Archive for October, 2007

Feeling at Home

I met my friend Joyce at church. She had moved to Springfield only weeks before with her two boys, and it turned out that she had rented a house just two doors down from mine. We visited occasionally during the months she lived there, and then she ended up in a different part of town. I don’t know how it happened, but somewhere along the way we became close friends. Then she became part of the family, and though we’re no longer close in proximity, we remain close in heart.

So I guess it’s no surprise that just weeks after our move to San Antonio, she called and asked if she could come for a visit. I could hardly wait. She booked the tickets, emailed her itinerary and we began the countdown. Last Thursday she came.

And we left. The same night she arrived, our church had scheduled an appreciation dinner for the staff. We didn’t know about it until days after she booked her ticket. When I called to tell her, she responded like family would. “Oh don’t worry about it. That just means you’ll have someone to keep your kids!” Yep, that’s Joycie. More than a friend. She’s become one of us. My kids think so too. They always get excited when Joycie shows up. She has that special way some people do of just being part of your life. Nothing dramatic. Just shared experiences. Long talks and walks. And simple joys.

When I asked her what she wanted to do during her visit, she replied simply, “I just want to do what you do…be part of your life.” I love that. That’s a rare find. Tourist attractions are fine, but doing life together is sweet. So that’s what we did. She watched my kids. I made her favorite foods…tomato tarts and spinach pie. We watched the kids run in the school jogathon, toured possible home sites, explored the Riverwalk, shared a picnic at the Guadalupe River, went to church together and talked and talked and talked.

I felt sad when she left today. I felt strangely different. And then I got it. When Joycie was here, it was like being home. I didn’t feel the peculiarity of being a stranger because I had one dear friend with whom all the explanations of where we’d moved from, why we had come here and who we really are was not needed. The backdrop was already set and the story more fully developed. I guess that's what's so great about long friendships and short explanations. They allow for richer deeper tales. Plot lines that pick up where they last left off.
Thanks for coming Joycie. And thanks for bringing with you a piece of home.


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Let’s Talk

Three years ago Gerry and I sat with Phil and Jennifer Rothschild at Starbucks on the Riverwalk here in San Antonio and spent the better part of an evening in a lively discussion over Jennifer's latest book idea. We wound our way through questions and opinions and left brimming with the enthusiasm of a fresh opportunity.

We had come to San Antonio for an extended weekend on the heels of Jennifer’s latest Lifeway speaking engagement. After joining Jennifer for the conference, we meandered through the Riverwalk’s winding pathways, shopped, ate at the Cheesecake Factory, sat in those incredible massage chairs at Brookstone and delighted in a weekend getaway with our dear friends. It was enchanting and refreshing.

Over the next couple of years, Jennifer's book idea took shape and a publisher took notice, and now this newest release is on bookshelves across the country awaiting the discovery of readers who will uncover the practical insights of Self Talk, Soul Talk, What to Say when you Talk to Yourself. I just received my first copies in the mail and am thrilled to have my hands on Jennifer’s greatly anticipated fourth release.

My friendship with Jennifer began as a casual introduction at church and occasional hellos whenever we passed in the halls. Then one afternoon, I received a call from Jennifer explaining that she believed God may be providing an opportunity for her to write a book and asking if I would be interested in helping her. “Sure,” I said. I had no idea what I was doing.

That was more than six years, four books, two Bible studies and many Starbucks ago. We've written together (in some of the most unlikely places), eaten together (in some equally unusual places, e.g., Jennifer's bathroom), traveled together (which consistently proves to be filled with bewildering circumstances) and carved out time for a friendship (when most of the time we were out of time!). We've talked through children and ministry and blindness and cancer and more, and out of it all has grown an unexpected friendship of hearts and minds.

Now I live in south Texas not too far from that Starbucks where we talked through this book that was only a vague concept at the time. It never entered my thinking during our getaway weekend that this lively city would eventually become my home. Sure, I'm always enticed by a palm tree, but the reality of such a life altering move was galaxies away from my thoughts.

So looking at this new book while I sit in the apartment that I now call home reminds me that life is funny. It's made of mystery and enigma. It's unexpected and unforeseen. It can't be neatly packaged or easily unraveled. Life's twists and turns can return like a boomerang leaving us to decide whether it's a backfire or a rebound. Right now, life is reminding me that the milestones marking this long and winding road are worthy of reflection.

A treasured friendship from an out of the blue phone call. A book from an impromptu conversation with friends. And now, a new city, a new home, new church, new school, new everything. That one surely tops my list of most unforeseen life circumstances. It’s a lot to think about while simply opening a package of books, yet I’m struck by the unmistakable surprise of all these happenings.

It reminds me that “Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.” (Prov. 19:21) That truth has unsettled me at times, yet today it brings ultimate reassurance. If life really was all about me, it would be up to me to chart its course. And I could never have planned for the relationships, opportunities, and tremendous blessings God has already brought my way. He has done far more for me than I would have ever thought to ask for.

Moving to Texas was not on my list of things to do in the next decade or so. More than ever before, I’d have to agree with the unknown writer who said, “The road of life can only reveal itself as it is traveled; each turn in the road reveals a surprise.” And with each step I grow more and more sure that there are more corners on which the mystery and delight of the unexpected awaits.

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Welcome Home

A few Sundays ago our arrival in San Antonio was announced to our new church family by our pastor, Max Lucado. The privilege of having our church leadership welcome us and pray for our family was an indescribable experience. I knew the sincere and utterly welcoming love and favor of God as I felt the full weight of our recent decisions. All of a sudden it all seemed real rather than just surreal, even if only for a moment.

The nostalgia of yesterdays and the obscurity of the future met with the certainty of God just then. It's been difficult to grasp the extent of the changes we've faced in recent weeks, and I know that life here will feel right one of these days. But for now I'm content in knowing that the journey always leads homeward.

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Mail Call

This post is primarily for my precious four year old nephew, Lukas. He sent notes to Maddie and Mason and we received them today. It's always fun to get mail when you're a kid, but mail from your cousin is especially wonderful. So here are the pictures of Maddie and Mason with their notes from Lukas.

Mason's note reads like this…
Dear Mason, I love you and miss you so much. Do you want to jam on the guitar with me? Would you like to dig with me? Do you want to play my drum set? Do you want to play a banjo? I can't wait to see you in Texas! Do you like fireworks? Love, Luke

And Maddie's…
Dear Maddie, Do you like to sit under a shady tree? Do you like climbing trees and smelling beautiful flowers? Do you like going on train rides? I love train rides. Would you like to draw with me when we live with you in Texas? Do you want to play with my guitar? I miss you. I want to go on a train with you. Love, Luke

I only wish life could really be that simple. Thank you Lukas for making our day. We love you very much and miss you like crazy!

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