August 14, 2014

nomads.

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

crunchy twizzlers

Because twizzlers taste better when they have a bit of a sandy crunch to them. Nothing says summer like liquorice twizzlers on the beach and crazy post-swim hair! Although let's be perfectly honest, beach hair never actually looks this great... we just like to think it does.

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.

June 10, 2014

baby names.

Have had a few new entries added to the family tree in the last couple months and I actually managed to recognize these occasions with some happy little cards that to some small degree represent the meaning of the dear wee babes' names.  



Never took the time to photoshop them so they're a bit messy -- I was colouring them whilst small nephews & a niece were crawling all over the place (including on me) and asking why Auntie Suzi didn't draw them their own name card when they were born. Dear children, adults will fail you. But you needn't know that quite yet...

May 27, 2014

we belong here!

There is something very satisfying about coming to the realization that you belong somewhere.  Though we were only in Edinburgh for 14 weeks, and though I can't put my finger on an exact moment, we certainly arrived at that level of familiarity and left Scotland feeling like we were leaving an old friend. It wasn't that sort of awestruck relationship, like the kind you form after visiting a city for only a few days -- more like the kind you have with someone who has revealed to you their ugly bits and shortfalls but you still really like them and want to keep hanging out even if they're annoying sometimes. 

Weird analogy? Sorry guys. I like it. 




We were a part of the city's pulse. We would get on the bus and find someone we knew to sit next to. We ran into our landlord in the strangest places and decided that yes, the world really is a small place after bumping into one of Wayne's seminary professors from back in Michigan as he stepped out of a restaurant doorway. We formed unofficial friendships with Lidl employees and shared one cashier's excitement as she counted down the days to her trip back to Poland to visit her family. We were annoyed with the drunken revellers who kept us awake at night and knew to avoid Cowgate after the sun went down. We had real, proper tea -- the kind with a roast chicken and potatoes and 2 choices of veg. By the end of the summer we could hike up and through closes without feeling like passing out and had seen so many sunsets from up on Salisbury Crags that they've (hopefully) been seared into our memories forever. 





We were privileged to be embraced by a church community who allowed us to become a part of their pulse for three months. They were busy -- they are still busy -- training leaders and working tirelessly in their community to get the Gospel out there, yet they took us in as two of their own despite our short-term commitment and awkward habit of not understanding what they were saying half the time. They trusted Wayne enough to ask him to preach, and trusted me enough to let me on the badminton court and contribute food for Sunday lunch (included too much veg, I was told). They let us into their circles and shared the stories of their lives and their faith and their struggles while rolling cigarettes and shaking their heads in disbelief at the work Jesus had done in their lives. They let us stand alongside them on a Sunday morning as they shouted -- literally shouted -- praise to a God who has promised to make all things new. They sent us off in August after many last garden barbecues and pudding parties and dinner dates and goodbye cupcakes and thorough prayer. 



What encouragement! I don't think either Wayne or myself have ever been able to entirely express what our Edinburgh summer meant to us or what it did for our hearts -- what it revealed to us about ourselves and each other and the work of the Church that is happening everywhere, always -- and how that work is sustained so incredibly by the work of the Holy Spirit. 



One day while walking back to our flat after a visit to the library, I noticed an older gentleman, hair white and frazzled, making comments to everyone he limped past, a huge grin spread across his face. As we met, he looked up at me and said what he had said to everyone else in a thick Scottish brogue: "Ye should bae smilin', yer in Edinburgh!"

Can't help thinking of how this phrase can apply to so many other things! Ye should bae smilin', ye have a job! Ye should bae smilin, ye live in a democratic country! Ye should bae smilin', Jesus has bought you, body and soul, with His blood! 

That last one there. Oh yes. 



So -- as I close off the Edinburgh series one year after we jumped on a plane and went on a rather bizarre adventure -- I want to thank you all for tagging along with us after the fact and taking an interest in our stories! I'm sure there's more to come... 


May 19, 2014

week fourteen.

Our last week in Edinburgh -- and what a week it was! Really a good week despite our flights back to Michigan getting completely mucked up and our internet deciding to blow up at the same time -- bother!


 Running errands, taking walks, making plans for our next week -- when we would be back in America! Was hard to imagine. 


 Our last week was filled to the brim with people -- lots of dinners and lunches and final get-togethers -- including my last ladies' badminton night. I always had a little feeling that I was half-decent at badminton. I no longer have that little feeling, but my co-badmintonites made me goodbye cupcakes anyway -- maple-flavoured too yet! Perfect for the Canadian. 


Had a late August walk along the shore in Musselburgh... 


 and tried to teach a five-year-old how to use a digital camera. 


A Scottish sunset for you!


Took a ridiculous photo in front of our church -- then -- next thing we knew... 


We were flying over the blue expanse of Lake Michigan. Home sweet home!

May 15, 2014

running.

I am not a runner.

The fact that I'm writing this a few days after running my first 10K road race is slightly ironic, but let me get to where I'm going! When I say that I'm not a runner -- I mean that I am not a natural runner. After a bout of pneumonia at the age of 12 I'm pretty sure my lungs are even less inclined to participate in running activities. It is not in my natural inclination to run. I do not like to play soccer because it involves running. I hate running fast because the rhythm just isn't there and believe me, if there is no rhythm when a 6'2" human is trying to run fast, there is a tangle of limbs and fantastically epic crashes with the ground!

But I like to run slow. I like to run and still be able to breathe. And the thing that happens when you keep doing this running thing is that you slowly get faster and better and suddenly you are not really so terribly slow anymore, even if you don't have those special endorphiney thingies in your genetic code!! Eureka!! Training WORKS!

Everyone seems to have a reason for starting to run, and I am no different. I was a member of the cross country team in my elementary school years if for no reason than it seemed to be something that I could accomplish with at least partial success (athletics were never my forte). After failing to make the team in grade eight (think tremendously fantastic meltdown mid-course), I didn't think much more about running for almost a decade.

Then my dad had a seizure on our family camping trip and I wanted nothing less than to sit around in an empty house while he was stuck in the Georgian Bay General Hospital getting tests done and so perhaps irrationally I figured that I should probably go for a run.

Then I kept running.

I ran slowly and not very far, but just enough to be doing something so that when it felt like life was roadblocked by a greyish sort of future, completely mired in grief and memories of funerals and phone calls with coroners I would still be going somewhere, even if it was just to the stoplights and back.

And that's where the inspirational "how running saved my life" story ends -- it didn't even really begin, actually. Running didn't save or change my life. It didn't push me through my grief -- the Holy Spirit did. Running was one of many things that helped give me focus and a goal when it would have been really easy to become lifeless and sorrowful and the proud owner of a massive chip on my shoulder. So that's that. I kept running even after the grief ebbed away because I kind of liked it and it really is good exercise. 

One of my big goals while in Scotland was to spend ample time running. We were in Edinburgh -- how could I not take the opportunity to do a wee 5K joggle around an ancient castle? My days were my own and I had made room in my suitcase for my Sauconys -- I was set.

Well, I wasn't quite ready for all the dang hills. You want good hill training? Try running in Edinburgh. You can't escape the hills! But nothing -- absolutely nothing -- beats the views! I developed a variety of different routes over the summer -- but my absolutely fave was a route all the way around Arthur's Seat, a massive old volcano plonked right in the middle of the city. 

Well, not all of it was great. The first half of it involved getting up the volcano... which has a fairly steep incline. Which I finally ran up without stopping on the last run of the summer!! Congratulations, me. 


 While toiling up the hill of death I would distract myself by looking to the side at the above view and think, how enjoyable this is! What lovely views! This is just as pleasant as laying on the beach and not moving! 

Running is mostly psychological, people. 


 Once up to the crest of the hill of horrible awful steep grade, I would look over my shoulder and see THIS! I do love a good view of Edinburgh. 


 But at this point I wasn't even halfway done the route -- so -- onward! Once around this corner, you could see...


 THIS! I love this. That's a golf course down there, and a bird sanctuary. And some really beautiful lawn lines. Way to go, mower!!


 Pushing further forward with much gasping and hatred of this hobby, I would reach the midpoint of the run -- Dunsapie Loch, a tiny bit of water at the top of the volcano. Was always filled with ducks and surrounded by many tourists and small children who would probably wonder if the crazy red-faced girl was going to make it home okay. 


 I would also like to say that whoever thinks they invented the infinity pool -- didn't. The claimant of that prize goes to whoever dug this lake here. Lake to ocean -- phenomenal. Made me smile every time. Well... more of a smile-grimace. 


 All downhill from there, baby! Plus an ancient chapel to look at helps distract from the leg cramps. 


And then St. Margaret's Loch and swans! After that the hardest part was dodging the picnickers and clusters of tourists with their cameras and the police cars around Holyrood Palace when Charles and Camilla were in town. Which was only once. Which was pretty crazy. I hobnob with royalty in my sweaty leggings, oh yes. 

Anyway, we returned to Michigan and whilst running along the familiar suburban streets of our dear old smoggy city and missing the charming old church bell-ringing steeples of cathedrals from my old Edinburgh routes,  I thought that I ought to channel my running energy into an actual race so attacked my training schedule with a vengeance -- but only for a little while because to be honest I really don't enjoy training. You have to eat at certain times and not eat at other times and just use up so much time doing tiring things when you'd rather be using your time doing other things. In short: training blows. 


Was a bit wild and signed up for a 10K. My thought process was: I can run a 5K no problem! So I'll challenge myself and run 10! Easy as pie! Just doubling it, that's all! 

Sigh. 

Fortunately all went well and the experience was not at all as traumatic as the last race I ran in -- a grade 6 cross country meet back in 1998. In that case, after the starting gun went off all I can remember was a mad scramble of adolescent girls, a whole lot of dust, and a poor girl moaning on the ground who succumbed to the chaos of tangled pre-teen legs and found herself being trampled. It was awful -- I remember thinking that I just wanted to get out of there but there was no other option but to run or be run upon. 


Nope, far less drama at my 10K. Just a whole lotta running and then massive amounts of free food at the end. Let's be honest, I was only there for the free food. It pays to run, my friends! I'll run 10K any day if it means I get some Greek yogurt after the finish line!!