Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Belly Laughing

"One Joy shatters a hundred griefs." -Chinese proverb 
We just got back from five days in Colorado Springs, CO.  Cross Cultural Orientation 2013.  From morning until late afternoon we sat and discussed almost every topic in the closed white binders on our tables.  Taking notes and sharing our hopes and fears. Carefully going through how to file taxes overseas, passports, visas, culture shock, re-entry, and a host of other topics.  The black letters neatly typed explaining each topic in detail as six YL International staff gently explained the differences and personal stories surrounding them.  Seventeen sets of eyes reading and scanning the room and speakers.  Seventeen of us trying to figure out what the next year will look like in Basque Country, Scotland, Hong Kong, Singapore and beyond.  As the days leaned into evenings we all began to realize our next year will not be neat and tidy like the carefully typed binder.  It will be filled in with messy scribbles, side notes and smears of ink. The evidence of the steps of faith that stretch out and often fail to reach.  The common theme being that it will be hard.  It will be really hard at times.  But that it will be really good too.  Rarely is there much in life that is wonderful without the cost of pain involved.  And Jesus was very clear that if we are to live a life that seeks Him we will not always feel good, not always feel comfortable.  That in order to live for Him we must die to our self, our wants, our agenda, sometimes even our dreams.  His ways are so much better anyway, but there is a lot of me that can get in the way. 

After dinner each evening we would all pile into a suite at the Hotel. We would share about the country we were heading to, play games, and eat chocolate. Late into the night when I crept back into our room I would look at my cheeks, red from laughing so hard. I would suck in my stomach and feel the pinch from the belly laughing ease for a moment. I would wash off the smudged mascara and climb into bed feeling very much alive and not nearly as afraid. Staring in the dark I began to think about how we all get pretty good at walking through pain. We don't really have a choice.  We all pass the lessons of heart ache and loss. We might stumble along, but we get through them. And this year has been wrapped up in a lot of those things. But the laughter in life is a choice to be made.  That night I could not remember the last time I laughed until sides ached and face puffed up. I had laughed. I had laughed at Levi's antics and the way Ian formed new phrases. I chuckled at Jeff's candid remarks and grinned with pride when Luke expressed his thoughts before bed. But I had not belly laughed in a long, long time.

 Joy as our strength. Growing up mom always closed her prayers with that simple request, and she still lives it.  I know how I will close my prayers this year. That God will allow us to belly laugh as much as we struggle. That Luke, Levi, and Ian will learn to laugh a messy, loud laugh as they walk out the difficult things with us. It is hard to be afraid when your laughing. And I am pretty sure hearts of friends and family knit together tighter when we are willing to laugh as we stretch forward in life. I am so grateful for the hearts I got to see in Colorado, for the friends made, the lessons received, and especially the belly laughs.

"She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come."
Proverbs 31:25