When I started this blog over (gulp) eleven years ago, I was preparing to go to Eastern Europe, for my first-ever trip over the ocean. We were thinking of moving there permanently as missionaries and I was scared to death. Just agreeing to get my passport and go on that two-week trip was one of the most terrifying things I had ever worked myself up to do. Trips like those are always life-changing and that one was no exception. Looking back at the much younger mother of three that I was then, I almost don’t recognize myself, but I know that I was one person before I went on that trip and somebody else when I came home. We didn’t end up moving there. We ended up staying in Texas and not being missionaries at all anymore. As both my husband and I continued becoming more and more of two different somebody elses, we found ourselves on a long and painful journey through a very dry land. We didn’t know when and if we would ever drink again. Although I didn’t intend it to be when I started it, much of this blog is about that journey.
And life went on. The kids grew older, got married, had babies. I grew older, moved on, got a very busy job, and lost much of the time that I once had for reflection. We didn’t end up staying in Texas. We ended up coming out west and allowing ourselves to be planted right near the world’s biggest body of water, where we are drinking deeply of God’s goodness, both in body and soul. In the midst of these years, there has been so much joy. In the midst of these years, there has been so much heartache. In the midst of these years, there has been love. Always love. So much love.
Last week, I returned from my third-ever trip across the ocean. We finally went to visit our dear friends, the Beans, who moved to England ten years ago. In those ten years, they became somebody else, we became somebody else, all of our kids became many little somebody elses. But what was amazing about this trip was that in spite of all the changes, love remains. Ties that bind loved ones together are strong; strong enough to withstand the storms of many years and many miles. Deep enough to fill even the most parched lands. Restful enough to leave room for reflection while in the company of one another.
We went to England, the four of us in our ever-changing little, hodge podge family: Chris, Grace, Crystal Mistal and me. While in England, we drove 5 million miles in a rental van with nine of us while singing and laughing and talking and sleeping, we walked 5 million miles over lands where our ancestors walked, we cried at the overwhelming beauty of buildings and the remembrance of those who built them and worshiped in them, we had many deep conversations and many great, big laughs, we renewed our spirits and let our eyes be opened and our minds be at peace. Like usual, I took far too many pictures to post, but here we are on a hill overlooking a beautiful country that will now forever have a piece of my heart. (If you click here: England Pictures, you can see all 437 pictures from our trip, if you are someone who cares…. I think I have at least a few readers who care but I won’t subject the rest of you to it!)
Speaking of pieces of my heart, right here are two of them. Seems like my heart keeps breaking into more and more pieces at this stage of life. Sometimes I don’t know how it goes on beating. This girl in this picture, who was once our baby, is about to start her senior year of high school and I don’t know what happens after that. This man in this picture, who was once my high school sweetheart, now has wrinkles by his eyes and gray in his hair and says “well, well, well” just like an old man, every time he sees his grandson.
Maybe looking back, I don’t recognize who I was, and looking now, I don’t recognize who I am… but looking forward, I know there’s hope. My heart goes on beating, in spite of the breaking, the world goes on spinning, in spite of the changes; more babies will come, more loved ones will die, and we will swim on in these deep, deep waters of our baptism while loving one another and drinking it all in.