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sunset from golden gardens, seattle

Related to my previous post about culture shock and readjustment, I’ve written down a few things I’ve thought about throughout our trip that I’d like to change in my life, especially once home.  It helps to share because, maybe it will encourage or inspire others, you’ll find others to talk to it about, and, they can hold you accountable. I’m sure Tyler has his only list that maybe he’ll share with some of you one day as well.  I also have a list of recipes to make at home someday, which I’m sure you all will find much easier to hold me accountable to. 🙂

A lot of times life is so different at home than from when you were traveling, or wherever you were, that it’s easy to just separate the two, letting “what happened in Vegas stay in Vegas” and losing all those little treasures you’ve built up in your journey.  Christians talk about returning home from the mission trip or field as being the most challenging, the time when the Enemy is most likely trying to attack, and the usual approach is by allowing you to get caught up in your old life, thinking it’s too difficult to process what you’ve went through, that you have no one to share your experiences with, and so you slowly forget what you experienced and let go of how you’ve changed.  In order to try to prevent that, I’m going to build this little landmark, or altar if you will, of what I’ve been thinking throughout the last year, and how God has been faithful to us.

1.     Do the things you don’t want to do now and you’ll feel better in the long-run.  It’s a simple lesson I feel most people learn early in life: you don’t want to do laundry but you should, and once those clothes are folded and put away, you feel a certain sense of relief and accomplishment.  You don’t want to go to the gym but you feel better afterwards, especially after months of going start to show results.  I tend to put these things off as long as possible, spending that time complaining and wishing they were done, as if I could do nothing about it.  Stressed that I needed to wash my car, instead of just washing it.  Stressed that I was running late to work, instead of just getting up when my alarm went off instead of hitting snooze three times.  Annoyed at the pile of papers I need to file or recycle, or the things I need to put away, instead of just turning on some music and getting things done. Depressed that an entire Saturday passed by and I did nothing but watch TV, depressed that I missed church three weeks in a row because I was “too tired” to get up on time, when I could JUST DO IT (thanks Nike).

 I do this a lot, and I’m trying to change it in all aspects of my life, but especially beginning with my morning routine.  I’m certainly not a morning person; I sleep in until the last possible minute, eat breakfast in my car, if at all, and only spend about 20 minutes getting myself ready for the day.  This is disrespectful to myself and insufficient.  When I get up earlier, my day has a more peaceful start and I feel more centered and balanced all day, especially if it includes breakfast, coffee, and some reading.  The problem is, I’m always tired, always.  But, what I always forget is that I’m not any more tired by getting up a little earlier. In fact, being tired is a fact of life I frankly need to get over already.  I get enough sleep, that’s not why I’m tired, so why not treat myself to a longer morning that will make my whole day more enjoyable?  It’s not what I want the moment my alarm is going off, but it’s better in the long-run.

Related, since I’m not a morning person, I’m not about to get up at 6 a.m. right now.  I am, however, trying to get up before noon each day, which you may laugh at, but is actually quite difficult for me, someone who struggles with depression, and frankly, is only getting up to sit on my computer and look for work most days (a struggle for motivation).  So, I’m focusing in setting an alarm 8-9 hours from when I go to bed, and getting up when it goes off.  I’m trying not to stay up ridiculously late so I can get up at a reasonable hour.  What’s important, however, is that I don’t just get up and sit around in my pajamas all day, brushing my teeth at 5 p.m. and never really “getting ready” for the day.  I need to get up, wash, brush my teeth, make myself look presentable, get fully dressed, eat breakfast, and then do whatever I have to do on the computer that day.  This may sound incredibly simple and self-evident to everyone else, but it’s a daily struggle for me and something I really hope I can change, especially now that I can sort of ease into it now during this transition time, making it less difficult when we have jobs.  So far, some days have certainly been better than others, but I’ve certainly made progress.

 2.       Giving when the giving gets toughIt can be hard to be generous when you’re traveling: you’re on a tight budget; you want to bargain so you don’t feel taken advantage of, and frankly, it’s easy to become self-centered.   We wrestled with this a lot while traveling – wanting to tip less or haggle more to save money, but ultimately one dollar to us means a lot more to someone in Bolivia, so it’s not worth the added stress or the effort. What we were reminded of abroad was to give, and give freely. What matters at home is how to be generous when it’s tempting to save every penny you have, because you don’t have very many and you’re almost surely going to need all of them before you find a job.  Well, this isn’t how the Bible teaches us to life our life.  So, we’re trying to continue giving – supporting friends, supporting churches, missionaries, whatever, because we’re meant to give out of generosity, not obligation.  And we’re meant to give even when we have very little, trusting that God will provide for us.  This might mean that even though we give we’ll end up homeless (doubtful) but it’s all part of God’s plan for us, however unpleasant it might be, and we’re meant to learn from every situation.  So while we’re trying to be prudent and make wise decisions, we’re also trying to give freely and live with a happy heart, because, like they say, mo’ money, mo’ problems. So with each penny we give away, we’re also giving away the stress it brings with it, and the opportunity for God to show his faithfulness to us.

 3.       Slow down, take pleasure in the moment, stay focused, and seek balance. I mentioned this is in my previous post, but I would like to continue living my life feeling balanced, and centered.  I like to be busy, and I like to do a lot of things, and that’s all fine, as long as I can do each one in turn, fully absorbing and enjoying the moment I’m in.  I also need to do these and remember to take care of myself, and I’m not talking spa days here, but simple tasks like taking even minimal care of nails, skin, and teeth, keeping my room clean and listening to music (which is something I often neglect even though it’s so important to me – see #4!).

We heard a sermon our first weekend back where the priest challenged us to try doing just one thing a day. It sounds simply, but think about it: we read while drinking coffee and listening to music.  We eat and watch TV. We talk about something while our thoughts are a million miles away.   I laughed and said,’ I already did that! I just drank my cup of coffee this morning and looked out the window, doing nothing else.’  It was true, and I did it without thinking, and I hope I can continue to live my life that way, enjoying the small moments and keeping an eye on the big picture, without getting too caught up in it all, and remembering what matters most.

 4.       It takes effort to do the things you love. This is something I actually learned in the year or so before we left for South America, but I still want to share it and keep doing it.  In high school, I loved the outdoors: I loved camping and snowboarding and backpacking and going to the beach.  I let those things slide in college and the years afterward, filling my time with school and work.  I found myself years later overweight watching What Not to Wear marathons on sunny Saturday afternoons, depressed about “not doing anything.”   I was shaken awake when by chance a co-worker invited me to go on a backpacking trip to the Enchantment Lakes in the Northern Cascades of Washington, known as the most beautiful area of the state.  The 3-day trip was stunningly beautiful, but it was also shocking how bad I was at what I claimed to love.  I wasn’t in proper condition, I didn’t have the proper gear or knowledge, or even experience.  I realized I had let something I really loved doing fade away, and fought to get it back, spending a year going to the gym regularly, finding hiking partners and books, joining the Seattle Mountaineers, learning to rock climb, continuing to pursue rock climbing in Argentina, and hiking and backpacking all over South America.  I’m trying to continue that here in Oregon, hence the recent hikes and kayak trip, trying to build mental and physical endurance by jogging the SE Salem hills every other day, and I’m planning on climbing South Sister in September, joining the Portland Mazama’s, and continuing to enjoy and love the beautiful countryside around me.

What’s important is the realization that the things I love don’t just happen…”you gotta make it happen…” as Oasis would say.   It takes effort, and sacrifice and planning.  It takes getting up at 6 a.m. when I don’t want to, knowing I won’t regret it for a second when I’m standing between two glaciers on Mt. Hood on a beautiful sunny day.  To do these things I have to train, and I have to practice, I have to pursue friends and organizations with similar interests, and I have to stay committed and persevere.   The same goes for my love of Spanish: I’ve got to keep getting out there to conversation groups, get to Powells to buy books in Spanish, and apply for jobs where I can use my skills.  It takes effort, but it’s worth it because I find enjoyment in these things.

5.     Live Simply.  Related to my post about consumerism and materialism, I’m going to continue to try to focus on what’s important (people, not things).  I’m going to continue to try to find joy in cooking meals that take time to prepare, as well as ones that I throw together quickly at the last minute.  Instead of complaining about washing the dishes by hand if we don’t have a dishwasher, I’m going to try to remember it’s a common, everyday reality for most of the world.  Instead of envying the newest gadget or gizmo, I’m going to try to be satisfied in what I already have.  I’ll try to recycle and creatively re-purpose things, and make environmentally supportive choices, like buying local, organic produce when I can afford to, and walking instead of driving.  I’m going to keep finding joy in making things from scratch, whether it’s bread, jam, cookies, cakes, beer,  or even soap.   I’m going to keep getting excited about the small things, like seeing hummingbirds outside or a serve yourself local honey stand or a ‘free land for brew-pub’ sign.  I’m going to try to remember that even if things don’t look the best, if they’re functional, they’re fine.   I’m going to try to keep the TV gone, watching only shows and movies that I actually like, and find funny, witty, informative, or moving, and I’m going to try to keep reading more.  Instead of turning to the usual suspects for comfort or zoning out (hulu, TV) I’ll turn to God, and to more productive things (exercise, writing, reading, contemplation). In short, I’m going to keep trying to learn to be content, in the midst of this world that always seems to want to make us the opposite.

 6.       Stop worrying, and have more faith: relax and enjoy!  It’s hard for anyone not to worry these days, and that’s a theme a lot of people have been talking about lately: transition, and change.  I tend to over-think things a lot.  Recently I pulled up an entry I never posted about Spiritual ADD.  Without getting into details, I talked about how I (and many others in my generation) have a lot of interests and I’m sort of, all over the place, making lots of short-term commitments to different “things.”  While the need for commitment is real, I also, frankly, fret too much over the whole subject.  Sure, I’ve traveled around a lot, I’ve been involved in a lot of different issues, I have doubts about the choices we’ve made, but I’ve also got to have faith that “in all things God works for the good of those that love him” (Romans 8:28) and that God has a plan for mine, and Tyler’s lives (Jeremiah 29:11).  We may not always make the best decisions, but God’s strength is shown through our weaknesses nonetheless (2 Corinthians 12:9). I had to memorize these and 48 other key Bible verses way back when at a whacky, conservative, southern Christian missions camp in the Florida swamplands, and looky-here, they’re still verses I turn to today, because since I was forced to memorize them, well, they come to me, even if haven’t read the Bible in ages.  And even though this point was brought up in a sermon this past Sunday, by a guest preacher I immediately disliked, holy-hell it’s still true, and God can even speak through people you dislike! There’s a testimony of God’s faithfulness right there, and I would have missed it if I put off writing this blog.  God is faithful to us all the time, speaking to us and leading us all the time, if we only try to listen and look more often.

So, in the meantime, I could have a lot I could worry about (and believe me, sometimes I do, but I’m always learning): bills to pay with a shrinking savings account and no income, no permanent home, looking for a job in a double-dip recession, but hey, I’ve got the Maker of the Universe on my side, and if he can take care of the lilies on the fields, the Israelites in the desert, I think he can handle us too.  We’re blessed to have a wonderful family that feeds us and gives us a place to stay, could we really ask for much more? With each job application, with each interview, I’m trying not worry, I’m trying to see it as a learning opportunity, and if I don’t get the position then hey, it must not have been meant to be.  And while I’ve got all this free time, I’d better put it to good use (see other commitments above), and at the very least, remember one of my favorite Psalms, made so crystal clear to me on that balmy night in Indonesia six years ago, with my beloved banana crepes: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (34:8).

In closing, these are just a few of the big thoughts I’ve been thinking lately, that I’d like to hold onto and build my new life in Oregon around.  (Other inspirations have been the movie Hook, my beloved Naruto anime series, and Trigun, but that’s all material for another day).  I hope I can stay true to my goals, and receive grace when I don’t.  I hope it was somehow meaningful to anyone who reads it, and, as always, feel free to share your thoughts.  We always love hearing from you.

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A friend asked me how re-adjusting to life in the US was.  I simply replied: “readjusting = boo” and she understood completely.  I can’t believe I’ve been putting off writing an entry for a month now (cause for my next post).  At first there was too much too say that was too difficult to put into words, and now I’m trying to piece those lost thoughts back together; they’ve grown fuzzy after focusing on getting our life together, applying for jobs, and seeing long-lost friends and family.

First, we’ve gotten a lot of questions about “culture shock.”  Not that I don’t love talking about it, but I thought this would be a good place to reflect more deeply about it.  Culture shock, to me, has two parts: getting using to everyday things that are profoundly differently to live in another culture, and getting used to how you’ve profoundly, fundamentally changed after living in another culture.   The everyday things come with time and patience; the profound change can be lost without vigilance.

The everyday things that are hard to adjust to are numerous, but one of those is consumerism and materialism.  This has always been a shocker after returning to the US from every trip I’ve gone it, and though it’s no surprise, it’s still a demon to wrestle with.  What was shocking about that recycled, recyclable cutting board at EZ Orchards wasn’t just its existence as a commodity; it was that I wanted it.  I want it so I start to justify buying it, coming up with a reasonable plan.  At the same time I remember how ridiculous this is compared to the billion people who go hungry each day.  Needs versus wants: the keystone to learning to live a balanced life.  It’s funny to hear people justify buying this or that because it will make something easier, or save time, or look better. Sure, it will do all those things, but doesn’t anyone stop to think about how sick our culture is if we can’t truly accept someone because their house isn’t big enough, their dishes don’t match, it’s not well-decorated, their lawn isn’t manicured enough, because they don’t have this or that useless commodity?  We need to buy certain things to fit in.  We need to buy certain time-saving things (i.e. dishwasher, washer and dryer) because we have to live overly busy, “productive” lives to be a normal “American.” Sure, a stainless steel compost container looks better than an old plastic yogurt container, and maybe it keeps flies away and helps with smells, but really? Is that necessary? Do you really need it? I want it, and many other things, and that is a strange shock, because I know better.  Do you ever wonder how you end up with over-stuffed closets and garages?  It’s because we justify buying things, then buying things for our things, then buying things to store our things, and then buying bigger houses with more storage, so we can buy more things: the multiplication of wants.  While traveling we learned to live with very little, and now the amount of stuff we have is stressful.  Unpacking boxes is fun, but with it comes the stress of: where do I put it? Do I even still want it?  While we gave away probably half of our belongings before we left for this trip, I’m looking forward to weeding out even more unnecessary stuff whenever it is we finally get to unpack.   And while I find the amount of things available, and the amount of things I find myself wanting, overwhelming, I do understand that there needs to be a balance, so I’m not going to go around making myself feel guilty all the time or live like a Spartan, because that’s not sustainable either.

This “everyday shock” is related to a profound one: a firm understanding of what matters most.  I used to only want to live in cool cities where I didn’t have to drive, where I had fun places to eat and drink, where I had beautiful parks, and cool things to go to and do.  I still want to, but I frankly don’t care anymore.  I don’t care if I live in Salem or Portland or Seattle, or Sacramento or Texas, because it just doesn’t matter.  Some people may think I should be applying for jobs all the time, and not going out kayaking or hiking, but that doesn’t matter either.  What matters, in my opinion, is being fully present and focused on whatever’s going on “in the moment” and having quality time with those you love, whether that’s family or friends.   So, yes, I’m applying for jobs a lot, but I’m not stressing out about it all the time.  I’m only applying for jobs I really want, and I’m keep a schedule that allows me to have free time, and take advantage of the flexibility we have now, because who knows when we’ll have it again.  And I’m applying for jobs in Portland, not just because it’s a great city with more opportunities, but because it’s where our dear friends live, yet it’s still close to at least some of our family. And while I’m doing all this I’m trying to learn about my new surroundings and continue to pursue things I’m passionate about, hence trips to the outdoors, bouldering, going to parks, breweries, Timbers games, restaurants, and food carts.  If there’s anything we learned while traveling, it’s that you can be in the coolest city in the world, or the most beautiful place, or having the greatest experience of your life, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t have someone to share it with.   And if you can learn to say, trust God, and therefore be fully present in whatever your given situation is, you’ll find yourself relatively worry-free, able to enjoy life even though you’re in a rough transition right now.  That’s where I find myself most days now, and I pray it will last.

mt. hood

A few other everyday shocks I’ve noticed revolve around cell phones: I find texts irritating now, and would rather just call to talk to someone, which if you know anything about my weird irrational fear of talking on the phone, is quite the big deal.  I find myself wanting to turn my cell phone off, like our parents do, which I used to say defeated the purpose of having a cell phone.   I love that we’re finally close to friends and family, but I want to see them and talk to them, not hear my phone buzz.  I also find it strange that I seemed to have lost my US pedestrian skills, which granted, maybe weren’t great to begin with, as I’m always had a certain affinity for the chaotic systems our Southern neighbors use.  At any rate, cross-walks: annoying.  Walking in front of cars: normal.  Suddenly breaking for pedestrians or cars, being cut off, passed, whatever: normal, not cause for alarm or anger.  I hear people around me commenting about such and such traffic situation and getting really worked up about it, and I think, why bother? Everyone’s just fine.  I suppose these relates to a profound change in our pace of life.  We move slowly, and I like it.  I feel centered and balanced, and I hope I can maintain it, even when work begins again.

Also, I find speaking English strange, and find it difficult to read and write at the level I used to, needing extra time to think of the correct word or to having to re-read things to catch the subtle nuances.  I also do this with Spanish, meaning, I now struggle in both languages instead of just one.  This has been amusing as well as frustrating, especially when writing cover letters or talking in job interviews.  I also find it strange to order food in English, and almost always pause before speaking to make sure I’m thinking the right thing to say. I forget people can overhear and understand our conversations, and that tone and mannerisms suddenly matter a great deal more than they did in South America.  I also can’t stand commercials now (I feel like they’re simultaneously screaming at me and making my brain go in 1000 directions at once) nor can I really stand most TV programs, even the mindless ones I used to love so much (cooking shows, etc.).  30 Rock has been a saving grace.  These, among many others, are the funny, more light-hearted shocks to coming home.

So, those are just a few thoughts that have been rolling around in my head lately about coming home.  So far, it’s been pretty great; truly enjoyable and wonderful, so great to see family and friends, and have good food and drinks again, but, the reality of being back is just beginning to set in I think, so I’m sure we’ll face many other challenges to come.

For those interested, pictures of our recent trip to Seattle can be found HERE, more kayaking pictures can be found HERE, pictures from around Portland HERE, and pictures from a recent hike near Mt. Hood can be found HERE.

Enjoy!

Sharon

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I have long been someone who was not proud to be American.  I still don’t think I am; I still feel like singing the national anthem at baseball games is a bit brain-washy, and I don’t care much for patriotic pins or clothing.  I have long focused on all the negativities of our culture and nation-state: our double-downs, our super-sized everything, our big cars, total and complete reliance on oil, our frenzied pace of life, our fast-food and obesity, our laziness, our disregard for the environment, our often complete lack of knowledge and understanding of other cultures and religions, our ignorance, our exceptionalism, our loudness, our penchant to overwork ourselves with long hours, commutes, and short vacations, how we turned human well-being into a profit scheme, our undying belief that capitalism and free markets will solve all our problems, our two-timing protectionist tariffs, our multiple flatscreen TVs per home, our need to constantly spend expendable income on entertainment, clothes without thinking twice of the child sweatshop labor that made our cheap Wal-Mart prices possible, our tendency to vote based on wild emotions and accusations rather than learning facts, our grave foreign policy blunders. If I was abroad I would sneer at these typical Americans, and turn to my French-Canadian roots if asked.  I would try to be different; to blend in.  I much prefer the Spanish Estadounidense to our assuming use of “American” as if North America, and the United States, is the only or greatest America.

And yet, like my constant wandering, this too, began to change. Just as we’re leaving, I begin to understand what I’ll be missing, in ways I never realized before.  Before when I traveled; I didn’t miss my family all that much, and I would certainly never have considered not going or staying nearby to be closer to them.  Not that I don’t dearly love and cherish my family; I just don’t often get homesick. Now, I wonder about that.  I wonder how much longer my parents will be around; I wonder if my nieces and nephew will know their aunt. I wonder when I’ll see my brother again.  I have a longing to just be able to bring everyone together in one place.  One part of me feels “tied down” by this responsibility; another takes joy in the task to love freely.  This makes going more difficult.  It’s not just family that makes me think twice either.  I have no illusions about how friendships fair over long distances and time. The so-called “cream of the crop” will remain, but many will slowly fade into the distance, only seen intermittently on Facebook updates; soon it will be so long that making plans to reunite will be awkward and futile.  Since being content with staying, we’ve made countless new friendships, and I wonder how they’ll fare.

Friends and family aren’t all, either.  I’ve learned to appreciate, many, many things about our American culture.  It’s ironic that I’ve made these discoveries while staying put for a few years, and not while abroad, but it’s happened nonetheless. I appreciate that I know my way around, and that if I need to ask for directions; I can, and I will understand the answer.  I am proud to one who can offer directions (at least sometimes…). I appreciate our 24-hour grocery store, using my debit card sans fees, having internet in our house and using a cell phone to make calls and send texts. Once I organized a study abroad program for a group of Parisian students visiting Seattle, and their leader remarked “Americans are so friendly, not like other places.  And they have the cutest accent in French.”  I was shocked, us…butchering their beautiful language…cute?  Friendly?  I love our rhythm of interactions and having the freedom to drive my car to the mountains or take a weekend get-away. Being able to find out almost anything on the internet, buy books in a bookstore, and have conversations with people I meet.  I love S’mores and BBQs, bagels, peanut-butter and jelly, chocolate chip cookies, multigrain Cheerios, hot dogs, sandwiches, iced americanos, baseball games, and the vibe of our parties and gatherings. I love the pulse of Seattle; of the northwest. I love jeans and fleece, being able to go to the doctor.

Its little things I notice these days; the comfort of familiarity with our daily interactions and customs, our favorite summer dishes.  I finally feel like I belong somewhere; like I fit in. And yet, even when (if?) we do come back from this adventure, we’ll be living in Portland, Oregon, and we’ll have to start over once again, though this time we’ll have great family and friends nearby. Theoretically I’ll be enrolling in an amazing graduate program at Portland State, and once again looking for a job. I once would never think twice about these things; I’d be so excited for the adventure to come I wouldn’t notice, and yet now, now that I’ve finally learned to be content with staying, I am fully aware of what I’ll be leaving behind.  I feel like Abram when he’s called to leave Ur: why leave here, it’s great?!  We have to remember God’s promises, have faith that the places He leads us will be better than we can imagine; that home is in Christ and each other, that life is about the journey, not the destination.

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I have always liked to travel.  I relish moving. I had a chaotic childhood, shuffling between parents, step-parents, old houses to new, townhouses to apartments to duplexes, summers with relatives, trips with the youth group, and later, with missions organizations. For the greater part of college, I could fit my life’s belongings into either a Nissan 240SX or a Geo Tracker; until my senior year I never lived in one place more than nine months.  Every chance I had to study or travel abroad, I took, even if it was just a chance whim.

I came back from all this, and by the grace of God moved into an amazing house with five other fantastic roommates; I felt it was my time to learn to stay. I remained in Seattle after graduation and see what life I could make for myself here; out in the “real world” and in my “career.”  I managed to stay in that Greenlake basement for over a year; working three jobs, getting superb grades in my senior year, paying off all that credit card debt from my travels.  I was more or less content with my life there.

Then, along came a certain boy, and suddenly, I was married and moving again – this time into our first apartment. We decided to “settle” for at least a year, try out working “big kid” jobs and weaving our lives together.  I found a dream job (though with nightmarish pay); Tyler worked at Starbucks, and then moved onto a more relaxed, but well-paying position at J Crew.  We got an adorable kitten. We accumulated things, so many things.  Kitchen things, bathroom things, alley furniture, clothes. I still managed to take some short trips to places fairly often – we went away on weekends to Whidbey Island, to Victoria, we even made it to Paris, and Ensenada; I even made it all the way to Guatemala with my work. This allowed me to stay – to be content.  I got used to our life in our little apartment on Lower Queen Anne; used to our “things,” used to meeting friends for drinks, used to being awestruck by mountains and green everyday, used to our weekly rhythm; we made friends, we made regular plans, we joined a gym and took up new hobbies.  I got to know every single neighborhood in Seattle; knew every boutique eatery and coffee shop and always had a list of dozens to try.  Before I knew it, we’d been in same place for three great years. Tough years, hard, learning years, but also fantastic. Had I finally balanced the tension between being a sojourner and settling down?

Is this what it means to stay, and love it? Seven wonderful years in Seattle… Growing up with the same inspiring group of youth all these years; going to their graduations, advising their senior projects, proof-reading college applications. Bursting into tears as they move away to college and our little group disintegrates. Sharing our sorrows, struggles, and joy?  Investing in our community by volunteering, planting trees, and weeding blackberry and ivy? We’ve had so many of those special “moments” where time freezes and you’re lost in a song, a view, or an interaction.  I always try to hold onto those moments as they pass, hoping they’ll stay forever.  Of course, they pass and life continues on.  I cherish the last one, and look forward to the next; each unique yet similar. It reminds me of when we studied Ecclesiastes at Bethany Community Church: nothing is forever.  But God wants us to be thankful for each moment, knowing that it won’t last, and joyfully look forward to the next. Have faith that He will keep giving them to us, whether we stay or go.

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God is a funny one, always speaking truth into our lives just when we need it. Two weekends ago my Dad came to visit, and of course, one of the first things he asked was if we were going to go to “that church with all those young people.”  Last year we had taken him to the college saturated 5 o’clock service at Bethany Community Church, and my Dad was overwhelmed to the point of tears by the crowds of passionate, young Christians, meaningful prayer and worship, and a pastor that taught well.  He remarked that the Holy Spirit was working in that place. “Of course” I replied. This time we would go to the 11:15 service, as it better accommodated our plans for that day.  Of all things to speak on, it had to be Jeremiah 29:4-15: Living Faithfully in Babylon.  Pastor Richard remarked at least three different times that even if you’re only in Seattle for “a month,” we should get involved faithfully in our community.  I laughed out loud every time and pointed at Tyler. In exactly one month we would be moving.

 But, it would also be about one month between leaving Seattle, and leaving for Buenos Aires. One month split between family and friends in Salem and Portland, road-tripping in California, camping in Yosemite, and a wedding in Lake Tahoe. One month of taking time to enjoy what we know, to spend meaningful time with those we love, and prepare – mentally, physically, and spiritually, for our trip. Sure, to some people we might just be “selfishly travelling aimlessly” or just doing a semester abroad; we probably won’t get the backing of a missions committee or church, but we look at this trip in very much the same light as a mission trip.  After all, isn’t it on those trips that we go to escape our comfort zone and refine our relationship with the Lord?  Is this really that different? That being said, we have a total of two months to live faithfully before we go – to stay involved until the very end.  We have time to be fully present with our friends, our family, and strangers; a strange amount of transient time to impact the lives of others. Continuing, we have a number of months to hold true to this principle once we leave. We may not know how long we’ll be in once place (sounds like Babylon, doesn’t it?), or even where that place will be (like Abraham and the promised land), beyond “phase one” in Buenos Aires, but we are still called to get involved and bless others in whatever way we can, day by day, moment by moment. Let’s pray together that God gives us the strength and presence of mind to be able to live up to His calling.

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