Friday, February 28, 2014

Franco Fridays: Monet's Garden

The first destination of our 9th anniversary trip was Giverny and the house and gardens of Claude Monet.

The day started a bit on the rainy side ("a light French rain" that we always refer back to now), but by the time we reached our destination the day had turned glorious, and I don't think there could have been a better time to visit a place like this.

At first glance, the colors of Monet's house reminded me of a Florida condominium, but all the colors made it seem like the appropriate habitation of an artist.

Pictures would have been a little better if it hadn't been full sun at the time we were there, but what can you do?

The garden was a beautiful place, and every kind of flower imaginable was in bloom (not that I actually know the names of very many flowers).

 After walking through the garden, we followed a winding stream to the famous lily pond.

I didn't want to look creepy, but I couldn't help snatching a quick shot of this little French girl in her beret, sketching flowers.  She completed the scene.

It was a very peaceful, very lush and verdant place.  I'm afraid this is beginning to feel like a picture overload, but it's hard to contain yourself in a place like this.  

You could while away a lot of hours in this place.  Come to think of it, we probably did...until KJ started hinting that we needed to move along if we wanted to make our next destination.

Photography wasn't allowed inside the house, but each room was painted a different bright color than the last.  I especially loved all the blue and white tile in the kitchen.

The tulips were divine.

He's such a stud carrying my camera bag around for me...even though he's posed in front of a pink house and pink tulips.

We found a place there to grab a quick lunch, and we were on our way.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Childhood Memories

I was able to go visit my grandparents this week with my mom and brothers.  It was the first time in lots of years (since we all have been at school, getting married, and moving in our own separate directions) that all four siblings have been there at the same time.  

The passing of time is such a strange thing.  Being with my brothers and remembering back to all the years we lived under the same roof, sharing in all the daily rituals of life, made me realize how brief and impermanent the season of parenting is.  And I'm thankful again for my father for capturing the moments of our childhood in pictures and for taking the time to preserve them for us digitally.  I can take a walk down memory lane any time.

I'm really glad we got to visit my Papa.  I have so many memories of the times we spent by the wood stove, of swinging underneath the tree in the backyard, while singing, "Zacheus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he.  He climbed up in the sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see.We loved it when it was our turn to sit in his lap on the riding lawnmower while he cut the grass in that hot summer sun.

I remember how he would take us to Show Biz--and then Chuck E Cheese when the name changed--every time we came to visit.  We loved jumping in the ball pit, earning tickets and picking out our prizes.  

I remember breakfasting at McDonald's on the mornings before we'd leave to go home.  I can see the little container of pancakes and sausage so vividly in my mind, of peeling back the foil on the little cup of orange juice.  It's so funny the things that stay with you.  It makes me thankful that he always took the time to do those things with us.

Most importantly, he always gave us a dollar bill each time we left his house, so we could stop for ice cream on the way home.  There are other memories made when I was older, of course.  I got to spend my college years in the same city with my grandparents, and that was such a blessing.  But you always have a special place in your heart for the memories made in childhood.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Even a Cup of Cold Water

There are moments when I am awe-struck at the kindness of the Lord, when I am reminded that the God of all the universe really is "the God who sees."  

Last week I was reminded of how much it serves my children and my entire household when I am disciplined about planning our days; I was inspired to be more focused and intentional about when teaching and schoolwork happen.  I think my extra-intentionality did make our week better, but yesterday I was discouraged and battling the feelings of, "Is all this worth it?  Who even cares about what I am doing?  Are all of my efforts in vain?"  At that point it was time to begin the day's lessons, which always begin with reading the Bible.  There are daily readings embedded in our curriculum, and we usually read several verses, but yesterday there was just one verse listed to read.  Matthew 10:42, just one sentence.

And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.

Oh, the relief that flooded my soul.  Why, yes, it does matter.  There is Someone who sees every little thing done in faith for Jesus.  It all matters, even the simplest of acts, a cup of cold water served up for the 10th time that day.  All the desires to do good for Jesus' sake all matter, and He sees them.  What is even more amazing is that He rewards them.

I would be lying if I said the rest of the day went by without another moment of doubt, but those words of Jesus--so timely--helped me press on and fight the good fight of faith.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Franco Fridays: Fields of Gold

There have been times in our marriage when my husband's sense of practical logic drove me crazy, but when that same logic thinks it makes good sense to extend our time in France after the mission trip is over since we're already there?  His logic seemed very appealing in that moment, although I went through the usual feelings of guilt about leaving the kids and worrying about what people would think.  I'm so glad he convinced me it was a good idea.  What a gift.  We said good-bye to the rest of our team at their gate and made our way to pick up our rental car.  I was pretty exhausted from staying up until the wee hours packing, but the day was bright before us.

We didn't have to drive very far out of the airport before all the bright yellow fields I'd seen on Pinterest materialized before my eyes, and it was several miles  kilometers before I stopped exclaiming over their beauty.

Time with him on the open road was the best 9th anniversary present a girl could have.

One thing we discovered on our trip to the UK is that we really loved taking the back roads.  And in France, that same KJ sense of logic planned that we would do the same there, especially since you had to pay extra for driving on the equivalent of our interstate.  We love country roads and all the little villages you drive through along the way.

Taking the back ways gives you a chance to pull the car over for pictures...which we may have done quite a bit.

I'm looking forward to re-living our drive through Normandy.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bedtime Songs

We all have those songs we sing to our kids at bedtime.  I've cycled through several different songs with Ella and James, and a few months ago, I started singing the song that KJ's mom sang to him before bed.  You never know how the songs you sing to your kids might affect them; I doubt Mama T knew that one day KJ would sing that song to me one fateful night under the stars.  

What started as a bedtime lullaby for James turned into a sing-a-long tonight, and it made me laugh so much that I thought it was a moment to remember.  What a blessing video can be.


Also worth remembering is the last-minute requests James makes at bedtime.  Tonight's?  "Mommy, stay up for 130 minutes."  Deal.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Good Shepherd

But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
To him the gatekeeper opens.

The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name
and leads them out.

When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them,
and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.

- John 10:2-4 -

 I'm so thankful that we can know His voice, so thankful for Jesus, the Good Shepherd of the sheep.