Thursday, April 17, 2014

The art of goodbye

As long as I can remember I have had great disdain for goodbyes.  I have snuck out of meetings, parties, church services, and relationships because of it.  Call it selfish, cowardly, or many other unflattering names, I still can't seem to embrace the art of goodbye.  It has always felt like an akward dance that I should just sit out of.  It is the one area in life that holds some regret.  So maybe I fling wide the doors to the heart a little faster than most.  And that same reflex that swings wide, can run when it is time for the G word.  I firmly believe that when lives intersect it changes us.  Even if the walk beside a person is a quick one, we cannot stay the same.  I recognize the significance of relationships, I just need to work on the transitions.  And so here I have before me the biggest goodbyes I have had to say.  And I hope to walk it out a little differently.  One can't really sneak out of the country with a husband and three loud boys.  

I have had chances to not run away from goodbyes lately.  Ones that I know God graciously brought us.  Three friends moved as we were trying to leave.  And sweet Shirley left us soon after.  I was a bawling mess as I pulled into the parking lot of the funeral home.  The parking attendant asked me twice if I was family which only made me gulp cry louder and squeak out a "no, I am just a friend".  He finally handed me his own handkerchief and waved me forward.  I almost didn't go.  I had spoken my heart to her face to face, I didn't really need to go, I reasoned.  I almost missed one of the most beautiful goodbyes I have esperienced.  And it did matter.  It helped me process a little more why saying goodbye is a gift.  It is often wrapped in loss and grieving.  But it is still a gift.  I grieve what I can hold but not keep.  What I get to enjoy but not control.  The most life giving relationships are so clearly not about me.

Two weekends ago I met up with college friends.  Sisters of the heart, who stood with me on my wedding day and held each of my boys as newborns.  They saw me before Jeff, before teaching, and definitely before life hit like a hurricane.  And I cringed and hid all weepy as they shared beautiful words.  As much as it made me ache, I needed to hear them.  And I needed to tell them what they have meant to me.  Because that doesn't always happen over coffee or in a quick catch up call.  We are not leaving forever.  I know the goodbyes are temporary.  This one is just a little longer than what I am use too.

I am reading a book, Third Culture Kids, to help the boys get through this season a little more graciously.  I was surprised when I read that transition time has already begun.  And that this part of the transition is one of the more important ones.  My mouth stretched into a line and then frown as I read the healthiest ways to deals with endings.  Head on, full hearted, and embracing loss as part of the process.  That there indeed is an art to goodbyes.  It is important to let a person know what they have meant to you, to not hide from the emotions that surface, and to be grateful for the chance to have experienced it.  And the most surprising part, the importance of giving freedom to express the loss.  To wrestle with the grief, so that when you land on new soil your heart is tender and not cracked dry.  It did not talk at all about it being okay to just run the opposite direction if all seems too hard to deal with.  I am so glad I got to read that before the boys begin their goodbyes.  I will not try to hide the loss from them but recognize the gift wrapped inside it all.

 "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."
Numbers 6:24-26 ESV

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

To store and to take

After the last post many people have asked me what we will be storing and taking.  The few things we are storing at my Aunt Margie's are family treasures.  The dining table that use to be my great Aunt Julia's.  It is where some of my favorite memories have taken place.  Where we sit to eat, paint, write letters and do homework year after year.  It is where Uno and Monopoly are played late into the night.  And where some of the most important conversations and deepest belly laughing have taken place.  Our bedroom furniture will be stored with the table also.  My parents had it when I was a girl and my mom's parents had it before her.  I remember watching my mom put on her perfume for a date while sitting at the desk where I now write thank you notes.  The sideboard my parents bought as newlyweds and the blue wedding china that was my grandmother's, a few blue glass pieces, and the polish pottery from Aunt B.  And I cannot not forget the basic kitchen items worth storing.  My kitchen was never as well stocked as my art closet, but my mother in law gave me a beautiful cast iron dutch oven this Christmas that my sister will now cook soup in.
So what made the list to take?  Favorite photos that will remind us of our stories, art work, and few other things.  They hold no monetary value but tremendous heart value.  I will take one blue glass piece my sister gave me in college.  A letter from my grandmother reminding me to give and save before I spend.  And a book my mom and dad gave me in college, the note written inside making it impossible to part with.

I will bring the clay pieces the boys have made.  The toothy play dough grin that Levi made when he was four.  It's lopsided grin has smiled me through every dish washing for the past five years.  And Luke's happy made up creature he made when he was seven.  His yellow mitts held up in the air, seeming to always yell "hurrah, isn't life grand?"  One of the drawings I bring will be the picture Ian drew last month.  The one where Levi is towering over me with his hand outstretched and resting on my shoulder.  I love that one piece of art more than any I have created.

Luke wants to bring some of his favorite books. The ones that he pours over late into the night.  Each one picked out by a Grandparent, Aunt, or Uncle that knows him well.  Levi is convinced he can pack every Lego piece in the house.  With generous Young Life guys having given the majority, I am pretty sure a large amount will be left at Grandma's house.  Ian wants to pack all things Nerf... and Jub Jub, the cat.  Jeff is happy to bring some books that have helped him get through ten years of ministry with a heart still full.  The things we will take will remind us where we have come from and who we say good bye to.  They will bring pieces of our past and our home with us to begin a new chapter.  It is pretty interesting that a house full of beautiful things can get whittled down to papers, photos, and handwritten notes.  So we plan to land in Scotland with a light load but with very full hearts.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

We are blessed to be a blessing

People ask often why we are not just storing everything.  The truth is, our storage options are limited and we don't feel the need to hold on what life looked like before moving to Scotland.  We know when we get back years from now, everything else will have changed. 

So far the emptying of the house has not been too hard.  It has not been fun seeing how much I crammed in a closet or what I have needlessly held onto for years.  But the sorting through and letting go of everything is quite freeing.  Almost everything in our house was given or handed down to us in the first place. We will take one or two suitcases and carry-on each.  We know that half of those will be filled with clothes, bedding, and towels.  The other half will be for items of the heart.  And for each of us that looks different.  I am sure Luke's will be filled with books and Levi's crammed with Legos.

The first boxes I filled to give away were done quickly.  Filled with nick knacks,  books we had read, and clothing outgrown. Easy.  But this last week I filled up the boxes slowly and deliberately.  One was filled with most of my blue glass collection I started in college.  Another with candle sticks and platters from our wedding, and mugs and plates the boys first drank and ate out of.  The two prints that have hung in every home got placed in a box and removed at least twice before the final box got taken.  My favortite blue pot is still sitting on my door step.  I am waiting for the daffodils to bloom one last time for us before giving it to a friend.  And the pile of what we will take or store is getting smaller with every box I deliver to a friend, a thrift store, or consignment shop.

It is funny how the things you have amassed and enjoyed for years can become just things.  Still meaningful, but also replaceable.  When you only have a suitcase to carry with you, you choose the few things that can't be replaced.  I think of how much time I have spent organizing and corralling all the stuff in our life.  How so much of it was not used daily.  

And it feels great to let it go.  One of my favorite sayings is an African proverb we heard at the first Young Life international meeting we went to.  It was over seven years ago and we snuck in because we were curious. At the end a man stood up and with a heavy accent shared "We are blessed to be a blessing."  He spoke about how blessed Americans were, how much we had been given.  And he encouraged us to pass it on.  To not hold on to it all.  I keep replaying that in my head as I pack another box.  It is in the giving this month, that I see how blessed we are.

For those who are curious, we hope to rent a furnished apartment or house in Scotland.  There seem to be many options for renting furnished.  If we are unable to rent furnished there are many "Charity shops" that have been described as really nice thrift shops.  Thank you for your prayers as we near the move date.  We are close to being fully funded and are still pressing ahead in the last bit to be raised.  It will be wonderful to take one more ball out of our juggling act.  The boys are ready to finish the school year well and have more time with family and friends.  If you find a box of random things on your doorstep, know that we are just passing it on.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A week of toliets and stamps

Within forty-eight hours of writing the last post I was a grumbling, complaining, mess.  Compared with the week before, my to do list was small.  Very small.  Two things written in all caps.

 Easy, I thought.  I set aside a full day for the potty issue and another three days for fundraising.

Twenty-four hours into the first item I knew I was in trouble.  I felt my grateful heart getting replaced with a nagging question of why God would give me such a strong willed child with an irrational fear of the toilet.   I will spare you the full details.  But, I will let you know that potty training, suppositories, and bounce houses do not go together...ever.  By day three of the longest days of Ian and I's life, something clicked.  Within hours all was well in the Stables household again.  Ian is fully potty trained and is already giggling about how he use to be afraid of the potty.  I am not giggling yet, but grateful for friends and a sister who reminded me that no parent can escape the humbling lesson of what we can and can't control.

Number two on the list started out a lot better.  Neat piles of letters and envelopes were stacked ready to be written in, addressed and stamped.  I sat down with Ian beside me writing his own letters.  Even the most right brained person can be left sided for a day, right?  Trying to accomplish anything left brained seemed impossible with Ian asking me to read every word he wrote.  Words that consists of 8 consonants and one vowel. By the fifteenth word, I began making up the words. He would stop me mid word saying, but there was no L in that word.  The movie Frozen once again got turned on as I licked envelopes.  The mailing is almost done.  Two days later than I wanted and with less efficiency.  Oh to be a Young Life wife who is gifted in administrative details.  

And so the week of eating humble pie and completing only two tasks is coming to a close.  And I know the lessons that get wrapped up in the hard weeks are as important as the weeks that are joyful and productive.  The days that go by slowly with wheels grinding are the ones where I am focused on me and what I can or can't do.  The days that sing a thankful melody are ones focused on God and others.  They are the same days that I notice what is overflowing instead of what is lacking.  The truth is even on the most productive day I will always be found lacking.  And so I end a grumbling week with a deeper knowledge that His grace will  be overflowing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A scattered brain and a thankful heart

I haven't written much lately.  My thoughts get scattered and then fixed on many small details.  Thoughts form and flutter never fully landing and completing.  With three boys it can feel like picking up bowling pins all day only to have one of them yell STRIKE just as I set the last pin in place.  

Today will be a late opening followed by their last dentist appointment before moving.  I will then take them to school and Ian home to play with legos while I paint the stairs.  Two dear friends will stop by, one to go through a talk she will give for Young Life club, and the other for dinner and dessert.  After a long talk at the table we will hug goodbye and I will make sure homework is done and teeth are brushed.  I will sit beside a boy deep in thought and read a chapter of Wind in the Door by  Madeline L'Engle.  And once the boys are asleep Jeff and I will sit down with the new budget and rejoice that three more people have pledged this week and talk about how the next 13% will be raised.  How to finish our punch list to rent the house and sell the van and truck, and what jobs Jeff has lined up for the week.  

It can feel overwhelming looking at the to-dos for the next two months.  I have had the chance to see many close friends move; in state and out of country.  Not one of them pretended that it was easy, graceful, or without stress.  All had the frantic last days of chaos and goodbyes.  All lived through it and adjusted within the next year.  One of them reminded me to look at what we have accomplished each week instead of what is left to be done.  Man, that helps.  Two bedrooms painted, passports for the boys, visas started.  E-mails were sent out, the window boxes painted in basement., and a load was taken to consign. A new kitchen faucet was put in, the entire acre raked and seeded, and a shed cleaned out.  Just typing it out makes me feel like we will not be swallowed up by the lists and that we are making progress.  I always remind friends here that a lot can happen in a year.  I think I will start changing that to a lot can happen in a week!

But I anticipated the long to-dos lists and late nights.  What I did not expect in this season is the complete sappiness that can ooze out when least expected.  Visiting my dad in the hospital last week I was overwhelmed with how incredibly proud I feel to have them as my parents.  To witness the grace in which they have approached these last months.  To see how they genuinely care about each nurse that came in to check stats.  To see how we are still the loudest hospital room on the hall.  There is always more laughter than tears.  My dad, mom, sister, and I loved our time together, remembering, hoping, and planing for what was next.  For that week I was crushed by gratitude.  Grateful for the parents and family I was given, undeserved, and fully blessed with.  I couldn't even watch Frozen without sniffing and dabbing and thinking about how much braver I am because of my big sister.

On Sunday a row of leaders for YL sits in front of us in church.  I listened to the sermon, Ian carefully tracing letters next to me.  And I got misty eyed remembering how I met each one.  How each, including myself has changed because of the friendship, the shared journey.   And I wonder if I will feel like this big pile of scattered mush until we leave.  It certainly doesn't help me be productive or let me feel put together in the transition.  But I would gladly hand back the appearance of order and restraint for the knowledge of His blessings.  It floods into my scattered thoughts and brings peace each time.  To be crushed by the weight of all we have been given is a beautiful way to ache.  The God in Scotland will be the same God who provided such amazing family and friends here in America.  

So the to do lists are scribbled out and pinned up.  Crossed out one by one with a thick, black line.  Small celebrations entail when a bigger item gets crossed out.    But in the midst of the lists and bowling pins getting knocked every direction, stands a grateful teary eyed child of God.  Thanks for the prayers, encouragement, and love!  I will be back to writing each week, whether the pins are set or not!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

What the past six months have taught me

Letting go of something you really want and really worked hard for is incredibly painful and confusing.  Holding hands empty and open is humbling.  It is also the best thing we can do before a God we can trust.  Empty hands are hands that can be filled.

It is best just to get the school photos even if they have the fake backdrops and cost too much.  And, never tell a 10 and 8 year old boy what a double chin is while trying to photograph them. 

  Wonder is not just for kids.  A friend, Ian, and I decided to go past the park boundaries one day this Fall.  We found an old abandoned silo and became awe struck after crawling inside and looking up.  There is nothing better for a child or adult than to explore and discover.

A lot of times I want life to look like clean boots lined up in the sun.  The photo perfect days.  The truth is, after a hike in the woods it looks more like a pile of muddy chaos.  We would miss so much if things stayed in order and clean.  To embrace the messy moments and take a picture of the rare clean ones.

Family has always been a huge part of our life.  Full of love and support.  We have been loved, filled up, and built up in the last six months.  It is hard to think about the goodbyes just around the corner.  But it is exciting to think of the adventures to come when they visit us in Scotland!

Jeff is an amazing man, husband and father.  I knew all of this before, but after this season I am know I am unbelievably blessed by his love and leadership. Can't imagine being on this adventure with anyone else!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Break out the Wellies

It is time to break out the wellies.  We are moving to NE Fife, Scotland in four short months.  Jeff and I's engagement was only four months.  We got engaged in February and were saying I do on June 9th.  Just one week after finishing my first year of teaching art.  I remember people asking why we couldn't wait until July or August.  Why in the world would we try to plan the most important day of our lives in four short months.  I would smile thinking that we had two monumental years  before, the waiting, the hoping, the crying, and broken pieces of it all.  And after two years of that we were not about wait a single month longer than we needed.  A simple wedding was planned, for an amazing love story. 

So here we are again my friends.  Two years of waiting, praying, inching forward, broken pieces of a plan we thought would unfold in a certain way.  In the middle of an ocean we were redirected in His grace to Scotland.  We are planning on moving in early June.  Just after the older boys finish school and the house is emptied and rented.  We will each take two suitcases and a carry on.  Knowing how I am with goodbyes I will laugh and cry my way through all of this.  What a painful blessing to love friends and family so deeply and  then fly across and ocean to live.

We are so incredibly excited.  It hard to capture in words how much we feel this is the right place for us.  How much peace we have had after such a long surrendering of wills.  The people Jeff has met in Fife have been incredibly supportive and are excited to welcome our family and be a part of this next chapter.

The revised budget is in also.  We are thrilled to know that we are so very close to being fully funded.  We are hoping the remaining comes in full in the next month or two.    Then we will be able to focus on all the things that need to happen to launch a family of five overseas.

Four months seems a bit crazy to make it all happen.  But after two years, it almost feels too long to wait!  If you would like to be put onto Jeff more informative e-mail list or help in anyway please contact him:
I will continue to ramble on through the blog. Thanks for staying with us through the journey.  We can't wait to share the next part with you!