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I recently got the opportunity to travel with my husband out of town. Somewhat away from the worries of children and life to a truly beautiful environment and climate. I say 'somewhat' because within a few hours of leaving I already had one child hysterical and a cluster of text messages, and that was pretty much the first 36 hours I was gone.

#Ghostdad, as my husband is affectionately known, and I have been away a few times for a day or two, but this would be our longest time away together, without children, since our honeymoon - 5 days and 4 fantastic nights. Side note: my husband got the nickname #ghostdad through many years where he was running a business, coaching baseball and trying to work for two people, as his dad who he shared a business with had gotten sick. So, through that season he was still very invested in the family but didn’t get to be physically present the way he wanted. Hence, for him to even be in a season in which we can get away is an even bigger deal.

As I was saying, we got the chance to get away and it was great. Our first day we got to explore the most amazing trees, eat a phenomenal meal, and had an amazing night’s sleep in the coolest place. We picked and prepped olives, we picked wine grapes and made them into juice. It was the slowest, sweetest busy with some of the most fun people. It was an amazing time of fellowship and exploration, enjoying the best music, making art, riding horses and just being. The last big thing we got to do before we left town was join together with friends of our host and participate in an apple pressing. It sounds a little out there, I know, but it was the most fun and the sweetest time. An entire community of friends was gathered together sharing apples, taking turns cranking the press and taking home juice. We ate, talked, laughed and were welcomed into the group as though we had always been there.

I have spent several days contemplating and letting my mind mull around the trip and all that transpired. I have actually, along with Mark, spent a lot of time thinking about the Olive trees. Olives are an interesting thing. If you were to try to eat one fresh off the tree, you would find it to be difficult and very bitter. So, in order to remove the bitterness, you soak the olive in water and, believe it or not, lye. In order to create something good to eat you have to take something extremely acidic and soak the bitter away. It got me thinking of several somewhat surprising conversations we had with people while we were visiting.

I was at the apple pressing and I got asked the question, “Why are you here?” Why are you here? Not in a “I wish you weren’t here” way, and not in a general inquisitive, “What brings you here?” way. But, true shock and surprise at our presence. I should point out that we weren’t visiting the far reaches of outer Mongolia, or a closed country. No, we were in the great state of California. You see, my Aunt and Uncle have a wonderful place in the Redwood valley and my husband has never gotten to visit them or really spend any significant time with them. When the question of why are you here came up, I was so surprised. I thought it made sense. We had family we wanted to spend time with them, get to know them better, and develop closer relationship. Then each time I was asked that question it got followed up with, “Aren’t you conservative?”

It was that statement that has just caused me to take some serious pause the last many days. Yes, we are conservative. Yes, we live in a mostly Red state, in the bible belt. Admittedly, our worlds have some extreme differences. Differences that we may not rectify, at least not in a single afternoon over a barrel of apples. But, over a barrel of apples I got to hear stories, I got to learn about 3 generations of families growing up and cultivating the same land. I ate delicious food and got welcomed into someone’s home with opened arms. I got to spend time with people. Just people. And it got me thinking about how everything in our world has been reduced to a sound bite on twitter.

We feel in such a rush to be heard that we are failing to listen.

If I truly believe what I say I believe, why wouldn’t I want to get to know and learn how to love those around me? Why wouldn’t I want to learn how to love someone I may not agree with? If I am who I say I am, then the true thesis of what I believe should be a joy of knowing and loving those around me, whether I agree with their political stance or not. I didn’t have to change what I believe or who I am to have the sweetest time with a group of people that could have just as easily pushed me to other side of the aisle.

I pray that if my faith is what I build my life upon I will let myself be like those olives. That I will allow myself to be leached of whatever bitterness may lay beneath no matter how long, or painful the process in order to extend true love and community to those around me. The same unconditional love that was extended to me. Without question, judgement, or malice. I pray that Whose I am shines brighter than who I am, because without immeasurable grace I am nothing but a bitter Olive.

I pray that Whose I am shines brighter than who I am.


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