Thursday, June 30, 2011

Living In A World In-Between

My, what a week it's been! In the last seven days, we had our first overnight guests in TN, I drove to ATL for my sister's birthday on Sunday, went to Passion City Church afterward, took my mom to two doctor appointments on Tuesday, had dinner with friends, and drove back to TN on Wednesday...and our second set of visitors will be coming this weekend. Don't get me wrong - the whole week was great and we're hoping lots of you will visit us in our new setting. It's just that I'm finding that being closer to "home" than we were in Baltimore is not helping the very surreal tension that I live with on a regular basis. It's hard to explain, but I'll try.

We don't live in GA anymore and in one sense haven't had a "home" since we sold our house. No matter how much you decorate, apartments by their very nature are temporary. Heart connections exist in every place we've been and returning to our current location that houses our ever-shrinking possessions doesn't lessen them. Our children have no connection with the last three (counting this one) places we've lived and so my emotions are confused whenever I return to somewhere we've called home. The tension of memory vs. reality is quite exhausting and makes me realize the wisdom of why college deans tell parents not to let their children come home for a while. It takes time to invest yourself in a new place and if you aren't forced to, some might not do so. I would probably fall into that category and I'm mindful of that as I choose when or if to return to former places of residence. And yet, when that's where family is, not going back isn't an option...thus the tension I will more than likely forever live in.

I probably just made no sense trying to explain that and greater minds than mine have wrestled with that very tension of living here while knowing it's not the final destination. Speaking of which, I finally started reading the book, "To Be Told" by Dan Allender.

As I read the following section, I found it sort of helped give words to what I've been experiencing:

The Bible tells us that those who seek God will one day be given a new name:

"Everyone who is victorious will eat of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it."

The passage also reminds us that we are living in a world in-between. We are between two names. We know our name; we don't know what our new name will be. The greatest tragedy of life is that most of us, including many of us who are deeply spiritual, forget that we don't yet know our true name.

The book is about learning the story of our life as it's been written so far by God and then joining Him as He finishes writing it. I'm pretty sure the events of our now nomadic lives are playing a very significant part in discovering why God has written things the way He has. It's a journey I'm looking forward to taking and at the same time am terrified to do so. I expect we'll be chatting about it together along the way.

Moving on to a totally unrelated topic, I stayed with Matthew while I was in GA and got to spend some time with his cat, Simba. Simba is just over a year old and he's the first boy cat to grace any of the Jones households. Kit is 14 and Ellie is 7 so they're not nearly as energetic nor as troublesome as Simba is. But there's a part of me that secretly loved watching him misbehave because he lives life with such reckless abandon, you can't help but smile. He's actually a good cat; he just missed out on the discipline stage since he joined a three-male roommate household as a kitten.

For those of you who think a cat is just a cat and the best ones are dead ones, I counter with the following pictures.

This is Kit, the senior cat citizen of the family and her needs are few. All she wants is her lap of choice to sleep on (usually mine), a little food, and now that we've moved, some time on the porch in the sun.

This is Ellie the Wondercat. All she needs is for someone to notice that she's cute, a little food, her pillow to sleep on, and Tiffany. Actually, she could probably do without everything except Tiffany.

Simba gets along fine by himself because he's forced to do so most of the time due to Matthew's schedule. He likes to fetch (really!!) and you know you've been accepted when Moosey is deposited outside your door during the night while you slept. I'm pretending he was sad to see me leave.

With the 4th of July almost here and baseball's All Star game right around the corner, I find it necessary to briefly mention that the Braves are still hanging in there only 4 games behind the Phillies. One of our B teams, the Orioles, are coming to town for the weekend so we're forced to cheer against them this time. Many apologies to our Baltimore friends, but some things are a necessity.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Wonder Indeed

When I first started this blog, it was because we made the crazy decision to leave the area we had lived for the past 25 years and where we'd raised our family to move to Baltimore so people could keep up with our new lives.  Hamp had an opportunity for a job there and shockingly to our friends and families and even ourselves, we took it. 

That was almost 3 years ago and what began as an adventure has turned into a way of life apparently.  Since that move, we've changed jobs two more times and moved with each change.  The Baltimore job ended suddenly when the plant had a small fire that ended up being the proverbial straw that set things in motion.  The next job returned us to the land of our roots even though we moved about 30 minutes away from what had been our old stomping grounds. 

In some ways that was a harder adjustment because while the debate will range until the end of time over whether this statement is true or not, I have concluded you can't go home again once you've left.  You're not the same and it's not the same.  Because we began attending a church that was in its infancy, new friendships were slow to develop and life events prevented frequent contact with the ones we still had.  The new job was difficult for Hamp from the beginning because he wasn't able to do what he'd been hired to and after almost a year, his boss decided he'd rather do it himself officially.  Between changes in the printing industry and a sick economy, the job market is not what it used to be for those looking for work.  Thankfully, options developed, but in the end only one offer was forthcoming...which required a another state...again.

So here we are - almost three weeks into yet another new adventure livng four hours from what I think we still call home.  But if home is where your heart is, mine began spreading out about 4 years ago.

And today, I'm wondering...

"I wonder what sort of a tale we've fallen into?" asks Samwise.

"I wonder," said Frodo, "But I don't know. And that's the way of a real tale. Take any one that you're fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don't know. And you don't want them to."

~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

Friday, June 17, 2011

Week Two

Well, it really hasn't been my intention to just write once a week on Friday. I finally got my pictures downloaded and organized so I'll have something to share with you in the days ahead. I think what I'll do is start from the present and work my way back and we'll see what happens.

First, our trip to the Grand Ole Opry last week was amazing!! I don't think I realized that it's a radio show with a live audience and when it's being broadcast, various artists guest in different half hour segments. I had heard of most of them which surprised me but being in the historic Opry House was really cool.

Lauren and Scotty did make their debut that night and I didn't take my camera because I didn't know if you could. (Yes, you can!) I had a Mom moment when Lauren was singing that most of you will appreciate.

First, a little history. The Opry used to broadcast live from the Ryman Auditorium not too far away. It was the symbolic home of country music and when the Opry House was built, they wanted a way to take some of the history of the stage with them. A circle was cut out of the stage and it was built into the stage at the new Opry House. As new artists sing on the stage, they're joining the history of country music by standing in that circle that truly has been unbroken.

Fast forward to last fall when two high school teenagers joined thousands of other hopefuls and tried out for American Idol. They ended up being the winner and runner up at the ripe old age of 17 and 16 years old. Because they are country singers, they've been embraced by the Nashville family and were extended an invitation to sing at the Grand Ole Opry. Lauren grew up dreaming of singing there and actually came to Nashville a lot singing in little places before 6:00 p.m. when she had to leave because the night crowd would start to show up. Scotty had only been to Nashville once but knew fully the history of the Opry connection and hoped to someday sing there as well.

Last Friday night, their dreams continued to become a reality as their parents stood in the wings on the side of the stage and watched. Because the lights were so bright, the kids couldn't see their parents and Lauren commented to her mom in the shadows that she knew she was there and that her song was for her. As she began singing "Like My Mother Does" which is the song American Idol prepared for her as her first release, her mom was hugged by whoever was standing with her - maybe a sister or a friend.

That's when it hit me - how many times have we all stood on the sidelines cheering for our kids knowing they were the best to ever attempt the task before them and so excited they were trying to live their dream? But Lauren's mom was watching her daughter, who just a few months ago she was sending off to high school and was now singing for her first and definitely not her last time on the stage their own idols have stood.  We get so caught up in our comparisons that we forget we're really all alike in the parts that make us mostly who we are. And that made me smile.

For those of you hoping to see me in my boots that night, well, it didn't happen. It was 95 degrees in the shade so jeans were out as an option and I just didn't have anything I could wear with them. I settled for an airy sandal with a sleeveless dress that kept me from having a heat stroke. :) Soon, I promise!!

I'll leave you with the link that summarizes their Opry debut if you click here and who knows? Maybe you'll become a new country music fan along with me!

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Week Later

Well, here we in Franklin, TN. It will be one week tomorrow that we arrived and we were greeted by the heat wave encompassing a lot of the country right now. Poor Hamp and Bob loaded the truck last Friday mostly by themselves because the local movers hired on that end never showed. (After my review on, I'm pretty sure they're off the list of businesses to be referred.) Thankfully, the company in Franklin was amazing on Saturday and they found another guy for us to add to the contract with the two we already had hired. Now to find someone that will empty the boxes, find a place to put what was in it away, take the empty boxes somewhere, and make our apartment look like home. Oh yeah, that'd be us!

Thankfully, other things have gone well. We were reconnected to the 21st century without a hitch which is the first time in 3 years that has happened. I keep saying this because it's true, but it's the little things...

We're more settled than not now and it's slowly pulling together. I don't have time right now to share many pictures because they're still not downloaded and organized. However, I do have something fun to share with you.

The Country Music Awards Festival is going on in Nashville this week with lots of country artists, both old and new, in concert throughout the week at the Grand Ole Opry.

I saw earlier in the week that Scotty and Lauren (from American Idol fame) were going to be here tonight as part of the concert.

You know where this is going, don't you? Billy Ray Cyrus, Randy Travis, Roy Clark, and Mel Tillis along with others I hadn't heard of are all there tonight too. Hamp and I haven't been to Nashville yet, I like Lauren and Scotty, so when I found inexpensive seats were still available, well I had to buy two so we could go, right?  So, our first outing is going to be to a country music concert which makes me laugh just to type the sentence. Me of the "I hate country music" stand in life.

Moving on to another topic in a bad grammar transition attempt, I confess I cried for the first time yesterday since arriving in town. I was mostly sad for Tiffany's friend Emmett's family because he passed away in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday. He's the one I've told you about recently that was in the drumline with Tiffany when they were at Furman. I've shared this picture before, but he's the one on the left with Tiffany at her graduation.

Emmett's finally without pain and is happy and whole in the presence of His Savior that he loves dearly. But my heart breaks for his wife Wendy and their little boy Quinn who have the hardest journey in front of them. If you want to keep up with her very honest thoughts as she processes, click here for the link to the blog they had started when he was first diagnosed with cancer. Also, if they come to mind, please pray for them.

I ran several errands yesterday for the first time and with my GPS it went well. Baltimore was much more stressful because not knowing where you're going compounded with not knowing which streets to not go down or you might die caused much anxiety and many tears. Franklin is a safe community, everything is nearby and it all connects logically; I just haven't figured out how yet. I ran into ChickFilA to grab some lunch and while waiting in line heard all these various people greeting each other and asking about each other's families and it hit me; once again, I'm a foreigner in another city. The feeling of loss that realization brought along with the knowledge of what Emmett's family is going through pushed me over the edge. I made it out of ChickFilA before the tears fell, but I was just hit anew with the reality that we will really never have a "home" again. Oh, I know, we'll make friends and have a community again and we have friends and family in lots of places now. We have the cities we were born in and raised our children in and those will ultimately always be home. But we're not there anymore. And as He usually does, God reminded me that He never promised we'd be home here. We are just foreigners in a land that He said we are merely passing through. I'm a little slow most of the time and as I tried to feel sorry for myself, I had to admit that what I long for simply doesn't exist this side of eternity. We think we have it if circumstances are kind and life is basically stable. I know because I thought that for a long time. But the more common reality is that most everybody has one or more moments in life where the foundation is ripped out from under you and what you knew as reality is no more. I'm being reminded again that living each moment as if it's our last and not getting too attached to anything here is exactly how we're supposed to be living.

So that was my lesson yesterday. I wish it was the last time I'd have to be reminded of it, but it won't be. I will still bristle at my perceived unfair lot in life, but God will faithfully remind me again that all He ever promised me was Himself.

This quote from Wednesday's entry of My Utmost For His Highest sums it up better than I can.

"Beware of harking back to what you were once when God wants you to be something you have never been."

One last thing...Tiffany is working on a project for her class in Greece that requires some pictures from her childhood. The professor didn't ask if it would be a convenient time to try and find those for the students who don't have them in their possession, so for the second time in a month (another project for another person) I am looking through every single picture we have. The good news is I'm pulling out some of my favorites so they can be scanned. I'll leave you with a couple of smiles for the day before I head downtown to the Grand Ole Opry. Stay tuned...

Friday, June 3, 2011

Last Night

This is the last night I will be sleeping in our apartment in GA. Maybe I should rephrase that - this is the last night I SHOULD be sleeping in our apartment in GA. Being the smart man that he is, Hamp is already conked out. He had the more physical job today while my brain was pulled in about a million different directions as I dealt with payroll issues for a new company, updated letters to creditors for my mom, personal paperwork gathering and filing, and making sure we had everything together to actually make the move. I knew there was no point trying to sleep without unwinding for a little while, so here I am!

(Side note - the washer has decided to stop working correctly for the first time in a year. Really???)

Anyway....back to unwinding. I told you about this plaque a friend gave me a couple of weeks ago, but I thought I'd try to scan it and see if I could actually show it to you and it worked.

That really is all I need to remember right now. But it's OK to remind me too!

I still have a lot of pictures on my camera waiting to be downloaded to my computer and organized into folders. Since that won't be happening anytime soon, I decided to take a few with my handy dandy iPhone today so you could share in our moving adventure.

(Side note #2 - is anyone else having major issues with dropped calls on their iPhone, especially with AT&T? I have come perilously close to throwing mine far, far away many times in recent days. Come on, AT&T; if you don't get your act together soon, you will be losing lots of customers!)

So back to pictures...I thought you'd enjoy seeing Kit as she checks out the disaster that used to be called her living room.

I guess she wasn't too upset by all the chaos because not too long afterward, I found her like this.

Maybe I should try getting in a box.....

(Side note #3 - after my computer semi-died and has been returned, we're having to get reacquainted again.  Today it prompted me to download the latest update for Internet Explorer and I guess Google was in the mix too. As a result, everything looks different and I can't find pictures like I used to be able to, so even just trying to update here is now stressful. Sigh....)

I think it's probably time to try and get some sleep. It's entirely possible that there won't be another update until we call Tennessee "home". To that end, I'll let Helen Keller say goodnight: