I have always had trouble getting my mind to calm down. Call it anxiety, ADD, enthusiasm or free spirited– whatever it is that’s racing in my mind in that moment, it’s difficult for me to make it stop. Having moved out of our house in the beginning of June, and now finishing week one of a 7 week trip in Europe… there has been no lack of things to think about. Our last day of work was last Friday and we are officially in limbo. And that is a really strange feeling. We have gotten rid of most of what we own, and stuffed the rest in boxes and suitcases. And suddenly someone asking me for my address or where I live has turned into a stress inducing moment.
The “war” I had been feeling for most of the year continued for a while. Our car was stolen right before Easter, and I just lost my dear friend Sanna to stomach cancer. I have never been really close to someone with terminal caner before, and being with Sanna while she was facing the end of this life was without a doubt one of the most painful, and maturing things I have experienced. In February, we planned my trip to visit her in May, and communication had been tough leading up to the visit so I really was not sure what her condition would be upon my arrival. I was able to be with her for a week, and she went to be with the Lord 4 days later. As painful as it was loosing my friend, I feel overwhelmingly honored to have been with her and her family in that time. The last thing I got to say to Sanna is that being with her made my faith stronger.
Sanna was an incredibly strong woman. Independent, smart, faithful. She knows who she is, and she’s good with who you are too. And I believe that she reflected so well the love Christ has for us. I always feel extremely welcome in her home…. but not in a southern hospitality kinda way…. more in a – “this is my life, come join if you’d like”- kinda way. Our friendship has always been filled with deep discussions about all the countries Sanna has lived in, cultural nuances and new things she has learned (Sanna is originally from Finland but lived/ traveled in many countries). In a time when I desperately needed someone to give me a little elbow nudge towards marriage, Sanna outlined what being a incredible wife looks like, and is all of my mom goals. When I called and told her I was moving to Greece she was the friend that was able to tell me with actual experience what it might feel like to move to a different country.
Now we are in Brussels at a month long training, followed by apartment shopping in Athens. We just finished our first week. We have talked about ethnography, culture shock, and learned how to get around on public transportation in a big city where you can’t read the language. Its been helpful. We are here with about 35 people, some in the training with us, and some here as staff/ trainers. After our first week I feel tired, and excited. I think there is such an interesting phenomenon with travel where you think that every second has to be exciting, and the fear of missing a chance to do something/ learn something/ or experience something is brutal. However, it’s really important for us to know when we move to Greece it’s not a “trip.” Its just our life going on in another place. I think that’s one reason the training is a month. Sharing living space and bathrooms 100% of the time with a bunch of people for a whole month… you can’t fake it through that. You won’t last. If you’re me you’ll have a break down on the first day and just get it over with. 🙂 I am trying to keep the perspective that this kinda crazy next couple months is just life. It’s in a new place, and I am experiencing new things, but I really believe that if we (all people) wait for life to “settle down” and for things to “get back to normal” we will never get to that mythical place, and we will completely miss the beauty of life in front of us that each day presents all its own.
My experiences in the last 6 months have taught me to see people in a different way. There were days when I was so broken, that I was shocked that I could make it through the day without people noticing how badly I was hurting on the inside. I was not resisting being honest because I was scared of people’s reactions, or felt like I wasn’t in a safe space— on the contrary, I felt very loved and supported. But sometimes it feels like in order to just make it through the day you have to keep your head down and keep moving. “How are you doing?” answered with complete honesty has the potential to completely derail a day. And sometimes it did.
I am excited to be at training, but honestly it feels like our training started a long time ago. We are so thankful for everything we learned at Perimeter, and in Clarkston. For what our parents, teachers, pastors, siblings and friends have poured into us along the way. And that absolutely includes all the painful experiences of the past six months. I have a whole new set of experiences to help me empathize with other people, particularly in grief. I really had not experienced much loss at all, and given a focus of our work in Greece being with refugees, it is important to able to empathize with our friends fleeing the middle east. Not that my loss is anything like theirs, I know that. But I now know what it feels like to not think you will make it through the day, and having to trust that Jesus will get you there. I can now relate to what it feels like to leave the house with your smile plastered on just trying to pray your way towards bedtime. My eyes have been opened to the reality that I never— NEVER — know what someone is going through. They might seem completely put together on the outside, or maybe they seem really mean and impatient, either way I just don’t know. The more I live the more I learn to fight to give others the benefit of the doubt… because you just have no idea what their background is or what they are going through. This is something I see in Jesus. He is great (well, perfect) at seeing us as whole people. He doesn’t shame me for my mistakes, and cast me out when I can’t get it together. I think He says, “Come to me, my child. I see you, I know you, and I love you. You don’t have to explain, defend, or preform. I’ve got you covered.” We are free to fall at His feet, and be. Praise the Lord.
Here are a few pictures of the past few months, and us in Belgium. Enjoy!
These are Sanna’s beautiful daughters Freja (9) and Esther (4).
And her awesome son Elijah (8).
Freja and Elijah in their element- outside and total focus on for their version red-light-green-light.
It as sad to leave our sweet little Clarkston home. Thank you SOOO much for all our friends and family that helped!
At a training we went to in June called Living in Grace
with our new friend, Maya (MTW Staff).
Celebrating sister Emily and her fiance Rob! This was at their first wedding shower- it was a fun fiesta! We will celebrate their soon-to-be marriage in September!
Joe and I went with some friends to Bruges and Gent over the weekend for a little exploring, and break from our training. You simply MUST go to Bruges!
Standing in the North Sea with friends Kelly and Andrew- they are on their way to serve in Bogata, Columbia!
While we were in Gent Joe somehow became part of a scavenger hunt in a bachelorette party 🙂
While we are here for the month we are part of a church that is Armenian/ Turkish. We went for the first time this morning and the pastor asked if Joe would say something to the congregation. He shared encouragement about trusting in God and did a great job.
Not gunna lie… Brussels is not exactly sunny ha. Thank you Debra for our rain jackets! We NEED them!