My husband and I were able to travel in Europe for a few weeks in May. We were going through a major transition - he had just graduated from four years of graduate school and I was about to launch into my masters degree full time. Trey has brought homework along on every trip together for most of our marriage, and the last year of school was incredibly stressful for him. When some pretty amazing circumstances allowed us to travel to see family and friends in Europe for a fraction of the normal cost, we jumped on the opportunity. It was a time for Trey to totally disengage and reset; for us to connect better with both sets of parents who were then living in the UK; and to celebrate and give thanks. We know it was a rare opportunity. Enjoy the pictures! Looking back over them has helped usher me into a sense of thankfulness once again.
Locations: London, Bath, Bexleyheath, Cambridge, Glasgow, Inverness, Scottish Highlands, Edinburgh, Paris, Kandern, Freiburg, Lucerne, Mt. Pilatus.
Sometimes I am a brat. And sometimes The Lord is kind to me in spite of it.
Today has been crazy in the very best of ways. Trey and I have been in Michigan for a staff training all weekend and were scheduled fly back home out of Detroit this afternoon. When we checked in, the Delta kiosk notified us that the flight was overbooked and asked if we wanted to be put on the volunteer list to take another flight. We chose the voucher amount for which we would be willing to give up our flight if need be and headed to the gate.
Of course, complete chaos greeted us when we arrived. The terminal was packed and every passenger had a sour expression on his or her face. Yuck. When our name was called to talk to the desk about giving up our seat, the only alternative flight for us to take was tomorrow morning, so we declined the offer. The voucher amount we had agreed to really wasn't worth giving up an afternoon flight for a night in an airport hotel and an early morning flight the next day.
So we boarded the plane and settled in. Every livid passenger was loaded and then came the announcement that the flight was still overbooked and that they were still looking for passengers to give up their seats for that morning flight. Trey and I looked at each other and decided to check in with the stewardess and see if they had upped the voucher offer. Of course they had, because no one was budging on that flight, and so we jumped on it. We grabbed our belongings, got off the plane, and soon had vouchers in our hands for twice the amount we had initially bargained for!
Now, this thing happens all of the time. Flights are overbooked and folks deal with inconvenience in order get a free flight out of it. Why was today so incredible for me?
For the past three months, my husband and I have been wrestling over whether we can afford to go to Europe next summer. We don't have tons of money, but we have a lot of frequent flyer miles and both sets of parents will be in the UK. From one perspective, it's not infeasible for us to go visit. From the other perspective, it's not the best use of our money. And this is the heart of the problem. How do you know how to make these decisions? What is wise and what is frivolous? What is practical and what is miserly?
Trey and I have stood on, exchanged, and danced around both sides of the issue for months, and it has not been easy. We have laughed about it and we have cried about it (ok, let's be honest, mostly I've cried about it.) In the end, we have learned so much about each other in the process. It's amazing what something like this teaches you about your spouse. This has been one of the issues that hasn't been serious enough to pour time and energy into, nor has it been small enough to just laugh it off. And sometimes those are the very hardest.
Apart from learning a ton about my husband, his priorities and the way he thinks, I've mainly learned a lot about my brattiness. In particular, I've learned a lot about my brattiness with the Lord. There have been very legitimate things for me to be upset or frustrated about concerning this decision, but those have been really small compared to the great many things I've gotten upset about that were not worth it. And I don't think I really saw that until today, when for no apparent reason, God gave us exactly what we needed to be able to do this special thing we really wanted to do.
God blessed us today and I don't know why. Going to Europe is not a need. Going to Europe is not particularly beneficial to us. I've been a pretty big brat about it a lot. This story is not an example of God taking care of your needs exactly when you most needed him to. This isn't about God fulfilling his promises, because we all know God never promised we would get every frivolous thing we ever wanted.
Rather this story is about God giving one of his daughters something good when she totally didn't deserve it. And that's the incredible God we serve - a God who gives extraordinary gifts and blessings to people who truly are not worthy of them.
Trey and I just had the best weekend. We went on a "workcation" to an island off the coast of Maine. Trey took his homework and I took some personal projects I'm working on and we hung out in a beautiful renovated barn. Every morning we woke up to the sound of crickets and seagulls out the windows. We opened up the french doors to look out on our host's luscious garden while cooking bacon and eggs for breakfast. After dinner we drank wine and listened to jazz. It was great.
Now we're home and for the past couple of hours, I've been really struggling with disappointment. We're anticipating next year holding a lot of changes for us as Trey wraps up his degrees and works while I become a full-time student. For the past couple of months, I've been trying to figure out exactly what I'm going to study and where. But it's all so complicated and it seems like every day I have a new plan. And plans can be very dangerous things for me.
Part of the joy of this last weekend was that the seclusion and disconnect from reality gave me space to think and dream. I have so many ideas about my time in school and I think they are good ideas. A weekend of reading and contemplating and hashing things out with my husband was so exciting. My imagination could just run with its thoughts.
But coming back home and regaining cell service and unlimited internet access reawakens reality. I'm confronted with costs and time constraints and professors retiring and all I can feel is disappointment seeping in. Reality is not bad and I know it, but I still feel frustrated and let down.
As I descended into the pit of self-pity this evening, a thought occurred to me and challenged my disappointment with the situation. Here was my thought: I am going to be the same person after this degree as I am now. Such freedom accompanied this thought! Going back to school is going to be a really good thing. Getting to study and write about my particular interests would be a really great thing. But none of it is going to magically alter my life.
It's so easy for me to see these changes coming my way as something that will make me happier. I look forward to getting to do what I want to do and developing certain skills I believe I have. But none of that is going to change who I am at the center of my being. Wanting change is not a bad thing. It's just that I have to ask myself, am I wanting the right change? Maybe school will enable me to do certain things, but it's not what will make me a better person. If I'm tired of myself now, relief won't come through avoiding disappointing circumstances, but rather through changing my heart.
Going back to school won't somehow make me the person I've always wanted to be. It won't save me from let down and disappointment. Seeing myself through the eyes of Jesus will turn me into the person my soul longs to be. For in him I can find satisfaction not only with the ups and downs of sunrise in Maine and sunset back in my home office, but most importantly, with the person he has made me now and the person is making me to become.
Pictures of our recent trip are up! These are people and places we love dearly. Hope you enjoy...
Also thought I would share some pictures from the past weekend. Trey's sister came to visit and we had a splendid time driving around Cape Ann and showing her the many nearby small coastal towns.
I've been recently inspired to restart this blog. It was my primary outlet during my years living in Asia, but upon returning to the United States, my interest in it dwindled (see Carved to Adorn, the blog my sister and I write, for a glimpse of where my creative energies have been channeled).
With my recent marriage and move to the Boston area, however, I've once again transitioned to a new home and once again struggled to connect with my new surroundings. (Noticing a trend... hmmm?) My poor, dear husband has finally grown tired of me complaining about life in New England, so it's time for me to move past the "I-can't-handle-this-place" stage to one of the truly best stages - exploration and discovery.
So as I've done with the last 2 moves, I am going to make a list of 50 things I like about Boston and/or New England. I must confess, it seems a daunting task at the moment, but so did it feel every other time I forced myself to make such a list. It'll grow over the coming weeks and I anticipate, by the time I'm finished, I will truly be able to say "I love this place."
Here it goes...
1. Having a home with my husband
2. Apartment windows that look out onto trees
3. Neighbors who a) own horses, and b) ride their horses around the neighborhood
4. Living this close to the ocean - a first!
5. Mike's Pastry Shop
6. The Boston Public Library
7. Hearing Turkey's gobble out the apartment window
8. The commuter rail and the T
9. Finally having somewhere to hang my art collection
10. Lots and lots of used book stores - seriously could not ask for a city with more of them!
A couple months ago, I had an experience that gave me hope for this city.
I hopped into a cab and gave the driver directions. He didn't say much in response and started driving. Eventually, I could tell we were not going in the right direction and the usual struggle arose within me. Do I start making a scene in order to prevent this man from cheating me or do I let him continue to drive in silence while stewing over the disadvantages of being a foreigner in this country? For whatever reason, I decided to keep my mouth shut. I didn't have enough fight in me that particular afternoon to decipher the local dialect and strive to make myself understood to someone who couldn't care less about what I wanted to communicate.
I thank God I kept my mouth shut.
Two-thirds of the way into the drive, we were stopped at a light and my driver made a surprised gesture. He then flipped off the fare meter. At this point, I panicked thinking he was trying to pull off the typical move of, "Oh, my meter is broken. You have to pay 2x the fare now." I started to protest, only to see him switch the meter on again from the beginning.
Very surprised, I asked him about it. He turned around and gave me a sheepish look saying that he had realized he went in the wrong direction and therefore wanted to start the fare over again in order not to cheat me.
This... NEVER... happens here.
5 minutes later, we were at my destination and he had lost the majority of his fare because of his honesty. Again, let me reiterate that I have never witnessed such honesty in this city. It felt like a glimmer of hope was peaking through the fog of humanity. I don't know if this man knew True Life, but I suspect he did because of how different he was from what is totally normal here. His face was spongy, his teeth were black and protruded from his mouth, his eyes were crossed, but he was one of the most beautiful people I have encountered in this country.
He glorifies his Maker and builds my trust in these fascinating people that the Lord is redeeming.
During my vacation, I was unexpectedly stuck in Phnom Penh while waiting for my stolen passport to be replaced. Upon arriving in the city, my roommate and I didn't have a hotel booked and ended up heading to the closest hostel that seemed decent. Everything about it seemed fine - location was great, rooms were big and clean, owners were helpful - until I woke up in the middle of the night to hear English speaking men making a ruckus with Cambodian women. They were audibly very drunk and in the process of the completing the night by getting the women into their hostel rooms. The next morning, I sat outside my room in order to get a better wireless connection and witnessed one of saddest scenes. The two men where young Americans and they were in the process of paying and sending off the Cambodian prostitutes they had brought back in the night.
The women's eyes were bloodshot and though they laughed and smiled at the men as they said goodbye, the look of emptiness was unmistakable. One girl sat across from me while waiting for her friend and my heart broke for her. I don't know how exactly to describe her expression, but in addition to emptiness, it contained sadness, weariness, and hardness. It was not the face of a woman who liked herself. I felt repulsed by her, but hut for her; however, the real repulsion came when I looked at the men. Deep, deep anger, loathing, and hatred was inside of me. I felt nauseous. A very long string of curses came to mind, but I won't write them down. What misery for all involved. What evil really does exist.
A woman can legally work as a prostitute in Cambodia when she is 18 years old, but many are forced, or sold, into the work. I don't know what these two women's stories were, but bumping into them gave a whole new meaning to the anti-trafficking signs posted all over the country. Many hotels in Phnom Penh specifically state if they are "No Sex Tourism Allowed" locations and I quickly learned to look for such places when booking places to stay the city.
Please take time to watch the following videos. The third one isn't possible to embed, but please take the time to click on the url.
This is the largest form of slavery in our modern world. This evil does exist beyond your computer screen. I've seen it now first hand.