Ebenezer

A commemoration of divine assistance. In Hebrew: stone of help.

Today’s a day to raise my Ebenezer. (mine Ebenezer?)

One year ago today, I left Chile. On this very night 365 days ago, I was sitting in a Santiago airport completely exhausted and and overwhelmed. I had spent the months, weeks, and days prior to that preparing, planning, saying goodbyes, packing my life into three suitcases, job searching, job finishing, sorting out paperwork, donating, cleaning out, crying, laughing, hugging and memorizing sights, sounds and smells.

There I was, sitting in an airport, not sure how I had gotten there.

Three years were coming to an end. Actually, I would say six years. It had been six years since I first visited the fascinatingly long country that reaches all the way down to the bottom of the world. It started out as a crush and we ended up moving in together. I was in a long-term relationship with this country and when it was time to end it, I knew it was time. That’s not to say that it didn’t come with it’s mixed bag of emotions, but in the end all I could feel was tired. The next day I would step off of an airplane into a season that had no name (except summer in Texas, which needs no name – it’s known by reputation only). The Chile years were so distinct but now… now I was stepping into nothing. I was starting over. Again.

And so this has been a year of building… and I will admit that I’m not great with building seasons.

Although I’m not an experienced outdoors-woman, I went on a camping trip this past November in order to be with friends and breathe fresh air for 24 hours. When we arrived, some of our group who had gone ahead were already putting up the tents. I loved sitting in my canvas folding chair, watching them put all those poles and things in some type of order that eventually held up vinyl walls and kept us safe from mosquitoes and grizzly bears. I realize that life isn’t like that camping trip, though; I don’t get to sit in a folding chair while someone else puts it all together. I have to figure out where all those weird-shaped things go and how they fit together, and that takes time.

There are some odd pieces that I picked up in Chile – where will they fit? What about these that I’ve had for a long time? And the new pieces? The ones that I don’t even have yet? I suppose this is not a quick project. *sigh* I guess I’ll commit to it.

I don’t feel like I’ve built much, but if I step back and take a look I must say that there’s been progress. I’m not where I was a year ago and I’m thankful for that (although I do love airports – they make for the best people watching). I’m not sure I see a shape yet, but I’m trying different fits and putting pieces together. I’m sure when it does take on more form it will surprise me. With each passing year of life, I tend to be more amazed at how things haven’t ended up as I imagined they would. Perhaps that’s part of it all, though. Unlike the tents, there’s no sketch showing me what it’s all supposed to look like. Maybe the magic is in the dreaming it up. Perhaps I should start dreaming a little more.

So here’s what I know after a year: I haven’t even scratched the surface of this new and yet-to-be-named season. God is still good. Houston summers are hot. Old friends are wonderful. New friends are wonderful. Sisters are great on Skype but exponentially better under the same roof. Good neighbors are a gift. Some pieces may not ever fit and I’ve got to be okay with that. Grace, grace, heaps of grace. I’m not patient but I’m working on it. Mexican food really is as good as I remembered it. There’s hope at the end of the day.

I think this is worth remembering… and even celebrating. One year. We made it!

Samuel took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer—”the stone of help”—for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!”

—1 Samuel 7:12

He has. And he will. Amen.

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Extraordinary

If I’m honest, I would have to say that sometimes it hits me just how “normal” my life has become and it frightens me. I wake up at the same time, I go to work, I come home at five… it’s all very predictable. At least when I was living in Chile an ordinary day was somewhat extraordinary because I was in SOUTH AMERICA for crying out loud. An ordinary day in Houston is just ordinary.

I’m not sure what to do with it. I’m not the first person to say this and I’m sure I won’t be the last, but I suppose that most of life is the regular, day-to-day stuff. It’s the coming and going and grocery shopping and jogging and friend time on the porch that makes up most of my time. I struggle, though, because I’ve always had this idea that my life was supposed to be something grander. I was going to change the world and do something significant… it’s just in my bones.

Perhaps I’ve done a few significant things and perhaps I’ll do a few more, but perhaps I also need to shift my perspective just a bit. If I wait too long for the big moments, I might miss out on an awful lot of small ones that add up to be just as important. Even if I don’t feel the significance in the day-to-day, it might help if I was looking for it a bit more. Striving, straining, craning my neck to see what’s ahead… may I not miss what’s before me now.

May I also not lose the hunger for extraordinary, though. I don’t think it’s all bad.

No, it’s not all bad.

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Neighborhood ramblings

Pretty much every afternoon I take a jog or walk or some combination of the two. As much as I don’t enjoy working in a structured “box,” the routine that it affords has probably been quite good for me. Also, because I’m sitting at a desk all day in a room with no windows, the last thing I want to do when I come home is sit or stare at a screen.

And so I hit the pavement as soon as I can get out of my work clothes. There’s something about starting that playlist and taking those first few steps that seems to bring a little life back into my body.

There are certain things that I have come to enjoy each evening, seeing as even though I have the whole wonderful Houston Heights at my fingertips, I generally take the same route day in and day out.

I go by one house with two very scary dogs. It took me a while to learn (and even now I forget) that their chains allow them to go only to the edge of the grass, but not the sidewalk. They bark and run at me with all the madness that two chained up dogs might have, but they can’t reach me. I practically jump out of my skin every time, though.

I pass by another house that is a magical work in progress. There’s a beautiful tree house in the side yard that I want very badly to have as my own. The side of the main house has been spray painted with children’s names and drawings. It looks as though they might be adding a room or other addition, but I suppose we shall have to wait and see what develops.

There’s another house that doesn’t seem to belong at all. Surrounded by vintage-looking bungalows and mismatched colors, this house looks like it was transplanted from a suburb in the mid-90’s. I often think that the two story brick dwelling looks uptight and somewhat uncomfortable in its own skin.

On Thursday evenings there’s a ballet class in the community center by the park. Little ladies of all shapes and sizes point their toes and twirl around as I catch a peek through the window.

Stray cats stare me down and challenge me to tread on their precious territory.

Gardens full of color and life practically sing to me as I bid them good evening.

I love my regular jaunts through the neighborhood. I love my neighborhood. I’m convinced that it’s quite good for my soul.

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Song of the week

This has been it.

(I was looking for a non-cheesy video. This one fits the bill.)

 

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All will be well

To anyone who reads my sweet little blog: thanks. I know I’ve been remiss. I’m also okay with that.

There’s been so much swirling around in my head lately that I find it hard to separate off little chunks for blogging. That would probably be a good exercise for me, though… and excellent reading for you, I’m sure!

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. – Julian of Norwich

Her words have been swimming around in my head this week. What kind of revelation is that? All will be well? When we’re sitting on our cotton candy clouds playing harps? Because it sure doesn’t seem like all is well right now. None of us have to look too far to find pain, messiness and all manner of un-wellness.

And sure, maybe she speaks of the great beyond. I’d also like to think, though, that she speaks of a wellness that comes when our hearts are at rest in the midst of the mess. Things are never tied up with a neat little bow, but even as I sort through piles of pain, uncertainty or disappointment, I find myself laughing and enjoying life and friends and lovely things. All will be well, but I also get glimpses of it now and that’s a gift.

These little glimpses are fuel for days when well doesn’t seem too close at hand. We’re tasting it now, but someday there will indeed be a feast. What a day that will be.

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O come lent us adore him…

How does Ash Wednesday always arrive in such a flash? It seems like I’m still finding Christmas tree needles around and enjoying birthday party decorations… (Why am I saying seems? It’s actually true!)

I’ve come to value Lent more and more as the years go by and I find that I tend to crave the discipline that often comes with the season. Of course I could be a disciplined person all the time, but what fun would that be? As we give things up and take on other things to replace them, there have been years in which it’s been glaringly obvious what to give up.

This year not so much.

I’ve felt a little tired and fuzzy-brained this week which could have something to do with it. It could also just be the season. Maybe there’s not one obvious thing to give up this year. That doesn’t mean I’m skipping Lent, though. On the contrary! Wednesday evening our pastor talked about leaning in during the next 40 days. Just as he had encouraged us at Advent to step back and not engage in Christmas “stuff” to the point of overwhelming and missing the point, he encouraged us to press in, to engage with the cross as we journey to the resurrection.

I dig it.

What does it look like? Well, it might be a bit more vague than in years past, but I’ve been thinking these last couple of days about how I can lean in. I’ve found that it’s easy at work to get bored and distract myself – check facebook, play with my colorful pens, text a hilarious (or mildly funny) tidbit to someone… I can kill time with the best of them. Maybe the challenge this year will be to lean in when the temptation is to distract. Now this doesn’t mean that I’m giving up facebook and purple pens and texting and peanut M&M’s and walking down the hall to my funny co-worker’s office… but when I have a moment in the day, what does it look like to engage rather than space out? What does that look like at home? On the weekend?

So that’s what I’ve been considering this week. Instead of going in with a set plan, I am, in a sense, allowing Lent to form itself as I go this year. I’m wanting to take on some Lenten disciplines that have been good for me these past few years, but we’re keeping it loose. It’s not exactly an orthodox strategy, but we’ll see what the next 37 days hold.
I think I’m ready.

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For today

It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them. Psalm 44:3

 

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Springtime in Houston

Last week I turned 31.

Last week I also reached my 6-month anniversary in Houston.

What a week!

I haven’t been able to come up with anything interesting to say and I’ve tried several times. I suppose I could report that I welcomed both milestones with open arms. Even though life doesn’t get any easier, there’s a richness that seems to come with the passing months and years that I appreciate. I feel a sense of anticipation as I look ahead, excited about what is to come. There are things that I’ve hoped for and dreamed of and as this new season continues to unfold I want to be waiting expectantly. I want to be peering over the edge of the boat (think: Noah) scanning the horizon for dry land.

Is it time yet?

May we go out and explore?

Can we plant again?

Yes, I’m going to be watching and waiting… ready for all things new.

 

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Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica

This week I marked a milestone in my professional life.

Let’s not kid ourselves, I’m no professional, but for the sake of this blog let’s pretend I am. This week I hit my three month anniversary at work. Three months of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Three months of “professional dress.” Three months of one hour lunch breaks. Three months of sitting in a gray box for eight hours a day. Ninety days. Three months.

Although there’s much I could say about this, I’ll choose to share with my faithful readers a few lessons I’ve learned in this short (yet very long) time. Office life is new for me and since my only frame of reference is The Office, I’m constantly surprised by the similarities and oddities that make these 40 hours a week so un-interesting. Here we go…

1) People love cake, sandwich platters, or any free food. The day of the Christmas potluck was like a wildebeest stampede in the Serengeti – people were literally running to get in line early! Since we hadn’t brought enough food for triple the amount of people in this office, the chances were high that we were going to run out.

2) A little world of relationships form that don’t go anywhere past 5 p.m. We get friendly being with the same people all day, but when the clock strikes the magic hour I get in my car and zoom away to my other life. I don’t reenter this world until the next morning when I put back on my costume.. er.. professional wear and show up to do it all over again.

3)  All the stereotypes exist. There’s Debbie Downer, Freddy Flirt, Mario Macho-guy, Sally Spiritual… the list could go on. I’m not sure what someone would say about me yet, but I’m beginning to form my office identity. I’m the girl who wears really bright colors. I’m everyone’s friend. I sing Sound of Music songs down the hall with my co-worker. I’m as Meganish as ever, just in an office context.

4) Apparently e-mail forwards, weird Youtube videos, and random comics are still the most hilarious things in the world.

5) Little things make a difference – colorful post-it notes, a bright colored coffee mug, good snacks in my top right desk drawer… Little bits of sparkle in the midst of the gray.

I’m not going to lie – office life is not easy for me. It’s not the worst lot in life either, though, and I can do just about anything for a season. I’m thankful that I get to go home for lunch and that I do laugh at least once a day with one of my quirky co-workers. My bills are paid each month and I can go to the doctor without too much pressure on the pocketbook. These are all good things.

I still long for extraordinary adventures and don’t always feel like I see them in my current day-to-day. Perhaps I need to be more aware of the opportunities in front of my face. Ordinary is difficult for me, but if it’s my life, is it ever really ordinary? Probably not…

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Ring Out, Ring In

Ahhh, January 1. It feels like the kind of day in which you need to dream big dreams and think deep thoughts. I don’t really have any resolutions to report at this time. I’m sure there are things that I should do as I look ahead to the year, but if anything today has caused me to take a look back.

2012 was a full year – transition, decision making, surprises, goodbyes, hellos, newness… 2012 was packed.

When I think back on this day one year ago, many of the realities of today were only tiny ideas beginning to take shape in my heart. I felt the wind changing direction but I wasn’t exactly sure where it was blowing. I’m still not 100% sure, but several pieces have certainly come into place. I’ve done an international move this year. I’ve started over (again) in a not new but not-quite-familiar place. I’ve found a new rhythm and made friends and painted furniture and thrown parties and switched languages. I’m tired at the end of it all; I haven’t rested much in the past five months.

There’s something energizing in all of it, though. New possibilities, a new season… There’s been so much tearing down and rebuilding to do – perhaps I’m coming into a season in which I get to live in some of that and really enjoy it. I hope so. I’m sure there are more surprises and changes to come in 2013, but I’m hoping for good surprises and life-giving changes.

As much as I don’t like odd numbers, I welcome a new year. I think a fresh page in the Megan book is in order… yes, yes it is. Now let’s get to writing on it.

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