Sunday, June 30, 2013

Reunions and Reminders

So this past week has been so full of sweet friends.

I hung out in Lynchburg with Cheryl this past week.

Panama Reunion #1 - Roo (cheryl) - for the week! So fun!

Panama Reunion #2 - Nathan

As I mentioned in another post, Nathan was in town for a class to, so we got hang out a couple of times and caught up.

Panama Reunion #3 - TJ and Amber.
This one was a surprise! A surprise in the sense that none of us expected to see each other this soon.
TJ had an interview in Pennsylvania, so we put together a plan to meet up and have dinner. Plans were adjusted so that Cheryl could be there too!
Y'all, it ended up being something ONLY God could have orchestrated because things were crazy!
Cheryl and I got caught in fabulous (insert sarcasm) traffic for almost two hours on our way to meet them in Baltimore.
We got there, TJ runs down the row of tables and is waving his arm and shouting at Cheryl (in typical brother fashion).
As we sit down, we hear their story.

It was one of those moments when I was thankful that none of us had technology to keep up with each other. Basically, they would have missed their connecting flight, but instead were rerouted to Baltimore and BEGGED for the airline to let them off. It worked. If we had gotten their messages, we would have turned around and gone back. Thankfully, we didn't know.

Love this picture even though TJ's head is cut off! :)

It was so much fun laughing, talking, sharing stories, talking about our "America" stories, and just being together.

The rest of this weekend, Cheryl and I hung out by mom and dad's pool, talked, relaxed, and just enjoyed life.

And so today brought about yet another goodbye to Roo. Ugh.

Yes, she kept telling me not to cry. Too bad! I'll cry if I want to, Cheryl! :)

For me, this was the reality that there isn't another time set to see each other and hang out. This was the real "see you later".

As we drove off from seeing TJ and Amber the other night, Cheryl and I talked and I keep coming back to that conversation.

Those few short hours with the Callaways were a reminder that we are all family. We get together and hang out and carry on with life. Yes, our lives might be changing. Yes, we might be in different places geographically. Yes, our contexts are changing.
BUT, whenever we get together, it's as though nothing has changed. We share our new stories, our new experiences, our growth, our heartaches, our joys, and we keep living!

So as Cheryl drove off today, I came back to that. The Lord has moved each of us toward something. Some of it is unknown. BUT He has already gone ahead. He has provided amazing friends for these past journeys and He will keep moving us each forward.

I'm thankful for the week of reunions and the picture of the reminders. The reminder that so many people have become family and whenever we meet up, we carry on.

And sometimes carrying on means being the obnoxious table who laughs too loudly or smacking a girl walking to the bathroom with a flailing arm while telling a story (ahem, Cheryl) while your friend sees it about to happen and is already laughing (ahem, Amber).

Thankful. Blessed. Reminded.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday's Friends - Neighbors

So I have a LOT of pictures with special people that are sweet friends from Panama. Instead of writing a 97,000 word mini-novel on all of them, I'm going to highlight one per week. It also then allows time to really think and reflect on these sweet people.

This post may be a little different than others, because it could easily be a book about these friends.
First up, I'll continue with the goodbye segment which was the Callaways.
What is really fun about this post is that TODAY I get to see TJ and Amber...already!!!!!!!!! So thankful! It was unexpected, but I'll take it!

I'm not explaining the picture of Memphie and I - other than it was sweet snuggle time for he and I to say so long. Love that munchkin.

Having the privilege to have a little nephew upstairs and be part of his life for the first seven months is so incredibly precious. He is a little snuggle bug and I've so loved watching him grow up. Wednesday nights while Amber would go down for high school Crossfire, he and I would hang out. Thankful!

TJ and Amber are truly family. The last six months have brought a greater depth to our friendship as we've processed moving, packing up, selling things, life, and so much more. And we've done it together. It's a long story, but starting in February, our two apartments started sharing dinners together nearly every weekday night. And sometimes on weekends. Those are precious memories and were so fun. (And were great for our budgets!)

* Don't worry, baby was here at the airport, but in the stroller.

It is going to be very strange thinking about not living next door to each other anymore. These were the neighbors that you call when you need an egg or a cup of sugar (for sweet tea) or they call you to see if sweet tea is in the fridge to come get a glass.

Regardless of how time and space may separate us for now, these are forever friends/family. There aren't words to express my thanks for them. We have laughed and cried and questioned and rejoiced and truly lived life together.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Being a Tourist - Lynchburg

This week I'm in Lynchburg, VA hanging out with Roo (Cheryl) while she is taking an intensive grad school class.

It's been super fun hanging out with her stateside - road-tripping up from Georgia, going to Target, talking about educational stuff, laughing, and just hanging out.

Nathan is in town also taking a class - hurray for Panama reunion #2 (the first is being with Cheryl)

During the day while she is at school, I've been exploring this place.

Today I went downtown to walk around and just look around.

As I was walking around, I felt like a tourist. In my own country. And I liked it.

It was fun to look at cute buildings, peer in store-front windows, snap photos, wander aimlessly, and grin like a fool.

There is something so charming about smaller, downtown America. And I loved all the barber shops everywhere.

This wall fascinated me. It is such a picture to me of transition in advertising - painted-on-the-wall-signs, electric sign, and current billboard.

I really like doors - it started in Chicago on Oak Street. This one evokes thoughts of an old Model T driving out of it.

This might have been my favorite building. As I was walking back, I kept staring at second story floors and wondering their stories. Did they used to be dwelling places for store owners? Were they rented out? What are they used for now? Are they storing unknown treasures? What lives lived and loved within those walls? I could picture the windows flung open, listening to the sounds from Main St. below, the clip-clopping of horses pulling the ice wagon, the shouts of kids running home from school, the blowing of the train whistle, and so much more. 

It's fun being a tourist. Though I must admit, I kept the camera hidden in my bag until I needed it. Can't let go of the stereotypical tourist with camera strapped around the neck. 

Tomorrow - being a tourist in the old cemetery. Excited!!!!! 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Pieces of Metal and Security

I was sitting in a house a few days ago and realized that for the first time since probably middle school, I did not have any keys. They have been handed in.

It was a weird feeling. Sort of this sense of not knowing where I belonged. I never associated simple, cut pieces of metal with a sense of security or a place to call home.

Five days ago, I returned to the United States of America, my country of birth and growing up. It's been six years and eleven months since I lived here as a resident. Entering the country caused laughter filling out the customs form.

1. It asks for your country of residence. Where am I a resident? I don't have a place to call my "home" yet, I had renounced my residency in Panama, did it now mean I was a US resident even though I hadn't technically lived here in almost seven years?

2. Occupation: I had quit my job and don't start my next one for another three weeks. Was I considered unemployed? Recently employed, but currently not? Employed but not yet working? Oh the madness! :)

As I thought about keys, I thought about getting a house key. Do any of you remember that? The moment when there was actually an extra key for you to use and you could take it with you if you were going to be out. A key of your very own (or maybe you shared it with your sister like I did). Did you have the special hiding place where your family would hide the key if you didn't take it with you? We did. Now I'm trying to recall if I can remember where we hid it.

Then getting a license and having a car key with a house key on the ring. Big stuff!

Then moving off to college and getting a room key. At Moody, we had the ID card too used as a key, an elevator key (was it the same as the room key? I can't remember), and a CPO key (mail key). The key ring grew heavier. Even when college ended, still had the car key and a house key to momma and daddy's house.

When I went off to Panama, I left home without any keys. I didn't think anything of it because soon I had a house key, classroom key, filing cabinet keys, etc.

And so I have carried a plethora of keys with me the past many years.
I handed over my Panama car keys to the family taking the car, turned in the several church keys, turned in Cheryl and my sets of house keys, and I even left my key rings behind.

In the next few weeks, I will pick up my car keys and the Lord will lead me to a place to live where I will have a key to a door that will lead to a home.

Keys - simple, cut pieces of metal. As a child, they are a source of fascination and a great teething ring and a fabulous noise maker.

As an adult, they bring this sense of responsibility, grown-up-ness, and in a way, a sense of safety.

I may not have any keys, but I do have direction, purpose, dreams, goals, hope, and a future. That is something keys can't give me.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

And Then There Were Two...

It's the season of goodbyes. Ugh.

I don't have eloquence, so here's the heart in its raw, incoherent state.

Being the last one of the crew to leave is rough. It's really ok, thankful I can spread it out, but the downside is the almost daily goodbyes is like a daily breaking and ripping of your heart.

It's crazy to believe that for so many of my dear friends the Panama season has ended - all within the last 9 months.

Last September it started, none of us knowing how life would change.

Kara was the first to go. 

 When we took this picture, only the Lord knew that all of us would be leaving Panama in the following months. Crazy. This wasn't in any of our plans (ok, Cheryl was on the fence).

Then in March, it was Jen's turn.

More tears. More goodbyes. More reminders of how precious our friendships are and a tighter hold of sweet memories.

This week, it was Cheryl's turn. (You may have noticed that these group pictures continue having five people, but the ones from Kara's picture keep disappearing.)

This one was tough. It felt real. Especially when you know you are coming home to an empty house.

 We started off holding it together.
 Taking sweet friend pictures.
 Snuggles with baby.
 Awesome Avery came with us (because she adores Cheryl of course!)

I didn't put the Cheryl crying with Memphie picture. Break our hearts! 

Avery is a cute crier. 

I am not. 

Amber didn't laugh because Cheryl was leaving. I promise. 
 The group shot. Love these women and that handsome little man!

And she's gone.

And now there are two - Amber and I. And tomorrow morning, just one.
It's an early morning airport run to drop off more Panama family.

I'm thankful for the tears. It's a reminder of what a unique and super special time this has been. This is why is hurts. Because it has been good.

I wouldn't trade the hurt for never having met these heart friends. It's worth it.

And tomorrow morning, more will go. There will be another photo.
Another goodbye. More tears.

But also the reminder - this is not the end.