Weeks Two through Five of Summer!

The weeks are passing quickly this summer! We spent Weeks Two and Three in the UK.

London
Cambridge
punting the Cam
Ely
Ely Cathedral, a favorite stop on our trip
We went to “Songs of Praise” at Ely Cathedral. We sang “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” (a favorite hymn of mine) and “How Great Thou Art” – beautiful!
Oxford
Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church, Oxford
Blenheim Palace
We loved Blenheim Palace and took many pictures inside and out!
Warwick Castle
Stratford on Avon
Shakespeare’s birthplace
Wales
Back to Cambridge
Cambridge American Cemetery

one of the colleges in Cambridge
We were so thankful for safe travels and health for everyone while we were away. We were traveling with my mom and my in-laws, so we had a lot of family which made it particularly fun. I posted about 200 pictures on Facebook, which was really only a fraction of what we took. I’m always grateful to travel and have my picture and knowledge of the world and history expanded.

We returned to the States, while my husband went on to Switzerland to finish another week with students that he teaches overseas in the summer.

Week Four of summer was unpacking, laundry, resting, and enjoying the 4th of July with dear friends. Our friends live on a golf course and river in a nearby town, and it’s becoming our tradition to spend the 4th with them, having a cookout and watching the fireworks on the river. It is such a beautiful and peaceful place to be, and the weather was perfect. We enjoyed the evening with good friends, but I failed to take pictures!

Week Five brought my sister-in-law and her family to town. We spent the week doing activities with them and their children.

Then Saturday I met up with my “big sister” from my sorority in college. We hadn’t seen each other in 16 years! They were in town for vacation, and we got together, and it was so much fun. I have Facebook to thank for how easily we have been able to keep in touch in recent years.

First friend I made in college: went through Rush only to meet people, not intending to join a sorority, but met a great group of Christian friends who made my years in college very special! Thankful to the Lord for this dear friend and her influence in my life!
Now we enter Week Six, and I feel like we have a slow week ahead of us. I’m looking forward to it! We’ll be home the rest of the summer, and I love it!

My son is in workouts and camps four days a week. I have a goal to not eat out as much! I’ve been planning my menus and cooking more, and I’m enjoying it. I never know what to do when I have so much time on my hands, so I’m trying to make the most of it.

And lastly, my mom and I started our Beth Moore summer Bible study on the Psalms of Ascent. It’s only 7 weeks so we could fit it in starting late! It’s always fun to see the group that God brings together, people He’s brought in our paths. I last did this study five years ago with a couple of women I worked with at the time, and it’s fun to look back at what was happening in life then. We’re supplementing the study with Journey to Joy: The Psalms of Ascent, and they actually complement each other well.

I read the book Radical by David Platt before we went to Europe. I wanted to read it after I finished his book Follow Me. I am being challenged in the area of personal evangelism. I thought about it a lot after finishing these books, the preacher preached on it in Cambridge when we were in church, the book of the month at our church has been on this subject, and in other ways, it seems to be at the forefront of my mind. There are way too many thoughts for me to process here, but I just don’t want to be complacent. I think it starts again with prayer.

One other theme has been “looking up,” “opening my eyes,” “lifting up my eyes,” etc. I pray God gives me eyes to see and a heart to obey and follow Him each day wherever He leads, whether in the mundane tasks of life or in the adventures life brings, and to reach out to others in His Name.

Pictures

Here are some recent pictures I thought I’d share.

My husband took my daughter hiking in East Tennessee a couple of weeks ago. They had so much fun! I was a little nervous about the trip and not being with them. It was originally planned as a family trip, but I could not walk when the time came, and my son decided he would stay with me and take part in school and church activities that were planned for that weekend.

These are the kinds of pictures they sent to scare me throughout the weekend:

warning sign for bears!

 

looks like she’s falling off the mountain!
They emailed this with a caption “Look what we saw” – it was actually a picture they took from a book!

But they actually had a great time!

on a hike
horseback riding where they actually DID see a bear!

Moving on to other things…

My sister-in-law (pictured below) brought me these last week. I thought they were cheery, and they smelled so pretty.

I have a 14-year old! My mom gave the party since it was only 3 days after my surgery. I hope he felt celebrated! I’m thankful for our sweet families (my mom, my husband’s parents, and his brother’s family are all local) who have been so supportive and helpful.

I’m also thankful for my sweet neighbors and friends who have prayed for me and brought us dinner, giving my mom a break. What an unexpected gift!

This also reminds me how wonderful everyone at work has been to support me through this last month. They have all been so kind and helpful. I’ll never forget my friend getting the church wheelchair to get me to my car one day when things were so rough! 🙂 We will surely laugh of that again in years to come!

I started this post just looking for a few recent pictures to share, but am ending it full of gratefulness for God’s provision of loving friends who have called, emailed, sent cards, and prayed over the last month. What a blessing and encouragement! And I’m grateful for His protection and care over my family as they traveled. Thank you, Lord!

Summer Lessons

I’m finally remembering to do my summer wrap up post on how the Lord revealed Himself so mercifully to me during challenging times.

From the moment my husband planned our Europe trip, I dreaded it. I didn’t want to leave the children, I was anxious to travel overseas, and I am quite simply a homebody. I am a creature of habit and routine, and travel has always caused upheaval for me to leave my comfort zone. There are only a few exceptions, such as Florida, the Smokies, going to the lake, family camp, or other trips with my family. Nonetheless, I felt like it was the right decision to go, and I was encouraged to do so by many friends and family members.

Several times a week in the weeks prior to the trip, I would wake up in the night with an anxious heart, confess it to the Lord, acknowledge that this fear was not from Him, pray, quote Scripture, and return to sleep. Oftentimes, I would even wake up and scream out from crazy confusion in my sleep!

As the trip grew closer, my feelings of nervousness grew, the stress even manifesting itself in physical ways, but my decision to go was also certain. I would not back out. I was waiting to be surprised by how magnificent a trip it would be and to surely discover that my fears were unwarranted; somehow I expected to find out that maybe I would be a world traveler and be excited to plan future trips! I was also sort of waiting to be blessed for my “obedience” to go, if I’m honest!

No matter how much I had prayed about it during those weeks, there didn’t seem to be any kind of confirming word from the Lord speaking directly to my concerns. I just held on to what I knew was truth as found in the Bible, and I kept on in prayer, waiting for Him to help me. He did. There were nights I was comforted, nights I was blessed by reciting Scripture, and His presence was real. But I really wanted specific insight into how to handle this trip, and I didn’t have that.

Until the day before I left. June 13th. I love that about God. There is purpose in the waiting of learning to trust and obey Him, to believe Him even when we can’t see or know the outcome. And at the right time, He just provides exactly what is needed.

I was down in Memphis dropping off my children, planning to fly back to Chicago that afternoon to then fly the following day to Europe. It was a Sunday, and we did not make it to church. My mom’s friend called and said she wanted to bring by the CD of the sermon that she had just heard. It was by Reggie Sessions, pastor at Independent Presbyterian in Memphis. I’d never heard him before, but this was an excellent message from I Samuel 18, I believe. He talked about the slavery of living in our kingdom, the freedom of getting out of the way, and what we find at the end of the line.

In looking at the life of Saul, he described that it is when we live to protect our kingdom that we are bitter, jealous, resentful, angry — “it takes away our humanity,” he said, and we become a shell of a human being. We’re trying to be God and the center of our universes, and we’re bad at it. We want to be free, but we’re addicted to our kingdom.

He then talked about how we need to get out of the way. He looked at the life of Jonathan, Saul’s son, who surrendered to David’s kingship. He got off the throne and didn’t demand his rights. He laid his life into David’s hand, and gave David his sword, belt and bow.

Reggie described how we are at war with God, but we must surrender. We are fighting against Jesus the King and don’t want to surrender control of our lives. To stand down and be broken is the only way to liberation and peace of mind.

At the end of the line, there is nothing left to hide and no more attempts to control the world. This is where there is peace and joy. He described THE Person (Jesus) who got off His throne for us, who came to give us abundant life. When we surrender and go to the end of the line, “we get our true humanity back.” At the end of the line, it’s not loss, but gain.

What I found so convicting in the message was the description of one trying to control her life. Reggie said, “Some of you are too afraid to leave Memphis and all the things you love to go on a vacation.” It was funny how there were perfect quotes throughout the sermon that were completely accurate to my situation.

Later in the day, I was sitting in the Memphis airport delayed on my flight to Chicago. I began to pray and got out my journal to write my thoughts. They centered on the faithfulness of God: “Lord, You have been faithful!” I wrote a couple of paragraphs on His faithfulness and accompanying verses, then wrote, “You are asking me to do something so outside of my comfort zone, but I thank you for speaking to me, and I pray You will show me Yourself and reveal Yourself to me all along the way, just like You did with the sermon this morning.”

As I sat there, praying and listening, I wrote down what was on my heart: “Just take the next step. One step at a time. Wait on Me. Trust Me.

When I finally boarded the plane to Chicago a short time later, I opened up a book my mom had given me. It was The Saving Life of Christ by Ian Thomas. I’d never opened it before; it was a completely new book to me.

I opened the first page, and it said, “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.” (I Thess. 5:24) He then writes, “If you will but trust Christ, not only for the death He died in order to redeem you, but also for the life that He lives and waits to live through you, the very next step you take will be a step taken in the very energy and power of God Himself…. You will be restored to your true humanity.

Not only did the book begin by talking about the very contents of my prayer moments before — God’s faithfulness and my call to trust Him and take the next step — but it also re-affirmed the words in the sermon from Reggie — in so doing, you will be restored to your true humanity!

As I read this book, it absolutely amazed me that it spoke so directly to my current situation. As Ian Thomas developed life in the wilderness versus walking in abundance with Christ each day, he even wrote: “Do you still consider that you have the right to choose where you will spend your vacation? You do not have that right! Except in the wilderness!”

Over and over, the book spoke to my specific situation, and while I had waited for the Lord to speak to me, He so mercifully met me in such a powerful way.

The following day, June 14th, in traveling to Europe, I just did what He had shown me: take the next step. All I need to think about is the next step… not be worried about what is beyond it. So I would stand in the line to check my bags. All I need to do is check the bags. Then I would figure out boarding, and take that step. And the trip became just a series of steps wherein I could trust Him with each one.

When I was threatened to be overcome with fear, I could just remember He was with me, He is faithful, He would take me through this step, I could trust Him.

I hope I will hang on to these lessons as I go forward in my life. There were so many other things over the remainder of the summer, but these things really stick out to me. He is all we need, and He is more than enough. It is right to let Him be on the throne, to let Him guide us in each successive step, to believe Him for those moments and trust His sovereignty. He is faithful; He is good. I praise You, Lord!

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:23 (ESV)

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:

Canoeing:

Tubing:

Boating:

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!

Mother-Daughter Tea


Today, my daughter and I attended a Mother-Daughter Tea at our church. It was a sweet time, and she loved it. She seemed so grown up today, in a new dress from her grandmother, sporting a new haircut. I love time spent with each of my children individually.

God keeps driving home to me the point I made in my last post — that He is strong, and I am weak, that I live this life by the power of His Spirit providing me the strength I need, not through my own self effort.

I had the opportunity to go out of town last weekend and visit friends we knew when we lived in Virginia. We had a nice day and a half of visiting before I got sick with a stomach bug! It is not fun to be sick away from home, and I was praying I wouldn’t infect this sweet family. (My friend is pregnant and has a young child, and her husband has a busy job… the last thing I wanted to leave them would be this “gift”!)

I have to say though that the Lord used this time to give me a great deal of sleep and rest and time to read and study for longer periods than I normally have. He continued to speak to me about the topic of my last post and some things He is helping me understand right to my core.

I had the time to read a great book by Andrew Murray entitled Absolute Surrender that my friend had. It was exactly on this topic of living in surrender to God, allowing His Spirit to fill and lead me, and how He is strong when we are weak. I was absolutely weak, recognizing that in this sickness I was experiencing my weakness in a very physical way, but that this is just a picture of how I really always am, whether I feel it or not! I so need God and His power and strength, and I need to trust Him!

Murray described more about this surrender to God:

  • God expects my surrender,
  • God accomplishes my surrender,
  • God accepts my surrender,
  • God maintains my surrender
  • God blesses when I surrender.

Murray says, “I come to you with a message, fearful and anxious one. God does not ask you to give the perfect surrender in your strength, or by the power of your will; God is willing to work it in you.” (Philippians 2:13) “Look away from ourselves and look up to God.”

Here are some quotes from Andrew Murray’s book that I loved:

“The Spirit of God has come to make our daily life an exhibition of divine power and a revelation of what God can do for His children.”

“May God grant that the Word may enter into the very depths of our being to search us, and if we discover that we have not come out from the world entirely, if God discovers to us that the self-life, self-will, and self exaltation are there, let us humble ourselves before Him.”

“Why is there not more blessing? We have not honored the Holy Ghost as we should have done. Is there one who can say that that is not true? Is not every thoughtful heart ready to cry: ‘God forgive me that I have not honored the Holy Spirit as I should have done, that I have grieved Him, that I have allowed self and the flesh and my own will to work where the Holy Ghost should have been honored! May God forgive me that I have allowed self and the flesh and the will actually to have the place that God wanted the Holy Ghost to have.'”

“Religious self effort always ends in sinful flesh.”

Murray states that we must:

  • Humble yourself in His sight.
  • Acknowledge that you have grieved the Holy Spirit by your self will, self confidence and self effort.
  • Bow humbly before Him in confession of that.
  • Ask Him to bring you into the dust before Him.
  • Then as you bow, accept God’s teaching that in your flesh there dwelleth no good thing (Romans 7:18) and that nothing will help you except another Life come in.
  • Denying self must every moment be the power of your life, and then Christ will come in and take possession of you.”

So the sickness, though at first glance could have been a temptation to feel disappointment, instead was meant for good, to give me rest, to give me time to think and pray, for God to continue to teach me what He’s been showing me, to give me more opportunity to trust Him. He is so faithful, and I am thankful.