Monday, May 16, 2011
Every day for the past six months, whether waking up to silence or to screaming kids, this thought is always present: I must be the luckiest girl alive. It’s always worded differently in my mind, and it’s not always felt with the same sense of contentment and satisfaction, but, no matter how tired or rested I am, it’s always there. There is no single reason for this recurring realization. Or perhaps there is, but words don’t express the sense of peace a person can have in every moment once Jesus has begun the ripples of redemption in the life that once gasped for air.
Last Sunday was not only Mother’s Day – it was also my dad’s birthday. My parents are the most wonderful parents in the world. My mom has taught me what it means to be comfortable in my own skin, and how to be a woman that continually seeks after the heart of God. What’s more – she has taught me both through the way she lives and in the way she carries herself what a strong woman looks like. How to be both feminine and beautiful and gentle, but also never becoming less in value than anyone else. Despite all my wack hippie ideas about peace and vegetarianism, against all my ultra-conservative ideas about feminism and the church, she has kept me grounded and questioned me at every level. Without her, my life would be a confused jumble of feelings and ideas rather than the truth that I now know how to seek. As for my dad, he has taught me through his silent wisdom and his loving service to my mom, me, and my brother, what it means to show people love and to show them Jesus. Through the way he lives out what he says behind our church’s pulpit, he teaches me to be genuine – that with God, I can be real, and I can live out my faith with fear and trembling. Even when no one else does. And even when everything else seems to be crashing down. He has taught me to serve by taking me visiting in nursing homes and in hospitals, and he has taught me that it is normal and beautiful to pray with people in both helpless in hopeful situations. Last Sunday, I missed them both tremendously.
My family here is gone to Australia on holiday this week. Which reminds me of other reasons why I am so lucky. I get to wake up in New Zealand every day. The most beautiful country on earth. And I get to wake up to two wonderful little girls that make me laugh a minimum of five days a week. They’ll be back in a few days, and I will be very glad to see them. It means I’ll stop having to talk to the cat to fill up empty space.
With the house all to myself, last Friday I invited my friends from church (Ellen, James, & Mark) over for momma’s tortilla soup. Which doesn’t taste the same without Rotel tomatoes, but hey, I tried. After dinner, and a last minute Feijoa cobbler that Ellen & I whipped up, we had tea, looked at all my photos of FBC Holliday youth girls, OBU friends, my entire extended family, and, of course, my dog, then drove down to Mission Bay. If I haven’t mentioned it before, Mission Bay is the beach that is a five minute drive from my house. Tamaki Drive is the road that goes beside it and some other beaches east of the city centre. We walked along the beach to the playground where the little girls and I go often, and I got to swing on the swings that I’m usually pushing, and twirl on the spinning thing that I’m usually spinning. Ellen & I watched the boys disappear while climbing a massive tree, then teeter-tottered before deciding to try and reach the first branch. We failed. But when you fail at climbing a tree, there is no shame in deciding to hug the tree instead. He doesn’t care. And so we hugged the tree, then sat on the fence talking until the others came down.
We walked down Tamaki Drive until we reached the yacht club. Then we climbed down onto the rocks. Until is started raining. Then we all ran back the car. Until is stopped raining. Then four little wet friends drove back to my house. We watched VeggieTales and drank my two favourite teas. It’s no wonder why I think I’m lucky with a night like that. Mexican food, photos, talking vegetables, beaches, trees, and tea. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Every so often, friends come into my life that change me forever and make me a better person. These friends challenge me, and they love me no matter who I am. In elementary school, it was Tommy, John Mark, and Dustin. In middle school, it was Angie, Jolynn, and Dawnel. In high school, it was Brad, Bryan, Jeff, and John. In college. It was Reagan, Becky, Elisabeth, and Patrick, along with others. In Nepal, it was Jaben, Mark, Misti, & Aaron. But now I’m in New Zealand. And I’ve met new friends that are already shaping my life.
My friend Ellen took me to Tauranga, her home, on Sunday after church. We had many adventures along the way. Stopping at Waihi Beach, we got wet as the tide snuck up on us unexpectedly. Then at Leisure Island, we climbed rocks to the highest point, watching the waves crash powerfully on the boulders below us. As we drove home two days later, I thought about those waves. We were listening to a Casting Crowns song that means a lot to both of us – Who am I. Here’s a chunk of it: “Not because of who I am/But because of what you’ve done/Not because of what I’ve done/But because of who you are/ I am a flower quickly fading/Here today and gone tomorrow/A wave tossed in the ocean/A vapour in the wind/Still you hear me when I’m calling/Lord, you catch me when I’m falling/And you’ve told me who I am/I am yours”. I thought about that wave tossed in the ocean. Waves come up as they get close to the shore, or close to the rocks – any time of solid ground. They also come up in storms when the wind is raging and tearing at a ship. One wave crashes, then disappears. I watched those waves there on that island, next to my friend. And I thought without words about the power of God, and the littleness of me. I felt the satisfaction of being called a friend of God, a child of God, a lover of God. I am one little wave in a sea of many – one that comes once, then goes away. But this relational God that gives me family and friends calls me his own. He hears me when I scream to him, when I’m pounding against the rocks; and he hears me as I fall backwards into the sea, my purpose done. He tells me that I am his, and that everything is okay.
On Monday, Ellen and I climbed Mount Maunganui. When we were nearly to the summit, Ellen told me the story of the mountain as I huffed and puffed my way up and up. She said that this mountain and a mountain near New Plymouth called Mount Taranaki were both in love with the same mountain. But she was in love with Taranaki. They fought over her, and when Manunganui lost, he began to tear himself from where he was so he could drown himself in the sea. The mountain was saved and dragged to the place where he is now so that he could be away from the place where he lost his love. He stands there still, looking over the ocean, and we were climbing him that day. Reaching the top, out of breath, face red and puffy, I looked around and smiled. People can connect to stories like that, and reaching the top of that heartbroken mountain, seeing what he sees, and being rescued from a place of failure and ultimate sadness, we were connected to the fact that we had been rescued and replanted. If a mountain like Maunganui can be dragged to safety, so can we, and so can all people.
There were so many other things that happened in Tauranga. I had Turkish Delight and Pavlova. We rewarded ourselves for being hardcore mountain climbers with a marvelous Veggie Burger, and we had yummy gelato. We bought secondhand clothes at an op shop. We edited photos like crazy photography fools. We talked about hard times and we talked about Jesus. It was good. All of it. Life is good. And I’m lucky to have my new friends. I’m lucky to have all that I have. Grace has been good to me, and life is not what I deserve. But it’s what I’m given. And I love it.