Kayak Lessons

Mocha and I like to walk out to the edge of the dock where my father-in-law keeps his boat on Lake Sammamish. There’s a white picnic table where I can sit facing the water. We often spot eagles, cranes, or seagulls out there. We always see ducks bobbing in and out of the water. Once in awhile we spot playful otters, muskrats, and frogs splashing in and out of the lilies. Out here it’s easy to forget about bumper to bumper traffic and the fact that nothing feels like home.

It’s not unusual for me to talk to God out on the dock when no one else is around. Here I feel safe to confess my shame in how I don’t see how any of this is going to work out and  can’t see him in any of this. I tell him I’m sorry for being so weak and for thinking I could see this through. I miss my friends and the security of regular deposits into our checking account. In this moment I wonder if he regrets this adventure as much as I do.

Off in the distance I hear a faint high pitched squeal. I turn toward the sound thinking it’s coming from a kayak. (I also hear drums and wonder if this is confirmation I have officially lost my mind.) A few minutes later a kayaker paddles in our direction, then stops. He’s close enough I can see him launching some kind of toy into the air. It soars and squeals before plopping into the lake. He bangs his paddle on his boat a few times and says a few words I can’t understand before digging his paddle into the water toward the floating toy. This process repeats until he’s nearly straight out in front of the dock.

Remember, I just poured out my heart to God about needing to see him in this mess a few minutes ago. I don’t know if this kayaker is training for a race or what he’s up to, but he’s got my attention. I watch him make a game out of dividing the distance of the lake into shorter lengths.

It’s here at the edge of the dock I begin to see God response to my confession and questions:

“You’re overthinking our adventure again. You can’t see that far ahead. It’s too far for you. It’s ok to break our adventure into smaller pieces. One day at a time is better than nothing and before you know it you’ll look back and see how far you’ve really come. I’m going to show you how. Eyes on Me.”

The kayaker doesn’t seem to notice or care if anyone’s watching. His strategy is simple; release, paddle, retrieve, rest, repeat. It’s ok if he needs to stop and take a break—he’s still moving forward. This isn’t a race; he’s not competing against anyone else. He’s simply doing what it takes for him to go the distance.

I cannot pretend not to be freaked out by all of the change when it feels like I’ve landed on another planet. (Why oh why do I always seem to forget that my personality does not handle change as well I would like?!) It’s ok to feel. It’s ok to rest. It’s ok to take a break. It’s ok to grieve and ask questions. God knows this adventure is NOT a competition. All that’s required is to keep paddling forward even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone watching.

Family Ferry Photo Fun

All I wanted was a family photo of the four of us on the Seattle ferry. The last time we did this Mackenzie was in Scotland. It was dark and I knew it was going to be a challenge to get anything decent with my phone, but I didn’t care. I wanted my picture!

My father-in-law offered to take the picture. In hindsight I should have said no, no thank you, heck no, just no. Instead I handed over my Seattle family ferry photo dream to a 77 year old man who uses a $20 flip-phone because he believes technology is stupid. What could possibly go wrong?

Take 1.

 

 

 

 

 

We didn’t see the flash. Try again.

Take 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s try one more time.

Take 3.

It’s been a long day. Maybe we should just take a selfie.

Take 4.

At least we saw the flash this time.

Take 5.

DON’T. COVER. THE. FLASH. WITH. YOUR. HAND! DON’T!

Take 6.

Jesus is testing us again.

Take 7.

Pretty sure this isn’t worth it. Maybe I should photoshop Mackenzie into the pictures we took without him the last time we were here.

Take 8.

Someone throw me overboard. I can’t take anymore. Fix it, Jesus!

Take 9.

Nailed it.

The end.

Real Life in Real Time

Sometimes our Daring Adventure rattles me more than I’d like to admit. Like at bedtime when I hug my teenager. I ask if he’s ok. He tells me he just wants to go home, but we don’t have one. Or when my YWAMer tells me he’s not going to be sticking around when he comes back to the US as long as I hoped.

Sometimes our hearts are bruised and everything hurts because we can’t tie this thing up with a pretty bow and roll the credits. This isn’t an episode of Fixer Upper where all the demo and renovations take place in an hour. There are no edits, no retakes. This is real life being lived out in real time.

Then there are reminders of the past reading like an encyclopedia of all the times things didn’t turn out the way we hoped they would. We don’t like to repeat mistakes. This is where we have to make the decision to step over the facts and invite God into our hurts and frustrations. It’s not our normal. Our normal looks more like me hiding in a bedroom with my journal and a box of Kleenex while he flips between Food Network and HGTV. Normal hasn’t been getting us anywhere so it’s time to try something new.

On this particular day we drove out to the church where we were married twenty-one and a half years ago. Parking in the hundred degree shade next to the cemetery where my grandparents are buried I opened my bible to read a few scriptures from Isaiah about God leading his people and making all things new. Let’s be real, I have no idea how to do what we’re doing but I find comfort knowing we’re not the first people to feel this way.

Once upon a Christmas Eve eve we made promises to each other here. We were courageous adventurous dreamers. Everything was possible. Our poor parents must have thought we were out of our minds for packing up and moving all the way to east Texas a few weeks after our wedding. Knowing what I know now, they were right! Let’s just say our Texas adventure didn’t go anything like we hoped it would and in many ways we’ve been playing it safe ever since.

Sitting in the car together we invited Jesus to sit with us. I recounted our wedding day to him (as if he needed a replay) and asked for that kind of courage again. Confessing fear and doubt, I expressed how my heart was hurting for my sons. It was quiet for a few minutes, then it was Matthew’s turn. Raw, honest, vulnerable, desperate cries from desperate people.

So now we wait. We rest in HIS goodness and HIS faithfulness because HIS track record is way better than ours. Our hearts and our lives are in good hands.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4:6-7 The Message



The Things We Left Behind

How does a family move a household from Marion, Iowa to only God knows where somewhere out west? Just typing that question makes my head hurt like one of those algebra problems I could never solve on my own no matter how many times the teacher explained it to me. Good thing I married a math guy. After talking through different scenarios Matthew decided that utilizing a container service like PODs would be best for our situation.

We filled the largest POD container they offer with household items. Anything that wouldn’t fit in the POD stayed behind. This meant selling or donating as much furniture as we could part with. Furniture, lawn equipment, freezers, electronics, books, clothing, you name it…nothing was off limits. I cried over My dining and living room furniture even though I knew they needed to go. No matter how many cuts we made we still couldn’t fit it all in the POD. I’m sure there are more things we could have let go, but as time went on fear of the unknown tightened my grip even as Matthew’s seemed to loosen. I still can’t believe he sold his big TV.

When the time came to drive away the POD was stuffed to capacity yet there were things that wouldn’t fit. Some friends said they would take care of what was left so we could finally leave. I took pictures, left instructions and some cash for a dump haul and drove away for the last time.

As we drove away from the city I glanced in the backseat behind the driver’s seat where Mackenzie would normally sit. His seat was filled with all manner of gluten free road trip snacks, bottled water and vitamins. Mackenzie wasn’t there and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. My chest tightened and I began to weep. Matthew asked if I was ok. “He should be with us.” is all I could say. Instead he’s in Scotland doing exactly what God ordained for him to do during this time.

We moved to Cedar Rapids from Arizona 18 years ago in rented a U-Haul truck with an 18 month old Mackenzie and a blue parakeet. We moved away from Iowa towing a utility trailer behind my Honda Pilot, an almost 17 year old Markus, and a 10 year old chocolate lab. Leaving without him hurt this mama’s heart more than I expected. I thought I was tougher than that; I’m not. One of these days I hope to understand the timing of all of this.

All of the pain and the grief of leaving Iowa attached itself to Mackenzie’s seat. Whenever I looked behind I would feel it crash over me all over again. Eventually I had to stop looking behind because it hurt too much. I had to find something in front of me to focus on so that I could help the rest of my family. They were hurting too. Just like there came a point when I had to be ok with the pile of stuff that wouldn’t fit in the POD. I had to let go. I have to keep letting go in order to embrace the Daring Adventure ahead.

This morning I awoke to a text with a new picture of Mackenzie now that he’s returned from his outreach in Glasgow. Once again I’m surprised by instant tears and an aching heart. Emotions are tricky little suckers.

I don’t know of an easy way to wrap this up because it’s not finished. There will be more pictures and more heartache just as I know there will be more joy and laughter in the days and months to come. Letting go and hanging on. Holding tightly and holding loosely to the things and the people who I have to surrender to God daily. It’s all part of the adventure and we are in it for the long haul.

Thank you, friends, for believing with us. It means more than you know.

 

No More Bullies on the Playground

Matthew and I went for a drive down memory lane the other day, back to the neighborhood where my family lived three years before we met. I had just turned 11 when we moved here. Sixth grade was hell. I know of no other way to put it. I was bullied almost daily at my new elementary school. For an entire year a select group of kids made it their mission to destroy me. They almost succeeded.

I decided to go back and revisit a place of desolation to remember and acknowledge how much God has healed. Because there’s something about remembering the faithfulness of God that strengthens my weary faith. His faithfulness has zero to do with me and everything to do with him. It’s who and what he is. This Daring Adventure demands we not forget where we’ve been and how he’s brought us through. His faithfulness is everything.

Through tears I looked around the sixth grade schoolyard trying not to throw up. My body remembered all these years later. It remembered the cruel jokes, the name calling. Abuse doesn’t forget, it cements itself to a little girl’s identity. It follows her to new schools, into friendships and marriage. I don’t know if a person can ever completely remove the cement of abuse, but I know that the love of God longs to chisel away the ugliness and make something beautiful out of what was meant to destroy. His faithfulness demands nothing less. That’s exactly what he’s done for me.
The old school isn’t as big as I thought it was. My bullies are all grown up now. The playground was empty. My wounds have healed and even though scars remain I am clothed with strength and dignity by the one who has loved me all along. He was there then and he was there today to help me see how far he has brought this girl.

Standing near my classroom door I whispered “Thank you, God. Thank you that this place no longer defines me. Thank you for healing and restoring me. Thank you.”

Wiping tears away I walked back to the car with my head held high, my man beside me, and left it behind. It’s time to see what’s ahead.

…I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate.
Ezekiel 36:36

Why Are You Moving?

If you were to stumble upon my journals for the last ten years or so you would begin to recognize a common theme: I miss my family.

You would find page after tear stained page with scribbled prayers asking him to allow us to move closer. There have been too many close-call health scares, babies born, missed funerals, and celebrations to count. We have missed so much in the two decades we have been gone. Holidays have been downright lonely at times.

Most of our vacations were planned in a way that included meeting up with family on either side. Our boys adore their cousins and have become good friends over the years. I hope somehow those relationships can grow and deepen as we close some distance. Beyond that, we consider our siblings to be some of our best friends. Isn’t every parent’s dream to raise kids who actually want to spend time together when they grow up? Good job, parents! You made some good people.

Matthew had a blessed career at Rockwell Collins. He loved his co-workers and the satisfaction that came with an often high pressure position. The paycheck was nice too. His decision to leave all of that behind hasn’t come easily, but that’s his story to tell. All I know is that when he told me he was ready to let go I couldn’t imagine how quickly things would happen.

The timing of this move has me asking more questions than anyone has answers for today. My heart hurts as I think of dear friends we left behind. God gave me some amazing girlfriends who became sisters of my heart. One of them is having her baby tomorrow. I never imagined I wouldn’t be there to hold him and witness her miracle. Jesus, hold our hearts.

I woke up a few days ago with a picture of a dandelion in my mind, its seeds floating away on a breeze doing exactly what the Creator designed it to do. This hearty weed preferred by sweet little boys to give their mamas is as wild as the One who scatters seeds where he pleases. He’s doing that with us too. We don’t have to try and manage his methods. We simply choose to let him carry us where he wants to plant us. New life is coming. After all, this is spring and all things are new on this Daring Adventure.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) seeds blowing in the wind

Where Are You Moving?

So where are you moving?

This is a question we’ve been trying to answer for months. It doesn’t matter who asks, the answer always sounds foolish coming out of our mouths.

We’re not exactly sure…

I have wanted to make up something that sounds responsible and concrete in order to save my pride, something that makes sense. But then I remember that lies are lies no matter how I may feel in the moment.

It’s in those moments that I remember stories from the Bible about what happened to people who told seemingly harmless fibs to make things easier for themselves. It never ever worked out the way they hoped. Not ever. Abram and Sarai ring a bell? Genesis 12 tells us that God took them on an adventure too. Along the way there was a severe famine so they went to Egypt. Abram (later became Abraham) was worried the Egyptians were going to kill him and decided his beautiful wife might be the solution to saving his life. He told Sarai (later Sarah) to tell people she was his sister. What the what? Next thing she knew she was taken as some Egyptian pharaoh’s wife and ick. Scripture tells us the Lord inflicted serious diseases on the Pharaoh and his household because of this lie. All because Abraham wanted to avoid a sticky situation.

Now I know we’re not even near the realm of that kind of crazy, but I hope I have enough healthy fear of the Lord to keep speaking the truth even if it makes me sound stupid. He’ll cover me because he teaches that when I honor him above my own comfort he won’t let me be put to shame. I need that more than temporary embarrassment.

We don’t have a final destination in mind yet. For now I can tell you we are going to visit and stay with family in the Seattle area first. From there we’ll drive down to Quincy CA. That’s what we know today. We’re praying and believing God to show us the way to go in all of this. It sounds a little crazy…maybe a lot crazy, but we’re not the first people to do this. We won’t be the last.

It’s tempting to wait until I know how our adventure ends before sharing the details with you. However, I believe God is inviting me to risk sharing our story with you as it unfolds mistakes and all. We are messy imperfect people. We are bound to have a few days I’d rather not tell you about, but that’s real life. Who knows, maybe we’ll encourage one another along the way and one Daring Adventure might lead to another. Maybe even yours.

Our Daring Adventure Begins

A few months ago Matthew asked if I really believed God would take care of us if he quit his job and stepped out in faith to move closer to family out west and do something different. I said, “Of course God will take care of us. He always has. But maybe we should fast and pray about it for a couple of months just to make sure.” The dude was starting to scare me. By lunchtime the next day he had given notice at work. It was done.

The thing I know about my man is that he takes his own sweet time about everything. We dated for NINE years before getting married.

N I N E.

He doesn’t just wake up one day and make big changes. Nope. He prays, he looks at it from all different angles and beats the thing nearly to death. When he decides to do something though, you’d better hang on because he’s all in. There’s no going back. And that’s where we are today. We’ve strapped ourselves in for a Daring Adventure with God to see where he wants to take us. It’s bound to get a little crazy, but we have faith for today. We’ll get what we need tomorrow. Ready, set, let’s go.

  1. {Special thanks to Kelly Rieger for giving me the gift that inspired our #DaringAdventure2017}

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