For When It’s Too Late to Turn Back.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetIn May 2007 I found myself climbing the side of a mountain in Northern Ireland without being entirely sure how I got there.

I had joined a missions team at my evangelical university, and we planned to spend two weeks ministering to local youth in Dundrum, a little bayside town of Northern Ireland. The climbing-a-mountain thing was one of those spontaneous group activities that seemed like a fantastic idea until I was actually doing it. The mountain peak didn’t seem so, well, vertical, when I was admiring it from sea-level.

But suddenly there I was, fingers gripping rock with every last ounce of strength I had. I didn’t know if I could make it to the top without killing myself. I didn’t know if I could make it back down without killing myself. I had to decide which would be the more honorable death.

I usually tend to dwell on that euphoric moment when I reached the peak of Mount Donner with pride, but today I reflect on the in-between moment, when I was clinging to the side of the mountain and had a singular thought running through my head as I looked back down the steep incline of how far I had come:

“Shit. It’s too late to turn back.”

In September 2008 I found myself embarking on a semester abroad alone. I was sitting on a flight I had just boarded by myself after tearfully saying goodbye to my fiance for the next three months. I had been anticipating this experience since high school, had been planning and saving for this particular trip for more than a year.

To this day, I still say that it was the best decision I ever made for myself, choosing to study abroad. It widened my worldview by thousands of miles and it helped me grow in a million important ways. My memories of that time are still so vivid – – the sights, the smells, the sounds, the memory of good meals and remarkable moments.

But I also remember that in-between moment, after I left and before I arrived, when the wheels went up and Chicago shrank to a spec outside my airplane window and I was all by myself. All of the anticipation I felt, all of my bravery and courage and motivation, felt like it had been sucked out of the plane. I could hardly breathe.

“Shit. It’s too late to turn back.”

There is this hard, messy part of every adventure that no one wants to talk about.

The part where you realize that you are very far away from home, and you’re really on your own. The part where your expectations meet reality. The part where it gets frustrating and expensive. The part where the plans you make collapse into one another like a stack of dominoes. The part where you have to tell yourself, “it’s too late to turn back now.” The part where you say a few swears because you’re scared.

I don’t think this feeling can accurately be called regret.

I don’t regret moving to Nashville.

Just like I didn’t regret climbing that mountain in Northern Ireland.

Just like I didn’t regret boarding that plane to Europe.

What I’m feeling is anxiety, and I know that this anxiety I feel doesn’t mean that I made the wrong decision. I don’t necessarily want to be in the position I am now, broke and struggling to make things work, but I also don’t want to be anywhere else. I just want to move forward. I’m under no illusions that I would be any happier or more fulfilled if we had stayed in our rundown, overpriced, single-bedroom apartment in the Chicago suburbs.

In fact, I knew that it was entirely possible that there would come a point about six weeks into our new life here when money would get tight and plans might be out of sync and I might miss my support system back home. If you’re at all like me, you spend a lot of time trying to prepare yourself for every conceivable consequence before embarking on adventure, but in the end it doesn’t save you. The inevitable moment will still arrive when expectation meets reality and you have to keep going, no matter what. Even if you do feel like a chicken-shit.

And just like all the adventures before this one, there will come a day when I remember this with season with gratitude, pride, and fulfillment. And maybe even a little compassion for whatever in-between moment I find myself in then, too.

Detour : St. Joseph, MI.

On our way home from a family wedding this weekend [yay Whitney and Jon!] my husband and I took a detour and stopped in St. Joseph, Michigan. We spent our  honeymoon there two years ago and wanted to revisit Silver Beach, which holds a lot of happy memories for us. Sunday was gorgeous : 78 degrees and sunny. The clouds rolled in as the sun was setting, giving us a spectacular lake view that we couldn’t help but capture with some snapshots. The first I took with my iPhone, the rest were taken by Matt with his Nikon D80.

matt in st joe's

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When I was young I didn’t appreciate the natural beauty of Michigan. Then again, most of what I new of the state was southwest Michigan, which really isn’t that spectacular away from the lake. Now though, I love that on our way home to Chicago we can stop and drink in a late summer evening, complete with Silver Beach Pizza and a GIANT waffle cone of Kilwin’s pistachio ice cream :

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Birthday Blessings.

This Thursday my mom will turn the big 5-0. Birthdays are always special, but this one feels especially victorious. She’s made it through a hard year struggling with treatment after treatment, surgery after surgery to combat her metastatic breast cancer.
And so we thought, what better reason to celebrate this milestone than with a surprise birthday party full of friends, family, flowers and good food?
flowers 2 cakes 1
My aunts [my dad’s sister and his brothers’ wives, and my mother’s sister], cousins and I emailed, called, schemed, and prayed for months to plan the party. And then we baked, and cooked, and whipped, and frosted, and decorated, and talked, and laughed.
bakers
It took a lot of prayer, a lot of planning, a lot of lying through my teeth and maybe more frosting than one body should really consume in one weekend, but we pulled it off. She was surprised!
No one spilled the beans, even though most of the party guests saw her in church yesterday morning. In faith, we refrained from canceling it even though she spent a few days in the hospital last week.
And in faith, we celebrated, thanking God for a beautiful day full of energy and joy and time together.
family 4
the suckrows
friends
hugs
Tina by cakes
It was everything we could have hoped for. I’m a happy, relieved, thankful kind of exhausted.
Maybe you and your family have reason to worry, to wonder what the next few months and years will be like, to think that maybe now is not the time to celebrate. I know how that feels.
But this weekend, all my fear and concern and doubt was replaced by something much more important :
Faith.
Faith to believe that even though it seems like a time to fear the future, tomorrow will be a good day. Faith to believe that life is worth celebrating, even when it’s hard. Faith to believe that He knows our hopes and plans, and He’s working on our behalf.
So, don’t hesitate to celebrate. Do it now. Do it while you can, even if you can’t be sure what today, tomorrow, or next week will hold. Do it together, because family is our best resource for support and strength.
Pray hard. Make memories. Eat everything. And whatever happens, choose to celebrate.

The Rain.

rainy drive
Driving home from Michigan yesterday I finally found an exit that took me to the lake shore. I’ve tried before and gotten lost in loops of highway exits and side roads as my GPS chirps in the background,“recalculating, recalculating…” This time I muted the thing, took an exit I haven’t taken before and discovered the road I remembered from our honeymoon to St. Joseph, Michigan. In my memory the water gleamed blue with sunshine as husband and I said good-bye to the only vacation we’ve taken since we married nearly two years ago.
I stopped and got out of the car, grateful to stretch my legs and let the breeze air out my shirt, drenched in sweat from a drive with no air-conditioning in 85 degree weather, and to reflect on my trip home and the road ahead of me – what I was returning to and what I was leaving behind.
The aquamarine waves lapped quietly, disappearing into a hazy sky. With the sun shining and calm winds, it was hard to fathom the ominous storm forecasted to strike the midwest. Supposedly I was headed straight into the thick of it, but from where I sat things looked peaceful and incapable of being disturbed. I wanted to sit there forever, the sun and I defiantly waiting for a sign from the darkening sky to prove the weatherman right or wrong. I know that meteorology is a science, but for how often they are wrong I wanted to believe that the storms wouldn’t come.
I sweltered the whole way home, watching the sky grow darker and gray, fraught with clouds. In the distance I could see the slant sheet of rain spill over the southwest.
At long last I pulled into the lot of my apartment, and the sky, heavy with thunder, broke open in a downpour.
I stepped from the car, lifted my hands open-palmed to the sky.
For once it felt good to let the cold drops wash over me, engulf me in its soaking breeze, let the rumble of thunder ripple from my spine to my toes.
What else am I to do but welcome it now?

[Photo.]

Be Bold and Mighty Forces Will Come to Your Aid

How was your weekend, dear readers? My weekend was a flurry of travel and visits with family in my small Michigan hometown. I’m thankful that I live in Chicagoland where I can work and visit the wide-open arms of its sweeping skyline whenever I want, and that my rural roots are just across the lake. In 4.5 hours [I’m not speeding, I promise, Dad!] I’m able to make the trek home to say hello and spend time with my parents and two younger brothers.
250 miles seems so short when I compare it to being halfway across the world or when I think about how far-flung some of my other family has become. Yet, I sometimes wonder at how far one can get in less than a day’s time. We left on a sunny Friday morning, and before I knew it, it was Sunday afternoon and my grandmother and I were driving the curve back around Lake Michigan to Chicago where I found myself sitting at a friend’s bonfire eating brats and burgers as the sun slipped behind the trees. As with many Sunday nights after a weekend visit, How did I get here? was the singular thought floating around in my head as I crawl into bed.
I’ll be headed back this weekend just to spend time with my mom for Mother’s Day. As you go about your week, I encourage you to take a moment to give thanks for your mom, or any woman in your life that has nurtured you and encouraged your dreams. If she’s here with you, healthy or fighting for her life, be sure to give thanks for the time you have together. If she’s gone, my prayers are with you as you reflect on her legacy and wish that you could tell her thank you one more time. Write her a love letter, because you and I both know that the task of raising you, helping you grow, wasn’t always a picnic, but she put her brave face on and taught you how to live life in this world anyway…