Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bustin' Out...

I've heard a lot about how high depression is here in the winter. They have special things here called "happy lights" that you can sit under that apparently boost your mood. On Tuesday when we went to the pool, I asked if one had to wait till the winter to use these lights. The "summer" here has been hard for me. I keep waiting for it to come. Finally, last Wednesday, I stopped being angry about it, I stopped fighting it, and I just accepted it. This is what you get. 50's...and if we're lucky we'll get in the 60's. However, I have found a secret that is keeping me sane. If you find a spot where the wind is blocked, you can actually feel the sun warming your skin. I have been able to take my coat off a few times...until the wind chases direction, that is.

Anyway, it's amazing that God knew what a challenge this would be for me, and has provided in the midst of it. Six weeks ago, we found out that we had to go to our annual conference in Greece. Being the pessimist I am, I refused to believe that it would actually come to pass...but here we are, waiting in the terminal in Paris for our flight. In the grand scheme of things, weather is an insignificant detail, and it shouldn't matter to me, but at this point in my life, I feel like this is a special gift from God to get us through a rather difficult season of life. Again, I'm humbled by God's faithfulness, grace, mercy, and love. Athens, here we come!

June 17th

Sautján Júni. (Soi-tjown Yoo-nie). We kept saying it all day because it has such a ring to it. Basically, June 17th is Icelandic Independence Day. Like 4th of July, minus the fireworks. We started out the day going to one of the suburbs to partake in the festivities. I saw a schedule of events that boasted of games and kids activities, but when we arrived at the Viking Village to participate, they wouldn't let us in to the "fair grounds" unless we paid. BOO. We decided to skip it and head early to the park where the gospel fest was going on (that we were performing in for 30 minutes...amazing experience by the way).

On our way we noticed a large crowd gathering at the top of a hill. Some people were standing and waiting along the road, and it looked as though a parade was about to happen. I asked someone if my suspicion was true and he confirmed it, so we sat down on the curb awaiting our first Icelandic parade. As I sat, I thought about how this would be fun and festive...almost like the Fredericksburg Fourth of July parade.

A horn sounded, and the parade started toward us. There were ten people, dressed in traditional clothes, proudly carrying Icelandic flags. I thought of how strange it felt to be celebrating another country's independence. Next, a band composed of roughly 15 people marched past, playing what we assumed to be the national anthem. I was still reflecting on how foreign it felt to not hear our national anthem or how strange it was not to see our flag. After the band passed, the strangest thing happened. What seemed to be the entire town marched right behind them. The whole street and sidewalk was jammed with people joining this...thing. We were literally sitting on the curb, looking up as hundreds and hundreds of people walked around us to follow the "parade" as it went down the street. I started laughing out loud in disbelief. All the people who had been standing on the side of the street watching, joined in to march through town. What in the world was happening? My laughter got harder as Colby leaned over and said, "I feel like a rock stuck in the middle of a river." I literally could not stop laughing as Darcy started whimpering, Haley asked in confusion, "Is this a parade?", and Colby stood up to go to the side of the road where he was not in danger of being trampled.

So there you had it. Our first Icelandic parade. No floats. No people spinning around on weird bicycles. No candy being thrown. No clowns. No shriners. No one showing off their yellow mustang. No fancy hub-bub. Just a community marching around their town, celebrating in their own unique way their gratitude for freedom and life. I love it.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sweet Memories!

This morning I read the song our friend Clint wrote for Mark Stratton's funeral, and a touching blog from Jason Pelt about the drive to Arlington National Cemetery where he was laid to rest. I immediately resolved to not let the day pass without a much needed catch-up phone call with Pelt. He reminded me of a picture of Mark and I he had posted on his blog from our camping trip two years ago so I looked it up and found it. When I saw it I thought, he was probably eating venison. While all of us usually showed up with a slab of beef that we bagged at the local grocery, Mark arrived with meat he had hunted down in the woods like a real man some morning while the rest of us were sleeping. Mark was a man's man, and by that I mean he was the kind of guy that other men cannot help but love and respect. He stood for things with conviction. What many other people would consider going above and beyond, he considered a duty. He also had a noticeable tenderness with his family and held them with great affection. He lived and died as a servant and through his life he enriched those around him in a way that does not go unnoticed when it is gone. In essence, Mark walked the path of a Christian gentlemen and found his place in the call of God to follow Jesus into our families, our vocation, our friendships, our joys, into broken places where we can breathe life and hope. May he now find his rest in the joy of the Lord.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Puffin Watching

This weekend was the Harbor Festival, so we joined in the festivities. When Colby saw the advertisement for a puffin tour, he was sold. We rode a small boat out only 15 minutes from Reykjavik where we came upon a small island that inhabited 30,000 puffins (Darcy wasn't a fan of the life-jacket).

Our guide told us that in August, the puffins will begin to fly south for the summer, and many of the babies will get confused by the city lights of Reykjavik and crash-land here. When that happens, it's time for the children of Reykjavik to launch the Puffin Patrol—basically a search and rescue operation for the befuddled birds. The children capture them, keep them safe for a few days, and then release them. There is a competition every year for the heaviest puffin, largest puffin, ect. (Okay, Icelanders, is this a true story?) It was fun to see them first-hand, and not just on a post-card. Fauths, next trip you'll have to schedule your trip between June and August!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Call it overdramatic...

It was the quietest birthday party I have ever been a part of! Nine adult guests were kind enough to come for games, cake, ice-cream, gifts, praise-and-worship, and a slide-show of Darcy's life thus far (with Psalms 117 by Seven Places playing in the new favorite song). I'm sure Darcy will eventually make friends her age, but for now, she is content with the friendships of Dagny, Diana, Andres, Lilja, Katrin, Villborg, Johanna, Jon, and Marissa (sorry, I'm too lazy to put accents on everyone's names).

Since Darcy is now three, I taught her how to do her new chore: unloading the dishwasher. There is a huge drawer that she pulls out and puts everything in it (it's a great lesson in categorization). It's a huge help. I figured I would celebrate this landmark in Darcy's life to also teach Haley a new skill: showering. I coached her from outside the stall, and (besides only washing the back 1/5 of her head), she did a great job! I stood there watching her, amazed at how grown up my kids are, and thinking how before I knew it I would be a grandmother.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Memorial Day

Being in another country cuts you off from the usual festivities of Memorial Day, but on Monday night, the 25th, as I was falling asleep, I thought about Mark Stratton, a friend from Stafford Baptist, in Afghanistan and started laughing out loud in bed, (Colby hates it when I do this) thinking about a funny Mark memory. On Tuesday, we got up and started on our mile-long to-do list to get ready for a volunteer group of 13 people who were arriving the next day. I knew something was not right when Colby, looking pale, told me he needed to talk to me about something and sat me down on the couch. Mark had been killed in Afghanistan. We sat on the couch for a good two hours, passing through each of the stages of loss...shock, grief, anger...Later that night, we watched numbly as Darcy opened her birthday presents, still trying to process the news.

It was the first time that I felt really isolated here--really far away from our church family. I wanted so badly to be there on Sunday morning when everyone came together to grieve as a church body. I wanted to be there to give his wife, Jennifer, a hug and mourn with her. At the end of the day, Colby and I had our own little memorial service, sharing our favorite Mark memories. Colby kept saying, "There is just nothing bad you can say about the guy." Mark was incredibly positive, an amazing father of three, patriotic to the core, and a passionate follower of Jesus. Our prayers go out to our church family, for the funeral today, and for Jennifer and the kids. We wish we could be together with you during this difficult time.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Kristen Marks, I LOVE YOU!!

I'm slowly making my way out of the blogging hole. Click here to see some of our adventures from the last month. Thank you, Kristen, for teaching me this fine technological skill.