Saturday, July 21, 2007

Amazing Wonders (or, Surviving 5 Pets, 4 People, and 3 Days Driving)

How is it done? I can hardly tell you, only that it is, in fact, DONE! All of us (including the 5 pets) made it alive and well to Edmonton. I am taking a detour from my usual blogging of deep thoughts to share some photos of this extraordinary event and some things we learned along the way.

It begins with a truck--which is later packed with the fine-tuned skill of a master artist by an amazing brother-in-law and a big crowd of friends happy to give up a Saturday morning to haul books.

Clear out the house and deal with a cranky car carrier that was NOT, in fact, "easy to install" before departing.

Enjoy rainy Chicago on the way to Wisconsin:

Travel through Wisconsin to Minneapolis at Ray & Janel's house to spend the night. Lovely to have relatives who do not fear the descent of 6 people, 5 pets, and 2 vehicles into their space. Now that's hospitality!

It really helps to have a dog who happily trots around rest stops...

... and is equally happy to hop back in the car (along with the guinea pig and gecko in their cages)!

And the cats? In their cages in the back of the camper. Seriously annoyed but helped by large doses of catnip and Feliway (the "happy kitty" phermone). I kept sniffing it but it didn't seem to help me.

Apparently we were in North Dakota. This is about all I remember:

The key to any successful border crossing when immigrating to Canada: get one agent who is more interested in giving your kids a flag than looking at your paperwork and another agent who asks in amazement "hey, where'd you get this, the internet?" when you hand over your paperwork and told his friend "look, they already did this--so I don't need to look at their stuff, then, right?" That's right, buddy boy.

Night at a lovely hotel in Manitoba made peaceful by a ridiculously lenient pet policy (if only they knew how far that $5 pet fee took us...) and by some welcome presents from adoring aunts:

All I can say about Saskatchewan is the prairies are drop-dead gorgeous...

But there's not much to do but count hay bales.

And besides going on FOREVER, they do not believe in rest stops. Or any kind of stop. Except tiny little gas stations like this one, which were quaint in theory but not really in reality. But it's amazing how 4 hours with nothing in sight but more hay bales will make you welcome even this little shack with rejoicing and great anticipation.

And after I have no clue how many HOURS and KILOMETERS (don't say miles--this is Canada, remember?), we finally arrive in Alberta.

And to Edmonton and our new house with all 4 of us and all 5 of the pets alive and (mostly) well!! If that's not worthy of amazement and wonder, I don't know what is.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Do It Anyway

There are people we don’t see that much with whom we have made conscious efforts to connect in this time before we move. And every time we leave, I think, “Why don’t we do this more often?” Even though my first instinct most of the time is to burrow in at home, telling myself I am just too tired to socialize, there is always something I get from being with people that connects me in deeper ways that I realize only afterwards that I am hungry for. Last Sunday we stood up in front of church to say and receive goodbyes from the congregation and even though it was full of sadness and even though my initial instinct is to slink quietly out of town and avoid goodbyes of every kind, it was well worth doing.

In saying goodbye, in the last times you see people there is awkwardness—who hugs whom and how do you approach the other person? Do you sit and cry together or make jokes and remember the good times? How do you get past the gigantic white elephant in the room which shouts loudly of your impending separation? How can anything good you say overcome that loss? My own prohibitive nature tells me to avoid such tension but I believe firmly this is something I should overcome. In these gatherings with friends, every single time—not one exception—I have come away with a deeper love of others and a greater sense of well-being that comes in being part of that caring community. Something I know I can’t get being tired on the couch at home by myself.

So I push beyond my inertia, my weariness, my exhaustion at saying goodbye too much, and I listen to the voice urging me forward … do it anyway. Get past your tattered emotions, past your awkwardness, past your fears of saying or doing the wrong thing, and just be with the people who love you. Be with the people who have helped define who you are, and receive the gift of their humanity—imperfect and tentative though it may be.

Monday, July 9, 2007

More Than We Are

“Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery of who you really are” (Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel).

All of us want to be more than we fear we are. We see ourselves as competent maybe, admired hopefully, but underneath there is the nagging suspicion that we are simply insignificant nobodies whose lives matter to none but a very few.

It is so easy for me to set up my perception of myself—my anxious, fretful, loathsome, small-minded perception—as the all-encompassing truth, to make it so large that all the compliments in the world are dwarfed into nothingness beside it. But what is the truth? Can I accept the love of others and believe in my heart that God loves me with pure and constant grace?

Twice this week I’ve heard people wonder—we know that God loves the poor, calls them “blessed,” so does that mean the opposite is also true? That he does not love the rich? What then are we, as members of the richest part of the world, to do? Harder than the eye of a needle for us to figure it out, but I don’t think God’s love for the poor necessitates disdain of the rich. It all has to do with perception.

Whether rich or poor, we all of us want to believe that at our core there is mystery beyond our wildest imaginings, that we are of great significance and the world would simply not be the same without us. And where God comes is to the ones in whom that craving for mystery is strongest, to those who most know how completely beyond their own minds it is to even imagine a better way to be, to the ones who yearn with all their heart to get to something true and deep. No matter what our economic status, no matter whether we are crippled by self-perceptions or preoccupied with maintaining them, all of us in the end must search beyond the things that make us shallow and keep us starved and listen for the longings within us that whisper over and over like a song: You matter. More than it is in you to think, you matter, yes, you do!