Sunday, August 23, 2015

More Posts to Katie and Nick on the Appalachian Trail

Day 136: (No Writing)

Day 137: I Love NY  

"Guess where we are?!?! Maybelline picked us up and has taken us to NYC! So amazing."  -- Katie 

Okay. I'm jealous. Really jealous. When we got the text from Katie (with the picture) telling us your trail buddy Maybelline snagged you from the AT and took you for a day into New York City…I was jealous…and I wish I could have been there. Last year at Christmas time we talked about maybe doing a Christmas in New York City one year. Seeing you two in the picture at the Rockefeller Center ice rink (where a Christmas tree will be standing in 3 short months) made me want to do it all the more. I can't wait to talk on the phone and hear about your trip--what you were able to see and do…what you ate…and what was your favorite part. 

I know this trip into the city was just another one of those completely unplanned, serendipitous turns on your path to Mt. Katahdin. You are both "people of relationship"; you have many friends and make friends easily. I love to hear of the fellow travelers you've bonded with along the way. I think it's great how you've been able to stay in contact with some of them like, Maybelline, who had to hop off the trail because of her knee issues…but when she knew you were hiking through her part of the world…she gave you this great gift. 

That's just the way life is sometimes. You think you've got your day all worked out, then it sneaks up on you…like a little kid from behind the door…and surprises you. 

I like to think it was just God rearranging life for the fun of it.

Is this maybe the way God works? I like to believe it is...and I believe all the more when I hear what happened to you today. The first time I ever thought of God in this way was after I read Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton 20 years ago. He explained it this way in his book:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, 'Do it again'; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, 'Do it again' to the sun; and every evening, 'Do it again' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”   

And maybe God looks at us some days and says to Himself, "Wait 'til they get a load of this!" Then, He hides behind our thoughts and expectations…and when we least expect it…He jumps out and surprises us with something, like a trip to NYC, maybe…upending our worlds in joyous wonder. I like to think that God works that way. And maybe He's got all of these little surprises planned up and down the path of our lives. Maybe.  

"Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare."   Psalm 40:5

"Now we are taking the train from Grand Central Station back to Pawling. I got to see everything I wanted to see today!!! I'm in love with New York!"   -- Katie    


Day 138: Grateful   

It's late and it's been a very long day. I got the news this morning that some friends are walking through some really, really tough stuff--stuff with their kids. And while my heart breaks for them…and I hurt for them…and I'm angry for them…I also feel guilty. 

I feel guilty because…deep down…I'm grateful. I'm grateful that we didn't have to deal with anything remotely close to what this family is going through. I'm grateful for my kids…and their spouses…and my grand babies…and the fact that we didn't have to walk through this dark passage that our friends are experiencing now. 

I also feel helpless. I want to do something for these friends…I want the ability to say something and alleviate their struggle…I want to erase this situation and make things new again. I want to do something more than pray, but as of right now…prayer is all I can think of and do, so I'll continue to pray:

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”   (Numbers 6:24-26)

I'll gratefully be praying the same for you two.


Day 139: Gilmore Girls 

"I am at the airport! I already checked in, so I am just going to try and get some sleep and then my flight leaves at 10:25am. I love you guys!"  -- Katie 

This has been a crazy adventure for you two…and now you're flying to San Angelo, TX for Ashley's wedding, Katie. Looking at the photo you sent of your bed (Below) in the airport brought back a quick flash of my own night in the airport on my way back from hiking with you two. Ugh. That was miserable. I hope you sleep better (meaning, at all) than I did in the Reagan Airport in DC!

"By the way, I got to see a lot of Connecticut and it all looks like Gilmore Girls town. So cute. And we are officially in New England :)"  -- Katie 

Gilmore Girls. Of course! Katie, I really didn't think about how you'd be seeing New England for the first time…and how (obviously) it would remind you of Gilmore Girls. How many times have you and Mom been through that entire TV series? And yes, even though I tease you two about that show…I will admit: I did like it. 

But let me explain…before I get my Man Card revoked. Gilmore Girls was a "chick show", but it was witty and funny and filled with great cultural references. You know how much I love the game Trivial Pursuit. Trying to guess the multiple cultural references in each Gilmore Girls show was like playing a mini-game of Trivial Pursuit. But more than that, Gilmore Girls was a meeting place for you and me, Katie. It was neutral ground during a time where I felt we had little. Watching that show each week was always a respite…an oasis to some very volatile weeks…a place where we could sit and laugh and connect. And it was all through a stupid TV show. It reminds me of a line from one of my favorite movies, City Slickers, where Daniel Stern's character, Phil, is defending his obsession with baseball. In that scene he says:  

"…when I was 18 and my dad and I couldn't communicate about anything at all…we could still talk about baseball."  -- Phil from City Slickers
That's the way I feel about Gilmore Girls. In a time and place when I felt like we weren't communicating well at all, Katie…we could still talk about Gilmore Girls. And I will be forever grateful for those two ladies. God works in strange and mysterious ways.

"As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things."  (Ecclesiastes 11:5)

Katie, be safe and have a great time at Ashley's wedding. Nick, try and have some fun while Katie's in TX…but not TOO much fun.  :)


Day 140: Surreal 

"I am in NC for my layover. I land in Dallas around 4. It was surreal taking a 2 hour flight from CT to NC and knowing that I have been walking that distance the past couple of months!"  -- Katie 

I know, Katie! It's crazy to think about…and probably not healthy to dwell on. It might sink you emotionally if you think too much about how long you've been out there walking…and how quickly you can get anywhere you need to go, if you really had to.

And now you're in San Angelo helping Ashley get ready for her wedding, Katie. I'm sure that has to be equally surreal--being thrust back into civilization with ceilings over your head and running water at your disposal. I remember how it felt the first night I slept in a real bed with a roof over my head after Ben and I hiked the Georgia portion of the AT. We had only hiked for 2 weeks, and still, it was strange sleeping in a bed…indoors. I stared at the ceiling in the dark…feeling weirdly cramped by the walls and ceiling of Uncle Doug and Aunt Patti's spare bedroom. I laid there…for what seemed like hours…trying to figure out why that 12' X 14' bedroom felt more confining than the 4' X 6' 2-man tent I'd been sleeping in. I remember thinking, "Maybe I can't sleep because it's too quiet." I thought that maybe I needed the wind blowing through the trees…or the toads chirping in the woods…or an owl or two hooting softly overhead to make me feel normal in that soft bed. And maybe that's the lesson from the wild…and from all the creatures that make it home. 

"But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind."  (Job 12:7-10)

Whatever it was that made it feel so weird that first night sleeping back indoors…I knew one thing: Those two weeks in the wild with Ben changed me…even if only for one night…like the queasy sea legs you get when you've been on a boat or on the ocean for a long time. Coming back indoors felt wrong. 

I have a feeling, Katie, you might be having a similar experience tonight…if you sleep at all. Knowing that you're in the company of Ashley and Amber…you may not sleep at all. Nick, please let us know how (and what) you're doing while Katie's gone. I wish I could be there in Connecticut to keep you company.

We look forward to hearing the stories you'll both have from your separate weekends.


Day 141: Serendipity 

noun: serendipity; plural noun: serendipities
  1. the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way."a fortunate stroke of serendipity"

Mom used that term multiple times as we enjoyed our evening with Robin and Vicki Piers--explaining the unplanned, almost-miraculous convergence of Mom and Vicki's friendship. 

Having grown up in the cauldron of middle school and high school in East Columbus, Ohio, Mom and Vicki were the kind of friends that make other people jealous; the kind of friends that eclipse normal friendship and catapult themselves into another stratosphere of friendship…beyond sisterhood…and into a realm rarely experienced. But like all great and beautiful things on earth…they have to come to an end. For Mom and Vicki, that seemed to happen to their friendship as they transitioned from high school into college. Vicki went to Ohio State. Mom went to Milligan College. They stayed in touch…and Vicki was even in our wedding, but things were already different between Mom and Vicki…and like a lot of people…life takes over and inseparable bounds get stretched…and eventually broken.

Or so Mom thought.

Until we came to Colorado for Thanksgiving in 2009. We came to spend the long holiday weekend with the Burgens and, on a whim, went into Boulder the Saturday after Thanksgiving,. Then, while standing on an extremely busy street corner…we saw Vicki, her husband Robin and their son Robert. Out of the blue!


Now, fast-forward almost 6 years…we're living in Colorado…Vicki and her family live about 5 miles from us…and Mom and Vicki have been able to re-kindle…no, more than re-kindle…they've been able to pick up where they left off over 30 years ago. It's serendipity. And sitting in our favorite Mexican restaurant, Hacienda Jalsico, with Vicki and Robin…I couldn't help but think about you, Katie, and your friends…all gathered together for Ashley's wedding in San Angelo, TX. You were (begrudgingly) prepared to miss Ashley's wedding until everyone banded together to fly you to Texas. And now, in a very serendipitous way, you are re-kindling friendship after years of being apart. I hope you're able to see this experience for what it really is: an amazing gift from God.         

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."  (James 1:17)

Enjoy this unplanned turn of events…just another twist and turn in your journey along the path of serendipity.


Day 142: Bunk Beds

Those bunk beds have seen a lot.

I don't ever remember getting them. They've just always been around as long as I can remember--which puts them EASILY at more than 50 years old. Uncle Dave and I were the first to sleep in them and he had the top bunk because I was too little. I don't know when we transitioned. All I remember is that I was sleeping on the top bunk when I was in 2nd grade (1967) and fell out of bed in the middle of the night…on the tile floor…busting my lip wide open and smashing my nose. From that point on I slept in the bottom bunk.

The bunk beds were their original color then; natural wood with a cherry stain.

The first time the bunk beds got a coat of paint was when I was in 4th grade (1969) when Nana "antiqued" them a dark red. She also antiqued a couple of dressers and a little brown jug lamp to match. Then, we went to J.C. Penny and bought some framed prints of Revolutionary soldiers to decorate the room. Uncle Doug and I were sleeping in the bunk beds then. Uncle Dave had moved up and had his own room. That summer our house flooded, filling the entire bottom half of our split-level home in mud and water. I can still smell that dank, sludgy mud when I think of those red antique-y bunk beds.

The beds stayed the same color for awhile. I remember they were still that antique-y red when Papa sat Uncle Dave and I down on them to tell us that Nana was diagnosed with a cancerous thyroid gland. I was in 5th grade (1970). It's the first time I saw Papa cry and I thought the world was coming apart. Not long after that…my Grandma Foote was killed in a car wreck…and I spent more nights than I can count lying in that bunk bed trying to wrap my head around why God let that happen.

The next color I remember was a chocolate brown. Nana re-antiqued the bunk beds when we moved out to the south end of Madison, where they still live. The new coat of brown paint matched well with the orange and brown carpet in our new home. I was in 8th grade (1973). Uncle Dave and I were bunk mates again then and it was a rough time. We seemed to be in one, long perpetual fight…even at night. There were multiple times where we'd be yelling at each other in the dark…and I'd kick the upper bunk from below…only making him more mad…and inviting him to "rain down wrath" from above.

I don't know how Mom and I wound up with those bunk beds. In the time that we've had them in our possession  they've been painted: Cookie Monster blue, then red (with baseball bed knobs) for Ben's baseball room. Ben was around 7 years old then (1992). I seem to remember painting them a grassy green color for Ben before the bunk beds made the move next door into Katie's room. Then, they were a yellow…then a light purple…then white. The next color I remember was hot pink and fluorescent orange. Katie wanted everything bright and colorful in her room. This was around the time she was in late middle school (2005). The beds were that eye aching color the first time I remember hearing Nick's name.

After the bright pink and orange phase, I swore I would never re-paint those bunk beds ever again. Then Emery was born in 2013. I knew eventually she would need a bed to sleep in at Grampa and Mimi's, so I went back on my word and re-painted them a light yellow. We've had them in our spare room waiting for her to grow up and be able to sleep in that bottom bunk…right where her Grampa spent most of his childhood (and into early adulthood) nights. I thought she would sleep in that bunk for the first time here in our house, but that's not the case.

Emery's got a new bed. It's a really old bed, but it's new to her. It's been through a lot…and it's seen a lot…and it's going to see a lot more. Emery moved out of her crib to make room for little Micah Man to take it over. She moved out of the crib and into my old bunk bed. Ben and I re-painted her room a more neutral color today. He said he didn't want Micah sleeping in a pink room. As we worked away painting the bedroom this morning, Ben was sort of thinking out loud--trying to figure out how Emery and Micah were going to sleep in the same room…and where they would put the crib…and how Micah was outgrowing his bed…and what they would do next. 

So I offered the bunk beds.

Ben and Ali want to get Em used to sleeping in the bunk bed before they bring Micah into the room. One big step at a time. Soon though, Micah will be in there. Emery will have a roommate. At some point in the very near future I'm sure the bunk in our spare room will join its mate with Em and Micah. And who knows what those bunks will live through next.

But for right now…there's a little girl spending her first night out of her crib…sleeping in a "big girl bed"... sleeping in a bunk that so many others who love her have slept in: her Grampa…her Daddy...and her Aunt Katie.

Emery is surrounded by love.

"In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety."  (Psalm 4:8)


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