Bijzondere Mensen


I’m still reflecting on the fact that it’s been twenty years since our family moved to the Netherlands, in late-January 2003. Our Amsterdam years included so many formative experiences. But even more than formative experiences, I’d say we were shaped by formative friendships. Met bijzondere mensen (I could have said this just as easily in English: “with special people.” But I prefer the way that the phrase “bijzondere mensen” looks and sounds!). Zo veel bijzondere mensen…


Too many special people and special relationships to count.


Looking back over pictures this week, I’m struck by the consistency of friends and the variety of friends we had during our Amsterdam years. We served a transient population, for sure. But there were many people who remained a part of the photographic record for many years. And whether these bijzondere mensen were a part of our lives for a short time or a long time, they were truly what made our time in Amsterdam special.

ZolderMovingPF 001

In May of 2005, I borrowed a title from a Larry Norman song and wrote my own “Song for a Small Circle of Friends.” And those snapshots still make me smile.


Song for a Small Circle of Friends

My life is filled with songs, but I just could not get along without my friends. And I’m happy now, but when this good life ends I know a better one begins…

Servant Leadership Council - Smiles

My friendships are snapshots. Well, OK, maybe not snapshots — perhaps more like film clips. Two or three seconds of life, captured and burned into eternal consciousness, distilling the essence of true relationship. Icons of reminiscence, these fleeting images encapsulate and represent something much larger, a gateway to deeper meaning and truth. Such an archive of film clips is invaluable, a priceless treasure of my memory.


You see, to me the word “friendship” is flat, bland, weak, meaningless — a parcel of my intellect, my brain… On the other hand, my film clips are deep, rich, layered, textured — a powerful anchor to my emotion, my heart. These icons convey color, focus, movement, melody, tone, pitch, scent, flavor, temperature, sensation… They orient me and comfort me. They inform my daily existence. And they define and explain such abstractions as beauty, love, life, and loyalty. Perhaps to another these isolated moments and experiences would seem trivial, even silly. But I love to sit back and watch these film clips, whenever I want…


…Problem-solving with Jason, savoring the sweet stickiness of Ben & Jerry’s Vermonster — knowing that someone understands me. The conversation is all the more meaningful because it is informed by weekly interaction, planned but not lacking spontaneity or meaning…

Carnival and Jay's Visit 027

…Sitting, curled up on the brown chair in our Amsterdam dining room at 1:00 in the morning, talking on the telephone for €0.0225 per minute while Jay stands in his Texas driveway under the hot afternoon sun…


…Marci’s warm back against mine, welcoming me back to bed…


…Enjoying a warm spring day with Todd, the sun gleaming off our shoulders, our hair– the first sense of warmth this year. The sun slowly burning my pasty white forehead while causing his hair to glow like conductive wires of an incandescent bulb…


…A nighttime walk with Guy, learning the words to describe a clear and cloudless night…


…A daytime walk with Sander, putting words to our heavy burdens, realizing that we can do nothing but feel. Be. Empathize. Comiserate. And quietly know that there is a strange sense of satisfaction in this…


The archive is nearly endless. Such memories are triggered by anything and everything. A certain restaurant, or a even a specific meal… A city or a neighborhood… A way that the sky looks under certain weather conditions… A tone of voice… Writing these words… It’s difficult for me to determine if such memories make me happy or sad. Sometimes both, I guess. But in the end, I know that my life is more meaningful for such film “snapshots.” So I treasure these albums, these archives. Even while I make sure to leave plenty of room for what is yet to come.


And Jesus died for all you friends, but even better yet he lives again. And if this song does not make sense to you, I hope his spirit slips on through: He loves you.

This entry was posted in Amsterdam, Amsterdam50, Culture, Culture Shock, Europe, European Missions, Family, Introspection, Nostalgia, Recommendations, Recommended Browsing, The Netherlands, Young Adulthood. Bookmark the permalink.

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