Archive | June 2012

A Jaunt in Jane Austen Country

Peter and Caroline have lent us their car, so today we drove to Winchester to visit our friends Tim and Pippa. We’ve known them nearly eight years now and, although we’re separated by both an ocean and a continent–and only see each other about once at year (if we’re lucky)–they are among our dearest friends. We always seem to pick up right where we left off.

We all traipsed into into town from their house, dodging raindrops, and Tim suggested we go into the Winchester Cathedral to `’have a pray`’ and get out of the rain.  A choir of school children was singing as we entered,  their lovely voices ringing through the centuries-old cathedral. We found ourselves a side chapel in which to sit and pray for one another—specifically for our kids, as we often do when we’re together. It’s such a poignant feeling to be praying in a place believers have looked for and experienced God for centuries, and so easy to feel connected to history here.

Speaking of history, this place is full of it. Jane Austen (who wrote Pride and Predjudice and is my favorite author) was buried below the cathedral. She lived most of her life in Hampshire, and died right here in Winchester. Her gravestone is set in the floor and reads:

In memory of Jane Austen, youngest daughter of the late Rev. George Austen, formerly Rector of Steventon in this county, who departed this life on the 18th of July, 1817, aged 41, after a long illness, supported by the patience and the hopes of a Christian. The benevolence of her heart, the sweetness of her temperament, the extraordinary endowments of her mind obtained the regard of all who knew her and the warmest love of her intimate connections.

Their grief is in proportion to their affections. They know their loss to be irreparable but in their deepest affliction they are comforted by a firm though humble hope that her charity, devotion, faith and purity have rendered her soul acceptable in the sight of her Redeemer.

(On past visits to Hampshire I’ve dragged Doug around to every Jane Austen memorial in the county. He’s such a good sport.)


On our way out the door we stopped and asked a posh-looking older gentleman to take our picture together. We lined up and as he raised the camera to snap the photo, he quipped in his upper crust British accent, “Think about sex!” Of course it was the last thing we expected to hear from him so we all nearly died laughing, which is why you see us all cracking up like a bunch of teenagers  🙂

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I Woke up in Woking

Back in the UK and so happy to be here!

 

We arrived at 6:30 a.m. to a bit of a soggy, muggy day. I grabbed a quick nap and then went on a run into town to meet a couple of friends for coffee.  Was I really in Gig Harbor only yesterday?

 

Lots of construction going on in the town square in Woking these days. It’s looking beautiful and oh-so-modern … then right around the corner I run into a street of row shops that looks like a scene from a Dickens novel. I love that about England.

 

Running past lovely manor homes and laurel hedges, holly with morning glory pouring out of it, a house called “Pooh Corner” (all the houses have names here)… past the football (soccer) field and the neighborhood pub (can’t wait for fish and chips and STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING) … have I mentioned how much I love England?

 

This is my sixth trip to the U.K., so it’s kind of becoming a home away from home, of sorts.  We absolutely love it here: the people, the sights. The culture and history. The heart and spirit.

 

It’s hard to say if that’s just coincidence and personal affinity, or because we both have roots here.  Doug’s grandfather was born in Devon, my great-grandparents in Hampshire and Scotland. I find it kind of a surreal (but very nice feeling) to go back to where our “people” came from.

 

That’s why I love it that God would bring Doug and me around full circle, back to the area our own grandparents and great-grandparents left almost a hundred years ago. Not just to vacation, but to serve. Not just to teach, but to learn.  Not just to work, but to enjoy authentic friendships and Kingdom community.

 

We’re really looking forward to being part of the Prayer-Saturated Life conference at ChristChurch Woking next weekend, June 29-30 in Woking, Surrey.  UK friends, if you’re around and available, please join us!

 

It’s going to be a full ten days. I’ll post some pics and blog entries and share some of our experiences, observations, and reflections.  Glad to share the journey and keep you posted! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Travel Advisory

Okay, this trip I am NOT going to forget anything.

The last THREE trips I’ve taken I have forgotten something significant and had to turn around and go home to get it.  That was especially a pain last week when I was HALF WAY TO CANADA and realized I’d forgotten my alien card. And I can’t get back into the U.S.A. without it.

(Yes, I’m an alien. Don’t get distracted. Stay with me here.)

So I had to turn around, come home, spend the night (I was too tired to drive another four hours after that), and start all over again the next morning.

That will be a little difficult if I’m half way to England next week and realize I’ve forgotten something!

So here’s my plan and I’m told by reliable sources that it’s a good one and should work. Barring operator error. 🙂

My (Hopefully) Helpful Travel Checklist

–       PRAYER.  “ If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5). Always the best place to start. I definitely need wisdom.

–       LIST.  You’d think this would be a no-brainer, as much as I travel, but not necessarily. Make it several days in advance so I have time to think about all the things I might need. Double check it and cross things off as I put them into my suitcase. Save list on computer for next trip.

–       TRAVEL DOCS. Make sure I have my passport, alien card (never leave the planet without it–or the country, anyway), and driver’s license. Also a copy of my travel itinerary and flight confirmation numbers. Check in online the night before.

–       CARDS.  My debit card, and the credit card that DOESN’T charge foreign exchange fees (Banks can be tricky; gotta watch ‘em). Also my Oyster Card (for the “tube”) if I’m going to the U.K. because I always seem to come home with a credit balance left on it, so I may as well use it up…

–       PHOTOCOPIES of passport and credit/debit cards. Bring one set with me and leave one at home, in case my passport and/or cards get lost or stolen. With my track record this is always a distinct possibility.

–      ELECTRONICS. I definitely can’t forget my computer; I always work on the plane. And I usually have speaking notes and slides on it when it’s a work trip. Don’t forget power cord. Also bring Ipod, charger, headphones, and camera.

–       BOOKS AND CONFERENCE MATERIALS. I always have these when I’m on a work or ministry trip. Pack them a few days in advance, NOT the night before. Weigh extra boxes to make sure they’re under the allowed weight.

–       BUCKY. This is my soft neck pillow that helps me be so comfy on planes that I can sleep sitting up.

–       “NO JET LAG” PILLS. I buy these at the Super Supplement store in Tacoma. Homeopathic remedy for jet lag. I used these in combination with a thyroid support supplement last time I went to the U.K. and seriously, NO JET LAG!

–       PACK A COUPLE OF DAYS IN ADVANCE, not the night before (except last minute toiletries). Weigh suitcase now, NOT morning of.

Weirdly, about a month ago and a half ago I had a dream that it was the morning of my departure to England and I was frantically trying to throw things into my suitcase. I hadn’t made a list, hadn’t planned ahead, and here it was the morning of the trip and I was late for the airport and I realized, horrified …

… that my passport (which I’d sent in for renewal a couple of months earlier) hadn’t arrived!

But of course, that was just a dream, right? (Although the part about having submitted my passport for renewal was true.)

Oddly enough, I do leave in six days, have had TWO crises with Passport Canada in the renewal process, and my passport STILL hasn’t arrived. It’s supposedly en route from Quebec as we speak.

Please tell me that wasn’t a prophetic dream.

That’s why I’m making a list. Checking it twice. And praying for smooth travels …

 

Relationship Status: Married and Dating

The night before last I babysat my brand-new granddaughter for the first time. What a treat. A whole evening to snuggle her, all to myself.

Just last week my daughter rolled her eyes at me and said, “Mom, why are you so into her?”

Oh please. (People warned me it would be love at first sight, but you really don’t know till you experience it just how hard and how quickly a grandchild can grab your heart.)

But I digress.

Speaking of heart-grabbing, though, the REASON I got to babysit Willa was that Heather and Jacob were going out on their FIRST DATE. Well, obviously, not their FIRST first date.  What I mean is, their first date post-baby (three weeks).  I joked with them on their way out the door, “You’re probably going to sit across the table from each other and wonder what you talked about before you had a baby.”

I was so glad they did that, though. Hats off to them. I’m glad they’ve picked up on the important truth that DATING YOUR SPOUSE IS SO IMPORTANT, whether your kids are newborns, teenagers, or adults.

Where do we find time?  We MAKE time. My life is as crazy as yours is. Really, most people’s lives are, aren’t they? A whirlwind of work, appointments, kids and their activities, household chores and responsibilities—not to mention church and community volunteering, time with friends and extended family,  and more!

But come on, folks, there are NO EXCUSES.

Romance (and all intimacy, really) starts with simply connecting relationally. It’s something that needs to be cultivated and nurtured. It won’t just happen (or stay hot) on its own. You’ve got to work at it.

I totally agree with what I recently read from relationship expert Michelle Weiner-Davis, who cites kids as being a major reason for romantic disconnect in a marriage. “As a culture, we have become very child-focused and parents feel like they need to spend all their free time with their kids,” she explains, “but parents should spend time with one another for their kids. If they don’t spend time with one another, they’re not bonding or building [on their] friendship.”

Michelle says that, as a practicing marriage counselor, she is often able to cut to the root of the problem in the couples she counsels by asking one simple question: “When was the last time you went on a date?”

Now, let me point out that a “date” is not going to your kids’ soccer game together, attending church together, doing your yard work at the same time, or lying in bed watching TV. A date is doing something you both enjoy together, without any distractions, that allows you the opportunity to reconnect with each other and re-affirm what drew you together in the first place.

Doug and I are coming up on our 29th wedding anniversary this summer. When I tell people that (for example, it came up at the doctor’s office just yesterday), I always get comments. “Wow, you don’t hear that much these days.” Or “Good for you; that’s amazing.”

I don’t know that it’s so amazing; I wish it were the status quo! But while Doug and I certainly haven’t done everything right along the way, there is one thing we’ve prioritized that I think has been a consistent source of relational “glue” in our relationship. (I call it glue because it helps us stick together. 🙂 )

We have always made time to get out by ourselves, even when our five kids were small and we were struggling to make ends meet on a single income. They may have been cheap dates during some of those years, but we figured out how to make it work. And at least once a year, we’ve gone away together, just the two of us. We leaned on Grandma and Grandpa. We traded babysitting with friends. And when the older kids were old enough to watch the younger kids, we left them alone and prayed they wouldn’t kill each other. (Just kidding.)

Do you need creative ideas?  Go get an ice cream cone and go for a walk on the waterfront (we can do that in our town). Dinner and a movie (you should definitely include the dinner part because if it’s just a movie you won’t talk). A hike. A ball game. A concert. A museum or art gallery. A car race or sports event.  You know yourselves and what you like (and what each other likes).

Doug and me at a baseball game last weekend

The activity is not as important as the time spent together alone, applying a little relational glue.  It will help you maintain your identity as a couple, not two individuals living in the same house and rushing madly through life at the same time, with the same scenery, but never connecting in a meaningful way.

I think our families, our communities, and the next generation as a whole would be a whole lot better off if more of us paid attention to our coupleness.  I can’t fix the world, but I can work on me, and so can you.

So, when’s the last time YOU dated YOUR spouse?  If it’s been a while, will you schedule it into your calendar and make it happen? And if you and your spouse are regular daters, please share your best ideas with the rest of us.

What’s your favorite date with your spouse?

The Payoff of Perseverance

 

Some things just take time.

A strong marriage takes time. Losing weight takes time. Cultivating a friendship takes time. Building wealth (or getting out of debt) takes time. Training children takes time. Getting an education. Growing a garden.

Getting the picture?

Unfortunately, many of us sacrifice too quickly what could be really great investments in our future because they just, well, take too much time (or effort).

I’m thinking about the husband or wife who bails on a spouse because it’s “not good,” at least, not now. The person who spends his savings, or who throws in the towel and declares bankruptcy because discipline takes too much time (and effort).

Dumping a friend.

Leaving a church.

Quitting a job.

Dropping out of school.

 

Obviously there can be legitimate reasons for many of these. That’s not my point. My point is:

What are we doing to cultivate patience and discipline so we can get the really great pay-off that comes from perseverance?

What are we doing, one step at a time, to achieve our higher goals?

I wanted to lose a few pounds and it seemed SO OVERWHELMING, especially when all the reliable sources I was reading were telling me the only good way to do it was the old-fashioned and slightly tedious way: counting calories (ugh!).  So I found something to help me be disciplined and work toward my goal (I used Every Day Health’s Food and Fitness Journal).  I lost 12 pounds in eight weeks.

I wanted to increase my running distance and it seemed SO OVERWHELMING, so I just started noting the trees along the path in the park where I run.  This time I’ll run to that tree.  Next time I run to the next tree. The next time I’ll shoot for the next tree, or that fence up ahead, or the pond on the other side of the grove.  Now I’m running way further than I used to and I’m still increasing my stamina.

What’s your seemingly overwhelming circumstance?  Is it your marriage? Your finances? An education? A new career? Here are some ideas for getting off the starting blocks and into the race:

1. Start with an articulated goal.

2. Identify steps or strategies to accomplish it (or find a tool that can help you, like the calorie counting tool on Every Day Health or Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball plan or a savings plan on Mint.com.

3. Take one step at a time.

4. Celebrate small victories.

5. Don’t give up if you stumble. Pick yourself up and keep going.

6. Tell others what you’re doing. Tell YOURSELF what you’re doing. Say it out loud.

7. Follow through. Finish strong. You can do it. You’ll be glad you did.

Successful people don’t necessarily have better circumstances than others. Nor are they, generally speaking, particularly more lucky than others. More often than not, they’ve been learning the discipline of patience and endurance. Because of it, they’re experiencing the payoff of perseverance.

You know the old adage: How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope … (Romans 5:3-4)