When Bethie was first learning to string together sounds to make words and then words to make phrases, she had a knack for mixing her prefixes, suffixes and compound parts, often with humorous results. She would get excited over having "puffincakes" for her snack (muffins), request "overalls" for her taco (olives), slept in a "nightdown," learned to recite her "awfulbet" and was especially eager to dress up like "St. Cheetah" on St. Lucia day. (This event also involved me lighting a real wreathed crown of candles on her head as we stood on our friends' doorstep, she shivering in her white "nightdown," me with a basket of goodies in my arms, and both of us with a glint of fear in our eyes, lest an untimely conflagration spoil our holiday offering.)
We still tease our Bethie about her off-handed remark when playing with Lincoln Logs one day. She had created "The Bending Tower of Paris, or whatever it is . . . ." She had, of course, constructed The Leaning Tower of Pisa.
At the time, if I could have peeked into the future, it would have astounded me to think that this little child of mine would one day venture across the Atlantic with her father, coming -- interestingly enough -- somewhat close to Pisa (not to be confused with Paris).
Today she turns fourteen. In just a couple of weeks, she and Jamie will hop across the ocean to join my brother and sister-in-law, Johnny and Brooke, as they take their Slovene student band and choir on tour through Czech Republic and then into Poland. (A day trip to Italy at some point will be the icing on the birthday cake, and will incidentally wrap up my Pisa reference, if you don't mind the stretch.) Bethie will join the Fusion choir, meeting Slovene friends and forming relationships along the way, with the goal of strengthening her own faith and encouraging her new friends to do the same. She will come home changed.
It will be both exciting and daunting, and right now it still doesn't feel quite real. But a glance at the calendar and the passports in the desk remind us that it's very real . . . and very soon. As my little girl (who now looks down on her mother) gears up for this adventure, and as her name comes to your heart, would you pray? Pray that her vision would be enlarged as she is filled with the newness that she will daily face: new people and languages, different scenery, weather, food, currency, and travel . . . even the feeling of being an outsider. (Thankfully she'll have Daddy, Auntie and Uncle . . . but still!) I know God will use this opportunity in mighty ways as she trusts in Him and makes herself available to serve. Stretching is uncomfortable, but in the long run it's most fulfilling for our bodies and souls to daily come closer to the shape they are meant to hold.
We on the home front will be stretched a bit too, as we say goodbye to a third of our family and picture their adventures as we strive to faithfully do our work here. Thankfully Skype and email, Facebook and Instagram will make it feel somewhat closer, and we're encouraging Bethie to keep a blog as she travels. (I'll let you know if/when that comes to fruition!)
We've been blessed by the swift, overwhelming support of family and friends as she raises the funds to go, and it's touching to see her awe over the kindness of others (some of whom she's never even met). If you'd like to read her own words and even contribute financially, please visit her link over here:
Our Bethie no longer mixes up words and phrases, this tall girl with a warm heart, bright eyes, and sweet goals and dreams. Her once-childish babble will soon be mixed with Slovene greetings, Polish farewells, and maybe even an Italian or German phrase or two. Her world will become larger, and our prayer is that this will be but the beginning of a lifetime of adventures and service in which her light shines, not so much from the precarious candles on her head, but from the irresistible glow in her heart.