gentle year

December 31, 2011

T is one of those rare souls who truly loves listening to another’s heart. So when she asked me about the meaning of this past year, for my life, I knew she really wanted to know. This made me pause, needing to give a true enough answer to do justice to the question. Doing so made me realize that this end-of-the-year has caught me off guard a bit. Usually I guess my reflective tendency makes for more of a leading up to this time of the year. But somehow this time it has simply appeared—popped into my path—in the midst of all the rest of the business [and busy-ness] of life.
What I settled on, after some thought, was that this has been the year of God’s gentleness to me. Early in this year, I heard a sentence spoken straight to my heart: one that calmed my fears about the decision I was about to make, and one that has reappeared in my thought process concerning each subsequent life decision.
God deals with me gently.
This is what was running through my mind one morning, unbidden and unexpected. And this is what I realized was the truth of God’s reality for me in this season of my life.
You see, I am a fearful soul. People do not seem to realize this, judging from an external that appears to be an adventurous dashing-through pattern of living. But this truth is that I am prone to anxiety, and that I think about the future with fearfulness as I anticipate those things that frighten me. I like security. I like simplicity. I like routine. So stepping into the unknown is not a pleasant prospect. And yet I seem to do it rather regularly. But you know, each time I do so, there is an abundance of grace for that step. As I look back on steps I have taken and decisions I have made, I see a pattern of my fear subsiding into a peaceful sense of “Was this what I was so afraid of?” The present reality is never so hard as my imagined anxiety anticipated. In fact, the present of my life is invariably so much more manageable that I end up worrying that there is something wrong with the ease . . . a bomb must drop somewhere, somehow!
So when God spoke those words of gentleness to me, I realized that it was a reminder of the truth in which He deals with me. It is a dealing of grace for my fearful soul—a dealing that takes into account all my insecurities and all my failings. And a dealing that gives me exactly what I can handle. No more, and no less.
By this point in my musings, T and I had reached the top of the hill. The boys caught up with us, we took some summit photos, had some goofy posing fun, and then I chased Joshua back down the hill while G and T followed behind us. We spent the rest of the afternoon playing, and relaxing, in the pools. And by the time we drove back in the evening, we were all weary, in that contentedly relaxed sort of way.
Am I still anxious about the unknowns of this coming year? Certainly. I mean, I even get anxious about the remainder of each day, never mind about an entire year to come! But a deeper knowledge overcomes that fear: the knowledge that my God is a gentle God, and that He guides me in gentle paths.
So let’s do this thing; let’s live this life . . . bring it on! ☺

So we celebrated our New Years’ Eve in grand fashion . . . though not necessarily normal. Being in another of my recent four different time zones this week anyhow, trying to celebrate in any normal fashion would get complicated, anyway :-)
But we went to a stunning nearby springs, enjoyed a conversationally rich hike up the hill, and then an [extended] dip in the springs.
Reaching the top of the hill, I saw a spot that just begged for a foot photo. And I have not yet taken a foot photo here in NZ, so figured I was due one. Everyone was a good sport about the efforts, even taking a series of creatively staged shots. But this one included our whole happy party of feet–plus a hand that snuck into the bunch. I figured it was a good-looking enough little hand to stay :-)

legos for librarians

December 29, 2011

“It’s like Legos for Librarians,” I explained, after lauding T’s organization system for the large quantity of legos we were currently sorting through. She has invented the most brilliant way of keeping things in order, in which each lego model, once its lego life is done, is deconstructed into cartons of various sizes of Lego pieces. There’s a “ones” bin, a “twos” bin, and so on. If the piece is single-layered, it is stacked in a stair-step, and if double-layered, simply straight-up stacked. This makes the whole set of various lego pieces easy for an eight-year old to find, sort through, and keep straight by himself [though of course it does not always end up being done consistently by him . . . good thing there are librarians who like joining in on the sorting fun :-)]

too up-y

December 28, 2011

“It’s too up-y and down-y,” J bemoaned as we neared the top of the hill. I teased him for his description but it was rather apt, really . . . except that so far as I’m concerned, there’s no too about it for this outdoor-activitity-deprived soul. It was, to say the least, a treat today to be enjoying this beautiful land, with some beautiful people. Too blessed.

traveling [bare]feet

December 27, 2011

Today my feet [happily barefoot feet, I might add] find me in Singapore. And since yesterday they found me in Dubai, it seemed worthy of a foot photo. Having spent much of the last week in and out of airplanes and airports, when I landed here for a 12-hour layover today, I lost no time getting out of dodge . . . or out of the airport, as it were. Knowing nothing about this city, I headed for the information desk and was pleasantly surprised to learn that a 10-minute bus ride would carry me to a large, beachside park. Luckily for me, in the midst of rainy season here, the day was sunny and warm. A layover spent joining some sand-castle-building youngsters on the beach? Sigh of contentment here, in case you didn’t hear it over cyberspace!
So now I am back at the airport, readying for the next leg of the journey, to carry me . . .? :-)

sugar and spice

December 23, 2011

And more sweetness. Baking cookies with Grandma. And yes, if you are asking, that is indeed a paper bag she is using. As we discussed the icing logistics, I mentioned the idea of putting the sugar in a bag and shaking them inside, as I had seen in the recipe. I wasn’t paying attention until mid-shaking and it took a minute for me to figure out what was inside the big paper bag. As it turns out, it worked quite well! Apparently GramBea was worried she wouldn’t be able to keep the cookies from breaking apart in a plastic bag that was a-shakin’ . . .paper seemed a gentler choice :-)

sweetly green

December 20, 2011

Everything is sweeter now. From my world of extremes I come to a world of family. To a world of friends. To a world of great privilege. And to a world of freedom. I find that my senses are heightened to it all, and that I feel like I am breathing in deep breaths of freedom-infused oxygen. I also get teary-eyed quickly, sometimes for rather insignificant seeming reasons. Today it was turning on the car radio and hearing “Emmanuel” that started the tears. And the simplest things are so beautiful. We picked collard greens this afternoon, and I just found them too beautiful not to photograph. Silly? Perhaps. But so be it. It is life-giving to me right now, so I share it as it is, with no apologies!

in the studio

December 18, 2011

As we readied for this evening’s guests, PaCharley asked if I had a minute to help him. “I imagine so,” I told him. He explained that he had a special project he was working on, for which he thought I might be able to offer expertise: “You see,” he sheepishly explained, “I’ve never drawn a smiley face.” This special project turned out to be a sign directing people to the driveway. And on this sign he had in mind to put a smiley face. Well I just happened to have some art teaching experience under my belt, and I proudly told him so. He, in turn, proudly ushered me into his “art studio.”
Hmmm . . . so maybe, in this particular case, I shouldn’t have admitted such a thing as artistic experience :-)

all in a morning’s travel

December 15, 2011

It is a well-known fact that flying out of, and into, our city is no small task: it is an ordeal, to say the least. This morning, however, was surreal even considering that fact. By the time we boarded the airplane, my friend and I both sighed as we sat down and wondered aloud as to whether we had actually made it this far. Of course, we still had a good 45 minutes to go of waiting for take-off :-)
Our morning had begun with a 5am departure, for which we were all ready in a relatively timely fashion. Ten minutes of smooth sailing, and happy conversing ensued. Then, at one of the security checkpoints along the road, we watched as the soldier questioned our driver, looked at his papers, then ushered a woman behind him into the front seat of our vehicle.
I watched without thinking anything of it: I am accustomed to hitchhikers [and to hitchhiking!] in places I’ve lived before.
But we realized together that here such things do not happen: here the mind jumps to all manner of disastrous consequences. This particular passenger hopped out on another corner shortly thereafter, so all was well.
As one approaches the airport, the first thing that happens is that someone from the vehicle has to get out and walk along the road for several yards before re-entering the car that has been slowly moving ahead. I have no idea what the purpose of this is, but the last time I was out walking; so I was happy for our male passenger to be doing the honor today. Once he was back in the car we approached the first check-point where all get out for frisking and bag-checks, men to one entry and women to the other.
Before continuing with my account, I should mention a detail that factors in rather heavily, for me at least: this is winter. And winter is brutal here. So all the outside checks involved in the morning meant that we were exposed to the elements as well as encumbered by our baggage.
As we went through the lines, we were also trying to help each other. With an infant in our group, one couple had extra bags that we distributed amongst ourselves so we could all manage. For part of the way, we were just pulling the bags along. Later on we came to the baggage carts, which we discovered had a habit of toppling . . . and taking luggage along in the tumble. More on this later.
In one line that was particularly long, we had neared the end when a car came up to us and dropped off a man and woman with their bags. The man proceeded to walk up to our line and “excuse” his way into it. My coworkers and I were amused to hear one in our group speak up. He chuckled a bit as he firmly informed the man that “No-sorry–the line is back there!” The man smiled broadly and repeated “No problem” several times as he continued to nudge his way into the line. My coworker insisted, and moved closely into the line to prevent infiltration. Someone behind us chimed in after another “No problem!” from the line breakers: “Yes, it IS a problem,” was the comment. My coworker agreed that “There WILL be a problem!” We inched forward in our tight little clan till entering the building; I’m not sure what happened to Mr. and Mrs. “No problem!” after that.
Soon thereafter we came to a large crowd of people standing, and waiting. We waited with them a good 15 minutes [in the COLD, remember], until people started getting antsy, murmuring and gesturing. Finally someone decided that the shuttles we were supposed to wait for would not come, and people started to walk ahead. Knowing that the airport was actually an easy walk from here, and feeling somewhat like horses heading for a barn by this point, my party quickly started walking as well. But then 2 buses pulled up, and guards walked over to herd us into them. The climb into the buses with luggage was no easy task, but soon they were both filling quickly. Seeing that some had just walked, my group decided we would much rather do the same, considering the alternative was heaving ourselves into vehicles that looked ready to tip over. But guards quickly jumped in front of us, wildly gesturing that we must board the buses. We saw no good reason for it and said so. Not understanding our words, our intent was clear enough and strongly disapproved. We didn’t push it. Three of us boarded the buses, after about 6 toppled luggage carts and reloads in the attempt. One of these 3 almost escaped the buses, but then watched her bags being grabbed and tossed into a bus; she decided the wisest thing to do at this point was to follow her bags.
But Katie and I, as we tried to reason with a guard, saw another man coming to do the same. We “gave up,” and followed his indication, walking towards a vehicle. At this point the guard began an intense discussion with the other man. Katie and I looked at each other, nodded in agreement, and both made a mad dash for the airport. We didn’t look back. Judging from our successful escape, however, the diversion worked so well we couldn’t have planned it better. We ran all the way to the final checkpoint.
By this point, my fingers were so numb with the hour spent outside that I couldn’t get my passport out of the holder to hand to the guard. Thankfully, this particular gentleman was unusually patient.
Then, unbelievably, we were going through the indoor security point. Incidentally, this is one of the few occasions when it is actually beneficial to be female here. The women have a different entrance than the men, and since more men travel through the airport than women, we made it through our line much faster than our male counterpoints.
I will say that such a beginning to the morning made the rest of the things I generally dislike about travel [check-in, luggage screening, and waiting at the boarding gate] to actually feel rather luxurious this morning. I was reasonably warm and had the happy knowledge that we all had survived a, well, interesting beginning to our day.
And no, I was not carrying my camera with me during the events described, so no illustrative photo :-)


December 11, 2011

I don’t know what it was like in your neck of the woods. But here we had a lunar eclipse last night. I didn’t know it was coming, so when I got a call alerting me, I made a dash for my camera and fumbled through a quick lens change [racing the end of the eclipse]. I was able to snap a few shots before I had to leave, and was grateful for what I captured, though I suspect it improved–for photographic purposes at least–after I left.
What came as a particular delight, then, was my view this morning. I saw what appeared to be the sunrise. But it was on the wrong side of the sky. What it was instead was the very full moon setting over the mountain peaks. Reminds me of a line from a song: “You and the moon are a beautiful sight to me . . .”