Birthday week has officially come to a close, and what a crazy, emotional, unpredictable week it has been. My Birthday was awesome. I think officially it was celebrated about four times this week, starting the saturday before at coach’s house.
This thing, I can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s a mix between a pomello and a graperfruit, and it’s literally the size of my face… And this is the first piece of birthday cake I was lucky enough to enjoy. go ahead, lick your screen. It was unreal.
I started out my birthday morning by going to art class, and this week Adri decided to join me. Sure enough now she’s hooked! It is so much fun when you have someone beside you to just sit with, to admire others art work around you with, and to bring to each others attention the laughable state of your own work. We went from art class to Tracy’s for a girls only birthday brunch with Kendra and almost all of the kids! There was banana bread, cinnamon scones, a breakfast casserole-thing, and chocolate covered strawberriesssss (everything was AMAZING).
I was feeling special and spoiled, just the way I like my birthday to be. After that Adri and I went for a coffee, and to the post office to pick up the package that was waiting for me from home before we met up with Ev for more food at Lia’s. Inside the package were my volleyball shoes that I left in the back seat of my car… A skipping rope that is long enough for me because I can’t find one out here to save my life, letters from Tanner Maddie, Aime and Izac, all wishing me a happy birthday, and a rainbow loom with a million different coloured elastics to start teaching people out here what the craze is all about. Getting that package on my birthday was perfect in every way. I loved reading all of the little notes and going through it finding all of the little gems hidden inside.
As always the food at Lia’s was perfect, and I was completely stuffed before heading home to rest up before our match that evening. Our village was on the way to where our game was, so the plan was that the bus would stop to pick us up en-route. I stepped into the bus and was greeted with the bright lights of birthday sparklers in my face and the loudest version of Happy Birthday I’ve ever heard. It was amazing.
Not to mention the Birthday cake was probably the coolest birthday cake I’ve ever had. Topped with a slightly creepy figurine of myself (I didn’t taste very good).
Then my heart kicked in, forgive me for being so honest, this next part isn’t the happiest bit, (if you choose not to read on I won’t know the difference) but it wouldn’t be fair of me to give you a false sense that my life out here is perfect. Because I know that out of the sorrow that I feel now, in this moment, will come something far more beautiful that I can imagine right now, and it would be a unfair of me to hide the beauty of God’s amazing grace from all of you back home in order to save a little face. For the most part it has been unbelievably great, but with birthday week came an insatiable longing for home. The whole day I felt so loved, but all the while I felt like something was missing and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I didn’t figure it out until the text came from my mom. The text message that, in it’s sincere simplicity, sent me straight to tears.
“Happy birthday Kelci,
We love you so much”
Those two little words at the end. I could just hear them straight from her mouth. So Much. I had absolutely no idea that I was homesick. That I just wanted my mom, that I just wanted to see my family. I have always enjoyed that my birthday falls so closely to Christmas and comes right after new years. This gives me a few excuses right in a row to reflect on the year before; enjoy the memories I made, and learn from the mistakes that hopefully doubled as life lessons. I had no idea or anticipation that having a birthday would make me long for home. But it turns out that living outside of my home country for the first time, also means celebrating the holidays I would usually spend with family, away from home, for the first time.
This time of year usually becomes a bit of a grind for me. With my birthday being at the end of January, and my Dad’s birthday being at the beginning of February, I am often faced with the cold hard reality that losing him is a part of my ‘story’ in a larger way than I care to admit. Every year, I get older. Every year on my birthday, I look back and see the things I am accomplishing, and the things I am failing miserably at, either way the year gone by was another year that I had no choice but to live life without him. Often times my desire to remain in gratefulness to Christ for everything he has given me is overrun by the bitterness that taunts my heart. It is all too easy to fall into a place of ‘why?’ To give into the anger that is so easy to sit in. The thing that frustrates me most is that losing my dad never ever got easier. I guess a part of me expected that I would be over it by now, that I would be used to it, that I wouldn’t care so much. But the truth is, the thought of living my life without him still breaks my heart. It’s almost been 8 years and at times I still find myself tricked into thinking for a split second that I should give him a call.
It is the weeks like these where I am truly thankful to God for all of the resources He has provided me with. People like Tracy who happens to live right beside the sports hall where we practice. Perfectly placed for that time I couldn’t bring myself to make that left turn into the parking lot for the practice that started in 10 minutes and kept driving to her house instead. I showed up unexpected, and even though she had 5 kids at home and a husband out of town, I was fully welcomed with open arms – allowed to just sit and cry without shame because she understood all too well what it feels like to miss home.
People like Gisele who constantly blesses my life and shows me every day what it feels like to be loved like Jesus does. Without fail, without condition. She always shows me how to turn all things back to Christ. Being still fairly new in my faith, my heart has a lot to learn, but she has shown me the most important thing. She has taught me what the love of Christ truly looks like, and she has shown me how to turn to Him with every struggle, every heartache, and taught me how to let Him heal me with His love and compassion. Having her and her family in my life is a blessing straight from God. I am so, so lucky because there are so many people that I could give examples of similar situations, where God has just brought people into my life at the exact right moment.
So with a heavy heart I tried to figure out how to turn the rock inside my chest back into a big warm mess that drives me crazy sometimes, but at least it doesn’t weigh me down. I knew I needed to find a way to let it go. But my human heart has a need for understanding before it gains ability to move on. I’m such a feeler. The only thing I could think of to do was just to listen. So I grabbed my bible, my Redeemer app, and my headphones, and headed to the first cafe I could find in search of escape from my muddy emotions and freedom in the clarity of God’s words. What I found was perfect. A sermon by Tim Keller entitled Praying Your Tears. Now, the first part was all about letting yourself cry, and knowing that it’s ok. We should come to expect to cry more as we grow in grace, because Jesus’ heart was perfect, and Jesus’ heart was always weeping. That part, I’m already really good at it. I cry a lot, not because I’m sad all the time, but because God gave me a really sensitive heart. It took me a while to get used to it, but now I’m thankful for it. You can bet your bottom that I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
He then took my attention to Psalm 126:5&6 Those who sew with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sew, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.
He talked about how Religion tells us to ‘stuff’ our feelings, while on the other hand secular society has a need to express feelings, but do little more than that. But by the word of God, through his grace, as followers of Christ we are encouraged to sew our tears. He explained it like this – Imagine yourself as the farmer. If you just ‘stuff’ your seed, and you don’t plant it anywhere, you won’t have a crop to harvest later on, in the same regard, if you just went out into the field, and dumped all of your seed into a big pile on the field, again, nothing would grow. But, if you plant your seed, if you do the work, when the time comes your harvest will be plentiful and you will have joy. We need to plant our tears. We need to see them as an opportunity for fruitfulness and growth. Even though being sad is not something we want to experience more often than we have to, he emphasized that it is so important we don’t waste our sorrows.
Then Sunday morning rolled around, and Fred gave a sermon titled Tragedy to Triumph that paralleled that easter story. Jesus died on Good Friday – so did my Dad. Not that my Dad’s story is the same as the story of Jesus, but I could see what God was doing, and he had my full attention. So here we had, the tragedy happened on Friday, Jesus was crucified. The triumph on Sunday when he rose from the dead. But what about the Saturday? What happened in between? He talked about the apostle John, and how no one really knows what he did on saturday, where he went or who he saw. But what we do know is that when Mary saw Jesus on that sunday after He had risen from the tomb, John was somewhere nearby. That since the crucifixion and death of Jesus, until he had risen on Sunday, John chose to remain close to Jesus.
I know that I don’t need to worry about what the rest of this week will be like. I already know that it’s going to be hard. I’m at the point now where I do my best to fight back the tears that don’t seem to have any merit or reason for being, besides the fact that my heart feels sad. Nothing more. So I will work my way through it. I’ll cry when I need to cry, and I’ll take joy in the moments of laughter when they arise, and I will let Jesus hold my hand every step of the way because He loves me more than I can imagine, and all I need is just to feel that. To let His love enter into my heart and take all of the mess, the ache, and the broken pieces that only He can put back together.
I didn’t write this post to make you sad, or to make you feel sorry for me. Please don’t interpret this the wrong way. Yes I wish my dad was still here, all the time I wish that he could still be there to watch me play, to yell at the ref for every call made against my team (even if it was the right call), and to try and talk to me with tips and pointers between every play. But at the very same time, I have everything that I need because I believe in Jesus, and nothing can take that away from me. I just hope that this weeks post finds someone who is in need of some inspiration, or some encouragement, and can relate to what I’m going through over here in the beautiful mediterranean. I know that after I work my way through this mess of emotion, and press into Jesus for all that I need, my joy on the other end will be bigger than any heartache I am feeling now. Just know that whatever it is you’re dealing with, no matter how big your mountain looks, you are loved so much by someone that He was willing to lay down His life for you. All you need to do is ask.