Archives for posts with tag: gratitude

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Can you guess which one of these baseball players is mine? Ha.  Yep. Stirrup-clad guy front and center.

So on this ‘Thankful Thursday’ am thankful for courage to stand out. Maybe when we don’t ‘stand out’ in baseball, well, we find other ways to find our niche’. Here’s to kids finding their niche’ and being stand outs in new ways. Here’s to self-expression that quietly and loudly says, “I’m not afraid to be different.”  We can be part of a team, part of a whole, and still maintain authenticity and originality. Take it from my Tanner. He’s been paving his own road from day one. Love that.

 

Thankful Thursday

 

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I’ve been making bird feeders again.  “For today” feeders is what I like to call them.  And here’s why…  In the past year, the phrase “for today” has become one of my favorite, favorite phrases. I’ve always appreciated the saying of “One Day At a Time. This quickly became, “one moment at a time” when I was a young mom to more little ones than my arms could hold.  (Our third son was born when our oldest was 2…and by the time our oldest was 8 years old, well, he had 5 younger siblings…no twins…just a little visual for ya to see the necessity of the MOMENT thing.) There were so many needs for the moment. I needed grace for the minutes.  I loved the phrase, “grace for the moment” and repeated that to my heart too many times to count. And there was, grace, that is…and miracle of miracles, we survived and even had our sweet familial blips of total thriving. Thankful for all of it.

So that was then. Fast forward 20 some years and I still so hold on to the grace for the moment phrase and truth. But in the past year ‘for today’ has had deeper meaning for me. A year ago this month, my family had the privilege of four of us spending a week together at a center in Georgia.  Willingway works with those with alcohol and drug addictions.  I am the wife and mom of two people I adore who struggle in this area. Big struggle.  Big consequences. Big fears. Big losses.  I could lose a lifetime worrying, wringing my hands, planning for things that never even occur. Or bemoaning and becoming bitter over things that have.  But it’s a battle in which the victories and the losses come by the choices in the now,  the momentary choices  today. That’s something that I’m learning…and a little visual helped it sink it further.

In one of  our morning sessions at Willingway, a woman named Hope led our family group.  She reminded me so much of what my 22 year old Hope might be in 20 years. Both Hopes are unashamedly feisty, determined, compassionate, beautiful, and bold.  Hope, the counselor, gave a great little picture that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  She was talking about the need to live in the now. (For the full effect of this, I ask that you do try to visualize it, as it adds a dimension to the story, ha!) She stood up, and said this:  ” If we keep one foot in the past, worrying over regrets of what we did or didn’t do…” (and with this, she stepped her left foot to the far left…), “and then, add to that, that we worry about all the the things in the future that could or couldn’t happen tomorrow, next week, or in the years to come…” (and with that, she slid her right foot to the  far right and squatted a bit…), “then ALL we do is crap* all over today.”

Yep.  But she didn’t say “crap”.  And we laughed…and I teared up through my laughter because I so got it. I literally could’ve cried buckets at that moment because the realization of what she was saying was like a lightbulb to my heart. Yes.  We can lose today so easily. Especially when loved ones are struggling. Especially when we are struggling. I mean, we’d have to be crazy not to be consumed with worry over what has been or what will be, right…? Not necessarily… Because worry just makes things worse.  We so miss the moments in the now when we’ve got one foot in the past or one foot in the future…or both. Worry of what was or what will be eats up, consumes, the now. Life can get pretty full when we’re doing well, but when we add the chaos that addictions and wrong thinking to the whole mix (along with the dominoes that follow..), well, moments, days, weeks, years…can be eaten up in fear, worry, and a focus on loss…

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So, when I came home from the week in Georgia, I thought a lot about what Hope has said and so aptly demonstrated. I prayed and thanked God for today so many times. I thanked him for the big and the little and the hard and the good and the in between and tried to trust for today, for the moment.  It was Spring time and the birds were flitting and flying around..and added a whole new dimension to the lesson I so needed to live. I remembered what Jesus said about provision…and to consider… consider the birds of the air…  Consider…look at, think on. The verse says, “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?”  Matthew 6:26.

I thought about daily need, daily seed, provision for today. Even in the midst of a lot of struggles through the years, I’ve seen God’s hand of provision more times than I can count… I’m so aware that He can open doors that we never even knew were there. He can provide in ways we never imagined, and He can bring people into our lives at just the right time who we’ve never even met.  So…that’s when I started making bird feeders…not that have seed for a week or a month or a season, but food for today.   At night or in the morning, out goes a handful of seed…

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and then…they come…

the quiet and serene…

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…the sassy…

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they come two by two..
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…and they come in all kinds of weather….

and when they come, they remind me that for today, I have what I need. For today, I can do what I need to do one step at a time. For today, I am thankful. I love how Jesus spoke to worry and said (still in Matthew 6) and said, “Let today’s own troubles be sufficient for today.” Yeah, there’s usually plenty to handle for today. And the great thing is, that it sure is a lot easier to handle when I’m not trying to conquer the past and the future at the same time.

Yeah, I can learn a thing or two from birds. And I am …learning that is. (Side note) As I’m writing this, the two mourning doves are on the deck, one in the feeder, and one underneath. They really seem to have this “for today thing down…always together, never in too big of a hurry, (unless I get up to take a photo of them, then they’ll fly and coo in a heartbeat!)  And I’ll spare them. But here’s a photo of them taken this morning.   Yeah, they seem to have the for today thing down. DSCN2976.jpg

Maybe one day, I will as well. But I’m not going to worry about that, right?  Because for today, for today, …there’s provision and grace for today.

Blessings,

Heather

(“For Today” feeders can be purchased at Gifted:Local Artisan Gift Shop and Supply or can be ordered via pm on Facebook )  I love doing special orders with a theme. Am happy to mail them as well.

Blessings for today ~

Heather

P.S. Gotta share a favorite song here…Live It Well <3.

“Live It Well” by Switchfoot

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Matthew 6: 25-34

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So this past week, I was really convicted about something.

And that word “convicted” stuck out to me.  I mean in the Christian realm we can use that word quite a bit. We say that we are convicted of this or convicted of that. Oftentimes it might be the ‘little things’ like eating too much or wasting time or saying things before praying through. And I thought about how so often when we (I) say we are convicted of something, we (I) STAY convicted of something because sometimes there’s a release in the admission…and we (I) leave it there.  We (I) just leave it there.

So here’s the thing that struck me. We use the word “convicted” a lot and that’s all well and good, but logic follows that if we are convicted, we are a …(here it comes) convict.  A convict?  Yep, a convict….one who is convicted of something. Not the verb, the NOUN.  Now THAT word has a bit different connotation. It also has lots of visual imagery of prison bars and jail cells and men in orange jumpsuits. And it struck me that if we (I) say we (I) are convicted without moving into the rehabilitative phase after the conviction, we (I) stay a convict.  Yikes. We stay stuck. I stay stuck and choose to inhabit a prison of sorts if I (we) don’t learn from the conviction, the guilty feeling, the conscience speaking and move beyond it.

It was always a no-brainer when dealing with my children. I mean, if they are truly sorry for something, the behavior will change, right? As a mom who loves them, I needed to help them to learn and turn. Learn from the behavior (with not so fun “lessons” via time out, restrictions, etc.) and Turn. I expected that from them and helped them see the reality of what would happen if they stayed stuck. Loving them and wanting good things for them helped me see and act with clarity and resolve. (Most times, anyway.)

Do I do the same thing with myself?  As an adult, I’m amazed at how much I can rationalize things. That’s so not good. The “no big deal” phrase and cultural norm can keep me stuck. If I feel truly stuck in something, convicted, convinced of sin or a lack of wisdom, I will own it.  If I own it, I will hopefully change the behavior, transform the thinking, move beyond the being stuck, imprisoned and convicted, to being rehabilitated, changed, free.

And it takes honesty. And it takes work. And it takes not listening to what the world says about things and truly listening to, seeking out, and bathing my heart and mind in the scripture that is the Truth that sets free. And it takes praying through and surrendering and being very honest with myself. It takes shoe leather (or canvas or whatever they make shoes out of these days). It takes action. Determination.

If I were to share the thing that convicted me with a lot of people, so many would say, “Oh brother, that’s no big deal….” ( I hate that phrase when it comes to things of the heart and actions that can free us..but that’s a thought for another day…)   My conviction had to do with priorities,…an awareness that my ‘go-to’ for encouragement and a lift wasn’t ‘seeking ye first the kingdom of God”, but was more seeking others’ words, others’ thoughts rather than me going first to the Source myself. Not a bad thing, but not the best thing.  Christ-followers need to be attuned to when we’re veering from the path, getting a little off track. Because the little steps lead to the big journeys.  And the watering down of priorities can lead to horrific outcomes.  I know that and have seen it and don’t want to live it. Being stuck is no fun.  So many times it can lead to others being stuck too. Not good.

So today, I put my running shoes on. Figuratively and literally as a reminder. I’m doing a little inventory on myself and being honest about my priorities. I’ve gotta pray before I quickly say things or hit “send”. I’ve gotta seek the Source and not put second or third or last things first. I’ve gotta be honest with myself about time and be aware that each day is a gift that can be wasted or used to honor the God I love. So many things are simplified by merely putting first things first.

So today starts with coffee and scripture. And do you know what else it starts with?  A new morning, a chance to start again…a new beginning. It starts with gratitude for being able to ‘learn and turn’ and enjoy the simplicity of lessons learned and new goals set. It starts with a determination to make the most of this beautiful Saturday knowing that this day, this moment will never come again.  But the things I do and the steps I take?  They will lead me. They follow me. And I’m thinking that I want to choose to stay on the simple narrow path that leads to freedom. Yep, I’ve got my running shoes on.  Thankful for being a runner in this race of faith…and that goals with determination lead to destinations. I can trust God with the destinations as I honor Him with my steps. The big ones and the so little ones. They lead. And when the race is over, I want to be thankful for where those big and little steps lead.

Blessings~

“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Hebrews 12:1-2

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God,

and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Matthew 6:33

P.S.  Wanna know something funny? I thought this would be a paragraph post. Maybe two. Maybe another goal of mine should be to take a writing course on editing which focuses on “abridged versions”. Yikes. To those who made it to the end, thanks for staying with me!

P.P.S. Just a little note of clarification. The journey I speak of today has nothing to do with earning God’s love at all. It has everything to do to responding to His love though… It’s not about salvation, but sanctification. It’s about the way we run because He ran to us. The way we love because He loved us. The way we live because He died for us. My steps, right or wrong, can’t change His love..But they can lead me closer to Him and further away. Here’s to the moving closer…

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“Be still and know that He is God.” Psalm 46:10

Wordless Wednesday

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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.

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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.

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Blessings ~

Heather

“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

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Hope

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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 !

Blessings~

Heather

 

“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)

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“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

http://www.mochabeaniemummy.com/silent-sunday/

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.

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(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.)

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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.

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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! )

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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

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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

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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 ~

Heather

 

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

Psalm 19:1

 

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