Thursday, July 25, 2019

hummingbirds and toads

There are cicadas whirring outside my window. It is 9:30 pm and it's already dark outside. It was 85 degrees Fahrenheit today and people were sighing at how nice and cool it is.

I'm on day three in my new stomping grounds in the Raleigh, NC area. The last two months have taken me from Munich to Austria to the Lakes District in England to the West Highland Way in Scotland to Raleigh, North Carolina. It's been a wonderful whirlwind.

I'm not going to lie: transitions are hard and culture shock is real (you can see my friend Angela's take on that here) and there have been tears. This morning, in fact.

But there have also been many small, good things today that remind me that this is where I want to be.

Here are some of them.

~ a tiny toad the size of my thumbnail on the sidewalk
~ hummingbirds zipping in and out of the garden
~ a bunny rabbit meandering through the yard
~ cicadas so loud I hear them through my closed window every night
~ a pool with water that is pleasantly tepid, not freezing
~ gracious people
~ magnolia blossoms
~ crepe myrtles
~ white pine trees
~ a dryer so my laundry is finished after two hours total
~ garlic bread
~ iced tea
~ a screened-in porch

In the middle of so much newness, little things like these go a long way toward helping me keep my chin up. As does the audiobook of Charlotte's Web narrated by E. B. White himself. Just saying.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Art of Leaving Well

One thing I've learned through many moves over the years is that leaving well is an art form, not a formula.

It would be easier if it were a formula: I could make a list, check off all the boxes, and tie up all the loose ends before moving on.

But that's not how life works. Uprooting is a messy, unpredictable business. Just as I successfully pull up one tie to a place, I inadvertently establish another. Somehow I always manage to be putting down new roots until the actual moment of being transplanted.

I'm moving away from Munich in less than a month, and it is really tempting to check out now. But I’m still here. If I’m called to bloom where I’m planted, that means I’m called to bloom here until the day I go. 

So even while I set up final visits with friends, I allow myself to spend time with new acquaintances. I initiate a four-week Bible study with a teenager from church. I invite a couple of kids over for a tea party.

I visit familiar haunts for the last time while still discovering new, delightful places.

Even while I'm preparing to leave, I still live here. There are still things for me to do here.

None of this means living in denial. Closure is important. But the truth is that there will always be loose ends. There will always be unfinished conversations and unexplored possibilities and things on the to-do list that never got done. People that I wish I’d sought out over the last two years that it’s now time to say goodbye to. It’s enough to make me crazy. 

In the weeks before I graduated from college, I was under immense pressure and immense blessing. I was preemptively grieving the loss of a community that was precious to me while daily receiving all the riches that community had to offer. I did not know how to process it all, and I was afraid that I would leave important things undone - that somehow I would miss something crucial and have no chance to rectify my mistake.

During that time the Lord gave me a word through a friend: "Rest easy. I'll take care of the loose ends. Fear not. Trust Me."

While this transition is not nearly as devastating as that one was, it is good for me to remember the assurance God gave me in the midst of it.

It’s a reminder that the work I’ve been doing here in relationships and community isn’t actually my work: it’s the Lord’s work. And it is being accomplished in His timing. If it feels unfinished to me, that’s ok, because I’m not the one responsible to finish it - He is.  

In the meantime, I write myself reminders, give myself space to grieve and to rejoice, hang out with friends, and practice the art of leaving well.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Things I Learned This Month | April 2019

After a brief hiatus, I'm back on track with sharing a list of some of the things I learned this month. I got the idea from Emily P. Freeman a year or two ago, and it's a simple practice that I really enjoy.

1. I learned all sorts of interesting things about T.J. Maxx.

I was curious about the store's name in Europe. Over here, it's called T.K. Maxx. But it's obviously the same store - it has the exact same branding and products. Turns out, when the company extended into the UK it didn't want to be confused with T.K. Hughes, another well-established brand. So in Europe it's T.K. Maxx. Further fun fact, T.J. Maxx and Marshall's are owned by the same parent company, TJX. What I could not discover is why the store is called T.J. Maxx in the first place. The internet has no conclusive evidence, so I suppose it shall remain a mystery.

2. "Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. But hope without critical thinking is naivete."

I heard Maria Popova say this in an interview with Krista Tippett on the show On Being, and it has really stuck with me.

3. A mantra for discerning a possible next right thing: Do what you know. Finish what you started. Use what you have. 

I got this one from Myquillen Smith during a bonus episode of Emily P. Freeman's podcast The Next Right Thing. 

4. The crepe man I remember from childhood has been there for 20 years.

Mom and I went to Heidelberg for my first visit since we moved in 2012. A highlight of the day was getting a crepe from the crepe man. (Did I think to ask his name? No.) He has a little stand in an alcove in the outside of the main church in Heidelberg, and when we lived in Heidelberg we would often get his crepes for lunch and eat them on the bridge. I was pleased to discover that they are still the best crepes that I have ever had. It was fun to visit with him a little bit and discover that this is an art that he has perfected over 20 years. Apparently once a French school group bought his crepes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because they are so delicious.