Monday, October 25, 2010

from here to there

The hardest part of being here is not being there.  Not being at Woodleaf, in the Bay, on the sunny beaches of southern California, or immersed in our beloved community in Arizona.  Besides the colder weather, an overbearing amount of fleece, sandals worn with socks, and the tendency towards rain-Seattle is not a difficult place to live.  We have running water, we are well fed, and a language barrier is non-existent.  This city is vibrant, beautiful, and its close proximity to the water is a major bonus.  But being here, means we can’t be there.

More and more each day I am struck with the fact that we are all struggling.  Struggling to hold our tongues, exude patience, reinvent ourselves, become more who God intended us to be, or even to get out of bed each morning.  No matter what facades we uphold or smiles we paint on, every day, some person, whether you know them or not, could be facing their own personal natural disaster.  The ground may feel like it is crumbling beneath them or they simply may have lost the ability to put one foot in front of the other.  More common than not we run into these individuals in the market, sit next to them at dinner parties, and pass by them in traffic.  Even still, these people could actually be the faces sleeping under our same roofs, the ones singing to the mountaintops in the front seat of our cars, whose numbers we know by heart, or whose picture is on our refrigerators.

In college, I was struck by a quote that said, “Be kinder than necessary for everyone is facing some sort of battle.”  It’s true.  For some those battles may be larger and lengthier than others- but struggling is all something we can identify with.  Restlessness, brokenness, and heavy hearts are multiplied by the millions.  We have all, if not in this moment, faced some sort of battle.

My battles and struggles have allowed me to really grasp the concept of suffering.  I know too well the suffering of physical pain and the emotions of despair and loneliness that coincide with it.  I have the days where I do not think I can make it out of bed and the days where I spend every moment just asking for God’s grace to get me through unto the next.  Yet, through my battles I have never been alone.  God has always provided someone to suffer alongside of me.  Most often it has been my parents, my siblings, and Nate.  Just this past week, I had a night where I was unable to sleep and unable to find any relief from the pain but I had Nate right there by my side.  He was encouraging me, praying with me, laughing with me, and suffering with me. 

There have been friends from near and far who have prayed for me over the years, sent an encouraging text, or thanked me for relying on God’s strength and allowing them to catch a better glimpse of Him.  While there are days and moments that I wish my story would not have to include all that it has, in the overall scheme of things I give thanks to my God for suffering.  My struggles, my heartaches, my pains have allowed me to relate to people, to place myself in their shoes, and to encourage them if by only offering a listening ear.  I place high value in my relationships because I want to be a good steward of the people God has blessed me with.  I believe that the best I have to offer in a friendship is to suffer alongside of someone.  I think this is the greatest gift any of us can offer and that is why the hardest part of being here is not being there.  Mainly because my desire is to suffer alongside of those that I love in a manner of close proximity.  I want to be there for them in an instant by hopping in my car and driving to their house.  I desire to buy them a meal or pour them a glass of wine. 

Unfortunately, life has spread the people I love most far and wide.  However, through the miles, state lines, and time zones I am learning what it means to suffer alongside of someone from a distance.  It is setting in more and more that we are here and so we can’t be there.  However, while God has us here it does not mean that my love, support, and prayers are unable to reach to there.  This world is filled with suffering.  Christ’s life was marked with suffering and I would not hesitate to argue that not every person has faced some sort of battle.  But, the beauty in the breakdown is that we can suffer alongside of one another, shield each other from the storm, hold hands to offer hope, and with eyes of empathy affirm that the journey is hard yet worth traveling.

So, from Seattle, while feeling like a world away, yet simply just a little farther north, I am suffering alongside of you.  I am suffering here with you, my brother in Arizona, whose heart is aching.  I will hold your hand from here, my sister, who is facing the demon we both know too well.  I’m right behind you my dear friend, who feels so turned around from this quarter life crisis.  My head is bowed in prayer for you my brother, who believes God will punish him.  I will remind you from here, that you are child of God, to my birdy whose misplaced her faith.  I am loving you all from here and while I wish I could do it from there- know that you are not alone in your battle, your struggles will not overtake you, and that He has given me a gift by allowing me to suffer alongside of you.  From here, to there our friendships will still remain, our doors will always be open, and if all else fails I can still hop in the car and drive like a renegade if need be.  I love you, from here to there.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pushing the Couch Back

Our apartment is quite tiny.  You can call it quaint and you can call it cute (all terms I myself prefer) but pretty words aside it is simply small.  So small in fact, that we don’t have room for a kitchen table.  We opted for comfortable seating arrangements (i.e. a couch) instead of the grand, large farmhouse table that I have been dreaming of for years.  Nate and I still gather around our “imaginary” table for meals but for now, my dreams of beautiful dinner parties and setting a creative table-scape will have to be put on hold.
I have always wanted my house and the home I make with my husband to be one with a revolving door.  Growing up, the house my parent’s built was filled with not only my family but also several others who took refuge there for a meal, a season, or a decade.  I can’t remember them turning anyone away.  Living in a home that kept me safe and provided shelter for more than just the immediate members of my family grew in me a strong desire to always love and serve others.  From the get go, I learned that homes were meant to be lived in, shared, and opened to more than just the few who used it as a return address on envelopes.
My greatest concern in calling such a small space home was that we would be limited in the ways we could open our home and make it available to others.  Farmhouse table aside, there are no guest bedrooms to stock with fine linens and plush pillows.  However, no matter how small the space it is our prayer that our home would still have a revolving door for friends from afar to visit and new friends to feel loved and encouraged.
            This week that prayer was answered.  Upon hearing of our move to the Northwest I immediately tried to find a way to serve.  I love working with students and so I quickly applied to become a mentor and bible study leader for a group of girls from the University of Washington.  These girls live in community together, in a somewhat Christian sorority, in a large mansion right near campus.  All of the members of the house are placed in a bible study and each week meet together with a mentor and a student leader.  I count it as a blessing that I was chosen as a mentor and Thursday night was our first meeting as an entire group.  The girls asked if they could come to our place for bible study and without hesitation, yet worried about space in the back of my mind, I eagerly said yes.
            Nate agreed to spend the evening in our bedroom (He is such a Saint) and the two of us (Nate helped clean and pull ingredients) prepared apple cider and freshly baked cookies for the girls.  I was nervous before they arrived.  Would our house be too small?  Would I be the strange California Girl Bible Study Leader?  All sorts of questions plagued me as we pushed the couch back and waited for the girls.
            Shortly after seven, six beautiful girls appeared at our door.  Our apartment had our first house guests.  Not only were they the first visitors to the Bruce household but also they were the first friends we would meet.  And so as Nate helped me pour the cider, six girls filled our living room, sat on our couches, and a few were gracious enough to perch on the floor.  I sat on a yoga mat and scattered pillows around to make everyone more comfortable and Nate vanished to the bedroom.  For a couple of short hours I got to not only begin to know these girls but to commence on my journey of falling in love with each of them.  I can already tell these six girls will become like little sisters to both Nate and I and each week, regardless of the size of our home, we will gather together, with the couch pushed back and some of us on the floor, and we will talk about life, love, college, and most importantly Christ and what it means to be a follower of Him.  
In our dream world, Nate and I would have loved to have a house.  In our ideal world, we would have loved to have a two-bedroom apartment.  Yet, in our perfect world we have a tiny little place that we plan to fill with as many people as possible as opportunities to host and to love present themselves.  We can push the couch back, eat a meal Indian style on the floor, blow up an air mattress and cover it with the most cozy comforters you’ll ever know.  This small apartment, that is becoming our home, is not ours to hide in.  Our doors are made to swing open and to be a shelter for anyone, at anytime, along their journey.
 There’s a country song that sings, “You’re gonna miss this.  You’re gonna want this back.  You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast.  These are some good times, so take a good look around.  You may not know it now, but you’re gonna miss this.”  This has become a mantra for Nate and I.  We will miss these days.  The stories of our one bedroom apartment and how a whisper in the kitchen carries to the shower.  We are taking it all in and casting more than just quick glances.  We are blessed to have a home and to have people to share it with.  And from here on out, no matter where we are, we will remember the goodness of pushing the couch back

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Couldn't Wait to Get Goin' (Not Quite Ready to Leave)

For our wedding, my brother-in-law, Adam, put together a slideshow of Nate and I that showed glimpses of our own individual stories and the journeys we both traveled until God intertwined our paths.  The soundtrack to our video montage was appropriate for both of us as individuals and then as a couple as the latter part of the slideshow unfolded the first pages of our love story.  As pictures of my childhood danced by, the song “American Honey,” by Lady Antebellum played.  What I didn’t know then was that months later I’d still have one lyric in particular stuck on repeat in my mind.  The lyric sings, “…couldn’t wait to get goin’ but wasn’t quite ready to leave,” and it sums up my heart in eleven words.
You see when I signed up for this whole marriage thing the only thing that had me worried was leaving the “Scudder” behind.  Now don’t get me wrong, once a Scudder, always a Scudder.  But for me, Scudder has always been more than just a surname.  My last name was what connected me to my dad, my parents, and my family.  I think that so much of my identity was tied up in those seven letters.  Getting married meant leaving my father’s house.  I grew up in his family, the one he and my mom created for us.  I may have moved out of my father’s house when I went away to college but no matter where I was, I was always a part of my father’s house.  I knew of its love and protection even from distant places.
 Meeting Nate down the aisle, on the arm of my dad, joining hands with him, and exchanging vows under the trees on that breathtaking day was everything I ever imagined it would be.  It was incredible, surreal, beautiful, emotional, and had me on the tips of my toes leaning into love.  I couldn’t wait to get goin’.
When Nate kissed his bride and we walked back down that aisle as husband and wife I don’t think my feet touched the ground.  The pictures were taken, the champagne was poured, and then I met my dad on the dance floor and I wasn’t quite ready to leave.  I felt bliss and simultaneously I felt loss. 
Now this may seem overly dramatic to some of you and you may want to slap me in the face.  You may be thinking, “boo hoo, you found the love of your life.  Grow up, blah blah blah.”  And you can think that.  But I simply couldn’t wait to get goin’ yet I wasn’t quite ready to leave.  Leave my dad, my mom, their home, and being a Scudder.
After Nate and I got married we had the rare, unique, humbling adventure of moving in with my parents.  We weren’t sure where we were headed and while we figured out what was next my parents were gracious enough to let us stay awhile.  While I will spare you the details, after a couple of wrong turns and many hours spent in prayer, yearning for direction, we got the call. 
Nate was offered a job in Seattle and in a few short weeks we were moving.  We both felt excited, nervous, and completely overwhelmed.  My parents helped us pack, paint furniture, and then my dad followed our U-Haul up to Seattle and helped us unload and watched as Nate carried me over the threshold.  The three of us spent hours sifting through boxes, making silly jokes, and then Sunday morning we hugged through tears and stood on the corner as he drove away.  And in that moment, Nate and I both weren’t quite ready for him to leave.
I can’t wait to get goin’ and continue on in this adventure with Nate.  But, don’t judge me that I’m not quite ready to leave.  Here, in this strange city I am Katie Bruce.  Whoever I meet from here will only know me as a Bruce.  I am realizing that I will always be a part of my Dad’s family and Nate has joined that family too.  Yet at the same time, I am becoming Katie Bruce.  We may have already been married for a few months, but we are still working on becoming family.  Bruce is going to become a whole lot more than just a new last name-- because up here, in this brand new place, it’s just the two of us.  This Arizona boy and California girl are going to get caught in the rain, make a small apartment a home, and become a family.  I am not sure I was ever going to be ready to leave yet here I am, here we are.  I will always be Katie, I will always have my Scudder roots, but we are Becoming the Bruces.