Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Cruise: Beginning

I'm sitting on the deck of our ship, drinking Darjeeling tea and waiting for the time to meet for today's excursion. The sun is shining and the air is a little cool, on the way to warming up to about 75 degrees.

So far, among the highlights of the trip, are a canal cruise in Amsterdam before boarding the ship; being greeted in our cabin by champagne (ordered ahead by Mark for our anniversary); a really nice anniversary dinner in the French restaurant on board (complete with creme brûlée for dessert!); a visit to Mont St. Michel, which is truly a marvel; and beautiful views of old walled cities as we visit or sail by. Oh! And really good ice cream and little butter-sugar cakes in Concarneau. It might also be helpful for me to remember that bus rides over 20 minutes make me verrrrry sleepy!

I'm also fascinated by the workings of the ports as we sail in or out. Yesterday we docked at a commercial port and as we sailed by we watched a huge crane empty loads of sand from a freighter onto the pier, one bucket-full at the time. We sailed into port at about 11 am and it was still going when we sailed out at about 7 pm.

Two things I want to remember (among lots of others): 1) to go to the French restaurant at home and buy a variety of tiny sweets and offer those as dessert when we have people over, and 2) buy some coffee spoons. I love them!

Today we are off to spend free time in the city of Bordeaux. I don't really know what is there, but I hope it's fun!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Paris: A Whirlwind

So, because we have to sit in our Amsterdam hotel room and wait for the cruise folks to come get our bags; and because this is the last time we have free wi-fi on the trip; I thought I'd catch you up.

Our time in Paris was not what I would have had imagined, if I had taken the time to imagine much at all. I pictured sitting in a cafe, sipping cappuccino, watching as Parisians strolled by. And walking around, seeing the Eiffel Tower, visible from every point in the entire city, standing alone and regal. And cruising the Seine as the city slowly passed my view. And a wonderful, quiet dinner in a bistro with creme brûlée for dessert, served by a snooty waiter.

What we got was a hotel on a sidewalk crowded with tourists, a sunset view of the Eiffel Tower from atop the Arc de Triomphe, at least 5 miles worth of walking to sights, a ride in a bicycle rickshaw when we just couldn't walk another step, croissants with strawberry jam (yum!), a beautiful stained-glass chapel partially obscured with construction walls (but still amazing), and the conviction that we must come back again when we have more time.

Yesterday, we took a train from Paris to Amsterdam. Today we board the cruise ship for 14 days. Happy anniversary to us!

Hopefully I'll post again before we get home. If not, I'll post then and add pictures as well.

Here we go!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

25th Anniversary Trip: 5 Days Out

Sunday, September 21

We leave in 5 days. I'm so excited! I'm also trying not to be too excited and not to imagine the trip too much, in case we can't go or have to come home early.

It's crazy. It's like I believe I can make it happen or jinx it, just in how I think. As a kid, I used to hope that Jesus wouldn't come back before I got to ... fill in the blank. It was usually something like going to Disney World the next week. I was old enough to feel guilty and to know how ridiculous that was, but I still hoped to get to Disney. Have I grown so little?

Really? Just how important is this trip in the greater scheme of things? Answer: not very.

And yet, I'm doing everything I can to make it happen. I'm giving my family all the important contact information in case they need to reach us. We bought special trip insurance in case we have to cancel or come home early. I'm making lists at work and trying to make sure no one even notices I'm gone. I'm making lists at home to take everything we might need, pay the bills, feed the birds, water the plants, and try to ensure my mother-in-law doesn't worry herself into the hospital and serious, life-threatening illness.

Is this responsible planning, or obsessive, controlling behavior? It really comes down to my heart and motives. Ugh.

And that's the rub. In this thing, it IS all about me. I know that these things don't determine whether or not we go on our trip. Pretty much all we do now is show up on time at the airport with our passports. Everything else can be finessed.

I can pray that we get to go. I can pray that none of my family or friends gets sick, has surgery, goes to prison, goes missing, or dies. I can pray that my house doesn't burn down. I can pray that ISIS doesn't suddenly attack Paris...or Smyrna.

But what matters, for the Kingdom, in the long run, is what I'm doing every day to glorify God and bring others to Him. This life is a blink of the eye compared to an eternity in the presence of Jesus. If the movie of my life is shown on Judgement day, will I be more often embarrassed or content? At this moment I think the balance is much more on the side of embarrassed. I care way too much about what other people think, my comfort, my pleasure, ease, and experience, and way too little about the eternal perspective.

Lord, I am so grateful for the blessings that make this trip possible. Please help me to see things from Your eyes. Put people in my path that need to hear about You. Give  me the eyes, ears, and heart to hear them and to respond to their needs. I really want to take this trip, but I need to want to serve You more.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sunlight or Makeup Mirror?

Yesterday morning, the power was out when it was time to get ready for work. Ugh!  Fortunately, we had hot water for a shower, but there wasn’t enough light at the bathroom mirror for me to put on my makeup in the usual spot.

I ended up sitting on the kitchen floor in front of the French doors onto the deck.  As I was applying foundation with one hand and holding a mirror with the other, I remembered the lighted makeup mirror I used in my college dorm room. The morning light coming through the doors reminded me of the “Daylight” setting on that old mirror.  I also remembered that my dorm room had windows on three sides. Why hadn’t I used the natural light from the windows all those years ago rather than the simulated light of the makeup mirror?

Remember these?
Well first of all, there’s convenience. As I was reminded this morning, my task would have been easier with two hands and a stationary mirror.  And with my focus fixed on a makeup mirror, there would have been fewer things to distract me from getting the job done.  Then, there’s the little matter of actual sunlight showing more imperfections than I really want to face first thing in the morning!

Of course the point of this entry is not to make you feel sorry for me (or my coworkers) that my power was out for 3 hours and I had to go to work without washing my hair since I couldn’t use the hair dryer.

While I was getting ready I was thinking about how the sunlight, created by God, is infinitely superior to anything we can create to emulate it.

It’s so much more convenient for me to compare myself to other people than to compare myself to the standard God set and Jesus exemplified for me.  A lot of the time I look pretty good compared to my fellow humans.  I don’t murder or steal or kidnap people. I don’t shoot random individuals in a mall or theater.  I try to be nice to people, to help them, to occasionally make a donation.  I know there are those who are better at it than I am, but I can generally avoid comparing myself to them.
What is not so convenient is holding myself up to the light of scripture.  I don’t compare so favorably to the Biblical requirements to “pray without ceasing,” “be kind to one another,” “judge not,” “give thanks in everything,” “love my enemies,” “be slow to anger,” “take up my cross,” “turn the other cheek,” and countless other exhortations I know but choose to ignore, soften, or re-interpret.

Also, as I was putting on makeup overlooking the deck, I kept seeing the birds at the feeders.  In my bathroom, with the large window etched (for obvious reasons), I can’t see what’s going on outside. I can complete my morning tasks with minimal distractions from the outside world.  I can focus on my agenda, my plans, my little world, and ignore the activities, dreams and tragedies going on around me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I try to be a good wife, friend, daughter, sister, aunt, church member, and coworker.  I just prefer, in general, to pass over the extremes and things that require too much of me, things that are distractions to the plans I have made for the day, for my life.

This God-created light tends to show me for who I really am.  It reminds me that God sees me, sees my heart, sees the truth.  He knows what He created me for, who He created me to be. 

Sometimes I can fool those around me into thinking I have it all together.  I can say the right words, do the right things, look organized, listen sympathetically. 

But God’s light sees my heart. If I do all the right things for selfish reasons, they don’t benefit me in eternity.  God doesn’t count what I do in my own strength as righteousness.  He counts my faith in Christ as righteousness.  And that faith, and my knowledge of the unbelievable grace and mercy He has shown me in spite of my incredible shortcomings, should motivate me to obey Him and to forgive others.  He’d rather have my obedience than my self-determined good deeds.  That’s what is meant by, “to obey is better than sacrifice.”

I want to be better about choosing to look at myself by God’s light rather than by light man created. Oftentimes God’s light is not very flattering; it shows my selfishness, fears, and flaws.  But it’s also the only source of truth here on earth.  It holds all the answers to the questions I have.  It holds everything I need.