Red River Gorge is our favorite place to wake up celebrating our anniversary; we have gone there four out of five years. Last year, we didn't think Israel was old enough either to go camping or go without us.... Next year, we will have a six-month old, so we will miss the Gorge again. That meant this year was to be cherished. We went on a hike on part of Rough Trail. (That's really its name.) There were parts of the trail that lend themselves easily to our joke: "Geez! This is a rough trail!" It was challenging for a pregnant woman, but the sites and the company made it all worth it. We took a nap (meaning Pat took a nap and I laid there resting) on the forest floor on our way. The ground there was even more comfortable than our camp site!
Life has a way of being what you thought it might be while at the same time being nothing like you'd expected.
If you would've told us that we would be a helping start a church in an urban neighborhood, working with a racially diverse group of youth and alongside a group of people who had committed to the same task for years to come, we would've found that a wonderful way to live. And of course, we knew there was an Israel McCrory in the picture at some point, so why not now? And here we are, doing exactly the work we thought sounded ideal and with not only Israel, but a cute, healthy, babbling, walking Israel and his sibling on the way! Yet our life sounds more exotic when described in a sentence than when you're mowing the weeds in the yard of your urban house or doing the dishes dirtied by the youth who just left your house. I wonder if ministry and models have that in common: they're glamorous from a distance, and less so when you wake up with them every morning. But life is all about what you wake up with every morning.
So Pat and I wrestled somewhat with the way we thought things should be at this point while we were in the Gorge. It isn't Ithaca, but it is a beloved, familiar place to us (and it doesn't cost a plane ticket to get there). We weren't hiking near waterfalls or going to the great farmer's market there or eating at one of the MANY ethnic restaurants Ithaca had to offer, but we did hike in the mountains and we did go out for Thai food a couple nights before with our good friends Josh and Michelle (and Heron, their little one). So we are where we hoped we'd be in some ways. And in many ways, we haven't even begun to dive into all the possibilities in the people around us. There is more to explore in the exotic? Muncie. Sometimes it takes going away to realize it.
We read our vows to each other on the cliff where we have re-read them times before. I am glad we wrote them as things we asked God to help us do rather than things we promised we would do, because the things you have to do to have a good marriage are too hard to be able to do on your own. Had we not prefaced our vows with words like, "I call upon God to help me to...," I would feel like a miserable failure every year. But instead, we renew our call out to God to help us love each other and live our life together well, in service to other people. And we read over some of your notes to us that you wrote at our wedding. Some notes are from people who are far away; others have since passed away. They serve as a reminder of the "cloud of witnesses" who cheer and encourage us through this life. And somewhere between the calling on God and the voices of people who have gone before, or are coming after, or are going alongside us, we are renewed to go and wake up embracing our life for another year.