Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My favorite thing about our trip...

Everyone asks if we had a good time on our European adventure, of course we did, and then asks what our favorite part was. I like when someone asks me separate from J and I answer, and they say that he said the same thing. Our favorite thing wasn't a tourist site, although most were amazing, or a church, although again, amazing. Our favorite part was just making connections with people. Our favorite memory is playing cards with Trey and Randi, walking along the river cracking jokes, having ice cream at a park, or going to the grocery store with them. We love that we have some inside jokes that no one else will think are funny. We loved having an English light supper with our London friends, or hanging out at the pub after church. We loved our conversations sitting around on a Sunday afternoon by a pool at a BBQ, or just having a sweet talk over a cup of coffee. I loved talking over some deep issues with my hubby over a cheap McDonald's meal and talking about our kids over a cup of gelato.

All of that goes to show you that the most important parts of life can happen wherever you are. I don't have to go across the ocean and spend money on airlines or hotels. But living day to day life and trying to get those connections in takes a lot of work. You have to be intentional, schedule it sometimes, or it won't happen. Life gets busy and the unimportant parts take over. That's the good part about vacations, the unimportant busy parts aren't there to distract you. God talked a lot to me about being intentional about life. Its good I'm blogging about it to remind myself of those lessons because the business of life has already crept back in. Its a goal at least. Anyone want to go for coffee?

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17
"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Proverbs 16:24

Has God ever told you not to spend time with Him?

Its an honest question I'm asking myself today. I finally sat down today to spend some time with God for the first time since we got back from our trip 10 days ago. I was so mad at myself and questioning why I hadn't spent any time with Him. We had a wonderful time on our trip, sweet fellowship with my spouse, our friends and with my Father. So why would I not want to pick right back up with the good habit I had of sitting at His feet every afternoon? Partly exhaustion maybe? I really haven't had time to rest from our trip, jumped right back into the business of life. Got out of the habit? I don't know. But I sat down and was journaling about some thoughts and questions I was having. And then I turned to the chapter that I left off on weeks ago in 2 Timothy, and the passage answered exactly my questions I had just written down. The Lord spoke loud and clear. So now I'm wondering if the Lord tells us its ok some times to not spend time with Him because He's waiting for the right time to show us something? If I had been doing it the way I thought I should be, I would have read that passage last week and I don't think I would have been at the place that it would have spoken to me so clearly. Do you think God gives us a pass sometimes because He wants us at a certain time? Just wondering if anyone has any thoughts on that.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

St. Peter's in the Vatican City

My most favorite site that we visited was St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. We actually visited twice because its free, so why not. The first visit we paid for a small tour through the Vatican Museum first. Our tour guide told us if we looked at every piece of art there for only 15 seconds, it would take us three years to look at it all. Crazy. J and I aren't really art people, but just the age of some of the pieces was amazing, and the stories behind some of the art work by Raphael was interesting. That led us to the Sistine Chapel, which I had high hopes for. But as I discovered in many sites we saw, if we could have seen it by ourselves, it would have been an entirely different experience. If I could have laid on my back in that room for an hour or so, I certainly would have been brought to tears in appreciation for Michelangelo's work. But being pushed through there with 300 other people, shoulder to shoulder, was not an inspirational moment. And they asked for quiet, since it is a chapel, but people couldn't help themselves from talking, so every 5 minutes a guard was screaming "Quiet Please!" in English and Italian. It kind of takes the holiness out of the moment. But I am glad I can say that I have seen it.

So then we were able to go into the Basilica. That part is free, after you go through a long line of airport type security. But when I walked in, my mouth dropped open. You just have to stand there a minute and take it all in. It is the biggest church I have ever seen. And the most beautiful. There are just not words to describe it. We walked around in awe for awhile. Surprisingly you are allowed to take pictures there, so there are some below. Although, you are not allowed to use flash, and surprisingly my little camera did a much better job of pics than my big one. But either way, pictures do not do it justice. Our tour guide took us around and showed us some of the more interesting parts, and then our tour was done, so we stayed a while longer.

We came back our last day. Jason went up into the cupola and took some pictures, and I took my Bible and journal fully intending to have some worship time. But in all its glory, unless you are participating in a mass, there is no where to sit. I found an out of the way place in a corner and sat down to journal. I kind of thought that wouldn't work, but tried anyway. Five minutes in, I was asked very politely to stand up. No explanation why. I assume because they consider it disrespectful to sit on the floor there. I wanted to, but did not, ask the man why I was being disrespectful, while the people walking around talking on their cell phones, or posing for pictures next to dead popes were behaving correctly. I was just trying to have some time with the Lord.

There were so many people there! I think there were two different groups of people. One group was strictly there because when you are in Rome, a good tourist just visits there. Lots of tour groups walking around with their headsets on listening to their guides. But the other group of people were there to truly worship. There were people sitting at confessionals, participating in masses, or praying on their knees in chapels. I supposed I could have pretended to be Catholic so I could go pray in a chapel, but I was afraid it would be obvious I was not. Although just being in there, I wanted to do the sign of the cross out of respect for the millions of Catholics who have come there in history to worship. You can't help it when you see a precious nun who has sacrificed so much to worship her Lord.

But as I sat there, taking in the grandeur of this amazing place, a question popped in my mind. Is this really what the Lord wants in a church? Does a building like that, decorated in precious metals and art by the top artists of the times, huge in not only size but scale and design, does that truly bring glory to Him and for Him? Or would He prefer a tent or a shack in the woods, but full of people who are down on their knees worshiping Him? It did bring me to a place of worshiping Him, but I know many people in that place were worshiping what man had done in building it, not our Father that it was created for. I also know the history of the building, that many parts of it were built by popes using money taken from indulgences and built to bring attention to themselves, not the Lord. I don't know the answer to that, but I did take the opportunity to sing praises to Him in my heart, thankful that I can go to His throne wherever I am.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I'm not still in Rome

So sorry to those of you who were reading my blogs from Europe, which apparently was more people than I thought because I heard about it today. I did not fall off the wall of the Colosseum or anything. I just got tired. Walking around Rome wore me out, and we would get back to the hotel room, I would check email or facebook or skype with the kids, and I was done. I also thought I might be boring people with a play by play report of our days or a boring slideshow of our pictures. So I just stopped blogging. I did post some pictures on facebook, but I just didn't have the brain power to write about them. But I am going to blog about the trip, more topically then chronologically, that way you'll get the really good stuff. We got home Thursday afternoon, and jumped right back into football practices and scrimmages, baseball scrimmages, laundry, dishes, school starting and teacher training, so I haven't even had time to sit down and go through the 800+ pictures I took. This may be a long process, but I made a list of things that refresh me, and blogging was on it, so I will begin! Tomorrow maybe?

Friday, August 05, 2011

Rome Part 1

We said goodbye to Trey and Randi yesterday and the wonderful country of Serbia. It was sad. We both feel like we will be back again. I could write a whole other blog entry about the things I learned in Serbia, but that will have to wait.

Because now we are in Rome, and I am so tired! But we are skyping with the kids in 45 minutes, so I have to keep myself awake. We arrived in Rome yesterday and our first experience was realizing that all European drivers are crazy. It wasn't just Serbia. Our hotel driver scared me to death. But we arrived safely, and on the way were immediately struck with the beauty of Rome. We dumped our stuff and walked a little to get the lay of the land. I was overwhelmed with the size and majesty of buildings here, some that are thousands of years old. They are just mixed in with the rest of the city that is "new" as our driver told us, only built before WWII. Its all unbelievable.

Today we went and saw the Colosseam, Arch of Constantine, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. Jason and I are not really history buffs, except for Biblical history. So some of it was just old buildings. But we were fascinated by an exhibit at the Colosseam about Emperor Nero who has always been taught to us as an evil man who used Christians as his scapegoat and as torches. The exhibit never mentioned anything about the Christians, and made it sound like he wasn't near as bad as history has made him out to be. No mention that Christians were used as targets in the Colosseam entertainment for the lions. Very interesting to us. Our favorite thing was the Arch of Titus at the Roman Forum, which commemorates the Roman victory over Israel in A.D. 70. Not that it was a happy thing, just the main piece of Christian history we saw today.

We came back to the hotel and rested for a few minutes and then walked to the Vatican to make sure we knew how to get there because we have an early tour scheduled tomorrow. Well, we realized its too far to walk in the morning, so we are calling a taxi. But there and back, with a long detour to find a McDonalds, was probably five miles, so my feet are angry at me right now. But we ended the day with chocolate gelato in front of the Pantheon, so hopefully they will forgive me soon and work properly in the morning for the Vatican tour.

Oh yeah. And what red head forgot to pack sunscreen? That would be me. And it was a beautiful cloudless 95 degree day today. My skin isn't happy with me either. Next doot to the McDonalds was a drug store where I spent entirely too much on sunscreen and aloe vera lotion, but it was a dire necessity for the rest of the week.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Belgrade Part 2

We have been loving our time here in Belgrade. Lots of new experiences! Yesterday we went to another open market, really hard to describe. Like a mix of a flea market and an outdoor Walmart. Do you want a kitchen sink? Go through the maze until you find a sink stall. Do you need a curtain rod? Wander around until you find a curtain rod stall. Not sure stall is the right word either. A tent? A booth? Blue jeans, tools, kitchen supplies, man bags, and food. Whatever you need. Just wander around until you find it. Some clothing stalls are just piles of clothes, but some look like a Dillards under a tent. Nicely organized, hung on fancy hangers. Food here is really cheap, but clothes are highly taxed so they are expensive. Jason's been looking for a man bag so he can fit in with the European men.

Then we went to another mall and had KFC for lunch. Real adventurous aren't we? Had some coffee, came home and had dinner, and we taught Randi and Trey how to play Polish Poker. Then we walked over to another neighborhood and went to the home of some American friends of Trey and Randi's. We taught them how to play Polish Poker (glad we could introduce a new game to the country of Serbia) and talked and laughed for hours. I have laughed more in the past week than I have in months. I don't think its because I don't have funny friends at home, just no time to go hang out with them. Thoroughly enjoyed myself. We Skyped with the boys last night. It was great to see them, and only made me a little sad. Campbell looked so big. He's not my baby anymore!

Today we rode the public transit across the river to the Fortress, a huge park like place surrounded by parts of a real fortress. Parts of it were built during the wars, but there are parts of it that are Roman ruins. It was warm here today (not like Texas, so we weren't complaining) so we took our time and rested and snacked along the way. Then we shopped at some little carts along the sidewalks around. I bought some beautiful doilies from the cutest little Serbian lady named Milana. Serbia isn't known for much, but I have fallen in love with the little ladies here, so I really wanted something they make. After dinner, the boys went back to the mall to hang out and Randi and I have had a girl's night. Painted our toe nails, ice cream and a girlie movie.

We leave tomorrow for Rome. Belgrade isn't the prettiest city I've ever been to, but when you look for the good parts you can find them. But more than that, I will miss our friends. We have had a wonderful time visiting, catching up and laughing. And now I know how to better pray for them when I am back home. All in all, very successful trip!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Belgrade Part 1

We have spent a wonderful two days in Belgrade so far, very relaxing. Yesterday we went to the International Church that meets in a hotel. About 40 people there from all different places, worshipping together in English. Then we went out for "Mexican" food for lunch with about 16 Americans. I put it in quotes because for us from Houston it was just ok, but for these Americans who have been out of the country for a range of a month to two years, they loved it and were very excited to have found this restaurant. Then we came back and took naps, because no matter where you are in the world, Sunday afternoons are made for naps. Then a relaxing time of coffee, ordered pizza and palacinke for dessert. It's crepes with chocolate or fruit filling. And we played some cards.

Today we went to a local "pijaca," a market with wonderful fruits and vegetables. I had the best time taking pictures, trying to get some people without them noticing. Then we braved a Chinese market, a Sam Moon store on steroids. Three buildings, two floors each of everything under the sun. Craziness. Then we had some wonderful pastry type sandwiches for lunch, walked around the neighborhood a little bit, and then went to the local grocery store. I was introduced to meat in a tube. Then we came back and rested a little bit, watched some American tv. Randi cooked us a wonderful dinner, and then we walked down by the Danube. On one side of us was the river with lots of boat restaurants all the way down. The other side was kids carnival rides, lots of booths with grilled corn, popcorn, palacinke and this wonderful discovery "krofnice", these little donuts that taste like funnel cakes with caramel sauce and strawberry sauce. REALLY GOOD! Randi said she had only seen them in Bulgaria, so she was excited to find them too. Now we're watching a movie and hanging out. Here are some pics!