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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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Well, here I am, sitting back in the exact same place I was about 10 months (thanks again for giving us your bedroom you-know-who), feeling very different than those days leading up to our departure.  Unfortunately, I’m still incredibly stressed, though the reasons couldn’t be more different.  It’s funny to think how apprehensive and unsure of the whole trip I was back then.  Now, my worries revolve around jobs, apartments, and trying to relocate to Portland. But, more on thoughts about home later.

plaza central, otavalo, ecuador

First, to fill you in on the rest of our trip.  We did go to Otavalo on Saturday, and the market was indeed quite extensive, though I wouldn’t say impressive. While you could find every souvenir you wanted, and even some new ones, at much better prices than anywhere else I’d seen, I’m not sure it was worth the 2-hour each way bus trip for the day.  However, the surroundings looked absolutely gorgeous and if we had had more time, I hear there is some amazing hiking nearby. Instead we spent every last non-US US dollar we had on llama paraphernalia, and even had time to have a late lunch at a seafood restaurant, savoring every last bite of ceviche and arroz con camarones. We still had time to spare and ended up back in Quito earlier than planned, not that I minded the extra time to pack.  I even got a special seat on my final South American bus ride: up-front, next to the driver, right next to the door.  What an honor. 😉 Meanwhile, Tyler was in the very back making friends with families.

Once back in Quito we had planned to eat at a particular restaurant, Mama Clorinda’s, and I had virtually planned out the entire menu in anticipation.  Unfortunately, Tyler got carried away with WoW and the restaurant was closed when we got to it (in his defense, it did close early – 9 pm – for restaurants in the area, on a Saturday).  Devastated, we found another Ecuadorian restaurant, more on the gourmet end of things, and had a nice meal.  Highlight include coconut-encrusted fish and canelazos (a drink with passion fruit juice, cane sugar liquor, and cinnamon).  And since we were late, I did get to see and hear the disappointment of Argentina being eliminated from the Copa America, as well as thoroughly pack, get rid of lots of things, and get ready for the early day to come.

Our flights home went fairly smoothly – we made it to the airport on time, and even got a good rate on the cab on the way there, not that we cared the slightest by this point.  We checked into our flight just fine, and even though the first leg of our flight was only 1 hour to Lima, LAN served us a real meal, including glass glasses and real silverware! I didn’t even know that still existed.  Our next flight from Lima to LAX was equally enjoyable: we each had individual TVs we could control and had a ridiculously huge variety of movies, TV shows, documentaries, music, and even games to play. Highlights include Tetris and the 30Rock pilot.  The only downside, towards the end of the flight our stewards got confused and we almost missed our 2nd meal (yes, our secondmeal – craziness), they forgot Tyler’s drink order (free wine! free beer! free drinks!) once, and we never got our bon-o-bon’s, which were my favorite chocolate treat in South America.  But, we also didn’t pay a single checked baggage fee, even for our connection from LA to Portland, so I’m trying not to hold it against them. In LAX we went through customs smoothly – there weren’t even that many lines and we hardly had to carry our big bags at all! We also finally got our hands on some real craft beer, yummy pizza from California Pizza Kitchen, and before we knew it we were off to Portland, so surreal.

red trolley ale to welcome us back at LAX. not as good as a northwest IPA, but what could we except, it's LA

We spent the first few days staying in the always lovely Rose City with friends, catching up on the year of cultural events we missed (that Friday, Friday, Friday song mainly) and trying to realize we were back in reality.  Much to my joy, I didn’t get any serious migraines (just a few headaches) nor did I get sick! I think all the sleeping in, free tap water, delicious food and drinks, and kitten snuggles really helped, not to mention incredibly welcoming friends that we’re lucky to have. We had the opportunity to go to a Timber’s game, as well as look at a few possible apartments in the area, and cook dinner for everyone.  I even baked a coffee cake because I was so overjoyed to see an oven I could use.  And we got a free case of hummus and box of pita chips from anonymous sources.  Good times.

There’s a few pictures from the last days in Otavalo and Quito HERE at the end of the album, as well as some pictures from Portland HERE.

Now we’re back in Salem, taking over the Wheeler household once again.  Today we went to EZ Orchards for strawberry shortcake, and I spent ages looking at everything on every aisle; there’s actually pretty and interesting things on the shelves again!  It hurts my brain to comprehend it all.  I found a recycled cutting board, that the company will pick up from you when you’re done with it and re-recycle it.  Its still crazy to me that things like that exist after coming back from living in the developing world for so long.  Great idea; just seems frivolous after peeling yucca and potatoes by hand with no cutting board for 100 people every day, twice a day, for 2 months in the jungle, and it worked just fine.

In the meantime, my head has been swirling with the dozens of minute and macro tasks that need to get done: car insurance, registering the car in Oregon, opening 10 months of mail, opening the boxes we sent home (like Christmas! except the havanettes went bad, so sad!), Easter baskets, opening actual Christmas presents (I knew it!), activating credit cards, updating account info, cell phones, not to mention applying for jobs and looking for apartments, and trying to see friends, and family, all while bouncing around between 3 cities for who knows how long into the unforeseeable future.  Tomorrow we go back to Portland to play with our grown-up friends on their days off; Sunday we’re back in Salem, Monday we’re running more errands (wash the car, change the oil, license plates, new glasses…), hopefully early next week I’ll have a job interview in Portland at an Immigration Services law firm downtown, and by the end of the week we’ll be in Seattle, hopefully getting Tyler a job back at J Crew, and perhaps taking all of our things and cat home if we can sort out alternative housing before then.  Its funny relocating: to get a job you need  a local address; to get an apartment you need a job…hopefully we can sort it all out soon.

being silly at a Timber's game in Portland

This is not to mention all the oddities and strains of re-adjusting to American life.  A lot has changed since we left: new music, friends with new jobs in new apartments, our niece can walk and talk and is pretty rad to hang out with now, its supposedly summer, its light past 6 p.m.  Not to mention I keep wanting to throw my toilet paper into the trash bin and find it odd to buckle my seat-belt and use a cell phone. Tyler has fully immersed himself in WoW with the recent re-acquisition of his beloved laptop and high speed internet.  We can call people now instead of emailing or Facebooking them.  I still find an odd desire to photograph and document everything we do, then write about it, like we’re still traveling. There’s a lot of changes we want to make since being on our trip, and a lot we’ve learned we’ve yet to discover how to express and share.

I’ll probably keep the blog going…so feel free to unsubscribe if you’re not interested in hearing about our day-to-day life, or what recipe’s we’ve cooked lately, or our thoughts on the latest sermon at church. I’ll probably go through and change the format as well.  Before that there will probably be a few more posts about processing being back in the States, as well as updates on our progress about relocating to Portland.

Until then, I hope this finds you all happy and healthy!

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From Seattle to…?

Not surprisingly, I haven’t had the time to blog lately!  But, I’ve “written” several posts in my head, as well as “edited” existing posts (also, in my head) and I thought before we step on a plane tomorrow morning, I should at least try to get some of what’s been going on put into words.

"packing"

The first post we meant to write was about was moving. Moving is hard.  This move was excruciating.  To celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary, we decided to go backpacking…and get back 2 days before we had to be out of the apartment.  Maybe not the best planning, but at the time I thought we were well-enough prepared.  (For pictures of the trip, see here). However, the backpacking was spectacular: fantastic weather, lots of great fishing, crystal clear water, almost no other people around, a full moon so bright it seemed like a spotlight, and breathtaking views (both the views and the getting there).  It was a fantastic way to say goodbye to what I think is my favorite thing about Washington and to simply relax together in God’s glorious creation.

However, upon our return, instead of packing…I decided I also wanted to say goodbye to a few friends at Vertical World.  So, after a quick change I was off for a few final climbs in an attempt to finish off that punch-card.  It was a fantastic night of seeing friends…but an absolutely terrible night of climbing for me. (Note to self: don’t rock climb after an 18-mile backpacking hike).  But, at least I tried to push my endurance and got to see some great friends.

And then…after all our excuses had run out, we found ourselves alone with our demons: a half-packed, half-cleaned (if even half…) apartment, an adorable kitten I would soon have to give to a kitten au pair, and no one to help us. I tried to stay positive, repeatedly saying, as if to convince myself, “We have a lot done.  There’s not that much more to do…”.  Tyler became overwhelmed and dizzied by the task before us, and at points curled up in the fetal position on the floor.  There were numerous tears, sobs, and snappy arguments.  Two nights of less than five hours of sleep, with every minute of time and energy spent on packing, loading u-hauls, and cleaning, and still, no help (or even offers) from a soul.

Then, the dreaded moment came: when, even after all our talk of getting rid of so many possessions (apparently we  had more than we thought):  it wasn’t all going to fit.  Not in the u-haul, not in the car, not in the passenger’s seat.  And not only would it not all fit, there was no time to dig out the things we’d much rather give away. Some of the lesser-quality furniture we demolished in the alley; kicking apart shelves of faux wood, gathering nails and compacted, flat pieces discreetly in the building’s dumpsters.  I lined the alley with things we didn’t have the time or means to drop off at Goodwill: furniture, stilts, laundry organizers, bookshelves, chairs, and…the bike my Mom had given me, that I made my Dad drive all the way from California so I could use it.  I had almost got hit by a bus in that bike.  The epic Lake Washington ride with Haley to Red Mango…so many hopes and dreams…left on the curbside.  In a move to not anger our landlord by leaving the alley and dumpster full of our belongings, I typed up an ad on Craigslist hoping our goods would be picked up and loved by future owners, and continued on our moving rampage.  To my immense surprise, every single item was gone within an hour.  Not only that, the bike was taken by a very excited owner who I know will get plenty of use out of it, so I can have some peace about it all.

And then, the cleaning.  Oh, the cleaning!  Three years in an apartment 100 years old…we gathered enough dusty bunnies to make at least two spare kittens.  Cleaning brought more breakdowns, more hunger (and fume) headaches, and more tasks to do than time would allow.  Needing to be at the storage place in Portland by a certain time, I had to leave Tyler to finish cleaning while I raced the u-haul southward.  I left him with gifts of sodas and snacks, and off I went, alone again, with no CD player, no iPod…nothing but the good-old radio. Luckily, traffic was nearly non-existent, I discovered I have a hidden talent for driving u-hauls both in big cities and on the freeway, and, my uncontrollable tears didn’t cause an accident.  I had made it, just in time, and friends and in-laws were on the way!

This is where things started going well in the moving story.  Our dear friends showed up with impeccable timing, and the energy and attitude we weren’t capable of having.  Our storage unit looked bigger than expected, and was certainly in a nicer, more secure building than expected.  These friends are master-packers and Tetris champions, and helped me squirrel away all our goods with room to spare.  My mother-in-law drove up so we could load her mini-van with food to give away, toiletries, wedding dresses, suits, and all the other random things we thought we might use in the next few weeks.  Tyler even made it, saying he had successfully finished cleaning the entire apartment.  After an epic drive to a u-haul address that didn’t exist, we were finally, finally, done with the worst of it.  A few days later we were at our new “home,” settled in, things sorted and organized, laundry finished, sleep caught-up-on, well fed and hydrated, and utterly free.

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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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