Friday, December 1, 2017

Julie Swims

Julie (far right) and her team of crafty babes. 

My friend Julie just got back from twelve days in Chengdu, China.

She and three other women from her church crossed the Pacific Ocean to make crafts. Supported by established missionaries on the ground, Julie and her team held seven events designed to give the Chinese women a rare opportunity to experience creativity, get their DIY on, and receive their first taste of Christian love. The team also broke bread with these ladies and tried to build bonds over a sizable language gap. By the looks of the dozens of photos I've scrolled through, it seems that Julie and her team accomplished those goals in spades.

And I'm proud of Julie for that.



But laying mission and ministry aside, I'm proud of her for something much more simple and yet much more profound.

I'm proud of Julie for saying yes to this trip. 

For taking a chance.
For trying something new.
For stepping far outside the bounds of her happily ordinary life and putting herself into an unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and undeniably vulnerable place.

I'm proud of her for committing to the trip before she knew how she would pay for it. 

I'm proud of her for trusting that her family - including her four-year-old boy - would be fine without her for two weeks.

I'm proud of her for taking a deep breath, stepping out from the safe shore of ordinary, and throwing herself  headfirst into the deep, dark waters of life experiences. 

Chinese taxis are not for the faint of heart. But Julie (far right) survived. 

By taking this trip to China, Julie swam through some high waves and powerful undertows, and came through it all with a smile on her face and buoyant spirit. Now that she's home again and back to her routines, she looks like her usual sunny self.

But  Julie has swum in deep waters now. And in her heart, I know she will never be the same.

* * * * *

Photo credits to Julie, the ladies on her team, and their missionary support in Chengdu. <3

Friday, November 24, 2017

Food Coma

I woke up disoriented. Sleepy and confused, I slowly gathered the facts.

There was a blanket over my head.
The TV was blaring a football game in process.
I felt my dog curled up against my feet.
Pulling off the blanket, I saw the bricks of my family room fireplace right in front of my face.

Oh right. I was awakening from my Thanksgiving food coma.

I rolled over and looked at the clock.

6:55 pm.

I'd been literally crashed out on the floor for over an hour.

Like most Americans, I'm usually sleepy after a hearty turkey dinner, but this was extreme. I wondered what on earth I had eaten today to cause such a dramatic effect.


Act I - Dutch Babies

Despite the bizarre name, a Dutch Baby is soft and simple, somewhere between a crepe and a souffle, made of nothing more than butter, flour, eggs and milk. Its crowning glory, other than the obvious golden puffy goodness, is the sprinkle of powdered sugar and splash of lemon juice that takes it from good to great. A perfect tide-me-over to power me through the cooking process and hold me steady till the feast.


Act II - Cranberry Mules

Lime juice, ginger beer, cranberries, lime, and vodka. Because no one needs an inebriated holiday chef, I made mine without the vodka and it was deliciously refreshing. I drank two, and thanked the gods of cocktail trends once again for the copper cup craze. 


Act III - My Heaping Plate

I thought I exercising restraint. I honestly believed this was a reasonable amount of food, and though I'd surely be full at the end, I calculated that it would be the good kind of full, satisfying and indulgent in all the right ways.

Well. I was wrong. Possibly my body is still recovering from some wicked jet lag after my trip to South Korea. Or perhaps my eyes were way bigger than my stomach. Maybe I'm just getting old. 

But this plate of food brought on the biggest food coma of my life, and I have promised myself I will never, ever, ever overeat like this again. 

* * * * *

The house is quiet now. Everyone else has gone to bed. Gracie is lying near my feet. The kitchen is spotlessly clean and the dishwasher is humming through one last load. 

And through the silence, I am beginning to hear whispers. "Come," call the gravy and mashed potatoes, "heat us up.". "We're perfect for a sandwich," promise the cool slices of turkey. And two cheesecakes - pecan and pumpkin - speak no words but sing in the tones of angels from the fridge.

So please excuse me but I need to go to bed immediately. One food coma was enough for today. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Apart For The Holiday

My Asian adventurer.

Late November has rolled around once again and another holiday season is about to unfold. Our thoughts inevitably turn to what matters most. 

Family.

Like people all around the planet and throughout all time, on these special festival days we crave the company of our families and we ache for those who cannot be with us. 

I miss many of my dearly departed family members - my grandfather who carved many a turkey in his handmade cable knit sweater vests, my good German grandmother who served heaping holiday relish trays of homemade pickled beets and peppers. I feel bittersweet nostalgia for my mother's holiday disappointments because real life never quite lived up to her longings.

But I do not miss my third-born daughter.

Well. Of course I miss her. Every mother knows the hole we feel in our hearts whenever our sons and daughters are away from us. 

There is always an empty place at the table for her, an empty chair that belongs to her.

But I do not regret her absence or mourn for her to be with us. Because she is doing something important. 

She is following her dreams.
She is changing the world.
She is obeying God's call into her life. 

And every day I celebrate the way she lives her life. 

Even if she is far away from me.

So on Thanksgiving Day, I will raise a glass in her name and give thanks for her. I will probably Facetime her and hear about how she spent her Thanksgiving away from us.

Then, in the end, I will look at that empty chair and smile. Because for right now, even though we are apart for the holidays, she is exactly where she is supposed to be. 

And soon she will be home for Christmas. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

A Wonderful Trip


I'll be honest. I was dreading the trip over the pass. 

After a spring, summer, and fall of daylight trips over the sun-sparkled Cascade Mountains, I fully expected that Snoqualmie Pass in November would present me a complete package of alpine driving challenges. 

Pounding rain 
Turning to heavy snow flurries 
Pitch black pre-dawn skies
Heavy traffic
Construction lane closures
Steep grades 
Tight mountain curves

And that's exactly what I got. 

Oh. Plus intermittent patches of blinding fog. I didn't see that one coming. 

White-knuckling the steering wheel, I held my breath for 45 treacherous miles and held on for dear life, cursing the gods of winter weather and wondering if my family would find my list of passwords after I'd crashed. 

Then several things happened all at once. 

The ground leveled out beneath my wheels. The steeply sloped forests finally fell away and the interstate zipped smoothly along the open and gently rolling Palouse. 

The sun burst out from behind a ridge of clouds and the world was bathed in glorious golden light. 

And my heart, so heavily burdened with gloom, overflowed with lightness and joy. 

Something tells me there's a moral to this story, a lesson learned, a truth to be taken and stored away for future wisdom. 

I don't really care too much about that. 

All I want to tell you is that it turned out to be a wonderful trip after all. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Gracie On A Rainy Day

An hour later, she woke up and ambled into the kitchen to watch me make dinner. 
I smiled at that wild hairdo, too.

Gracie and I just got back from a long walk in the dark. The winds blew fiercely, the rain pounded down, and we both got completely soaked. Once we got home, she went straight to the backyard to eat her dinner and have a lie down in her icy cold swimming pool slash water bowl. 

Then she came back inside and after a good toweling off, she began to run in wild, exuberant, crazy circles all through the house. After five or so minutes of pure insanity, she threw her soggy self onto the couch, curled up in a tight red ball, and fell sound asleep. 

My dog makes me smile.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Never Have I Ever


Never have I ever imagined that I would spend a sunny but decidedly crisp and cool November Friday outdoors on my hands and knees, scrubbing the mold and mildew out of my dog's plastic swimming pool so that she could continue to lie down in this oversize drinking dish and cool her furry red belly while she laps up water throughout the winter months of the year. 

But yesterday, that is exactly what I did.

Which just goes to show that life is always full of surprises. 


Not much I wouldn't do for this girl. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Excited


Maybe, someday, the day will come when I will dread plane trips. I may drag my heels through the concourse, grind my teeth as I stand in line to check my bags, and resent every step of the security checks. Possibly I will find myself bored as I wait at my gate,  or annoyed at the thought of being squeezed into a human sardine can for the next few hours. 

I may someday come to dislike the process of flying. 

But, my friends, that day is not today. 

I am at the airport today, traveling with my second-born to visit my third-born daughter who lives and teaches English in Seoul, South Korea. 

And I could not be any more excited.