The Last Starbucks

I have been picturing this moment for years now… picturing, dreaming, envisioning, hoping for, praying for, questioning at times, even fearing it if the anxiety got too tight a hold, but grasping onto it in my mind as clear as day. Greg and I talked about “that dream moment,” many times, when we would be HERE, sitting in the secure area, at our gate, with our last Canadian Starbucks. 

There were many times it seemed like it would never come. I even started typing this post a long time ago so I could read it over when I needed a reminder to have faith and hold tight to the dream. Every time we travel I take a secure area Starbucks photo before we get on the plane; if you’ve followed me in the past, you know the ones.

This is “the last Starbucks” on this side of the ocean for a while. This is the last Starbucks on this side of a one way ticket to New Zealand (I left a blank when I typed this months ago because I used to be sure it was Rome but somehow knew it might be somewhere else).  

This is the last Starbucks on this side of the life we know, the last Starbucks on this side of a life we can almost predict. This is the last Starbucks on this side of safety in our people, comfort in our communities, stability in the familiarity of home. This is the last Starbucks in the same building as family members and close friends, who we’ve just hugged and cried with downstairs. This is the last Starbucks on this side of the biggest adventure we’ve ever known, this side of the contradicting panic and fear, and also complete peace that we have in knowing we’re supposed to do this. This is the last Starbucks as people who have only ever lived in one city, before changing everything we know, and trusting God more than we’ve had to in a while to provide everything we need. This is the last Starbucks on this side of the hugest leap of faith we’ve ever taken. 

This moment is here

This moment is real

This moment is now

Woah.

We’ll catch up with you on the other side of the world! Cheers. 

There Will Always Be Something to Worry About

There will always be something to worry about. Even when one thing gets resolved, and I think, “if this could just happen, then I’ll feel so much better…” there’s always going to be the next thing. If there weren’t, we wouldn’t need God to rely on. Even when one trial in life is finished, it’s backed with another one, of another kind, or the same kind, eventually. This is life, and trials are our teachers.

We struggled all summer to rent our house. We prayed and prayed, because we wanted tenants in the spring, so we could live in our camper all summer and save money for our planned move to Italy this fall. Along the way, through a series of events and lessons, we learned that we are actually not going to Italy; we’re planning to move to New Zealand. (For that story, check out this post, and the next two parts. How We Planned to Move to Italy and Ended up Choosing New Zealand; Our Story Part 1.)

We ended up showing the place to our tenants on September 20th, which was a long night for me; 2 of the 3 guys said they wanted it and shook my hand, but 1 said he needed to sleep on it. I had to chose to trust that if these guys were meant to live in our house, they would, and if they turned it down, God would bring someone else. Thankfully by mid-afternoon the next day, they had committed. They weren’t available to sign the lease for 5 more days. Then, I had to trust God that they wouldn’t change their minds over the weekend! On the 25th, we signed the lease. Even then, I was hesitant. It seemed too good to be true. Have you ever wanted something so bad, so long, that when it actually seems to be coming together, you think it can’t be real and might get snatched away in an instant? Every day, I have to choose to continue to trust God with our dreams. There’s always something to worry about. We could always lose something, or someone.

Greg almost died at work last month. I’ll get to that story later. Ever since I had him, I’ve feared losing him. When we were first engaged I used to have nightmares that he either cheated on me or died.

I think it’s fair to say that my family of origin struggles with fear, worry and anxiety. My sister was ill a lot growing up, and we almost lost her to her illness a few times. Being inches away from having your daughter or sister die, more than once, shows you that life is a gift; it’s not stable, and not to be taken for granted. It can also put some fear in you, because you don’t want to experience the pain of watching her suffer, or experience the suffering of losing her, or being ill as well.

When a person grows up with this, it becomes habitual. Then, the older we get, and the more pain and suffering we see, the more there is to fear. I have friends that are alone, either because they haven’t met the right partner, or because they’ve been abandoned. I’ve watched marriages break apart now, of people that got married around the time we did. I’ve had friends get cheated on, abandoned with newborns, left for someone else, widowed at our age! I’ve lost a very dear friend to cancer. The list goes on.

There’s always something to worry about. And the truth is, any one of these things could happen to us. I’ve been personally violently assaulted, and robbed, and struggle with fear for safety. I’ve had health problems, and major lung surgery, and struggle with fear of illness. We’re not immune to the pain of this world, even if we have God. He didn’t want it like this, but the world is imperfect, and there is pain. I have to hold on to and cling to the fact that He can bring good out of the ugly. He can take the broken pieces and put them back together. He can teach me something, and I can use those lessons to help and support others. I have to choose to put everything I hold into His hands, and trust He is good, because – here’s a huge understatement – it isn’t easy, and it’s always going to be a choice. But what is the alternative? Does not trusting God make life easier? Take away my pain? Eliminate my suffering?

I used to hold so tightly to my dream of having a permanent contract in my city’s public school division. When I was young, that was what I wanted for my life. All through high school and University, that was my big life plan; that permanent contract became everything to me. I needed it to be happy. I got married, had a house and car, good church, friends, decent health, family, and when I had that contract, my life would finally be complete. I really believed that for years. One year, I felt God showing me that I had put that contract on a pedestal and I was giving it way too much power in my life.

There is a story I heard about a little girl who gets cheap, fake pearls and loves them so much. Her Dad asks her every night if she trusts him, and if he can have them. She offers him everything she has, all of her other toys, but not her pearls. After several nights of this, she finally decides to trust him. She gives him her pearls, her most prized possession. In return, he gives her back real, genuine pearls.

That story still makes me emotional, because I have identified with it so much, initially in regards to my idolized teaching contract, and then eventually in several other areas of my life. God, our Father, isn’t out there looking to take things from us, just because. He’s got genuine, better things to replace the cheap, fake things we are holding so tightly to.

It’s like my eyes opened one day, and I realized that maybe, just maybe, there was something else I could do in my life that would be more satisfying and fulfilling and ultimately better for me. Mind. Blown. My permanent contract in my city was my fake pearls. I didn’t have to be afraid of letting that contract go anymore. As soon as I was willing to give it up, my world started opening with new possibilities.

That was a few years ago, and at the time, I believed I had given God all of my pearls. This summer, as I continued to worry about other things, that I was or am still holding tightly to, I realized something important. I hadn’t given God my whole string of pearls. The permanent contract was one pearl on the string. I have many other fake pearls that I’m still clinging to, because I don’t want the pain of losing them, or I fear what God will do with them. There is still work to be done in me.

I can either blame my family of origin and life circumstances for my tendency toward fear, or I can accept where I came from, take responsibility for my own struggles, and choose to accept God’s grace and help as I grow. I went with the second option, and have worked very hard on myself, and on letting God change me, for the last decade. There’s a saying that resonates with me: “I’m not where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I was.” I’m not where I want to be. I still struggle with fearful thoughts and I will likely have to fight them every day for the rest of my life. I still want to cling tightly to certain things in my life that I want control over, or don’t want to lose, and have to fight to remember to hold them with loose hands. I used to always lose those fights though; now, some days, I win. Thank God I’m not where I was!

Back to the story of how Greg almost died. Greg has been roofing this summer. I don’t like the thought of him up on a roof every day. He’s clumsy. I also found out that he wasn’t wearing his safety harness lots of the time, and that made me more concerned. All summer, I’ve worried about him on the roof. I worried a lot at the start, but every day, as Greg left, I prayed that God would protect my husband. He did. I realized somewhere in there that God is Greg’s Father, who made him and loves him. Greg is God’s son, more than he is my husband. I decided to change my prayer.

One morning I prayed, “God, please protect your son today.” That same day, after Greg had finished roofing, he was at the dump unloading old shingles with his co-worker. They were using a large dump trailer, weighing upwards of 8000lbs. His co-worked hadn’t hooked the trailer up properly to the truck. It was also not working well, and Greg was standing in between the trailer and the truck, working on some wiring. He said that he just got a sense, all of a sudden, that he needed to step away, out from in between the truck and trailer. He dropped what he was doing and moved back. Instantly, the trailer unlatched and fell forward into the back of the truck, snipping the wires in half and crushing the tailgate, right where Greg had been standing. His co-worker was in shock at what had occurred, realizing it was his fault, and remembering where Greg had just been. Greg was shocked as well, and grateful to God for sparing his life. I realized when Greg came home and told me this, that I hadn’t even worried about him dying at the dump. He was off the roof, so I had stopped worrying. My worries don’t help him! God is in control and He thankfully kept Greg safe that day.

We did eventually rent out our house, so we could go ahead with the moving plans. But then I worried the rental wouldn’t go through. And then I worried they’d change their minds! And then I worried we wouldn’t get the right health insurance, or that we would have visa problems, or that our move won’t go through, or that we’ll get sick over there, or there won’t be jobs, or we’ll live somewhere unsafe, or go broke, or not have friends there, or that we’ll lose our friends here. What if we hate it? What if we love it? What will we do next year for work, or the year after that? Where will we live?

For the rest of our days, there will always be unanswered questions, and things we aren’t in control of and can’t know. There will always be something to worry about. As far as I’ve learned this summer, trusting God has a plan for me, to bring me hope and a future, is my best option. Otherwise the worries and unknowns will overwhelm me and weigh me down. What will be, will be anyways, whether I just plain worry, or whether I worry, and then chose to pray and trust and remind myself that God is good, and in control, and has a plan for me. Not easy, no, not easy at all – but possible.

Some days I fail, and some days I succeed, but I must keep choosing to trust, because there will always be something I could worry about. Another way of looking at it, is that there will always be something to choose to trust in; and God has been proving Himself to me day by day. Even as I write this, I find myself still facing some of these fears. I’m thankful for grace as I continue to learn.