A Poem

Dangling love over a foreign cliff at midnight,

risking my desired life

and most fulfilling love,

for no reason

other than,

I am lonely and refuse to admit it.

circa 2001

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Called To Stay

I like to move, preferably slowly. Walking is bliss.

I’ve always had a wanderlust- a bit of a gypsy spirit.

An old Italian friend of mine used to call me his, “little gypsy head.” Whenever he called me this peculiar nickname he would always follow it with, “but not like these (gesturing rudely toward the street) beggars- no you are like the beautiful old gypsies full of life and mystery.” (These were his words and feelings- I am actually quite interested in the plight of the modern day Gitana- who are also just people who need Jesus.)

When I was in fifth grade my response to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was, “A wanderer.” I imagined myself on horseback wearing an ankle length leather trench coat riding slowly over mountainous terrain through heavy cool rain.

I broke up with my very first (elementary school) boyfriend after one day with a note that read as follows:

Dear Billy,

I have to break up with you. I can’t be tied down because my soul is as free as the wind that blows over the rolling prairie grasses.

Love,

Lori

I’m not joking- I really wrote that! (Too much Laura Ingalls Wilder)

In high school I built a friendship with a foreign exchange student from Austria (Shout out to Lisi- love you!) Almost twelve years later this amazing creative woman is still a dear friend. I have visited her twice at her home in Vienna, and she and her boyfriend were just with us in the Springs last summer.

When choosing colleges I wanted to leave Ohio and attend a university in California. My parents told me I couldn’t go any farther west than Texas. I went to Baylor and married a man from California! (This was a coincidence- not for spite=)).

In early college I traveled to Belarus on two occasions. Belarus is a beautiful country with a lively wit that resonates over the stillness left in the air from years of communist rule. A beautiful friend of mine there is possibly the most vibrant and alive person I have ever met.

I studied in Florence, Italy. I became obsessed with Italy after this experience- I’d wake up in the middle of the night and start searching the web for jobs in Italy. I even found jobs for Aaron in Italy. I’d go into a trance for 48 hours working out a plan on how we would get there and be there- the plans were never fleshed out- sad. Someday. But, I am happy to report I no longer go into to crazy Italy trances.

So it ended up I had to settle for Mexico. (If you asked me now though, I love Mexico right up there with Italy- and on some accounts much more.) I moved to Guadalajara, Mexico with my husband to teach- we lived there two years. Our first daughter, Clara, was born in water, in Mexico.  Mexico made me an adult and a mother.

I miss my days and the people I love there frequently. I often want to go back- two years was nothing! I have many friends still there in their 6th, 7th,8th ,and even 30 something years there! Sometimes I feel like a loser for leaving after only two years. I was just getting passed the new culture shocky-type stage. I wonder what I would have experienced and how much more deeply those experiences would have shaped who I am becoming had I stayed.

We returned to Colorado Springs and bought a house. You know what I thought about that, “great, now we’re stuck.” Which isn’t necessarily true, but for me it feels a bit cumbersome. I think about decorating and improving and creating a beautiful warm place and then I think, “well, it can be beautiful but not too comfortable because then I’ll become attached to it and when a cool opportunity comes I won’t want to seize it because I like my curtains too much.”

Sometimes I just want to go somewhere- anywhere new and foreign. Anywhere where I’d need to carry a map around and finding a place to pee could be considered an adventure.

This is my struggle- the desire to go- the pursuit of the unseen- the search for beauty- the quest for the unknown……………it has at times bordered on pathological (watching a House Hunters International Episode for the 6th time because I’ve seen them all multiple times!)

It isn’t only searching for what I don’t know, but also reaching out and reconnecting with what I do know. I love visiting places I have been before. Seeing the same faces and signs and breathing familiar foreign smells and walking familiar foreign paths is comforting. There is some continuity that is grasped, some whimsy-at-large that comes full circle when the foreign is established as familiar.

All these feelings aside my husband and I are growing some roots here. I think this is healthy and good for our family.

Just two months ago hubby and I were mobilizing for another international move. He was interviewing with international schools and I had begun reading the stack of books I had ordered on Amazon about raising kids in foreign countries and was packing boxes in my head.

Guess what happened? We were invited to stay.

We accepted to invitation. For now I am learning to quench my thirst for far-flung adventure with the challenge of seeing myself as an ex-cosmopolitan (mind games are fun=)). Even here in Colorado Springs, I am a foreigner a sojourner- life here can be strange and uncomfortable, lonely and frustrating, exhilarating and surprising, rich and alive!- just like it was abroad.

I am confident in God’s purposes for grounding me and growing me here- home.

For now, I have been called to stay.

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Excosmopolitan Explained

But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthly bodies into glorious bodies like His own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which He is putting everything as it should be, under and around Him. Philippians 3:20-21 The Message

The phrase “ex-cosmopolitan” is a term I came up with about ten years ago. (There may even be a few of you out there who know me personally that have heard me use this terminology in my speech from time to time.) While in college searching through photographs for an idea for a painting assignment I discovered this photo taken in Vatican City on a family vacation when I was seventeen.

This photo arrested my attention and while contemplating it the term “Ex-Cosmopolitan” popped into my head. I wasn’t really sure what that meant in the moment- but it sounded cool to me.

The figure in the foreground (myself) has an almost silhouette-like quality. I am a traveler standing strongly in, yet appearing separate from my surroundings. Even in one of the most beautiful and religious cities in the world there are barricades to control traffic and there are distractions (the white car to my right and white clothes figure to my left). The composition is divided in half horizontially by the union on the collonade and the blue sky and in half vertically by my figure (acknowldge implied line from top of head to top of photo). It is a strange composition and photo really, but there is something very pleasing in the many subtle contrasts it contains.

I later looked up the word “cosmopolitan.”  Cosmopolitan means belonging to all parts of the world, at home all over the world, a citizen of the world. Slap “ex” in front of “cosmopolitan” and there you have my favorite, no nonsense definition, ex- citizen of this world!

It dawned on me that having accepted the grace of God and being his eternal child that this world is not my home. For me this realization was the beginning of an ongoing experience that began to deeply root this essential truth in my soul. As I explored this concept in the Bible, I found excosmopolitan imagery quite a few times in the New Testament. We are citizens and fellow citizens of Heaven (Phil. 3:20-21, Eph. 2:19), Ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), Aliens, Pilgrims, Strangers, and Sojourners (1 Peter 2:11, Hebrews 11:13-16). What a cool and true perspective to have about our lives here on Earth!

I love this world. I love big cities and isolated hilltops. I love art- be it paint, song, or living well. I love humans who grasp and surrender and laugh. I love God, the Great Artist, who made this world, fashioned humanity’s sweet intracacy, and who inspires and redeems it in every moment.

From the soft, squishy, green grass of my humid southern Ohio childhood, over the stones, asphalt, and skies that carried me through far flung journeys as a young adult, to where I wait currently with Pike’s Peak views- this world has impressed much.

Yet with all the beauty and emotion this world holds, it too often leaves me undeniably unfulfilled. This crazy beautiful place does not contain everything! There is more!  When I experience these….I’ll call them “disconnects” I turn to my Comforter- God the Holy Spirit who flies in from Heaven- a visitor from Home and reminds me that Christ is the ultimate fulfillment for every ache that comes from living in a foreign land- and encourages me that soon enough I will be home. Then I try to see the source of the  “disconnect” as a  “cultural misunderstanding” and an opportunity for me to connect with my God and His plan for my life.

I never did use the photo or the excosmopolitan concept as a visual artistic expression but I have never forgotten it either. I have been saving it, mulling it around, attempting (often poorly, ok-very poorly) to flesh it out, all the while wondering how it would eventually manifest itself through me. There have been sketches, meditations, and conversations “ex-c”, as I call it for short, has become a theme for me, an anthem I try to sing with my life.

I hope the heart behind my much loved, albeit goofy, made-up phrase is becoming evident to you. My intention for this blog is to begin a conversation with you about beautiful things- everyday experiences, travel stories, helping our children appreciate and create beauty, critiques on art, discussion of whole body worship, and maybe even crazy out-there ideas that are just fun to play with.

I hope as I write and sift through my thoughts and share them with you that I will begin to cultivate a stable and godly perspective about my life as an excosmopolitan in this world. I hope that you find inspiration, connection, and amusement in my words and that in the end something you read or see here will provide a creative connection- a new note in your song of worship to an Almighty, Amazing, Crazy, Awesome, Creative God!

I hope my voice endears itself to you, like the company of an eccentric friend who breezes into your home with her hand dyed silk scarf trailing behind her. When she leaves you don’t know why you promise her that you will drink a tablespoon of olive oil and eat a bar of dark chocolate to cure your ailments, but you do and your heart is light and you know you will taste possibility in that chocolate bar tonight.

Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them. Hebrews 11: 13-16 The Message

I know where my true home is. That knowledge makes me feel empowered to live my life here with more love, more sacrifice, and more grit. I could go back, back to chasing fantasies, back to the quest for perfection, back to having my fighting hands up- protecting my earthly investments of resources, time, and heart, but I am looking for a better place. In my father’s land I am redeemed, immortal, Jesus has won every victory- my patriotism is for Heavenland shouting Glory to God on golden streets!

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