Operation Wide Open Spaces

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Operation Wide Open Spaces:

Step one: Wake up.

Step two: Realize some wide open spaces are missing in your life.

Step three: Pack your bags.

Step four: Enter “Montana” in the GPS.

Now some of you crazies might believe in a bit more *planning*. Me too. But last Monday morning, the open road called our name. We decided to throw our hands up and say “here!”

With tired and cramped souls coming off a whirlwind week of change, we had our bags packed and our car loaded within two hours of waking up.

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And of course the ever-insistent-don’t-you-dare-leave-me-home Abby was snuggled at my feet.

I love me some wide open spaces, but I’ve been living with some narrow margins.

With “Montana” entered in the GPS, my lungs breathed a little deeper with every mile we drew closer. With every new vista, my soul savored, as one taking a bite of a delectable meal that is at once brand new and yet familiar.

Now let’s be clear. I’m not generally a road trip kind of girl. I find them very inefficient, really. And I’m a girl who likes to have a destination. This is true both on the road and in life.

But I’m also a girl who’s learning to be inefficient. And learning to take detours and side roads. Who’s learning to get out and walk in the rain when traffic backs up at the entrance to Yellowstone. Who’s breathing deep of wide open spaces, both on the road and in life.

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This past week brought a new wide open space in front of me in the form of an unexpected job change (more on that later). And wide open spaces are wild.

They have dangerous things like bears and snakes and moose and bison.IMG_6969IMG_6946

And some of the greatest dangers are the ones you know are there but can’t see (ahem, Wolves).

But those wild spaces are also free, and beautiful, and seemingly endless. They speak to a crowded soul, whispering hints that big horizons are not only for mountains and rivers and prairies, but for us too.

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This girl needed a little bit of Wyoming and Montana to make it’s way into her crowded-California heart. My soul needed time. And space. For the talking and the not-talking, the hiking and the sitting, the searching and finding and the searching and not finding and the silence and the big sky and the trees and the rivers and the rocking chairs and the naps and the river floats and the dancing in the downpours.

This space – this glorious, wide, vast, diverse, and (seemingly) endless space, is reminding me, daring me, to think bigger, dream bigger, explore bigger. But also simpler.

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The thing about wide open spaces is that we all need them. Somewhere, somehow. And it’s a rare week that you get to throw your bag in the car and go find twenty million acres of open space. This week reminded me that I need to find/make/create/ALLOW wide open spaces to exist in my every day. Self-care and all. So trendy right now. So nearly cliché. So essential.

Space. In my day. On my calendar. To be inefficient. To be unplanned. It honestly scares me. Which is how I know I really need it.
What about you? When’s the last time you made space for … space? And how do you find it in the midst of your every-day?

Oh Nepal, you are small but fierce

This world is so big. And yet so small. Here I sit en route between California and Tennessee, but my heart is travelling between Nepal and Baltimore as quakes of the earth and civility rock worlds. I don’t have a lot of words for Nepal right now. I mean, what is there to say when you look at the news images? Buildings that once stood proud now reduced to rubble. Life stolen away from thousands. Temples that have stood for years now but dust. The rift in the main road representing the chasm they now have to cross.

I have big memories of this small place. So I’m turning back to those images, those memories – the Kathmandu we got to meet eight years ago. We walked your streets … IMG_5899breathed (sometimes chewed) your air, and even snuck a few peeks at Mt. Everest … IMG_5818and best of all got to look into the eyes of your best attribute: a beautiful, vibrant people and heritage.

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Oh Nepal, you are small but fierce. Fiercely strong. Fiercely beautiful.


May you … … grow strong in the midst of broken places.

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… never lose your sense of creativity.

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… or serenity. IMG_5578 … have a reason to smile again IMG_5617 … never forget what is now missing – nor what remains.

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Bikes, Boys, & Ballads

IMG_8319Bikes, Boys & Ballads. I learned about them all from my Dad. And this week was a treat few daughters get, filled with all three.

Last week Dad and I boarded a plane to Georgia with a few simple goals in mind.

First the bikes. These are never on the official to-do list. But they’re also never officially off of them. Bikes are my happy place, and I guess I inherited that from dear old Dad. There’s really not a town/city/river we see that doesn’t sound more fun to explore by bike. Twelve years ago we took this same trip to see the same friends, except we went by road instead of air. Dad and I loaded up my Toyota Tacoma (may she rest in peace) with, that’s right, our bicycles. We cycled in every state between California and Georgia. And let me be clear: we are not cyclists. We are just two kids who like to ride bikes and feel the wind in our hair. So, on this trip we made good on that at Tybee Island and in Atlanta. Travel tip: ride Tybee Island at low tide. Especially sunrise.

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And check out Atlanta’s Beltline – a fun student project that is replacing old railway tracks with a paved walkway/bikeway for connecting urban neighborhoods undergoing renewal. Think NY highline. Except in Atlanta. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Now for the boys. On that roadtrip of yester-year, we had lots of talks about boys. Well, a boy. See, there was this one boy that loved me and I wasn’t sure whether I loved him back. Now, neither of us knew that. No one had said “the L word”. We hadn’t even really dated. But Dad knew. And Dad prodded. And Dad helped me see. He was right about it all. I just celebrated my ten-year anniversary with the boy we talked about on that trip.

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On this trip, another boy was ever close to our minds and hearts. Our framily (friends that are really family) had tragedy strike their story in December,when their vibrant twenty-two year old son/brother was struck and killed while crossing a crosswalk one foggy night. Our heads and hearts still can’t wrap around the idea that Andrew is no longer here. That his smile has faded from this world all the while undoubtedly brilliant in the next.

IMG_8316And the ballads. Oh the ballads. I don’t think there’s much better than a southern rain storm ala guitar music. I grew up on Eric Clapton, Kenny Rogers, and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Both Dad and our friend, Bill, have voices that are as soothing as the water coming down, and deep enough to match the thunder rolls. My favorite night of this trip was out in Savannah overlooking the marshes. Also, screened-in-porches are quite possibly the best thing ever. A gentle thunder storm graced the horizon as the evening turned to night. Guitar music filled the air as Dad and Bill took turns strumming through their memories. We bounced from hymn to rock-song to ballad and back again. Singing lines and humming verses where we could. Our hosts were generous with the red wine and the frogs and crickets were generous with their harmonies. It was one for the books.

Georgia, you charmed us with your true southern hospitality. Thanks for the memories, both old and new.

#tbt to that time I DIDN’T FINISH THE STORY!

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GAH! Remember that time I went to China and blogged about the power and the romance and the anticipation of it all and THEN TOTALLY BAILED ON FINISHING THE STORY!? Not that it’s finished, because really it’s still just beginning. But our nephew Johnathan is now home. There is one less orphan on this planet. He now knows about Aunties and Uncles and Grandmas and Grandpas and CHRISTMAS.

In fact, one of my favorite things about Christmas this year was watching our nieces and nephews play. On my husband’s side of the family, all of the kiddos are adopted. One from Russia, Johnathan from China, and our niece is “locally made”. There’s some kind of fascinating miracle taking place as God weaves this side of the family out of and through adoption.

Since they say a picture is worth a thousand words, I’m going to make up for my long silence, and just add a few words of my own about welcoming international adoption. And welcoming a nephew home from China.

First things first. It’s amazing. He’s amazing.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy by any means, nor does it run perfectly. Adoption is filled with questions, some with answers, some not so much.

It was incredible to be there for all the firsts. His first game of catch with his new big brother. His first (but certainly not last) tantrum. His first Thanksgiving and Christmas. But above all, his first giggle. Not his first giggle in this life, but in this family. See, it was clear he had been well loved by his caretakers. Thanks be to God, He had much to grieve. But grief is never something you want someone to experience. Those first few days and nights were brutal as his heart (and lungs) cried out in confusion and terror. See, his mom and dad knew him, had prayed for him, longed for him, worked hard to get to him. But to him they were just strangers that had shown up one day and taken him away from the nanny he loved. We were in the hotel room next door, taking care of his older brother, and let’s just say that the thin walls ensured that no one got too much sleep those first few nights. This is just one more parallel I see in adoption of a child and our adoption as children of God. Just because it’s “done” in one moment, in the signature on a page, doesn’t mean that the new identity is understood, or even liked, right away. Still, being part of a family is always > than being part of an institution, so it’s worth the work. On both sides.

Since we were there as part of their support team, we got a front row seat for what international adoption looks like through the eyes of an auntie. It looks like …

… Eating a lot of hotel food. You do what’s easy. But you also splurge on things like ice cream fondue. Come on America, let’s get THIS going.

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… Building a lot of Legos. There’s a lot of paperwork to wait on.

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… Some exploring. Some tea-ing. We may or may not have been talked into some expensive teas. #wheninchina

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… Fake mustaches. Aka ways to make the hours pass.

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… Games of tag in front of ancient temples.

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… Reminding yourself over and over that ‘sad is not bad.’ I’m a big proponent of this truth. Sad says that something matters. Still, sad is not fun.

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… That priceless first giggle. Again, not his first ever. But first to our ears. A hard-earned, well-deserved giggle after days of tears and screams (sad is not bad, sad is not bad, sad is not bad). It took a few days to get a tentative smile, then a grin, and finally full out giggles as he took tiny steps into the heart of his family, and welcomed them into his own.

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… Finding new and creative forms of recreation. New Zealand introduced us to Zorbing. China introduced us to Zorbing on the water. VERY sad that it was for kids only! (sad is not bad, sad is not bad, sad is not bad … it just means I have to keep exploring until I DO find this for adults :))!

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… Finding yourself amongst so many other stories, all gathered in the city of Ghangzhou for the final leg of the trip to process US Embassy paperwork.

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… Being home for Christmas. And soon, EASTER.

Johnathan Christmas

Happy #tbt everyone.

Norway, Yes-Way

What’s not to love? Water? Good. Mountains? Good. Waterfalls? Good. Snow-capped mountains? Good.

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A few eyebrows raised when we told people we were going to Norway. Norway? What made you choose that? Well it all started with a fjord, and back to the day I didn’t even know what a fjord was. Fjord (pronounced Fi-yord) was just one of those words I would have nodded along with if someone was talking about it, eyes glazing over because I didn’t really know what they were talking about.

But a few years ago I made it to my first Fjord, which is basically a steep canyon cut by glaciers and plunging a mountain into the sea – or, put another way, a sea inlet surrounded by steep mountain cliffs. Translation: my idea of perfection.

My first Fjord experience was in New Zealand – another land rich with, well, EVERYTHING GOOD AND LOVELY. Including a Fjord called Milford Sound. Words fail to describe the happiness I experienced in that majestic place, especially amazing considering the deep unhappiness that had settled in my heart in that life-stage.

I was basically spinning and dancing in glee in that magical place, and my amused husband laughed as I exclaimed “Fjords are my new favorite!” With a twinkle in his eye, he introduced me to a whole new wonder: There was a LAND of Fjords called Norway. Norway? As in, my place of heritage? (My mother’s name was Berg, Norway’s second biggest city is Bergen, so basically, I might be a long-lost Norwegian Princess. All things are possible.). At the least, perhaps a love of mountains and ocean plunged together is just part of my DNA.

And so was born the dream to come to Fjordland, Norway.

We didn’t know if we’d pull it off on this trip, but a string of luck and google diligence and hope all blended together to get us on a cruise ship heading TO and THROUGH Norway’s Fjordland at a fraction of the cost it would take for us to backpack our way through the majestic landscape. We booked the tickets under a “last minute special” about a month prior to sailing, and it took all of my willpower not to mentally check out between the time of booking until the time of embarking.

I was going to Norway. To Fjordland. On a boat – a LUXURY boat! That would carry me and my love and all our STUFF and FEED US and oh heaven smile down.

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And Norway delivered. Amidst both rain and shine, in true Nordic fashion, my heart was lulled and wooed by its ever-changing landscape. It felt like cruising through a storybook – with up to ten waterfalls sometimes in view, with my heart and mind racing to catch up with what my eyes were seeing, with days of sun for my feet to traipse and days for my heart to be quieted by the rain.

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Our first stop was in Eidfjord, a small town with big views.

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And perfectly marked hiking trails. Their slogan should be “Welcome to Eidfjord. If you get lost here, you’re an idiot.” But seriously. Trail after trail, some back to mountain lakes, some alongside the river, some winding through farm and field, and some stumbling through ‘rough pastureland’, filled with too many colors of green for me to count, where the loudest sound was my own footfall. Where, as I took in the new landscape, I actually said out loud “I wonder if this is how babies feel all the time – when they are seeing something new for the very first time?”

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Oh, and the red homes – painted that way because once upon a time it was the cheapest color you could get your hands on. Left over waste from copper mines or something. Don’t quote me, but something like that. And here I thought it was a way to compensate for the often gloomy weather. Nope, just good economic sense. But still, a cheery and distinct flavor of many Norwegian homes.

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The next day brought us further north to Alesund. The clouds were high, but ever present, keeping us close to town instead of exploring the further wildlands of this area. Which was okay because Alesund’s true claim to fame is its Art Nouveau architecture.IMG_3584

Here’s the story: In 1904, the town burned down. The whole thing. All of it. Charred to bits. Because an oil lamp was knocked over. The Germans were among the first to respond with help, and determined to help them rebuild. Art Nouveau was apparently “the rage” with its intricacies and distinctions, and that became the dominant focus of their new architecture. The effect has stood the test of time. It’s truly whimsical. A town of 40,000, it’s one of Fjordland’s biggest cities, but their downtown still has the fairytale feel. Our big event of the day was a 418-step climb to a viewpoint that really did pay off.IMG_3578

And then, oh then … Geirangerfjord.

IMG_3652We were on the first tender boat off to explore this great land, and before the sun had risen over the tallest mountain peak, we were a-climbing. Again, as in France, giving me the heights in meters is so helpful because I always say “that’s nothing”, until I’m huffing and puffing my way up a serious climb.

IMG_3623Oh the glory. AND THE SUN!!!!! Every ray was like a hand-wrapped gift. Even the locals were exclaiming about what a rare day it was. AMEN!IMG_3738

Geirangerfjord was like melting Switzerland into the sea.

Also, the baby goats. Took a bit of time to catch this little fella, but he cozied up after a few bleats of complaint while Mama-goat contentedly ate on nearby.IMG_3683IMG_3696

We climbed a total of 750 meters (see, doesn’t that sound way better than 2500 feet when you’re standing at the bottom and looking up?) to Losta viewpoint and then to something-something-fossen, which means Waterfall. My Norwegian is pretty awesome. After then RACING back down the mountain (ouch), we caught a local bus to experience the famous “Eagle Bend Road” with 11-hairpoint turnsIMG_3658

so you can see THIS. Seven Sisters Waterfall just behind us there. IMG_3744IMG_5220Or something-something-fossen in Norwegian, if you prefer.

THEN (yes, Geiranger was a FULL DAY) we stayed on the bus up towards Mt. Dinalsnibba, which was still closed for the season due to snow still being unstable, but we made it about 2/3 of the way up, to about 1000 meters, and enjoyed a few minutes in a winter wonderland, where yes, Jason got smacked with some snowballs due to my awesome aim.

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That night’s cruise through the Fjord was just beyond words. I mean really. We eventually stopped taking pictures and just soaked it in because it was just like “Really? Really? Just more and more of the pretty.”IMG_3523

 

IMG_3388And then Bergen. Bergen only gets 60 days of sunshine A YEAR, so my expectations were pretty realistic there. Actually, I was kind of excited to experience it in the rain because it’s known as one of the wettest cities in the world. And boy was it! Poured on us the whole time, so we didn’t go too far, but we did have fun sloshing through its streets, picking up a Christmas ornament, one of our favorite things to collect as we travel, and shaking off the wet as we returned to our “cozy” ship.

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All that, and every night on a luxury liner with five-star food, four-star accommodations, and the best company of all. And no, I don’t just mean the chocolate martini and the live violin music. Though that was also a nightly favorite.

Norway? YES-WAY!

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That Time I Snuck OUT of Paris

My Grandma wasn’t what you’d call a share-er. I can still remember how careful we had to be about what we ate at Grandma’s house, because there was our food and her food. This isn’t to say I didn’t love my Grandma or even visiting her home, but sharing just wasn’t high on her virtue list.

Except for one thing. My Grandma loved sharing the world. Her living room wall was adorned by a giant world map, covered with pins pointing to the places she’d visited. At the age of 82, my Grandma is still adding pins to that map. Over Thanksgiving last year we had the most fun googling a possible trip she wanted to take across the Trans-Siberian Railway.

My first semester at college was a biggie – I jumped straight out of my childhood bedroom and into a dorm in Israel. Because precocious.

About mid-way through the semester, I got an email about my Grandma. She wanted to share. Money. With me. The Grandma who didn’t like sharing her can of green beans wanted to give me a thousand dollars. If I used it to travel. And only if.

Well I’m no fool. I rounded up two friends who were game to extend our semester abroad by a few weeks and pop over to Europe. The first $50 of that $1000 was spent on a backpack that was all-too-gigantic for this girl.

Me, Natalie, and Gil traipsed (I told you, traipse is my word for Europe) (link) throughout Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and France. There are so many moments and stories from those three weeks that greatly shaped who I am. Including my palette for travel. Me thinks Grandma knew exactly what she was starting. And I like to think I will someday be the Granny with her world map pricked by multiple pins.

But Paris. Who sneaks out of Paris? This girl.

See, Paris decided to go on strike while we were there. Everything shut down. Including ATM machines. Paris isn’t exactly a society that invites you in for free. And I was far too proud to use my mom’s credit card. Foolish youth.

So we had a few coins in our pockets, and that was it. Natalie and I bought a bottle of water and a baguette to share, and that was our fine meal ala Paris.

The one commodity we had left was our Eurail passes – good to at least guarantee us a night on the train. Any train. Bound for anywhere but there.

And so began the quest to depart. A bit tricky with all the strike-business. Turns out that the trains were still running on schedule, but you couldn’t get a reservation because of the strike. But you couldn’t get on the train without a reservation. And so it went.

The train platform looked like the old movie scenes of people making runs on the banks in It’s a Wonderful Life. And two blonde girls (yes, I was once blonde) jostled and elbowed along with the best of them – with the help of some hefty backpacks.

It didn’t take long to catch on to the scheme. We were told that once the train departed, it was reservation-shmeservation. We just had to get on it.

Attempt number one was a blunder. How do two blondes jostle fifty pound bags onto a train inconspicuously? Answer: They don’t.

We snuck onto that train three different times before we made it past the steps and into an actual compartment, where we huddled with a Brazilian couple who had also snuck on. Without a shared language, we all communicated quite well as we huddled and waited for the rhythm of the train to get. us. OUT. I can still remember us rocking back and forth to the early huffs and puffs of the engine, inwardly chanting I-think-we-can-I-think-we-can-I-think-we-can, very much hoping we would be the little engines that could indeed just leave.

As the train sighed its way out of the station, we all exhaled deeply. We’d made it. Escaped Paris. The City of Lights. Strikes.

So this week I reclaim, dang it. I’m going back to Paris. With my own credit card. And my man. And a hotel reservation. And all the grown-up-things that the last 16 years have taught me.

Paris, I hope you are kind. I hope you love me back this time. Let’s both make Grandma proud and earn you a proper pin in the map, shall we?

Mama Always Said

Mama always said not to take a drink from a stranger. I think she had 45 proof alcohol in mind. But I don’t think she had Claudius in mind.

Claudius is the keeper of the Refuge de Chavan. His personality fits the name. I guess seven years of maintaining a refuge chateau in the middle of the French Alps probably has a way of either confirming or creating a personality of refuge.

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The Chateau sits at the top of a hell-bent climb. 800 meters up sounds so different than 2600 feet up, but feels no different on the legs that are climbing up the rock-strewn path (that, incidentally, turned into a rock-laden stream on the way back down since the snow was melting off).

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Just as you clamber past the rocks and the snow, right when you’re ready to call it a day, you climb out of the tree line, enter the bowl amidst the mountains, see the peaks you’ve been working towards, and turn happier feet towards the refuge of a cabin with some tables out front for the hungry hiker and some friendly French faces sharing the trail.

One of our favorite things to hear as we travel is “are you lost?” because it means that we’re off the beaten path, that tourists don’t-come-round-these-parts-too-often. Good, we hate feeling like tourists. The three French hikers asked us that precise question as their broken English and our Joey-esque French was exchanged.

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No, not lost. Staying at a friend’s cabin in La Cheverie, near Lake Vallon – a tiny locals hideaway that serves as a ski town in the winter and hiking wonderland by summer. We were there in the middle of both, as our hike involved quite a bit of snow.

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From the Chateau, we followed the three frenchmen up a steep, snowy embankment to a ridge that allowed us to see down the valley to the other side, and to the beginning of the Alps range.

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Without snow shoes, it became time for us to turn around, which involved side-stepping/sliding back down the snow to catch our breath again at the Refuge de Chavan before continuing.

IMG_2940Claudius came outside to greet us amidst our feast of apples and cheese. He explained – via hand gestures and broken English – that he’d lived there for seven years, winters included. And in the winter, the snow would sometimes cover his roof. He would then go in and out of his home by way of the skylight, some thirteen feet above us. Food and firewood were stock-piled for winter, and he said that men from La Cheverie would ski in with bread from time to time.

Amazing. A life like that. Interrupted only by occasional passersby. I sat there and tried to imagine it. I saw my husband’s eyes sparkle at the thought. I wonder – would I find or lose sanity?

Claudius then brought out some “prune de montagne” in a clear green glass bottle with some alpen flowers adorning its side, and little clay shot glasses. “To warm the heart”. Well, I was ready for anything that wanted to warm my heart, my hands, my nose, my ears. Bring it.

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“Oofta!” was all that escaped my lips as I downed the amber liquid. Jason and Claudius both enjoyed the quick intake of small breaths that followed. But oh did it warm. My ears, my throat, my chest, and most certainly my heart.

Refuge de Chavan. Is it the man, the mountain, or the 45 proof alcohol that provides such refuge? Perhaps a little of all three.

Mama always said not to accept a drink from a stranger. But I don’t think she had Claudius in mind.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mama! And don’t worry, I follow almost all your other advice!

Maximizer Problems [Adjustments]

Hi my name is Brooke, and I’m a Maximizer.

I want to squeeze the most out of every minute and every dollar I’ve got to spend on this green earth. I’d rather spend money to save time, but my favorite is when I can save both. I just want to make the best decisions. All the time.

This is a good thing. And also, a threat. In my quest for the-best-everything, I often sacrifice my sanity and enjoyment of what’s right in front of me.

Let’s say, for instance, that I was going to Europe. Let’s just say. Traipsing through the French Alps and Norway, for instance. Traipsing, by the way, is a word I specifically reserve for anytime I leave the country. Something in my soul ignites and I traipse.

When we traipse our way to Paris, a cooking class is on the menu (see what I did there?). There are hundreds of them throughout Paris, and I’m not exactly what you’d call a “sophisticated” student in a kitchen. They could probably teach an egg-cracking class and I’d get something out of it.

Brooke just wants to go to a cooking class with her husband. The Maximizer wants to find the BEST cooking class at the BEST price for the BEST experience to celebrate her BEST marriage. I get caught up in the frenzy of it all.

I want to know which connection we’re taking at what time and where the trains are reliable and where they’re not and oh-my-gosh-can-someone-please-tell-me-the-absolute-best-café-in-this-city-so-I-don’t-waste-my-time-at-some-chintzy-café-I-could’ve-gone-to-at-home!?!?

I don’t want to lose The Maximizer. She’s got some good qualities. I just want to maximize the right things. But the thing is, I’m not celebrating Europe. I’m celebrating in Europe.

And My Marriage is my Most Favorite – it’s worth celebrating. You guys, it’s just so true. My marriage is my most favorite. I don’t know another one like it. I hope all my married friends can say the exact same thing.

Now don’t get me wrong – this marriage has taken hard work. It will take more hard work in days to come. There are days that we don’t exactly show each other Jesus. But most days – most days this man teaches me more about Jesus than I could have ever imagined.

This is the man who drove 12 hours roundtrip to sneak in 12 hours with me just last month as I spent a week away at a conference. THAT’S SO INSANE. Crazy, whackadoo, over the top, insane. Especially since we were sleeping for 8 of those hours.

But that’s love. And that’s what I’ve learned from this man.

I gotta admit: I don’t always offer the crazy love. The Maximizer doesn’t always let me. There would have been more “calculating” in my process. I would have tallied the miles on the car, the gas, and chosen a more economical way to show love – like through a thoughtful text message. Or if I was feeling really crazy, a card via overnight mail.

But not this guy. This guy drove the miles, bought the gas, and gave both days of his weekend because he knew I needed his arms around me. I didn’t even know how much I needed that expensive hug.

This is how my God loves me too – in a totally whackadoo, inefficient, over the top way. Sometimes that’s hard for me to receive. Sometimes I’m calculated there, too. Looking to love Maximizer style – efficiently rather than fully.

But in this is love – not that we first loved Him, but that He first loved us. And gave His only son.

Talk about over the top. I mean, couldn’t anything else have done? Did he have to spend THAT much? Honestly, I don’t know. I mean, I know that theologically there was no answer that would fully cure sin aside from Jesus’ death on the cross. But I also know that it was God’s system to begin with. A bigger mystery than I expect my brain to unwrap. And I’m okay with that.

So I don’t know if He had to. But I know He chose to.

The mystery of marriage is that in the crazy and whackadoo lovey-dovey times, as well as the deep, raw, difficult moments, we are told we’re reflecting God’s truest self.

So that’s what we’re celebrating. Ten years of reflecting God’s heart in some of the most beautiful, most difficult, most surprising, most mysterious, most fun, most crazy whackadoo ways. For better and for worse. THAT is what I want to maximize. Because I’m not celebrating Europe. But I sure as heck am celebrating in Europe.Off We Go!

 

Bon Voyage!

 

 

 

Roots & Wings

I’ve never have a bad attitude at an airport.  Airports are my thing.  Redbull doesn’t give me wings – airports do.  The collision of stories, the endless possibilities, the myriad of colors and voices all in one place for that one moment, but literally spreading out to the ends of the earth the next moment.  Ah, chills.  Someday I plan to arrive at LAX and throw down a wad of cash for their next outbound international flight, wherever it may be.

I first found my wings when I was 18 and boarded a plane for Israel.  I can still remember walking down the boarding gate to my plane and turning for a look back to my Mom – back in the good old days when they let people come to your gate to see you off.  She was smiling through her tears – the kind of smile that came with a slight shoulder shrug, a long-distance nudge to keep going forward.  That smile brought me so much courage, just what I needed to board a plane to a new place with new people.  Wing-spreading quickly became my favorite pastime, be it locally or globally.

But two weeks ago, when a friend dropped us off at John Wayne, you would’ve thought we were headed to outer Mongolia.  And I guess in some ways we were, since we were on our way to the Midwest.  In January.  Just in time for a Polar Vortex.  All I wanted to do was stay home –  a brand new sensation for this girl.

See, when life brought a season of storms – a friend’s cancer, unemployment, infertility being among the fiercest – I looked for stability anywhere I could find it.  I looked for roots, and I found them.  I fell in love with things like security and comfort – or at least their illusions.  I discovered rich community and simple joy around a living room, perfectly content for it to be the same living room over and over and over.  When we bought our house I was so excited that I could stay in this place for, like, forever. But now, with two weeks off, I was leaving it, and Did. Not. Want. To.

I’m pretty sure I got on that plane purely out of muscle memory.  Or maybe my husband carried me.  It’s a blur.

But I had to get on that plane – even though it was headed to the tundra – to find a truth that I’d forgotten.  I didn’t want to get on that plane, but I’m oh-so-glad I did. photo-16

Boarding that flight meant I got to see what Chicago’s river looks like with ice chunks fighting for elbow room.  I got a five mile arctic walk in with my husband of nine years, holding gloves instead of hands.  I got to spend ten dollars to buy some Thai monks in sandals a hot tea, only to see them get in a cab before my actions could trump the language barrier.

I got to see what my friend’s kitchen looks like. And where she shops for groceries.  And smell her trees and play in her snow and drink deep of the life she lives day by day.

I got to taste the glory of St Louis’ Candy Kitchen and Chicago’s deep dish and know what melted ricotta and chocolate chips can do to one’s soul.  I got to bask in time with such good friends, and trade hugs that can say more than a Skype date ever can.  And I got to meet new friends, forging bridges that I know we’ll cross again in the future.

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As I was sitting in a Chicago Pizzeria, a place that looked like the quintessential “where-everybody-knows-your-name”, but where no one knew mine, I realized just how deeply I love having both roots and wings. Pictures of the 1921 Chicago Whitesox hung on the wall, and I imagined the team actually gathering in this place for a taste of the pizza pie I was about to indulge in (OMG Chicago’s food).  Thinking of their roots made me think of mine, and all the wonderful places where people do know my name.  And all the people that know the deepest truths of who I am, oftentimes better than I do.

Having roots doesn’t always mean staying home of course, but it does mean embracing the things that aren’t new, that change so imperceptibly that you might miss it if you’re not paying close attention.

And wings doesn’t always mean a plane flight – it means being ready for the things that ARE new, gifts you didn’t know you needed.  Even if you have a bad attitude about it at the start.

What about you?  Where (or who) are your roots?  How do you spread your wings?  And do you ever, like me, have to remember to reach for both? #truestself