Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fourth time is the charm!?!?

I give you full permission to laugh as you read the following story. Right now, that is all I can do as well - even though it was anything but funny as it was happening.

This past Tuesday was my first day of in-service at my new job. (You can read from previous posts, my emotions have been scattered all over the place.) Knowing it was my first day, I was determined to show up on time (even a little early) and make a great first impression. Our morning scheduled stated that from 7.45-8.30 was coffee and fellowship, with everything officially starting at 8.30. Even with the 8.30 start, we were encouraged to show up early and mingle.

It takes me about 20 or 25 minutes to get to work. I decided to leave at 7.15, which would clearly put me there by 7.45, if not a few minutes early. The alarm went off, I ate my breakfast, got everything in order and was out the door at 7.13. Traffic was a little heavy but I still managed to pull into the parking lot at 7.38. Ready for the next adventure to begin I uttered a little prayer and left my car, heading into the unknown. I walked through the parking lot I noticed something odd... there were no other cars there. "This is strange" I thought, but I was still a few minutes early and went to the front office and "Okay, I'm here 7 minutes early, but surely someone would be on campus setting up?!" I quickly texted a co-worker and asked what was going on - and via my phone pulled up an old email where I could read about our in-service. It wasn't at the campus I was at. It was at a place with "hills" in the title. Our school has three campuses and one of them has "hills" in the title. "Dang. It must be at the other campus."

Feeling like an idiot I quickly typed in the new address to my gps and got going. Thankfully I was only about 15 minutes away. "Ok. I can still roll in by 8.00 and be there in plenty of time. Everything is ok." My co-worker got my text and called me - I quickly explained the mistake I made and said I was about 15 minutes away. That sounded about right to him, so we dropped the call. I get to the next campus at about 8.05 and see a lot more cars in the parking lot. "Phew. This is it. I made it." I go to the front office and see a sign taped to it: "This office is closed today due to in-service off campus." The cars were not for the school, they were for the business in the adjacent building.

I couldn't believe it. I had a mini panic attack and concluded in-service MUST be at our 3rd campus. So I find the address quickly and plug it into my gps (which has quickly become my best friend). It tells me I have a 20 minute drive. "Ok. I'm there by 8.25. Not ideal, but I'm still there before everything starts. I can do this. Stay calm." About 10 minutes into my drive I get a call from my co-worker who is a little confused as to why I haven't shown up when I told him I was 15 minutes away. Again, I explain to him the mistake I made and state that I'm headed to the 3rd campus. He responds with a word that brought tears to my eyes, "Why?" my response... "what do you mean why? Isn't that where in-service is?" He calmly says, "No. It's at the Hills Church. You need to get on the highway to get here."

My heart sank. Tears were forming in my eyes. Sweat started pouring from every inch of my body. My co-worker quickly texted me the address and I plugged it into the gps...20 minutes away. I cranked the AC on full blast to keep me from sweating so much - as my right foot got heavy and tested the acceleration of my little car. An hour previous to this I was thinking I was a rock star for showing up early, now I'm trying to figure out what road I'm on, and to what building I'm supposed to be going to. My little prayer turned to yelling at all the stoplights "Stay green, stay green, please don't change to yellow." My compliments of "nice job on being early TB" turned to, "You're such an idiot for not knowing where you were supposed to be!"

At 8.45. I finally rolled into the parking lot. I saw a lot of cars, and walked in and saw our director giving a speech to the entire staff. As quietly as I could, I found a chair in the back and tried to sneak in.

The 4th building was finally the correct one. The morning was hectic, tiring, stressful. I sank into the chair and let out an audible sigh and said to myself, "I'm here."

Noticing I was late and a little hectic someone walked up to me and (probably assuming I was late because I got lost) asked, "Are you starting to find your way around the city?" I cracked a little smile and simply responded, "Yeah, I got a nice little tour of the whole city this morning."

Not exactly the way I anticipated starting my first day of work.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Worship through tears

Transition is rarely an easy thing. I was fully aware of this fact months ago as I began processing leaving Germany. I am even more aware of it now, as I trudge through the early stages of transition. It hasn't been easy. And in my opinion, one of the more aggravating aspects of the transition is how challenging it is to put into words. It's not that I don't want to talk about it, it is more that I don't really know how to talk about it. During one of my first trips to a grocery store, my body physically started shaking because of the size and options. Whenever I hear English in public, it still startles me and catches me off guard. At a restaurant, I got ice in my water. Things that on paper seem so small. Things that shouldn't be hard, bizarre, or challenging, become overwhelming.

It is difficult to predict when one of these things will creep up. I find it even more difficult to stop the whispers that follow each experience, "You're a grown man crying in a grocery store, what's wrong with you?" or "It's English. You know the language. You've heard it constantly for six weeks (not to mention the 20+ years before you moved to Germany!) why are you still taken back when you hear it?"

As the waves of transition crash around me, I have found three things to be invaluable in aiding me mentally, physically, and spiritually.

1. Running.
Act surprised.
I found a great trail in the area and have continued my marathon training. It gives me time to think. Time to run off stress. Time where I am doing something familiar and comfortable. In a sea of new things, my running trail has slowly started to become familiar.

2. Talking with friends from Germany.
This week has been tremendous. For the past four mornings I have woken up and within the first few hours of being awake, I skyped with a friend (oh the joys of time zones). These conversations have been priceless. Each one was over an hour of sharing, laughing, and catching up. I have found that there are those who truly do understand everything that you cannot put into words, and it is a refreshing thing.
Last night I was texting with a student who just graduated and is preparing to start college. He asked how my transition was going and I said, "It has been tough, but as odd as it sounds the fact that I am having a hard time makes me feel normal." His answer of, "I couldn't agree more. I know what you mean" brought refreshment to my heart.

3. Worship through tears.
Every church service I have been to over the past few weeks, has resulted in me starting to cry at one point or another. When it happened this past Sunday, I just prayed, "Lord, I don't have the words to say what my heart is feeling right now. Please accept my tears as worship, and please know what is going on in my heart right now." I wanted to raise my voice in worship, but all I could offer was tears. As I did, I was reminded of Romans 8:26, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans"
I was refreshed and encouraged in the knowledge that the Holy Spirit was interceding on my behalf with cries from my heart that I could not put into words. 

We can worship our Savior through our voices, our actions, our thoughts. And sometimes, we worship through tears.

I'll leave you with this little nugget I found recently... Romans 8:26 is a profound promise of the Holy Spirit's interceding, and just two verses later we find another amazing promise in Romans 8:28. I can't help but see the train of thought for both verses being connected - rather than viewing those two verses separately, view them as being connected. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Even though I walk...

Within the past few months, and especially weeks, I have done a lot of traveling. A lot. Within the past week I flew over 2,000 miles and then drove close to 1,800 miles. To cover the 2,000 miles in the air it took me about 3 1/2 hours of flight time. While driving, I took the opportunity to make a few pit-stops and visit people along the way, therefore the 1,800 miles took me three days to complete.

The drive gave me a lot of time to think. It also provided me a lot of time to talk to friends on the phone, which was great. Don't worry, I was very safe while talking. After all, there were stretches where I had 300 miles on one road before I needed to make another turn. It wasn't the German autobahn, so the next turn wasn't reachable within 2 1/2 or 3 hours. I had plenty of straight patches of road where I could talk and drive safely at the same time.

While driving one of the things I thought of was this, "It's ironic that I can fly 2,000 miles and it only takes me three hours, but to drive 1,800 miles it is going to take me three days." Which led me to think about all the different modes of transportation there are, and the speeds at which you can travel. Planes, trains, cars, boats, all offer passengers opportunities to quickly cover a large distance. As I complained about having to drive for three straight days, I thought about how nice it would be to just "be there already." Yet, in getting there so quickly, I would miss out on seeing a lot of different things along the way. I drove through Nashville and got to see parts of the city. I was able to drive through some farm country and see a beautiful sunset. And yes, there were some boring stretches where I kept seeing the same billboard advertisement mile after mile. But, whether a new city, a beautiful sunset, or something boring, they were all things I would have missed had I taken a plane (or some other form of faster transportation) and just "gotten there already."

After thinking through this, I began to think about the different modes of transportation that require human power/effort to get you from place to place; cycling, running, walking. I love to walk but often find myself saying, "If I were running, I would get there so much faster than this." But again, I am reminded of the journey it takes to get from one point to the next. Walking allows me to experience more, it allows for more time to see the things going on around me.

All this was running through my head (pun intended) when a song by Jeremy Camp came on the radio with lyrics that quote Psalm 23, "Even though I walk through the valley..." My mind instantly clamped down on the word, "walk."

I realized David did not have the transportation available to him, that we do right now - but I found it interesting that he would choose the word, walk, rather than some other form of transportation. He could have said "ride" (horseback/camel or even a boat) he could have said "run" or "jog." But he didn't. He said "walk." We have heard the Psalm so many times that the other words sound awkward, but insert the other words and see how your view of time spent in the valley changes... "Even though I run through the valley..." or "Even though I ride through the valley..." The ride, almost makes it sound pleasurable and relaxing.

In thinking about that, I feel like besides crawling, or not moving at all, walking is the slowest possible form of transportation. The walk through, "the valley of the shadow of death" may take time. It is not something where you can snap a finger and "be there already." You cannot hop on a plane and fly through the valley of the shadow of death. You cannot speed through it - you are going to walk through it. "Even though I walk through the valley..."
Walking takes time. Walking takes patience. Walking through the valley may mean that we spend more time in the valley than we want. We don't fly through the valley. We don't speed through the valley. We walk through the valley. In a society so fixated on instant gratification and wanting/needing things at the snap of a finger, we want to be there already and we don't want to have to take time to get it.

Yet, David is telling us that we are going to walk through the valley. It is an exercise that is going to take time.

Enjoy the walk.