Sunday, January 31, 2010

Crackers and Wine

My mom once described this trip as a cracker. Sound strange? Let me explain: say life is like a wine-tasting, each new wine is a new chapter in life. What happens between the different kinds of wine? You need a cracker, a piece of bread, something in which to clear the slate - not erasing past wines, just making room for the next flavor. This trip, it is that cracker cleansing my palate in between wines, in between chapters. This trip was a chance to create distance between my life and me, and in that distance somewhere discover the things that were taking precedence in my life and the things that actually need to be taking precedence. It has been a struggle to pinpoint exactly why I felt a need to go on this trip. I had the perfect set-up: a good job, great friends, a lovely house - all in a city with so much to offer. I was tasting a great wine. But something was changing, something needed to change. And before I could realize how or why it would happen (I may never realize the why...), I needed a cracker. If there had been no cracker, no cleansing of my palate, no stepping away and creating distance, would I appreciate the new wine as much? Would its properties, its unique characteristics of vintage, color, and flavor, be lost on me?

I am leaning towards 'no' in answer to the first question, 'yes' for the second. It is the only way I can make sense of this 5-month hiatus. Yeah, it's the trip of a lifetime. Sure, it made sense to do before I was "settled" (whatever that means). Yup, it's pure and simple fun. But that's not enough for me; there's more to it. I believe it also had a purpose to bring me to a point where I was ready to see the next chapter, or at least see the first few words. (And thank goodness it's usually only a few words or sometimes a few letters...if God showed us whole paragraphs or chapters at a time I think we'd often revolt or want to call it quits - at least I know I would!) I don't think I was at a point in life where I was expecting more - of myself, of my circumstances. Things were good, why change? I was OK with the way things were, and noticing that in and of itself was enough reason to eat a cracker. Eventually the wine becomes tasteless or runs out. You'll have to move on, try a new one. But isn't it better to make the change whilst you still have a good taste in your mouth? Isn't it better to take the next step with the confidence of a good ending to the last chapter?

In eleven days my next chapter begins. In eleven days I will return from this journey, palate cleansed. I don't know much of what it will look like, but a few things have become clear to me. First off, I will be living in a new city...Atlanta, Georgia will be home (and only a shooort drive from the Charlotteans that hold a dear place in my heart). I will finally be in the same city as my sister! That to me equals infinite excitement, not just because of her, but her whole family. Life just seems to have deeper meaning with my niece and nephew around. There is only so much an auntie can do from a distance...but put her in the same city as the little munchkins and opportunities abound! Secondly, I will pursue baking. As a side job? As a small business? Not sure exactly, but excited about the options. Thirdly, I will be looking for a job...but this is a bit unclear. A job doing what, exactly? Oh to know what this looks like! Nursing? Something else? I find myself struggling to think outside the box and yet be logical and go with what is known. Prayers are most welcome.

So, this new chapter, this new wine. It's yet to have a name. I've yet to recognize and grasp all it's qualities. But I'm ready for it nonetheless. I'm eager to know it, to embrace it with the sweet aroma of the last one still going strong.

Eleven days and counting...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Short For A Change (The Post, Not Me...I'm Always Short)

It's Saturday afternoon. A gloomy, cold, rainy day, in stark contrast from yesterday's hot sunny display. I have just returned from a brisk walk to the library, attempted to chop some wood - that was comical, and am (quite willingly!) resigned to spending the night with my nose in a book in the company of Belize and Yoda, my furry friends. I'm hoping that tomorrow's weather cooperates with my desire to head to the Botanic Gardens.

In other news...I have an official date for my return home: February 12th (which is also, I was pleased to find out, when the Olympics begin). A mere four weeks from yesterday!! I have no doubt it will fly by, but I am also quite eager to squeeze the snot out of my family and friends. I am loving every minute of this journey, but I have sensed an increasing desire to head home and start the "next chapter" of my life. More on that next chapter soon...

Monday, January 11, 2010

As The Smoke Clears...

The other day I was riding the city bus, listening to my ipod, as usual. It was a sunny warm day; I was in a rather introspective mood. I scanned to Needtobreathe's music and clicked shuffle. One of my all-time favorite songs came on, "Through Smoke." I mentioned this song in my very first blog post, including the particular lyric lines that were significant to me. As I sat on the bus that day, soaking in the city, observing the other occupants around me, hearing those lyrics streaming in my ears, I realized something: the smoke had cleared. The thought hit me like a ton of bricks and tears burned my eyes. I bit my lip and smiled. There have been numerous times on this trip where I thought if it ended tomorrow it would be worth it and I would be content - I've seen and experienced so many things. But not until this day did I realize that my questions - questions that weren't even clear to me - were being answered. I no longer feel like I am searching through smoke.

Now that's not to say I've got my life all figured out...the opposite, if anything! And as some questions find answers, other questions arise. But I've figured a few things out. I've learned that, for me, life is taken day by day. Something that was easy yesterday might be hard today. Something that makes sense today might not tomorrow...and that's ok. With each new day comes new opportunities to make yourself a better person. I can be comfortable with who I am, but I don't ever want to be satisfied with who I am. Kendall Payne says in one of her songs, "I'm not afraid to be me...Every battle leads to another war/ Every day I'm reminded of what I'm fighting for/It's never easy and it's never the same/But it's worth all I've got and so I'll give it again." What I've also realized is that to be able to give it all you've got, you have to be getting nurtured. That can take many different forms, and will probably take several to be successful. For me, Scripture needs to be a vital part of every day. Not just reading, but memorizing (which I tell myself I'm not good at because of my horrible short-term memory), burning it in my heart. In this process I've discovered verses in my memory bank from when I was 10. I was surprised to find I could still quote every line (encouragement for all Sunday school teachers and parents...those verses you help kids memorize...they STICK!), so quickly dusted them off and put them to good use again.  Another important thing for me is journaling. I've always done this off and on, feeling guilty when I don't do it, as if the journal would be hurt or something - does anyone else have this phenomenon? I would just get too busy to sit and write, letting the thoughts collect and jam up inside creating as my friend lovingly calls it: analysis paralysis. Well, although it's slightly less personal (I don't think the journal will mind), I've started typing out thoughts each night - much quicker and so useful! Third self-nurturing thing for me is reading. It's one of the first things to go when I get busy, but I so enjoy it. In the grand scheme, these things don't take much time out of my day, but they make a huge difference! They keep my brain from freezing or becoming stagnant. And somehow they help make a connection between my brain and my heart, something that doesn't always come easy for me.

I had the opportunity to be nurtured in a big way this past week - 4 straight days of backpacking on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. I joined forces with 10 other people, 2 families and Mike - a guy who loves the AT so much he wrote a book on it (! We set out with our tents, food, sleeping bags, and sleep mats, ready to conquer the sand, the bush, and the water. It was a beautiful walk, much different to the Milford Track with is snowcapped mountains. The AT is speckled with magnificent golden beaches and clear blue/green water. It really felt like we were tramping through a tropical island. I concluded that the sound of rhythmic waves softly crashing on the shore is the perfect sound to drift off to sleep to. It was fun to get to know those in our group, conversing and laughing together, pushing each other on when we were tired. Hours of sunlight and 32 miles later, we finished the track all together. Now for a few days of resting up...