Thursday, March 22, 2012

Unexpected Things

When I last posted, I was just beginning a 13 day much anticipated, much planned trip to Italy, Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Halfway through, we were meeting up with our daughter, Hannah, who would be able to join us for the second half due to a week break in her study abroad schedule. I am now near the end of it. It has been amazing. I’ve seen things I’ve only read about it. 
And, I’ve cried. 
The day before we left, my 85 year old mother, who’s lived by herself for 8 years since my dad died, came down with the flu. Lou immediately started her on medicine, but that Sunday night before our plane left Monday at noon, we asked ourselves, “Do we go?” My sister-in-law had just arrived to stay at our house to care for our children and my mom - to be me for the week. We contacted our travel agent about refund policies, prayed for my mom and for wisdom and then decided to make the final decision the following morning. We’d see how Mom was doing. 
She was feeling better! And, to us, seemed quite a bit better. So, at her insistence and with her blessing and knowing she would be well cared for, we left. 
When we arrived in Rome, and were connected again via wifi, my sister-in-law let us know that on Tuesday morning, Mom took a turn for the worse. She was now in ICU.
I cried. 
Being 6 hours ahead of Bolivar, we had to be a bit strategic about “talking” to my family via skype and text-free to get updates and discuss future plans. My sister had already arrived and my brother was coming in on Wednesday. What should I do? To say I was torn is an understatement, and doesn’t adequately describe my Gordian knot of emotions. How could I stay on a European vacation while my mother and my family back home dealt with such a crisis? And what about Hannah? We were days from seeing her. We were her plans for her travel week. She also needed family at such a critical time. 
Mom’s prognosis was poor, but she had family near and was still threatening to kill me if I came home. We decided we would meet up with Hannah and then I would risk the wrath of my mom and go home. Lou and Hannah would continue the trip and would be together to grieve if my mom died. 
I was to fly out of Salzburg on Monday. Then, the blessed, unexpected happened. Defying all odds, Mom began to improve. By Sunday night, she was being moved to a private room. I cried again.
Now what to do? She’s better. My brother had gone home. My sister-in-law was offering to stay another week since Mom was still in the hospital. I cried again. We’d already bought a plane ticket. Hannah used the words, “she’s better!” and “sunk cost” and encouraged me to stay. Lou wanted me to stay. My sister-in-law wanted me to stay. Mom had not known I had planned to come home and therefore had not anticipated my arrival nor planned my murder, so that was not an issue. Still torn, but trying to listen to the voices of those that love me, I decided to stay. 
More tears.
I don’t want you to think that all I’ve done on this trip is cry. I’ve had much balm for my soul. I’ve been walking the streets of  Rome, Florence, Salzburg, and Munich with two people I love. I’ve seen beauty and art that lifts your soul in all the right ways. Can I tell you that I truly have enjoyed this time? I plan to write a bit about those highlights - the unexpected ways the things I’ve encountered in Europe have affected me.
As I’ve written facebook messages to my close friends about all this, I’ve signed them “Trusting in a Sovereign God.” That’s about all you can do at times like this. You’re hanging on for dear life. Praying. Asking Him to help you think about it. To know what to do when you get information you weren’t expecting. You want to honor Him and the ones you love. You pray you do.
It’s Thursday, and we leave early Sunday morning, arriving back in Springfield on Sunday night. I’m thanking Him for the gift this trip has been. I’m praying for continued improvement in my mom’s health. And I’m trusting in a Sovereign God.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Italy 2012 - #1

It’s been 28 years since I’ve travelled outside the U.S. As I type, I’m on an Iberia A -321 airplane heading to Rome. It is 12:35 p.m. here, which means it’s 6:35 a.m. back in Bolivar.  Our trip started in Springfield where we experienced about an hour and a half on the tarmac before being cleared to take off for Chicago where they were experiencing bad weather. We said more than once yesterday, “Thank ya, Mona,” (referring to our travel agent Mona Coleman) for allowing a nice cushion of time in Chicago. We weren’t one of the people on that delayed flight we heard frantically talking on their cell phones as they rebooked themselves on different flights.
Once in Chicago, we enjoyed the last little bit of unlimited internet service we’ll have for the next two weeks. I’m not sad about the trade - seeing some of the sights of Europe verses unlimited internet is a definite win. It’s just going to be a change. 
Then, off to Madrid. We took Kerrick, seasoned traveller, Tweedy’s advice and immediately put ourselves on Rome time. It as 11:45 pm, then. So, as hard as it was for me because a dinner was about to be offered, I took my Lunesta, arranged pillow and blanket and tried to sleep. It felt a bit fitful to me, but Lou said I looked like I was out of it - code for - mouth slightly open. (He loves me anyway). He actually had to wake me up because breakfast was being served, so I guess I did sleep better than I thought. 
Two events highlight our brief time in Madrid’s airport. First, I got my passport stamped! I’m a bit like Sandra Bullock’s character in “While You Were Sleeping” in that, I really, really love to get my passport stamped. Second, we had a really good cup of Espresso. And I felt very European drinking it, cute little cup and all. 
Lou is looking through a DK book on Rome next to me. He has been the man with the plan. I feel like I have my own personal tour guide. I can honestly say that I love my tour guide. 
I also find myself really looking at people - as they board the plane, as they sit in the airport, or as they pass us walking in the airport. They all have a story to tell.  
It also feels very a-God. Not anti-God. Just very much like he is non-existent. Like no one’s even thinking about him at all. Like he doesn’t figure into any equation anywhere. I don’t know what I expect, really. You have all these transient people shuffling through buildings en route to some place else. It’s not like relationships are being built. It may be just a time and a place issue. Or, I’m tired. But I don’t love that feel. 
We are an hour from touch down in the Eternal City.
To say I feel grateful for the chance to take this kind of trip is an understatement. Praying that God is glorified in all we do!

Posting this just as we get to our hotel, before an evening walking about. Here's a few pics that are essentially pre - real trip :)
Nothing to check

Outlets few and far between in Chicago

Hannah took a passport pic, so we did too

Our view en route to Madrid

The heavens declare the glory of God

Sweet architecture in Madrid's airport

Got it stamped!

Friday, March 9, 2012

InstaFriday - A Lot of Needs

I need prodding every so often. Deadlines. Inflexible ones. Like a plane I have get to catch.

On Monday, my husband and I leave for Rome, Italy. The trip serves a dual purpose. First, we are going to visit our sweet daughter, Hannah, who has been studying abroad since January 15.  She's been blogging about her experience here. And secondly, we are celebrating, albeit a little early, our anniversary. August 1, 2012, will mark 25 years of wedded bliss for me and my Lou.

So, I've had to get all my kids' ducks in a row for my sister-in-law and friends who will be staying with the kids while we are gone. This week, I finally finished filling out the menu for 2 weeks, and writing out their crazy schedule.

Still in process at this point

I also squeezed in some needed bread making this week. Lou loves my homemade bread. We are a bit out of control with it, even milling our own wheat. A few years ago, I heard a compelling presentation by the  Bread Beckers, and we've not looked back.

I  knead my dough for 7 minutes

But before you assume we are healthy all the time, the following picture was taken at a Friday night fish fry.  Sometimes I need something fried. My southern roots just run too deep. I enjoyed visiting with the dear Norma Bishop, whose footsteps I can only hope to follow in. I spent some of our time explaining Pinterest to her. I told her it could be addicting, a real time black hole. Her response? "I'm too busy for that." You go girl! You may not believe this, but she is in her early 90s.

My apologies to the two ladies we caught in the background

Saturday, the girls and I headed to Springfield for a little shopping and lunch. And, we needed to take some  fun pictures.

She's very embraceable
David was out of sight, but not out of mind.

When he played baseball, he needed these

This is the only time I'll have long legs. We said we needed this mirror.

While we were out shopping, I noticed that Elizabeth's beautiful blue phone now had a grey back.

"What happened to the back, Elizabeth?"
"My phone has a best friend."
"Doran and I traded backs because our phones are best friends."

(This gives new meaning to the phrase, "I've got your back.")

Need a couple of these globes

These cute little globes were hanging in the restaurant where the girls and I ate. I like.

I also like the fact that my oldest son, Luke, came home for the weekend. He didn't even need prodding.

This week, at Classical Conversations, the students' presentation was a "how to." One of Mary Grace's friends showed how to do a fishtail braid. Very cool.

I need to learn how to do this

I also smiled when I saw how Mary Grace illustrated the paper she wrote about the flag.

I'm sorry if this is overkill, but Mary Grace wrote this poem yesterday and finished it today, and it knocked my socks off. I need to share it too!

And finally, I appreciate what Jeannette over at Life Rearranged encouraged all of us InstaFriday participants to do this week.

Give back in a small, but concrete way. I need to be reminded to do that. It was a very simple thing - buy a few cans of food and donate them to someone, or some charitable organization this week. Life Rearranged averages 175 InstaFriday participants a week. If each of her participants donates 10 cans, you're talking 1,750 cans donated. It felt good to buy and give a little something. Thanks, Jeannette.

Well, I need to end this, and get busy tying up all the loose ends of preparing for our trip.

Hope you all get some needed rest this weekend!


life rearranged

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Good Reminder

Once again, God met me right where I am.

Lou and I leave Monday for a 13 day trip to Europe. Oh my. I've about got the two weeks I'll be gone completely planned - schedule written out, menu planned, and most food bought. I've been in charge of making sure everything goes as smoothly as possible here, and Lou has been planning what we do in each city. We've also had more than a little help from Mona Coleman, our travel agent par excellence.

It's an understatement to say we are excited.

With that said, I want to share what God spoke to my heart this morning as I was reading in the book of Mark.

 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
(Mark 13:1-2 ESV)

When I read those words, I immediately thought of all the amazing buildings we plan to visit. Like the Sistine Chapel. You've probably heard of it. I'm sure Lou and I will be in awe of it.  And, we should be in awe. God gifted the men who built it and painted it. (Painted seems too small a word). I am all about appreciating beautiful, awe-inspiring works of men. 

Beauty speaks to the soul in all the right words.

I'm reminded of the Cabby in The Magician's Nephew, who, as he observes the creation of Narnia, says:

 ”Glory be!” said the Cabby.”I’d ha’ been a better man all my life if I’d known there were things like this.”

I expect to feel that way. 

But, on the other hand, the truth is, the amazing buildings we are planning to see will not last forever. While they are here on this earth, their main job is to point to the One who gifted the people to build them in the first place. Everything on this earth is temporary. It's for God's glory and, amazingly - our joy while we are here on this planet. 

This was not a "downer" in any way for me to think about. It's not a, "Yeah. See that building over there? Well, don't be too amazed, because it will eventually be rubble."

It's just a reminder of who's really behind such amazing things and what is really going to last. And that, is wonderful.

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.
Ecclesiastes 3:14 

Friday, March 2, 2012

InstaFriday - Looking Up and Looking Down

When I started looking at the pictures on my phone for this week's InstaFriday, I noticed that I was either looking up or looking down for a number of them. Hey! Let's classify each picture accordingly!

Looking Down:

Daffadowndilly. This was taken with my iPhone, promise. 
It's here! The first daffodil of the season bloomed in my yard this week. We've been on "bloom watch" for a couple of weeks now, as we've been driving in and out of the driveway admiring the swollen buds. You can tell how fresh this one is, not even quite at attention. And in honor of this first flower, I would also like to take this opportunity to suggest we here in America stop calling them daffodils, and adopt the British name, daffadowndilly. I first heard daffodils referred to as daffadowndillies when I listened to a radio theater production of The Secret Garden (highly recommend).  That name more accurately describes the flower and the mood they put you in when you see them. Who's with me?

Looking Up:

Right at dusk, we got out of our car at a basketball game this week, and this is what we saw.

Jupiter, Venus, the Moon

I really know next to nothing about astronomy, but I love looking at the stars. A camera phone cannot capture how seeing this makes you exclaim, "Oh wow. That's cool!" And ever since I memorized Psalm 19, I always say to myself (and sometimes out loud), the first two verses.

1The heavens declare the glory of God; 
                                  the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 
                                                 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; 
                                   night after night they reveal knowledge.

A couple of nights later, they had moved into this configuration.

Why have I been blessed with the ability to see and marvel at this?

Looking Down:

This is what my dining room table looked like for a couple of weeks. All things tax spread out, waiting for me to get them ready to take to our accountant.

Totally unrelated to taxes...I still love the blue wall paint I picked out in '97
I am happy to report that it no longer looks like that. I subdued the procrastination monster that usually has me in his icy grip, and got after this on Saturday. Done. J'ai fini. Mi sono fatto. Ich will done. Things definitely start Looking Up with this little task out of the way.

Looking Up:

"I'm done" in Italian (mi sono fatto) is really an appropriate lead into this next picture. When I first saw those Italian words, I thought they should mean, "I am fat."  I snapped the following picture earlier in the week, before I'd seen those words - not knowing that I was going to include those Italian words on this post.  I snapped this picture to show my guilt free snack I keep on my kitchen counter - in an attempt to keep me from ever saying "I am fatto" in English.

Looking Up:

Any time you get a chemistry lab report done, things immediately start looking up. Faith enlisted Kiowa for company and comfort during that laborious process.

Looking Up, Up, Up!

It feels like all things Faith on the post today...but it was a big week for our Faith. For Christmas, we had given her tickets to a Brad Paisley, The Band Perry, and Scotty McCreery concert, which was this past Saturday. She did a special thing with her hair that night and I thought it was beautiful.

Looking Down:

I kind of feel guilty for classifying this as a "down." But teaching a teenager to drive is STRESSFUL! It is not my favorite thing on the planet to do. Elizabeth is getting the hang of it quickly - she's doing great, and she is being very patient with her mother as I place my life in her young, inexperienced, 15 year old hands.

My view from the passenger side. Can I have a brake, please?

Looking Up:

An InstaFriday wouldn't be complete without a picture from Classical Conversations. It was geography this week. I love mnemonic devices. It was major trails of the US this week.

We threw the rivers in there for good measure

Looking Up:

Probably my kiddos' favorite breakfast - biscuits and gravy. I loved how the steam was rising up as the sun showed through the window.

Looking Down that compels you to Look Up:

My 92 year old aunt died on Sunday. I blogged about her here. My mom, Mary Grace, and I made the trip to the Bootheel of Missouri on Tuesday for the visitation and the funeral on Wednesday. On our way into Malden, MO, we stopped by her house. It hasn't been lived in for quite some time. Sigh.

A visitation is an interesting event. You cry. You laugh. You remember the good times, and the hard times.  My mom was comforted by the many who came by and said kind things about her sister.

My aunt was buried in the same cemetery as her parents, right across the street from a huge peach orchard. While there, I walked over to where my grandparents are buried.

My grandpa affectionately called my grandma, "Nervi"

I labeled this last section "Looking Down that compels you to Look Up."

There's nothing much more sobering than a death. We look down. We see the cold, hard facts of  life and death on this earth.

It's that looking down, that compels us to look up for hope. There is no hope for any of us apart from God. And thankfully, He made a way for us through Jesus.

That truth keeps me Looking Up.

life rearranged