Archive for ‘family’

February 15, 2018

We are family!

by mendibpng

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Noah, Jacob, Ellie, Me and Jenny Beth, Feb 2012

I’ve often written about expat life and the hardships that come along with this life style. However, this post is not about hardships. It’s about community and how people have circled up to help the kids and me. Ben has been gone for two weeks now, and still has two more to go. He is consultant checking the books of James and Mark in nine languages, while I have stayed here at Ukarumpa with the kids as it was too soon after furlough to put our teens in the hostel and take the little ones out for a village stay.

I haven’t had a chance to feel overwhelmed or lonely or sorry for myself because our community has been here for me. From phone calls checking in, offers of childcare and meals, help with fixing our dog run, to the chief helicopter pilot arranging for Ben to make it back a week early in time for Noah’s play, the feeling of being part of a community has really made these two weeks go by quickly. I am not saying that everything is easy, but I am grateful for all of the little and big things that people do for me. I am a fairly independent person and it’s not easy to accept help. However, in doing so, I remember how much joy it gives me when I am able to help out a friend. And so the circle of giving keeps going here, over and over, time and time again. All of us expats are separated from relatives in our home countries and so part of the thriving happens when we stand in for parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I know that this is a treasure I sometimes take for granted but for today (and hopefully future ones), I am full of gratitude.

Furthermore, I am grateful for the people whose jobs directly impact me and my family. These hardworking  missionaries and Papua New Guineans are running the schools, flying and fixing aircraft, fixing computers, stocking the store, keeping our internet running (oh how wonderful it was to talk to my college aged son yesterday!!) arranging for visas and passport renewals, and countless other jobs. All of these people are here to see the work of Bible translation going on in Papua New Guinea. So thank you from our family, and from the people of the Aitape West for your service.

I can’t finish here without mentioning our partners, friends and family back home. When I think about the host of people who are keenly invested in our work and in the lives of the other missionaries here, it is overwhelming.  You are an important part of the picture, so thank you.

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 

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January 29, 2018

Rusty Ole Missionary

by mendibpng

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As many of you know, we spent the last six months in Spring Hill, Tennessee, USA,  to help our oldest son transition to life in the U.S. It was a fairly big undertaking, to uproot our family for that period of time, but we haven’t regretted the decision to do this. We feel satisfied that he is doing well with college life and adulthood.

Thoughts on returning to the field after a six month absence…
I realize my experience isn’t unique, in some ways, as many of my fellow missionaries have come and gone from their place of assignment, only to feel the gears inside them noisily turning to adjust to being back. Papua New Guinea is home to our family. We wholeheartedly embraced the land and culture here in 2002, and haven’t looked back. At the same time, we have had trips away, and each time the process of transitioning hits us painfully. It’s a costly venture, this twisting and turning and questioning the space and longing for the stability that seems elusive. All of this has been compounded by dealing with grief of losing one of the most important people in my life, and I’m finding this transition to be the most challenging and painful one so far.

The first week of our return, I hiked up and down my porch stairs hanging up laundry multiple times per day. Although I was grateful to have a covered space to hang out everything, I inwardly groaned because every muscle in my body ached from the exertion. This should tell you how much exercising I did on furlough… little to none!  Added to the physical adjustments, my mind felt like an empty balloon. One of my friends called and was asking me some very simple questions and I couldn’t even answer her. It made us laugh later but was an ‘aha!’ moment… yep. I’m not running on all cylinders as they say.  Then there was that time when I overreacted emotionally… actually it was more than once!

Added to all of that was the great feeling of being back amongst our community. After six months of not living in close proximity to friends, it felt extremely refreshing to see our loved ones again. The youth directors rented two vans for friends and teens to come to the airstrip to greet us, what a feeling to step off the plane and hug so many friends!  The friendships that we have here are deep and comfortable. Ben and I sat in complete gratitude to be back with our small group, knowing that this was a safe place for us to just be ourselves, without having to justify or explain who we are. It felt good to be amongst people who were sincerely interested and invested in us. The years we have spent in that group have paid off a million times over.  Similarly, other close friends have also circled up and welcomed me back, giving me a chance to debrief and process while also sharing their last six months with me.  To say I’m grateful is minimizing the feeling… it’s much more than that.

Along with the joy of seeing loved ones again comes the challenges of community. There is the question of when to speak up in love or when to stay silent. I am sure it’s the same anywhere, but perhaps more intense here in a small community where we have people from many cultures and denominational backgrounds.

Before I left the U.S., a friend gave me ‘Of Mess and Moxie,” by Jen Hatmaker, and yesterday I read this timely advice from Hatmaker

We listen sincerely, we don’t just reload while someone else’s mouth is moving. Dialogue is easily spooked, so you must be vigilant against fear, dismissal, manipulation and apathy—true enemies of safe dialogue.  You’ll feel it at first, deep down, the urge to rebut, rebuke, refute. It will be a cold rock in your gut, tempting you to correct or disagree, or to be offended and center yourself in that person’s story. But that instinct can be overcome, and the results of someone feeling heard and respected are immediate and palpable. It takes a fairly high level of humility, empathy, and courage to keep a space open and healthy. It’s a developed skill that takes practice. To me, that is what love looks and feels like. (p. 81)

My biggest problem is that I want to add something, anything to make a person feel better when she’s pouring out her heart to me. But as my training in debriefing has taught me, the best way to help someone is to listen and not put myself into her story. I struggle especially with my older kids in this area because I want to fix them so badly. I realize that they need my love and empathy more than my fear that something bad will happen if I don’t say the right thing. That’s what I’m rusty on, and where I’m wanting to grease my squeaky gears so that I can be the kind of friend and mother who offers safety and love.

And so we press on…

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. Philippians 3:12-14

May 14, 2017

A New Kind of Transition

by mendibpng

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(above) Noah, Joe and Jacob after the school play “Almost, Maine!”

Transition is this wildly unpredictable Thing that happens constantly to us. In our 20 years of marriage, we’ve lived in over 10 different locations in three different countries. We travel between our village home and Ukarumpa home 3-4 times a year when we are in PNG.  We’ve done the Moving Transition many  times and we usually know what’s coming…

a week of chaos and misery on either end
challenging travel
lots of preparation (food, homeschooling materials, computer updates)
anxiety and stress
heightened emotions
goodbyes and grieving
reverse culture stress

and

anticipation of seeing friends again
a chance to use the transition for good (and reestablish good habits)
purging and try to make a stab at a more simple existence (this has been elusive, but without transitions it would be completely unattainable).

However, we are now at the precipice of a transition we’ve never had before: launching Josiah into his new life as a college student/adult. In the past two years, he has proven that he’s ready for this. He capably makes all of his own decisions and manages his own schedule. He processes hard questions in an emotionally intelligent way. We’ve raised him, and the rest of his life is up to him.

But, as with most transitions, this one comes with plethora of emotions and sometimes they come all at once. At other times, there is just an overwhelming amount of one or another. If I had a picture for my emotions at this point, it would look like a child’s scribble. Lots and lots of colors. No real pattern. No easy answers.

In the past decade, I’ve worked hard to notice my emotions, be authentic and tell the truth to others. However, there is still the stubborn independent part of me who refuses to allow negative emotions to surface or to tell the truth to myself.  One of my best friends has noted that if I say “I’m okay” enough times, it’s an indication that I’m really not. So as this transition for our first child to college begins, I’m admitting to myself that I’m sad.  But alongside the sad comes other emotions: happy, excited, proud. I have moments where I think my heart is going to burst when all five of my children are together, laughing, giving advice to each other and debriefing their days. I know that in a little less than 9 months, we’ll be be back here in PNG with only 4 kids around our table.

Joe’s a grown man, I know that. But there’s a bit of loss that comes with this transition that is more costly than the others we’ve experienced thus far in our missionary career. We’re preparing for all the lasts for a while: last birthdays, Thanksgivings, Christmases, and most of all what I’ll miss is the daily sight of him and being able to know how The Things in his life are going.  I’ll miss making his favorite meals for him and trying to trick him into eating breakfast.

But, most of all, I want to savor the time we’ve got left, and be thankful for the opportunity we have to have a short furlough to get him settled into his passport country.  I’m thankful he’s going to a school that has the degree he feels called to study, and that he has family and friends who will look after him when we can’t be there for him.

In the quiet moments when I start to feel sad, I want to focus on these words of David:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.

These nine words are what keep me from being a perpetual martyr. I don’t need to feel sorry for myself, because God is GOOD. He will sustain us through this next transition, as He has done through every single other one. He’s got Joe, as He’s often reminded me. He’s our counselor, comforter and friend, and as we mourn, He will lift us up.

He is Good.

He’s got this.

January 7, 2015

Remind me who I am…

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This time last year, I looked ahead to our year of furlough. I anticipated seeing friends and family again after a four year absence, and I couldn’t wait for a break from cross cultural living. I can say overall it has been wonderful to catch up with people face to face, and that has been the best part of furlough.

It truly has been a break for us from other things, like cross cultural stress, community living and the daily tasks, especially cooking from scratch. Last week when we started talking about our return to PNG in earnest, I realized that I am finally looking forward to returning to PNG because that is where my heart is. Even when I picture my life there: waking up early to go to the market, making bread, and hanging up clothes to dry, it didn’t seem to bother me. It surprised me to realize that I want to return! I can’t say I’m looking forward to the other stressors but I feel like I can cope better with them, now that I’ve had a break from them.

I think it all boils down to belonging, and where that happens for us as a family. We have been away from the U.S. long enough that PNG is now our home: that is where we fit in, where our work in Bible translation happens. It’s also where we’ve raised our kids, and where their deepest friendships are, not just with kids their own age, but with other missionaries who have watched them grow up and have celebrated birthdays, holidays and milestones with us.

Thirteen years ago, we joined the ranks of ‘overseas workers’ or ‘global nomads’ as some like to call us, and we can’t ever really come home again and be who we were before. Even though we know this intellectually, it seems that this furlough especially has highlighted this, and it has been hard for all of us.

So now, I’m looking ahead to what needs to happen in the months ahead of us. We are going to be busy: preparing and packing for a shipment, getting medical clearance for each of us, looking at what medicines and other supplies we need to take for our next term overseas. I need to apply for a work permit. Those things I am NOT looking forward to at all. In fact, I feel an anxious bubble rising in my stomach when I think about them.

In the midst of all of this, God gave me these verses to hold onto:

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.  Psalm 143:7-9

I belong to Christ and because of that, only His view of me matters. I love this song by Jason Gray because it reminds me that I belong to Christ

I hope that by the end of 2015, I will have grown to the point where His answer to the question “Who am I?” will just be a part of my natural life, as easy as breathing in and out.

And that’s what I want to keep in focus for 2015. Of course I’d love to improve myself…but…everything comes after knowing Christ more.

January 1, 2015

How beautiful are feet that bring good news…

by bzephyr

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Please see the link at the bottom of this post in order to fit these feet with the good news of peace and send them back to Papua New Guinea.

Walking with Jesus in the New Year

You may remember that we finished our last 4-year term in Papua New Guinea very burned out. We had been trying to do too many jobs in our own strength. Yes, we were doing the Lord’s work, but we allowed the overwhelming needs that surrounded us to overwhelm us. We need to keep our focus on what is truly important: to walk daily with Jesus and follow him in his strength and wisdom for each endeavor.

This year of furlough has been extremely valuable in terms of refocusing our eyes on Jesus as the author and perfecter of our faith. At the counsel of our sending church’s missions pastor, we are learning to use the words ‘focused’ and ‘intentional’ more consistently. For me, this has meant that I have been learning a lot about myself so that I can be very intentional about focusing my ministry efforts on those things that I am called to do, specifically in the areas of training local Bible translators and checking their translations. For all the other needs that we face in PNG, we are looking for others to come alongside us and partner with us in doing those things. In so doing, I desire to walk daily with Jesus and not lose sight of the God I am serving each day.

Another way that we have shifted our perspective is that we are no longer saying that we don’t know if and when we will go back to Papua New Guinea. Instead, we are hoping that with the Lord’s help, the body of Christ will send us back in June in time for our children to start the new school year over there in July.

In order for us to go back, we need to be well supported in prayer. We also need to receive 100% of our required ministry budget.

Prayer

We will be communicating prayer requests and praise reports in these four ways in the future…

  1. Facebook – for most urgent or up-to-the-minute requests and reports. These are very short and irregular and sent simply as needed or when there are fun or interesting things to share.
  2. Email updates – for brief and regular communication, our ideal is to send these out about once a week, and to communicate more visually through a single picture and short explanation.
  3. This blog – for digging a little deeper into a variety of topics that effect our family and ministry life as often as time and inspiration allow.
  4. Printed newsletters – for reviewing larger spans of time in our family and ministry, sent less frequently in this digital age.

Monthly Ministry Budget

We are currently at 66% of our approved monthly ministry budget. Our support has been low like this for about a year now. Some of our partners have gone to be with the Lord. Some have faced financial hardship and needed to stop or reduce their regular giving. The cost of living has also increased significantly in Papua New Guinea. During our last 4-year term, it was estimated that inflation increased our costs by 25%. Wycliffe requires us to be receiving 100% of this budget before we are approved to go back to Papua New Guinea. It’s easy to give online here at our personal Wycliffe ministry page.

On that page, you will also find an option to sign up for regular updates and commit to prayer. Please consider these ways of partnering with us for the Gospel in the new year.

In a future post, we’ll tell you about specific one-time needs that we also need to meet in order to return to Papua New Guinea.

November 10, 2014

These Five Kids

by mendibpng

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Starting off, I am thankful for my five kids. Being a mom is a job where I feel squeezed in every direction but it’s also one that also brings me the most joy. These kids have made me laugh, cry, and lean on God in ways that I never could have predicted back in 1997 when Ben and I married. I had to learn boundaries because of them. I had to learn self care so that I could care for them well. I also learned that I’m not enough and I’m often too much for them. That makes me want God intimately in my life, for every part of every day, whether I’m wiping a little one’s bottom or discussing a theological concept with a big kid.

I’m constantly learning new things (having teenagers!) and relearning things (since now our twins are preschool age) and sometimes my mind feels overloaded with input. But this year, taking time to create margin and be intentional about our family has already given us a great deal of joy, along with the hard times of transitioning to life here. I’m thankful for furlough, and for the people and places we get to experience together with our kids.

Life is messy. But full.

 

 

November 2, 2014

Furlough Fall Fun!

by mendibpng

In PNG around this time of year, we decorate with fake leaves, pumpkins and gourds. Sometimes we make some kind of fall craft…usually something simple like cutting out leaves and putting what we’re thankful for on them. It makes coming home to REAL Fall extremely meaningful for us. Here are a few pictures from the last couple of weeks. I wish I could express the deep meaning there is behind being able to do things like this after not being able to for 4 years! Awesome. Refreshing. Breathtaking. Fun. Some things I didn’t get pictures of because we were just living in the moment: like when we stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts one afternoon and drove around to find the prettiest trees in Wheaton.

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We rode into Glen Ellyn last week because the weather was gorgeous. I think it was 74 degrees out!
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The kids have been to the arboretum several times with Grandma and Grandpa. Grandpa has been giving Noah and Ellie photography lessons there!
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Then…picking out pumpkins!
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JB pumpkin
and….success!
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JB& Grandpa
“Grandpa, I want him to have a tongue” —best quote by Jenny Beth.
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And last night, we visited the Paper Bag Man who made funny jokes and gave the kids treats before they went trick or treating in Ben’s old neighborhood.
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We ended the night by visiting the dancing lady (Aka Grandma!) and some of her friends. It was very nice to be inside after shivering outside earlier!

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June 8, 2014

Furlough Anticipation

by mendibpng

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Along with the grieving comes little moments of anticipation of things we are looking forward to enjoying in the first world.  It’s pretty common that one of the following comes up in conversation in family discussions:

  • seeing family and friends who we haven’t seen in four years (of course this is the TOP one)
  • buying baked goods (like bread) that I won’t have to make unless I really want to!
  • having a hot shower anytime of the day or night
  • being able to buy grocery items at about 1/4 of what we pay here (cereal, peanut butter, cheese, meat, etc.)
  • buying presents for our kids’ birthdays/Christmas right away, instead of planning 6-8 months ahead and figuring out how to ship them overseas…
  • grocery shopping at NIGHT and on holidays (ie the freedom to pop out for something)
  • using a clothes dryer
  • smooth roads
  • going to church
  • being able to eat out at a restaurant. Eating at Portillos first is one of our traditions!
  • enjoying fruits that we can’t get here: grapes, plums, blueberries, pears, etc.
  • taking the kids to pools to swim, museums, parks, and other fun activities
  • catching up on movies, shows and books we’ve missed out on while out of the country
  • foods like BACON and PEPPERONI
  • holding hands in public with Ben
  • highspeed/inexpensive internet
  • sidewalks

While I wrote this, I consulted my family. Noah piped up, “don’t forget to say ‘pizza.’ I love American pizza, and foodwise, basically just meat.” Then Ellie added, “shops…I can’t wait to get new clothes.” This is by no means a comprehensive list but it’s just a few things that popped into my mind. As I use up things in my kitchen, I keep thinking about the new memories we are going to make with family and friends and it is a wonderful feeling. (smiles)

 

June 5, 2014

Sports Day 2014

by mendibpng

IMG_4380Sports day here in Ukarumpa is a community event. We went to watch Josiah (9th grade) do track and field events, while also catching up with friends. I feel that participating in community events helps ease the pending transition a bit for all of us.

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I enjoyed watching the team events the most!
IMG_4927Many of the younger kids got into the spirit and cheered for their sibling’s teams (Alpha is Red, Beta is Blue). Noah (grade 6) and friends enjoyed painting their faces!IMG_5003Ellie and her fourth grade friends sold frozen juice pops to raise money for their girl’s club. It was a low parental effort (all we had to do was transport the freezie pops) and the girls had so much fun!IMG_5322After the high school events finished, the rest of the community had a chance to participate in 4×100 (and other) races. Our twins Jenny Beth (above) and Jacob (below) LOVED being able to run!IMG_5356

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March 11, 2014

The Difficulty of Living in the Moment

by mendibpng

This week has flown by, with multiple things taking our attention: our son Josiah is in the high school play, the translation office solar system had a huge problem, the airstrip was closed due to the grass not being cut, and we are simultaneously packing for a village stay plus taking care of furlough details for June. On top of that, all of us are in some stage of transition…and some of us are feeling it more than others.

It turns out sleeping can be difficult with so many thoughts and ideas racing around my head. I’ve experienced the ‘stiff upper lip’ (keep going) stage, the meltdown stage, and now the numb stage where there’s still quite a few things to do but a lot of the urgent stuff is done. I sent several pieces of cargo off to our aviation department, and I have my lists of the few things that need to be packed up Sunday night or Monday morning, like toothbrushes and beloved blankies/stuffed animals. I personally struggle with coping with transition a lot more in recent months than I ever have before in my life…I suspect this has to do with being at the end of a long field term and feeling stretched in so many ways, or maybe I’m just getting old?! At any rate, I’m just feeling weary and moving my family towards a big transition is not My Favorite Thing.

The great thing about walking through a rough week is that the blessings end up being very meaningful.

1 A colleague in the U.S. literally spent hours (often in the wee hours of the morning for him while it’s daytime here!) talking with Ben about the solar system crisis. Others here on the ground have also given him input.

2. Noah and Ellie independently created their own costumes for the Annual Book Parade at their school with no help from me or their daddy (We would have helped if they wanted it, but they wanted to do it themselves.) We just showed up and took pictures! They also packed their own clothes and backpacks, as well as helping the twins with theirs.

3. We had four evenings out to see our Josiah’s performance in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.’ We never tired of seeing him and his brilliant co-actors in the play!
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4. We learned this week that we have furlough housing as soon as we land in Wheaton in July. This means that we won’t have to find a temporary place to live first: a huge blessing for a family of seven about to face a huge transition. On top of that, we have a furlough car booked as well!

5. We added a wall and a couple of doors to our covered driveway, making space for our bikes and other bulky things, which were making it impossible for us to walk through our storage room. Now that the big stuff is out of the way, it’s going to be so much easier to organize everything when we pack up before leaving for a year! Last Saturday Ben and the kids painted it, and it makes us both really happy to see it completed every time we walk by it.

6. One of our children who struggled in a subject area received 100% on a test. The grade itself is inconsequential to me, but the fact that the emotional stress of that subject has reduced is a big blessing. The exceptional teachers teachers and administrators at our school here take great care in their jobs, a fact which is often highlighted by stories our kids tell us when they get home each day.

7. Ben found out on Thursday that they cut the grass on the airstrip for the first time in many months, making it possible for our team to land there (we have many flights going in and out during our village stay!) We have encountered this issue a great many times over the last 12 years, and this is nothing short of miracle!

8. We have five days in our regional town of Wewak as a family to relax a little bit before our translators and their wives arrive. (They are coming to Wewak for our first-ever spiritual retreat!)

9. A friend on home leave wrote me recently with good news. I’m rejoicing with her from afar!

10. My five kids remind me to stay ‘in the moment’…once in a while, I’m on the verge of a meltdown when one of them makes me laugh…just look at this face!
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11. I couldn’t resist adding this last one in: this is the view we had flying over the Aiyura Valley yesterday. The thick clouds looked like huge snow drifts, with the mountains peeking up over the top of them! I find that noticing beauty in God’s creation is a huge help in times of transition.
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I’ll end with a quote from my favorite transitions writer, William Bridges
“It is ironic to realize that one of the gifts I have received from getting old is the ability to be in the moment. I’ve been trying to learn to do that for the past thirty-five years, but it has been only with the natural slowing down of my mind with the losses I’ve been through that I am starting to find the present moment sufficient in itself. Loss has given me that gift, not by “teaching” me that moments are limited and precious. (That would be learning it the conceptual way.) And the writers I used to read, who urged the same shift in awareness, couldn’t “teach” me that either. It is something that came only with time and with the natural sorting process that goes on after loss. As the mud swirls around in the watery pan, the gold-flakes settle of their own weight. Time doesn’t fly–it swirls, and the moments settle from their own gravity. Without serious loss, the water isn’t agitated enough for that to happen.” (The Way of Transition, p. 206)

I haven’t arrived yet at the same level of contentment that Bridges talks about, but I feel myself moving more and more towards this awareness. I love the metaphor he uses of the gold-flakes swirling about. That’s exactly where I’m at with finding joy in the small and big things this week.

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