Blog

Firsts
  • A Baby Story

    I've been painfully inconsistent with writing this year so far. And I'm guessing I'll continue to be as I put into practice some new ways of living life. The miracle of the life strapped to me currently has been made evident in many ways. At every turn starting before she was even conceived we've been asked to entrust her to the Lord, and it's been our great privilege to do so. 

    We prayed and asked God to give us a child. We prayed consistently and hard and after nearly a year we began the adoption process believing that perhaps this would be how God would choose to expand our family. We started and finished the process in a few months. Our anticipation was through the roof. We knew of a set of twins who needed a family and the only thing holding us back was my background check approval from the state of Georgia.

    We waited for months and I filled and re-filled out the same paperwork multiple times. We were confused by the process and didn't understand what was going on in Georgia, yet trusted the Lord. We waited as long as we could and then the twins were born and our opportunity was lost. In the meantime I found out God answered our prayer in a different way. I was pregnant.

    At 8 weeks of pregnancy I started bleeding. It was my 35th birthday. We anxiously contacted our doctor and waited all day long before we could be seen. When we got there they did a few checks but wouldn't do an ultrasound until the following day. It was a tearful 24 hours. When we finally got to have our ultrasound we saw her heart beating strong and the Lord chose to preserve her. 

    Our agency would still allow us to adopt a newborn up through the first trimester of pregnancy so we continued to wait and pray and see what God might do. When our window was closed, and I was 12 weeks and 1 day I contacted our agency to let them know we'd need to pause the adoption process due to pregnancy. I kid you not, the very next day we received confirmation that my background check was approved and our homestudy complete. God made His plans completely clear. We would not be adopting a newborn at this time.

    Throughout the pregnancy we received word of 2 other children, both 10 months old who at different points needed loving homes to come into. We were able to have our profiles shown because they weren't newborns, and they'd be over a year by the time our little would be born. We bathed both situations in prayer anxiously hoping that God would bring into our home exactly who He wanted us to raise. In both instances the birth family chose other families to love their children. 

    At 22-ish weeks Jason and I were driving to watch the Nebraska-Minnesota football game at a restaurant and a woman rammed us from behind. Our car was totaled. Her car was too. We'd found out just 2 weeks before that we would be having a girl. We stood on the chilly sidewalk praying, very anxious about the life of our girl. The ambulance came and said we'd need to go to the ER to have the baby monitored. We sat in the labor and delivery room listening to her heart beating and the cloudy sounds of her movements, and they were some of the sweetest sounds we'd every heard. We also watched the Cornhuskers beat the Gophers. :) 

    At 32 weeks at our weekly dr. visit our doctor felt my belly and let us know our baby girl was breech. We'd been through a bit already so nothing much came as a surprise. We headed home and tried pretty much everything you could find on the internet to get your baby to turn. All to no avail. We scheduled a c-section for March 16th. There was an end in sight! We couldn't wait to meet her. The week before at another regular check up her heart rate was dipping. After 40 minutes of monitoring they let us leave, but told us to come in if anything changed. Well, things seemed fine so a week later we woke up early and headed to the hospital for our scheduled c-section. By then I was contracting every 12 minutes and with every contraction her heartrate would drop in the 50's. We had about every staff member in our room at one point or another. Our doctor wasn't responding to pages so another doctor came in to sign consents and prepared to do the surgery. Jason and I relived this memory later and shared with each other that he kept praying, "God, You are my rock. You are my rock. You are my rock" While I prayed from my hospital bed, "Lord, I trust You. I trust You. I trust You."

    Our doctor arrived at about that time and we headed to the ER. I'll save the gory surgery details, but 40-ish minutes later we came face to face with our beautiful daughter. She screamed her pretty little face off and with tears streaming down my face I finally got to see this tiny miracle.

    Throughout our hospital stay we dealt with loss of more than 10% of her birth weight and some jaundice and finally we were ready to be discharged. On the final checks our nurse spent a little longer than usual listening to her heart. She pulled away from Marylane and told us she had found a heart murmur. She called our pediatrician immediately. They then ordered an echo cardiogram to happen in the next hour. Again, we were waiting to see what God might be doing in the life of Marylane Raleigh Lempola. It felt like she'd already overcome so much to make her way into our family. We bawled waiting for the technician to arrive.

    Jason stood over her holding her tiny hands the entire time the echo was happening. It was supposed to be 20 minutes, and an hour later he still was bent over her tiny self talking to her. Finally the technician finished but said a cardiologist would have to tell us the results. A few minutes later our angel of a nurse slipped in to tell us that they hadn't expedited the results, which meant it wasn't as serious as it could be. After another couple hours of waiting a doctor called into our room to let us know it is a VSD murmur and would most likely heal within the first year of her life. We will be meeting with a cardiologist in May to go over the results and have her checked again to confirm what the technician found. 

    Every morning Jason and I pray together thanking God for Marylane's life and asking direction for our future and family. Once she's 6 months old we can have our homestudy updated and we can again pursue adoption, which we intend to do. We're certain that it will require the same trust that Marylane's life has required. But we're excited to see how God grows our family and us through this process. 

    Thanks for bearing with my LONG and drawn out story. It's lovely to have it down all in one place. It reminds me just how present God has been with us. 

  • A Year and 9 Things that have defined it.

    I can't believe it, but Jason and I have made it an entire year together, living in the same home, making life in Minnesota, and blending our worlds. Sometimes it's felt like the fastest year of my life and sometimes it's felt very slow. [In a good way.]

    These are 9 things that have defined our first year together. There are probably more, but these jumped to our minds the most quickly.

    1. Sometimes we anticipate something to be SO hard that it ends up feeling sort of easy. For all the advice we received and time we spent preparing for a very hard first year, it has gone a whole lot more smoothly than either of us thought it would.

    2. A couple minutes spent chatting in the driveway with neighbors is totally worth the friendships gained. It's worth it not to just close your garage and front doors when you get home from a long day of work, but actually to spend time investing in those relationships.

    3. Hospitality doesn't have to be fancy. Speaking of said neighbors, our best times together have been over burgers and hot dogs at a folding table in the garage. We don't have to get hung up on everything being "perfect." We need to prioritize relationship over perceived perfection.

    4. Jason and I are not spontaneous. We were salivating over our spontaneous friends' decision to jump in the car with their 2 kids and drive to Duluth for the day. We were bemoaning the fact that we would NEVER think of that on our own, let alone DO it. Then we decided that we're the kind of people who would rather choose a quiet day at home, and that's ok too.

    5. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. There have been certain things [like the way we eat or do laundry] that we've just had to decide to join the other in. It might mean a few extra pounds, or one more laundry basket than the other person understands, but some things just don't matter enough to disrupt relationship over. 

    6. We have a Sunday night business meeting every week. We talk about:
    -what we did the week before
    -what we're doing the week ahead
    -what is our budget for the week  
    -what was a high from our week 
    -how we can pray for each other.
    We depend heavily on that 15 minutes to get us on same page for the week.

    7. We start every morning together. No matter what, we get up together everyday. It means going to bed earlier than Jason would like and sometimes I have to get up earlier than I would need to, but starting the day praying for each other has been an unexpectedly beautiful blessing that is more than worth a couple more minutes of sleep.

    8. We challenge each other to reach beyond mediocrity. From finding a new job to exploring new places or from disc golf to spending time reading together, we challenge each other to try new things because the other person loves them. 

    9. Our Church has become a place for us to serve and be served. And it didn't even take very long. We found out that if you show up, you'll be invited to join in the work God is doing. We're thankful to get to be a part of it, and for the place of welcome we've found there. 

    What a year! We're thankful for wise people in our lives who set us off on a path that has made this first year truly peaceful and full of bliss. 

  • Last Two...Kid Rock and Hunting

    Now, let me begin by saying how much I wish I could end more valiantly than with these last two, but sometimes that is just the way things go. No matter how hard you try to live intentionally, sometimes things pan out a little differently than what you thought. 

    Kid Rock
    No joke. I went to a Kid Rock concert. It was a blind date. I'm telling the absolute truth. When I agreed to the Kid Rock blind date, I figured if nothing else, I would have a good story to tell on the back end, and I definitely do. The bummer of the story is, a lot of what I saw that night is unmentionable. It's everything you could imagine for such a concert and so much more. I couldn't stop people watching. It was a fascinating southern experience, and not the kind the pretty magazines talk about. We tailgated and the grill got stolen, there were more old-people-hippy-dancing than I've ever seen in my life, and lots and lots of boots. Pretty much by the end of the night, all people involved knew we would never be seeing each other again.

    I will say this for the experience, I'm so glad I get to say I went to a Kid Rock concert. I'm even more glad that it was one of my very last first dates. A few months later my life was turned upside down [In a wonderful way] with another first date that I'm going to be grateful for for the rest of my life. But this first date? It lets me say that in a year of first time experiences, one of them involved Kid Rock, Uncle Kracker and ZZ Top. What more do you need from a first? 

    Hunting
    Over Thanksgiving last year I spent the Holiday with my brother's family near Wolsey South Dakota. My brother's family are cattle ranchers. It's a beautiful ranch and I love visits there. While we were there we did things like ice skate on "Lake Boomsma" which isn't a real lake, it's just one of their feed lots that has flooded and frozen. One night Wes was headed out to see if he could could a deer during hunting season. He was all bundled up by the door and asked if anyone wanted to come along. There was a long silence and I jumped up. I'd never been hunting. This was my chance to do something I'd never done before. I threw on my sister-in-law's boots and warm clothes and Wes and I went off sneaking through a cornfield. We watched the sunset, saw a few deer too far away to have a good shot at, and eventually headed home. He taught me how to spot deer in a field and when I tried to discount our "hunting" experience because we didn't get anything, he told me that of COURSE we were hunting. That's what 90% of hunting is: sitting in a field all evening, watching the sunset, and romping home again. In that case, in my opinion, hunting is awesome! 

    This ends my year of firsts. There were certianly more than 13, but these get to be the highlights. My favorite take-away from my year of firsts is that it's not hard to try something new. If I open my eyes and think for just a second, I can try something new fairly often without even having to make a ton of effort. What are your favorite firsts? What new things have you tried?

    A World Full of Things I've Never Done Before.

    First 3 Firsts

    4-5-and-6

    Seven: a different kind of funeral.

    Eight and Nine

    Ten-The Break In

    Another First [a little out of order] 

    A Weekend In Savannah-Eleven

    Last Two...Kid Rock and Hunting-12 & 13

  • A Weekend In Savannah

    For work we do a series of events, one of which is a conference in Atlanta in the fall called Plywood Presents. It's a bunch of people gathering in one place to talk about how they can find and execute solutions to old problems. There's about 600 people there, the event takes a bit of planning. Last year after the event, Jeff, my boss, sent me to Savannah by myself for the weekend to regain some energy. I had never vacationed alone up to this point, this was my first experience of hanging out for an entire weekend in a different city completely by myself. 

    The weekend consisted of reading a lot, writing, dreaming about what my future could look like, romping on the beach, and going to bed ridiculously early. I turned off my phone, stopped checking email, and spent the weekend alone. And it was glorious. 

    Here are a few thoughts about a solo weekend:

    -The ocean is beautiful, but be prepared to suddenly have paranoia that you might drown and no one will ever find you. Swim in the ocean anyway. Just don't drown.

    -Laying on the beach consists of a lot less paranoia about dying alone. [Bring spray sunscreen.]

    -Be sure to take long morning walks with a cup of coffee thinking of nothing at all except how beautiful the clouds look in the sky, how magnificent the boats are in the water, and how thankful you are to be taking your next breath. 

    -Wander aimlessly for as long as you want, whenever you want.

    -Take advantage of the inspiration. Grabbing paper and a pen was the way for me to capture bits of the muse while I was regaining energy. 

    -Don't be afraid of silence. It's so rare. 

    -When it rains, sit at the window and watch it pour. 

    -Go without a plan. Don't put pressure on yourself to see certain things, be certain places at certain times, or regulate a schedule. Just be there and take in the time as it comes.

    -Sit at scenic restaurants for longer than comfortable and enjoy every bite. Nevermind if the waiter seems sympathetic, what they don't know is that there's no where else you'd rather be than at their table watching boats on the water by yourself.

    -Take long showers. No one is waiting behind you to get in, so enjoy every single minute you'd like to of a long luxurious shower.

    -Read something that doesn't make you think too hard, just for the pure entertainment of it.

    -Give thanks a lot. Give thanks when you're laying in bed just waking up to the morning light. When you're taking your long luxious shower, as you're enjoying your coffee and taking in the clouds. As you're laying on the beach or romping in the ocean. When inspiration strikes and you're enjoying beautiful things, when you're wandering aimlessly, when you get lost in the new town, give thanks then too. Thank God for His goodness and grace. This is all a gift. Every single bit of it. 

    A World Full of Things I've Never Done Before.

    First 3 Firsts

    4-5-and-6

    Seven: a different kind of funeral.

    Eight and Nine

    Ten-The Break In

    Another First [a little out of order] 

    A Weekend In Savannah

  • Another First [a little out of order]

    At Thanksgiving last year, I was flying back to Atlanta from Lincoln Nebraska, my hometown. I got delayed 30 measly minutes. It's never enough to make much of a difference, but this time, it caused me to miss the last connecting flight out of Minneapolis. It meant I couldn't fly out until the next day and I was going to have to foot the bill for a hotel, because somehow, without a cloud in the sky on either end, it was weather related.

    I sat waiting for the shuttle to the hotel and stress threatened to steal my peace. I decided to take a second to pray. I said, "Lord, I do not know what good you have planned for me, but I'm not going to let this get to me. I'm going to trust you."

    I hopped on the shuttle, got 6 hours of sleep, boarded a plane the next morning and hit the ground running at work. A few days later I decided to check this dating app thing I had. There was a cute man who started talking to me and we were enjoying each other's conversations. The point of the app was to meet people near you, so when I saw that he was a good 900 miles away I asked if he was traveling for work. He wasn't. "I live in Maple Grove MN," he said, and loves it up there.

    I figured that would be the end of our conversations. I thought we would both decide long distance is too hard and move on with the rest of our lives. But for some reason, we kept talking. He called a few days later and our first "date" was a FaceTime conversation. He even wore a tie to make a good first impression :) Maybe a month after our first phone call he bought a plane ticket to visit me in Atlanta. By the end of that weekend visit we both knew we didn't want to let each other go.

    It's been a whirlwind of flights back and forth, meeting families, lots of FaceTime and phone calls. 

    Fast forward to last weekend [but slow fast forward or you'll miss the whole thing. We've only known each other since Thanksgiving, remember.] I had a work event Thursday evening I was preparing for. At just the moment I was going to leave to pick up 2 of my colleagues to join me for the event, my roommate called to tell me our alarm had gone off. With our history of break-in a year ago, I raced home to see if there was someone in our house. 

    I had only SORT of thought it through. I got in the front door after parking my car for a fast and easy exit, and the alarm wasn't going off. Also, there was a big bouquet of flowers in the entry way. I was so confused as to why someone would break into my house to leave me flowers. I was trying to figure it out for a solid 2 minutes, just staring at the gorgeous flowers.

    Finally, from the kitchen, I heard a sheepish and familiar voice say, "hello??" Jason was sitting there all the while worried I had mace in my hand and if I came around the corner to see a man sitting there, that he was going to get a face-full of it.

    I came around the corner and gave him a gigantic hug, still expecting to have to race off to the work event. I think I said something like, "I'm so happy to see you. What are you doing here? I have to work." He assured me he had taken care of all of it. In fact, he'd roped in several of my friends for an airport ride, for the work diversion, and the fake house alarm. He proposed pretty much right then and there. I, of course, said yes, because I can't imagine being without him now that I know the wonder of him. My friends generously threw us an engagement party, and we spent the rest of the weekend wedding planning and registering before he had to fly back to Minnesota.

    All along the way there has been assurance after assurance that we are the man and woman for each other. Through dreams, affirmation of friends and family, fleeces we placed before the Lord only to have Him graciously and patiently confirm them again and again to both of us. We're so thankful!

    We'll get married on October 11th in Atlanta, and then make the move from Georgia to Minnesota. This entire year so far has been an extension of all the firsts I started last year. Only this time, they feel orchestrated by Someone else, and I'm so thankful for God's hand on Jason and me. Neither of us have planned a wedding before, so I'm certain between now and October we're going to have a lot of stories to tell.

    Thanks for your love and support! We're overflowing.

  • Ten-The Break In

    It was midnight and I was sound asleep. My roommate was slated to come in the door any second so I hadn't bothered with the alarm. She had mentioned meeting with a friend to talk about some new furniture for our living room, so when I heard what sounded like a lot of shuffling around downstairs I expected that the next morning I'd come downstairs to find a room too full of furniture and nothing more.

    Until I heard a man's voice.

    And that's when it clicked that what I'd actually heard was someone kicking in my front door. I tried to set off our alarm on the house, but I couldn't figure out how and by that time I decided my next best option was to call 911. I went back to my room to grab my phone, hit 9-1-1 and at that very moment one of the men and I looked at each other as he started up the stairs to rifle through our bedrooms.

    He yelled, "OH  s*$?/!!  Somebody's home" and the 3 guys ran out of our house. With mine and Cathy's laptops, a box of tablecloths and some sharpies. I'll never know why the tablecloths and sharpies. All the while those big dummies are snatching our things, I ran into the spare bedroom so I could see out of the front of the house, I locked the bedroom door, and stood on top of the bed. [I'm not very rational in distressing situations, as you now know.]

    The police came in 3 minutes. Which was about 2 minutes too late. Those guys had made a run for it, and I'd say I never saw them again, but I'm pretty sure it's our lawn boys, who we didn't see for a few months after, but are now back begging to mow our lawn. [We politely decline their offers.] 

    Cathy came home shortly after to a house full of police officers. One of them decided to dust for prints, to no avail. They searched the neighborhood and then asked if there was a strapping young man we could call to fix our door for us. At 2 in the morning. Cathy looked at me, then looked at him smirking and said, "Well, what's YOUR name?" He kind of laughed, got a screwdriver, and took out the lock so we could at least completely close the door.

     

    The next morning I wanted to be afraid. I wanted to start thinking the worst about my decision to live in my neighborhood, and make the choices I do about living in the city. Then my friend Josh came over to help replace the lock until we could replace the whole door. As he was figuring out how to fix the door he said, "You guys get to choose. If you want to be afraid, you can be. Your house got broken into in the middle of the night, and you could choose to be afraid. Or you could choose not to be."

    The choice was that simple. What were we going to do with had just happened. After 5 close friends also had their homes broken into, they all made the same choice as Cathy and I. We chose to learn to take extra precautions, like closing the front blinds to our house, and having the alarm set even when we're home, and then we went on with our lives a little more wiser to the truth of city living. 

    I learned that fear caused by paranoia and "what-if's" in many cases, is a choice. And I don't have to choose it. I also learned once again, how powerful gratitude is in overcoming fear. When I began thanking my Savior for saving me in this situation too, I learned to trust Him more than doubt. Once again He had protected me, and this time I was very aware of Him.

    A World Full of Things I've Never Done Before.

    First 3 Firsts

    4-5-and-6

    Seven: a different kind of funeral.

    Eight and Nine

    Ten-The Break In

  • Eight and Nine

    My next two firsts juxtapose each other very accurately to life. Whimsy and fear. Fun and sadness. Excitement and anxiety. Fear and trust.

    My mom had to have major surgery. It was considererd to be "routine" but there was a chance they might find cancer in the process. My siblings all arranged to be there at different parts of the recovery, and I took the surgery/first week shift. Being so far from home, I couldn't imagine sitting anxiously at a desk in Atlanta while my mom underwent her surgery. One of my greatest fears involves anything happening to my parents.

    When I arrived in Lincoln, my mom had to have her pre-op 24 hours beforehand. They announced that they couldn't get her medicare figured out so they would be postponing the surgery. I was unhappy. My mom paced the sidewalk outside the dr.'s office and I went in to see the nurse to see if there was any way they could move forward. My emotions were unexpected. I cried as I talked to the nurse about how important it was to me to be there for this. I explained that for this office, it was a routine surgery, it's something they do everyday. But for me, she is the only Mom I have, and the idea of not being with her and my Dad during this time was a hard pill for me to swallow. I left without confidence that we had made any progress at all, but a few hours later she called me to let me know that she worked out the Medicare fiasco and the surgery would still be happening. 

    My mom went in, the surgery went as planned, actually way better, because my mom is one tough lady! She went home to begin her recovery, my sister came, and I flew back to Atlanta. One day after I arrived in Atlanta my mom called to tell me her Dr. was recommending her to see an oncologist because he had found more cancer than he had expected. My heart sank. It was not the news we were hoping for. The thought of anything happening to my parents brings me to insta-tears as fear takes over, and this was the case as my mom delivered the news. I considered if I needed to be packing my things and moving home.

    A long story short, 2 weeks later my mom received the miraculous news, that she was cancer free.

    After all of the worry and fear, it was all over. It was a lesson in trust, to say the least, and I learned that my trust was lacking. I learned there's no way to explain the value of loving parents. I learned that as a woman in my 30's, I need my Mom and Dad, in some ways more than I ever have before.

    For my next first, just 2 weeks after my Mom's news, I decided I would challenge my fear of heights as I rode the Atlanta ferris wheel with some friends. It was a glorious moment celebrating life, being thankful for every single moment, and reminding myself to not allow my fears to decide for me how I live.

    What fears have you lived through in the last year? How have they strengthened your resolve to be more who you are? 

    A World Full of Things I've Never Done Before.

    First 3 Firsts

    4-5-and-6

    Seven: a different kind of funeral.

    Eight and Nine

  • Seven: a different kind of funeral.

    Funerals aren't new to me. Growing up my parents valued celebrating the life of others in every way possible. They would have been remiss if they would have left out the final breath of life, so they didn't. They toted us with them to every funeral they attended. By the time I was a senior in high school I had been to the funerals of 23 men, women, and children who had played a role in my life. 

    So for my seventh experience of doing something I had never done before, the funeral wasn't it, it was the type of funeral that it was. I attended my first Burmese funeral, and thinking of it now brings tears to my eyes all over again.

    I want to disclaim this by saying, any understanding I’ve gained, I know I still am miles behind others in what has been experienced and lived through. Life is hard. I have been privileged from the very beginning, and make no illusions that my experiences bear any resemblance to others.

    One of the ladies who worked in our Billboard Bags shop has been an incredible inspiration to us. When she started working with us at Plywood People, she had only been in the US for 6 months.  She knew our program is one year long, so towards the end of the year she went in search of a new job. She and her husband found full time jobs at the same department store working together. We’re proud of her and her hard work. She’s learned a ton of English and worked hard to propel herself forward in a new country, with new jobs, a new language, and a whole bunch of new customs. She’s an incredible woman.

    We received a phone call that her husband was tragically killed in a car accident.

    And time stopped.

    Suddenly whatever bag order hasn’t gotten completed on time doesn’t matter nearly as much as all of the women in the shop rushing to her apartment to sit with her. And cry. And listen. And remember. In those long hours, Nothing. Else. Matters.

    We sat heartbroken with her and her 11 year old daughter, grieving their loss. This was an unexpected turn of events that changed all of our lives but distinctly, tragically, infinitely more, hers. The week after the accident I spent time with her, grieving with her, looking at pictures and shopping with her daughter, reliving stories, and crying on the floor of an apartment complex with the incredible refugee community around her, who know how to grieve.

    They’ve had no shortage of grief in their lives. It’s something they know well. Some nationalities grieve loudly with arms raised in the air screaming, and beating their chests. They came to mourn too. The Burmese in particular [which is the nationality of our friend] grieve quietly. They listen for her words between tears. They speak words of comfort. They pass around napkins or whatever might effectively wipe tears. They clear the room of all furniture to make space for others who might want to sit and listen and grieve also. They are present. And their presence changed me.

    I wanted to go to the funeral, to hug our friends, to cry with them. I wanted to be present as I had just learned so powerfully from them that presence matters. When I walked through the door I wasn’t prepared for all I would experience.

    First of all, not ONE more person would have fit in that room. Because with their value of presence, everyone was present for the funeral. There were no more parking spaces, there was no more standing room, there were people everywhere. People who came to town from Texas, Indiana, Virginia, Canada, Utah and Michigan, because through their church that week they had heard that a young refugee mother had just lost her husband and that’s what you do. You show up and grieve. You let kids walk quietly through the funeral home aisles. You tell the truth about the hardship. And you help your friend understand that in the vast depth of her grief, where there’s no easy comfort to find, at least she won’t be alone. You will be present.

    I also gained a tiny glimpse into the everyday experience of being a refugee. I sat in a room full of Burmese people. They’re beautiful and diverse and generous. I sat among them as one of 3 white faces. I was reminded what it is that the ladies in our shop and in refugee communities all around the world feel every single day. I couldn’t understand much of the service [although the pastor took pity on the few of us English speakers and shared a couple things in English]. I stood out when I walked in. For a brief second I was tempted to feel isolated and insecure.

    Until once again, the deep value of presence was pressed on me again, as I sat by Kay, Veronica and Dar all from the Billboard Bag project. Kay would lean over and translate things that she knew I’d want to know. She explained what was about to happen next, or what the significance was behind what just had happened. Kay and I shared a solidarity in that moment because she knew I was experiencing in those moments, everything the last 5 tumultuous years of her life has held. She was present and gracious with me.

    This is not the way things were intended to be. Wives and daughters were not meant to lose their husband and father. It is broken. It is tragic. There are no words to be spoken.

    There’s only presence to be given.

    Our friend came back to work at the Billboard Bag shop a few months ago. She was in need of a new job, a new start, and familiar friends. And we were in need of her gracious presence that she offers. 

    Catch up on this series:

    A World Full of Things I've Never Done Before.

    First 3 Firsts

    4-5-and-6

    Seven: a different kind of funeral.

  • 4-5-and-6

    I started out giving myself year-long experiences to keep up with after a conversation about intentionality with a couple of friends. We had been discussing how easy it is to begin surviving life rather than thriving. We talked about how relationships become toxic when they lack intentionality, and life loses flavor because we’re responding to it rather than creating it.

    In working towards doing things I had never done before, there were some definite intentional steps I had to take to accomplish what I had set out to do. If I wasn’t looking for new experiences I wouldn’t take any risks and/or I wouldn’t take notice of the times where I accomplished something I had never been a part of before.

    Here are the next 3 things I experienced. [Here are the first 3]

    4. I launched www.freeandmindful.com. In all my years of scribbling in journals there were very few people who I shared my writings with. I decided that I would begin overcoming my fear of being misunderstood and I would go for it. The goal was to be intentionally working at something. I launched the blog with a few posts from the previous years Lenten Booklet, and then I started off writing about Fearful Beginnings. For a sometimes cowardly girl like myself, the blog beginnings were also fearful ones. The blog post pretty much perfectly describes all the fearful firsts I was experiencing.

     

    5. Go to Big Omaha. For YEARS I had wanted to attend this conference in my favorite state. A group of us from Atlanta finally experienced it. I have never taken Atlanta friends to Nebraska, so that was a fun first also! I made my friends Jeff and Brian slide down the Con Agra gigantic slides.

    6. For my year of firsts, I went a lot of places I had never been before. A group of friends went to Fripp Island, in South Carolina. It was my community group at the time. We did things like drive backwards in a golf cart for 3 miles, lay on the beach for hours, have our own low country boil, great conversations on the porch, we wandered to look in the windows of gigantic beach houses, and remembered how much we love being alive.

     

  • A World Full of Things I've Never Done Before.

    I’m not a very adventurous soul. In fact I’m frequently given a hard time for making an “Adventure Spreadsheet” in Google Docs [This says more about my personality than I'd care to admit]. I have a tab for adventures I want to go on, adventures I HAVE gone on, and the dates I was adventurous. You might think the process of all this kills the spontineity of adventure, but for me my little spreadsheet keeps me trying things I wouldn't be open to otherwise.

    To address my lack of adventurousness, I set out to experience things I have never done before. I wanted to get out of the rut of only doing what I know, so I set out to do something every month that was completely new to me. I called it “My Year of Firsts.” My parameters consisted only of doing at least one thing every month that I had never done before. It turns out I did a few more. It’s really much easier than I thought it would be.

    I learned through the process that sometimes I have fears that would be easily overcome simply by taking the first step forward. My year of firsts, was about acknowledging how much more I have to learn and experience, and inviting others to join me. I now value the unknown instead of merely fearing it.

    What are a few things you’ve always wanted to do, but never done?

    Next week I'll start sharing a few of the things I did. I hope you'll share with me what you've done that were completely new to you!

    First 3 Firsts

    4-5-6

    A different kind of funeral

    8-9

    The Break In

    Another first [a little out of order]

    A Weekend Alone in Savannah

    Kid Rock and Hunting