Normal

Fireworks

(Brothers playing Pokemon GO while watching the Aquatennial Fireworks)

There’s no comparison between this summer and last. I don’t know how many times I’ve said it this way. Shaking my head like it’s still a surprise. Last summer for all that was good was long and hard. A wedding and all my boys under one roof, all summer long. All of it blessing, but even blessing last summer felt foreboding somehow.

This summer is different in every way. There’s not so much happening, just regular days. Big brothers are gone, and we miss them, it’s true. But at home things are normal. Life has rhythm. Regular days of a regular summer. And you wouldn’t think ordinary would be so priceless. But I’m here to tell you – it is. Everything good about this summer is NORMAL. And it’s ridiculous just what a relief it is.

Three teenaged boys with summer jobs. Working hard and staying the course. Coming home tired, shoes soaked through from washing cars, legs caked in mud from moving dirt. Long hours and real labor but all in all they’re pretty happy and willing to go back another day. A regular miracle is what it is.

And we’re busy. I laugh when I think of how normal this is, but for months we felt trapped by NO I’m not going. We wondered if we’d ever be busy again. But this summer we have soccer and baseball and social connections. Running this kid to this and that kid to that. And we love it. This ordinary busy is just what we needed.

Three teenaged brothers are doing normal together. Regular things like lifting weights and soccer practice and going to the store for Mountain Dews. Nils can you drive us? They ask it casual and he says sure and off they go. No big deal. Just normal.

There’s this new game obsession, maybe you’ve heard. Kids with smartphones tracking GPS critters all over town. And I’ve heard the concerns about safety and boundaries and idle youth. But I’m admitting right now I’m kind of a fan of this game. It’s clever and harmless and it makes my kids happy. And maybe happy seems normal, but we’ll take it for now.

Before summer started we worried about how we’d fill endless days with boys at home and nothing to do. We brainstormed trips and camps and summer classes, but nothing ever really worked out. Kyle and I would pray and fret, and always we’d hear Him give the same answer. Trust me. I’ve got the perfect plan.

Turns out, His plan was NORMAL.

I wonder sometimes if settling for normal is a compromise. Do something crazy for God seems so holy, and it’s the kind of thinking that brought us to this. But now that we’re here, I don’t know. Normal seems like a sweet goal for a while.

This morning on my porch I read this Psalm – and it, too, seemed to justify normal. The Happy Home of the Faithful – the psalm has a title. And it feels like an invitation from God to relax and breath easy and enjoy these ordinary days as His gift and provision.

Happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways.
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
You shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house;
Your children will be like olive shoots around your table.
Thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.

Psalm 128:1-4 (NRSV)

Ahh, yes. The happy life of normal.

Pelican Lane

Pelican Lane

It is right for me to feel this way about you, since I have you in my heart… (Philippians 1:7)

My sweet sister and her family of five are settling this summer into their new home. It’s a house with a pool on Pelican Lane, and being there in July is like being on vacation. I asked her last evening, all of us Andersons showing up for a swim – Are there this many people here all the time? And she confirmed what I thought. More often than not.

 They moved in June and they’re still unpacking, but no one seems to notice or care. A steady stream of teens and grownups have been showing up in swimsuits most every day since the day of their closing. Stepping around wall décor in the kitchen and ignoring wet paint in the sunroom, just making a beeline for that paradise out back.

It was supposed to be Africa. Missionaries to Kenya, leaving this summer. A year or more we’d known they’d be moving; we’d prepared ourselves to say good-bye. It was just before Colombia the Hamanns shared news of their placement. Both of our families exchanging cultures and changing lives. All of us nervous and eager.

Then our new boys arrived and those first few months were crazy intense, figuring out language and emotions. Most of our friends not quite knowing what to make of us. But all of the Hamanns were arms wide open. And it was Kira especially who ignored the awkward and just planted herself firmly in the lives of these cousins, never thinking twice.

So when the news came last November and the door to the mission was firmly closed, I said it to Gina. Her own heart still heavy with disappointment. If you need a mission, at least for a while, I know these two boys…

 But it’s not just them, and I know it now. It’s me who needed a missionary sister living close by.

It wasn’t easy, a move to the suburbs, hearts still in Kenya. What was God doing? Was this His plan? So many things about this felt upside down. From Africa to Pelican Lane. But I knew from the start, the difference between there and here was only location. Mission is mission. And for now you’ll be missionaries with a backyard pool.

Last night we walked neighborhood trails while reciting scripture. Gina still wearing the silver sage paint from the living room project she’d put on hold. I practiced Philippians while Gina listened and kept me on track. Her own heart knowing it word for word, Paul’s thoughts on the tip of her tongue.

And while we recited we told our stories. How God’s word has anchored our lives. This passage, that message, just what we needed at just the right time. And I think of her now, as I think of his letter. Paul’s mission and Gina’s – intertwined.

 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. (Philippians 3:17)

Yes, Gina, I’m watching. You ARE my example. Living these verses and modeling Him. Tenderness. Compassion. Knowledge and insight. The fruit of your righteousness. Sacrifice of service. You shine like the stars in the sky…

For MY progress and joy in the faith (:

Mountaintop

The Glen

LUUUKE!!! This is even more amazing than I imagined. I can’t stop smiling!!

I sent the text to Luke from The Glen the night we arrived, and when we saw him the next day he said Mom’s been texting like a middle school girl. Which is fine by me; the zeal of youth is just what I needed.

We stayed two days and two nights at the castle and I oohed and ahhed the entire time. It was a taste of heaven, too good to be true. Crazy beyond imagining how all of this started out as somebody’s home, smack in the middle of the Garden of the Gods. And as soon as I saw it I said it out loud. I think my God ate yours for lunch. Which is maybe true, when you hear the tragic story of the original owners and how they hardly got to enjoy the place. But these past 65 years it’s been restoring God’s kingdom as the Navigator’s Glen. And it’s everything I love. Mountains and gardens and spiritual retreat. I could have stayed forever – or at least all four days. But we had to settle for two.

No room in the inn on Saturday night, which meant we’d have to move on. We lingered with Luke for one last coffee on the castle terrace late Saturday morning before we turned in our key. (And Luke wouldn’t have minded an extra night either, it being the first bed he’d slept on in over two weeks, and a bed for a king, at that.)

I had a knot in my throat as we drove into Colorado Springs, and I knew for a fact the fairytale was over when just minutes after leaving I received a cruel text from home. Just teenaged nonsense, but the timing was brutal.

Later in the day we checked into our new dwelling, and – It’s not a castle. Kyle’s assessment of his first impression. And it’s not. But not bad either. Still in the mountains, and probably an easier transition back to home.

There was a camp song I used to sing as a kid, and I’m thinking about that song now.

I’d love to live on a mountaintop
Fellowshipping with the Lord
I love to stand on a mountaintop
‘Cause I love to feel my spirit soar

But I’ve got to come down from that mountaintop
To the people in the valley below
Or they’ll never know that they can go
To the mountain of the Lord.*

And what was true then is even more true now. We can’t stay. The people at home need us.

This morning we drove up to Eagle Lake Camp where Luke spends his summer – at least the part of his summer when he’s not living in a tent on the mountain. And it was awesome, joining the kids at their chapel, meeting Luke’s friends over lunch. And everyone here knows it won’t be easy leaving this mountain in a just few weeks, returning to life and whatever is normal.

Luke’s been telling us stories all weekend long, most top-secret, for our ears only. Not even his buddies at camp are privy to the mysteries of RMC. Rocky Mountain Challenge and the biggest excursion at Eagle Lake Camp. I’ll say this much. There’s not one thing that happens during those two weeks out that this mountain-loving mom could handle. Not one.

So this morning Kyle and I are driving to camp just the two of us, after dropping Luke off before bed last night. How are you? I’m asking my husband, but I know the answer since I can read his expression and my own heart is feeling the same. I don’t know. I love where we are and I love who we’re with, but my heart still feels heavy. I know, me too.

Coming back down off the mountaintop to the people in the valley below – a kid who sends cruel words and angry faces in text messages. He’s broken, you know. But he needs us. We need him, too.

 We can’t live in a castle in the mountains forever. At least not in this life. It’s the hard things that remind us this life is a foretaste of the real fairytale yet to come.

 Driving back down the mountain from camp our sprits are lighter. I’m glad I get to do this with you. I say it, glancing over at my handsome husband. He looks younger than he did on the way up this morning, and I tell him. And just then we get back into cellphone range and there’s a text from home. This time sweet, and good news. God is good.

 God is good, and He is faithful. The theme of the worship at camp this morning, and we even sang two of OUR songs – the ones God has used to anchor us into this story.

The afternoon is peaceful. I’m sitting on the porch of our not a castle – still with a glimpse of the mountains. And tomorrow morning early we’ll head east toward home, eyes glued to rearview mirror, hanging on to these mountains until they slip out of sight.

*Mountaintop by Amy Grant