Category Archives: Going Places

upside down glitter punches

Dear God, get us out of here.

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photo cred

 Ain’t nothing good coming down these streets.

At least that’s how it seems. Waiting on crappy benches scrawled with the wise sayings of 17 year olds and trash left over from the people who waited before us. Litter on our landscape. Gee, thanks. But we’ve got our shoes on and our bags ready because we know that we are going somewhere.

Busting out of this joint. God said good things are ahead and we believe Him. So we check the schedule for when our bus is gonna show up. When the phone call should come in, the decision is scheduled to be made or that magical moment when our special someone realizes that we are their only someone. Here comes the offer, the hire, the proposal. Here comes the future.

It was the best day of our lives until it wasn’t.

Knocked off our emotional high out of nowhere. Like the girl who shoved me down the slide when I was a little girl and a beautiful evening in the park ended with butterfly stitches on my quivering chin. Below the belt, girl. Not cool.

And here we are today. We’ve lined out our Sunday best, hired the band and roped off the sidewalks. Floats with our dreams about to make an entrance down the boulevard. Then we hear the thunder in the distance. We think to ourselves, “Don’t make me say it. Don’t make me say those words.” As the wind picks up, we watch the clock hoping that we can start soon and beat the bad weather. The words drop from our lips. “Don’t rain on my parade.”.

Waiting, waiting, waiting. Wondering which will come first. Our plan or the storm. Dear God. Get us out of here before it hits.

Life is the simultaneous celebration of glitter cannons and below the belt punches. All rolled into one like an upside down day.

So we live our lives waiting on the benches. Sometimes getting wet and other times escaping the downpour just in the nick of time. Either way, it is up and down. Up and down. Up and down. If we aren’t careful then our soggy dreams build up into bitter hearts. Criticizing everyone who plans their parades and even worse – watching in horror as the sun shines and everything goes as planned for them.

Or we stop dreaming and scheming all together. Can’t handle another disappointment.

These bus stops turn into our homes because we secretly stop believing that we were ever meant to go anywhere at all.

What in the world is God thinking? Sending us out full of hope when there are storms nearby?

I’ll tell you what He is thinking.

He is thinking that no rain can get you wet enough. No wind can knock enough power out. No lightning can send people running too far.

We may be waiting on these benches. Feeling the sunshine and the rain. Seeing our balloons wilt with the passing of time. Then – sometimes at the very last second – we hear the music in the distance. A colorful parade in a world of grey. A world that is in desperate need of celebration and big hopeful ideas. A promise fulfilled at exactly the right time.

You’ll probably get wet in the waiting, but God won’t rain on your parade. I promise.

 

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No small plans. No timid dreams.

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The summer between my senior year in high school and my freshman year of college I had this same exact feeling. I remember sitting in my front yard late one night next to a boy. I found myself pulling grass out by the fist full – doing anything I could to delay the inevitable. He and I had said all the things there were to say until there was nothing left but the one thing. The thing that hung so heavy on my eighteen year old frame.

“We have to break up.”.

It was hard. There were tears and doubts. Years have taught me now what love is and that wasn’t love. But it was sweet and kind to me – whatever it was. I let him walk away that night unsure if someone better would ever find me, but I knew that sometimes you have to let go in order have space for the next thing. He was a good thing no doubt. But he wasn’t my good thing.

I snapped this pic a few weeks ago on top of Table Mountain in South Africa. This summer I have put in some miles and these feet of mine have carried me through numerous cities in the US, walked me through London and led me over the hills of Cape Town. It has been a journey. A journey that has given me the opportunity to hear some of your stories and see some of your faces.

Those of you who have mustered up the courage to start new businesses, go back to school or who have gotten together with other readers to share the things you carry on those pieces of paper. I am moved. Always, deeply and humbly moved that something I have said or done has sparked inspiration in you.

As I have heard the stories of featured readers over the summer that I have posted to my blog, I have realized something. I have settled for a “good enough” dream. The way you all risk and are pushing the boundaries has sparked something in me.

Courage is contagious. And I have caught it from you.

I sat at my computer three years ago and wrote the first blog entry on Lark & Bloom. Thinking to myself that the thoughts rolling around in my head might be better left unshared and unspoken.  Away from scrutiny and rejection. I hit that publish button and that’s when this all started. That’s when we started. 

Truth be told, it is easy to take one big leap and then convince ourselves that we have landed. That this is as far as we will go – as far as we want to go. We’ve got something to show for ourselves now. No one can fault us for not trying. We tried. We succeeded. But then we stopped. 

We got far enough, did enough, lived enough.

Your stories have highlighted places in me where I have begun to settle. And I’ve decided something.

No small plans, no timid dreams.

If I am honest with myself – really gut honest – I want to contribute to social change in more profound ways than I am doing now. I want to mentor dreamers and creatives to a greater degree than I am at the moment. I wanna give a pep talk to the world – I want to be an author. There I said it. Out loud and online.

But that requires something terrifying and vulnerable. Something that may or may not work.

I don’t have a business plan, but I have a dream. And for now that’s gotta be good enough.

Your tales of triumph, ache, of stumbling through the mess to find the next steps. You have moved me.

So here I am again on another summer night. Looking at what has been and saying that this is lovely, but I have to let it go. Because there is a bigger dream in me that needs chasing.

Let’s be clear. You and me? We aren’t breaking up. 

I’m just risking on taking this to the next level. I’m going way out of my comfort zone to build a new website that will house this blog as well as other projects.

But we are in this together – me and you. So, I wanted to be transparent from the start. ‘Cause sometimes we need reminding that risks aren’t always polished or easy. That sometimes it means letting go of what is to chase something bigger. Even if it feels too big at times.

And maybe some of you champions need to take some risks with me. Letting go of  “enough” to chase the fuller picture.

So let’s be honest about the things we carry inside us. The version of ourselves we long to become. And let’s do this again. Let’s pioneer something new. No small plans. No timid dreams. Just brave. That’s us.

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Get out of bed, dreamers. It’s time to go.

Somewhere beautiful

 But, really. We never signed up for this.

We never signed up to be taunted by our dreams – to be teased for all that hasn’t happened yet. Peeking out from the covers each morning wondering if this day we will fail just like we have in the long succession of days before. Or maybe, just maybe, today we will be someone great. The kind of someone we crave to be.

Then doubt gives us a fresh dose of  reality and reminds us of all the days we never got where we were going. Best efforts that never quite lifted us out of our ditches. Wheels spinning, flinging dirt all over our hearts and coating us with shame.

We haven’t been enough yet.

Or maybe we go into the world with our shiny new shoes, but the world doesn’t seem to want us. Our freshly unpacked visions and breathtaking ideas – no one has time to see our beauty. So we pack up, go home and crawl into our beds. Under the sheets we go where it is safe and we await the coming of another morning.

This isn’t what we signed up for when we decided we wanted to be dreamers, doers and original gangsters. We didn’t expect to lose or be broken down. We never expected to stop fighting.

And yet , we did. We stopped fighting for the things in us that we want to do and become. We stopped believing that Something Bigger is out there and we are meant to find it.

Each day we dull down our dreams to soften the blow of life. Each day we expect a little less because we can’t stomach the thought of coming up empty again. We sell our dreams for the comfort of our sheets. Where we hide and wait for something to change.

The thing is, I don’t want to be a timid dreamer anymore. I don’t want to stay here in this muted world I’ve created for myself.

I want to break out, have brawls with doubt and lay back with my bloodied nose knowing that I didn’t surrender. I didn’t quit. I fought and I got free.

I’m ditching this joint and I’m inviting you to come.

Remember how good cold rain felt on your face as a kid – when you weren’t worried about it ruining your makeup or your suit? The smell of honeysuckle in the summer and excitement of a new box of crayons? Remember when you expected to make beautiful things? Dreaming of seeing the world – the actual world – instead of just pinning it on your Pinterest board?

Remember when you thought you could do or be anything?

Let’s go back there.

We were meant for something far greater than this, far more grand than we have been told.

Wake up dreamers, doers & original gangsters. It’s time to go. —> click to tweet 

Life will have it’s hard days, and sand will be thrown in your face by people who don’t believe in you enough. Some circumstances won’t change no matter how hard you yell and push on them. But those are the places we simply pass through, not where we have to remain.

Let’s head somewhere beautiful again. To a place where we work hard and make things happen. Where we sit with neighbors on front porches and connect to humanity. Where dreaming makes us smile at the possibility instead of cringe at the defeat.

It may take us awhile to get out of our habits. To crawl out of our beds that we have come to seek comfort from at the start of every morning. We will trip over our own feet more often than we’d like. But, we will get there.

I don’t care how long it takes us. Let’s go somewhere beautiful again.

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It’s like a field trip of sorts – but without the permission slip and sack lunch

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I was gonna be all impressive and grown up, but it just didn’t work out. I’ve known this was coming for weeks and had lined out some posts to automatically publish over the next two weeks so you guys wouldn’t even notice that I was in Africa.

Yea, Africa. Life didn’t quite follow my highly-detailed plan this past week and therefore I didn’t get any posts lined out to publish tonight. I sat down to do it now, but my malaria medicine is making me a smidge loopy so I decided creativity probably isn’t a wise attempt at the moment.

So, I’m gonna get personal and just tell you the truth.  I tend to stay away from talking about the ins-and-outs of my personal life on here since Lark & Bloom isn’t really about me as much as it is about us. And it certainly isn’t an adoption or parenting blog. B I’ll briefly take a moment and fill you in on whats happening with me.

This isn’t news really if you follow me on social media, but I’m going to Africa tomorrow. My husband and I have been in the process of adopting for over four years now. It’s been a long journey – a story for another day – but in November we shifted our plans and began the process of adopting from Burundi. We are hoping to adopt a set of siblings actually. I refer you to my previous post about doing the crazy thing.

If you’ve never heard of Burundi, I suggest you read about itI will be giving my paperwork to the government officials in Bujumbura and be introduced to the amazing country nestled in the heart of Africa.

I went to Africa for the first time when I was 15. I have been back twice since then and am beyond excited to return again.

I am unsure if I will be able to blog from there, so we are gonna do something a bit different. I’ll be posting photos from my trip on Instagram and I’d like to invite you along. Its kinda like a field trip of sorts, but you don’t have to sign a permission slip or bring a sack lunch. It should be fun.

Follow me on Instagram @larkandbloom and come to Africa with me. We were made for adventure.

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Filed under Adoption, current events, Faith, Global, Going Places, Kiddos, Lifestyle, My Life Thus Far, something bigger

The Risk of Staying

I sat at my desk in December with a scrap piece of paper and a red pen. As I began to plan out my blog for An Uncomfortable January this was the post I knew I had to write. 

It isn’t the glamorous one or the post you will have come looking for on your own. If we were in high school, this  post wouldn’t be the dreamy guy all the girls have a crush on or the really funny one that made the rounds at all the parties. Instead this post is the friend you know you need – the one who keeps things balanced and in perspective. Like the friend in high school who talked me out of getting a flower tattooed on my foot when I turned 18. We need those people.

Two years ago my husband and I left our ideal lives on the West Coast to come back to my mid-sized hometown in Texas. It just about killed me. There was no thrill to being here – I knew this place and it knew me. For better or worse. Things weren’t uncharted or fresh and – to be honest – I have a slight addiction to experiencing new things. I could easily spend my life moving on from one thing to the next in the pursuit of adventure.

I missed living in a big city with all of its foodie eateries, endless shops and unique neighborhoods that provided afternoons of exploration. Living in a place that people came to spend their vacations provided a sense of gratification. When I packed up boxes to load on the moving truck it felt like I was packing up every other exciting opportunity and sending it off for someone else to live.

Fast forward two years.

I attended a funeral  several months ago at the church I grew up in. Surrounding me were people I had known since childhood. Memories began to swirl as I looked at the faces around me. Playing barefoot in backyards trying to catch mid-summer fireflies. Late night conversations by the lake dreaming about glittery futures. Airplane rides to foreign lands together. The flood of shared experiences made my lips curl and eventually break into a full-blown smile.

These people and this place. We hold each others secrets and stories. Maybe staying here isn’t so bad after all.

So many of us idolize risk taking as a daring adventure that sets big dreams in motion and launches us to exciting destinations. Hello, didn’t you see Eat, Pray, Love? ( don’t see it. I didn’t like that movie actually )  In my life I have traveled to over twenty countries and have numerous exciting stories to share. I’ve risked big and made a home on many limbs.

Right now though, I am learning a different type of risk. The risk of staying. Don’t be fooled – in many ways it is the most uncomfortable and risky thing I have ever done.

Staying is giving up all the other “what ifs” in order to hold onto what already is. It is choosing to commit and therefore cut off other options. You forfeit the ability to just take off when things don’t go as well as you planned. You risk being bored. Ultimately staying requires the kind of bravery that cultivates instead of fluctuates.

This month some of us need to risk by going further and others need to risk by going deeper. Maybe you need to chase your dreams or maybe you need to plant your dreams. There are times and moments for both.

I love big skylines at night and streets buzzing with tourists. But I also love this place I’m in that is on the brink of something amazing. And I’m gonna stay here a while and help build this city into what I believe it can become. ‘Cause I’m risky like that in 2014.

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An Uncomfortable January

January

You know that thing that sets you on fire and makes you come alive? The dream in the deepest-most-secret part of your soul that keeps you up at night with your heart pounding and mind reeling at the thought of “what if?”. Or the idea that makes you laugh out loud because it is so absurd that it just might work? Yea, that’s the one.

Well, you are in good company. Let me tell you why…

I have a love hate relationship with the month of January. I spent New Years Day tucked in a nook of a local coffee shop with my journal and day planner. Sketching out brilliant ideas and dreams that I hope will unfold in 2014. Not simply tasks or goals I want to do at some point in the next 365 days, but thinking through who I want to become this year as well.

That’s the love part.

Then there is the actual implementation part. After I wrote all my hopes and dreams down I took a good hard look at what it would actually take to accomplish them this year. What would I have to say “no” to? What would I have to learn or change about myself? How early will I have to wake up to actually workout?

That’s the hate part.

Like I was saying, yesterday afternoon was spent dreaming into this next year. As I sat there with my lukewarm coffee in hand, I read through all the scribbles in my notebook. How is this all going to happen? Aside from a strict budget, earlier bedtime and pots upon pots of coffee one thing stood out – RISK.

I will have to get uncomfortable and risk not being picked, risk making the wrong choice, look past disappointment, risk looking like a total idiot, and forcing myself to choose hope instead of fear…so many ways I will have to stretch if I want to really pursue my dreams in 2014.

Welcome to An Uncomfortable January.

Last year I did a series called An Uncomfortable January where I did one thing each day that made me uncomfortable – made me risk – because no one can chase dreams from their comfort zone. The series is back again by popular demand this year.

‘Cause we have passions to burn for, dreams to chase, character to build, and ideas to create.

I have some amazing guests lined up – from a model in NYC to a former army ranger – who will be sharing what risk looks like for them.

So, guess what peeps? We are gonna go out on a ledge. Starting right now. Today I took a risk and chopped all my hair off just to get us started. Yea, that’s right. I went all pixie cut on you. Wanna know why? Cause we are risky like that in 2014.

hari

My friend Chris always says that most people are too overwhelmed to take action because they are trying to cover miles at a time when they should be focused on taking inches. And that’s true I think. Most writers don’t want to grow a blog we just want to go straight to New York Times best sellers list. What musician has time to actually play small local gigs? It’s Grammys or bust baby.

And of course, we all want to find that one singular thing that makes us special.

Reality is that miles are taken one inch at a time – not in one heroic leap.

This January it is about pursing our dreams by taking our inches.

Go ahead, take a moment and dream freely. What would you do if you had no fear?

We are risking on those answers. Together, taking our inches and risking.

Who knows? Maybe we will all fall flat on our faces, come up short and move to rural Nebraska to hide our heads in shame.

Or maybe it will work and come December we will look back in disbelief at the ground our “inches” have covered. Maybe, just maybe, that “thing” will grow legs and carry us into our destiny.

At the very least we will end up with great stories and the satisfaction of knowing that we didn’t fail to act.

So, here is to another Uncomfortable January. The month we each acknowledge that we have a destiny and passion worth following. Friendships worth forging and jokes worth telling.

Why? Because we are alive and the breath in our lungs is there for a reason. Plus, it’s 2014 and we are risky like that.

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what Italy taught me about getting lost

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photo cred: Galaxy Eyes

Want to know a little-known fact about me? Amid the Type-A drive and tendency to hurry, I adore being lost. It is true that I am 1/32nd Cherokee & can tell time simply by looking at the shadow of my horse…but, I do in fact get lost often. Like my first 24 hours in Italy.

My friend Connie & I flew into Milan with maps and whimsy. The plan was to catch a train to Slovenia for a few days and then explore some fine Italian cities. After landing we headed straight to the main train station.

Oh, but wait. There was a national train strike when we arrived & we were stranded. Did I mention it was fashion week? I was stranded in a train station during fashion week. Whoops.

There we were surrounded by very eccentric fashionistas & a  large group of angry Russian women. I’m not exactly sure why there 20+ Russian women, but for some reason they filled the women’s restroom and were not inclined to share it. The restroom was the only warm spot in the entire train station and the Russians had dibs on it apparently.

Through some United Nations style negotiation, my friend Connie was able to get us on a train to Venice.  Hungry & barely awake, we lugged ourselves off the train in Venice & began the hunt for our hotel. It was called Hotel Albergo.

It was just after 10pm when we got to Venice. We spent what seemed like days saying, “Scuzi! Dove e Albergo?”. The boisterous Italians would flash a smile, point a direction & say a slew of words we couldn’t understand.

It didn’t take long to realize our mistake. Albergo wasn’t the name of our hotel. It was the Italian word for hotel. Hours we spent going from albergo to albergo hoping to find one that had our reservation.

Dizzy from wandering around the canals, Connie & I stumbled upon a midnight mass & sat in the back row happy for a rest. So I sat there. Watching a foreign expression of worship in a strange place was pretty powerful to me. The droning of the prayers & devotion of these silhouettes  lit by midnight candles were enchanting.

I looked at these worn faces around me. We sat together in this ancient church for the same reason. To find Rest. When it was over our feet shuffled back along the canals continuing our search for lodging.

Luckily, or perhaps by divine providence, we found it a few minutes later. The owner’s son was attending the front desk of the small hotel. I don’t remember his name, but he was possibly the only ugly Italian male we saw during our visit.

He had the hots for my friend & proposed every time we came through the lobby. Oh, the Italians.

To be honest, we spent pretty much the entire 10 days lost in Italy. Each step of the trip had been calculated before we left. I spent $1,000 total on the 10 day trip. Yes, that is INCLUDING airfare. (Just try to beat me on travel deals, I dare you). Despite my best planning efforts, the entire trip was a series of missing trains and loosing ourselves in winding alleys. We were even in the wrong country at one point.

That’s just the way life goes sometimes. We get lost, away from our planning & calculations. Lost in strange towns with people we had no intention of meeting. We end up heading north instead of south & going when we are supposed to stay.

Our 5-year plan for our lives gets stuck in an old journal & God has created a new route for us to take.

It is scary and thrilling at the same time.

Italy taught me to surrender the expectation and embrace the adventure. My plans are nothing compared to His. We should put down our maps more often & get lost.

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August 13, 2013 · 3:07 am

Puccini on Trains & the Italian who wanted to kiss me

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Twenty year old me strolling through Italy

It has been a fun summer of sharing a few of my travel stories with you. To be honest, I didn’t think I had enough to fill the whole summer when I started. After spending some time brainstorming I have discovered a years worth of stories at least.

Sometimes you just don’t know what the world has taught you until you decide to share it. And these next few weeks I’m gonna share with you the lessons I learned from my time in Italy.

So, Ciao baby. To Italia we go.

My initial landing in Italy was pretty rough. It involved fashion week, train strikes and a bathroom full of Russian women. I know, right?

But that isn’t what this story is about.

I was twenty years old. In Italy for 10 days with a friend, a backpack, a wee bit of cash and a train pass. The week up to that point had been a mix of breathtaking and totally exhausting at the same time.

A country-wide train strike started the day we landed. From that point on there had been stress and total confusion. This particular day I was exhausted. I was wishing we had gone to England instead.

Finally our train rolls up to take us from Florence to Rome. I get on with my backpack and bad attitude. I was dirty, tired and hungry. My friend Connie and I were almost alone in the train car and I was hoping for some sleep. It was late afternoon.

A little ways into the trip we made our first stop. The train car emptied of all passengers and I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally I can be by myself away from those annoying people.  And then they got on. All of them.

A whole brigade of Italian soldiers. Young ones. Handsome ones. Leaving basic training camp & headed to Rome where they would receive their orders.  Gents flooded our train car with their crisp uniforms, military packs and brooding good looks.

The seats ran out and the young men start lounging on the piled up luggage in the back of the car & aisles. They were loud and rambunctious. The train starts going and the soldiers still hadn’t quite noticed the two American girls hiding in the seats.

Oh, but then they see us. Swarming they gathered around and spoke to us in a language we couldn’t understand, but it sure sounded nice. A few of them spoke broken English & were eventually brought into the middle of the huddle to translate.

Connie and I were able to communicate the basics of where we were from & what we studied.

What is my name? Elizabeth

Where am I from? Texas.

What do I study at university? politics

How old am I? Twenty

Can you kiss me? No, probably not. ( he was very handsome so 3 cheers for my self-control)

I wish that American boys could learn from the Italians how to talk to women. Not so much the kissing part, but the other stuff. Making girls feel beautiful and celebrated without it being slimy or degrading. It really is quite an art they have.

Once the conversation died down & they realized that there would be no kissing, these gents started making their way back to their seats.

We were riding through Tuscany at sunset. Vineyards passing by with their charming simplicity. It is about this time that I look to my right. The soldier reclining in the isle on his pack pulls out a bottle of wine. And starts singing. Puccini.

Yes, Puccini. It was beautiful. By the second verse all the soldiers were singing. Passing around the wine and singing to the sunset, to life and all things beautiful.

It was magic.

I sat there mesmerized by what was going on around me. These men were celebrating life for the simple fact that they were alive. No movie cameras were rolling. YouTube hadn’t been invented yet, so they weren’t trying to go viral. It was just them & life.

I had been grumpy and annoyed going into this train ride.

I didn’t see romantic vineyards out my window at first. Just dusty fields that wouldn’t wash off my limited wardrobe I had with me.

I viewed the people around me as pesky distractions to what  I would rather be doing with my time.

By about round two of some old Italian song ( that they miraculously all knew) I was convicted by their passion for life. These men were singing, smiling and enjoying the merriment of the day.

A day that wasn’t valuable for its perfection but rather its simple existance.

Italy taught me something on that sunset train. Life really is beautiful. It isn’t perfect or planned. But there are moments of pure magic. And when they happen, we should be aware enough to own them.

It is like the Italians say,

La Vita E Bella.

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The Motorcycle Midget

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Note: Today’s post is written from one of the greatest storytellers I know…my friend Robert. Tuesdays are dedicated to travel this summer & his post hits the mark. Enjoy the midget & his motorcycle.)

Several years ago on a bus in the middle of Turkey I met a man who liked to talk. I was living overseas at the time and had just finished a week’s vacation on the Mediterranean where I mostly just sat in the sand eating lamb shanks and staring at the water. As a natural introvert, sitting in sand and staring at water was crucial for my sanity.

The man across the aisle was telling me a story in Turkish. I smiled and nodded, catching only snippets of what he said, but still managed to piece together a sad story of a wife who had recently passed away, leaving him to raise his little boy alone. The boy sat beside him on the bus, reading a children’s book. I tried my best to offer my sympathies but ended up sounding like a Neanderthal at a funeral home.

“Me sorry for loss. Life be hard sometimes.”

Regardless of my linguistic limitations, however, we soon became fast friends. That’s how things go down in Turkey. You can make a friend in 4.2 seconds in the middle of nowhere with little more than a muttered greeting. Before you know it you’re at their home reclining on pillows, drinking tea and eating baklava.

Nine hours later the bus arrived at Istanbul, pulled into a station crowded with travelers and cut its engine.

“Do you need a ride?” my friend asked as we exited the bus. I’d assumed to take a taxi across town to my apartment.

“Are you sure?” I asked. “It’s not too much trouble?”

“No problem!” he insisted, then raised two fisted hands while making a vroom-vroom sound. Perhaps it was bus ride fatigue, but my brain failed to compute what he had just pantomimed. It wasn’t until I actually saw the motorcycle that I realized what was about to happen.

Three passengers, plus luggage, to be balanced upon a teetering, two-wheeled machine, in rush hour Istanbul traffic no less.

Did I mention he was a midget?

The guy was just a hair taller than his little boy. I stared in slack-jawed wonder as he hefted our baggage onto a thin metal wrack behind the seat, strapped them down with a frayed bungee chord, then lifted his son to straddle the gas tank before climbing up himself. His feet didn’t even touch the ground.

I glanced about to see if anyone was watching. “Are you sure about this?” I asked.

“Come on!” he beckoned, strapping on a full sized helmet that made him look exactly like a Turkish bobble head doll. The irony that neither his son nor I was offered the same cranial protection was beyond my ability to express. There seemed no way out. No escape. I wanted to run for my life but couldn’t bring myself to refuse his hospitality.

In the end I took a deep breath, exhaled a prayer, and climbed on behind them like a Sasquatch with arms wrapped tight around both midget and son.

After several wobbling tries my friend managed to kick-start the engine, revved it hard, then popped the clutch with a lurch to send us barreling forward. We swerved right, then left, then right again before gaining enough speed to stabilize. Into the meat grinder of Istanbul traffic we went, weaving between cars, dashing across lanes.

I squinted my eyes shut and screamed the loudest and most desperate prayer of my life.

I was going to die.

As we zoomed across the Bosphorus Strait bridge, water gleaming sapphire blue a hundred feet below, another motorcycle drew up alongside us. It was a crotch rocket driven by a guy clad in black leather and helmet. He took one look at our merry band then shook his finger at us in disgust before darting forward and out of sight.

At that moment, terrified as I was, I couldn’t help but smile, then snicker, then laugh out loud. For I was likely the only person on the planet riding a motorcycle behind a midget and a little boy.

What if I’d stayed home that day? Maybe watched some good shows on the tube? Would I be writing this story now, after all these years? So often in my life I am tempted to settle for the highway of the predictable. But I don’t recall a single time I’ve looked back and said to myself, “Wow, wasn’t that such an amazing time of average?”

I lived in Turkey to start a church, but along the way I met a midget with a motorcycle, and I lived to tell the tale.

What stories are you living at the moment? I promise they’re there, if you’ll just step out your door.

  image Robert is a father of three and husband of one. When he is not reading, writing, cooking, eating, or walking in the woods, he enjoys telling stories about his awkward adventures on planet earth. To partake of said adventures, join him at www.fullerstories.com .

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Filed under Funny, Global, Going Places

my beautiful pain

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In all my travels around the world, one thing remains the same. No matter what culture I am in, the reality of pain is present. Another Tuesday another travel story. This post is about pain.

The fall of 2008 took me to Ko Samui, Thailand for a conference. My incredible husband stayed home with the kids and I flew across the water to paradise.

Greeting me on my arrival was pure beauty. Beaches were incredible and even the alleyways were filled with vendor stalls and the smell of grilled meats.

I walked down the beach staring at the emerald-green mountains climbing up from the crystal clear water. Breathtaking times a million.

Along the way I stopped and talked to a middle-aged Thai woman. As we spoke, her eyes filled with a deep sadness. The pain of poverty and not knowing what sort of future her uneducated children will have. She was vulnerable, raw and uncensored. She was beautiful in her pain.

I’ve seen that sort of pain in every country. The emotion of loss, fear, and desperation. From the drug addict in Amsterdam to the refugee in the Sudan. Each carries a haunting ache. More than the attractions and natural wonders of nations I have visited, I remember the eyes of pain that I have seen.

Vulnerability is compelling. It reaches out and grabs people. Makes us stare. Inside we wonder if we will ever be brave enough to come undone too.

This is a picture of me crying real tears over real pain. Not gonna lie, its been a rough month for me in certain areas. Feeling like too much & not enough. Hoping for an adoption that has gone on for over 3 years. Waiting for distant dreams to come to pass. Coming up short in areas I had previously felt confident in.

I found myself sitting on my bathroom floor two days ago crying. That is when I snapped this pic. I guess I intuitively knew I would end up writing about it and would need a photo to go with the post. Seems funny now.

As I sat on the floor, I felt the desire to pull away. Step back, cover up and hide the flaws that were screaming neon at the moment. Shame seemed like comfort. Why would I ever show someone this weakness inside of me?

Across my mind came thoughts of the people I’ve met, the brokeness they exemplified and the shocking strength they represented.

Pain deconstructs our masks, walls and pride until all that is left is flesh and bone. Bare humanity. Tears of desperation for a Savior who will not fail. —> click to tweet

Tears streaming, contacts burning. I needed the Gospel to be true for me. In that moment & in that space. I needed a God that would find me, show me love and shelter me from the storm.

Completely unimpressive, I sat in my pain and came undone. Unraveling in the presence of One who knows exactly how to put me back together.

I chose to hope that Jesus would be enough. I chose to believe that by holding onto Him through all the disappointments I will be able to look back and say that I too know what a “hope against hope”  faith looks like.

A certain power lies in these places of vulnerability. A formidable beauty grows.

I cling to God and He works. He transforms my impatience, fear, anger and pride. The cracks and ruins begin to glow with Hope.

No need to worry about all that we are doing wrong and failing at. We simply cling to One who is making all things right. We find Him in our beautiful pain.

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Filed under Adoption, Beauty, Faith, Fire, Global, Going Places, My Life Thus Far, Uncategorized, Whimsy