It’s been over a year since I returned to America. Seasons have come and gone. Come sit with me – swaying gently to the rhythm of the swing in a gazebo – one season at a time. Perhaps . . . , we will just imagine that we are gliding smoothly in the swing.
Cold winds moved in with a force – bending trees under the weight of icy snow. Life became treacherous to venture out of the warmth of our houses. And yet, many warm memories wrapped around me during the season of winter.
One of my sweet friends from Taiwan had met and fallen in love. I had the privilege of watching that transpire while I was still overseas. She and her intended decided to marry in March of this year in Iowa where he is from. Because none of the bride’s family was able to come, they asked if I would represent her family for her. My heart was so full to see two precious people promising their love and life to each other – combining two very different cultures. I was honored to be able to go for that. Even in the cold of winter, their love for each other was like a fire that warmed the hearts of those who were able to celebrate their vows with them.
Hope was rekindled as the weather warmed by the sun brought the robins back, encouraged the flowers to peek out of the ground. Spring was such a welcoming sight. New sounds – songs of birds that I had not heard for years. What a delight to listen to feathered ballads being sung to celebrate the new season.
With the promise of new life that comes with spring, I was anticipating an ending of a long chapter of my life. I was nearing the completion of my thesis written from research that was conducted while I was teaching in Taiwan. Hope was dashed that I would be able to complete it by the deadline for the spring semester, but was able to extend my time into the summer semester. I was relieved.
One of the main reasons I came back to America this year was so that I would be home for the graduation of my daughter from college. She had been in the military during her college career, which made her four year college experience turn into a six or seven year experience. When she walked across the platform, my heart was so full. During her time of study, she was able to study abroad in Sweden and Lithuania, too. I am so proud of her for getting that degree – a long journey to completion.
Summer always meant V A C A T I O N – time to spend with extended family, and this summer was no different. I was able to go to Michigan for my Brown family reunion, held at my son’s house. Potluck – amazing surprises from great family cooks! My son even deep fried a turkey! Who says you can only have turkey on Thanksgiving! The time was sweet, but so short. It was refreshing to be with all of my siblings, my son and his family, my youngest daughter and her family, as well as the rest of the family – some of which I had not seen for years. I am grateful for the relationships I have with my extended family – sisters, brothers, cousins, nieces, nephews – treasures for sure! I am blessed.
Shortly after returning to Arkansas, I was able to participate in my oral defense for my Master’s degree. My advisor and the others on the thesis committee asked some very good questions in regards to the methods and results from my research. I was very honored to have a professor on that committee who was originally from Taiwan, but had been in America for many years. She had some specific insights because of her experiences in education in her country. When the professors had discussed their observations with me, I was overwhelmed with relief, gratitude, and amazement. Their words were such an encouragement to me – beyond what I ever imagined they would say. If you would be interested in reading through my research, it is published online at http://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/education_theses/68/.
The finale for the summer was the wedding of my son where he promised himself to his bride at a beautiful little church nestled along the foothills of the Rockies in Fort Collins (Heart of the Rockies Christian Church). Their love warmed our hearts, too. That was a family reunion as well – – of grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, combined with new friends from my now daughter’s-law’s family and friends.
The warmth of the summer finally drew to an end – but left behind milestones and new chapters in lives of those who are important to me.
The changing of the guard is similar to the changing of the colors on the trees. This year, autumn marched in like a color guard – delighting me in the variety of foliage that is still one of my favorite sights to enjoy.
God has promised us that He will give us the desires of our hearts. Many years ago when we lived on top of a mountain in Madison County, I would have some serious conversations with God. I was reminding Him of how much I enjoyed people, and that I would really enjoy the privilege of sharing some of my life lessons with some ladies (not that He had forgotten, of course). The bear that went through our yard periodically didn’t really seem like the audience that I was referring to, nor did the scorpion that ran across the dining room table, or the tarantula that the kids put in a terrarium.
Before I went to Taiwan this last time, a friend of mine had asked me to pray about being on her team for a women’s retreat that she was leading. I did pray, and I was on the team even while I was in Taiwan as a prayer partner. Last year when I came back, I was invited to be a part of the team – not really sure what I was going to do, but I went. This spring, while talking with her one day, she asked if I would consider being on the speaking team with her. I cried! God was giving me the desire of my heart! In October, I was honored to share some of my story at the Captivating Heart Women’s Retreat alongside Cari Kaufman. The retreat is based on the book, Captivating, by Stasi Eldredge, looking at our true identity in Jesus.
What will this next year usher in? I know it is not the official new year, but from my perspective, autumn often signals the end of the year. This year held many major life events that included checking off several ‘bucket list’ entries, seeing the arduous hours of study coming to fruition when my Master’s degree arrived in the mail, and feeling wrapped in the incredibly strong arms of my Father who has been showering me with gifts.
I’m finally home – in America. I’m thankful to be home – which now includes a new house. I’ll tell you about that later.
The gazebo, by the way, is at the apartments where I lived before I bought my house. The swing was an invitation to enjoy. Maybe we could have some tea together there some day.