We're less than three weeks away from boarding a plane and landing in a place we've never been.
We're just a few weeks away from doing the hard, gritty work of setting up shop and refusing to set up walls. Being vulnerable all over again. We're a few weeks away, I say! And as I process all the goodness that these past nearly three years have gifted us, I have one thing I want to remind myself of:
"Give it all you've got."This doesn't mean pretense. This doesn't mean my best self or a well curated version of it (as much as I'm tempted to present the very thing.) It doesn't mean a functional theology of getting myself in and out of messes and only allowing people to see the accomplished version of conquered sin and heartache. It means messy. It means all we've got.
Because rarely does living honestly mean neat and pretty and alluring. We've learned that haven't we?
When we landed in this place, Helsinki Finland, the place that now owns our hearts, I fell pregnant with Elias. I then spent the next three months sick at the smell outside my door. Our couch and Daniel tiger were our first friends. One's we relied on for an entire three months. They were faithful, but found wanting.
And then the sickness waned and the culture shock crept in and with it all sorts of anchored tethers bringing me downward & swallowing me hole. The dilemna came when Ben floated along just fine. And so began the slow decline into the worse scenes our marriage has lived through.
One such scene took place in our tiny side-bathroom. Hardly enough room to turn around. At the most tender point, I found myself locked in there, and weaping. I did the crazy wild thing of throwing deodarant bottles around (you know, just plastic. Recklace anger with a side of reason.)
Eowyn asked through the crack of the door what was breaking and all I could muster was "my heart."
And then God answered prayers slowly, didn't he? He floated us up somehow. God brought in healing and understanding and hope. He gave us people with souls whom would fill up spaces and give room to heal. Our Jesus would prove that even when we don't know the next step for our marriage, for our time here, for our children, he does. And his plan and his kindness blew us out of the water I once was sinking in and into a peace we hadn't experienced before.
And in the midst of all this, Elias came and he screamed for a year, and we hardly left the house all that winter. We learned yet again that life could be brutal and so lonely. We learned a take on sacrifical love that we hadn't ever known. It was a heavy season, until we were reminded again we don't have to do this alone. We had friends come in, didn't we? Who cheered us on and understood our anxieties. Who called our baby 'little Pterydactl' and were unfazed despite an anxious mothers fears.
and with their faithfulness, a sweet season ushered in. When the walls fell over and we were left presenting ourselves wanting, our friends put anxieties to rest, and laughed with us and let us belong. Despite this season being crowded with overtime, and hardly seeing one another, it was sweet when we were together.
And then we were gifted a good gift of another baby, and that good gift also gave me a first-turned-to-second-trimester perpetual throwing up that rocked me to my core and made me learn a whole new level of helplessness. More times than not I have wept on that bathroom floor and up at Jesus. And what happened then? Kindness, food brought to us, bold prayers prayed over us (because so often I did not have faith to muster them) over and over and over and over and over until they were answered.
Yes, that is what these three years have been. Bold prayers. Over and over. Until Answered.
Time passes, and here we are. Boxes and suitcases and kinderegg toys overwelming.
When we look back at the realities of these past three years, they were bleak and helpless and bright and hopeful. This was a season where our marriage felt fire and our faces felt ice and our hands learned to stay folded and our eyes learned to look upwards.
It was three years of learning how to be a friend by our friends. They have been the best we've ever known and have set the standard for the rest of our lives. Oh Jesus, let me be as kind as they have been to us!
And oh how we laughed! Tears rolling. Embarrasingly loud laughter. Shared secrets we've never shared before. Vulnerabilites exposed. Grace received at our insufficiencies, at our histories. Giving our hearts over, and yes, at times, feeling them broken. Yet so often, they've come back to us even stronger. These people here. They are undoubtably the greatest gifts of our time here.
As I collect all these fragments, as I recollect all the blog posts and happy moments of adventures and laughter had during our time in Scandinavia, we now know what it means to be stuffed full of Christs goodness.
It has meant being broken wide. It has meant getting filled in ways we aren't comfortable or familiar. It has meant owning the soil of a place unfamiliar and staying when all we wanted was to leave. And it has meant learning the voice and face and realities of a tangible Jesus. He's come to our house and fed us food and helped our hearts and reassured us in our fears. He's talked with british accents and with finnish eyes and has let us know love with silly phrases and unwaivering boldness.
as I'm mastering the taping of boxes, and approaching the waddling season of this pregnancy, and as my heart catches in my throat every time I give half a second to even consider leaving this place, I say to my soul with boldness:
Dear heart, take courage.
Open up those doors, invite people in. Serve that food, and be okay if they don't like you (or the meal,) if the kids are misbehaving (they will be,) or if the house is messy (its a perpetual state of being.)
Then, invite them over again.
Find something, ANYTHING in that soil that you can own and own it. Be it trees, or a burger place or the way sun shines on the dirt.
If you fail, fail boldy. But please, do yourself a favor.
Give it all you've got.
Because goodness, we did that here and look how heartbreakingly beautiful it has been.
I'm all too aware of how little it had to do with us. I know where our best thinking gets us, and it isn't this. So Jesus, thank you. Your kindness knows no bounds. I'll never have enough words, and that's just been the past three years.