Sunday, September 27, 2009

What is happening to me?!

I have had a really hard week.  I feel like I've been welcomed back to Iceland with a slap in the face.  I have had very little strength to face all the challenges of being back, trying to get settled in, and starting language class.  This morning I found this article that made me feel very understood.  This exhaustion is normal, and hopefully soon this too shall pass.  

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Toto...we're not in Kansas anymore."

I've always been a spitter.  Or maybe not.  Maybe I became a spitter when I became a runner.  No one thought twice about spitting during practice;  you run, you get phlegm, you spit.  Unfortunately for me:
1. This habit has been deeply engrained into my psyche and is now a knee-jerk reaction.
2. I function with a high level of phlegm.

I honestly just forget that it is not socially acceptable unless I'm in the middle of a cardio-vascular activity.  There have been many times at church when I'm walking between buildings that I'll let one fly without thinking.  In a dress.

You can imagine my exuberance when I read Heather's blog about Finland being a spitting culture .  We arrived and I experienced it for myself.  She was right.  People--young and old, rich and poor, unashamedly spitting left and right.  Oh the freedom;  oh the bliss.  I was in spitting heaven.  The other day a little girl got out of her car and hacked a big one right in front of me, luckily missing my shoes.  I wanted to hug her.

Then on Thursday we left Finland and arrived in London.  We were standing at a proper crosswalk, waiting for the light to turn.  My nose started to tingle with drippiness, so without thinking, I emptied out both nostrils with a good 'ol farmers blow.  That didn't feel like it did the trick, so I finished the job by spitting.  My head lifted only to meet the eyes of two women in front of me whose heads were turned watching me.  They stared uncomfortably as I slowly began to remember that I was not in Finland anymore.  After a few awkward moments basking in their looks of shame, I wanted to mouth to them I'm from Wisconsin (and my mom taught me how to farmer's blow) or --if that didn't suffice--I just lived in Finland.  Soon their punishing glares were over and the light turned.  I crossed the street and said to Colby, "I just got a blog post idea."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

It wasn't smooth and it sure wasn't pretty...

…But we are back in Iceland with VISAs. 

Here’s a recap of what we had to go through  in the last 3 days:

1.       1.   Three hour train ride from Jyvaskyla to Helsinki, Finland.  Colby’s backpack broke. Had to shop for another one in the Helsinki mall and transfer everything into it.

2.       2.  Got to the airport.  Got into the slowest line at Czech Airlines.  Finally it is our turn at the check-in counter. We find out we are only allowed to check 80 kilos and we are required to check our strollers (which we have never had to do).  We open up all the suitcases and try to carry on as many pounds as possible.  We are charged for the extra weight.  We are NOT happy.

3.       3.  We trudge through the airport—Colby carrying a heavy backpack and dragging two garbage bags full of clothes, me -- a backpack stuffed with 20 pounds plus my other carry-ons, and Haley carrying the camera bag.  We all have our winter coats on (we had to bring them in case).

4.       4.  Arrive in Prague.  Only have 45 minutes between flights.  Run to next gate.  We look like a scene out of Home Alone.

5.       5.  Get to Heathrow Airport in London.  At Border control, Haley is nearly in  tears, frantically grabbing herself because she is about to wet her pants (we had just gone to the bathroom on the plane). Hold on Haley, we just have to answer 20 questions first.  

6.       6.  Go to Baggage Claim.  They have lost our double stroller (the double stroller we had paid 80 dollars to check).  Colby goes to try to locate it, leaves me with all the luggage, and Darcy wets her pants (she had JUST gone to the bathroom on the plane).

7.       7.  We emerge from Baggage Claim to meet someone from our company…Darcy dripping with urine, Haley upset because she had just lost her new Hello Kitty bracelet, and Colby and I with bags under our eyes.

8.       8.  One-hour drive to our hotel in Gatwick.  We arrive, take everything to our room, and then realize that we are so hungry we won’t be able to fall asleep.  Colby goes to find food.  It takes almost another hour.

9.       9.  Next morning, Colby gets up early to get directions to the Embassy.  The wireless internet isn’t working.  He figures something out, we chug breakfast,  and catch the Gatwick Express to downtown London.

10.  10.  Walk for an hour.  Arrive at the Embassy 45 minutes early.  The woman at the counter looks confused, and says, “I’m sorry.  You don’t have an appointment for today.  I have you down for Monday morning.  And today we’re packed full.”

11.   11.  Colby looks like he is about to hurt someone.  He gets assertive.  “I’m sorry, there must have been a miscommunication.  We agreed on Friday and we have flights to Iceland tomorrow morning.”

12.   12. Clerk responds (with a perfect British accent), “Ah, sh*#... (head in hands).  Okay, out of the goodness of my heart, I’ll try to squeeze you in today.”

13.   13.  Find out we need passport photos.  We get a map and run for 15 minutes until we find “Snappy Photos” where we have a quick photo shoot.  Run back and get in line.

14.   14.  They call our name.  Find out our credit card will not work and we need 112 pounds CASH.  This time Colby goes alone and sprints to the nearest “hole in the wall.”

15.   15.  Get what we need.  Go to Kensington Gardens where I lay on the grass for an hour trying to recover. 

Monday, September 14, 2009

Meet the Pauls

We met the Pauls in April of 2008 at our interview conference.  They were pure-bred Californians deciding whether to serve in Indonesia or Finland.  Since our church was doing work in Indonesia, I tried to persuade them to go to there.  They decided Finland.  We went back to our separate coasts, packed up our lives, rented out our homes, and reunited in August in Richmond at our training center.  For 9 weeks we shared meals together, sat together every day for our sessions, and bonded through the whole experience.  We said goodbye in October never thinking our lives would intersect again.  However, our surprise trip to Greece allowed us to spend a week together, and there we decided the contingency plan of going to their town in Finland if we didn't get VISAs.  Here we are.  It has been a wonderful month of doing life together here.  The whole first week, Heather and I just kept repeating, "I can't believe we're here;  this is so surreal."  Their four-year old girl, Delaney and the girls have had a blast together.  She is into princesses and ponies, so what could be better?  This has been a rich blessing to be together and we're thankful to God for this opportunity.  

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Finlandia Half-Marathon

In the spirit of Jason Pelt, here is the post race recap. After much deliberation Annie and I finally registered to run in a couple of races on Saturday (Annie in the 12K). To begin with I was really excited that the race did not begin at 7:00 AM. I have never liked the early morning start times for races and prefer to run in the early evening before dinner. Here in Finlandia we started the Half-Marathon promptly at 4:00 PM. 

Running a race in a country where you do not understand the language is quite interesting. One can never quite be sure they understand everything that is going on. For example it was not until about 1:00 PM that we realize the race was at 4:00 and not 3:00. When we arrived for the race Annie still needed to pick up her number. As we headed inside to find it there was a steadystream of people heading towards the starting line that made us a bit nervous. Of course all the time in the background there is someone speaking on the microphone in Finnish saying who knows what. After picking up Annie's number I figured it was time to join all the others lined-up in front of the outhouses and get prepared for the long run.

As the race began I pressed play on my running partner (IPOD shuffle which is affectionately named Steadman, a kind gift from the one and only Mila Thomas). I had Steadman loaded up with a great variety playlist prepared for the occasion(including Coldplay live, U2, Mewithoutyou, Shane and Shane, Fernando Ortega, Beebo, and some others).   The first part of the race was a game of figuring out a pace I could get into and keep for the entire race. I had set a goal of finishing under 1:45 and wanted to avoid beginning too fast that I would run out of gas in the end (which I did). 

Everything was uneventful for the first 14 KM. I had a good pace going and felt like I could keep it. At this point my legs began feeling fatigued and a large goup of runners passed me. I was worried that I would have to slow drastically when I was boosted with energy by a new tune from Steadman. It was the live version of Viva La Vida. I had put the song on the list because the live version contains a huge crowd of cheering fans that you can hear or the entire song. Needless to say it carried me somewhere into the 16th K where I forgot about my earlier fatigue. 

Everything went well until 19K. I was running into the wind by the lake and feeling tired, so tired I actually considered walking. As a 50 year old woman passed me I thought I should try to keep up with her to finish out the last 2K. I couldn't do it and I quickly lost sight of her and was slowing down with every step. I had no idea what the time was and became convinced I would not make it in under 1:50. I decided to relax and try to enjoy the rest of the race and managed a brisk jog to the finish line. As I crossed I was pleasantly surprised to see the clock register 1:38.27 (unofficially). Annie and Jason Paul met me at the finish area and the rest is history

Friday, September 11, 2009

13 months and 9 days...

The moment came at the perfect time.  We were at the home of Irma, an amazing Finnish woman who glows with the presence of God and who owns a lovely piece of property in the outskirts of town. We had just sat down for afternoon coffee with her and our dear friends here, the Pauls, when Darcy busted in the front door from playing outside screaming, “I have to go POO-POO!  Colby got up to help her when I heard his phone ring.  My stomach immediately dropped and the Finnish fancy cake I was chewing on suddenly made me want to vomit.

This was it.  It had to be.  We had been waiting for 13 months and 9 days to get a residence permit and today was the day we would hear the decision.  I made eye contact with Heather and we both tried to politely listen to the conversation that was happening around the table, both knowing that something monumental and life-altering was happening in the other room.   I was nauseated with nervousness. 

I excused myself and entered the bathroom where Darcy was loudly trying to get Colby’s attention because she needed to be wiped… and Colby was hiding in the shower with one hand plugging his ear, trying to hear the person on the other end of the phone.  He was smiling with a giddiness that I hadn’t seen in a long time, and I leaned into the phone just in time to hear the words, “You have been approved.”  It was almost visible—the weight that I watched lift from Colby’s shoulders…the burden that had been there for so long that I had begun to not even recognize it. 

He continued to talk on the phone with our representative from Iceland, and I made my way to the closest chair in sight and collapsed in it.  I watched him pace back and forth around the living room, laughing, glowing.  We made eye contact.  He moved the phone away from his lips and mouthed to me, “It. is. over. 

I couldn’t believe it.  I sat in the rocking chair in a state of shock for a long time.  Now that I think about it, I don’t know if anyone ever wiped Darcy.  Poor child.  All I could hear were the words, “It is over.”  All I could see in my mind was a long and painful road that we had finally--hand in hand--come to the end of.  Not just us, but many that have traveled this road with us were behind us cheering and smiling.  I didn’t know what to think.  For so long we hadn’t known WHEN this would end, WHERE it would end or if it WOULD ever end.  And now it was over.  This journey was finally over.  And it was finally beginning...



Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Adventures in Scandinavia, Part 1

In Iceland, people are serious about catching rays when the sun shines.  It’s almost as if people just collapse wherever they happen to be in the summer to enjoy the sunshine.  Recently I looked out my window and saw a full-grown man lying prostrate on a piece of grass beside the bank parking lot.  I love to see people here enjoying the warmth of nature and not taking it for granted. 
Naturally, when we got to Finland I wanted to soak up every last bit of summer.  One afternoon I went outside to take the trash out and couldn’t bear the thought of going back indoors.  I laid down in a sunny spot on the grass by our parking lot.  After a few minutes, I turned my head around and spotted a man watching me from his top-floor window.  I laid my head back down and figured he’d eventually get over whatever he was looking at.  Next thing I know there is a different man looking very concerned coming out the apartment door towards me.  He was speaking very fast in Finnish and I just stared, my tired mind not quick enough to think of what to say.  Finally he paused, figured out I wasn’t understanding him, and sputtered out, “You…take…sun?” 
It finally occurred to me that lying down in a random patch of grass was rather alarming to him.  Ummm….yeah….I think so,”  was all I managed to get out.  That appeared to appease him and he went back inside.  Apparently it is NOT so normal to collapse in the sun here.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Gorgeous Girls

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Psalm 139

(Cuddling in bed reading this psalm to my girls in pajamas):

1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down; 
 you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O LORD.

5 You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Haley Jane (furrowed brow): "Well...why does He only hold us with His right hand? Why doesn't he hold us with both hands?"  

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ever After..

Today is our 8th Wedding Anniversary. It's always hard to believe we are getting older, but we are edging ever closer to ten years of marriage and that is unfathomable. These are the moments we say, "time flies" or "before you know it," hoping to capture in words our sense of the fleeting nature of life.
I must say...I like marriage. Not so much because either of us are very good at it, but precisely because we are not. There is nothing more rigorous and difficult than learning to do something that you are not naturally good at. There are also very few things as satisfying as succeeding in things you find difficult. Finishing a course of study, running a distance race, climbing a mountain, scaling a rock, learning a language, or tackling a tough project are all accomplishments that derive their satisfaction from our recognition of their difficulty. I think marriage can be a lot like that. There are enough times where you feel like you could just crash and burn to make you enjoy the moments where you feel like you are flying.

I always try to avoid describing our relationship in overly flowery romantic tones. It's not because we don't love each other or feel immense passion for one another. We often do, but we often do not. As a society we have a great deal of fairy tales portraying ideal romanticism and the picture of happily ever after.  I do not need to invent another one with our lives as the centerpiece. 

The pictures and stories we embrace to describe our lives are important, and the picture of a fairy tale fails us when it comes to marriage.  I have always loved Pilgrims Progress and its portrayal of life as a journey wrought with dangers and snares that would keep us from the joy of the Celestial City. Since marriage is such a significant part of life, the analogy serves us well here also. I often feel like Annie and I are on a journey. Signposts along the way point us in the direction of the joyful treasures of marriage. Without the signs, our untrained senses would most certainly leave us wrecked and without hope. We have, more often than we would like to admit, found ourselves with no motivation to continue except that we were convinced that quitting would be worse. The sign said joy was in this direction, so let's keep walking.

 Over and over again we have walked from a difficult path into a new, wealthy place of renewal and joy. In the process, as time passes, we have looked over at our traveling companion and found a stronger and more faithful friend. These moments are a gracious gift from God. Because of these eight years, we are learning to love the good and to become the good that we love. Nothing could be better or more exciting than that and today I am grateful that Annie has chosen to continue walking at times when I didn't deserve a friend like her (a little something she learned from following Jesus).