It's funny what can change your life. Sometimes it is a huge catalyst, and sometimes it is something tiny. A seemingly small event, a word spoken, or a picture, or a song.
Ross and I were sitting next to each other on the couch in our home in Victoria, Australia. We were watching the semi-annual conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was holding my 6 month old baby and my kids were on the floor colouring. We did not listen to every talk of that conference. And I'm sure that my attention was divided between the baby's needs, my children around me, and a whole lot of other things - ya know; sleep deprivation, chocolate cravings, daydreaming about random clothes I think are cute...the usual for me.
But we were fully attentive to this one talk, and it changed our lives. Something undefinable called to us. We listened to President Uchtdorf speak in his wonderful German accent as he described the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche - a beautiful Lutheran church in Dresden, Germany. It was built in the 1700's and was one of the "shining Jewels" of the city. It was completely destroyed in WWII. He spoke about how miraculous it is that something so completely broken and ruined to rubble, was rebuilt to become a magnificent house of worship. The old stones, blackened and burnt from the bombing, were used in the reconstruction whenever possible. These stones are clearly visible, pockmarking the outer walls.
"These 'scars' are not only a reminder of the war history of this building, but also a monument to hope. A magnificent symbol of man's ability to create new life from ashes."
Our old life was in ashes. It would never be the same. Little did we yet know the scars that were still to come, financial and personal. The challenges that we would yet overcome as a family. We had just undergone a massive shift in the direction of our lives. The difficult birth of baby number 5, and a whole new and yet unknown career shift for Ross. The future gaped wide and terribly uncertain, yet full of limitless possibilities. We were ready to leap, to go forward and see what we could make of our story. To create a new life. We would construct a new magnificent story, complete with the blackened stones of all we had endured thus far and all that was to come.
We looked at each other and nodded. We knew.
The next day we booked return tickets to Europe. We would leave home for 9 months. We would go to the Frauenkirche in Dresden Germany and see the inspiration for the great change to our lives. We would create a new life.
And so we did. A few months into our trip, we left our cozy little blue cottage in the Polish forest and traveled to Dresden Germany. We met with our wonderful friends from Freiberg who showed us around the city. As with all things us, the trip was not a picnic of flowers and roses. The weather was all dreary and drizzly and our little bubba cried for most of the time. But in my memory the trip represents our life as travelers - all imperfection with moments of fun and joy that make it all worth it.
We began with first things first - food. If you need a pick-me-up on a cold wet rainy day, then a hearty German bratwurst is a good place to start!
We discovered that despite the rain, there was a beauty to Dresden in the history and the architecture around us.
We felt joy in the company of our lovely German friends who so graciously showed us around the 'jewel-box' of their country.
And then we finally got to see the Frauenkirche. Such a beautiful building and such a beautiful message. Oh how our life has changed because of it!
The inside surprised me, it was so light and pastel compared to the many catholic churches that we has seen along our way.
We spent the rest of the day exploring some of the city. I wanted to see the Zwinger, an old German Palace that I had seen on Pinterest. My younger kids loved the freedom to run around in the open green space (possibly this was a great social faux par as no one else seemed to have kids running around playing chasey, but as no-one was hurrying towards us shouting in angry German, I allowed it). My older kids got to try out their international communication skills with fellow teens who spoke a foreign language.
One of the interesting things on our journey has been watching our kids get along with other kids from all over the world. The language barrier is only a partial one, especially with the younger kids, who seem able to communicate and play regardless of the lack of common vocabulary. My older kids were also open to making friends, especially on a trip that was so family focused, and so they smiled and tried to crack jokes and find things they could all relate to.
Just as the sun peeped out of the clouds...our baby firmly decided that he had had enough. There is only so much city sightseeing that can be enjoyed with a crying baby. Since we had been living in the deep dark forest of Poland for the past month, we were in desperate need of a few items. I used to be a great shopper. All sorts of shopping filled my heart with gladness - thrift shopping, Christmas shopping, bargain hunting and girl-days-out were all part of my old favourite pastime.
Travel changed me.
Coming in from the cold, we had to strip layers off each child and walk through a crowded city mall looking for a suitable and cheap pair of boots for my 7 year old. It was a veritable nightmare. Kids were dropping gloves and hats, everyone needed the bathroom, the baby needed changing, everything was too expensive. After we had tromped through that blasted mall for what felt like hours, all the while pretending to smile for our very patient friends, I was ready to head back to the forest and never see a city or a shop again.
I had changed, we had all changed. We were all changing. There is something exciting about being on a journey that you know is transformational. Our perspectives were widening, our circle of friends was growing, and certainly the stories to our life were interesting and meaningful. There was good, bad and ugly all in there. I might hate shopping for a while, and I might feel a desperate frustration at trying to navigate a foreign city with a crying baby, but I was also growing and hopeful with joyful experiences to look back on.
Just like the Dresden Frauenkirche, the scars in our past and the challenges to come are all a part of the beautiful life that we are constructing together as we learn brave.