*March 12th will mark the one year anniversary of my Mom's death. In an effort to avoid my usual "milestone approaching" behavior of hiding in bed and eating lots of carbs, I'm celebrating the 12 Days of Mom. As a part of my celebration, I will be writing one of my favorite memories about Mom here each day. These are random tidbits of all the awesome that was my Mom. I'll think you'll like reading more about her. If you're new to reading my blog, proceed with caution. You will find lots of casual writing fraught with grammatical errors. I serve as editor-in-chief around here, which would make any of my high school English teachers shudder.
Well, it turns out that yesterday, the day, was a non-writing day. While it was a non-writing day, it was a pro look like a slob and eat ice-cream day. So there's that. Onward and upward...
There are certain opportunities that come around in life that simply overwhelm. They overwhelm in the moment and they overwhelm in hindsight. I was afforded one of these opportunities around 11 years ago. And when I look back, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
I was working in the Children's Ministry department of my church in Knoxville. My job was in flux. (Oh wait. That would sum up my entire "career" there...) I was trying to decide what to do with the church and the church was trying to decide what to do with me. During this time I was approached by the missions pastor (at the time...a lot of flux was going around...) and he asked me how I would feel about leading a trip of Children's Ministry folks who would provide children's programming for a missionary conference in Central Europe.
Let me take a minute and back the story up. When I was in high school I was given another amazing opportunity. I joined two great friends from my church and a few other girls from across the state and traveled to Santiago, Chile to serve missionary kids at a conference. I was young and the whole experience was overwhelming and amazing all at the same time. I walked away from that trip with a huge heart for missionary kids. I had spent my life learning about missionaries. But that trip gave me eyes to see the missionaries as real people, not just names on paper. They were real families, living real lives. They missed their grandparents, they felt torn between cultures, they experienced all the same things I experienced, but with about 10 extra layers of stuff to deal with.
When I was given the chance to get to know a whole new group of them? Well, I didn't hesitate to say yes!
The first year we traveled to the conference we left on December 31, 2001. Three and a half months after 9/11. I was terrified and had worked out several scenarios of what I would do if we ended up with a terrorist on our flight. You think I'm kidding. The scary plane ride aside, the trip was one of the most rich and fulfilling experiences of my life. It was hard work and there were team "dynamics" that I was ill-equipped to deal with, yet had to deal with. But, in the middle of all that real life stuff, I met some of the most amazing kids I would ever meet. I fell head over heels in love with all those Central Europe MKs.
The following year, as I began to assemble the team, Big Dan decided to stay home. He had gone on the trip the year before and he loved it as well. But, it was his first year in law school, and missing class wasn't an option. This left a unique opening on the team. You'll never guess who wanted to go...
Of course you guessed. Because by now you know she did not miss the opportunity for an adventure. (Well, and I guess you knew this post was going to be about her, too, huh?)
Do you see the whole picture of the opportunity I was given here? My heart just swells with gratitude when I think about it. My mom and I had the opportunity to travel together to Budapest, Hungary to minister to missionary kids. This was like the be all, end all of full circle moments.
Mom went on the trip because she loved adventure. She went on the trip because she loved missionaries and their kids. But mostly, she went on the trip because she loved me. She always loved the things that were most important to me. She wanted to see the faces of the ones I had told her all about. She wanted to see the places I saw and go the places I went. What mattered to me, mattered to her. (And I know my siblings would all say the same...)
So, off we went like Thelma and Louise on a crazy trans-atlantic adventure. I'll start by telling you that we nearly lost her in the Amsterdam airport. Like, for real. She took off like a shot (because I may have mentioned we needed to move fast), only she took off in the complete wrong direction!! It was a close call!
We roomed together, and ate together, and prayed together and cried together. If she were here right now, I'd remind her about the "cabbage hall". We had to walk in this one hallway every morning. It had a very distinct smell. I almost hurled every day. We would hold our breath and run down the hallway.
After the conference, we had time to explore Budapest. We walked arm and arm in and out of shops, trying to stay warm! AND as if all of that were not enough, we got to travel to Germany at the end of our trip. Some friends of ours (the same man who made all these trips happen for me) were on the brink of moving to Germany to be missionaries. They were trying to figure out where they would be living. We were more than happy to help them explore! :) Never mind the fact that I'm pretty sure it was a record breaking-ly COLD winter, we made the best of it and made memories as fast as we could.
When you lose someone important you think about what you might do if you had just one more day with them. If I had one more day, I would for sure want to spend it with mom and my siblings piled on a couch somewhere. But, if I had two days? We would bundle up, take off arm and arm, and see the sights.