Category Archives: Travel

Pausing

This morning I’m pausing to say thank you.   I wonder how many times I’ve driven past sunsets I didn’t watch or sat in the car looking my phone and ignored the gifts He gives just because I didn’t take the time to pay attention.

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Vacation has a way of making me slow down to look around.   This photo certainly displays the beauty of what God created.   Look at those colors.

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My kids make me slow down.   My daughter picked these on a walk around our neighboorhood from a bush in an empty lot.  Sweet.

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Difficulties can slow me down.  Sometimes in a good way.

One of my former co-workers walked into my office yesterday and handed me this note and a donation.    It made me think about the fact that our lives entertwine with others.  I haven’t seen her in a long time.  And yet, when she heard about the arson at our church this week she acted and gave encouragement and grace.      Made me cry.  It also made me want to pause and touch other people in their pain.   Made me grateful.

How about you?   What causes you to pause and notice?   What makes you grateful?

 

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The Flip Side: Art

I took an art class as a child.  My parents firmly believed that children should be exposed to a variety of activities to try and see where their interest and talent lie.   I was definitely interested in art.   I was not talented.

While in Amsterdam recently we toured the Van Gogh museum.   What I knew before the visit about Van Gogh was limited to a vague idea that he’d chopped his ear off and wasn’t he the guy who painted Starry Night?  And those Water Lillies?  Oh wait.  That was Monet. But Starry Night and the ear.  Yup, that’s Van Gogh.

Turns out after the four floors and several hundred paintings that I love Van Gogh.   Tortured soul that he was.   There were a couple of stories and one painting that bore into my memory.   Good art is like that.  It becomes a part of who you are and how you view the world.

Vincent Van Gogh had several unsuccessful careers prior to becoming an artist.   He was fired from being a pastor for being overzealous.  At that point he decided he would be a painter.   Just like that.  Decided.   He had no training and frankly no idea if he had any talent.   I viewed several of his first paintings.  They were awful.   Simplistic.  Much like what I drew when I took my childhood art class.   I love this early optimism.    I love that he didn’t give up.   Van Gogh painted over two thousand paintings in just over ten years.   During one period of his life he only consumed bread, tobacco and coffee so he could use the rest of his money to buy paint supplies.

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”  Vincent Van Gogh.

In 1888, Van Gogh  left Holland for France hoping to start an artistic community.   When he found out his friend, Paul Gauguin had agreed to come, Van Gogh started to paint to decorate his room.    The paintings he created?  Sunflowers.   I love that among Van Gogh’s most famous paintings are ones that were created solely to decorate for a friend.

I wish Van Gogh’s story didn’t have chapters of depression and asylums and shotguns.   I wish it was just beauty and joy and good surgeons and redemption.   But I’m grateful for the paintings.    My favorite painting was painted in the last few weeks of his life.   Wheat Field Under Clouded Sky.   I think part of the message of Van Gogh’s life is that beauty is there even in the pain.

The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.  Vincent Van Gogh

Want to see the flip side of Art?   Check out http://doncanonge.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/bloggers-block/

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Risk the View

My husband and I celebrate our thirteenth wedding anniversary today.   He’s a great guy.  I’m blessed.   I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage lately.   About marriages that fail and marriages that succeed;  why I got married and why I stay married.   What I didn’t know and what I still don’t understand. About what I hope my kids’ marriages look like.    About grace and commitment and friendship and passion and comfort.

For our tenth anniversary we went to Ireland.   Everything in Ireland was fierce.  Blustery weather, dark clouds, brilliant rainbows, the heady scent of burning peet, rough wool sweaters, spray painted sheep.

Scalding hot food and blistering cold showers.   Hot tea, homemade butter, oatmeal, cream and vegetable soup and blood pudding.    Churches, cemeteries and castles.  Guinness and dancing.

One day we took a ferry out to Inish Mor.  Its an island off the coast of the Connemara region.  The island is home to the 2000 year old fort Dun Aengus and to my absolute favorite place on earth.

The cliffs of Inish Mor.

It occurred to me as we stood by those cliffs that in the USA this would never happen.   We’d have warning signs and fences and legal disclaimers and nets.  We have too many rules.   Maybe its too many attorney’s.    I think in Ireland they figure if you fall off the edge of the cliff its your own fault.   Why wreck the view for everyone else?

Standing on the edge of the cliff with my spouse might be the most alive I’ve ever felt.   Terrified but exhilarated.   It was so worth the risk for the view.

Ireland is a beautiful, dramatic, heartbreaking and soul-searching country.   Its cheerful and playful and majestic.   It is  not a place for the weak at heart.     It’s a little like a good marriage.

I love you Aaron.  Happy Anniversary.   Wanna go back to Ireland with me?

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Random Travel Thoughts

Thoughts are like photos. Some are random. Here’s some of my random thoughts and photos from The Netherlands and Brussels.

1. Halte means stop in Dutch. I do not excel in learning new languages. It takes a very long time and many repetitions for a word to register in my long-term memory. Due to the many trams and trains we rode throughout Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hauge I actually picked up the word Halte. That’s it. Ask my travel partner Nicole if you want more words translated. She’s a whiz.

2. No one is overweight in The Netherlands or in Belgium. This is despite the fact that everywhere you turn you can smell and purchase cheese, chocolate and various pancakes and waffles. This is due to two main reasons. First, everyone walks everywhere. Second. Its freezing. You burn a lot of calories in attempting to stay warm in twenty-five degree weather when the wind chill is six. SIX?!? Also, the public bathrooms only have cold water in the sinks. I created a new diet based on this trip. Eat whatever you want. Walk Everywhere. Stand in your freezer with a fan blowing cold water on you for several hours a day. You’ll drop off the weight.

3. Cathedrals are gorgeous. I knew this already before this trip. I just wanted to show you a picture of Saint Michael’s in Brussels.

4. Little boy peeing should not be famous art. We followed the map and worked our way through an amazing restaurant district before we found La Mannequin Pis. It’s very small. Quite anticlimactic.

5. Waffles are better in Belgium. It might be the toppings. You know how when you get off the plane in Hawaii you notice the smell of flowers immediately? Brussels is like that, only you smell waffles…and chocolate. The entire city. No kidding.

6. Large piles of chocolate are gorgeous. We went to the chocolate museum. A cute little man in the bakery gave us a personal demonstration of how to make hand dipped chocolates. He kept saying “Here is the next step so you know how when you get home”. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that last time I tried anything with chocolate in the kitchen I burned it and almost burned down my house in the process. He said the most important step is the temperature. Clearly!

7. I really like maps. I may not be able to pick up new languages but I can read maps. I recognized this is a skill most 5th graders have acquired but I still liked the maps enough that I took pictures of them.

8. Travel is a joy. Travel with friends is double the joy. Thanks for letting me tag along.

 

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Walking through Amsterdam

I’m sitting at my kitchen counter looking through travel photos and contemplating several blogs.   I usually write by the fire.   But today I’m accompanied by chips and salsa.  I eat all the time. Did you ever notice that Brad Pitt in the Ocean’s Eleven (and twelve…and thirteen) movies eats in practically every scene?   He’s planning grand theft walking through the streets of Amsterdam eating and eating.   That was me a couple of weeks ago.  All except the planning grand theft bit.

The best thing I ate in Amsterdam was Proffertjes.   They are puffy pancakes about the size of a sliced orange that are covered in butter and powdered sugar.   I loved them so much that one of the presents I brought back to my husband was a bag of the mix so he can make me them again.   Slightly self-serving present.    I neglected to bring back the special pan required to cook the proffetjes so he may have another present coming soon.   Although, I’m sure if I searched on Pinterest I could find a way to make them using only dental floss and aluminum foil.

The best drink I had was actually a water.   Glass bottle of water.   Separate cup.   It came with utensils.   Straws and a muddler.   Lemon. Very impressive water.   My friend Nicole who I was traveling with ordered coffee at almost every meal because she said it was a mini event all in itself.  The best coffee she had came with a cookie, a mini creme brule, wrapped sugar cubes, a tin of cream and a small glass with fresh whipped cream.   It was all served on a platter.   Just a cup of coffee.   Those in Amsterdam know how to serve the treats.

We walked, we froze, we sampled cheese and looked at art of cheese.   We looked at art of all forms dealing with Cannibas and did not sample.  We wandered through the flower district and admired all the tulip bulbs.    We walked past the three different museums dedicated to various forms of medieval torture and several museums to more unmentionable subjects.

We stood outside the Old Church.   Its situated right on the edge of the Red Light District.  Directly across the street from this mammoth church was a brothel.   Large glass window.  Scantily clad woman.   I wondered at the juxtaposition of the two.   I was curious if the church had an outreach program to its neighbors.

We wandered across cannel bridges and dodged all the bicycles.   None of them were wearing helmets.   We stood in line and worked our way up tiny narrow stairs to tour the Anne Frank House.     She and her family hid for over two years in a flat at the back of her father’s pectin factory.   The factory workers did not know they were there.   The windows were blacked out and there was very little to do.   And so Anne wrote. 

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”   Anne Frank.

Part of incredible heartbreak is that just outside the factory and hidden home, directly across the street in fact, is another large church.

Walking through the streets of Amsterdam I thought about large churches and hurting people.   It made me wonder today how many spiritually naked people who are selling themselves short are standing just outside the doors of a church.   How many hidden victims are waiting to be saved just steps away from a savior?      It made me want to go on a search and rescue mission.     People are hungry.   They are eating everywhere and everything trying to get their fill.     I know the living water and the bread of life.    Do you?   Who lives across your street?   Are they hungry, naked, or hiding?

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  Matthew 25: 35-40

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