The Summer of Deer

2015 – The summer of no car

2016 – The summer of Daniela and Chelsea (our first two summer interns and two women I hope I am always connected with)

2017 – The summer of ‘Merica and Disneyworld

2018 – The summer of Deer

I named our summer months ago, pretty much right after our friend, Emily Deer, booked her ticket to Salerno.

We met Deer….wait, it could be weird that I refer to her by her last name if you don’t know why. First, Deer is dear to us (that’s corny, but it’s true). Second, that’s how she was introduced to me. I didn’t even know her first name for months after meeting her. In fact, someone once referenced Emily, and I think my response was, “Emily who?”.

We met Deer at REVO church in Winston-Salem. She was part of our framily (and still is). She was a member of the Sunday lunch bunch, a group of our friends who came to Sunday lunch every day for I am pretty sure over 2 years. She played with our kids, laughed with us, introduced us to VHS Clue, ate with us, cried with us, and was there at the end holding hands with some of the other members of our Winston family as we prayed one last time all together before they sent us off on our current adventure.

Deer has been here 3 glorious weeks and has another 2 to go. She “gave up” her summer to come help the kids with English, American history (of which they know zip), and math.

While I know she came to help the kids, she has also been a help to me. For a myriad of reasons, her presence was much needed for me. Yes, she’s helped with the kids and washed more than her fair share of dishes, but her presence – having a dear (no pun intended) friend, who understands every look and nuance of who you are – has been life giving and refreshing.

Relationship is one the great gifts of God to us. We aren’t meant to live alone, isolated from others. We also weren’t created to live lives without God in them. The great tragedy of sin is that it separated mankind from its Creator, severing the relationship we were created to have with Him. Since the Fall we have looked to other things and people to complete us when only God can do it.

Friendships are great and God-given but they cannot replace the relationship that we were meant to have with God. As great as having Deer here is, she will leave soon. Even if she never left, she (nor anyone else) can fill the God-sized hole that exists in my soul. Only He can do that. The thing is, I can am so quick to forget that fact and I search for it elsewhere, always coming up empty.

But He is faithful even when I am not and He has a way of reminding me of that faithfulness and that He created me for relationship with Him first and foremost. And this time the reminder came in the form of a dear friend (pun intended).

 

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The Bad Thing About Living in Community

So, I don’t really think that belonging to a community of believers is bad. However, the title got you to click the link so let’s keep going and I’ll explain my meaning behind the title. 

When true Christian community happens, there are bonds that form between people that last long after job transfers, moves, and life changes. They are bonds that grow deeper than friendship. They are the bonds of Christian love. 

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From about the middle of August until around the middle of November I go through a period of something that I am going to name “Not Greatness.” The Not Greatness doesn’t affect me everyday…I’ve been there, done that, and learned a lot along the way. However, every year since leaving Winston-Salem, I go through the Not Greatness. It usually sneaks up on me out of nowhere. There I’ll be, minding my own business, going about my day, and BAM! Suddenly I’m crying, longing for something I left behind.

What is it the I am longing for?  What is it that the Not Greatness has me bawling my eyes out over?

It is community. Specifically, the community I left behind in Winston Salem.

Why this time of year? I have some guesses but I don’t know exactly. The Fall made me fall in love with Winston Salem, and Winston Salem made me fall in love with the Fall. I had never seen leaves turn the colors they do until I moved there. The golds, reds, and oranges surrounded me as I walked my neighborhood. I learned to appreciate the full cycle of life and God’s creation in a different way. It is a time of the Dixie Classic Fair, walks on brisk days, fire pits and smores, festivals, trick or treating, and hot chocolate. 

But if it was just these things and events I don’t think I would have such a longing. I don’t think the Not Greatness would even rear it’s head. And I don’t think that two years ago I would have walked through deep depression. No, it’s not the things and events.  It’s the people that were with me when I was doing these things and going to these events that made them so special. The people  are what I long for and miss. They are the reason behind the Not Greatness. 

Please don’t hear me say I don’t love where I am or that I want to be somewhere else.  I love where I am. There is no where else I’d rather be. I’m trying to make new traditions and find new events and things to invite others into that will make them just as special as the things and events I left behind. I am loving the community that is developing around me. It’s beautiful and lovely and brings great joy. But there are times when I long, desperately so, for those friendships I left behind that go deeper than friendships. They are relationships rooted in Christian love and community. 

So why is it that I still miss this community so much? What is it that made it (and continues to do so) special? It’s the love that exists between us. It’s the love that most of us hear preached about at weddings, but really was intended for the Church. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul writes to the church in Corinth that “[l]ove is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

When the Church remembers that is to be like Christ, who IS LOVE (which means he is all the things in the list Paul gives us) then what a better Church we would be. How amazing it would be to have a body of believers who didn’t insist on their own way or hold grudges or let sin slide under the rug. How incredible to have that body be patient and kind to one another, never letting arrogance or conceit or envy put them at odds with one another.

And this is how my community in Winston-Salem functioned. It did not accomplish this perfectly, but this description of love was its foundation. Everything was based on this. It was how we were able to forgive one another for offenses, celebrate each others successes, mourn losses, serve selflessly, give freely, and take correction. It was a community that pushed me, tried me, made me uncomfortable with my sin…and drew me closer to Christ.

So what’s the “bad thing” about true Christian community ? It is having to walk away from it. I guess the Not Greatness isn’t so bad either. It reminds me of people I love. It reminds me to pray for them, call them, text them.  The great thing about this community is that no matter where I am in the world, it will always be there. A phone call, a text message, a FaceTime call away. They are forever a part of our lives, no matter how many miles separate us. This is what true community should be, right? Our lives should be so interwoven that when one of the threads breaks away, it 1) hurts like crazy and 2) is not severed completely from the others.

As I think about where I am now, I look forward to the new relationships and community that are developing that will be closer than friendship because of in Whom it is rooted. I am excited for the 1 Corinthians kind of love to permeate who we are as a church and how we interact with one another.

So I give myself permission each Fall to feel the deepness of the Not Greatness, but I don’t give my permission to stay there. Instead, I mourn what was and I look forward to what will be.

The People You Miss

Living overseas you always miss things from your home country. I have a list a mile long…

The start of college football.

The first day of turkey season.

Chick-Fil-A .

Walking into my grandmother’s house.

The smell of gardenia coming from my neighbor’s yard.

The ease of finding and buying almost anything.

Laying in soft, green grass at night looking at a sky full of stars that are too numerous to dare count.

Good Mexican food – but this has been missed since I left Texas.

The smell of bacon frying.

The privacy of my backyard.

A dryer on rainy days.

Central heat and air.

A large shower…or at least a shower big enough so that I don’t look like some Picasso painting when I shave my legs. I ain’t twenty and bendy anymore.

Good candy and cereal.

But all the things pale in comparison to the people that you miss.

It doesn’t matter how “at home” I feel in my host country or how many new friends I make, I will always long for those people closest to me in my home country.

That’s why when one of those people does something special for me or our family, it sends me into ugly cry mode immediately.

For my birthday, my friend Jess sent me the most special gift. I opened my email to find a movie of friends sending me birthday greetings. Some were sung, some were spoken, all were cherished. And as soon as it started I had ugly cry face all the way to the end. And I felt loved and cared for. I felt connected to people that I have loved for over five years. I felt remembered.

Thank you to everyone who contributed. It was the best gift I received…barely beating Downton Abbey Season 6. 😉

 

 

Lovely Faces From North Carolina

We received a very special package last week. It had been in transit for two months. Italy is well-known for many things, but its postal system is not one of them.

When I opened the package, I found something wrapped in red and green striped Christmas paper. I began tearing into it as I walked out of the post office, and immediately started crying…again, in the post office. Well, technically, I was on the steps leaving the post office but I was in public nonetheless.

I knew what it was as soon as I saw the first edge of the book, and instead of looking through it by  myself I waited for Paul to be with me so we could look through it together. It was so hard to not sit down on a bench and look at all the photos of friends I knew were waiting to be cried over.

We ate lunch at Mythos, a little Greek place. And yes, pasta and pizza get boring. As we waited for our gyros to arrive we slowly made our way through the pages of familiar faces that we cherish so much.

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Faces that came to be so much more than friends.

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Faces that cried and laughed with us…and sometimes at us.

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Faces that played with our children.

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Faces that we shared our lives with.

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Beautiful faces that are loved, cherished and missed.

Thank you Lynsey for the beautiful gift.