Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What They Didn't Know

There once was a green-eyed girl and a blue-eyed boy.  They stood at the altar, a mere nineteen and twenty one, and said, "I do."  There were likely many that scoffed and silently thought, "What do these kids know?  This'll never last." 

It's a fair enough question to ask, I suppose.  What did they know?  Let's be honest, it wasn't a lot.  They didn't know just how many grocery aisle shelves he would have to stock to put food on the table.  They didn't know quite how many late nights there would be to get that degree.  They didn't know that down the road, they would face the loss of a baby. They never would have guessed she'd have cancer at thirty-five.  They didn't know there would be five cross-county moves with teary goodbyes every time.  They didn't know that one day they'd watch their grown kids board planes that would take them across oceans.

No, they didn't know all of this.  They didn't know the pain that life would hold.

But there's more they didn't know.

They didn't know the bliss of birthing three perfect babies.  They didn't know how it would feel to watch those babies take their first steps, catch their first fish, ride their first bike.  They didn't know just how many basketball games, horse shows and swim meets they'd watch.  They never dreamed they'd see the world.  Nor did they know that in each place they'd call home, there'd be lives they would change with their warmth and their love.  They didn't know that there'd be three pairs of eyes always watching and learning, learning from them what it means to live fully and love deeply. 

No, they didn't know all of this.  They didn't know the richness life would hold.                  

But here's what they did know. 

I think even at the altar that day, they both knew that thirty years from then, that he'd still be squeezing her ticklish knee, and she'd still be squealing, "Daaaan!" 

They both knew then that no matter what life would hold, they'd still be looking at each other today with that shimmer in their eyes.  The shimmer that says, "I love you forever. I'm yours and you're mine."          

Happy 30th Anniversary, Mom and Dad.  You're my heroes forever for loving each other like this.   

Monday, May 21, 2012

That Time I Went Blind

KENTUCKY Digital Illustration Print of Kentucky State with Cities
Source: etsy.com via Brenda Winber on Pinterest

In just a few weeks we'll be flying to Kentucky.  My sister's getting married.  It reminds me of the last time I flew to Kentucky, two and a half years ago for my brother's wedding.  I was pregnant and had a toddler (not much has changed!).  But rather than flying from the other side of the country, I was flying from the other side of the world.  And I was doing it alone, pregnant and with a toddler.  That's how much I wanted to be at my brother's wedding. 

We stopped in Detroit to visit my in-laws and to celebrate an early Christmas with them.  After a few days with them and my first made-in-America holiday meal in four years, the day dawned for us to fly to Louisville (say it like you have rocks in your mouth).  We had an evening flight, so we slipped in one more play date with the cousin that morning.  While the little ones romped, I started noticing some cloudiness in my eyes. 

I thought, "Hmm. Probably just need to rinse my contacts." But that didn't work.  So I switched them out for my glasses and was thoroughly confused when the cloudiness continued, and a headache began to set in.  "I bet a nap will help," I thought.  My 12 hour jet-lag and my pregnancy said, "Amen!"

I woke from the nap feeling worse than before.  But I had a flight to catch, so we loaded up the car.  I grabbed a wad of kleenex because my eyes were beginning to inexplicably run with tears every ten minutes.     

I knew my mother-in-law was worried sick about me getting on a plane like this, but I knew it was a short flight.  So I told her again and again we'd be fine.  But my own conviction was wavering.  I wondered if the pressure change of the flight would make it worse.  We stood at the ticket counter and the agent asked if I was ok to fly.  Apparently I wasn't looking so good.  We stepped out of line and called an eye doctor.  She said the pressure change shouldn't affect my eyes, but that I should see a doctor as soon as we got to KY.

That reassured me.  The ticket agent said my father-in-law could escort me and my daughter to the gate.  We got through security and found a shop with some eye drops.  I dripped what I thought would be soothing relief into my eyes.  Instead it felt like fire balls drilling through my eyes.

At the gate, we said goodbye to my dad-in-law.  I knew he felt helpless.  "I'm ok," I lied. 

Through the haze of clouds in my eyes, I made it to our seats.  Any light at all felt like the sun itself blazing into my brain.  My eyes watered constantly now.

I must have been a sight, because passengers around me fretted.  Here's a weeping pregnant lady alone with a toddler.  But despite the wreck that I appeared to be, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm on the inside.  My toddler, who had been a tantrum throwing, puking mess on our last flight, now sat quietly in my arms, miraculously sensing that this was the time to be an angel.  She drifted off into a peaceful sleep, for the whole flight.

I held her with my eyes closed, one hand mopping my cheeks.  It was one of those moments in life where, despite the pain, you can breathe deep, because you sense, you know that you are being held by unseen hands.  Fear and worry, these companions know me well, but in this moment, they were gone.  Instead, peace, beautiful peace.     

I asked for wheelchair assistance to meet us at the gate, because at this point, I couldn't see...at all. Two helpers pushed us through the terminal, me in the wheelchair, Ellie in her stroller.  I never saw their faces, but I'll never forget the sound of their voices. An older woman and a young man, their Kentucky drawls slow and sweet.  They stayed with us past their shifts until we could get to our family.  They are the inglorious heroes in life, these helpers of those who cannot help themselves. 

It was a late night at the ER.  But in the end I was diagnosed with keratitis, a rare eye disorder that is treated with special eye drops.  Within about 48 hours, my vision was restored, and I was able to SEE my brother get married.

I'm hoping this trip to Kentucky with a baby in-utero, a toddler, and a four year old will be a bit less dramatic.  My husband will be with me this time.  But I know that I was never really alone last time.

And maybe, just maybe, as we make our way through the Louisville terminal, I'll hear a familiar voice and be able to thank my inglorious heroes.  Or I'll just be the crazy lady eavesdropping on the wheel chair pushers.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

How a Car Seat Made Me See My Green Grass

Have you ever found yourself longing for something that you actually used to...uh, complain about?  I've seen this dynamic play out especially among those of us who have lived in two different countries.  We leave America and then whine about everything we miss from home.  We paint this glorious picture in our minds about how perfect everything is in the States.  When (not if) things go awry in our strange new foreign home, we swear such craziness never occurs back in the land of the free and the home of the brave. 

Then we fly back to the fruited plains of the US and for awhile we bask in the glow of the purple mountain's majesty.  But it doesn't take before we're pining away for the other side of the ocean, making a long mental (or facebook) list of all the things about America that drives us crazy.  I've often shook my head when I see friends do this, chuckling about how in the human mind, the grass is always greener...

Source: thegogreenblog.com via Pinterest

Then I go and do it myself

In China, there wasn't a church we could be a part of.  So instead, on Sunday evenings, we'd gather with our team of 10 in our apartments and "do church."  And we'd long for the big community, the big worship, and all the trimmings of big church.  Then we found ourselves back in the US at a big church.  And for the first couple months we reveled in it.  I couldn't make it through a Sunday without tears coarsing down my cheeks as I soaked in the glory of musical worship with hundreds of others.  Everything about our new church was grand and exciting.

Then after a while I found my heart hungry for the deep knowing and being known that we had...back in China.  Back where our little "church" of ten lived life together.  We were each other's neighbors, colleagues, and family.  We did everything together.  We were each other's schedules.  I forget the times that it made me crazy, and instead I get all nostalgic about the richness of that community.  And I compare it to the busyness we and our new community have here.  Where do we fit each other in?

So I bemoaned that for a while.  Then I found myself reading in Numbers about the Israelites complaining to Moses about how they didn't have any meat to eat, how they were better off in Egypt.  When I've read that before, I've thought, "What a bunch of whiners!"  A little harder to say that when the story is a mirror forcing you to reckon with your own selfish discontent.

Isn't that how the human brain so often works?  Somehow all the frustrating dailies of life in the past fade away and the shiny warm memories glow brighter.  I think it's a good thing.  Except when it makes you discontent with the present.  But I guess that's a choice.

Sometimes God allows us to wallow in our wrong choices until we've buried ourselves to rock bottom.  Then we begin the slow ascent of daily choosing the good.  But other times, God chooses to bless our undeserving whiny little socks off, just because.  Both ways are a reality check.  This time, mercifully, God gave me the latter, and it came in the form of a car seat. 

We were sitting with our small group on a Sunday evening, when they said to us, "We have something for you."  Then a huge box appears with a brand new baby car seat.  "Our Sunday school class wanted to do something for you, so we all went in and got you a car seat," they grinned. 

I start fanning myself from the heat of the emotions that burn the back of my eyes.  For us?  Just because?  Here I've been longing for the community we used to have, and then God says, "Don't you see?  I've placed you in a community.  It's new and different and good and beautiful.  While you've been whining, they've been loving you."

The car seat just happens to be green, the green of the grass that is all around me, here and now. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Busy Bag Party!

Because I want to be one of those fun, crafty, educational moms, and because I usually fail miserably at being this, I've decided to host a Busy Bag Party!  It's a genius idea propogated by Pinterest.  It involves choosing a homemade activity bag idea that those actual fun, crafty, educational moms out there have created, making multiples of it, and then getting together with your friends to trade.  Then you walk away with all these different super cool activity bags for your kids.  My children will then spend countless hours staying busy doing things that make them smart and creative.  (At least, this is how it's playing out in my head.) 

So for the lovely ladies from my beloved Tuesday night group, I'm posting this collection of busy bags for them to choose from for our party.  How fun are these??