Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Packed, but not quite ready

We had a packing frenzy today-me, the girls and hubby. It's finally here, the final hour before "the China trip". I can't tell if I'm getting a little excited or just feeling a little sick. We leave in the morning for the airport at 8:15 am- even though the flight doesn't leave until 12:30.
I'm taking my bible study with me to work on during the flight. I also bought Amy Tan's novel Saving Fish from Drowning to read. And, my husband surprised me with an ipod. It's an awesome little thing; I understand why my kids like listening to one. It's like the music is just in your head. I'm as ready as I'm going to be for my grand adventure. We'll be gone 10 days and I'm going to try and keep a travel log so I can turn it into a travel blog. Ugh, my mind is going in a hundred directions. Better get to bed.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Me Time

I love this week. It's like starting back to school for grown-ups. Tomorrow our Beth Moore bible study starts. We are doing A Woman's Heart, God's Dwelling Place.
And then on Friday, the watercolor class I've been taking for about a year starts up. God sent me the class at the peak of depression over my second son's problems. It was the only place I could put him out of my mind and do something for me. Since then, my son has moved out and we painted his room and made it a guest room. I moved my easel in there and now I sit and work on class projects in front of the window he used to throw his bedsheets out and climbed down into the night to do who knows what. I've framed and hung my first successful watercolor in this room, along with photos of my children from through the years. Once, I grieved each time I stepped into the chaos that was my son's room. Now, I feel comforted by God here, surrounded by physical reminders of His love and provision for me.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Accepting Adventure

Last fall, my daughters' dance studio was asked to represent the US in a cultural dance festival in China in September of 2007. They were asked to participate by Onstage America, a dance competition their studio participates in. I have gone through the motions of paying fees, turning in information, informing their schools of their upcoming absence, all without allowing myself to think too much about it. It is a 14 hour direct flight to Beijing and once we are there and they have participated in the festival, we will travel overnight on a 10 hour train ride to a city called Luoyang where they will perform for a another local festival. And then we have to repeat the travel to return home, a total of 44 hours in transit.
As the girls' anticipation builds, dread builds in me. I have difficulty flying; I have a fear of heights and get claustrophobic in confined spaces. I feel panicked and stressed in large crowds and some Chinese friends of ours have told us that we have never seen crowds of people like there will be in Beijing. Thankfully, my husband is going with us. I've told him his one mission while we are there is to keep up with me; his tendency is to go off in any direction that appeals to him leaving me to keep up. He doesn't think there's going to be a problem as we will be traveling around with 150 other people from the studio.
In several of her bible studies, Beth Moore has told stories about how God has blessed her with wonder and awe when she has pushed past her fears and accepted the adventure. I'm praying that I haven't let her talk me into something I'm going to regret!
We leave September 19 and return September 30. This is our hotel in Beijing: http://www.Ziyu-hotel.com/

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Tightening the Circle

My kitchen table was at one time our family's dining room table. I remember vividly when we were at a point in our married life when we could afford a townhouse with a dining area and the table that would go in it. We looked for something large and sturdy that would one day be laden with food and family. We seldom ate at it in our early days preferring our tiny kitchen table for the three, then four, then five, then six of us.
When our fourth child arrived and we placed her high chair at the kitchen table we realized two things: we needed a bigger table and a bigger house. So we moved across town to our current home which has a dining room and an area for a big kitchen table. Initially, we hunted for kitchen tables for the kitchen and a china cabinet to match our dining table but nothing seemed quite right. After fruitless searches and too many meals with six at a table for four, my husband suggested we use the dining table in the kitchen. (We're a bit slow on the uptake!) We liked it; it fit. For the eleven years we've lived here it has hosted breakfast, lunch and dinner; two children on one side, two on the other, my husband and I at either end. Studious students- and some not so studious -have completed countless homework assignments at it as I prepared dinner. Many games of Balderdash, Rummikub, Yahtzee and Monopoly have been played there into the wee hours of the night.
And then the exodus began; my little chickens began to huddle at the door ready to fly the coop. Our hands reached across the vacant spot of the oldest to bless the meal, always aware that someone was missing. Our second one graduated and abruptly exited leaving those remaining unsure of their spots; one on one side, one on the other. With my daughters dancing alternate days of the week at the dinner hour, there was frequently only three of us huddled at one end of what now seemed like an expansive amount of space on which to eat.
I contemplated the necessity of such a big kitchen table all last year, but could not bring myself to act. I half hoped that the second son would come to his senses and return home filling his space at the table once again. But as the days have turned into months, I've begun to see that he won't, and probably shouldn't, come home.
School begins on Tuesday. My third child starts her junior year. She's reminded me many times (as if I need reminding) that she has only two years left at home and then she'll be gone. My kitchen table had grown larger and larger in my mind until I couldn't stand the thought of the constant reminder of my shrinking family. I removed the leaf, tightening the circle to accommodate four. When she saw what I had done, my daughter stretched her arms across it and said "No! No! Mom, what have you done to our table?" I laughed at her and told her I only removed the leaf-it can be put back when everyone is home. "But our family has six, mom, and this looks there's only four!"
My husband's reaction was much the same. I made my case by reminding him that we would only have three most nights eating dinner at home. He was unimpressed until I said that I needed to prepare my heart for our girl's departure. Already when she isn't here for a meal I feel the ache of her dwindling presence in our lives. He agreed to the leafless table.
We four have had several meals at our smaller table. Our hands all reach easily for the blessing of food and family; blessings for those present and those not with us.