Archives for June 2013

I Speak German!


I speak German, but I don’t cook.

Often when I’m being overshadowed by a friend’s talent, I jokingly chime in, “I speak German,” which in South Carolina is about as useful as being able to burp the alphabet.

However, one night my friend Karen drove our daughters and me to a remote part of the woods in the Swiss Alps, reached only by her skillful traversing of a perilously old, narrow wooden bridge in our Citroen van. (I closed my eyes as she drove. We all have to die sometime, but I don’t have to watch.) [Read more…]

What if Jesus Was Shy? Shyness Costs!


We paid for this…I promise!

I wonder how much shyness has cost me over the years?

I wonder how much it’s cost me just in free stuff?

I think about this when I travel with my best friend Karen. She can’t spell shyness, much less does she suffer from it. Wherever we go she speaks with people, and quite often we walk away with free stuff. I love it!

On our day-trip to Brugge, Belgium – a lovely medieval town – we chose a small cafe for lunch. As the waiter seated us, Karen said, “I love your restaurant! It’s so beautiful!” Her daughter Libby’s expression said, “Here she goes again,” and I was delighted because I knew good things happen when Karen befriends strangers.

It’s not a calculated attempt on Karen’s part to score freebies, she just can’t help herself. She’s a natural talker who sees friends where most of us see strangers.

We, of the Shy Community, smile and thank our waiters when they seat us. Karen learns their life story.

In both scenarios we walk out hopefully having eaten a nice meal, but with Karen the likelihood of walking out with a friend, and with our pockets full of freebies always exists.

In Brugge we walked out with free vials of mystery syrup for hot chocolates with clever built-in spoons. After tasting the syrups I may wonder where we can buy more of these heavenly mixtures or, possibly, why anyone would ever even sell such horrible concoctions, but come-what-may, it was fun.

DSC_5788 - Version 2Can you imagine if Jesus was shy?

I never thought of that before. He may not have been as gregarious as Karen – or perhaps He was – but He certainly didn’t suffer from my shyness affliction.

The Gospels would have read differently if He’d been too shy to talk with those who needed healing, or with those whom God chose to be Jesus’ disciples. He still could have, and would have, died for our sins, offering salvation to any who believe, but think of the lost opportunities and lessons His shyness would have cost.

Shy Jesus certainly wouldn’t have been flipping tables in the temple. My friend Karen is a lot like Jesus!

I don’t mean she flips tables, but she does spread her joie de vivre with all those around her, and she makes me feel loved.

I’m reminded of a letter a child sent to CS Lewis asking if it was bad that she loved Aslan more than God. (Aslan is the lion who rules the land of Narnia from his books The Chronicles of Narnia.) Lewis responded that it wasn’t bad at all because it was actually God that she saw in Aslan, and that’s why she loved him so.

imageI love the friendliness of God I see in Karen.

I wonder if I can learn to be more like her and look more like Him? I have two weeks in which to study under her while we’re traveling Europe together, and then my daughters can give the “here she goes again” expression Libby gives her mom once I start making friends everywhere I go, but I bet they won’t complain if we walk out with free stuff.

I know they won’t complain if I look more like Jesus and less like “Mom!

The Angel in the Devil

In the most powerful fiction novels, the heroes aren’t perfect. There’s a bit of the devil in them. Likewise, there’s a bit of angel in the villains. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no angel in Satan whatsoever.

I’m not talking about him. There’s only pure evil in him. 

I’m not talking about Jesus either. There’s only pure good in Him.

I’m talking about man. Because we were created in the image of God, even the worst can hold redeeming qualities, but because apart from God there is no good in any of us, there’s also a touch of devil in even the best of us.

These thoughts came to me when we went to the theater.


We went to Wicked, to be exact.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Wicked, it’s the prequel to The Wizard of Oz. It answers the question of what happened in the life of the Wicked Witch of the West to bring her to such an evil place in life.

The story was so brilliant, I’m not going to risk ruining it for anyone by even touching on the story other than to say it reminded me that you don’t always know what has happened in someone’s life to bring them to where they are now. We need to consider that if we’d lived the same life they had, we’d most likely have their same struggles…the struggles we may be condemning.

We all need grace. We all need saving.

Jesus knew this. He saw past the exterior of people and into their hearts. He looked for the angel in people and touched that part of them, causing a thieving tax collector to desire to repay more than he’d stolen.

He also saw the devil in those who played the part of being good but whose hearts were actually dark, like the pious Pharisees who condemned Jesus for healing the sick on the Sabbath.

The play Wicked will forever make me see The Wizard of Oz in a new light…an even better light. And the more I see of Jesus, and through His eyes, the more I see everyone in a new light…a more gracious light.

I’m forever grateful for Jesus’ grace that saves us from the devil that is in each of us through faith in Him. Will the angel in you move you to turn to Jesus, or will the devil in you keep you away. 


That’s just my thought for today and a little bit of What I Learned on My Summer Vacation.

Awe and Wonder Abound

June 9, 2013

Some of my favorite things:

Lush gardens, my children, coffee, art, Europe, travel, birds, and talking with God.

All of these are happening right now. I’m sitting in an English cottage garden surrounded by the lingering fragrance of wisteria and honeysuckle as birds call back and forth to each other. And I’m watching my daughter Brittany as she sits cross-legged across the garden from me painting our charming guest cottage, while I sip a cup of steaming black coffee in the chilled evening air. Is it any wonder I’m feeling a sense of awe and thankfulness to God right now?

“Wonderful are Your works; and my soul knows it full well.” ~ Psalm 139:14



Earlier today I experienced another sense of awe and wonder. I wondered if we’d survive 21 year old JB’s first experience driving on the other side of the road in our big black van — Shan the Van.

We all held our breath, including JB, as we pulled out of the ferry at the White Cliffs of Dover, not only because of the beauty of the cliffs, but also because there was no turning back. We kept repeating, “Think LEFT!”

Upon our safe arrival at our temporary home outside of London, we all felt a sense of awe at how well JB drove – despite white-knuckle moments at the roundabouts, JB never faltered – and at the sight of our lovely London abode, we were in awe. Well done! – as they say here.

England is so English!

I realize that sounds absurd but stereotypes are all around us: English cottage gardens that fill the air with fragrance and beauty, a neighborhood game of cricket (complete with all white outfits worn by both teams), homes popped out of Thomas Kincaid paintings, and a Fish and Chips restaurant around the corner. And how classic is it that our host is working on a classic British auto, a 1932 Austin?

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Do I even need to point out that we’re surrounded by the British accent we so envy. I love America down to my pink painted toe nails, but I just don’t understand why Australia maintained a fabulous accent even though being settled by British convicts, but we were settled by some of the finest of the UK, and apparently lost any hint of a clever accent somewhere in the Atlantic on the voyage over.

Tomorrow we discover the heart of London…

I Didn’t Even Make it Out of Security

Before I even made it out of security, I was in trouble.

“M’am, we need to check your bag. The screening machine cannot identify an object in your bag. Do you have anything which could be dangerous?”
I desperately searched my jumbled memory to see if if accidentally packed a set of Ginsu knives or a pair of tweezers. “No, Sir.”
Using a long pair of tongs he swabbed the bottom of my bag and analyzed it for explosives. None found. Whew! One by one he emptied the contents until he found the offending object…my bag of grits. Fortunately this fellow Southerner understood, and smiled. I hope my gift of grits to my uninitiated Belgian friends brings a smile to their face as well.
Our first visit is to my Belgian son, JB. He knows grits because lived with us and two other families through a Rotary Exchange over the course of a year in 2009-2010. His family, however, will learn of one of our finer delicacies.
Sharing our lives, cultures, and friendship is one of the greatest blessings of a trip like this. We are sharing grits, but they are sharing their home in Mons (where I have Internet on the 2nd floor) and their home on the coast of Belgium, where technology has not yet fully intruded. We leave in five minutes. Thus I will be disconnected until Sunday when you’ll hear from me in London.
Thanks for all your encouragement! I love hearing from you so please leave a comment. Merci!


How to Pack for a Long Trip in a Small Suitcase


You never know what you’ll find in this section. Since my journey currently involves actual travelling, I thought I would share some helpful travel tips.

  • Pack tight.

I am trying a new system of packing: Packing Folders by Eagle Creek Travel Gear and Packing Cubes by eBags. They promise to keep your clothes virtually wrinkle free and your packing and unpacking organized and tidy. Check back and I’ll let you know if they’re as great as they say.

  • Coordinate your clothes.

Pack clothes in complimentary colors so you can easily mix and match. Avoid items that won’t go with any other outfit in your suitcase. Ladies, don’t forget the little black dress. It’s a sure winner.

  • Take advantage of modern technology in fabrics.


With today’s technology in fabrics, there’s a plethora of choices for thin, but warm clothes.

Of course, another option is to travel to only warm destinations. Southern Italy is sounding enticing after hearing Europe is having their coldest spring in about 40 years. My Southern blood is shivering already.

  • Pack your favorite clothes.

You’ll be much happier wearing the same clothes over and over again when they’re your favorite.

I had friends who packed only clothes they wanted to leave behind as they traveled. They came home with a light suitcase but photos of themselves wearing ugly outfits. No thanks.

  • For long trips, wash on the road:

If your accommodations don’t have laundry facilities, pack travel-sized laundry detergent and a suction cup laundry line and turn your bathroom into a laundry room.

Want to know my favorite country for when I need to hand-wash clothes? France. Their bidets make great washbasins. Don’t judge.

If you need to hide a coffee stain on white clothing, you could use my mom’s method, if you’re brave enough. It involved tea bags (nature’s dye), a readily available swirling pool of water in our hotel bathroom, and a now tan sweater with no obvious signs of an earlier collision with a coffee cup.

  • Pack e-Books:

Your smart phone and iPad can weightlessly hold several novels and the entire Bible. I never leave home without my Bible and a gripping novel.


Carry-On Considerations:


  • Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on. The airline would never lose your bag, of course, but…
  • Pack all valuables in your carry-on, even if they hold only sentimental value. (One of my best friends “lost” all of her jewelry she’d bought in Italy.)
  • Remember the 3-1-1 Rule:

Currently TSA allows you to carry-on as many liquids as you want as long as each liquid is contained in a …

  1. 3 oz. (actually 3.4 oz.) or less, container, and placed inside…
  2. 1 clear quart-sized zip lock bag.
  3. 1 quart-sized zip lock bag is allowed per person.
  • Check with your airline for their regulations.

They seem to change the rules continually.

All airlines have a weight and size limit per bag. Over-sized or over-weight bags will result in over-priced fees. Anything over 50 pounds can cost around $100 extra.

Pack light on the way to your destination so you can fatten your suitcase with souvenirs and still remain under the 50 lbs. limit for your return trip. Two suitcases most likely won’t solve that dilemma. Most airlines charge for more than one checked bag.

Watch for hidden costs. Our oldest daughter is flying on Ryanair from Strasbourg, France to London in June. Her ticket cost 16 Euros. (Yes, about $20!) That’s a staggering price, as long as she doesn’t bring a suitcase, buys her ticket on-line, flies at 3:00 am, and doesn’t sit in a seat. Ok, those last two aren’t true, but the deal does have added costs we had to consider before committing. (The final price ended up still being less than $90. Impressive…or cause for concern?)


Do you have any packing tips or mishaps to share?
Please leave a comment below.