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Archive for July, 2013

Journal In A Jar

Last August a friend of mine gave me a going away gift.  After almost a year on the island, I feel like I’ve finally settled down enough to enjoy it.  Today I opened the jar and drew out my first writing prompt.   The purple slip says, “Describe one time when you were brave.”

It was during the Summer of ’89 that I met my best friend.  We actually met a month earlier in the lunch line of our college cafeteria, but I didn’t really get to know him until a few weeks later.  The camp director hired us to be a part of the program staff, and we ended up spending mornings together down at the campfire acting out the bible stories our buddy Garfield told the campers.  We made a good team.  He and I played off each other well, and our improv theater skills worked to our advantage.  He seemed to always want the best for me.  He was always willing to give me the laugh.  He is a true theater guy.  He wants the scene, no matter how small, to be the best it can be even if the focus is not always on him.  The desire to get to know him grew even more.

Several weeks into the summer camping season we hit high school camp.  It was a great week.  I ended up counseling a group of girls that I had counseled 4 years earlier for a junior camp.  Instead of the girls heading off on their own way during free time we ended up choosing activities together.  One afternoon we had the opportunity to repel a set of columns.

Quite frankly, to me, the idea of repelling down a sheer rock wall was terrifying.  I thought back over times in my life where heights were a challenge for me.  As a four-year old we hiked up to Rooster Rock.  I made it up only to realize that I had to go back down.  The trail towards the top seemed particularly gnarly to me.   I locked my knees, which is the worst thing to do, and hugged the rock on the inside of the trail as we descended.  It was probably my first panic attack.  A year later there was a slatted bridge to cross in the Jefferson Wilderness that, to a five-year old, had huge spaces between the boards.  I was convinced that I would fall through.  Somehow my family got me to cross.  I don’t remember if they threatened me or just picked me up and carried me.  During my senior year my parents brought me along on a trip to Guatemala to see my bro and sis-n-law during their tenure with the Peace Corps.  We made our way to a set of Mayan ruins.  I was standing before amazing stone architecture begging to be explored.  I climbed right up the first one.  I was above the canopy of these expansive old trees when I realized that I was looking over the tops of the expansive old trees.  I stood for a moment paralyzed by the knowledge of how easy it would be to stumble and fall down the hundreds of steps I had climbed up moments earlier.  My brother pretended that he was going to push me down the stairs.  I almost punched him, but was afraid that in swinging my arm I would throw my balance off thereby plunging to my death.  My sweet mother gave me advice on how best to go down. It was one of the few times, if any, that I ever told her to “shut-up!”  I’m afraid of heights, but my sense of adventure is too strong.  I had to go repelling.  I had to show the girls that I could face my fears.

We stood next to the church van.  All sorts of thoughts went through my mind of what could go wrong.  My chest tightened.  I saw my best friend walk up.  He saw the look in my eyes, a look that 20 years later he has come to know so well, and said, “I have your back.  I won’t let anything happen to you.”  A strange peace came over me as the girls and I climbed into the church van.  However, as we turned up the narrow road to the columns again I felt my chest tighten.  I started searching for my means of escape, and then I looked at my campers.  I couldn’t stop now.  I was the only counselor in our cabin that stepped up to go with them.  I had to follow through.  A hand rested on my shoulder.  “I got your back,” he reminded me.

We ascended the trail to the top.  It was covered with loose gravel and made for slippery footing as I turned to look down.  There isn’t much room to maneuver above the columns, or anything to really grab onto to steady your balance.  I felt my foot slip and heart thrust into my throat.  It was the same paralyzing feeling that I had on the ruins in Guatemala.  I searched for his eyes.  He had his faded purple bandana on his head and a big smile on his face.  He had my back.  I let out a long sigh.  I don’t remember if I went first, last, or somewhere in between.  I do remember feeling complete peace as I took my first step out over the cliff.  By the time I hit the ground I realized that I really enjoyed myself, and had created a great memory with my girls.  I also knew that this new friend of mine was someone who I could trust with my whole heart.

The ascent is never that scary.  It’s when you turn around for the descent and you see where you came from that your circumstances appear overwhelming.  I was reminded that sometimes life isn’t about looking back at where you come from, but it’s about taking the next step into the future.  Repelling down the side of that hill wasn’t so that I could commiserate over the fear in the climb.  It was all about my expression of joy in overcoming the fear.

I have to admit that my idea for this entry came from my husband.  I read the purple slip to him, and he mentioned that day at The Columns.  It wasn’t the easiest thing for him either.  He didn’t normally belay from the top.  I didn’t know about that until today.  Personally I think that The LORD knew it was going to be a significant moment in building trust between us, so he gave my hubby the extra ounce of courage needed to help me be brave. 

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We’ve spent the last week or so hanging out in our old stomping grounds.  It’s an old feeling to have been gone for a year.  Some of the landscape has changed, but the familiar is still here.  A fave coffee shop, a fave grocery store, dear friends with wonderful smiles all make it easy to pick up where we left off before we packed up our life and flew across the ocean.

On one of the first days back we had the team from Hawaii over to our in-laws house for a BBQ.  It was odd to see these peeps sitting in my MIL’s back yard, but that was only for a moment.  My family joined in with our Hawaii family (ohana) and it seemed pretty natural.  We served them that family’s staple of the summer: sucking chicken, flook potato salad, tuna mac salad, and fresh fruit.  After dinner they loaded up the brownies and ice cream with gummy bears and devoured it on the back patio.  It was a such a blessing to have these two worlds diverge for a few hours.  Our Hawaii ohana saw where we came from, and our Oregon family saw why we left.

It will be bittersweet in a week when I wake up in my new home of the last year.  I have to put that aside so that I can savor every moment left here.  I have a grand-nephew to hold, family-n-friends to hug and laugh with, and long-n-lazy Pac NW summer days to enjoy as they melt into the light of the moon and stars.  I live between two pieces of paradise.  How did that happen?

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It has been one year…

I had stayed up all night before my early morning flight. I still had so much to do. The youngest fell asleep watching “Enchanted” on the bed next to me as I wrote notes, as I packed and repacked, and as I asked God one last time if this is really what He wanted us to do.

We had spent the days leading up to my flight packing up the house, thanks to the help of family and friends. I don’t know what we would have done without the generosity of those people who gave us boxes and packing paper, and helped us pack and clean. It was all so overwhelming to move out of our home of 16 years, but the comfort and care given by those precious ones was like salve poured over an open wound.

Those last moments spent locking up the house were bittersweet. I took a picture of the barren front room, that a few years earlier I had painted a deep red found on the reject paint shelf at a local hardware store. I walked past the case once filled with treasured books and knick-knacks, like the Korean wedding ducks given to us on a Holt trip and the small wooden bowl that is the first present given to me from my mother in-law. The kiddos sat on the counter in the blue room, that was actually taupe color, for one last time. I snapped a picture. I hid that moment in my heart as it spilled over with gratitude for the gracious gift God gave us in being able to buy this house. I paused one last moment by the front door, my hand resting against the door frame, thinking this would soon be a home filled with another family’s memories. “Bless them Lord,” I whispered, “May this be holy ground.” I wiped the tears from my eyes as I pulled the door to and turned the lock.

In a few hours we would start over. Where would we rest our heads? Where would we put our Christmas tree? What about my piano? Would my children feel at home? I had I stop thinking. I had so much left to do. I would save the inner dialogue for the flight.

It’s been one year since I stepped off of that plane to make this island my home.

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Yesterday, as I drove home from registering our car for the year, I started mentally composing this post.  I was reminiscing about my first trip to register the car at that satellite city hall.  I left with plates from a new state, and proceeded to wander around the parking garage looking for the car I had just registered.  45 minutes later I was calling the hubby thinking that the car had been stolen.  This was only a few days after we had to pay a nice impound fee because I had parked in a spot that obviously was not legal.  This was only a few days after I had tried to start the car in a grocery store lot, and ended up paying a nice fee to have a new key made to replace the stripped one.  I really didn’t want to have to tell my hubby that now the car was gone.  Don’t worry, it wasn’t stolen.  I had walked back to the wrong level of the parking garage.  Hey, it looked just like the level below where my car was actually parked.  Those that know me, feel free to laugh.

I felt pretty good about myself after this last trip to take care of the car.  I had successfully parked in a spot the led me directly to where I needed to go.  I then went inside, having not remembered that I needed cash or check to pay the registration (I quickly solved that), and only had to stand in line for 30 minutes.  I took care of business, and was able to walk directly back to the car.  This is a huge win.

My original car that made the boat trip over was totaled back in January.  I loved that car.  It was a huge answer to prayer.  The kiddos had spent a few summer weeks previous to that driving side by side in a little red truck without AC.  Now, I know that AC is a huge luxury, but when the kiddos  have to sit one sweaty body next to another they get a little cranky pants.  This new to us car had separate seats, AC and  CD player.  I had enough room to drive a pack of kiddos to the pool, to the park, or to wherever.  The kiddos rejoiced, and often thanked God for that car even after having it for years.  I was devastated not only that I was involved with an accident, but that I had totaled the car in the process.

A month later we ended up with another new to us car.  Again, there are separate seats, AC, and CD player.  I have enjoyed cranking tunes while trucking kids to and from rehearsals for the musical, so I was a little bummed that the radio stopped working as I drove out of the parking lot.  I started mentally adjusting my blog post.

I thought, “Ok God, what do you want to tell me?  You have my full attention.”

The next thing I noticed was that the speedometer needle was moving erratically, and then it was the RPM needle, and then the odometer numbers disappeared.

“Hmm,” I stated, “At least I still have the AC.”  There wasn’t a whole lotta get up and go after I stopped at the red light.  “God, you’ll have to get me home,” I prayed.  I made it up and over the hill, or mountain, just as the AC decided to quit.  I kept on praying.  Five minutes later I pulled into our driveway and our car shut down.

Right now I’m just being thankful that I made it home, that in the back of the car I had groceries to unload, that I had children around to help unload them, and that tomorrow a friend on the church staff is coming by to replace the part that went kaputski.  Yep, another set of first world problems.

Thank you, Lord.  You are the same God as before things started shutting down on the car.  Why should I think that You are  different because the car broke down?  There is no reason to.  I believe that with my whole heart.

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