing a picture of the beaver on a card so he could more easily understand what's going on in my brain. Communication is such an important part of a good marriage, folks.
That, and acceptance and tolerance of your spouse's odd imagination.
November 02, 2014
Several days ago I found myself in the middle of a cemetery, weeping. I was still getting over a cold so there was snot everywhere and salty mascara stains were smeared across my cheeks. Wayne was patting my arm, his face contorted with concern.
I was not weeping amongst the headstones for why you might think. I was sitting in the driver's seat of our new car, and despite it being my fourth lesson, I could not get it into first gear without stalling. I was crying because I was failing. I was panicking, really. All I could see before me were years and years of Wayne having to shuttle me around, because I wasn't able to figure out how to get our manual car into gear in the middle of an empty cemetery, never mind the middle of rush hour traffic on the Beltline.
"I just want to skip this part," I warble like a pathetic six-year-old. "I just want to know how to do it right and not have to keep on doing it wrong, over and over again. It's too hard."
Wayne nods in careful understanding, a wry smile creeping onto his face. We all know he's going to use that quote in a sermon somewhere down the line.
I knew I was being utterly ridiculous. Spilled milk, and all that. If someone needs to be told to bite the bullet and get on with it, I'll be the first in line to volunteer for the job. I'm self-aware enough to know that I'm not nearly as compassionate as I ought to be. I like to think about and talk about the importance of the difficult challenges we face in our lives and how formative they are to the shaping of our characters. And yet -- I find myself singing the same refrain whenever something hard comes along. Exactly five years ago today I was standing in a frosty cemetery that shimmered with the reds and golds of autumn, my father at my feet, wishing I could jump ahead and skip life's messy parts and get back to that bit where things are a little more balanced, less challenging, where the hard work is done.
As an aside -- is it crass to compare one's grief over her father's death to learning to drive stick? I'd like to think he'd be honoured -- or at least get a bit of a chuckle out of it. Dig up a terrible pun, or something. "Letting up on the clutch too early was a grave mistake!!" etc.
We didn't get to skip over the last five years. We didn't get to skip the early days that were thick with such deep sorrow that it was hard to catch a breath. We didn't get to skip those days where the scent of the cold fall air broke our hearts because that was exactly how his goodnight hugs smelled in November. We didn't get to skip the days where we thought we had things under control because it had been a couple years but then you walk into a Home Hardware and the sweetish smell of new tire rubber and earthy fertilizer and shining waxed floors will slap you in the face and it will take all you've got to make sure you don't collapse into a sea of tears between the rows of glistening screws because there is so much here that is Dad and he might be around the corner in the next aisle hunched over looking at drill bits except that you know he is not.
Life doesn't let you skip those parts.
We have been shaped and burned and dulled and pinched and stretched by the reality of mortality, and I am without doubt that last five years have changed us. They have certainly been formative to our characters -- though we're still trying to figure out what that exactly means. I have not particularly liked the hard parts, but I am aware that they were necessary for getting us to where we are now -- a couple steps further forward, dwelling a little deeper in the peace of Christ.
Because here is the thing -- there is no other real option but onward. And you fight through those hated hard parts and come out on the other side, often feeling better than you did before, and yes, it was painful, but oh! look at what He has done for us!
Around Thanksgiving of last year I happened to be alone at my childhood home, sitting at the kitchen table and morbidly coming to the realization that the weather and the tilt of the sun was identical to the moment that we received that phone call -- and then I nearly fell out of my seat when the phone actually rang. It was my sister, and there was a new baby boy. I was reminded then and still today that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23).
So yes, there are hard bits. There are parts I would rather have skipped. But there is His faithfulness as well, and it is truly great!
August 14, 2014
Sometime last week while driving home from somewhere, I turned to Wayne and said, "Wayne, I am homesick, and I don't even know where I am homesick for."
"Tell me about it," he said. "Today I told someone that I was looking forward to being home... wherever that is."
In the last three years we have lived in three different countries on two separate continents. We have occupied three different residences. We have been part of four different church congregations. I have worked three different jobs. We have undergone at least six different physical location or community-based transition times thanks to internships and study opportunities, and will have to get through at least two more of those transitions in the next ten months.
It has been exciting, certainly -- a whirlwind of exploration and new experiences. Our web of contacts and friends is vast and reaches further than we though possible when we left the rooted foundations of our childhood homes. But it is a very horizontal web, and not particularly vertical. We meet, we relate, we say goodbye and we'll stay in touch. It is like being terribly thirsty and wanting nothing more than to drink a whole glass of water -- but only being able to take a tiny sip before moving on and getting going elsewhere.
Yes, we are in some places and communities for longer stretches than others, but even then, there are reminders written in red pen scrawled across dates on calendars and in agendas, warning us of impending expiration dates for visas and work authorizations. There is always paperwork, and you are guaranteed a sufficiently peevish questioning period when trying to get through a border crossing, trying to get through your front door, closer to that place that you think is probably, for now, home.
We are constantly faced with reminders that we do not belong here -- wherever here is at the time. We have pulled anchor and locked up our house so many times that even in our own country it is easy to forget that our birth certificates declare us to be proper and legal citizens.
To put it plainly, we are not quite sure where we belong.
Lord willing, within the next year we'll hopefully find a place to set our feet for at least a little longer than a ten month period of time. For now, though, we live a nomadic life. When I am curled up on a couch and tired with making new friends, or when I wake up in the morning and am groggily unsure of where I am, I am reminded of the fact that I am a wanderer. And yet, as I look back over the last three years, I am okay with this, because I think it is maybe a little bit good to feel displaced.
Part of me welcomes that deep longing for home -- and not just a home I can decorate for Christmas or dig up a garden around -- but a home that is not of this age. It helps me understand what Peter meant when he addresses his letters to the pilgrims, sojourners, strangers and aliens of the world -- the saints, the followers of Christ, who understand that their real citizenship is in heaven. It is good to recognize that I do not permanently belong here, or anywhere on earth, because this is not the last stop. It is good to enjoy the blessings of homes and families and communities, but it is important to realize that the misleading permanency of a job and a mortgage and a nice garden is not the end of the line. It is important to realize that none of this is here for good; that clinging too tightly to earthly things will result in a dependency that will only disappoint and crush. The fear of and aversion to change will stunt our growth, keeping our focus on the here and now; keeping us from stretching and maturing into more faithful followers of Christ.
Wayne and I can say with great certainty that we do not know what the future holds. It is more than possible that we will settle down and grow some roots, but it could be that we will always be nomads -- and that is hard, but that is also okay, because why should we expect any different? The world is a shifting, changing place -- and only "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." So I will seek a permanence in heaven and dig some roots into the very solid, never changing ground of the King of all kings, and grow where I'm planted, wherever that may be.
August 02, 2014
Speaking of beaches... we've been living in the big ole land of Alberta this summer. Swimming options for this province include creepy mushy sloughs and frigid mountain pools of icy-freshness. Neither option is particularly enticing. The great lakes have made us ridiculously soft. Miss you, HOMES.