Blog Introduction

This blog is the story of how my husband and I faced the illness and death of two of our children. Each blog post is essentially a chapter in the story, so in order to truly understand it, you are going to benefit by starting at the beginning.
I hope you find our story touching, and in some way find comfort and hope through it as you face your own storms in life.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Flying Into Our Future

Fall came, and with it, our God-designed trip to Europe.  We boarded the plane in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and as it taxied down the runway and then surged upward, tears began to roll down my cheeks.  I felt something in that moment. I felt a little bit of anxiety- flying is not my favorite thing since I get motion sickness quite easily- but mostly I had an overwhelming sense that God was about to do something in our lives.  Completely unaware of it, we were heading into our future. Something we hadn't planned on, or even dreamed of, was about to unfold.  I felt humbled and in awe at the same time.

We were flying to Ljubljana, Slovenia.  Slovenia used to be the northernmost province of the former Yugoslavia, becoming an independent country in 1991. Nestled between Italy on the west, Austria to the north, Hungary on the east, and Croatia to the south, Slovenia is a beautiful country about the size of New Jersey.  If you travel one hour north of the capital city, you are in the midst of the Julian Alps; if you travel an hour south, you are on the Adriatic coast, complete with a Mediterranean climate.  The best of both worlds wrapped into a gorgeous package of quaint villages with copper color tiled rooftops, cobbled streets, lush green meadows, and buildings and homes 500 years older than our country.  It really is a magical place.

We stayed for nearly two weeks with the family who had given us the airline vouchers.  They lived in a modest house in the middle of a village outside of Ljubljana. Neither of us had much money, so we didn't live like big-time tourists during those two weeks.  We lived among the inhabitants of this beautiful land; walking nearly everywhere we went, or taking the bus when we had to go into the city.  We walked among the people on their way to work or other places; brushing shoulders with young and old alike.  We sat in outdoor cafes drinking vroca cokolada, or hot chocolate as we know it, but there is no hot chocolate here which can compare to the thick, wondrous stuff you get served with a tiny spoon in Ljubljana.  It calls you back time and time again to partake of its rich, smooth deliciousness.  We shopped in tiny village grocery stores for our daily food.  We went to house groups; small gatherings of Christians who met throughout the week to have fellowship with one another, and to pray and minister to each others needs.  And we went to church there.  It was very interesting going to church and hearing people sing and pray and sermonize in a language we could not understand.  We recognized familiar songs, but found it difficult to put words to them; even songs we had sung back home for years were now lacking words in our brains.  I found I didn’t get a whole lot out of the service.  What a great example of the message needing to be understood in order for it to be taken in and embraced.  My lack of comprehension didn't stop me from enjoying the people though.  They were loving and warm, very welcoming and happy to have us there.

Amidst all the memories I had formed over those two weeks, there was one image which had been seared into my brain.  To this day I can still see it in my minds eye;  the hollow, hopeless, forlorn look in the eyes of so many of the people there.  As their heads slowly turned and their eyes met mine, the vacancy I saw cut to my very heart of hearts.  The look of years of oppression, poverty, and the expectation of no hope, radiated from their gaze to mine.  It was haunting.

The days passed quickly, and it seemed in no time at all we were boarding the plane back for the United States.  It was good to be going home again, but we had some great memories and experiences to take with us. It seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, minus all the bells and whistles.  It was one of those life changing vacations; one you never forget. 

As the plane taxied down the runway, poised to take us away from this beautiful place, again tears started to run down my cheeks.  Rob looked at me questioningly, and as I said to him, "I feel like we're leaving home, instead of going home", he nodded his affirmation.  We both knew this would not be the last time we walked these ancient streets. 

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