Thursday, October 18, 2012

A day at the beach

 It's hard to know why Ethan wanted to crawl into this hole.

Or stay in it when this happened.

 A further mystery as to why he decided to let his dad and our friend bury him in that position.


Why he waited for this with excitement.

As it swarmed around him.

And crashed over him.

While still really enjoying it.

 But he did.


I am torn.

We spent a few days at the beach attending a debrief conference for people from our company who have returned from overseas stints. It was all a bit theoretical for us because we haven't landed in our "planting" spot yet where we'll have to try to figure out where to buy food and make friends and tame our wild yard.

But not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to hear from God, I tried to pay attention to my heart. As I did I realized I was feeling a new feeling about the whole transition: guilt.

That surprised me, until we had a session on grief and loss and they reminded me that it is one of the stages of grief. But still, guilt? I didn't see that coming. I'm more of a denial or anger stage kind of girl myself.

Why do I feel guilty? Well, I'll tell you. I feel guilty because I think the US is awesome. I can plug my computer in to ANY outlet in the house. That's big, people. No hunting down an adapter these days. The shower has consistent water pressure and temperature. Have you ever thought about what a gift that is? I do, every day.

And where we're going to live is practically tropical! I've done tropical before and it's not shabby. Sure, it gets hot and humid but who cares when you have a pool? And . . . and . . . and . . . I could go on and on.

Why feel guilty about that? I feel guilty because I know that my friends who I left don't have a lot of these things. Why do I get to have them? More than that, several of them are going through difficult things and I am not there to walk through those things with them, and I hate that. I'm here enjoying sunshine and raspberry m&m's. There's a strange feeling as though I have abandoned them, betrayed them even, by leaving. I remind myself that this is where God has led us, and that He has kept them there, but I feel guilty all the same.

Hey - no one ever said feelings were rational. But there they are.

So I am torn. Torn between wanting to enjoy these beautiful gifts God is giving us, hopes of good things in this new life, and the separation I feel from my friends who do not have what I have, who in fact have difficult things. Torn between loving the family and friends we have here and those we have left behind. It's one of the by-products of moving people don't always mention - the fact that you don't get to keep all your heart with you as you go. Parts will be left in each place, and it's possible for one part to feel something while another part experiences something completely different.

Will it ever be put back together? Probably not. But I choose to see it not as fragmented but as stretched to a greater capacity. Yeah, I'm going to call it that - not torn, but stretched.

Looking at school

What's in my view these days? Schooling, that's what. We're looking at schools. Seems like a simple thing, but because I don't do simple, it's raising all kinds of interesting issues in my heart.

Initially we had planned to keep homeschooling through this transition because it seemed the easiest thing to do and would give some normalcy to life along with time to process with the kids. Our schooling philosophy has always been whatever option seemed to offer the best education for our kids while aligning with our values and lifestyle. Previously, this has always hands down been homeschooling.

And then I went to visit this school in Orlando, a hybrid between private school and homeschool. The kids have teachers who love teaching and do it creatively and wholeheartedly (hmm . . . I can't say that's how I would describe myself). The academics of this place are off the charts. The more I listened, the more I became convinced, "This offers my kids a better education than I can give them."

So I left that informational meeting with a mixture of hope, relief, and not a small measure of feeling unsettled and overwhelmed. The first two seem natural. It's like after years of pushing a large rock up a hill, someone is coming along to say, "Here, can we help you with that?" Yes, gladly!

But the other feelings are ones I don't necessarily want to own. That wonderful meeting about this great educational opportunity for our kids raised in me feelings of failure. I hated realizing that I wasn't doing as well as I could be with our kids. I hated feeling like I might put my kids in this school and people would see the gaps in their education, gaps I didn't cover because I wasn't a "good enough" teacher.

I know, I know. I can hear all the things people tell me when I say these things out loud. Things like how I've done the best I could, how our kids are doing well, how no one's perfect and there is grace for all our lack, how my value isn't about how "successful" I am. They are the things I told myself all that drive home.

You see, these aren't new feelings to me. What is new is trying to peacefully co-exist with them, to talk them down out of their trees, to befriend them and ask them what they really want. I am learning to sidle up next to those feelings and say, "So you like to do things well, huh? Yeah, I suppose a lot of people do. That's a good desire. Too bad we can't always do it as well as we'd like right?" It helps.

See? I told you I don't do simple. But feelings aside, we are moving forward with this. All my well-laid plans and curriculum for the year are being re-evaluated and partly set aside and I'm trying to figure out the balance between trying to make up for those gaps the kids have and the fact that we simply can't do it all in 2 months before they start. In the end, I think I'm really going to enjoy this school view.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Our Future in Signs

Signs can tell us where we are. They tell us something of the culture we're inhabiting. They provide boundaries, assurance, that we are in familiar territory.

So I've been paying attention to the signs around me as we have a week here in Orlando. I want to set up my mental map. I want to understand this future home of ours.

I had planned to post a series of pictures of the signs we've acquired ourselves - our license plate, the name of our part of town, our street name, our address. And then I realized that armed with all that, someone could potentially stalk us all the way from Minnesota to our new home. I'm not typically paranoid, but that seemed too much like a trail of cyberspace breadcrumbs.

So picture, if you will, these signs that we see. The highway signs - most often 417 and 408 - all have the outline of Florida. Despite that, it took me 3 days of driving to stop thinking, "Hey look - that person has Florida license plates. He's from Florida!" We too have exchanged loons for oranges. (Not that I am a loon, though that thought was kind of loony. Minnesota plates have loons on them).

The sign I don't like seeing is the EZPass toll overhang, strung over the highway periodically, there to suck money from you every few miles on the freeway.

Today we drove past an actual "Welcome to Orlando" sign. Why thank you.

It's encouraging to see signs we know well - Target, Panera Bread, Walgreens. And signs for things we have heard exist - Chick-fil-a, Del Taco. None of these signs were in China. I like seeing them.

Then there are the signs that show we are heading away from the crowded parts to our little neck of the swamp - signs with words like "oak" and "pine" in them that tell us we are heading into the woods. Our woods.

And there's the one small sign, just 5 numbers hung above our garage door, that will signify home.

Those are the signs in view.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Becoming More Real

Did you know that in Orlando there are toll gates every 50 feet? OK, that might be an exaggeration, but there are a lot of them and they aren't cheap. Most I've seen range from 50c-$1. Yesterday on the way to check out a school for the kids that required a 15 minute drive on the highway I had to spend $3.25. That's a pile o' change folks because they don't take dollars. If you're wondering where all the coins in America are, look to Florida.

Well all this coin tossing (literally, you throw the coins in a funnel. Freaks me out every time) is impractical in the long run so we needed to get a Sun Pass, which allows you to drive automatically through the tolls without paying, or so it feels. And this is one of many little ways that life in America is becoming more real.

Why would I need a Sun Pass if I were just passing through? When the woman at Walgreens asked if I wanted a store card, I realized I probably did. The Minute Clinic at CVS now has all my local information (and I discovered that my insurance card is actually useful in America. Apparently Asia was outside my PPO). Erik is going to get our license tags this morning for our Honda Fit, which my Asia friends will be happy to know is orange like our previous Hover. At dinner the other night a new acquaintance told me about a weekend market for home furnishings and said, "I'll take you there."

Oh and did I mention there's an empty house to which we have keys? I fully expected there to be a homeless man squatting there, at least some snakes and cockroaches to have taken up residence, but it's just waiting for us to fill it with our stuff.

A house. Two cars. Getting connected to local businesses. Making plans with new people. Yep, it kind of sounds like we're going to live here.

The Familiar

People might guess that our 13 years overseas in various locations means I'm a girl who loves adventure, but this would be an erroneous thought. I like familiarity. I like routine. I like consistency. I eat the same thing every day for breakfast, almost without fail. That's how I roll.

One of our last weeks in Asia, I was driving a new friend around town, and she said, "I can't wait until I know this city like you do. You just seem to know how to get anywhere." Indeed, it was very familiar to me.

So here we are in Orlando this week, our future home, and I find myself longing for that kind of knowledge. I want to sense, as I'm driving down the 417, how much further it is to our exit. I want to have a need for a certain store and know instinctively how far it is from where I am. I want to be able to drive on mental auto-pilot to other parts of town. I want to know this place.

As I was pondering this yesterday, God reminded me that I do already have something constant, something familiar, and it is Him. In every new place, He is there. He is the same here as He was in Asia. His character and His ways toward me are steady and unchanging.

This is where I need to put my focus, my faith. My city view may change, but He remains the same.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Invitation

I found this poem today by a woman named Oriah Mountain Dreamer. I feel like it expresses so much of what I have been learning in the last year I just had to share it.

The Invitation
Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, 'Yes.'

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I've been there

A man spoke yesterday at church. He was visiting from Africa, where he and his family work at a rural hospital. Listening to him, I felt a strong kinship. I could imagine the hardships he and his wife have to face with their four kids. I'm guessing that the decision to homeschool some and send one to boarding school must have been difficult. I suppose it's not easy getting the things they need, that they can't find, in rural Africa. If they've been there a long time, probably a lot of things they've just learned to live without, but things like homeschool books - what do they do? It's probably exciting and fun for him to be back here for a short time, but also tiring. I imagine his wife and kids are doing the best they can in his absence. I hope they have good friends there, maybe other Americans, hopefully local friends as well, who can buoy them while he is gone.

I feel that life. I've been there. I know mine wasn't the same as theirs - we all have our unique struggles and circumstances. But I felt blessed to be reminded that our life in Asia will always be a part of us, a part that will connect us to others.

My ET Reaction

You know the part in ET when they go trick or treating and ET gravitates toward the kid who's dressed like Yoda with his little "Ooooo!" sound? Yeah, that's me these days. Let me explain.

While I feel like I am adjusting to the States and don't feel nearly like the alien I anticipated, there's an involuntary reaction that takes place whenever I am near or see anyone Asian. I call it my ET reaction. I want to move toward them, listening for their language. Often I am disappointed - they are Korean or Japanese (nothing against Korean or Japanese, but I can't speak their languages). When I do hear Chinese, my heart skips a beat. I want to jump in and be part of their conversation, but it's usually about something ordinary like the cost of the item on the shelf. I also find that people are weirdly shocked when I speak Chinese with them in America. I imagine they don't have a category for that.

So I'll just be content to move closer and smile and let it remind me of a place I love. And I'll try not to make that noise that ET makes, because that would be creepy.

Project 365 September

rainy days

A fitting last shot of China

Up early with jet lag

And NOT having to fight jet lag anymore


The backyard, instagram style

Evening practice

Most mornings one of them is here

reflection of the house

fog rising off the lake

ripe for harvest

driving the boat


boating at night

I'm in love with Minnesota countryside

Seriously, I am


My first time at IKEA in the States!

hard at work


Loki loves laps

Sibling wrestle time, with a side of dog

He had fun but boy was he cold afterward!

art class

bridge in the woods

I did not enhance the color of sky in this picture

Ethan's creative shot of Megan

She OWNS that ball

Look familiar? I thought I'd get each season

Feeling the need

Remember that need I was talking about a few posts ago? That "boy I sure hope I don't forget about God here, I want to feel my need for Him" need?

Yeah, I'm feeling it. I know I didn't really have a hope that I wouldn't. God doesn't let opportunities like that pass.

In the last few years, we've noticed some struggles Ethan is having with school. He often has difficulty recalling facts and information, even things he's studied over and over. This, from the kid who can recall entire stories and movie plots in detail after one exposure. He second-guesses himself and loses confidence frequently. We have days where he insists his "brain isn't working" that generally end in tears all around and me wondering how quickly I can pass him off to someone who knows how to teach him better.

This week it seems like all this has been more overwhelming than usual. Of course Erik being on the tail end of a 12 day trip, coupled with all of us hitting new waves of transition loneliness just adds to the emotional upheaval. I have often felt helpless, clueless, like a failure. In short, it's been a rough week.

One night after praying with Ethan about that day, I sat down and began reading through scripture. As I did, I was overwhelmed by the thought of putting my hope in God. The more I thought about it, the more peace and assurance I felt. He has brought us to this place of need and He will lead us through it with His resources. Why was I trying so hard to scrounge up my feeble ones?

We don't like to feel our need for things, but it is in feeling our need and expressing it to God that we see His character - His power, love, wisdom, strength, and glory, which is more than sufficient for our needs.