Conflicted

Tonight I decide to sit and just watch Penelope.

She’s digging through her Color Wonder tub mumbling, “Ellow…” and I decide instead of reading or cooking or organizing or cleaning, I would just watch her.

After all, she won’t be 21 months and 27 days ever again.

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She starts to dump the entire tub over, but I become aware enough to screech a sound that brings her to a halt. We make eye contact.

She continues digging for a marker until she eventually just dumps everything out. This time I’m not quick enough.

Before I rush to clean it up, I just watch. She’s on to the broom now…oh, I see…she’s trying to sweep up the pile of markers and sheets of color wonder paper. It lasts a few seconds before she moves the broom to the carpeted living room. My mind wanders for a second.  It’s relaxing to just watch instead of try to control (key word: TRY).

My daydream is cut short by a thud, a crash and simultaneous scream coming from the stairwell. I follow a trail of strewn baby wipes to the scene of the crime where I see the broom (that she had apparently tried to FLY down the stairs), glass, and a busted picture frame on the floor where Penelope is lying.

Oh, this season! In the last four minutes that it’s taken me to type the above paragraph, she has gone through the living room taking every last thing out of it’s place with a mischievous smile.

This age is unbelievable.

I have been thinking lately about how conflicting this season of life is.

Everywhere I turn, there is fresh inspiration to write about something. I will mentally document our day, describe the details and tell the stories that we find, but by the time I put the kids to bed and actually have time to PHYSICALLY write down my thoughts, they’re gone.

I wish I didn’t have a desire to write during this season of life. It would make things easier..

Less conflicted.

I wish I could have a desire to write at a time when I COULD actually write.

Like in 10 years.

Yes, I know the right answers.  I know that this season is to be enjoyed.  But, it also is to be captured.  Writing for me is a way to immortalize the moment…how I wish the moments didn’t slip through the fingers so fast.

It all comes down to choices, I realize.  To choose to stay home with my kids right now is to sacrifice time to myself.  Right now I’m choosing to put my kid’s needs above my wants.  Sometimes I’m bitter about that. Sometimes I get it right and I find joy in that.

Most of the time, I’m caught in the tension between the two.

BRMCWC 2014

Last week I was able to attend the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference. What a week!  It’s hard to sum up exactly everything that happened or what I gleaned, but here are some highlights:

  • Meeting agents, publishers, and editors who are committed to creating excellent Christian content
  • Sitting with the Hollywood screenwriter Brian Bird at breakfast and hearing about his latest projects and screenplays
  • Finding other bloggers and writers who have a passion to share the message of Christ
  • Pitching my book idea to different people in the writing industry and getting feedback
  • Learning from others how publishing works
  • Genre night where I dressed like a disheveled mother of four girls:

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  • Realizing just how technologically illiterate I am and that I really need help in this area (No, I could NOT figure out how to rotate the above picture!)
  • Attending workshops and classes where we worked on our writing/blogging skills
  • Hearing multiple God-stories and seeing future authors work to get these stories documented

I was honored to be around so many amazing writers, literary agents, and publishers at this conference. There are multiple stories to be told, and I’m more inspired than ever to record the ones I see unfolding around me every day.

There are many other things THAT JESUS DID

which if they were written

ONE BY ONE

I suppose not even the world itself

could contain THE BOOKS that would be WRITTEN.”  

John 21:25 HCSB

Fluorescent Urine

I’m curling my hair upstairs, getting ready to meet our new Ethiopian church planters when I hear a scream–two screams, actually–so convincing that I’m sure someone’s life is about to end.

I sprint downstairs, banging into the wall on my way down, only to find a stark-naked Gracie standing in a puddle of bright yellow urine.

“I couldn’t hode it ANY LONGERW…and the toilet was bwo-ken!”

I sigh and walk over to the toilet which is dismantled, but in the 3.47 seconds that I’m away, Penelope slips and falls into the pee-pee puddle.  Now she is screaming and her outfit is soaked and we are supposed to be LEAVING.  Not only that, but I realize that in the process of the fall, she has broken the closet door.

I’m trying not to miss the journey, but honestly I feel lightheaded.  A  bowl of Cheerios for breakfast apparently isn’t enough for this marathon that I’m on.  For the past two hours I have been simply trying to feed us and clothe us and clean us up, but unfortunately that is enough to make me feel WINDED.

The urine is still on the floor–fluorescent yellow because Gracie apparently just had a multi-vitamin–and I’m up here writing all this down because that’s what I was told to do in this season of insanity.

Laugh and take notes.

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I met someone at a BBQ on Monday who was telling me about her job.  “I love it,” she said and she truly exuded it.  She stared up at the sky as she talked about her work and how it fits her personality and giftedness so well.

So, right now I’m practicing saying, “I love it,” because I know someone will ask what I do and I know I need to cultivate contentment in all things.

I’m practicing smiling, even when Penelope is looking down the back of my yoga pants with a flashlight while I stand at the kitchen counter (Yes, that is happening as we speak).

I’m practicing contentment, choosing to be grateful for what this season gives.

I’m practicing joy, refusing to swallow the spirit of the age, which my Pastor-husband says is personal fulfillment and entitlement.

I’m practicing perspective.

I’m practicing…being in this moment…because I’ve heard it passes pretty quickly.

Now, on to that puddle…

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To My Mom on Mother’s Day

Our backyard is freshly mowed, and I lay out blankets on the grass like a child playing picnic.  Only, I’m not a child and my hip is shooting pain, my canker sore is throbbing, my wisdom teeth are FINALLY coming in with much pain, and I’m really out here to take a nap. But, the Virginia afternoon is perfect and I don’t want to miss a minute of it.

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I get out an old journal so I can write down my blessings.

1. A quiet backyard that births azaleas, fiery pink.

2. Adamant birds that flatter me with their whistle.

3. Wind chimes (my Mother’s Day gift) whose high pitch reminds me of a child’s noisy play…and of my sweet girls.

4. Penelope Raine and her stubborn/angry/whiny/needy/difficult ways that I’m hoping are SOMEHOW growing me into the image of Christ.

I pause.

My neighbor comes out and begins to cut azaleas from her side of the bush.  I startle her by saying, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

We talk about the weather, then she says, “I’m just cutting these to put on my mother’s grave.”  I smile sadly and tell her how much her azalea bush blesses our yard.  “My mom would love that,”  she says.

She leaves and I think about something.

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Why wait until someone’s funeral to say how much they mean to you?

So many people have passed lately, leaving so much regret. Funerals are full of kind words for the deceased, but how sad that they’re not there to hear it. 

I want to take some time over the next months (years?) to use my words to bless others. To tell them how their life has impacted mine and thank them for their footprints through it.

Today there is an obvious person to start with:

Dear Mom,

How did you do it?! Motherhood seemed to come so easy for you. When I think of my childhood, I think of sunshine flooding in through the windows and your voice, animated as though you were performing for a crowd of hundreds, reading a story to me. I can still smell the pages of “Snip, Snap, and Snur,” and feel the heat coming in through the register.

I didn’t realize then, but I realize now.

You sacrificed sleep, comfort, quiet meals, adventure, money, and a clean house to take care of me. I had no idea. I guess I just took it for granted all those years…thought that’s what a mom is SUPPOSED to do.  Now, I see that a mom doesn’t HAVE to be sacrificial but chooses to be sacrificial. 

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You were patient because you recognized I was just a child. You made edible peanut butter play-dough for me and cleaned up after me. For years.  You were there at all my track meets, wearing a button of me the size of a small wheel.

You were everything that a little girl could ask for in a mom: nice, loyal, helpful, patient.

But, you didn’t settle for that…You were so much more: excited, energetic, a picture of good health, positive, always taking classes and learning, hard-working, and just plain FUN (everyone who knows you agrees).

Now, as an adult, your qualities are still blessing me. But, the gift multiplies.  Now my girls get to enjoy you too.

So, today, as the azaleas bloom bright and loud, I want to speak just as clearly.  Thank you, Mom, for being just the best. I’m so thankful that God gave me a mom with such God-honoring qualities. I’m so thankful that you gave me a childhood full of laughter and joy. I’m so thankful for your sacrifices that have molded me into the person I am today.

I’m so thankful God gave you to me. 

Love,

Your Annie B.

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Moving Walkway

Bad news.

That’s been the theme of the past couple months.  Family members who are sick, friends who have died, church members who are dealing with both sickness and death.

Our neighbor rings the doorbell right as we are tucking in both our children and the long day. I can hear him talking through a tight throat as I say a goodnight prayer in the other room.   Cancer. His father. Kidney and pancreas.  It won’t be long.

The phone rings the other day but I don’t answer it.  It’s someone who rarely calls so I assume they’re informing me that either someone has died or is about to.  I just stare at the phone.

And that’s when I think of it.

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It’s as though all of us are on this conveyor belt…this moving walk-way, if you prefer an airport analogy.  We don’t realize it because it’s just our reality. We are all born onto this conveyor-belt-life and it’s really not that big of a deal because it moves so slowly that we forget we’re even moving.   Some of us are taught that we’re on a conveyor belt, some of us aren’t.  Deep down we all know, but we’re young and even if someone has informed us, we’re too busy to care.

Then one day, someone we love comes to the end of their conveyor belt and drops off into apparent nothingness.  We are horrified. Numb and heavy. Especially if their conveyor belt seemed to run long in front of them.  Even though we’ve heard there’s an end to all of our conveyor belts, the lull of the mundane skews perspective.

We forget that we won’t be here forever.

We forget that this isn’t all there is.

I mean, it’s easy to forget.  Food has to be bought and washed and prepared and served and cleaned up and that alone is enough to make a mother of small children need a morning nap. There are immediate needs like laundry and homework and it kind of crowds out this thing called eternity.

Then, we suddenly remember because someone we love dissolves from our day to day and moves to this thing we call the eternal.

How then shall we live?

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All I know to do is to follow the example of my new seedlings that have so bravely emerged from the dirt. When I open the shades in our bedroom, this is what they do.  Reach with all their little might. Lean hard to the light.

What else can we do?

Grope in the darkness until we find the Light.

His name is Jesus.

And, just in case you’re wondering…He’s not hard to find when you ask Him to find you.

***

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart,”  Jeremiah 29:13

A Girl Named Noel Devin

Today there is a funeral in Texas.

I’m sure there are many other funerals happening around the world today, but this one is for my friend, Noel.  I’ve never met Noel, so it may appear strange that I wrote something to be read at her funeral.  But, actually the opposite is true.

I wish I could have flown to Texas today to read this in front of everyone, but I couldn’t.  But the following is what I would have said:

**

My name is Annie Garman and I have never met any of you.  But our lives intertwine in such an amazing way today because of our Noel.

Let me explain…

You see, in 2008 our family left our home in Northern Virginia and moved to Iceland as Southern Baptist missionaries.  There were no missionaries from our organization there, and we decided it would be the best use of our time and energy to go there and try to plant a gospel-centered church.

I started a blog that year so that we could record our stories and our adventures and keep up with friends and family.  I’m glad I did. Living in Iceland had its share of challenges.  Right after we quit our jobs and rented out our home to leave for Reykjavik, Iceland, the government denied our VISA.  We went to Iceland on our passports and waited over 15 months for a VISA.  It was a trying time.  During that time, I also had a miscarriage, our home in Virginia experienced a major fire, and a friend died in Afghanistan.

Culture shock was intense, and blogging was an outlet for me during that time.  I didn’t know who all was reading it, but I continued to pour my heart out into cyberspace year after year.

In 2010, after finally getting VISAs and settling into the country, we got pregnant again.  At the 20 week ultrasound, less than a minute after hearing that we were having a girl, we found out that something was wrong with our baby’s heart.  Our whole world changed in a matter of seconds.

Very soon after we had to leave Iceland and move to America where we could get the best care for our daughter.  It was a scary time and nothing was very certain about our future.  Would our daughter survive?  What would happen to our family?  Would we move back to Iceland?  Would we find a job in America during the economic recession?  My prayer life was reduced to one word (Two on a good day):  Help.  Please Help. 

On June 12th, 2010 I turned on my computer and found the following message:

Annie (and all the Garmans),

My name is Noel Devin. I live in College Station, Texas, and you don’t know me from Adam! 
I’ve been harassing a dear friend about starting a blog for months and sending her examples of blogs that praise God by showing how He works every day. She has these beautiful twin boys that I’m so grateful I can call my nephews. In this whole thing I’ve bounced all over the world reading and rejoicing in how God’s working everywhere all the time. Last week, on Wednesday, I landed on your blog. I’m not sure how I even landed there! I feel like a bit of a voyuer, peering into your lives.

At the same time, though, I feel genuinely blessed to have encountered you.
 Your family, especially the tiny Garman, has been on my heart. I’ve been praying about this need to help your family financially. What I believe God has in mind was more than I could manage on my own and I couldn’t see a way.

On October 13, 2009, my grandmother was called Home. She was consumed, her whole life, by an insatiable thirst for the Lord. Last night, after a week of praying for a way to follow through on what God had laid on my heart about your family I got a phone call from my mom letting me know that Mammy’s estate had been settled.

God’s given me the means. Will you allow me the opportunity?

I understand that this is out of the blue and may seem a little bit odd. I’d encourage you to pray about it and to discuss it. It is my fervent hope that you’ll feel comfortable with this.
In any event, thank you so much for sharing your story. My family is praying for yours and will continue to do so.

Noel Devin

***

At first I thought it was a scam.  Suuuuure….someone in Texas that we’ve never met wants to give us money?  Does this “Noel Devin” character just want our bank account info?

My husband and I prayed about it, sent more messages to this stranger, and sought advice from friends and family.  Eventually, we told this stranger who was slowly becoming a friend that if she felt led by God to give us money, we would let her.

Our daughter, Gracie Garman, was born on 8-9-10 at 11:12 pm (depending on which clock you were looking at in the room).  She had a major open heart surgery a few days after she was born and through the prayers of God’s people, survived.

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It was the highest amount of stress we had ever experienced as a family.  We couldn’t return to Iceland because of how severe Gracie’s heart defect was. What would become of us?

My husband spent many days and nights applying for jobs from room 717 of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.  Gracie had another open heart surgery that year and we still didn’t have a full-time job.  Did I mention that the stress was high?

But, let me also mention that God was there.  He took care of us in many profound ways.  One of them was through Noel.

Noel sent us $10,000 that first year of Gracie’s life.

In one sense, God used Noel Devin to keep our family alive.  Her money was used to buy groceries and gas and pay medical bills.  Her money was more than just a physical blessing…it was a reminder that God saw us, cared about us, and would take care of us.  Noel’s gift made us stand in awe of the God that we served.

Noel and I wrote a lot to each other during that time.  Here is one of my messages I sent to her in 2011:

 

Hey there my favorite Texan!

I know Colby wrote you a few weeks ago, but I wanted to take some time to write you myself also.  I just wanted to tell you again that you are very much appreciated.  There have been MANY times in the last several weeks that something has happened to us and the least stressful solution involves spending money.  In the past this would have really stressed me out, but lately Colby has been saying to me, “I have TWO WORDS for you….TWO WORDS:  Noel. Devin.”  I just wanted to tell you that today.

I don’t know much about you at all, but I know that you are sensitive to God’s Spirit and for that we are thankful.

Love from VA,

Annie

**

Because Noel had given us money and friends were letting us stay at their home, we lived in Northern Virginia during that year as we looked for a full time job.  When Noel’s money finally ran out in 2011, it was like we were freefalling again.  But, with such peace.  Surely God would provide again like He had in the past.

A few weeks after Noel sent her last check, my husband was asked to be the pastor at Pillar Church in the suburbs of Washington, DC.  Pillar was a new church plant that our old church had planted 7 years previous.  Pillar was focused on planting new churches, specifically planting a church near every major Marine Corps Base around the world. 

We knew that going to Pillar would be a step of faith financially.  Pillar was a baby church plant and couldn’t really afford to take us on.  But, we had learned a lesson–a very important lesson– from Noel.  God could literally bring money out of nowhere.

In June 2011 we said yes to Pillar and have been there ever since.  We have been working tirelessly at training church planters and sending them out.  There is now a Pillar Church in Quantico, Virginia;  Stafford, Virginia;  Jacksonville, North Carolina;  and Oceanside, California; and Washington, D.C.  And each of these churches are working on planting healthy, reproducible churches as well. If Noel hadn’t  given us the money, we wouldn’t have stuck around Northern Virginia and landed at Pillar.  We feel like Noel’s money was what God used to bring us where we are now.

Over the last few years, as new people have come to our church, we’ve told them the story of the past few years.  As you can imagine, Noel is a huge part of our story.

What else could I possibly say to you all? I never met Noel Devin.  In fact, the very last message I sent to her said, “I would love someday to have you come out here, meet the Pillar family and see how God is working in and through us to plant churches around this area.”  My only regret is that I didn’t buy her a ticket sooner.

After we heard the tragic news this past week, my husband and I held each other and cried.  Then we gathered the children around us and said we had a story to tell them.

We read them the first message Noel had ever sent us.  We read them all the messages that Noel sent us over the years.  At the end, we told them that Noel had passed away, and you cannot imagine the weeping and genuine sobbing that came from my three year old, my seven year old, and nine year old.

Or maybe you can.

We all held each other and cried, grieving the loss of someone we had never met, but who had sacrificed so much of herself for us. Through my tears, I looked up at God and could just feel His eye on us.  He loved us so much.

Over the years as I’ve pondered what Noel did for us in our time of need, I’ve been humbled.  Can you even imagine?  Our Great God heard the prayers of the Garman family and He whispered a solution to OUR problems into Noel Devin’s heart.  And He gave HER the strength to be obedient to what He was asking of her.

What a story of grace.

Thank you, Noel, for painting us such a clear picture of Christ’s love.

May all who gaze on it be changed.

Garman Year in Review: 2013

Dear Ones All,

Oh, how to recap Garman 2013 for you…

Obviously, there was a lot of this…

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Yes, we’ve endured our share of teething (Lord, have mercy…are we done yet?!), conflict management, sibling rivalry, stomach viruses, instruction and training in righteousness, and potty training…but we have also had moments that have shone through the occasional rubble:

In all reality, 2013 was a year for the Garmans to learn how to be a family of six.

Let’s start at the very beginning…A very good place to start…

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Penelope Raine is now 1. You don’t need to know that the wrong birthday was written on the calendar for our little Penelope this year. What you DO need to know is that she is very, very loved by all members of our family, has almost a full set of teeth, loves to dance to Toby Mac and RUN across the couch, is fought over by her sisters when she is awake, has learned some baby sign language but has not yet learned how to sign “Get out of my personal space” to her sisters therefore does a lot of screaming when they are invading it. Additionally, she despises bubble baths and tries to escape every time.

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Gracie Kane is now 3 and did an AMAZING job with her open heart surgery this summer. She recovered as well as anyone could have hoped. This was Gracie’s THIRD and FINAL open heart surgery as far as we can tell. Many days go by and we forget that she has a severe congenital heart defect. Gracie loves to sing and has now learned all her letters and numbers. In the past month, she has decided that she no longer takes naps which means she emerges from her bedroom at 3:30 PM adorned with all her sister’s jewelry from their jewelry boxes. Gracie’s mommy has begun taking energy supplements to counteract this phenomenon. Gracie brings much joy to our home…and a decibel level that is tough to rival.

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 Darcy Elaine is seven and a true delight to our family (when she is well rested). When our neighbor got a new cat this year, Darcy went to her house every single day to help care for it. She continues to be our little scientist and even asked for a planetarium for Christmas. Darc helped care for our small container garden this year and even planted some corn and beans in the neighbor’s garden. Additionally, she trained a little with Mom and ran her first race: the Turkey Trot One Mile at Marine Corps Base Quantico.  Darcy is an excellent second grade student, violin player, daughter, runner, and sister. Her tight hugs at bedtime are especially helpful when I begin to question the meaning of my existence.

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Haley Jane is NINE and in fourth grade which is semi-unbelievable. We forced Haley to sing with us against her will at the Christmas Eve service this year and she did amazing. She has some real musical talent and we continue to try to cultivate it (we did violin lessons again this year). Haley also has shown a real interest in art and at this exact moment has scrapbooking materials spread across the entire kitchen table and is simultaneously trying to open her first oils and canvas set. She excels academically and is in the honors program at school. Haley took tennis lessons from Daddy this spring (Darcy too), and attended a soccer camp coached by her Daddy. Thank God for that Daddy…speaking of him…

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Colby continues to be the most amazing human being on the planet. Given his talents ranging from culinary genius to fashion designer to Old Testament Law Scholar to bathroom cleaner to financial wizard to writer to childcare worker, it’s amazing that he still has friends who aren’t too intimidated by him. Colby and I escaped to San Diego together this spring for my brother’s wedding, and also flew to Iceland together in the fall for a week. We are VERY thankful to the grandparents for affording us these get-aways (See first paragraph).

As for me, I continue to try to keep everyone fed and washed and dressed and happy.

This is not always possible.

My defining moment of 2013 was when I brought a meal to our church pot luck that said, “EAT AT YOUR OWN RISK”….(I have learned the hard way that egg noodles left in the crock pot ALL DAY will disintegrate).

I blogged six times in 2013…an all time low for me. However, I have been working pretty consistently on documenting “Gracie’s Story” in the last twelve months. I have now written 41,000 words, have finished the rough draft, and am now editing it. I continue vacillating about what to do with it and need a lot of prayer in regards to this project!

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So, there you have it. The Garmans are all very thankful for a year full of growing and laughing and loving and learning. Most of all we’re thankful for Jesus, who through His death and resurrection has made a way for us to have a relationship with God that is personal and powerful. It is IN HIM that all our hope resides. It is THROUGH HIM that we move and live and have our being. It is TO HIM that we hope to give all glory. All else will eventually fade and decay and die, and we are thankful that we have something stable and secure upon which to stake our hopes and dreams and lives. We pray that you too will seek and find HIM this coming year. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart,”  Jeremiah 29:13

We’d love to connect with you in person in the coming year so give us a holler when you’re in D.C!
Happy New Year!

Grace and Peace,

The Garman Six

 

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Wet Seeds

Let’s just be honest…living in Iceland from 2009-2010 had its share of difficult moments.  It wasn’t just the VISA problems or the miscarriage or the fire or the loss.

It was most likely culture shock–this tremendous weight I had to bear up under day after day.  The heinous, icy winds ripped through me every time I went outside…and we had no car to shield us from its wrath.  There was much internal pressure to learn the language and keep up with Colby as he excelled.  I also felt the pressure to put myself out there, make new contacts, and build relationships instead of always stay at home where it was cozy and comfortable.  In addition to all this, I was learning how to be a mom of two small children and wanting to take care of them well.  In the end, I felt like I was failing miserably at all of it.

I don’t know if I can properly articulate how it felt to be back on Icelandic soil this week.  I was back home, even though I struggled to call it that during our time there…

Haley had asked me to bring her back some dolphin candy from the shop near our old flat.  When I walked into our old store, I burst into tears and had to hide in the corner pretending to look at egg options for a good five minutes.  I had absolutely no idea why I was crying and thought perhaps I was experiencing “Stockholm Syndrome” until my dear husband informed me it was something a lot less dramatic…namely, mixed emotions.

For the first time since I had walked those streets, the weight was gone.  I was finally riding on top of the wave that for so long I felt crushed under. It was as though all the Icelandic I had worked to gain was still there, sitting dormant in a drawer that hadn’t been pulled out in almost four years.  Instead of feeling crushed by the language, I felt empowered by it.

For the first time, we were able to see fruit of our labor. On Sunday night we went to a brand new church plant in Reykjavik named  Loftstofan.  Loftstofan is the realization of the dream that we had the entire time we lived in Iceland: A gospel centered church, led by an Icelander, that exists to Know Jesus and Make Him Known. Our prayers of nearly a decade are being answered through this small group of people who desire to plant healthy churches across Iceland.  We spent much of our time encouraging Gunnar Ingi and his wife, Svava to stay strong in the work.  They mean the world to us and we know they have their work cut out for them.

Our trip included meeting old friends and continuing to share the good news of Jesus with them and leading Bible Studies for the local believers at the international church (Emmanuel Baptist).  The highlight of our trip was prayer walking the streets of downtown Reykjavik with our small team.  We started on Grettisgata, a street near our first apartment where the journey had begun.  With Bill as our leader, we weaved down the streets, pausing at places where God had done something significant and offering up prayers for the city.

The walk ended near our old flat where we had lived for over a year. Bill asked me to pray a prayer of thanksgiving and as I did tears fell down onto the sidewalk, splashing and sparkling in the morning sun.  Only God knew how much difficulty I had experienced in this country, but how thankful I was for how it had grown and changed me.  Colby later whispered to me his prayer…that my tears would be the seeds from which something strong and beautiful would grow.

This week I felt color everywhere in things that used to be monochromatic.  Hope is coming to Iceland.  You can almost taste it; you can definitely see it.  God has heard the groaning of His people and is sending faithful workers with The Good News on their lips.  I am grateful to be one of them…a small piece of this puzzle that is being built to display God’s goodness to this island in the North Atlantic.  May the light continue to creep up from the horizon and shine the glory of the Son. 

May we all be transformed in the process.

 

Today is Our Anniversary

I never wanted to get married, at least that’s what I claimed.  I met Colby John Garman my freshman year of college right outside the post office on campus.  He was wearing a plastic bow tie (obviously attained from the nearby dollar theatre) and shook my hand jokingly like a politician.  I can remember the morning sun was in my eyes as I looked at him and could really only make out a fuzzy silhouette.  I didn’t think twice about him.  I was meeting new people every single day.

As the year progressed, I could hardly go ten feet without running into Colby.  Our interests and activities overlapped to such an extent that a day in the life of Annie was never spent without Colby.  He gave me all his notes and helped me get through Theology 202 with Dr. Morrison, I helped him learn rhythm on his guitar.  I cut his hair, he taught me how to lighten mine with hydrogen peroxide.  We played together in the rain during a flashflood, listened to Caedmon’s Call while doing laundry, and talked about the timeline of Western Civilization over lunch.  By the end of the year we were best friends although we had never told each other that.

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When he asked me out at the end of that year, I buried my face in my hands and asked him why he was trying to ruin such a good thing.

Commitment was scarier to me than death, really.  How could I settle down in a serious relationship when I was only nineteen?  Didn’t he realize the ramifications of such a decision?  I had a world to conquer, and I did NOT (I repeat NOT) want marriage to stop me.  I wanted to be FREE to do as I pleased, without having to consider another person (Seriously… could I have been any more selfish??). 

I wasn’t interested in a relationship, so I figured that meant I had lost my best friend.  Surely Colby would move on to wooing another woman with his intellect and charm and drop me like a bad hot pocket.

My sophomore year marched on and Colby was still there everywhere I turned.   And the funny thing was, he acted like my rejection of him had never happened.  We would sit outside the library on the dirty, old couches together and talk about the history of the English language, ecclesiology, and world missions until curfew.  He still made me laugh so hard that I would fall down and slap the carpet in a fit of exuberance. 

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My roommates would roll their eyes when I came into the room at midnight, face flushed with laughter and heart full.  You like him…” they would say as they turned off their reading lights and laid down on their bunk beds.  I would get defensive and angry, my conflicted heart not so sure of what was happening.  “I do NOT like him.  WE. ARE. JUST. FRIENDS. Can’t two people just be friends?”  They didn’t bother arguing…

 

Having Colby’s friendship during that time was beginning to heal my heart in ways I didn’t even know it needed.  He had wisdom beyond his years, and having him in my life was like having a personal therapist/pastor/professor. 

Throughout the next year, as our friendship continued to blossom, Colby would occasionally muster up the courage to casually ask if I was interested in being a relationship yet.  I couldn’t believe this guy.  He had the persistence of a gnat and the nerve of a flea to ask again.  Wasn’t one rejection good enough for him?  Surely he wasn’t understanding.  I was not getting married.  Ever. 

I would tell him we could be NEIGHBORS the rest of our lives, but I really didn’t think we had a future beyond that.  He would say okay, and then we would carry on like nothing had happened. 

 

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The turning point came the summer of 2000.  We parted ways for the summer, me to my home in Wisconsin and he to an internship with a church youth group in Florida. Like clock work, every Friday night he faithfully called my house in WI from his host home in Florida.  Most of those nights I strategically left for the evening as to avoid his call and see if he’d eventually give up.  How much did he really like me?  Enough to chase me? It was a cruel game but I wanted to see how far he would go to win my heart. 

The game ended one Friday night when I found out the horrible news.  I had called Colby back, but his host mom answered.  Colby wasn’t there; he was at a funeral.  A boy in Colby’s youth group had been run over by a trailer while the group was at summer camp.  I nearly dropped the phone and vomited.  My friend was going through something horrific and meanwhile I was busy stonewalling him. I wanted to run all the way to Florida and hug him and cry with him and be at his side as he went through something so traumatic.

 

I knew at that moment I loved him.

 

            The rest they say is history.  On September 1, 2000 we went to Riverside Park together and he asked for a final time.  “So, has anything changed since the last time we’ve talked?”  I said no (the nerve!), but after sitting through a late afternoon rain shower, the sunset, and the sparkle of twilight, I finally told him I was ready to be with him.  He waited for a “But…” 

 

It never came. 

 

I would say we lived happily ever after, but you all know better than that.  Less than three weeks later, my hormones were most likely taking an adrenal nosedive and consequently I was an emotional mess.   I told him there was still time to get out and that he should run away as far as he could.  His response was classic Colby.  I’m not running away.  And if YOU run away…I’m chasing you.” 

 

He never gave up and on September 1st, 2001 I said “I do” to his sparkling baby blue eyes. 

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Or red eyes, in this case. 

It hasn’t always been pretty, I’m not gonna lie. 

I’ve screamed, I’ve ignored, we’ve black and blued each other’s hearts. I’ve shot, I’ve injured, I’ve wept,  I’ve despaired. Marriage has confronted me with my prideful anger issues and has pulled the rug of self-righteousness out from under my feet. Marriage has revealed the wicked and self-absorbed condition of my heart… and it has blown me away.  

 

Never before has the cross of Jesus looked so beautiful to me after seeing how vile I am.  Never before have I clung so desperately to a Savior who is righteousness on my behalf.  Never before have I seen so acutely my need for grace and mercy and forgiveness. 

 

So, on our anniversary today, it’s to Colby that I say THANK YOU for chasing me this last decade and showing me the love of a God who pursues…and it’s to Jesus that I say, THANK YOU for using marriage to purify my heart and make it a holier sanctuary of worship to You.

 

Plucking Chin Hairs

When I was in college, I spent the majority of my Friday nights in a nursing home.

There was a group of us who used this first night of the weekend to get off our Christian campus, out of the Christian bubble, and spread some love to those in the community.  Some went downtown, some went to the hospital, but I usually chose to go to the nursing home.

Some of the elderly we visited greeted us with huge toothless smiles, while some didn’t even look up from their folded over slumber.  We would usually ask if we could pray for them and then listen as they talked and talked as though they hadn’t talked to something animate in months.  I can remember a particular woman, Miss Georgia, who would always ask me to read her some Scripture.  Then SHE would pray and it was as though we had ALL died and gone to heaven, her prayers were so full of life and peace and joy.

One particular night at the nursing home I will never forget.

It was just another Friday night and my friend and I approached a wheelchair bound woman–probably in her nineties–with a rust orange and brown afghan covering her legs.  We stopped, stooped over so we could be at eye level, and asked if there was anything we could pray for her about.

Her answer was quick, yet decisive.

“No…

…but could you PLUCK MY CHIN HAIRS OUT FOR ME?”

I looked at my friend.  She looked at me.  Both of us unsure of who had more expertise in this area.  I finally picked up the tweezers that the woman confidently and preemptively held out at me, and proceeded to pluck out every last hair on her chinny chin chin.

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There are plenty of things I could say to end this blog post (“You might want to consider laser hair removal treatments early in life”…or….”Don’t ever let yourself go.  Use WHATEVER means possible to accomplish this”…), but I think there is a big lesson here for ministry wives or any women for that matter.

Let us not be afraid to ask for help when we need it.

If you’re like me, you mostly counteract this advice with Galatians 6:5.  “For each one should carry their own load.”

While this of course is true and we should be responsible with the things God has given us, we can’t forget the other verse tucked in the same chapter.  “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Be bold enough to ask someone to help you with the children’s ministry instead of grumbling that you have to do it all by yourself.  Say yes next time someone asks if they can bring something to the meal you’re hosting.  If you are really reaching your limit, don’t be afraid to say no.  Give others the opportunity to serve you when you need to be served.  Be strong enough to admit weakness.

Ministry is a lot of give.  Sometimes we have to receive.  How can we receive if we don’t ask?  “Ye have not because ye ask not,” I think is the version that I memorized as a child.   So, let’s all take a page out of this woman’s book and communicate when we need help.  And, as a closing thought…If life hands you tweezers, my friend, don’t be afraid to pluck.