Battlefield 8 p.m.

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Bedtimes around our house lately do not look anything like this picture.  In fact, moments like the one pictured feel so rare these days, which is why I tried to capture the peace and quiet in picture form.  I got the creative writing bug the other day and decided to try and capture what our evenings have looked like lately.

***Disclaimer: The following short story is not meant to be alarming and is not some attempt at an online cry for help.  I do realize that this stage of life is brief and while bedtimes might be especially intense and wearing at times, there are plenty of heart-full moments through out the day and plenty of great moments with my children.  That being said, you may now read on. 🙂

 

Battlefield 8 p.m.  

“Come over here Cameron Bridger,” I said, my tone sharpening by the third time.  He swayed his body and made sounds as if he were in pain.

“I don’t want to go to bed,” he whined.  He grimaced and then collapsed onto the floor.  I rolled my eyes.

“Come over here Cameron Bridger, it’s time for bed.”  We were an hour and thirty minutes into the nightly dance.  Each time I felt as if the night were coming to a close, he erupted in anger or energy or both.  I softly told him it was time to brush his teeth and as soon as it rolled off of my tongue he rolled to the floor like dry ice pouring out of a cauldron.  No matter how many exciting things we’d done that day he had never seen enough, never tasted enough, never had enough.  He could never give in to the fact that it was now dark outside and the day’s adventures had come to a close.  As long as he could find a light switch there was still adventure to be had.

She, on the other hand, lay snugly in her blanket, eyes wide, not making a sound.  Her protest was due to begin soon.  Her eyes shifted back and forth, trying to find something to explain all the commotion.  She gripped her hands together and twiddled her fingers before trying to shove both fists into her mouth in one sudden movement.

He screeched for someone to come lay with him and bed.

She then shrieked for someone to come pick her up.

My dinner sat quietly on the table, cold and aloof.

I glanced at my husband.  His eyes told me that he would help however was needed.  I looked back and forth between the child laying on the floor in the doorway to his bedroom and the smaller one in her tiny bassinet.  My patience had run out four hours earlier so my choice would be for him to get both to sleep while I curled up on the far side of our bed with a remote and a glass of something sharp.

Each evening my husband and I had conversations with our eyes because with actual words we were constantly interrupted  His told me that I was doing a great job and reminded me that it would not always be like this.  My eyes questioned his sincerity by asking if we would ever spend time alone together again.  His eyes answered back, ‘yes’ and so we split off once again, each with one of our children, trying to coerce them to sleep so we could have a few moments together before we had to retire ourselves.

On some nights it worked, but on most it didn’t.  It had only been three months since she’d been born.  Sometimes it felt like just yesterday and other times I felt as though my husband and I were nearing a mature age.  We’d gone on our first date in six months just two weeks earlier.  That day had been so frazzled for me that as he escorted me to dinner I smeared on some lip gloss, hoping to detract from the yoga pants and muddy tennis shoes that accompanied my plain face and greasy hair.  He was just happy to finally be on a date with me.  I was just unhappy that I looked exactly like I had twelve hours earlier when I awoke as I did on our so-called date.

We chatted through dinner, mostly about how it felt so strange to actually be alone and I ordered a single bowl of clam chowder because my yoga pants seemed to disqualify me from the seared pork chop and potatoes.  A girl on a date in yoga pants and a pony tail is probably worth about as much as a bowl of clam chowder and maybe a slice of sourdough, or at least that’s how it felt.

Sometimes I longed for more free time like I once had.  We used to cook dinners together and stay up late watching whatever new series was on and talking about how one day it would be so great to have babies…we used to kiss a lot and eat slow dinners full of conversation.  But then again, life felt meaningful.  In moments of clarity when I was drinking a hot cup of coffee I knew that it was all worth it.  My babies were worth it.

From down the hall I could hear the clatter of toys as the older one dumped out his toy bin all over the floor.  Seconds later the baby went off like an alarm.  My husband swooped in and pick up the baby, walking her around while I slowly made my way down the dark hallway to the toddler who held onto a ruler and swung it around like a sword.  I squinted my eyes and prayed that he might just fall over into a deep sleep so that I didn’t have to put in so much effort to calm him down.

By 9:30 both babies were sleeping so I brushed my teeth slowly then crawled in next to the older one for a moment just because I suddenly missed him.  I breathed in deep, smelling his hair and trying to store the sweet smell in my memory bank.  The little one was sleeping hard, arms out at wing span, eyes darting around beneath her eyelids.  Something within me missed their loud voices and cries.  Something else within me told the other part of me that I was crazy.

As I slipped under the covers next to my husband his eyes told me that it wasn’t always going to be like this.  My eyes agreed with his and that thought somehow brought me relief and sorrow both at the same time.  Someday 8 p.m. would be quiet and I will be wishing that I could fit back into my yoga pants and rock and fussy baby to sleep.

I closed my eyes and tried not to think about waking up in a few hours for her first feeding.

 

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Weekend Recap

It’s an overcast Sunday afternoon and I am sitting in the cutest little coffee shop in the cutest little touristy town between San Luis Obispo and San Fransisco: Carmel-by-the-Sea.  I am outnumbered by Europeans and well-groomed dogs by 10-1.  Jon is working on some calculus to prepare for his final next week.  I’m sipping a lovely vanilla latte and doing some reading in The Birth Book between thinking about what I learned this weekend in the documentary Food Matters.

Friday morning Jon and I drove up to Monterey, California to spend a couple days working at the Christian music festival Spirit West Coast.  The radio station I work for sent us and a few others to set up a booth and spend certain parts of the day and night talking with passerby-ers.  In our free time, we got to check out some of the music at the festival and explore.  Jon was excited to experience legendary guitar player, Phil Keaggy, and came back to the booth glowing from a musical high.  My favorite act was comedian Bob Smiley who really does manage to entertain while keeping it clean.  AND, on Friday evening we got to enjoy a fancy crab dinner at  Monterey’s Fisherman’s Warf after talking about it and salivating over it for the past three months.  Gotta love per diem money.

In the past week I’ve really started to feel this baby’s growth spurt taking place.  At certain times I can feel my muscles and ligaments starting to stretch and pull in directions they’ve never gone before.  And right along with them is my mood.  I wake up one morning feeling happy and refreshed and I wake up the next feeling exhausted and undoubtedly grumpy, for no apparent reason.

But of course it’s all been worth it and in just one short month we will find out whether we are having a girl or a boy!  It’s crazy to think that in another four weeks I will be halfway there.  Wow!

So this morning we enjoyed a lazy morning at the Comfort Inn in Monterey.  We actually got to say good morning to each other three separate times seeing as our room was right next door to the maid’s closet and to some people who got our room mixed up with someone else’s and came banging on our door at 7 am.  But hey, we were able to catch some Shark Week as we got ready so really, how can we complain?  Then we ventured over to Carmel.

Fun fact about Carmel: It is illegal to wear high-heel shoes without a permit.  This law was enacted to prevent lawsuits arising from tripping accidents caused by the steep, irregular pavement that lines the streets in Carmel.  Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve seen any high heels so far today.

Homesick

I never got too homesick during college.  Washington State University was a manageable hour and a half drive from Spokane, Washington through some lovely wheat fields and plenty of rest stops along the way.  Plus, with scheduled visits home over Thanksgiving Break, Christmas Break, Spring Break and Summer Vacation, I never had much of a chance to adequately miss my family or the place where I grew up.  There was always that “next time” just a few months down the road.

However, since moving to San Luis Obispo, California in the summer of 2008, my trips back home have become much more few and far between.  The tiny airport with significantly high ticket prices doesn’t help either.  Every trip home or somewhere far away turns into quite the ordeal since we end up driving three and a half hours north before flying out of San Jose or Oakland.  Sigh, I’m making this out to be such a sad story, aren’t I?

Sorry.  I think pregnancy has been doing this to me.  Lately, the range of emotions that I normally feel are now emotions on steroids.  The summer season hasn’t been helping much either.  This summer my mind has been taken captive by the Ghost of Summer Past.

Memories of long, sunny weekends out at my family’s cabin at Waitts Lake keep creeping into my mind mid-day…

The tackle shop with penny candy on the side of the two lane highway just a few miles before Clayton’s soft serve ice cream where forty-nine percent of the time my dad would let us stop and get a treat.

Fighting with my sister over who got to help grandpa stir the onion powder packet into the sour cream when making onion dip.

The taste of Squirt soda and how my grandparents always kept a decent supply on hand.

Hot afternoons spent playing rounds and rounds of Skip-Bo out on the deck that the men in my family built when I was three.

Sleeping outside beneath the stars on cots because the pull out couches put permanent cricks in your neck.

The fact that my dad was the worst EVER at applying sunscreen.  He  would always put too much in his hand and then wipe a streak or two of the cold stuff down our backs and shoulders without warming it up first in his hands.  I hated that, and I would keep telling him that he missed a spot until I could feel my whole back covered.

Eating fried chicken and Jo-Jo’s on the speedboat between sessions of inner tubing and learning how to water ski.

Getting tickled until we screamed “Monkey’s Uncle!!!” at the top of our lungs.

Then with my mom, I have memories of hot summer nights in that little pink house…

My mom would set up two huge floor fans that would blast air through the house and we’d all just wear t-shirts to bed and sleep on top of our covers.

We ate lots of fresh raspberries thanks to the large raspberry bush growing up in our backyard.

I’d offer to mow the lawn and wash the car when I would get motivated to make a little extra money.

Once the sun was almost down, we’d drive over to Joe Albi Stadium to let our dogs run without a leash.  Sometimes we would spend an hour just trying to get our German Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix back into the car – she loved to run.

My mom liked to sleep in late on Saturday mornings so my sister and I would always eat as much sugar cereal as possible before she woke up.  During the week we were only allowed to eat healthy cereals like Kix or Cheerios, but on weekends we had a free pass to break into the Cocoa Puffs and Fruit Loops and we always took complete advantage of the occasion.

And this is just the mere surface of my reminiscing.

Maybe it’s because this summer I haven’t had much of a summer between the moderate weather and the amount of time I’ve spent indoors resting.  Probably because I’m friends with too many younger people on Facebook who still enjoy summer vacations and post about all the adventures they’re embarking on daily.  I’m thinking of de-friending all those socialites. 

Maybe that’s part of it, but I think more of it is due to the fact that something about being pregnant really makes me long for my family and causes me to cling to happy childhood memories, although I’m not really sure why.  I’m not even going to try and understand all the powerful and mysterious forces manipulating my body and my emotions during this season.

So more than any specific kind of food, I’ve been craving spending time with my parents.  Nothing spectacular, just wanting to hang around with them and watch them help them cook dinner, watch TV, sit outside on the deck and snuggle with the dogs.

This week I started thinking of ways that I could pull off a three day trip home in August.  A full day at each parent’s house is just enough time to say hi and bye with a few memories in between, but hey, at this point I’ll take it!

Gah, if only I could fly!

DIY Wedding Reminiscing

One year ago I was spending much of my free time with a rake in my hand, covered in dust, with a growing to-do list shoved in the back pocket of my blue jeans.  I wasn’t sleeping very well at night.  I wasn’t fully awake during the day.  And even though my wedding was still 19 days away, I had gradually been packing my honeymoon suitcase for about two weeks already.

The wedding site was coming along, but we still had a long way to go.  The hundred year old milking barn was now free from the piles of hay and cow manure, but the decomposed granite floor still needed to be compacted and the dance floor still needed to be built and stained.  The guys were trying to make sure we could get electricity to my home-made chandelier and I was eating granola bars and drinking Coke to keep myself from passing out.  I was still trying to write my vows during any spare moment I could find and putting myself through grueling, sweaty Insanity workouts every other day to make sure that on my wedding day, my bum felt like steel.

Honestly, when I look back at the month leading up to my wedding I can’t help but laugh at myself.  I was on overdrive and it’s a miracle I didn’t crash and burn before the big day arrived.  Everything about my wedding was DIY since we chose to get married in a field that cows grazed in, on a ranch that had never hosted any kind of event before, and we wanted to party in a barn that had sharp objects hanging from the ceiling above the dead rats and a big ‘ol mess.  There really should have been TV cameras there to capture the Extreme Wedding Makeover.

BUT, it all worked out.  Everything looked great and the Lord gave us 85 and sunshine after a week of overcast skies and temps in the 60s.  And I married Jon.  Bliss.

 Before

After

More wedding reminiscing to come, I’m sure…

The Art of Story Telling

This afternoon was peaceful and sunny and I got to spend thirty minutes of it driving down the 101 to Santa Maria to attend a seminar for my job.  About twenty of us gathered in the Radisson Hotel’s small conference room to attend a seminar called StorySelling for Non Profits. 

I was instantly jealous of the man who lead the seminar.  His job is to help businesses and people learn how to tell a story in a way that can produce a desired outcome.  He talked about what kind of stories to use and then broke it down even further describing what kinds of things are important when telling a story.  So his job title literally is “Master Storyteller.”  Again, I’m very jealous.  So as you can imagine, the seminar was highly entertaining as he, of course, constantly used stories to help teach us and relay his message.   

It made me think a lot about what I love to do.  I love to write.  To communicate things.  I’d like to be better at standing up in front of an audience and speaking, but I’ll admit that I’m much more comfortable communicating from behind a computer screen.  I have a lot in my head and sometimes it doesn’t all come out right when I don’t have the grace to type a sentence over three times before it sounds right. 

But today also made me think a lot about the Gospel Story.  Sometimes I’ve heard it referred to as the gospel, and other times it’s called the gospel story.  But after experiencing this seminar today, I think that “gospel story” makes more sense because when we as Christians simply state facts about what happened: 

  • Jesus came to the earth for us, he died for our sins, he rose again and now we can believe in Him and live our lives for him…

I think a lot of times we lose our audience just after we say “Jesus.”  Not that anything I stated above is false.  It’s just that no matter what the topic is, listing off facts or information about something isn’t very interesting.  Facts allow your mind wander and by the time you’re done telling someone about how the Son of God died for them they are already thinking about what flavor of smoothie they are going to order on their lunch break.

But on the other hand stories captivate an audience.  They pull you in.  They tug on your heart strings and leave you bubbling with emotion by creating a metaphor in which the listener can see himself within the story. 

So what does this mean in terms of how I present the gospel?  I don’t really know yet.  I need a lot more time to think about it than the thirty minutes I had driving home from Santa Maria.  But I do know that I don’t ever want to talk about my Lord and Savior in a way that’s boring.  Because the gospel story is riveting!  It’s dramatic and like we as Christians know, it illicits an immediate response.  However I think sometimes we tell it, I tell it, in the same fashion that we would use to talk about what we ate for lunch yesterday; it’s not very exciting. 

So maybe in the coming days I will craft a story that tells the gospel in a way that when I am talking with someone and the Lord gives me an opportunity, instead of saying “Have you heard about how Jesus did this for you…?”  I will pause and say, “If you have a moment, I would love to tell you the most amazing story you have every heard.” 

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a section of my notes from the seminar today.

5 Secrets To Becoming A Master Story Teller

1.      Listen Before You Speak

  •         Know who you’re talking to and what they care about

2.      Tell What’s True In You

  • people see through smoke screens.  Tell a true story.  People can feel when they’re being lied to.

3.      A Hero With A Problem

  • Make sure you have a problem or conflict point in the story.  There must be an “overcoming point” or conflict resolution in each good story

4.      Get Hooked On A Feeling

  • People are more motivated by how they feel about something than the logic behind it
  • So use details
  • Pause and see it (aka: act it out in your facial expressions and body language)
  • Feel it (you must “feel your story” as you tell it.  Otherwise people will see that you don’t really believe it yourself)

5.      And Your Point Is…?

  • Know your point in advance.  What do you want your listeners to do after hearing your story?
  • Throw out what doesn’t contribute to your overall point
  • Keep it short and sweet

Diary Of A Runaway

I’ve always had dirty shoes.  Dust-covered, worn in, high mileage shoes.  Well, at least figuratively speaking.  I like adventure.  I like new beginnings.  But I’m not as naturally inclined to stick around, stick it out, and finish what I started.  I’m the “ping” and I tend to leave the “pong” for someone else.

My life could easily be charted out in a series of from-here-to-there moves.  From mom’s house to dad’s.  Then back to mom’s.  Then repeat a thousand  times.  From one friend to the next.   One dorm room to another.  One mistake in a series of more.  One shallow relationship in the whole string of them.   From one summer job to the next summer trip.  Then finally came “The Big Move” to California.  And that’s the segment of the chart I’m still wrestling through because for once in my life I am attempting to stick something out till the end, or at least until God changes my course for me, versus pulling the plug prematurely.

I looked in the mirror today and was practically shocked by my appearance.  My once shimmering blonde hair is now a color the bottle called Dark Auburn which is brownish but gleams red in the sunlight.  My short summer bob has grown out to where it falls nicely just below my shoulders.  My jeans are skinnier.  And black.  I own a leather (well, pleather) jacket.  I have strange shoes on my feet made out of a single piece of cloth.  My clothes range from exciting browns and grays to the occasional burst of color or blue.  Not like anyone cares, but to me its representative.  I’m a firm believer fashion is representative of a person, at least to a certain degree.  It speaks of who you are, what you care about, how you view yourself.  Well lately as I’ve been attempting to mature, to find a more solid grounding in my life, and to grow into these skinnier pants of mine I think subconsciously I’ve traded in my rebellious and spontaneous strappy tank tops for more of an artistic view of things.  I know I’m weird, but this kind of stuff matters to me.  I actually do think like this.

So as my fashion displays, I’m in a bit of a dark period.  Not in a depressing, cry-my-eyes-out kind of way.  But in my mind, my heart, and my life in general I’m transitioning, yet again.  Call it a voyage, a walk in the night, or a dark night of the soul even.  And I’m attempting to go against the strong undertow of the current and break through some of the rather tall dam walls that are standing in my way.  I’m attempting to stay put, and hardest of all to be happy about it.  And not just happy, really I’m shooting for ecstatic.

I rounded a corner yesterday as I finally let forgiveness flood my heart, looked my demons in the eye and told them so long and farewell.  So today is feeling different.  Lighter.  More free.  It feels really good.  I sang a Chris Tomlin song at the top of my lungs on the freeway today… “Like a rolling stone, like a runaway train, no more turning back, no more yesterdays, my heart is free no chains on me, God you raise me up, up from the grave, the cross before me I’m on my way, my heart is free, no chains on me.” I decided that if I can program my internal stereo to constantly sing Chris Tomlin songs I would inevitably have good days more often than not.

I also drove by the teeny tiny San Luis Obispo airport.  I’m extremely sentimental and for some reason this airport feels special to me.  Maybe because when I landed here it was the first place I saw so internally I feel the need to return to the Mother Ship every now and then just to say hi.  But it’s like my reminder.  My physical representation of God’s grace and the free-will He gives.  Because God will not hold me here.  He granted me the grace to come here on a one-way ticket and if I choose to remove myself all I have to do is buy another one-way (and convince my husband to join me I suppose).  Kind of like an alcoholic who passes by the liquor store just to remember how things used to be; knowing he could go in but doesn’t dare to.  It’s like that I suppose.  A reminder that my life here was, and still is, a gift.  So I passed it by, drove slow enough and just long enough to scoff at the idea of actually leaving it all behind.  And with that I cranked the stereo back up.

In a world where homes aren’t really homes and where families break up, I’m setting my sights extremely high.  It will be a miracle if I make it.  Which is why I’m expectant because I happen to know someone who loves to do a good miracle.

For once in my life I’m not going to run.

Mission: Kidwells Become Runners By Christmas

On November 15th of last year, a Monday, Jon and I set out to fulfill one of the highest and noblest of callings.  Through much hardship and training we were destined to leave behind the quiet comfort of our small, but fashionable apartment a few days a week and embark on forty minute long adventure sessions throughout the neighborhoods of west San Luis Obispo.  We were ferociously committed to claiming the coveted title of “Runner” and we set ourselves a goal of attaining such a status by the time Christmas rolled around. 

It all started, however, not out of a burning passion to run but out of my desire to keep Jon from whining about how he never had time to get outside and be active anymore.  I can say this without guilt of making him sound bad because in our relationship, ninety-nine percent of the time I am the one who is whining.  So on the rare occasions that Jon does begin to whine, it stands out like a farmer in New York City.  Completely out of place and I didn’t care for it.  So I came up with a solution.  “Why don’t we start running Jon?”  “I hate running.”  “Oh…”

So we spent a week or two coming up with ideas of different physically active hobbies we could get into.  The problem was that with each suggestion the likelihood that we would actually consistently continue to take part in that particular hobby was slim.  Surfing included cold water temperatures and the hassle of hauling the boards to the beach without a truck.  Biking seemed like it would get boring too quickly and I have always despised that burning feeling you get in your legs after a while.  Rock climbing involved paying for a membership at a local climbing wall.  Tennis failed because we weren’t good enough at playing to keep a rally going on very long, meaning that the level of physical intensity of tennis fell at about a two.  Jon ruled out yoga and pilates almost immediately because last year a friend took us to a local Bikram yoga class and I think Jon almost cried publicly.  So after this whole run-around of suggestions, the idea of running seemed to emerge as the obvious, inexpensive, convenient, and literally the only reasonable option. 

The first couple times we went running  sadly resembled the opening episodes of a Biggest Loser season with Jon as the loser and me as Jillian.  He hated it and wasn’t able to carry on a conversation because he was too focused on finding the will to continue.  I, on the other hand, also wondered if I could merge my life-long solo activity into a social one.  Growing up, running was my opportunity to get away from it all.  I relied on running to help clear my head and with the help of my iPod I entered into whatever kind of reality I preferred for that moment.  So it was difficult for both of us and also challenging to pull ourselves up and out of bed while the sun was still not shining and when our apartment felt cold. 

However something happened on run number five.  Up until that point we had been running before work around Laguna Lake until our lungs said, “no more”, but for run number five we decided to go in the evening after work and Jon used his Google Map skills to chart us a course where he could determine the length and grid ahead of time.  Bingo!  Jon has this thing for Google Maps and charting a course that goes way back to his trip to Europe and his adventurous, backpacker, thrill-seeker, travel guru days.  And because of his ahead of time planning, he actually enjoyed the run and was motivated enough to finish the course without my verbal help. 

After that day, things really took off and a few days later Jon informed me that he was going on a run without me.  I was baffled.  Then he informed me that he would be running a full five miles which was further than either of us had ever run together.  It’s a proud day and a sad one when the student far surpasses the teacher in both motivation and ability.  But he came back successful and sweaty and that was the day our real running adventures began. 

Since then we have enjoyed many more runs around town and the occasional special run on the Bob Jones Trail or up and over the sand dunes on the stretch of beach in Morro Bay.  One time we parked at the Madonna Inn and set off to tackle the Lemon Grove Trail on Madonna Mountain and ended up on the other side of downtown, trying to make it back to the car before dark.  My favorite excursion being the time we ran right along the water line of the ocean, where we joined the Snowy Plovers and receded along with the water and then sprinted for dry sand when the waves came tumbling into shore to devour our tennis shoes.  Snowy Plovers are my favorite bird and I like to mimic their strange but cute tendencies. 

And now that we have become accustomed to the rhythm of running together and our bodies have since adjusted to the physical output, running has become our favorite way to unwind from a busy day of mundane work in an office building.  In my opinion we are becoming more like old people at a young age, meaning we can do almost anything together and just enjoy the other’s company. 

This time of year the sun in just setting about the time we hit our halfway point and as we stride we talk about what’s happened, what’s happening and what’s just up ahead for us.  We admire all of the big and beautiful houses and talk about which ones we would want to buy if we had the means to.  Then we repent to the Lord because if we are ever given the ability to own a nice home in San Luis Obispo county it should be for his uses and glory, not for our own comfort.  Next we quote Paul Washer sermons to each other and talk about moving overseas so that we don’t fall into the trap of the American Dream of constantly upgrading our lifestyle and accommodations.  Our ongoing game is to make fun of all the ridiculous things people are watching on TV as we run by and look in their windows.  Finally, to further lighten the mood we talk about baby names because I am becoming increasingly obsessed with baby names and I don’t know why.                  

I keep talking about running a 10k this year while Jon still suggests he is marathon-bound one day.  For me on the other hand I am content running the daily short races and am not sure my knees would carry me through the wear-and-tear of a marathon anyway.  Soccer was brutal on my knees.  So, Mission: Kidwells Become Runners By Christmas?  Mission accomplished.

A Drive Through Spokane

The grayish-blue winter sky faded into the gray cityscape built of weathered buildings and road-side slush residue.  We were driving across town, yet again.  It was February.  And there was a great need for the north-south freeway to be finished.

A few new things had popped up around town, but for the most part things looked the same.  A little worse actually, as the harsh winters had continued to take a toll on all the new and old structures and created increasingly speckled pothole roads.   The People’s Gallery art wall on the Maple Street Bridge appeared mostly faded, resembling a sidewalk chalk mural the morning after a light rain.  And a couple of my favorite local shops were now closed.      

Sweatpants ran rampant throughout the city.  At least that’s what Jon said.  As an outsider of the Pacific Northwest that was his main observation.   As a California native he explained to me that Californians only wear sweats if they are sick or if it’s past 11pm in a grocery store.  I explained to him that in the Pacific Northwest sweats are a way of life, and on many occasions they are considered fashionable.  He didn’t believe me until he kept seeing various demographics of people wearing sweats around town.  He still thought it was weird. 

After maneuvering through strange road layouts and pinning down frustrations about abnormally slow speed limits we finally made it to church where there was a fresh pot of coffee waiting for us just inside the double doors.  Quite possibly the most endearing thing about the Pacific Northwest is the free coffee before, during and after church services.  I miss that.  And with the long, harsh winters I think the people need it.  My friend who regularly attends there says that each week a few homeless people come in and sit on the floor in the back of the church just to drink the coffee.  I think that’s really cool.

The Awkwardness of Airports

Sitting in airports makes me completely uncomfortable.   There are few places in the world where so many people, from so many different walks of life are all gathered in a single place with nothing to do.  Everybody is bored, or reading, or nowadays they’re likely on a laptop or texting.  One third of people are physically here but by the look on their faces mentally they are somewhere far, far away.  Everyone is coming and going and caught in the middle of unfolding stories of life that they’re trying to figure out while purposfully avoiding eye contact with everyone else in the vicinity.  And I’m writing because I’m not sure what to do in situations like this.

This morning Jon and I are on a trek up to Washington to spend a week with my family.  We drove from San Luis Obispo to Oakland last night where we stayed in a Sleep, Park ‘N Ride hotel and we awoke this morning to billows of marijuana smoke coming in through our window because our neighbor on the floor below us was enjoying his 6am fix.  We ate a quick breakfast of dried out toast and Fruit Loops at the hotel’s continental breakfast and then we caught our shuttle to the Oakland airport.

And now at the airport, waiting for our flight I’m uncomfortable.  Because in moments like this I can’t decide how I should live out my Christianity.  And suddenly simply believing in God doesn’t seem to cut it.  It doesn’t seem to be changing the world unless I let the Lord Jesus live through me in moments like this.  But my coffee is still kicking in and I fear that by the time I wake up and decide what I should do I will already be on the plane on my way to somewhere else.

Sometimes I wonder if I complicate what God is really asking me to do.  Yet at the same time I am afraid to simply soothe myself, saying that just to go through my day with a positive attitude is enough.  As if me just breathing is enough to fulfill the Great Commission.  I have a reoccuring daydream at airports.  They usually consist of me stepping up on top of a chair and beginning to speak out all kinds of riveting things about God.  Telling the people that there is something worthwhile to hope in.  Soon a crowd is gathering to hear the good news and even the security guards who should be taking action against me can’t help but pull up a chair and listen to the dramatic illustration of  the greatest love story of all time.  However, as I imagine these epic scenarios my legs grow vines that wrap around the base of my chair and pretty soon I have roots that go twenty feet deep into the floor.

And I get really uncomfortable.  Stuck in between what I long to do and what I’m really willing to carry out at this moment.  However, all my thoughts and prayers about wanting to do something worthwhile with my day of travel didn’t go to waste.  After sitting around thinking about things for a while it was time to board our plane.  And after taking my sweet time to get my things together we were the second to last people boarding the aircraft.  Not a big deal until we realized that this was an open seating flight and because of my slowness Jon and I were likely going to be sitting on opposite ends of the plane.  Awesome.

Luckily, when we walked onto the plane it was not a full flight but almost every middle seat was open.  Again, really awkward.   Airports are awkward but it might be even more uncomfortable trying to choose which middle seat to take because you know that no matter who you sit next to they will be highly annoyed that someone ruined their opportunity for a spacious flight.  So we headed for the back of the plane hoping to find a few seats still open for us.  Near the back there were a few rows left with only one person seated so I carefully scanned each person, sizing them up, trying to determine their level of awkwardness so that i could choose who would be the least awkward person to sit next to.  There was a younger guy reading a book with headphones on that looked strangely angry and a middle age businessman that seemed to have some allergy symptoms going on so i took the middle seat next to a friendly looking 60-ish year-old Indian woman who was quietly playing with her phone.  She looked safe and i figured she may not even speak English, therefore making her a promising candidate for my flight company.

She didn’t say much at first and eventually we made a little bit of small talk, exchanging our names and such.  I pulled out my pillow to prepare to sleep through the next one hour and forty-one minutes of air time, but instead the thought crossed my mind that maybe a second best option to dramatic airport preaching, was to explore a little with my neighbor.  Besides, Jesus not only preached to crowds but he made time for a bunch of people along the way.

I’m glad I made that decision because I spent the next hour and thirty minutes listening intently to this woman tell me all about her experiences in India and in America, about her two college-aged sons, about the changing social and family trends in the US, and about the heartbreak surrounding her husband running off with his secretary last year. She told me how she loved the independence and freedom that America had given her because as a 5’6″ woman who prefered pants over lavish dresses that reached the floor, in India she was often mocked for her giant-like height and tom-boy appearance.  But she said the price she paid for her independance was the slow but steady breakdown of her family and the independant spirit that had caused her boys to move far away from home and that lead her husband to cheat on her for over three years in her own home.  She also told me about how she was a Muslim and how her husband was a Hindu, but that in India everyone is either Muslim, Hindu or Catholic and that religion is all just ways of teaching your children family values anyway so it was easy for them to coexist together in different religions.

It’s funny because I find that talking to people about Jesus is fairy easy when they don’t have much of a religious background, but I’ve always had a bit of an issue talking about Jesus with people who are already devoted to another religion.  I’m not sure why, but the thought has always made me feel a little bit intimidated and small and I quickly become afraid to offend.  So depsite my fear I decided to be brave and I asked her what she thought about Jesus.  And to be honest it didn’t really go anywhere too deep because she stated simply that he was a prophet just like Muhammad.  However a few minutes later after a solid hour and a half of listening, God gave me an eleven minute window to share my testimony and the truth about what God had done in my life over the past couple years.

I don’t know exactly what that woman, whose name I still find difficult to pronounce, thought about everything I shared.  Our flight ended shortly after I finished my story and after a few kind remarks we parted ways as I headed off to baggage claim.  But you never know what God will do with the tremendous seeds that we plant for His sake.  And for myself personally, it was a great life lesson because I don’t always choose the path of friendliness, of having time to hear someone out, or the one where you choose to get over the awkwardness and start a conversation, but I do know that I seldom regret being that kind of person.

I pray for that sweet woman.  God loves her very much and I pray she comes to realize just how sweet it is to trust in Jesus.

The Great Weekend Adventure

The Great Weekend Adventure

Last weekend Jon and I embarked on a very intense, very exhilarating adventure.  After a few days of planning out our route and mentally preparing for all the unknowns and unexpected challenges we decided we were ready.  We awoke Saturday morning and fueled our bodies with a few cups of rich Hawaiian coffee and some classy cinnamon/sugar toast along with some vitamin supplements.  Jon shaved his neck and I pinned my hair into place, not knowing the next time we would be able to enjoy these kinds of luxuries.    We didn’t carry much with us, only a water bottle, knowing that any extras would likely weigh us down and could be easily lost if it fell into any large cracks or crevasses. 

The day was sunny and the bright rays helped make us hopeful as we set out together, just me and Jon, and Jon and me.  As we approached the starting point for our destination he told me that he wouldn’t want to be here with anyone else.  So I smiled and kissed his cheek lightly.  He grabbed my hand and with that, we were off.

As in anything, starting strong was a breeze because of our enthusiasm and caffeine-enhanced adrenaline.  My heart raced as found myself climbing over obstacles, leaping across dangerous ditches, and shimmying through tight spaces, all while continually contemplating my next move of attack. 

Jon was a good sport, seeing as this was mainly my hobby and passion, not his.  But like in any good marriage, he sought to find as much enjoyment in the experience as he could for compromise’s sake.  He said that simply watching me enjoy myself so much made it all worth it for him.  I knew I couldn’t do this alone, so I was thankful for his friendship and presence.  I knew that he would be my backbone during the next few days.

As the day wore on, Jon’s humor and playfulness helped keep our spirits light as we realized the daunting possibility that we may not reach our resting place by nightfall.  Despite all our thoughtful and strategic preparation, we had overestimated our ability to conquer so much in just one day.  I began to worry, so Jon began to sing.  We hummed a familiar tune as we continued on and Jon recalled a few sentimental stories from his younger years. 

While the longing to reach our destination loomed in the back of my mind, we did happen to come across all sorts of interesting discoveries along the way.  Some were familiar and others made me realize how easy it is to go through life without ever appreciating what’s around me.  Many things triggered all sorts of emotions and I wished that I could just bottle up the beauty of these discoveries to store away for a later day and time.

As the sun disappeared behind the ends of the earth, my heart sank.  I’ve never been good with disappointments.  And although we had made it so far, it was hard not to feel like we had failed.  But we did have a source of light with us, and so because Jon hates to see me disappointed, he said we could probably keep going for a few more hours before we’d have to retire for the night somewhere along the path.  My eyes flashed brightly as I sprang forward into the cooler, crisper night air. 

But alas, midnight came creeping around and we both decided to submit to nature’s clock.  It had been quite a day and at least we were in this together.  I slipped into bed and pulled the covers up to my nose before kissing Jon goodnight.  The spare bedroom would be clean and organized one day, but today was just not that day.