Archives for posts with tag: gratitude


On this Thankful Thursday (actually, it’s finally being posted on a Saturday…better late than never..)… I’m thankful for flowers (weeds) by the side of the road that beckoned me to stop and breathe for a few minutes.

I’m thankful for the sun on my face and the wind through my hair. I’m thankful for the solid ground under my feet and vast sky beyond the field and the awareness that like those flowers (weeds), I’m pretty small in this vast, vast world.

I’m even thankful for the stressors that push us to find the respites. And for the respites that sometimes show up in unexpected places, like roadside ditches where a few little flowers (weeds) are blooming with a beautiful sunset in the background.

I’m grateful for the truth that  when we’re fully-alive and fully-living and fully-putting-ourselves-out-there, well, there will be pain…and heartache…and uncertainty and struggle.  There will be loss, and hurt, and defeat. But there will also be victories won, big and little. There will be muscles made and skills honed and fortitude grown in the struggles if we don’t lose heart, if we don’t give up. That’s the key isn’t it? To not lose heart?  To keep on keepin’ on.  To keep on putting one foot in front of the other…

I’m thankful that one of the very things that might help us to not give up or give in or lose heart could be as simple as a phone call, a letter, an I’m thinking of you text, or a glimpse of some roadside flowers (weeds) that glow in the mellow tones of the sunset on a warm March day.


I’m thankful that although sometimes stopping and breathing and taking in the sunset might take moments from our days, it adds energy and hope and light and joy and value to the rest of the moments of our day because, those moments of taking it all in? They help to process, to see things in a different light.

I’m thankful that my children (who happen to be adults ) whom I adore are living and pushing and stretching. And even though it is so incredibly difficult to watch at times,  I am thankful for the growing pains, the casualties, the falling downs and getting-back-up and the tenacity and compassion and gratitude that can result from those moments. I’m praying that they always have hope to get back up in a world that is pretty good at pushing down.

And I’m hopeful that irregardless of how many times my  kids fall down and need to get back up,…I’m hopeful that they will be those who help lift up, not push down. That they will be little respites to those in need. That they will love because they know they are so loved.  A lot of people don’t know that to the core. I pray they KNOW it, and live it out of the love that they have received. Not just familial love.  Supernatural, all-consuming love from the God who knows every falling down, every gift, every scar, every fabric of their being. The God who Loves them and knows them to the core…and calls them to know Him more.  He’s the Ultimate lifter of our heads, of our hearts, of our hands.

God’s infinite, all-consuming grace seems so clear and present in these little snip-its of time that I take to see it. It is mine to show up and open my eyes to see and hears to hear and heart to just feel….and He always shows up.  Sometimes in flowers. Sometimes in weeds. And sometimes it’s not about what they are, but just about how I see them in the Light of grace.  And it’s a bit ironic that I often see those things more clearly on tougher days because on those days?…On those days I am aware of my need, and I’m looking, seeking, knowing that I need to take time to find the reminders of grace. What we seek, we often find.

Oh, and am thinking that more than anything…in this crazy, chaotic, rushed and so often angry world where the ground doesn’t seem so stable and the future doesn’t seem so clear?…Well, knowing that He sees us in a different light and loves us through it all and beckons us to dare to LIVE a life counter to so much of what we see….that knowledge beckons me on to know that regardless of what I see to the left or the right, He’s with me  in the middle of it all. And sometimes all it takes to be reminded of that is to take a few moments to stop and see.  Yes, what we seek we often find. When we see things through the eyes of grace, there’s very little room for seeing weeds as anything but beautiful, beautiful flowers.   And the cool thing is that in Christ, God sees us through eyes of grace. Kind of like looking at us and seeing it all, but treasuring us as a beautiful flower. Knowing that we are loved like that can change the perspective on any landscape we face…be it on mountaintops, valleys, or roadside ditches.


Blessings ~


“We love because He first loved us.”

1 John 4:19

“For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 4:6



Silent Sunday

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

 The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121

vasa.JPGIsn’t it funny how time can feel so relative?  Sometimes we  feel like time is just flying by, and sometimes, it just tick, tick, ticks at a s-l-o-w-w-w-w pace.  Well, these days in Sweden were just tick tick ticking away so very fast.  It was now day 8 of ten.  We had arrived back from Copenhagen on Monday night, and Tuesday, we got to visit  the Vasa, a museum that houses a nordic version of the Titanic…a boat which sunk …on its maiden voyage.


Why did  it sink, you ask?  Well, it turns out that it was built for the King of Sweden and took years to build.  The detail and craftmanship were amazing.  Ornate carvings, gilded structures on a massive ship were so impressive.  Until it set sail that is.  Turns out that the ship wasn’t balanced and the top heavy structure sank about 1400 yards off shore.  Oops. Another oops was that those building it actually knew it wasn’t quite balanced, but were all afraid to tell the king. Not good.  But in the 1950’s, the boat was salvaged, its contents recovered and chronicled, and a museum was actually built around this amazing ship.  The Swedes have now turned one of their greatest known failures into the greatest tourist attraction in Stockholm.  It’s definitely worth the visit.


We met Austin’s friend and parents at the Vasa.  She is a historian who goes to Penn State and has been in Sweden with Aus in Fulbright Scholarship program.  She absolutely loves the Vasa and is a wealth of information regarding this failure-turned-fortune ship.  She is funny, highly intelligent, and brought to life the history of this amazing ship. I could share lots of facts from the VASA, but here are two take-aways:  Balance is key, and hiding a problem instead of sharing it to solve it often leads to way bigger problems and embarrassment and heartache. (When that small breeze took down the VASA, 30 lives were lost.)

After exploring the Vasa Museum, we went to lunch at a sweet place with Austin’s friend’s family right on the water.  We had the gazebo to ourselves when we arrived…tues29tues15tues17

After a nice lunch with amazing pizza and lots of conversation and laughter in this riverboat gazebo of a restaurant, we said good bye to our companions and got another cup of coffee to enjoy a bit more time.  We sat outside the gazebo and took photos.


There was a mother swan and her babies (cygnets) gliding along under the bridge.  I took the next photo and then asked Austin, “I wonder which one you were?”  We laughed out loud on that one.


Then, we began our walk back.  But as we liked to do, we took a diversion to go for a walk around the city.


We ate pasta lunch on the other side of this bridge on my first full day in Sweden. We rode bikes over this bridge that day as well.  I already had a lot of sweet little connections with this beautiful city.  Austin’s friend is a great tour guide, but so is Austin.  They just have different styles for sure. tues28

We ended up finding an area where Aus hadn’t yet been. It was a walkway on the river’s edge.  There were beautiful flowers, quiet spots to sit, and lots of people, young and old, coming and going. tues5tues4tues3



Off shore, there were some young children learning to sail…learning to balance their little boats before they were given big boats.  That made a lot of sense for sure.


And this Dad?  Well, we saw him throughout our walk, stopping at different points with his young son and letting him explore.  He taught him to throw rocks in the water and they cheered at every splash.  Did you know that not only moms get maternity leave in Sweden?  Dads get it as well (paternity leave of course).   They get 6 months and take turns.  The Swedish government has recognized that children need both parents. That that time is important. Love that.



I found in choosing these photos for the blog, I had the distant theme from the Vasa running through my mind…”Balance…”tues38tues34


We walked through the area, and then went to meet Austin’s new business associates at a beautiful cafe.

tues10 Loved meeting this diverse group.  The 40-something accomplished business woman brought her 4 year old daughter and her family dog, and the 20 something man came late (he’s not from Sweden…) with a new hair cut and a grin that made you feel like you had known him a long time.  We had a mid-afternoon coffee and cherries, nice conversation, and then went back to eat dinner with the professors with whom Austin lives.


That was a hoot and I wish I had taken photos of these precious hosts.  They are from the 60’s era…self-proclaimed hippies from the East Coast (U.S.) turned professors who have lived in Sweden for 30 years. They are gracious, hilarious, and endearing.  I loved my time with them.  I ate reindeer for the first time and the meal was delicious.  The conversation was intriguing and enlightening with everyone having their time to share their thoughts, experiences, and take on things.  Shared.  Balanced.  Good.


The next day, day 9, was sunny, bright, and beautiful.  It was perfect.  And it was the perfect day to have a perfect day because we were taking a two hour boat ride to the Archipelagos of Stockholm. “Archipelagos” is a term for a ‘sea or stretch of water containing many islands.’ I had no idea what a treat I was in for.   We got to the boat early and were a little disappointed to see that the top deck was already full. (Ok, I’ll be honest, we were really disappointed.)  So, we sat onboard at an inside table and watched the water through the little windows.  But after a few minutes, we both agreed that we’d rather stand for 2 hours and feel the wind and wide open spaces than to sit and watch through the window.  So that’s what we did. No regrets there…


On the deck, we breathed in the fresh air, felt the mist from the waves on the ferry and felt warmth of the sunlight which balanced the cool breeze.  It was quite chilly at first, but the view and the vibe was worth it.  Yes, better to forego comfort and enjoy the full experience.  Good decision. Better to stand with the view and freedom than sit in quiet comfort and miss out.  We watched as buildings got smaller and fewer between.  Huge ships and steam liners were gradually replaced with smaller sailboats and small powerboats. Tall buildings were soon replaced with quaint little homes and docks.




And then pretty soon, there weren’t many houses or buildings or boats.  There were islands and birds and waves.  Every once in a while, we’d see a lighthouse or dock or tiny little house.






Was a refreshing two hours.  Even though we were standing and constantly having  to gain our footing  because of the winds and waves, it was so worth standing to be able to have a view from above.  Perspective was much better than from the 6 x 12 inch windows in the inside lower deck. Perspective is everything.  We arrived at Sandhamn, an island that Austin had visited before. He walked with purpose to take us to a place before all the other tourists found it…a huge rock area that overlooks part of the town and the Baltic Sea. To get there, we walked though little back yard paths in between quaint cottages.  Yes, quaint seemed to be the word that kept coming to mind. (As well as the word “trespassing”! Aus assured me that these were public areas…Swedes have a different mindset of what is shared property than we do in the States.)


We arrived at the first destination.  And the view was so unique.  The quaint little town was busy below.  Ships shared the coves with sailboats, and it was so relaxing.  We sat on that rock for awhile and enjoyed the views. sand7



We did beat the crowd of tourists, but after about 15 minutes, they were climbing the hill and settling in to enjoy the incredible view.  We moved on to meander more through the paths to different parts of the island. Simple beauty / beautiful simplicity was everywhere.  arch84arch93arch94arch95




Our next stop was at this little shop.  We bought our lunch here and then ate in the outside little courtyard garden area.  I had a panini.  Austin did the right thing and had the fish that this area was known for.  Both were awesome.  sand26

We continued walking on, and I tell you, the place that we found on the other end of the island was I think, my favorite spot.  Not just on Sandhamn Island.  But in all of the amazing places we had been, I just totally loved this one.  Not sure whether it was the incredible view, the wide open spaces, the wind and sun or the combination of it all.  I think I really loved it so much because after a week of exploring so many places and being around so many new things, ….and before a day of travel and saying goodbyes, here was a place of solitude and beauty to just kind of sit for a bit.arch87


Austin seemed to like it, too.  We stayed there for hours. The steep hill of stones led down to the water.  To the left were sailboats, and the main area of the island, to the right was wide open spaces.  Right in the middle was water and rocks and sun.  My toes dipped into the Baltic Sea for the first time. (Actually, that’s not true.  I did make sure to dip them in when we were in Copenhagen. Previous to this, these toes had only seen the Atlantic and Pacific…)sand10

I sat as Austin searched through rocks.  This one has rocks and sand from all over. And I mean ALL over. I remember him coming home from spending his semester abroad and wondering why the heck his suit case was so heavy.  Turns out, there were jars of pebbles from Greece, sand from Dubai, and rocks from who knows where else that were loading it down.  I don’t doubt that if he ever goes to the Black Sand beaches of Hawaii that he will come back with ample amounts of sand in his shoes as his great grandfather did 20 years before Austin was ever born.  Why sand in his shoes?  Well, taking the black sand was not allowed, but Austin’s great grandfather that he never knew had a granddaughter in Rockville, Maryland who had a rock collection and he did his best to help out when he could. Can you guess who that granddaughter was?!  I think my ‘Papa Les’ and Austin would’ve gotten along just fine!) P.S. I had a few beautiful pink pebbles from this place in my purse before Aus began the search.  Once a rock collector, always a rock collector…sand12


We took lots of photos, laughed, talked, and had a lot of silence.  Day 9 of ten. It hit me that I was so thankful to have this time, and this amazing little spot on the Baltic Sea was the perfect little place to just sit and be thankful for a bit before saying goodbye to Sweden, and see ya later to the son that might be staying on in Sweden for quite a while longer.  Lots of mixed emotions for sure.  The water in the landscape wasn’t the only salt water around for sure.


arch86arch85  As Austin went and took photos , I sat and just cried.  I admit it. I felt so much gratitude for being able to be in this place at this time with this kid who was out doing his thing and wanting others to have an opportunity to see some of the world that he’s seen. I felt grateful for the ones who had encouraged me to come and were holding down the fort at home. I felt gratitude for the amazing world that God created…for how it works, it’s beautiful and balanced and good.  It’s a gift to catch glimpses of different views of this amazing world.  The people, the land, the cultures.  All different, but when balanced, when shared, it’s a beautiful beautiful portrait for sure. Yes, I sat there in it all and was just  deeply grateful.


We left this spot and made our way to catch the ferry that would take us again on a 2 hour tour back to Stockholm.   We walked back through lush forests. sand34The groundcover was so different from what we have in NC.  I loved seeing this little tree sprout up amongst the tall Pines.  sand36We all start somewhere.  This little tree was just starting out as the older ones had been there for ages.  All cohabitants of a beautiful forest, all growing at their own pace in their own time. We continued walking towards town to wait for the ferry.  First though, we got some gelato and sat on the dock waiting for the boat.

Lots of people were there before us, but we still made sure to go to the top deck.  We even had a seat this time.  sand37



The sun started to go down and shimmered off the water in a new way. This was always my favorite time of day at home…when there’s still time left in the day, but most of day is done…..when there’s still light and a warm glow about things, but things are winding down and slowing down.  sand42sand43sand44

The activity on the water increased as we neared Stockholm. Gone were the shorelines without buildings, for these were lined with building after building, all creating a beautiful horizon.  When I saw the view below, my ‘home base’ throughout the week, I knew exactly where we were.  There was quiet on the boat as we neared the dock to land in Stockholm. It had been a great day.  We got off the boat, and Austin pointed out a restaurant where we’d probably have breakfast in the morning on that same square that had been home base.  We walked by the restaurant, knowing that in a few short hours, we’d be back. sand50

We walked past other familiar places, the square with the statues, birds, and purple flowers. The 7 eleven housed in an historic beautiful building. sand52sand56

Our last stop was for a cup of coffee, and after a little while were politely told by the barista that the shop was closing.sand53We walked back to the train station and arrived safely back before 10.  Tomorrow was day ten, and we had to be at the airport by 10:30, so I packed most of my things, and tried to get some sleep. It had been a good, good day.

And these nine days?  They had been an amazing gift. So many things were new, and some of the things I observed from the Swedes were so simple, but beautiful.  I think they learned long ago, from the lesson of the Vasa, that life needs to be balanced, or else, like that amazing top-heavy structure did so many years ago, you sink. I would leave this beautiful country feeling refreshed, inspired, and thankful.


Here are a few  of my little ‘lessons from Sweden’:

  1. Be on time.  The train WILL leave if you’re not.
  2.  Safety is important.  Fluorescent vests and hats for children are a must at school, and life saver floatation devices are EVERY where that there are a few inches of water.  Rules keep us safe and are to be followed. Best not step one teeny tiny toe into the Bike lane.  Could be catastrophic.
  3.  Breaks are necessary.  Fika is a pastry coffee break that people take at work EVERY day!  (Whereas we in the US often feel guilty for a 2.2 minute run to the snack machine.  I bet the Swedes have some good laughter and collaboration/team building during that break every day.  Having something to look forward to is a good, good thing.)
  4. Exercise is just part of life.  Bikes, bikes, and more bikes with people from every walk of life were all over Sweden. (Barbara, a 70 year old professor, still rides her bike to the university…not a leisurely ride, but a trek up a steep hill…)  Stairs are everywhere as well…mountains and mountains of stairs.
  5. Little things matter.  Blankets on restaurant patio chairs on cold days were everywhere.  Little necessities were quietly provided.  Loved that.
  6. Simple things are beautiful…  Bottles with wildflowers were everywhere. Simple decor that was so tastefully yet effortless was everywhere.  Loved that.
  7. Being resourceful is important.  Windmills, solar panels, and water conservation was seen all over Sweden.  Even the toilets have 2 choices to flush – half bowl or whole. Simple solutions to growing problems.
  8. Wait your turn.  I had heard that Swedes form lines quickly and saw it first hand at the NY airport and wondered why everyone was lining up before the seating groups were called.  Taking turns is important and one must wait for theirs.
  9. Humility is a good thing.  People were absolutely beautiful, but there wasn’t a divisive air about. My observation was that so many of the people I encountered were kind, direct, and yet had a sweet humility about them.
  10. Last but not least…Balance.  Balance is key…with boats…and with people.


Thanks again so much for reading and seeing and entering into my little voyage to Sweden.  So fun to share it with you all.  I’ve got one more post of that last day.  Wrote it already.  (Shortest one yet, believe it or not!) I’ll share in a few days so as not to overload !




“He has shown you, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you.  To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Micah 6:8

Ten Days (Part One)

Ten Days (Part Two)

Ten Days (Part Three)



“One ship blows East and another blows West by the self same wind that blows

It’s the set of the sails and not the gales which determines which way it goes.”

Ella   Wheeler Wilcox

daythree5Okay, so here comes round two of the awesome trip to Sweden to see Austin. As beautiful and sunny and exciting as day one and two were, day three was, in a good kind of way, the converse of that.  It was cold, foggy and at times rainy, and we moved at a much slower pace.  We started out by visiting the library where Aus has spent quite a good amount of time in the past ten months.  (I didn’t feel too sorry for him.) It was absolutely stunning.  He was able to concentrate on getting some work done. But me?  Nope.  Although I was trying to work on a grant proposal, I was very distracted by the beauty all around and was having a tough time focusing. (Irony is that the grant has to do with helping meet the needs of students with attention deficit.   Hmm.  Fancy that.)

daythree1daythree3daythree2Austin seemed to get a lot done and I  focused just enough to feel like I had accomplished a little something. After about an hour we left and ventured out to see the Fotografiska museum, a museum with Photographic Exhibits.  (Oh, and just for a reminder…”venturing out” doesn’t mean hopping in your car and going from point A to point B.  It means walking to the train, then taking the train to the bus, and then walking , which can include climbing a mountain of steps, from the bus to point D.Just keeping it real, here!)  So yes, we “ventured out” and made our way to the museum.


(See?  I rest my case. Mountain of steps it is…one side up, one side down.) But on the other side of the ‘mountain’ was our destination, “Fotografiska” as well as a beautiful view of the city in a foggy haze. museumWhen we went inside, the exhibit we saw was Nick Brandt’s “Inherit the Dust”.  As gray as it was outside, it felt even more gray inside. Black and whites of animals and the landscape that has become wastelands filled the huge photographs in the rooms.  It was so quiet except for the sound of the video running of Nick Brandt himself, his calm voice with a British accent telling how the idea was conceived, and how he and his team laboriously gave birth to the project.  Was absolutely amazing, moving, informative, and not a little depressing to be honest.  (If you get a chance,  you can check it out online at Nick Brandt’s “Inherit the Dust” . )  There were other exhibits, one having to do with  the Deep South after a major flood, and another having to do with Syrian Refugees. The wheels in my head were turning after seeing those images and I so appreciated the beauty of the craft and the heart of conveying  a message via photos.  But the content was heavy and stuck with us. So, yes, it was gray outside and gray inside.  Wouldn’t have seemed quite right to walk outside and see the sun after seeing all that we saw.  daythree4

And we didn’t have to, because it was still very gray as we left the museum and once again climbed our little mountain to reach the next bus.  And the next bus was going to take us to a restaurant called “Meatballs”.  Yep.  Swedish Meatballs it is.  Not sure if we were eating moose or reindeer, venison (does reindeer meat count as venison?), or beef,or a mix of all things mentioned. (Note to self- sometimes being “brave” is easier if we don’t think so much.  Especially about what we’re eating.) So I disengaged the brain trying to figure out what meat it was, and just enjoyed the time. The atmosphere was great, company better, and food was really good too.  My favorite thing was there was free coffee and cookies for dessert. Can’t beat that. Also loved the potatoes.  (I mean, potatoes are just…well, potatoes.  No guessing there.)


So, we continued exploring the city.  We passed the “Koncerthuset”, where the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremonies were held. It was such a crazy good privilege that Austin and the other Fulbright Scholars were all able to attend the ceremony last December (had to include photo of Aus that night), so seeing the building where it was held was so cool.    The birds seemed to like it as well. The photo doesn’t do it justice as there were trucks parked in front and I couldn’t get a good shot.



Austin NobelWe continued walking, browsing stores, stopped at a coffee shop, and then took some time to sit for a bit at the reflecting pool.  Was beautiful.deepinthought Still gray outside.  Aus was still deep in thought…had some heavy decisions to make regarding future prospects and it seemed to be weighing on him. We talked about it some.  But sometimes you can’t talk it all through…it just takes some time for that fog to clear.  daythree8

Or sometimes, there can be major disruptions that snap us out of that fog.  And this time, we can thank this loud, angry seagull for the  very loud and clear interruption.daythreeseagullHe and another gull were fighting over food. Am thinking he probably won, but we didn’t wait to find out.  We got up and walked on.  We came to a beautiful garden and took some photos.daythree13daythree10We even got one of me.  Correction.  Bunches of me, but we won’t post those. I’m definitely not too great at selfies or posing for photos.  Much prefer to be behind the camera. Case in point, above photo. Ah well, I’m thankful I can laugh at myself. (My kids can too, so feel free!)   I hope that the General who is portrayed in the statue that was directly in front of me has (had) a sense of humor as well.  He looked so majestic in the silhouette that I first took of him. daythree9Yes, so majestic, stately, deserving honor.  But then…there were some not so flattering shots I took as well.  daythree11daythree12Hmmm…I guess we all have those unflattering times when we’re not seen in our best light. Light changes everything.  I think he’d feel better if he saw all the throw-away poses of me.  (And I didn’t even need any birds help, for sure! )


daythreepurpleAs you can see, the fog was lifting, and the sun was beginning to shine through. Not just outside.  Loved that. We stood for awhile at the bridge and took it all in. There were swans going back and forth from one end of the waterway to the other.  This was where the Baltic Sea met the inner waterways through the city, and the tide seemed to be coming in. The swans looked like they were on hyper-speed as they rode the currents.  daythree18

daythreepurple3Floating in the water, floating in the air, there are birds all around in Stockholm.



Austin walked on ahead of me, and I captured some cool silhouettes of him.  daythree20


I love this one. He’s had meetings in the building in back of him as well.  daythree26Same building. Different lighting.  Light changes everything. Day three ended peacefully.

But then came day four.  Didn’t start peacefully AT ALL.  And that was ALL my fault.Mea culpa big-time.  You see, this jet-lag-time-zone thing was starting to catch up with me.  In the morning, we were due to catch a train at 9:15.  Well, my phone and computer had different times…one had switched to Swedish time, one was still on NC time, so when I woke up and saw that the clock said “11:11”, well, for some reason, I thought it was 11:11 a.m. After all, it was light outside.  I went and shared the bad news with Aus that for some reason, we had missed the alarm and thus missed our train. (The train trip that you have to get tickets 2 weeks in advance for.) Poor guy.  He took a minute, thought, looked at his clock, and he’s like “Mom, it’s a little after 5 in the morning.”  He sees a look of confusion on my face.  Then relief. Phew. Then  comes embarassment and still total confusion about the time situation. Turns out my clock had said 11:11 p.m. for NC time. I apologized profusely and he laughed and we were both relieved we didn’t miss the train.  Went back to sleep (not really), and then got ready for train.   Had our first “RUNNNNNN!” session in trying to catch the first train to get the LONG trip train, and made it just in time.  I am so not a graceful runner (more on that later!).  Especially with flip flops and a heavy bag.  But we made it for both trains. Next Stop, Malmo, Sweden.

dayfour3The train ride was peaceful.  Not sure why I was so tired…hmmm…but I did sleep a bit on the train.  The views were beautiful and interesting. Lots of rolling hills, white birch trees, and little towns and trains stations. dayfour2dayfour1Then, after 6 hours on the train, we were there.  Malmo, Sweden.  Home of rocky beaches, interesting architecture, the tallest building in Sweden, (the “Turning Torso”), and gateway to Copenhagen.  We went to the train station and took a bus, then walked to the apartment.  Views?  YES.Front View: Baltic Sea with lighthouse to the right and Copenhagen straight ahead.


Back porch view: Turning Torso, the tallest building in Sweden.


We put our bags down, spoke a bit with the  fun-loving Norwegian owner, then set out to see Malmo. (Aus doesn’t waste any time!)

The wind was blowing, the sun was shining, and it was absolutely beautiful.  There was a wonderful mix of the old and the new, but it all seemed to fit.  Here’s some of the old:dayfour20


And here’s some of the new…malmo18malmo15malmo17

It was the Friday before Father’s Day, so I found myself tuning into dads and their little ones.  Here are some of the photos taken on the center square in Malmo.dads3dads2dads9dads5dads4Dads are dads. Kids are kids. No matter what ground they’re standing on.  Love that.

We made our way back to the apartment, but stopped by the shoreline first.   Was beautiful.  The water was active with ships coming in, the wind was blowing, there was a chill in the air, but some people were still braving the cold and diving into the cold waters from the dock.  The sun was slowly going down and so the photos were all silhouettes, my favorite. malmo21dayfour27dayfour30dayfour31dayfour32dayfour33


The sun was setting as we walked back to the apartment.  I sunk down into a comfortable chaise lounge, pulled up a comfortable blanket, and watched as the sun descended.  As stressful as the day started with my silly, silly alarm stating that we missed the train, it sure ended peacefully, blissfully, comfortably, with the view just speaking loudly.  Yes, “the heavens declare the glory of God.”  Saw it.  Felt it.  Filled with gratitude for it, and for another day filled with the stressors, the comforts and all the inbetween.  Next stop…Copenhagen.dayfour36

And with that…well, am guessing the photo threshold has been definitely reached once again.  Thanks for staying along for the ride.  Am thinking I’ll end up doing a part three of this whole thing because I realize once again that “abridged” is not my middle name (my kids could definitely attest to that!) and I really want to share some of the amazing sights we saw in Copenhagen, the Archipelagos, and Stockholm.   Good Night, friends. May your sleep be sweet and you wake up with an alarm clock set to your  time zone!

Blessings ~



“The heavens declare the glory of  God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands. “

Psalm 19:1


Sweden6Day One.  I arrive in Sweden just before noon and get to see Austin for the first time in ten months. No words for how great it was to see him face to face.  Whether our children are 3 or 23, it seems that just seeing that they are safe and sound and in your sights give a sense of breathing-deep relief and joy.  Pure joy.  We took the train back to Stockholm and I put my bags (and the beautiful flowers he handed me at the airport) in the room where I’ll be staying and then hit the ground running to see the city.

I loved taking it all in.  The big, grandiose, impressive sights like these…





…and the not-so-big, ordinary, little details like these…








And in the big and the little, I so enjoyed taking in “my view of his view”…Aus loves taking photos probably even more than I do.  Here’s a few of him on day one…because of course, of all the crazy-good things that I was seeing for the first time, the greatest thing was seeing this city that he’s come to love , through his eyes.



Day 2

I slept like a rock that night even though the sun doesn’t go down till 10:30 ish and came up at 4 a.m.  Summer days in Sweden are long.  The day began with breakfast on the balcony.  Aus had toasted bread and lingonberry jam, along with French-pressed coffee.  We sat on the balcony and this was our view…


The first stop after breakfast was to go down to the corner store and get some to-go lunch.  We got pasta salad to go and were on our way to the next stop…getting bikes to ride through Stockholm.  We found the City-rent-a-bikes and were on our way!  I hadn’t been a bike in I don’t know how many years, but as a good friend of mine recently said, “where our children go, we go fearlessly.” (Deb).  Yes, pretty-much fearlessly, but some of the traffic stops were a bit congested and I’m sure people were aware of the wobbly start at each stop.  Ah well….we all survived and there’s nothing like riding a bike right smack-dab through a city to help you see it, sense it, appreciate it. And that’s what we did.  We ended up at a beautiful spot by a bridge and ate our lunch there.   There were daisies everywhere.  Have I ever mentioned that daisies are one of my favorite flowers?  daytwodaytwo5daytwo4daytwo6

So, we ate lunch, took some photos, and then we were off again on our bikes. Austin had wanted to show me his favorite little coffee shop that was a bit on the outskirts of the city.  It has a huge outdoor seating area looking over the water. The ducks seem to like it there as well.




Talk about relaxing.  We had time to catch up a bit on some of Austin’s recent ventures.  He’s had an idea for years that is gaining support and coming into being.  He’s networked with people internationally and was recently flown to Dubai to speak about the project.  So, as I sat and listened to Austin and had a cup of coffee and looked over the water, I kept feeling so thankful for the here and now.  There’s no telling where Aus will be in the coming months, but there is the now and the incredible opportunity to just so enjoy the time and savor the moments for sure. We took more photos and then grabbed our bikes and were off to the next stop…Skansen.





Skansen is a village museum/zoo.  Homes from hundreds of years ago have been taken from all over Sweden and brought to this beautiful site to recreate an old Swedish village to enable the visitors to see what Sweden was like hundreds of years ago.  You can visit the bakery, post office or coffee shop.  We took tons of photos and  then, of course, visited the  bakery/coffee shop.  (We had self-control with regards to the desserts.  I did splurge and add a sugar cube, however!)




One of my favorite surprises at Skansen was a beautiful garden overlooking the water and the city.  It was breathtaking and breath of fresh air at the same time.


The June flowers were in full bloom, the aroma was amazing, and the sky was clear blue.  We spent awhile in the garden and then turned the corner to see this…daytwo51…and the aroma started to change from the fragrance of flowers because just around the corner was the …zoo.


Yes, there were reindeer!  Poor thing was shedding it’s winter coat, so I’m sure it’s had better photo opps but it was so cool to see.daytwo31daytwo32daytwo33daytwo34daytwo41daytwo36daytwo40daytwo39daytwo38

The bears got in a little tussle and I was amused by the mama trying to rally her 3 cubs.  The little guy on the right just caught a fish.   So after the zoo, we continued walking on paths where we found more gardens, more animals (with a very vocal sheep as well as a very loud goose that reminded me of the goose in Charlotte’s Web), and more amazing scenes.




We left Skansen and were very thankful to find our bikes on the bike rack outside of the zoo.  There are tons of bikes everywhere in Sweden, and bike lanes that pedestrians, well…they best stay out of those, for sure!

bike So we rode the bikes on back into the city, and ended up leaving them on the square that would become one of my favorite spots throughout the week. (It’s beautiful, but I think part of the reason why I loved it so much was because I knew where it was.  It was a home base of sorts!)


We checked-in our bikes and then continued to see the city.  Austin showed me buildings where he had had meetings…bike5

And we continued to walk on the water’s edge.  There were huge antique ships, little boats, and seemingly everything in between.  We ended up taking a ferry back to the part of Stockholm where Aus lives.  bike9bike10bike11bike12bike13bike14bike15bike16bike18bike19

bike17After the ferry ride, we took a bus and were close to home.  I always felt thankful when I started to recognize things a bit.  I love exploring, the adventure of it all, but it’s nice at the end of the day, to get back to where you know you are.  bike23bike22

Couldn’t resist take a photo of this sign!

bike20bike24So, the day ended and we ended up back at Austin’s apartment ate dinner with the fun, thoughtful (and thought-provoking) amusing professors that he lives with.  Was a wonderful meal full of lots of conversation.  They realized that we had had a full day of using almost every possible form of transportation-walking, biking, riding a boat, a train, and a ferry, and could probably see that jet-lag was catching up with yours truly.  Even though the sun was shining , my body was definitely saying it was time to stop and rest.  It was around 10…because that sun shines long in Sweden.  My son was shining too, and I’m so thankful for my Aus who was willing to turn tour-guide and help me see parts of his world that I had never seen.  Yes, it was a good day and even though the sun was up, I slept  like a baby.

Well, that’s all for round one of the ten days.  I know there are a million photos and comments…thanks for bearing with me.  I just want to share to remember this time while it’s fresh and to share it with friends and family who could experience the time with Aus in a teeny tiny vicarious way.  So, round 2 will be coming in the next week or so.  Trust me, I have a kabillion photos or so, and still dishes to clean, laundry to fold, and a life to live here.  But it is so incredibly fun to be lifted out and put back in to the beauty, rest and encouragement of those ten days just by looking at some photos. Hope you catch some good glimpses of that beauty as well.

Blessings ~

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD,

plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

Thankful Thursday


“Hey Mom….” he says.  “I’m going to extend my stay here in Sweden…and…I’m flying you over! I’ve thought about it and if I give up a few trips, I could fly you over and…”

I think all the blood rushed to my head right about then and I didn’t hear much else that he was saying…my brain was fixed on – “I’m going to Sweden!!!”  And this 51-year old mom who once-upon-a-time considered herself a girl with an adventurous spirit, well, I was so happy and….and …nervous as all get out!  It’s been 26 years since I’ve traveled anywhere outside of the states, and I’ve never been to Europe, so leaving Shelby, NC to travel abroad alone, well, it was definitely pushing me out of my comfort zone.  But I am so excited I can’t stand it! I’ve never been too good at staying in comfort zones anyway.

I’ll leave in a few days and spend 10 days in Stockholm.  I fly into New York on Monday night and then fly out to a direct flight to Stockholm from there. On the way back I get to hit Iceland.  Anyway, I’m just so happy and excited and more thankful than words can say. So, am guessing that in the coming weeks, posts will have a whole new look to them for sure.   The farmlands of Shelby, NC sure differ quite a bit from the geography of Stockholm with its fourteen islands and connection to the Baltic Sea.  Austin has said it’s just beautiful and the pictures I’ve seen have been breathtaking for sure! We’ll even get to go down to Copenhagen.

I am thankful beyond words.  For my kids.  For the gift of relationship with them.  Spending time with the son I haven’t seen for almost a year is a draw far beyond any trips or plans. Having 10 days to enter into his world and see with my own eyes what I’ve heard about for the past 10 months will be amazing, no doubt.  I’m thankful for time.  Time to just be and not have a major list of to-dos.  And I’m thankful the list of to-dos will be here when I get back.  Having a mission is a good, good thing, but sometimes in order to be inspired, to be effective, to be me, a little space and time does a person good. I’m also so thankful for my husband, kids, family, and friends that I’m leaving behind that are laughing out loud (literally!)  and happy with me as I set out on this little adventure.  They  are vicariously going with me and that feels really good.

What also feels really good is knowing how big and how small the world is. I remember when I was in college at the University of Guadalajara for a semester abroad looking at the moon from my bedroom window and thinking that the same moon that I was seeing could be seen in North Carolina and Maryland.  Love that.  Or New York.  Or Stockholm. Iceland even. And bigger than that, that God is omnipresent.  EVERY-where. NO MATTER – where. Good to know.  So, so deeply good to know.  Can I understand it?  Nope, not a bit, not any more than I can comprehend how in the world that the plane will be able to lift up and fly off the runway. I can’t comprehend a million things.  But faith isn’t about understanding all the ins and outs.  It’s about trusting , believing, loving, and seeing glimpses and knowing in my being (not necessarily in my head) that GOD IS. Period.  And in trusting and believing, I can take steps. Sometimes little steps.  Sometimes big leaps. Like, for me…  going to Sweden 🙂

Oh, and I can’t wait to get off the plane and say, “Hey Aus!”

Blessings ~


“Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.”

Psalm 139:7-12



Just got back in from seeing the sunset as my son (pre-drivers licensed son) drove us around town to run a few errands.  I sat in the passenger seat trying to encourage him to leave at least an inch or two for mailboxes, and practiced my breathing.  He’s my last of 6 children to teach how to drive, and well, let’s just say we need quite a few more hours of practice driving under his belt before he goes for his test.  But overall, we’re making progress because I didn’t feel quite so much the need to will the car to stay on the road and I was able to take some photos as we  (oops, I mean “he” ) drove.

The week had lots of highlights.  There was lots and lots of time well spent with four of my six children.  And do you know what some of my favorite moments were?  Coming into the kitchen and seeing all 4 of them sitting on the deck talking …for hours.  Yep, I’d say that’s time well spent.  Then they took goofy pictures and laughed. hopeandboys5

This next photo was taken when I had just finished talking with their brother in Sweden and shared some crazy news with them about some of his fun adventures…Here’s their reaction…hopeandboys1

….and then, here’s the traditional posed shot…


Hope and Josh got to catch up after not seeing each other for a long time…


Yep.  Thankful as all get out.  I also got to see my parents after not seeing them since Christmas, and that was time well spent as well. So fun.

There were some sweet surprises this week.  On the way back home from church, we saw a doe and a fawn…still had spots.  I was amazed at how tiny the little guy was, and he didn’t get more than a few inches away from his mother.  When I stopped to watch, they watched right back, and I was amazed at the lack of fear.  I even had time to grab my camera and take a photo.  deer

The mama doe sure looks proud and protective.  I know just how she feels…

So after the weekend, Monday was full of fun as we celebrated with students at school.  We had awards ceremonies and parties and celebrated victories. One of my favorite moments was when our therapy dog, Skye, granted us one last visit. She comes twice a month to my classroom for reading, but mainly, it’s for connection. So many of my students have some difficult backgrounds and are pretty emotionally detached.  Sweet Skye helps bridge those gaps for a lot of the students, but especially for one little guy. He hardly smiled, except when Skye was around, and he was totally engaged when reading to her.  So on this last day of school, he got to hug her and walk her one more time and we all were thankful for the time well spent. thankfulthurs22

The next day the staff corralled children and tried to keep them occupied which wasn’t easy without much structure in the day.  At 11:00 the teachers lined up and waved gleefully at the buses leaving the campus.  (Dare I say that some of the teachers even danced!!)  And then, we as a staff were off to…an entertainment center to celebrate as a team!  I almost missed out on the fun because my list of “to-dos” was longer than I could stand, but reluctantly went because this team of teachers and staff are a team worth celebrating with.  And I’m so glad I went.  We got to choose from bowling and putt-putt and laser tag, and I chose…laser tag!  Was so much fun I couldn’t stand it! And I came home and announced to my boys that we should all go as a family soon so I can show them my skills, ha!  They laughed so hard and seemed shocked that I’d choose laser tag over bowling or putt-putt. Not sure if I should be offended by that or not, but I’ll let it go for now.

I also got to hold a sweet little brand new baby boy. Has been a while since I’ve held a little one in my arms.  And, it so reminded me of all of the little movements and mannerisms that little ones have.  The sights, the sounds, the smells…nothing like a baby.  I got to hold the little guy for awhile, and when I gave him back found myself just thanking God that I got to be a mom for all those years with little ones in my arms and at my feet. They’re so grown up, now, but my heart and mind can go back to those days in a moment’s notice.  Sweet sweet memories.  Well, most of them, anyway!

So, the next day, Tan’s baseball game was cancelled and  I felt relieved that there was a little space in my day.  We (he) drove, and we ended up down at the Greenway for a walk.  It was absolutely beautiful, and so fun to spend time catching up with Tanner.

The sun was just going down and seemed to dance on the water.  Loved our time.  We even got to see one of his favorite teachers who also happens to be the mom of one of my older children’s friends.  Was so good to see her and catch up a bit. Yep, lots to be thankful for.

The next day, the game wasn’t cancelled and we got to enjoy a good game.  Well, actually, it might not be classified as a ‘good’ game cause we lost 16 to 2.  But boy oh boy did we cheer for those two runs, and every victory.  One of the little victories was a catch that Tan made out in left field!  (It was after missing two out there and when the ball started flying over shortstop my heart started praying like crazy that he’d make the catch.)  He made it and I said “Phew” and a grandmother sitting near me on the bleachers smiled a sweet smile at me and said, “I bet these kids prayer lives are getting pretty strong out there.”  Yep.  Probably so.  And probably their parents’ as well…Oh, and it was cool to hear, “You got this kid” when the “kid” saying it was my kid coaching his younger brother.  Chase is out there for every game helping the  team.  Love that. He’s the one in the photo holding the clipboard and giving me a goofy look.  I guess that’s what I get when I ask to take his picture…

So, that brings me to today, and the ride with Tan, and the conversations.  He and his teen-aged bearded scruffy self did pretty well driving.

We made it home. Another big “Phew” for sure.  At times it doesn’t feel like such a small miracle, especially when there are 6 cars behind you and your son seems to be looking at them in the rear view mirror more than he’s looking straight ahead.  Great analogy…not good to spend more time looking back than living in the moment of the day and moving forward.  Nope, not good at all, especially when the car seems to have a magnet drawn to all of those perfectly straight mailboxes centimeters away from an encounter with a moving vehicle. So, yes, more praying through things.  The little and the big.  Thankful God doesn’t discriminate between the two, but hears it all and says, “Cast your cares on Him for He cares for you.”  Love, Love, Love that.  thankfulthurs23

So,  I have a heart of gratitude. Period.  For this moment, right here, right now, and those moments in the week when I’m so aware that life is a gift. Period. Sometimes the moments lead me to pray hard hard hard urgent prayers, and sometimes, they lead me to just thank God big time.  And sometimes, I just find myself clinging to the fact that I am clueless about the next minute ahead but thankful that God isn’t.  And that chases fears away…sometimes quickly, sometimes not. Amazing the catalysts for prayer like baseball and driving.  Praying that God will use the moments of our days to bless and build up and move forward.  Thankful that the ordinary is extraordinary when seen through eyes of faith knowing that we are not alone and not just our own. How big is that truth?  I don’t think that any of us can really grasp the enormity of that.  But thankful for the glimpses.

Well, I’ll close for now.  Thanks for sharing in my little stories of the week..

Blessings ~



“Taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.”

Psalm 34:8

nelsa3I got up a little extra early this morning, and ventured out to the deck with my cup of coffee and enjoyed the sights and sounds.  There are times when I’m a bit oblivious to all the beautiful details that surround, but this morning, I felt as though I was in a beautiful surround sound and sight symphony.

nelsa10The emerging pink on the mimosa tree was beautiful, and the intricacy of the detail never ceases to amaze me.These whimsical blooms are so unique and made me wonder if Mr. Theodore Geisel  (Dr. Seuss) had a mimosa tree or two which served as inspiration for some of his illustrations.  Pretty soon, the tree will be covered with pink and will draw butterflies and hummingbirds and bees…and more….

nelsa2…sweet little red-breasted blue birds.  This little one looked like he was a little reluctant to be an early riser.  I so know how that feels.

nelsa5The purple pansy, on the other hand, seemed to stand straight and tall in full allegiance.


A little mourning dove tried out the bird feeder that I made this weekend.  She cooed and cooed again and again and tested the balance of the feeder, all the while remaining calm as can be. Her coo was in great contrast to the chirp chirp chirp of the loud bird that has overtaken our birdhouse, and both were so different from the melodic tune of the blue bird. Love that they all have their own little song, and sing it with gusto.  Would that we would do the same.

nelsa20The mourning dove then flew to a branch.  Check out her fancy red feet!  Who knew?!  (I’m sure lots of people know, but I sure didn’t know that they had bright red feet!…Love that!)


I don’t know about you, but there are times when  just seeing the amazing design of life all around encourages me to the core.   It encourages me because I so believe that the “Designer”, well, He knows what He’s doing.  With birds.  With trees, with me.  With provision.  For the day.  Provision with sunlight and air and bird seed and beauty.  With the things we need and the wants we have.  There’s provision.  There’s a new day to see what’s ahead.  We can be inspired to have fancy feet like the mourning dove and whimsical blooms like the  pink mimosa. And take a look at the dove…there’s shimmery pink on her feathers that’s so beautiful.  (Pink cheeks and red feet…love it.) We can perch ourselves in our day and observe a bit and be thankful, and rise knowing that God’s got this.  He’s got us.  He loves us….and the details in the surround sound tell ( dare I say, yell!) of His glory.  May we have ears to hear, and hearts to sing out in our own little way.

Blessings ~


“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.”

Psalm 5:3




silent sunday.JPG

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