Thursday, May 29, 2014

Five Reasons I Travel With My Kids

A few months ago I made a rather significant purchase that I haven’t even enjoyed yet, but that will be “delivered” next week.

I’m not excited about the cost of the purchase (let’s just say it was a lot), but rather the value of it.

It’s kind of like those old Visa commercials (or was it MasterCard?)—

This = $x

That = $x

The other = $x

All in all? Priceless.

That’s kind of how I’m feeling about next week.

Because you just can’t put a price on time spent alone with a daughter, showing her the world, and opening her eyes to some new possibilities.

I’m taking my third and final (*sob*) mother-daughter England trip. (B is secretly happy about this because, truth be told, he’s been wondering if I’d ever take a trip with him again.)

If you’ve been around here for a while, you might remember that I’ve taken this trip with Kate and with Caroline. And this year, since Julia turned 16, it’s her turn.

Back when the girls were very little, one day, on a whim, I said, “Hey, B, wouldn’t it be cool if . . .” I never imagined that that one little comment, that one little dream, would come to fruition. I never imagined that I’d really have the opportunity to do this—take time out with each daughter individually and travel to someplace that I hold dear.

But I have, and I’m so grateful.

You might be reading this and thinking that my travel plans with my daughters seem a little extravagant. I mean, why not just go to, say, Boston, where plane tickets costs a whole heckofalot less?

(Actually, I DID go to Boston with one of my girls this spring. We had a blast.)

(And I went to Grand Rapids with another. Not quite as exciting as London or Boston, but equally thrilling to me to spend a few days of one-on-one time with her.)

So you’re probably wondering, what’s my deal with travel? Why do I sacrifice so much to make it happen? Why do I spend so much time planning trips? Why do I daydream about the next place I’ll go?

Well, it might be partly inherited. My grandfather, Grandpa Earl, retired when he was in his late 50s and spent the next 25 years or so traveling the world with my grandmother. Whenever they came home from a trip, I’d be enamored with their pictures and stories and the trinkets they brought home. It just seemed exotic to think about the country where these gifts were made and the person who may have carved the wood or stitched the textiles.

And every time the stories were told, I’d ask Grandpa Earl where he was going next.

You know what? He always had an answer. My grandfather, world traveler, always had the next destination on his mind.

I loved this! My grandparent’s trips intrigued me, and I wanted to see what was out there for myself.

When I was in college, I had my first chance to peek outside the borders of our own great country when I traveled to England to study. I think I was hooked the minute I touched the ground.

Not just hooked—in love.

Since that first trip, I’ve been to many places across the globe, and there are still many I’d like to see. But my first love is England, and that’s where Julia and I are headed next week.

So, aside from my DNA, what makes me travel? And what, especially, makes me want to show these things to my kids? Why not just stay home on my comfy couch, watching NatGeo documentaries? Why spend all that money when I could save it for a rainy day?

I can think of five good reasons to travel with kids (but I’m sure there are others).

1. Travel exposes us to other people. When I travel, I realize over and over again that not everyone lives like I do and that not everyone believes what I do and that not everyone experiences life like I do. We’re all different, but we all need the same things. 

2. Travel exposes our weaknesses. It’s not always easy to keep pace, even with myself, when I’m on a trip. I want to see it all, experience it all, soak it all in. And so I run from one exciting experience to another. But then I get tired and maybe a little bit crabby. Sometimes I get lost or frustrated. How do I handle the complexities and the exhaustion of travel? Sometimes not so well, but we can learn so much about ourselves when we’re in new (or even stressful) situations.

3. Travel teaches important life skills. Like reading a map. Making a plan. Asking someone for help. Sometimes travel takes us out of our comfort zone, but that’s OK. In the end, realizing that you can make it from Point A to Point B is an important accomplishment. It just might help kids realize they can do other things, too!

4. Travel shows us the majesty of God. Soak in the grandeur of Westminster Abbey, take in the majesty of the Alps, or stand next to the powerful pounding of the Atlantic Ocean and you’ll know what I mean. Everywhere I look, every time I travel, I see God’s hand, and I want my kids to see that, too. God is massively creative, and travel makes me appreciate His creativity more and more.

5. Travel shows us the world’s need. Every time I travel—every time—I come face to face with poverty, both financial and spiritual. And every time I am reminded that the only solution to the garbage that this world spills out is a savior who loves them. It’s astounding to me, really, that Jesus died for the filth of this world, when I see it up close. (Amsterdam, I’m looking at you.) I take my kids places and pray that they catch a glimpse of the needs of the world. Even in the wealthiest of countries there is dire poverty.

I travel because it energizes me and because it helps me see the Creator in new ways. I travel with my kids because I love seeing the world open up right before their eyes.

That, to me, is priceless.

So tell me, where are you going this summer? Leave me a comment!


If you're interested in some additional posts I've written about travel, click here and here to read my "Intentional Parenting" series posts about intentional travel. And here's another post I wrote about traveling with kids called "31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Travel Together."

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Sweetest Hello

 In all of the commotion of finals and graduation and having guests and traveling, I realized that I had forgotten to post this. I want to share it, even though it’s a week or two late, because this is what has been important to me recently.


She said to me sometime in her last week of classes, “I’m trying not to cry because I know once I start I won’t be able to stop.”

Yeah, honey, I so get that.

This past week has been one big rush, a blur of lasts. Last papers to grade. Last class to teach. Last chapel. Last final.

And that was just for me!

Her lasts are different, some of which I know nothing about, but all of which are significant, emotional, hard.

I’ve done a lot of reflecting these past couple of weeks, in between the grading and finishing and grocery shopping and cooking and getting ready for house guests. It’s an exciting time. A crazy time, too.

And yet, sitting here on my porch in solitude, my mind wanders to the early days—the carefree days of collecting new friends and settling in and working through problems and learning about people. The middle days of grinding it out even when you don’t want to, of questioning, of life-determining decisions. And now, these ending days and all the fun, uncertainty, and sorrow that they bring.

A friend said to me recently, “Oh, I remember the last month of college as one of the hardest. We all didn’t know how to say goodbye.”

I’ve been mulling that over for a while now, and I think there’s a lot of wisdom in those words. Do we ever really know how to say goodbye?

In my family, goodbyes are the worst. We pack up the car, smiling bravely like it’s no big deal and we’ll-see-you-next-week, all the while dreading that moment when we’ll have to hug and acknowledge that, rather than next week we’ll see you in six months or even next year. And suddenly we look up to see who’s crying first (usually my sister, Jenn), and then the dams all burst and we’re all crying and hugging and wishing we didn’t live 900 miles apart.

Right now, they’re putting on a brave face. Packing the car. Pretending it’s no big deal and we’ll-see-each-other-next-week. When the fact of the matter is, some of these people they will never see again.

The summer will bring joy and weddings and lots of firsts for my girl and her friends, but when the fall comes and real life settles in, that’s when the days become a little harder and a little longer. That’s when loneliness sets in, and the reality that four years of college seemed long at times but that was a blink of an eye compared to work life.

When the friends are disbursed, living life, doing whatever it is they are doing--and when the goodbyes have finally been said--that’s when the hope of heaven really kicks in.

And that’s when the words, “I will never leave you; I will never forsake you,” become the sweetest hello.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Things To Do With Kids in Chicago

You guys! I'm so excited because today I'm guest posting at my friend, Jo-Lynne's super-popular blog, "Musings of a Housewife"! And because I'm writing about one of my favorite topics--travel--and one of my favorite cities--Chicago. 


As an avid traveler, I’ve been to many beautiful cities all over the world. Zurich, London, New York—they all have a lot to offer and are among my favorites. But as a life-long Chicagoan, I’ll readily admit that I’m biased because, even though I’ve been to some of the world’s most amazing cities, I often tell people that the most beautiful city in the world is right here in my back yard.
If you’ve never been to Chicago, I hope you’ll start planning your trip after reading this post, because, truly, Chicago is such a great city. And despite what you may have heard or read, most parts of our city are safe and fun for the family.
So to help with your planning, I offer you our family’s Top Ten Things to do with Kids in Chicago.

Come join me over at Jo-Lynne's for the rest of my post, Things To Do With Kids in Chicago.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Catching Up and Catching My Breath

Well, friends, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks, as you can probably tell from my absence here. I thought I’d just recount for you (and for me) the whirlwind that has been my life since May began.

I finished up my semester of teaching, which is always fraught with lots of varying emotions. This year was no exception since I, at one point, thought this would be my last year of teaching, only to have my head swing quickly in the other direction nearly giving me whiplash. I’ll be back next year, which is also kind of mind blowing right now. I had another great group of students, which also makes me a little melancholy—I’m terrible with goodbyes—but knowing I’ll be back next year makes the goodbyes a little easier.

I entertained guests for a week, which was wonderful. My parents were here for a week, B’s parents were here for a couple of days, and my college roommate came for a night to pick her daughter up from school. It was a whirlwind of FUN, and I loved every minute of it, but writing anything of substance with lots of people around is a little hard.

I moved kids back home. Oh yeah, in the midst of having guests, Kate and Caroline moved back home. Needless to say, things are a little topsy-turvey back at the ranch right now.

I hosted an open house for 70 people. I couldn’t let graduation weekend go by without celebrating all of Kate’s friends and opening our home to their families. It was a phenomenal day—glorious in every way. The weather could not have been better, and the company was just grand. Doing things like this makes me so happy.

I watched my daughter graduate from college. The highlight of my year, I think. A proud mama moment, to be sure, and the culmination of four wonderful years. It was an emotional weekend, but the big news of the day was that I didn’t cry as she accepted her diploma. A true feat for me!

Photo Credit: Meredith Melby via Ginny Melby

So I’m catching my breath right now. Thankfully, B had a conference to attend in California this week, so I’m putting my feet up with a book by the pool and enjoying these next few days of rest and relaxation.

Feel free to keep up with me at Instagram. I’ll be posting pictures to make you jealous! (Just kidding . . . a little.)

Friday, May 2, 2014

"Time to Let Go" at the Mothers of Daughters blog today

On the day my oldest daughter was born, I sat in the hospital room holding her close, and I said the most unexpected and strange words to my husband.
“I feel like my job from now on is to teach her to not need me.”
Not exactly the words you’d expect from a first-time mother holding her newborn.
In fact, you might expect the opposite reaction:
“This world is so dangerous; I need to protect her.”
“People are bound to hurt her; I must hold her close.”
“She might not feel loved; I must smother her with affection.”
I suppose that growing up with parents who encouraged my independence might have contributed to my own parenting instincts. I suppose that losing a sibling at a young age may have affected my parenting style as well.
But in that hospital room twenty-two years ago, I had a very deep sense that the Lord was speaking something important into my life. . . .


You all know I write at the Mothers of Daughters blog once a month, right? *wink wink* This month I'm writing about letting go. It's been on my mind just a little bit lately since my oldest will be graduating from college next week and moving out of the house this summer. I'll probably write more about that next week, but join me over there today to read the rest of this post.

And while you're at it, pass the Kleenex.