Top five, and also bottom five, things about this summer.

The Good:

1.Family time. It’s a long summer and we’ve had heaps of time with our families, immediate and extended. They’ve cooked for us, cleaned for us, taken us out to dinner and the movies, hugged our necks and told us how much they love us, and fussed over us. Living overseas means you miss Christmas and Thanksgiving and random mid-year weekends, but we’ve made up for those in a big way this summer. You can tell we’re being loved, because I think the both of us are more than just a tad chunkier than we were coming in. (Who cares? It’ll fall off once we hit the steady diet of rice and noodles and have to find time to cook for ourselves.) Speaking of which…

2.The food. America is a great country, let me tell you. The proof lies in things like this: guacamole dip, endless chips and dip, margaritas (are you sensing a TexMex theme here?), pizza, ice cream and froyo, arugula and baby spinach, CHEESE (feta and blue cheese and queso and fresh mozzarella), pizza, blackberry cobbler, shrimp and grits, fried chicken, turkey wraps, burgers and hot dogs and sweet potato fries…. y’all, the list could go on and on. I’m not even mentioning Asian food on here (we are on a rice hiatus this summer), but I love that in America you can get almost any type of ethnic food. It’s truly a land of freedom and opportunity, culinarily-speaking.

3. Sunshine. I know for a fact that it wasn’t always like this (just ask my mom, she grew up in the 50s in the steel- and iron-producing, heavily polluted city of Birmingham, AL) but this Stateside summer has been all about blue skies and sun. Has that meant high temperatures? Well, sure. But we also have this thing called central air which makes it bearable. Of course, sometimes it’s a little too bearable and I have to carry around a cardigan for the indoors. Anyway. This summer I’ve been soaking up the sunshine like a cat in the perfect sun spot in a wintertime window (always with sunscreen, of course!). We drove through Atlanta recently and saw flashing roadside signs that warned of a smog day. Michael and I couldn’t help but laugh as we looked at the clearly defined white puffs in a Carolina-blue sky. America, thankfully, knows nothing of East Asia smog levels.

4. Outdoor activities. This one is often dependent on sunshine but is definitely distinct. Tonight after we finished dinner, I went for a run on Chattanooga’s River Walk, a great walking/running/biking trail that runs along the south bank of the Tennessee River. Sunday, Michael and his dad and several other friends participated in the Waterfront Triathlon, an Olympic-distance race here in Chattanooga. And even little Sylacauga has some beautiful hiking trails (and we hear biking trails) that we’ve walked this summer. There’s a definite beauty and nature-shaped hole in my heart that sometimes is left unfilled in our metropolitan part of East Asia. This summer, I’ve been gorging.

5. Friends. Absolutely one of the best things about this summer…. and I’ve not even seen some of my very favorite people yet! So far (and there is much more to come), this summer has been full of refreshing, courtesy of our America friends. I’ve felt such joy and liberty and release from seeing friends, lots and lots of them, from different places and with whom we have different types of relationships and who’ve known us for different lengths of time and who share all sorts of different and varied interests with us. Or who have interests that are way different from mine but who challenge me in those areas. One of the harder things about Asia is that we have a really small community. On the bright side, this means you (hopefully) learn a lot about loving and accepting others and that your fellowship can be insanely tight knit. On the down side, this can also mean that you feel restricted and trapped. This summer it has been such a gift to remember that this world is very broad. There are all sorts of sides of me (Michael, too) which are more difficult to express in Asia, but which I’ve loved getting to remember as I am in relationship with friends here. My America friends have also reminded of God’s grace and sovereignty in a way that my heart sorely needed. I’m grateful that God uses other people to point us to himself. This summer, I have felt richly fed by moments and hours with friends. I’m gonna miss it when we head back.

The Bad:

1. Driving. I swear, we are tearing up the road. Last Thursday, we drove up to Charlotte, NC, to spend the night with Michael’s brother and his wife, Holley (6+ hours). Friday, we went to a wedding reception in Raleigh (3 hours there + 3 hours back to Charlotte = 6). And then Saturday, we got up and hopped in the car to hoof it back to Chattanooga (another 6). That’s just an example; two weeks ago we went from Sylacauga to Gadsden (to spend the night with Michael’s grandmother), then woke up early the next morning to jet up to Chattanooga for an appointment, and left straight from there for Atlanta. Driving wears me out like nobody’s business!

2. Limits. It’s hard and sad to realize that we can’t do it all and that there is not unlimited time to hang out with everyone we want to. It breaks my heart to only see some of my closest friends for a few hours the whole summer, especially when our times together are separated by years, not months. But it’s reality and there is simply not “world enough and time” for all we wish.

3. Boundaries/priorities. I wasn’t sure exactly what to label this but I’m trying to describe the state by which Michael and I try to maintain and build into our marriage this summer as we are constantly surrounded by others. We’ve had alone time in the car, which is good, but overall it has been awful to try to find time for just the two of us. Hoping for dinner on our own next week while vacationing with my family; if it happens, I think it will be our first intentional night together, just with us, this whole summer. That is crazy! (And also completely our own fault… we were warned.)

4. Lack of routine. There’s a large-ish portion of me that longs to get back to Asia solely so that I can lounge around my apartment on Saturday mornings and get up Mondays with a definite plan for the day. I love structure (often to a fault) and that has been hard to come by this summer. We’re filling our days and planning a lot, but those plans generally look 100% different from day-to-day. Today I spent awhile going through bills and mail and other mundane tasks and realized that I would just love to sit down and spend a day doing paperwork. I never feel like that (most people probably don’t! and I’ll deny it if you invite me over and plop me down in front of yours) but my organization-loving heart is ready for some plain Jane, vanilla, day-to-day regimen.

5. Good-byes. I don’t want to go into it; we’re not there yet. But they’re looming.

I’ve gotta redo this list, Asia-style, once we get back. Just a hunch, but that might be a bit more exciting! At the very least, exotic.


3 Comments on “Five”

  1. Anna Uzzell says:

    sounds like ya ll are having a good summer:)

  2. Haley says:

    Thanks for this update Beth! I’ve been thinking about y’all a ton and praying for you. I’d love to catch up at some point if you have time! Love you!

  3. melissa says:

    I second both number 5’s equally. Today was so great!

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