Home

FullSizeRender (11)It was a year ago this month, when my car, packed to the max with all sorts of odds and ends that didn’t (or couldn’t) make it onto the moving truck, including our aging golden retriever and a very high-maintenance Betta fish (who has since passed), pulled into this damp, blustery Pacific Northwest town. As I reflect on those first few days after my arrival, it seems all I can draw up from memory are slow-motion images and a stirring of confused and disoriented emotions. Everything around me felt new, unfamiliar, different, and odd. Quietly, within the confines of my own mind, the question, “What just happened to my life?” played on repeat. I remember waking up that first, freezing cold morning as my husband was preparing to leave for work and having a slight sense of resentment toward him. He had somewhere to go, familiar faces to see and a routine already built into his days. I did not. He was important and needed. I did not feel needed or important in the least. Overnight, it seemed, I went from busy to quiet, scheduled to unscheduled. Every minute of my days back in California was filled and here, before we had the keys to our house, all I could do was wait. I created reasons for outings…even if it was as simple as taking a spin through the drive-thru at Starbucks. I used to know my way around and almost always ran into people I knew wherever I went. Here I was a stranger surrounded by strangers.

In the days, weeks and months since our move, I’ve been struck by the strength and force of my need to make “home” here. On the day we officially moved into our house (December 16), I received a text message from a dear friend in California who knows of my obsessive love for all things Christmas as well as my unrealistic, some might say border-line insane, need to deck the halls—which she was certain was guaranteed to be on overdrive considering the transition we were going through and my severe nesting instinct in play. She offered, “you may want to give yourself permission to not set up a tree this year…you have enough on your plate…” to which I responded only with a picture of the eleven foot IMG_1762tree we had cut down in the woods nearby which was now proudly displayed in our otherwise practically empty new home. Following the holidays, I moved through our home with a paintbrush as though my life depended on covering our walls with the best that Sherwin-Williams had to offer, convincing myself that a different color palate would awaken my sense of being settled and home. I started a book club where I force-fed the handful of gracious ladies who agreed to regularly meet with a practical stranger their second dinner of the night because I had a strong drive to nourish others with the food I prepared and served at my table. I routinely invited people over to dinner I had only met once. We hosted countless friends from California. We started a small group at church. We explored the trails, saw the sights, ate the food and drank the drinks for which Oregon is famous. I was a home-nesting force to be reckoned with and I willingly and wildly did whatever I thought necessary to make this place feel like “home.”

What I have found, however, in this year of making home here, has surprised me. At some of the most unexpected and unlikely times, I have been struck by how wonderfully and strangely familiar Oregon has felt to me. IMG_9029When I’m walking my son back to our house from the bus stop and a carpet of red and orange leaves hides the road beneath our feet, I am home. When I’m hiking through the wooded trails along the Columbia River Gorge and the smell of fir trees overwhelms my senses, I’m home. When I’m sitting quietly in my room cupping a warm mug of coffee in my hands watching and listening as the rain gently falls, I’m home. Watching the seasons turn, life always following death…I’m home.

While of course, I will always miss and love the people and the familiarities that made California home to me, I’m beginning to see that home isn’t something we leave, it is something that we increasingly find, discover and experience. Coming home is a process that takes a lifetime. Each new place and experience offers a broader, richer, clearer picture of Home. In his book, Falling Upwards: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, Richard Rohr says: “We are both driven and called forward by a kind of deep homesickness, it seems. There is an inherent and desirous IMG_0003dissatisfaction that both sends and draws us forward, and it comes from our original and radical union with God.” When we encounter beauty that cannot begin to be captured in a photo or find ourselves in a moment where words fail to describe the depth or holiness that surrounds, we have caught a glimpse of Home, the underlying mystery and fulfillment of life eternal, the Good News. Among other things, beauty is a mark of home and when I see it, I recognize where I came from and where I am going.

What I left, among other things, was an identity, the loss of which I have grieved. Leaving the familiar initiated within me a process of being stripped of my identity and sense of worth and has gently and quietly invited me to evaluate what was false and what is true about who I am. I have had to sort through, one-by-one, the pieces of myself that I have clung to and labeled, “me.” Though I am a long way off from finalizing my answer on this one, I am now more at home within myself than I have ever been. So, in Richard Rohr’s terms, I was “driven from” a few false perceptions of myself to a more truthful version of myself. Truth is also a characteristic of home, so, in this way, I have and continue to come home.

I have learned that at Home, there is always enough to go around. Initially, I had this sense that I was betraying my friendships in California by establishing new and meaningful friendships in Oregon. I have, however, discovered that by pursuing both breadth and depth of friendship my understanding of Home has become more accurate, more solid. It does not have to be one or the other. Home is filled with ALL of the faces, hands and feet who have in large and small ways encouraged, inspired, laughed with, grieved with and shared life with us. There were those who sent me and now there are hands to receive me. This is holy. This is home. This year, that circle has grown and there is enough to go around.

Finally, I have found home to be a place of peace. To be abundantly clear, the journey homeward isn’t easy, nor is it pain-free, but peace is the guide, the compass. I’ve wrestled and struggled and fought throughout the journey from the second the departure became a possibility until now. Even this morning, I shook my fist in the air and cursed the struggle of the journey. But in and through it all, I have been steadied and calmed by a quiet peace assuring me that this is the way and to walk in it. The foundation of Home is peace.

I was sent from a place where friendships were rich, laughter was abundant and my community supported and surrounded me beyond what I could have ever imagined. I have been drawn to a place marked by beauty, quiet and transforming truth. So, today, I am grateful for this wild journey and I am certain that I am more home today than I have ever been before. IMG_5623

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Running Alone

FullSizeRender (6)A couple of weeks ago, I signed myself up for a community race that allowed me to run around the perimeter of our local lake in the company of hundreds of other residents—an activity that appeals to me on a number of levels. I’m a sucker for a good race. First, this extrovert craves any opportunity to be surrounded by others who, like me, are all working toward the same goal. There is something so unifying and deeply meaningful about a group of people who enthusiastically and voluntarily say “yes” to an activity that demands effort, training, determination and hard work. Second, there is an energy and excitement that pulses before, during and after a race that is contagious. It’s an energy that comes from the nerves of those who have never before run the distance of the race ahead and hope that their training will get them to the finish line. It is an energy brought by the ambition of those who have trained harder than most, have determined to cross the finish line first and can’t wait to show the world, or at least this small, seemingly insignificant pocket of the world, just how significant they are. We all are built for glory and for most of us a small town victory is all it takes to satisfy that longing for a time.

The true magic however, emanates from those who understand that each race is really just a window into a much bigger story, a soul story. As they approach the start line, set their pace, endure the pain of the miles and eventually, cross the finish line, they find that each step is familiar and known, already before experienced. What each runner knows is that races are not about the pace or time, distance or even the finish line. Races provide a most tangible illustration of the lives we live, the beauty we encounter, the pain we experience, the challenges we push through, the people we need along the way and the perseverance it takes to finish well.

This particular race on this particular day was not an overly challenging distance for me. I IMG_5513knew I would be able to get to the finish line and I knew that when I made it to the end, I would still have plenty of energy for the rest of the day—something I have not been confident of in races past. I was excited about the route because I knew it would be lovely and shaded most of the way. I would be able to enjoy views of the lake for over half of the race and welcomed the camaraderie of all my new fellow townspeople. I also loved the idea of celebrating Mother’s Day by having my husband and kids see me off at the start line and my mom and dad cheer me in at the finish line—there’s so much symbolism and beauty in that I don’t even know where to start. For the most part, I was looking forward to this run.

The one thing that felt unfamiliar, however, was that this was the first race I had ever entered where I would be running alone. In the days leading up to the event I asked everyone I knew in the area who had ever mentioned having even a small interest in running if they wanted to sign up with me. Not one person was available: out of town that weekend, bad hips, too much going on that day, can’t run that far, not a morning person, don’t run anymore,  don’t run with others, just had a baby… Even as I approached the registration tent the morning of the race, I found myself frantically looking around to try to find a familiar face who would agree to keep me company while I ran. I saw a gal in electric green shorts walking around alone, like me, who looked friendly and considered asking her if she would be my running buddy for the morning but I chickened out. Disappointed in my failure to find companionship, I made my way to the start line. As I secured my earphones into my ears and tightened the Velcro strap on my armband, a clear yet inaudible voice, quieted my rising anxiety saying, “This one we need to run alone.” I brushed it off and continued to search the sea of faces migrating toward the lady with the megaphone in the off chance that I would find one of the whopping ten people I knew in this town to keep pace with me. Nothing. No one. Again I heard, “This one we need to run alone.”

The first mile of the race was entirely uphill. “Slow and steady,” my mantra for hills and really, running in general, was playing on repeat in my head as I climbed. I slowed down, knowing that if I wanted to finish strong, I needed to conserve my energy. People passed me…lots of people. I fought my competitive drive to speed up so no one could get by—especially those who IMG_5515looked twenty and thirty years my senior. “Slow and steady.” When my breath began to shorten and my lungs began to burn, I fought the urge to walk, pushed through the discomfort and continued to run, one foot in front of the other. When I began to feel overwhelmed by the daunting length of the remaining incline, I stopped looking all the way up the hill and simply focused my eyes just one step ahead. As I neared the top of the hill, I saw a cluster of people holding signs and cheering for the racers going by. Just as I passed them, one of the young men shouted, “This hill has nothing on you! You got this!!!” His words struck deep and began to strengthen parts of my soul that felt weak and weary.  Instantly, a giant knot formed in my throat and tears began brimming in my eyes. A surge of determination rushed through my veins and immediately, I began to run with purpose. I swallowed back the knot, blinked away the tears, thanked the sign holders with a smile and continued to run. I took off. I ran steadily and then faster with each passing mile—that phrase pushing me to the finish line. When I finally spotted the giant yellow “finish” archway and the crowd of people cheering with cow bells, the words of the sign holder came back to me: “This hill has nothing on you. You got this.” Indeed, I did.

I have always been a firm believer in the idea that if we let them, our tears will point us toward a deeper understanding of what is going on within us. For me, the hill, the challenge looming large in the distance, the critical voice comparing and discouraging and the cheers of those committed to getting the weary runner over the top of the hill…these scenes, these voices were familiar to me that day. I have climbed that hill, I am climbing that hill. I have been mocked by my own critical voice and I have allowed myself to become discouraged by those who seem to fly past me, unscathed. Why must it seem so easy for some? I am also familiar with the encouragements of those who have posted themselves along my race route committed to my success. I can identify each one of them by name and articulate the exact moment that their words or their presence kept me from quitting. I have convinced myself that I am not capable of conquering big hills and have been proven wrong because someone reminded me that, “this hill has nothing on you.” Yes, I have experienced this before and I am experiencing it now.

Running feels like stepping into a snapshot of daily life. There will be times when I will need to run alone, when what must be learned can only be done in solitude. I will resist and search for alternatives, but sometimes, it is the only way. Fortunately, I will never really be alone—I have always and will always run in the company of others. There will be people at the start line, making sure I have what I need and are ready to cheer for me as the race begins. There have IMG_5517been and there always will be sign-holders posted at the top of each hill positioned to encourage me and keep me from quitting. Just as there were that day, there will be others waiting at the finish, ready to celebrate the completion of a goal and walk with me and listen while I reflect on what was just accomplished. And, of course, there has been and always will be that clear and yet inaudible voice regularly reassuring me “This one we need to run alone.” Never has the voice sent me saying, “you need to run.” We run. We all run. Running is life—there is so much beauty to encounter, unavoidable pain we experience, challenges we are invited to push through, people we will need along the way and perseverance it will take to finish. You got this.

Saturday

It’s two days after Easter and after all the weekend hoopla, I am tired. Aside from the typical Easter festivities complete with baking, shopping, egg dying, basket assembly (don’t tell my kids it was me… they still think a bunny the size of their Uncle John, dressed in a blue jacket and pink bow tie crept into our house after bedtime and brought them the goods. I’m still not sure how this lines up theologically with the purpose of Easter, but I will sort that one out at a later time), worship, family brunch and enjoying the company of out of town guests, I foolishly decided to paint our family room and kitchen… three times. Actually, I did not make up my mind to paint the rooms three times it just sort of happened that way after a series of disastrous colors found themselves on our walls.  Dustin was not aware of my plan to paint this week, norIMG_4920 was he prepared to paint with me, but once he realized that things were going downhill fast (not just our walls but my mental state as well), he jumped in to help. Our first color was white. Simple, clean and easy—or so we thought. However, when the walls of our family room became so blindingly bright that they began looking like a psych ward and I found myself weeping uncontrollably and raging around the room like I was trapped and could not get out, we decided to do something drastically different and paint it yellow. Prior to moving to the Pacific Northwest, I was never drawn to yellow. In fact, to this day, some shades of yellow have the strange ability to stir up a bit of the same nauseous feeling I would get driving for hours in the minivan of my childhood, while my mom chewed on Wrigley’s spearmint gum and listened to her Gloria Estefan tapes. However, living in a particularly gray, rainy area has reawakened my appreciation for bright and cheery colors, so I threw caution to the wind and went with the yellow. What I envisioned was a kitchen and living space coated in a bright, happy color that would give the false sense of sunshine on particularly dark and cloudy days. Unfortunately, once the yellow was up on the walls, I couldn’t shake the sensation that those horrible, marshmallow, sugar-coated yellow peeps had invaded our home. It felt like Easter pastel had thrown up on our walls. I just couldn’t live like that. The yellow had to go. Lucky for us, three is not just a holy number, it was also the final color that worked. So, after all of that painting and all the Easter fun, today I am tired.

IMG_4996My kids, however, are anything but tired. Infused with a rare form of energy that can only be attributed to the consumption of unspeakable amounts of jelly beans and chocolate eggs and a rekindled love and appreciation for the Easter bunny, they are an unstoppable force. For the last 48 hours they have hidden and re-hidden their eggs around our yard and house more times than I care to count. My son insists on hiding them for his sister but when all the eggs are hidden, he seems just as excited to “find” the very eggs he has just hidden. They IMG_4992have decided that every day should be Easter and so I imagine that for a week or so, we will be living as though every day is Easter…the fake, un-powerful, un-redeeming type of Easter. Despite being theologically void of meaning and purpose, I love seeing them play together and don’t want to slam the brakes on their fun to re-explain for the eighteenth time this week what Easter is really all about. Bring on the freakishly large man-bunny and go ahead and re-hunt for those eggs. (Why does a bunny hide eggs, anyway?)

While my kids seem to be stuck in the fun of this past weekend’s festivities and wish that Sunday would last forever, I would have to say that I am firmly and indefinitely planted in what has been described to me as the Saturday of Easter weekend. This transition from California to Oregon, from working to being a stay-at-home mom, from daily dressing up in my fancies to most days never changing out of my yoga pants, from being known to being a stranger, from being busy to being quiet, from contributing ideas and creativity to a team to contributing snacks to kid’s sports team, from having measurable personal space to sharing even my bathroom trips with my three year old…has brought me to a new and unfamiliar place—I currently reside in Saturday.

A friend and mentor of mine, after listening to hours of my processing, grieving, and trying to wrap my mind around what this whole journey is about, looked at me and said, “It sounds to me like you are being held in Saturday.” As I often do in these conversations, I nodded like I completely understood, paused and with a confused look on my face said, “Huh?”

In the week leading up to Easter, the most recognized and celebrated days are typically Maundy Thursday, when Jesus and his disciples shared their last supper just before Jesus was arrested, Good Friday, when Jesus was crucified and Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection. After years of attending church, I have not spent much time thinking about what Saturday must have been like, nor have I really ever heard anyone talk about or mention that day.

What must those days leading up to resurrection Sunday have been like? Thursday’s meal would have been strange, mysterious, and ominous. With the arrest, there would have been paralyzing fear, surging adrenaline and sheer panic.  The darkness must have felt tangibly thick and the weight of what was coming, unbearable. Friday, the grief would have been so deep that breathing would have required conscious effort and intention. Numb, lost, hurt, angry, nauseated, defeated, horrified. The end had certainly come. There would not be a tomorrow.

But for some inexplicable reason, the sun came up on Saturday. Tomorrow actually did come and this is how Saturday feels…It is really quiet, there is still deep sadness but it is not quite as acute as the pain of yesterday. There is confusion and quite a bit of anger, but it’s hard to know where to direct it. And there are few answers but there is a tiny shred of hope that keeps shimmering in the background. There is hope that the story isn’t over yet. It was almost as if He knew how challenging Saturday would be, so he repeated the hope, the promise of what was to come every single stinking day leading up to the last day. The primary action on Saturday is waiting and the primary emotion is confusion. What was all of that about? What’s next? Where do I go from here? Who am I now? “Wait. Wait. Wait. I am not finished with the story yet, Kelly. Settle in.”

Settling into Saturday without knowing when Sunday will come is challenging and feels like trying to navigate through unfamiliar territory without a compass, like trying to walk on a trail in the dark forest without a flashlight. I am itching to move forward, impatient and restless, but the only instruction I have been given is to wait. When the waiting gets too uncomfortable and the need to progress gets the best of me, I work or paint or clean or produce something that has a measurable outcome. The waiting (or inability to do so) has brought parts of me to the surface that I don’t like. I find myself more whiney, needy, clingy and jealous of all those smiling faces on the other side of each Instagram post who are going to my old places with all of my favorite people. But the waiting has also armed me with more peace than I have experienced yet on the journey and I’m more comfortable than ever being honest and vulnerable. I’ve been strengthened in the letting go and the more I let go, the more I trust.

FullSizeRender (2)So here I am, sitting still (or painting until I am exhausted because I can’t sit anymore), somewhere in Saturday. I’m not sure how long this waiting will last and I don’t know what is next but I am hopeful and even a little excited because I know that Sunday comes.

The Weight of Glory

As we were preparing to move up here from California, countless people came to us to let us in on a little secret about Oregon. Like a recorded message played over and over again we were warned: “You’re moving to Oregon? Do you know that it rains there?” Politely, we would smile, nod our heads and respond, “Yes, thank you. We have been told.” Though we were completely unprepared and had extremely limited understanding of the implications of rainy climate on everything from clothing to mental state, we knew it rained and that there was nothing we could do to change that reality.

The thing is, this year has been an odd one, or so we have been told. Now that we are here, we are regularly approached by locals who, upon meeting us and finding out we have come from Orange County, caution us, adamantly, not to get too comfortable. “This has been a surprisingly mild winter! Don’t think for a second that this is normal. Be prepared for gray skies all next year.” Again, we smile, nod our heads and settle into the expectation that we will be just as unprepared for the rain next year as we were this year (except in the rain gear department…we dumped half of our life’s savings at the Columbia Outlet store one week into our arrival when the combination of wet and freezing crushed us under her chilly weight and forced us to finally surrender the cotton sweaters and flip-flops for more weather-appropriate attire…so at least we have that area covered).

So to those who have been wishing and hoping that the weather would win the battle leaving us vulnerable, begging for mercy and ready to crawl back to California, you might have to wait another year. (I think there are more Oregonians than Californians in this camp, by the way. I am beginning to realize that Oregonians tell Californians how terrible it is to live through the rain here just so we won’t come and overpopulate their beautiful state).

IMG_4389Mild though the winter may have been, spring has arrived in all her colorful, radiant glory and I have accepted the invitation to sit still once again and witness, almost in slow motion, as heaven breaks through and life explodes from places that once looked dormant and dead. Watching the seasons turn from sleep to wakefulness and listening as the quiet of winter is escorted out by the morning songs of birds and the musical croaking of frogs at sunset has stirred something in me. It is subtle, quiet, and practically silent. I have been straining, trying to hear and understand why I ache every time I see another cluster of cherry blossoms stretching their branches to the sky or why I have to consciously resist the urge to dance through the white dust of the flowering trees that blankets the sidewalks of our neighborhood. Why am I stopped by the beauty around me? What is it about the turning of the seasons that causes this deep longing in me and why do I HAVE TO share the beauty I’ve discovered with others (ie one million Instagram pics of flowering things)?

Unlike any other author I have read, C.S Lewis has the ability to see and articulate the truth embedded in the mysterious, painful and beautiful. According to Lewis, this ache, this stirring I am experiencing through the turn of seasons is, simply put, The Weight of Glory. There is a weightiness to glory…the beauty is almost too much to bear, too pure, too lovely to handle—and so it hurts. It is impossible to describe or capture, strange and new yet oddly familiar all at the same time. It is holy, set apart, other, sacred. IMG_3926It cannot be contained or subdued, and it must be shared. It begs to be noticed, yet is quiet and speaks without sound. When we witness glory, we are offered only tiny glimpses of what lies beyond and are reminded that we currently stand on the outside of a door that someday we will walk through. We recognize this beauty because we were made to bask in the fullness of it and something inside of us knows this, recognizes it as home and aches for the familiarity in it.

“Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.” C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Seasons provide ongoing, regular invitations to stand under the weight of glory and to remember that we are not home yet, that life follows death and the sun eventually will shine again. Seasons come and go. The rainy, cold winters can be long but the promise remains, spring is not far off.

IMG_4393Ever since the first cherry blossoms appeared this spring, I have been reflecting on the times in my own life when I have experienced the weight of glory…those moments that rendered me speechless and left me feeling whole and full, longing for more. I am trying to note these times, bottle them up and store them for when winter comes again or another rainy day clouds my memory and keeps me from seeing clearly the glory that has and continues to engulf my days. It is impossible to capture the holy moments as they are countless. Once I began to list them, I could not stop. They have come in grand, beautiful celebrations and tiny, almost invisible moments. But I do not see them unless I pay attention and take the time to say “thank you.”

These are just a few of the moments that remind me that I have and continue to spend my days under the weight of glory…

  • When the sound of bagpipes playing my favorite hymn led me and my fellow classmates into a season of new beginnings across the Westmont campus that first week of school freshmen year. Four years later, we were changed, stretched, challenged and matured when that same song, played by the same bagpiper led us back across campus and into our graduation ceremony where we would conclude another chapter and season of our lives.
  • When I walked down the aisle to the song and prayer of our marriage, “Be Thou my Vision”, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and locked eyes with the man who I am now privileged to journey through life with. The ceremony was held at our college campus, the place where we met and fell in love. This place was and continues to be for us, holy ground.
  • The two glorious moments when it was confirmed that I had a child growing inside of me were quiet, humbling and weighty. I cried when I found out the first was a boy and then again, almost three years later, when they told me the second was a girl. I felt as though my heart would burst with joy and was overcome with peace when they laid those babies on my chest squawking and squinting up at me. New life is thick with holiness.
  • The handful of moments when I have received the news that death has taken dear friends too soon. The weight feels unbearable and words are insufficient, even inappropriate. In these situations, the weight, I believe, is Jesus draped over me and those in deepest grief.
  • When our friends brought their twins home from Uganda, the sight of those two little ones, long awaited, finally home and proudly toddling back and forth between their mom and dad was beautiful and holy. They will never know how loved they are…and not just by their mom and dad.
  • IMG_4449When I hear my kids laugh or say “I love you” to one another…
  • When my daughter looks me in the eyes and I see purity and innocence or when she takes my hand in her tiny, baby-girl hand…
  • When my son wraps his skinny little arms around my neck and plants a kiss on my lips…
  • When I hear the music from Les Miserables or eat a meal that is rich, colorful and full of flavor…

IMG_4431As the season turns, and colorful life emerges, I am reminded all over again that glory is all around me and is made new each day. This is what I see when I sit still. These are a few of the things that, with palms open, I will receive as gifts—moments weighed down by glory.

“There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But—and this is the point—who gets excited by a mere penny? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get.” Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

When have you bent in thanksgiving under the weight of glory?

On Benches and Grieving

IMG_3476I’ve recently become somewhat obsessed with benches. They are everywhere around here. Seriously, everywhere. Each time I see a new one, I can’t help myself, I have to take a picture, or forty. Something about the sight of them stops me mid-run, or mid-bear hunt (hunting for bears is often the only way I can motivate my kids to keep moving through nature parks and trails, so we do it A LOT). I didn’t realize just how much this obsession had grown until Dustin made a comment about how neat it was that I had taken up “bench shooting” as a hobby. Huh? Girlfriend moves to Oregon and becomes a bench shooter…should I be concerned? I guess there are stranger things people in Oregon are obsessed with so, for now, no need for major concern. This got me thinking about why I have become so interested in benches and I think I’m circling in on an answer.

cropped-cropped-fullsizerender12.jpgThere is something that feels so generous about the establishment of consistent rest stops along a beautiful path or trail.  A bench solely exists to extend an invitation to each passerby to stop, sit down, settle in, and be. It is a silent, non-intrusive invitation that will never force or push. Quietly, graciously a bench remains available and ready to hold me and keep me right where I am, which I have been told, and now can attest to, is the hardest place to be.

IMG_3878It is in sitting that I begin to see and really pay attention to what is around me and what is within me. It is only when the movement stops and I settle down that I can truly be where I am. I am not trying to get to the next place, to make progress or even recall what I saw on the trail behind me, I just am, right where I am. It is because of this, that I find myself drawn to the idea of benches, but really, really resisting the invitation to sit down. Right now it is so much easier to keep running…or walking…or hunting for bears.

Last week, I was talking on the phone with a dear friend and mentor who has journeyed with me for over five years and knows how good and profound and beautiful this move has been for us on so many levels. He also knows how much I have cried and feared and worried over the things that have been lost with no promise of return. He asked me, “Kelly, how are you doing with grieving?” Instantly, my eyes welled up with tears.

I have found it so easy to say “thank you” for the mountains of gifts we have unwrapped in this place. Every single day the beauty takes my breath away. I am constantly caught off guard, stunned even, by the absolute, majestic, green, earthy, simple, powerful, colorful, rich beauty here. Rushing rivers parallel our car and almost playfully seem to try to race us to the ocean.  The wild, untamed sea scares and intrigues me. It is unpredictable and stormy, mysterious and quieting. There are shades of green I have never seen before, vibrant and lush, mossy, electric green. My kids have settled into having me around more and my soul breathes with deep, satisfying contentment when they climb into my lap or cuddle beside me in bed and we all know that we don’t have to rush out or make this cuddle time quick. We move slower and have established a much quieter lifestyle (for now).  Gifts abound and are countless. Seeing them is not a challenge for me. I am so, so, so thankful and truly, with every fiber of my being, know that this is exactly where we are supposed to be.

FullSizeRender (4)What scares me is to look at the other stuff, the stuff I miss that makes me sad, the stuff we left behind. If I don’t look at it for too long, maybe it will just go away. I’m afraid if I sit for too long, I won’t know how to shut off the valve that floods my mind with memories of the gifts we had to leave behind. Unfortunately, I am fairly certain that until I am willing and able to feel what I feel and not try to turn off the sad stuff, it will always remain inside me, like a lump in my throat. To sit still, to stay put in the sad and to learn to say thank you for ALL of it…that is grieving and I suck at it.

Saying thank you for the good stuff is only half of my story…and it is only half of my kids’ stories. Right this very second I am modeling for them what it looks like to walk through transition and to grieve and I don’t want them to learn that every sentence needs to end with a smile and an exclamation point. So today, in the midst of deep gratitude for where the Lord has brought us, I want to allow the grief to come up for air. In no particular order, this is what I miss…

I miss evening runs after kids’ bedtimes along Castaways with Jess and the conversations about life and ministry and family that accompanied those runs.

I miss being invited over to Jeremy and Brieana’s home for one of a million HBay potlucks on their greenbelt.

I miss dinners with the Wolfs where our kids fought like siblings, we ate way too much dessert, watched the latest funny YouTube videos and occasionally cried together about the pain or joy we were encountering in life, work or parenting.

I miss dinners with the Goodmans where they always made enough food for 80 people—even though it was just the 8 of us (and I’m sad that the 9th member of this group arrived just as we were leaving). I always knew that dinners with them would include the question, “How can I pray for you?” I secretly depended on those prayers and looked forward to the question.

I miss my adult ministries team… BAC and coffee runs, donuts at Sidecar and Susie Cakes for every celebration. Dreaming big and discussions that challenged me. These people reminded me every day why working on a team is so much better and richer than working in isolation.

I miss Monday morning leader meetings. I will forever be thankful for those ladies and the gift of that time we shared. There was something holy, set apart about our time together. We all took turns listening and supporting one another when life just felt too hard. It was a beautiful thing to experience.

I miss seeing my kids run to Hilary like she was their own auntie and having Hilary love them like they belonged to her. I miss Hilary knowing what I was going to ask before I asked and being prepared when she knew I wouldn’t be.

I miss taking my kids up to Nana’s office where they would get candy, play with silly putty, see a thousand pictures of themselves on her office bulletin board and draw pictures on “Pastor Bryan’s” office floor with the markers she always had stocked in her top drawer.

I miss the girls I mentored and those sweet nights together, sitting on our red couches eating cookies and talking about life, boys and the mysterious side of God.

I miss the girls who became like family while babysitting my kids and the joy that spread across my kids faces when those ladies showed up.

I miss Wednesday nights where the church felt more like a family than a gathering of people.

I miss our life group—each member so unique and different. I miss the laughter, the sharing, the tears and vulnerability, the countless celebrations and meals together, the nights of uncontrollable giggles and Rob’s unbelievable stories that included things like swimming with sharks.

I miss being a part of a staff that truly enjoyed working together and had a heck of a lot of fun pulling pranks on one another. Going to work was almost always fun for me.

I miss Mondays with my Bachelor-viewing ladies and the enormous amounts of cookies we consumed while trying to predict the final three candidates. It’s not the same to watch alone.

I will miss the fourth of July parties on our front lawn where we crammed as many people around folding tables on our tiny patch of grass as was physically possible and rotated the duty of soothing the traumatized children gathered in our family room who are experiencing PTSD over the fireworks warzone outside.

I will miss Christmas Eve services at St. Andrew’s and stealing stuff from the Kannwischer home during the staff Christmas party only to see the stolen items displayed for all to see at church on Christmas Eve.

I miss being known. I miss invitations to dinner with people I am comfortable around and at homes that are familiar to me. I hate feeling like I am missing the big moments: birthdays, pregnancy announcements, babies being born, new discoveries about the character and goodness of God…

IMG_3633This is what I feel when I sit down on the bench before me and allow myself to be right where I am. It is the hardest place to be. To live in the tension of receiving and saying “yes” to  the incredible and countless gifts that are before me and simultaneously ache over the gifts I have left behind—this feels contradictory. So how am I doing with grieving? Today I have allowed myself to sit down. I’m not sure if I will have the strength to do so tomorrow, but for now, I am experiencing what it feels like to be right where I am.

Celebrate

Shortly after Dustin and I got married, we ran into a few snags as we began realize just how different our expectations were when it came to celebrating holidays. I was raised in a family where celebration wasn’t just reserved for government designated holidays, my family sought out reasons to celebrate. A visit to the dentist or doctor always ended with a trip to Baskin Robbins to get a scoop of ice cream. A bad day at school usually resulted in a summons to the school office where my mom would be waiting to break me or my sister out for the day so we could have lunch and shop—this always seemed to quiet the mean girls. My dad celebrated Saturdays by taking us on dates to Christy’s Donuts or his favorite local cafe, Ruggie’s.  At Christmas, our home was likened to the Griswold’s in National Lampoon’s. Even into my college years, my dad climbed on the roof around midnight on Christmas Eve and stomped around shaking sleigh bells so my sister and I would continue embracing the magic of Santa.

When we were teenagers, my sister and I invented a post-break-up celebration. We decided that since the final and ultimate relationship for each of us would end (or begin) with a wedding cake, it seemed fitting that every relationship should end with a cake. So, with each break-up, there was a cake with the phrase: “Happy Birthday” and the name of the male heart-breaker inscribed in beautiful buttercream cursive.  We got a lot of looks from bakery workers over the years as we ferociously and sometimes tearfully dug into birthday cakes we had just ordered for some guy who clearly wasn’t present to celebrate his birthday with us. Bless his heart.

half birthdayTo this day, my sister insists that a half-birthday is just as significant as an actual birthday, so she has made it her thing to take my kids out on a special date on their half-birthdays where they will be well-sugared and given a special gift. They love it and so does their mama.

My husband celebrated like most normal families in America. Every birthday was acknowledged with a cake and presents, every Easter held an egg hunt and every Christmas included lots of family, a beautiful tree and delicious food. They love to gather and they love to celebrate. Holidays were never missed but rarely were holidays invented for no apparent reason whatsoever.

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My son has already learned well from his dad…

Now, let me be abundantly clear… I think Valentine’s Day is one of the lamest holidays in existence and hardly deserves the hype we (and by we, I mean Hallmark and Target) give it. I tell my husband every year that I hate this holiday and that he doesn’t need to do anything for me to celebrate. What I actually mean by “don’t do anything” is, get me a card and some flowers…Also, a dinner out would be nice and maybe you can arrange for the babysitter this time? After one bad year of literally not doing anything (not even a card) resulting in my coldest of cold fronts and hours of tearful conversations about expectations, he now understands what I mean and does my version, not his, of nothing.

Valentine’s Day is a tricky one. It makes single people who don’t have a special someone feel more alone than they really are and it forces married people to wade through conversational landmines about expectations—conversations that rarely end well. However, as a lover of all things celebration-oriented, I think there is always deep and lasting benefit to celebration. Of course, there is the obvious—it is perfectly acceptable to eat dessert all day on any and all celebratory occasions. But, there is also something that feels set apart, holy even, about a day of celebration. When we take the time to celebrate, we tend to be more thoughtful in our recognition and appreciation of the people who live with or near us. Celebration forces us to see…really see the people who matter most to us and to tell them in the way they best receive the message (my love language is food and gifts) that we love them. Celebration fights the mundane and initiates an element of special into just another ordinary day. Celebration invites us to say, “thank you”—a phrase that has the power to change the landscape of our souls and bring joy to places that once seemed hopeless and maybe even lifeless. We celebrate because we have a God who loves loves loves to celebrate and we were made to be like him.

IMG_3516So today, the Dickson family will celebrate. Also, there is a good chance that we will celebrate tomorrow and maybe even a week from now. There doesn’t have to be a holiday on the calendar for us to acknowledge that today is a gift.  We like to find reasons why “special” should come around just a bit more often. Happy day of celebration!

Find Your Voice

Dustin and I spent the better part of last weekend painting our living room blue…really, really blue. It’s the kind of blue you look at and say, “Wow! THAT is BLUE!” With a few under the sea decals slapped onto the walls, our living room is guaranteed to make you feel like you are on a deep sea snorkeling adventure. The withdrawals we have recently been experiencing in increasing intensity from regular contact with the lovely Pacific Ocean may have something to do with the color choice. Nonetheless, our once desert-themed interior palate is quickly being replaced with cool, bold beach tones. I have had both moments of absolute panic over the boldness of this color choice as well as a new sense of empowerment. Something as minor as having the courage to paint (and keep) my walls deep, bold blue, has reminded me how persuasive and loud I have allowed the voice inside my head to be that convinces me that safe, neutral and status quo are better. Besides, what will people think? What will they say?

Years ago, when I was just weeks into a new job, a very, very entry-level job, I found myself in a meeting I probably didn’t belong at with an intimidating crew of people. All the most important people on our staff (from my perspective, at least) were in one room. My boss encouraged me to be present so I could begin to learn the inner-workings of the organization and find my place within it. To those who acknowledged me in the room, I was “the new girl” but most people had no idea who I was or why I was there—some didn’t even notice my presence at all. I was very aware of my place, or lack thereof, in that meeting. We were sitting around a large wooden table in oversized, important people chairs…the kind of chairs with really high backs, shiny wooden armrests, wheels on the feet, and powerful business-like people in the seats. Most people call these chairs, “office chairs” but on that day, it felt like the only people worthy to sit in them were those who make powerful decisions—and I was not one of them. It was intimidating to say the least. I was sweating before the meeting even started.

At one point in the meeting, my boss could tell from my non-verbals that I had something to say. I did that thing that people do when they are trying to speak up but don’t spit it out fast enough: I would take a deep breath, positioning myself to share an opinion, but then stop as soon as someone else cut in. After three or four deep breaths and failed attempts to enter the conversation, I gave up. I felt like it was a competition and I was losing. I convinced myself that what I had to say wasn’t valuable and that I had not yet earned the right to enter the conversation and share my opinion. As though he could hear the dialogue going on inside my head, my boss leaned over to me and whispered in my ear, “Kelly, find your voice.”

Find your voice.

Now, I’m not exactly the quiet, wallflower type. I am a chatter. I enjoy talking to strangers on planes and in lines at restaurants or amusement parks. One of my all-time favorite questions is, “What is your story?” I love to hear about people’s lives.  Also, I do have opinions, strong opinions and lots of them. For example, I believe that coffee is a miracle from heaven and that there is a difference (BIG) between good and bad coffee and the good stuff should be enjoyed, if possible via French-press. I believe that the most effective way to enjoy the ocean is to throw yourself into it and let the waves toss and churn you around until you have more sand in your hair and your suit than you would on your pants if you stayed sitting on the shore. I believe that being a mom is truly the hardest job and that there is so much that “they” don’t tell you about the freakish things that happen to your body during and after giving birth that if women fully understood there would be half as many kids on this planet—more on this one later, I have A LOT to say about this one. I know that I need to be a part of a worshipping community that values the leadership and voice of women. I believe that God loves people, all people and that his love is experienced in a million tiny and huge ways each and every day.

These are just a few things that I will always be certain about. But I also know that there are a whole lot of things that I don’t speak up about or don’t have the courage to do because the voice of fear echoes really loudly in my head—at times it is paralyzing. Far too often, I have not said, “yes” to something because I was too afraid of what people would think or what would happen if I failed…too many opportunities missed because I was not willing to risk.

I don’t think quieting this voice is easy—it certainly hasn’t been for me. It’s a tedious discipline that requires practice each and every day. Eugene Peterson has a book in which he describes following Jesus as, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Exactly. It is not a quick fix and will not change overnight. It is a long obedience in the same direction. It is stepping toward fear and not running from it. It is prohibiting the voice that warns of potential failure ahead from getting any airtime one small decision at a time, each and every stinking day of my life.

When I turned thirty, I decided that this decade of my life would be dedicated to being brave. I started small. I bought a bright red journal to replace my standard brown one. I started wearing chunky, colorful jewelry and hoop earrings because I liked them. I embraced pink—a color I have always resisted for a wide range of reasons and bought hot pink running shoes. I signed up to run in races with distances that scared me. I even had the courage to walk during a portion of one of my races even though it meant telling my friends who were racing with me to keep going and I would have to finish the race alone (I had to suck up a lot of pride on that one). Humility takes courage too. I initiated conversations with bosses about areas I wanted to be pushed in—areas where I knew there might be some future potential for success but failure was a guaranteed practice run. I became more honest in friendships, confronting when I was hurt and trying to speak up when I was in need. When my husband and I pooled our courage, we were just barely brave enough to uproot our family from a life and community that we were comfortably embedded in and head to a land where the primary charge to its residents is to, “Keep Portland weird.”

I think I will always fear what people think, but I’m tired of being limited by caring. So for me, in the tiny decisions as well as the life-altering decisions, I will choose to be brave. I will keep my living room blue because I like how it turned out and I will keep writing because this is one of the ways I am finding my voice. This is my long obedience in the same direction.

As we get little natural sunlight in Oregon and our living room lighting is minimal, this picture doesn't do the color justice.
As we get little natural sunlight in Oregon and our living room lighting is minimal, this picture doesn’t do the BLUE justice…

Me

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It’s been almost ten weeks since my family arrived in Oregon and I have officially hit the second wave of check-in phone calls from California friends and family. The first wave happened primarily during the first week and was mostly centered around the question, “Did you make it there safely?” Those calls were brief and few. For the most part, my Instagram posts were sufficient in updating people. This wave of calls has taken on a personality all its own.

The calls started coming about a week ago and I’m averaging two-to-three calls each day—which is good because I carry my phone around with me like it’s my oxygen tank. Without it, I would not be able to breathe (not really, it just feels this way on the lonely days). At this point in my transition, my phone is my life raft back to the world of familiar, comfortable and known. I find myself checking emails, texts, updated pictures on Facebook…anything that will give me a sense of what is going on in the lives of my people back in the motherland.

When I’m not in the middle of mediating some kind of toy-sharing war, making yet again another peanut-butter-and-honey sandwich or shoving that stupid double BOB stroller up another massive hill toward some breathtakingly (literally) beautiful park with 100 pounds worth of children, snacks, toys and all the warm clothes in our entire home, I answer the phone.

Each time I answer, I almost always get the same greeting. “Hello!” I proclaim, so thankful to be talking to another adult-someone who knows me. Then, without fail, on the other end I hear the worry…“Kelly, How are you?” The voice on the other end asks as though I am inevitably going to say something devastating. I keep wondering if everyone knows something I don’t know. Has the weatherman forecasted 365 straight days of rain and we are the only ones who did not get the report? Is this move the stupidest thing we have ever done and everyone is just waiting for us to figure that out? Am I a moron for walking away from a job I love to follow a voice we believe we heard?

There is no short or sweet way of answering that question and if anything, this transition has helped me to realize the deep importance of honesty and vulnerability, so here is my honest answer:

I am afraid. I am afraid that we have left the most unique and wonderful community we have ever had the privilege of being a part of and we will never find that depth of friendship again. I am afraid that my son’s grief will turn into anger that is aimed at us and it won’t come out until his teen years when he will hate and resent me. I am afraid of disaster and losing the few secure things we feel like we have right now (which really aren’t secure at all because who am I to think I control anything in life anyway?). What if we realize we can’t really pay our mortgage on one salary? What if one of my kids gets some crazy disease or gets hurt beyond repair? What if something happens to Dustin? This move has brought all of those questions that probably always existed below the surface to the visible surface. I am afraid.

I am insecure. I have to make new friends now, which means I am forced to initiate those awkward first date phone calls to try to arrange play-dates (both for my kids and me). Every time I pick up the phone to call or text the small handful of people I have become acquainted with, I wonder, “What if they don’t really want to hang out with me? What if they are just hanging out with me because they feel bad for the new girl? What if I have stuff in my teeth (my usual spots) or in my nose?” I am insecure about what people will think of me…do think of me. Does everyone at home think I have committed career suicide, leaving a job I love with people I love to stay at home with my kids in a place where no one knows us and no one cares? Does everyone here think I am arrogant when I HAVE TO tell them what I used to do in an effort to cling to some type of identity—to show that I used to be important? I am insecure.

I’m lonely and maybe a little bored. We used to have a calendar packed with church events, life group gatherings, mentoring, book club, dinner parties, children’s birthday parties, adult birthday parties, holiday parties… Even on the rare occasion when we did have a free night, as soon as we discovered an empty space on the calendar, we would fill it with people. One of our favorite things to do as a couple is to have friends and family over to our home for meals. Dustin and I have always agreed that as long as we are able, we want our home to be a place of refuge and hospitality to others. I can’t tell you how many days and nights have passed since being here when we ask, “Who should we invite over for dinner tonight?” Since the list of people we know within driving distance is short, we can’t keep asking them every time we long for company or else our handful will begin to discover that we actually are desperate and stalker-ish.

I’m fascinated. I know what we have been called away FROM but I don’t yet know what we have been called TO. That fascinates me. I am trying to embrace each day as a gift, lean into the fear and learn from the loneliness and insecurity while also asking, “Lord, what is this all about? What do you have for us here?”

IMG_2490I am also well. Very, very well. I cannot begin to describe the beauty of this place. When I run, I breathe deeply–sometimes so deep I think my lungs may explode, but I can’t help it. The smell is fresh, rich, new, green, alive. It’s fantastic. I was given one of those “Fir” scented candles last Christmas and now I have a new appreciation for how accurate that smell is to actual real trees–but, of course, these trees smell even better! When the sun is out, the green is the greenest green I have ever experienced and moss grows on anything that stands still during the winter months.

IMG_2450Mount Hood looms large just beyond Portland and on a clear day the site of the great white peak quite literally takes my breath away. It is majestic and stunning. I keep trying to capture this beauty with my camera but the pictures always fail to show how absolutely beautiful, huge and powerful the mountain looks in the distance. There are rivers everywhere and something about the abundance of water has brought refreshment and rest to a longing and weary place inside me.

There is also something that feels right and good about having my parents and sister’s family so close. We have never really been able to have regular meals together or sneak away for a quick day trip to the snow. Now we can. My kids find security in the comfort of Grammy and Papa’s house and they seem to settle in and are more relaxed and animated when they are playing with their cousins.

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I am thankful for the chance to spend the mornings with my kids watching Wild Kratts and Berenstain Bears in our pajamas. I am thankful for the opportunity to be more thoughtful about what we will eat (not that I’m drastically changing our diet…just actually planning ahead, for once) and to include my kids in meal preparation. I am thankful for more time to shop, cook and bake. I have time to sit, write, read, and work on house projects (as it turns out, I am an excellent painter of bedrooms and bathrooms). Sometimes the added time is welcome and sometimes I want my previous life back.

Most importantly, I am well because Dustin and I both felt with great confidence and clarity that we were being invited away from the familiar to a wild adventure by a wild God who is neither tame nor safe. So here we are. I feel strangely settled in a foreign land because I have been led here by a very familiar voice.

So, to those who have asked or wonder how I am doing–It is not short, but I am content with the answer. Though I am afraid, insecure and lonely, I am also well, very well.

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The Jar

My son has had a difficult time transitioning into our new life here in Oregon. We anticipated this difficulty as we watched a five-year-old version of the same deep grief we were experiencing wash over him as he began to understand what moving meant in his little world. No, he would not be able to be the third wise man in the preschool Christmas Sing-along with his two best friends. No, he would not be able to go to the Santa Ana Zoo with his Preschool class. No, he would not be there to eat donut-holes with his buddies at church on Easter Sunday and Owen, Graham, Emma, Elijah, Emily and Kallai would not be in attendance at his six year old Octonaut birthday party. The tears and the silent treatment were torture.

We thought we were in the clear when on our first day here, we took him on a walk through a local “park” (I have learned that the term “park” in Oregon means something entirely different than “park” in California) and he ran through the park with his arms waving wildly yelling, “I LOVE OREGON” at the top of his lungs. To clarify, parks in California typically bring to mind playgrounds, swings, some grass and a fence of sorts. In Oregon, parks typically include trails, a river, a giant wooded area that is quite easy to get lost in and a large grassy area where dogs can run off-leash. Needless to say, when we arrived at the park where Isaac could run free and stomp in a muddy river with his rain boots on, Oregon wasn’t looking so bad after all.

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We felt an extra wave of relief a few days later when on his first day at his new preschool, we were told that his class would be having a field trip to a local Christmas tree farm to cut down their class tree. Isaac was thrilled. His only experience with Christmas tree selection up to this point in his life involved busy parking lots filled with pre-cut, net-wrapped Douglas or noble fir trees. This was the first time in weeks we had seen him look legitimately happy.

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The happiness came to a screeching halt when we signed him up for an after-school lunch program where his one friend at school would not be in attendance and his peanut butter and honey sandwich was confiscated due to the no peanut rule on school property. He was traumatized and from that moment on, has sworn off ever liking Oregon again. Crap.

Last week, as I was driving a very sad boy home from school, something clicked. I realized that we had been focusing so much on the challenges of moving here and spent little time sharing what we enjoy about our new surroundings. We would continue feeling sorry for ourselves and stew in the sorrow of what we have left behind unless we can begin to take notice of the countless gifts that have been placed before us. If we could intentionally begin the practice of noticing and voicing the things each day that we are thankful for, we just might begin to change.

So that afternoon, we created a gratitude jar. I placed it in the center of our table with a pen and some scraps of paper and we began to note the following two things: 1. What we like about Oregon and 2.Each person’s highlight of the day. At first, my son protested. “I don’t like anything about Oregon,” he would say in the poutiest voice he could muster. But after a couple of days of this practice, something changed. He began to enjoy the game. He enjoyed writing his own answers. He enjoyed hearing our answers. He enjoyed watching the jar fill up and now, he volunteers his answers as we drive, explore, run errands or right in the middle of what will be recorded later in the jar as his highlight of that day. We all have begun paying attention in a new way. The very practice of articulating the gifts embedded in each day has changed the way we see. It is as though each day has become a treasure hunt and we are all searching for the jewels that have been hidden for us to find.

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One of the verses I have prayed for my son since he was growing in my belly is from Ephesians 1:18-19, “I pray also that they eyes of your hearts may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”

The practice of giving thanks has enlightened the eyes of all of our hearts and despite the sadness over leaving, we are beginning to see and pay attention to what he has called us to here. So we open our eyes, pay attention and say, “thank you.”

Some of the things we have noted that we like about Oregon

  • The beautiful trees everywhere
  • Playing in the snow
  • The plethora of good coffee shops (that was mine)
  • The Portland Zoo
  • Rivers everywhere
  • Running trails everywhere
  • Our dear friends the Miadich’s who have been a life-line to us (specifically noted are their son and daughter, Joey and Lucy–though all five of them have been a gift)
  • Cutting down our Christmas tree
  • OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry)
  • Cozy, rainy days inside with hot chocolate and movies

On Running

I started running about 18 months after my first child was born. They say that if a woman can just hang in there with nursing, all the excess baby weight will just melt off and the pre-baby figure will return with little-to-no effort. I don’t know who “they” are, but “they” were wrong. Maybe they weren’t talking about women who gained 60+ pounds during pregnancy (I don’t even think twins are supposed to result in 60+ pound weight gain, but to be clear, I was only carrying one). Regardless, I believed them and so I scarfed down all the cupcakes and burgers (during and after pregnancy) that I could handle. Needless to say, long after I stopped nursing, I still had a lot of extra pounds of baby weight left and my only solution for this problem was to run. And so I ran. And ran. And ran.

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What started as a cheap weight loss plan became (and continues to be) an invaluable invitation to journey inward. I don’t consider myself “a runner”—those people are so much more hard-core than I am. I run because, in my opinion, there is no greater parallel to the spiritual life than what I encounter when I am out on the road, running shoes on and challenge before me. I run because unlike most other things, running presents me with the almost irresistible urge to quit and I have a choice to make—stop or keep going. Often the only reason I do not choose to stop is because when I find myself at a breaking point, I am too far from home to do anything but keep going.

When I run, I SEE people and then as I pass them, I consider the look in their eyes. Was it pain I saw? Sadness? Weariness? Anger? With each pair of eyes that passes, I am given the opportunity to offer that unknown soul back to Jesus in prayer.

I run because the smells and the sights are so drastically different on foot than in a car that I find I have not truly experienced my surroundings until I have travelled them on foot. I look up, out, around…seeing for the first time a place that I may have driven past one hundred times already. Colors are more vibrant and textures are more clear.

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I run because there is a voice that is most clear when I am out there that reminds me that I am not alone and that we will finish this together. It is a voice that reminds me that I am strong, I am able, I am enough.

When I run, I am reminded of the importance of people, my people. My people spend hours putting together playlists that will motivate me to the finish line. They sign up to run 13 miles in some faraway place, when they never in their lives dreamed of running that far ever, because it is to them, the best way they can think to show their support of me. They are the friends who called and texted the day of the race when the sky was still dark, to cheer me on because they knew I was awake, preparing and anxious. They are the ones who waited for hours at the finish line with signs and snacks jogging alongside of me and holding me up when I made it to the end. They are the people who reminded me of my potential.

I run because this is life. There is much to see and I won’t see it, REALLY see it, unless I get out there. There are people who need to be seen, prayed for and offered back to their Maker, so I run. I run because I am reminded that there are people who see me, are praying for me and practically carry me when I don’t have it in me to make it on my own. I run because though there is pain, the journey is the reward. And so I run.