A Summer to Remember, Part II

After my husband and I traveled through Switzerland and France in June, we returned home to Chicagoland, and I flew to Memphis the following day to pick up my children. I was so anxious to see them after a 9-day separation!

Once in Memphis, I had a virus, I’m sure from international travel, and was too sick to drive the children the 9 hours home. My children and I ended up staying in Memphis with my mom and step-dad for another week.

During the week in Memphis, God was so near. Every night when I would wake up sick, I would go out and sit on the sofa and read from my Bible study. It would be on exactly what I needed, like God being Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals thee. Verses that I would be pondering during the day would show up in the study.

I enjoyed spending time with my mom and step-dad, sitting together at dinner time, watching the news together, listening to a sermon together. My step-dad, who had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure in early June, was so peaceful. Though he was older, he had always been in wonderful health, always doing projects, strong in body and mind, driving, and so there was rarely a thought about him not being with us, even though we knew he couldn’t live forever. I specifically noticed this trip, though, my step-father was so full of peace and contentment. I had the thought, “He is ready to die.”

When I had 1st taken the kids to Memphis two weeks’ prior, I had the thought that this might be the last time we would see Poppy. I had never really felt it or thought it like this. I went to a Bible study with my mom one night (yes, sick, but able to get out), and we were broken into groups. When her group had to share, they designated her to talk, and I sat there looking at my mom, thinking how nice it was to do things together and how so many moms and daughters have that opportunity. I thought about how nice it would be to live in the same city and enjoy that kind of blessing. In all my years living in different cities, I’d never given consideration to that, but suddenly, it didn’t seem like a strange idea, but was rather a new and welcome one.

While I was there, my mom had recently finished cleaning her attic (with my sister and me over Spring Break), and she was shipping a lot of her furniture out to Montana to my sister. The movers came, and after they left, I sat in her now spacious den, empty of so much furniture, and I wondered if there was a reason her home was now so clean.

All these things, all these thoughts, so small individually, but collectively, such preparation. It was such a sweet time with them both.

By the time I was able to drive, my husband was traveling to St. Louis for a book convention. He recently authored a fiction book, and he was taking part in some events there. He suggested I drive to St. Louis, spend the night there, and we’d all drive home to Chicago the next day.

We ended up having a wonderful time in St. Louis. Here my children are re-united with their dad after a full month of separation:

We then went to the arch:

From there we went to dinner, then my husband and son went to a Cardinals’ game:

The following morning, we took the children to the City Museum, a unique museum with all kinds of tunnels and places to explore:

Those are my children above, crawling through the outdoor tunnels at the museum.

We drove home that afternoon, only to have to turn around the following day and drive to Wisconsin to the lake to meet my in-laws. They were retiring and had 4 days left at a cabin, after which we could no longer use it. So now having traveled to Europe, Memphis, St. Louis, and finally home, we spent the night and drove to Wisconsin.

A picnic with smores:




We had a wonderful trip to Honey Rock, where I was able to rest and get through most of the rest of my strange virus. From there, we finally headed home, so thankful to be home for the rest of the summer, so thankful to get back to routine, so excited to unpack!

3 days later, after unpacking and getting organized, having re-entered normal life, I received a call from my mom. She said, “Tom is dead.” She told me the paramedics were there, she had just come home and found my step-dad on the floor by the bed. I tried to grasp what she was saying; it all seemed such a blur! No matter what you might expect, you are never ready for this.

I began packing and making my plans and flew back out that night, down to Memphis, to spend the night with my mom, her first night alone. It was so surreal. My husband, kids, and his mom drove down 2 days later, and my husband delivered the message at the funeral. Life can change in an instant, but somehow in the midst of it, we all saw God’s hand, felt His presence, sensed His goodness and timing and ways. It’s not that it wasn’t or isn’t painful, but there is such a difference when you are confident with hope that you will see the one you love again and that he is in the presence of his Savior. Thank you, Lord!

I remember saying, after hearing the news, “Lord, we give thanks, we rejoice, and we praise You.” And I remember a few moments later thinking it all through and saying, “Praise You, Lord, for that virus!” Had I not gotten sick, I would not have spent a week with my step-father just a week before he died. My kids spent two weeks with him. We enjoyed those moments, those conversations, like watching a little bird (who had made her nest in their front door wreath) and her babies.

Yes, thank you, Lord, for the virus. Thank you for your good and perfect ways. It was a small glimspe of how something that seems bad was so full of reason and purpose. If I could only always trust God in moments like that and remember His promise that all things do, in fact, work together for good to those who love Him.

I have one more post about the summer I’ll save for tomorrow, but I wanted to collect these memories in one place to remember what great things God has done. To God be the glory!

A Summer to Remember

My daughter keeps reminding me that I haven’t posted for a while on here. The problem isn’t that I’ve had nothing to say; it’s that I’ve had too much. The summer has perhaps been the strangest of my life. I’ll just use this post to share the first part of our summer, and save more details for later posts.

My husband and I began the summer with a trip to Europe. He led a student group through Italy and Switzerland, and I met him in Geneva at the end. We spent a week traveling through Switzerland and France, seeing some beautiful places, like this below (the view from our hotel pool overlooking the Mediterranean in Cassis, the South of France):

But let me back up… my first stop in Europe, after two flights and arriving finally all by myself to our hotel in Geneva, was here:

Yes, that’s the Emergency Room where we went for this:

You can’t really tell here, but he had fallen the previous day at St. Bernard’s pass while hiking in the Swiss Alps with students. Because he was the leader, he felt compelled to lead on, ignoring an inch long slice in his knee that left him unable to walk and in need of stitches.

By the following day, he was still unable to bend the knee, which was by now infected and swollen and would look much worse than this before it looked better!

He came away with 4 different medications for pain, swelling, and infection, and because he could not bend his knee, I became the designated driver for the trip!

I found it somewhat nerve-wracking to drive, in my jetlagged state, through all the “round-abouts,” travel the interstates (especially when there was fog and rain), drive on so many narrow, winding roads in Southern France and in the Alps. I was never so thankful to pull back into the Geneva airport and park that car at the end of our trip!

We enjoyed the trip a great deal, despite my husband’s injury. Cassis was a beautiful port on the French Riviera. We took a boat trip on the Mediterranean which was beautiful:

Here is my hubby getting chocolate crepes before our boat trip:

We went back later to the same place for gelato, which was delicious. Here is a picture taken after our dinner down by the water. Our hotel (the white building with lights) is in the background:

The hotel pool dropped off right into the Mediterranean and was a beautiful place to relax and read:

I show this last picture of France to give a feel for the kinds of roads I had to drive on. This one in the background was an easy one, but many were very steep and crowded with cars and people, and we were never sure where we were going!

These truly were some beautiful places that we visited in the South of France.

We left Cassis and headed back to Switzerland, hoping to take in the full grandeur of the Alps. This was perhaps what I most looked forward to — seeing the setting of the books that my husband is writing and hearing him tell me about what places we were seeing were places in the book.

Unfortunately, this is what the Alps mostly looked like through the rain and mist we had the entire time we were there!

My husband kept telling me that there were really huge mountains behind what we were seeing, but I think my best view was actually from above during my flight into Geneva days before.

Here is a cute look at the little town we were in (Lauterbrunnen) and the windy roads of the Alps:

There were so many cute villages in the Alps.

When we actually drove into the area and passed the Thunersee, it was just breathtaking with the water and the mountains in the background! We had dinner overlooking the water one night, but my pictures did not capture the beauty of it.

For me, vacationing is often about the food! We ate in some amazing restaurants in each place, but one of my favorite parts of the trip were the “patisseries” in France, the bakeries in Switzerland:

I looked forward to breakfast each day!

We finished our time in Europe by returning to Geneva and touring a few places, like John Calvin’s church:

It was spectacular indoors, and it’s amazing to think how long it’s been standing. The architecture was so beautiful. There was a concert taking place while we were there, so we didn’t tour it as thoroughly as I would have liked, but we did enjoy sitting and listening to the music for a bit:

I liked Geneva and seeing a big European city. This was down by the waterfront where we had dinner. It had to have been one of the windiest days on record! The people selling souvenirs said it was not typical at all… they were worried their things were going to be blown away!

Here are some snapshots of the hustle bustle of Geneva:

This has become a long post with all the pictures, so I’ll pick up in the next post on more of our summer travels, but let me end with this.

God is absolutely faithful! I’ll share the reasons why in another post, but I was so nervous to travel so far from home, cross the ocean, go to other countries. Despite my fears, which I had to confess to the Lord again and again, He faithfully met me every step of the way, and I learned so much. I will share some of those things later, but I can’t end the post without blessing His Name and praising Him for His faithfulness and protection and peace. He is an awesome God, and I stand in awe of Him!

Summer Update

I realize I haven’t posted all summer, and I know my countless blog readers are anxiously awaiting something! Since we’ve been away for much of the summer, I thought I’d try to recap some of it in this blog.

We started the summer with my husband traveling the world again for 3 weeks. He led a group of college students through parts of Europe (Germany, Italy), and then met a friend for a week in Switzerland to hike. He saw some beautiful places, and I have told him it’s time for me to travel with him overseas next time. I think the children are old enough now to do that, though I had been reluctant in years past.

This is my daughter so happy to have her daddy home! The day after he arrived home, we celebrated Father’s Day and his birthday with his extended family.

The following week, we went to a camp in northern Wisconsin with my husband’s parents. The kids loved being out on the water.

Here is my father-in-law instructing my son on driving a boat.

We then enjoyed a couple of weeks in early July being at home, after which we headed to NY to family camp for a week in the Adirondacks. The camp brings in Christian speakers, and my husband was the break out session speaker and talked about the early church fathers. I actually learned a lot, as I seldom hear him teach, so that was fun for me!

This is our family at camp. We next headed from NY to Tennessee where we celebrated birthdays! My step-dad was turning 90, my daughter 9, and I was on the brink of the big 4-0.

We had a surprise birthday party for my step-dad, and it was very meaningful. It included me jumping in a swimming pool to save my nephew’s life who, at 4 years old, had jumped in not realizing he couldn’t swim! I was the only adult in the yard at the time, and praise the Lord, he had drawn my eye from inside the house mingling with guests to outside by the pool where I saw my nephew alone only moments before.

This is my step-dad looking at some of his gifts.

Upon returning home, we celebrated my 40th! Though I don’t feel any different at all, I’m amazed at how quickly the years go by.

Here I am sporting a banner some friends made me — “Fabulous & Forty” – you should have seen the visor! And there is the world’s best ever chocolate chip cheesecake in front of me!

So have I learned anything of great importance this summer? I’ve shared the gospel with a dear man that I knew growing up, and I pray he accepts Christ before the end of his days. One thing I’ve been reminded of over and over: if God can save me, He can save anyone. His arm is not too short to save, and I boldly ask Him to rescue this dear man from his sins and give him new life in Christ.

I’ve been reminded of my absolute dependence on Christ, and that I need to daily be aware of my need, even moment by moment. I’ve found that going to Him at the start of each day, on my knees, is such a blessing. I pray that when I find myself on my knees the next morning, that I will find that I’ve trusted Him more, stumbled less, and grown more in learning to walk blamelessly before Him and in the fear of Him. And I am also praying that I’ll learn to listen better to Him, to consciously know His presence throughout the day. The time in His Word is always a blessing, even when I have to fight my laziness or stubbornness to get there!

So how has your summer been and what have you learned?

Family Camp 2008

We are with my husband’s family in New York for a family camp this week. My father-in-law and our brother-in-law (both of whom are in ministry) are the speakers, and the entire family decided to come along. The children are having great fun with their cousins. We have had plenty of entertainment with miniature golf, arts & crafts, rock wall climbing, playing at the beach, going to the camp’s carnival, sending the children to their classes while we attend teaching sessions, enjoying the concerts put on by the camp, and eating much delicious food.
I never much cared for camp growing up. 2 weeks was a long time to be away, and I always missed my family. This, though, as a family, is actually a lot of fun! I don’t feel homesick having everyone together. This is an ideal arrangement, especially when the children are younger.

I’m enjoying some time, too, to reflect on being a wife and mom. I’ve not ever considered these roles in life as much of a “calling” as I necessarily have other things. For example, when we helped start a school, God gave us a clear “calling.” Many things in life leave me with a sense of calling. Funny how with perhaps the most important roles I have, I’ve never thought about them in this way. And maybe God hasn’t made a particular “call” regarding being a wife and mom simply because it’s so obvious: it’s what I am!

After spending the last 2 years helping get a school started and at times being all consumed by it, I feel God calling me back to these most important roles. Over the last month or so, I’ve realized it over and over again in very specific ways. With my children, I know these days are short, and I don’t have long to pour into these precious lives, these gifts from God. I will continue to work at the school in the job I love, but my prayer is this year will be marked by balance and that each role I have will be put in its proper place.

I praise the Lord today that He has given us the gift of family and that He has taught us in His Word how to act and live as a family in relationship to one another and in relationship to Him. I praise Him that He is able to make all grace abound toward us. I need His help. In nothing else do I see my inadequacies so greatly. In this, as in all things, I must exchange my weakness for His strength and yield to His Spirit’s leading. He will no doubt give me joy in this call as I trust and obey Him. May He renew and revive each of our hearts in this home so that we may all walk in the fullness of Him!