Saturday, July 12, 2014

Let's See How Much I Can Write in 10 Minutes

Hi there!

We're getting ready to leave for a wedding in ten minutes, but surprise! I'm the first one ready. I thought I'd just give you all a quick update and then a quick good bye for a while.

First, the update.

People have been asking how my summer is going and what I've been up to, and I realize that my answer is kind of crazy. Since school got out in early May, I have been to California and back. England and back. Dallas and back. And now I'm headed to the north woods for two weeks.

So most of my summer has been spent . . . elsewhere. Which, for this traveling girl, is not a bad thing.

I've also spent a lot of time in doctor's offices. Nothing at all is the matter with me (in fact, every time I get a check up the doctor cannot believe that there is NO family history of basically anything), it's just time for a lot of checking up. You know, mid-life and all that.

Plus I needed a crown replaced, so I've spent a good bit of time with my dentist with whom I have a love-hate relationship. I love him as a person (SUCH a great guy!), but I absolutely hate going there. Oh well. That's done.

So, like I said, I'm leaving again. Tomorrow morning, B and I are leaving for the north woods where we hope to get a glimpse of our youngest girl who's at camp for the summer. In fact, the boat is already tied to the top of our car, the bike rack is installed and ready for bikes, and our first stop tomorrow is camp so I can hug my girl's neck.

Well, I did it. I updated you in ten minutes.

And now, despite the rain and gloomy weather, we're off to celebrate the daughter of some of our closest friends. So excited!

Happy summer! See you in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How to Let Go of Regret

I see you, mama. The one with Regret written all over your face and on your sagging shoulders and in your sad eyes. The one whose hopes and dreams consist of words you wish you had said, deeds you wish you had done, or those you wish you could undo.

“If only” has become your mantra.

I see you and I know you because I am you.

Seems, sometimes, like Regret is a mother’s best friend.

We walk with it, chew on it, and let it weigh us down. None of us are immune.

I’ve certainly had my share of regrets over the years—things I wish I had done; things I wish I had said. More often, though, things I wish I had not said. The words, they do poison.

In the past few weeks I have spoken to two friends—both amazing mothers—who are filled with regret over children who are not currently living in the way these parents have raised them. One child has rejected the faith with which they were raised; the other is on the brink of making some important decisions about how to live.

In both conversations, I noticed that both of my friends expressed serious regret about their parenting.

Maybe you’ve felt this, too.

Here’s the thing, mamas: we are not made to regret. And I think our regrets come from our forgetfulness about three important things.

1. We forget that we are ultimately not in control.

In other words, we give ourselves way too much blame (or credit!) for the way our kids turn out. As much as we’d like to make the way easy for our kids, we have to remember that some kids very simply will not learn from our mistakes. They may not even learn from their own. We can give our children the tools (whether that be an education, a faith heritage, a stable family—whatever it is) that can make paving the way a bit easier, but it’s up to them to use them.

Don’t blame yourself if your child rejects the tools you have given him or her. Just be faithful every day.

2. We forget that we are forgiven, just as much as our children are.

Forgiveness is a powerful arsenal in our parenting strategy, and we must remember to also practice it on ourselves.

I recently read the most beautiful definition of grace: “Grace says, ‘There you are, I’ve been waiting for you and you’re welcome here. All of you. You are beloved.’”

Mama, you are beloved—all of you—whether or not you’ve messed up. Or your kid has. Or your husband has. It doesn’t matter. Grace is here, waiting for you.

Mama, forgive yourself because God already has. Don’t let the regret that you’re feeling limit you from the power of forgiveness and grace in your life, which will move you ahead to do the next right thing.

3. We forget that the story isn’t finished yet.

I’ve known parents of some seriously messed up kids. Some have let regrets stop them from doing what they should be doing—whether that is acting with tough love or gently loving them back home. But some parents I’ve known have simply said, “My son’s (or daughter’s) story is not yet finished. God has not given up on this child, and neither will I.” They have prayed continuously for their child. They have opened the door to their home. They have shown, in very practical terms, what the love of Jesus means.

Mama, your story is not yet finished—thank goodness for that, right?!—and neither is your child’s. Our stories continue to grow and to change and to mold us into the people we are today, and that’s true for our kids as well. If you have regrets, remember that your child’s story is still being written and that the way he or she is living today is not the end of the story.

Even more important, remember that God has not walked away from your child, He still loves them, and He will never give up fighting for them.

So mama? For the sake of your family (and your sanity) will you give up your regrets? Don’t dwell on those things that are over and done. Realize that, ultimately, you are not in control. Move ahead with grace and forgiveness. 

And thank God that the story is not finished yet.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Two Simple Words

FLower opened

Hey friends! I'm over at the Mothers of Daughters blog today! Won't you join me to read one of my favorite posts of the past year?

And enjoy your 4th of July!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

S and J Take Edinburgh: Part 2

Onward we go.

When last I left you, Julia and I were trekking our way down the Royal Mile, no small feat on those centuries-old cobblestones, dodging bagpipers and silver hawkers on the street.

But we made it, finally, to the place I had long wanted to visit: The Palace of Holyroodhouse.

As I mentioned yesterday, this was my fourth visit to Edinburgh, but I had yet to see Holyroodhouse because the Queen, bless her, was usually in residence every time I'd been there. And for some reason, the Queen doesn't want us Commoners tromping around her house when she's home.

Go figure.

But this time, I went early enough (the Queen is usually in Scotland in July) that we could tour the castle. I was so glad we did!

This is the entrance. Impressive, huh?

And this is the main courtyard (the forecourt?) where just this week the Queen was greeted by 100 Guardsmen in kilts. Lucky girl!

We weren't supposed to take pictures inside the Palace, but I'm a rule breaker (just ask my husband) and I snuck this one of the inner courtyard. I can just imagine little Prince George playing on the grass.

Julia and I enjoyed our tour of the Palace. It's smaller and more accessible, I think, than many of the Royal Residences. I could just imagine the Royal family eating breakfast in the dining room or hanging out on the patio. Sadly, they wouldn't let us see the apartments, but I think we got a good sense of what life at Holyrood would be like.

Once outside, we walked through Holyrood Abbey, where they allowed us to take pictures. What a stunning ruin of this small chapel.

Once outside, we could walk around the grounds to see where the Royal family would greet guests--all 8,000 of them--at a tea party to celebrate the opening of Holyrood Week, a week the family spends in Scotland every year. In the picture below, you can see the huge, white tent that they are already setting up for the event.

 You can also see, in the picture above, the hill they call Arthur's Seat, a very popular spot to hike in the middle of the city.

Of course, after walking all the way down the Royal Mile and through two castles, Julia and I were getting a wee bit tired, but we both said that as long as we were there we should at least see what all the fuss was about.

So we climbed. Not all the way to the top, but high enough to get these amazing views.

Let's recap our day, shall we? Just in case you can't keep up. We had already toured Edinburgh Castle, walked down the Royal Mile, ate lunch at a cute tea shop, and toured The Palace of Holyroodhouse. Once we finished our hike (about 45 minutes), we were absolutely gassed, but our B&B host had assured us that our hotel was "just around the corner" from Arthur's Seat, so we started walking again.

We walked.

And we walked.

And we walked.

We even took a moment to sit down and assess where we had been.

Let me tell you, our B&B was nowhere to be found "right around the corner"!

We finally found a set of steps that seemed to lead to a neighborhood, so we took them. Good call, because a couple of blocks later we found the bus that would take us to our B&B.

Where we rested. For about 30 minutes.

Because soon it was time to go find the very thing we had come to Edinburgh to do and we were NOT going to miss it: the Harry Potter walking tour.

Yes, I said "walking."

We took the bus to the area where we would meet up with our group, and despite the fact that we were completely exhausted, we would not be deterred. We were going to find Harry Potter no matter what!

Well, we didn't find Harry, but we did find a whole lot of other interesting sites having to do with Harry.

Like the cemetery where J.K. Rowling got a lot of names for the characters in her books.

And Voldemort's grave. (I'll just leave this for the true HP fans to figure out.)

And this other grave that has nothing to do with Harry Potter, but I just liked it for reasons that will be obvious to people who know me.

We saw The Elephant House, the coffee shop where many believe J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book.

But, actually, our tour guide told us that J.K. herself has since confirmed that, although she DID write some of her books at The Elephant House, the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was conceived at Spoon, the upstairs coffee shop shown here.

Do with that whatever you want.

Our tour took us to Victoria Place, the street that probably spurred the idea for Diagon Alley.

And ended up at the City Council building where all of the famous people from Edinburgh have placed their hands in the walk of fame. All eight of them.

At the end of our tour, we were so glad we did it. It was a lot of walking and not as much talking as we would have liked, but still, it was fun to see some of the places that inspired someone to write some of the most imaginative and incredible books of our time.

That night we fell into bed, but not before we watched the old men play bocce outside our window.

Oh, Edinburgh, I do love you. I'll be back someday.


Thanks for reading along on my most recent adventure. If you'd like to keep up with my everyday adventures, just sign up to receive updates via email. And I'd love it if you'd share my adventures with a friend. 


Here are all the posts in my most recent series:
S and J Take London: Part 1
S and J Take London: Part 2
S and J Take Oxford
S and J Take Edinburgh: Part 1

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

S and J Take Edinburgh: Part 1

So after four whirlwind days in London and two glorious days in Oxford, we departed on the last leg of our journey: Edinburgh.

Edinburgh was Julia's pick, being the Harry Potter fan that she is, because she wanted to see where it all began. To walk in the footsteps of J.K. Rowling, if you will. And walk in her footsteps we did, as you will see.

But first (and, sadly, I don't have any pictures to show you of this), we took a six hour train ride from Oxford to Edinburgh. If you've never taken a cross country train ride (or even a car ride) across the U.K., you're really missing out because the landscape changes right before your very eyes, growing more and more lovely the farther north you go.

And then you reach Scotland. Ahhhh. As you climb into Scotland the terrain becomes much more rugged, green patches dotted with grazing sheep, and you can really picture Robert the Bruce leading his pack of warriors across the fields to meet the English army. It's astounding how much has not changed in Scotland through the years (of course, I'm sure the people who live there would tell you differently).

We arrived in Edinburgh around 4 p.m. in a slight drizzle, caught a cab to our B&B, and were immediately struck by the wonderful kindness of the Scottish people. Our cab driver chatted us up through the entire drive, telling us this and that about the University and other sites we were passing, and our B&B host, Ross, was absolutely wonderful. In fact, everyone we met in Scotland was cheerful, kind, and helpful. These people are genuinely lovely, and they make me want to spend more time in their country.

Here's another great thing about Scotland: it hardly ever gets dark there in the summer, so you can pack a lot into your day. In fact, we went to sleep with the sun still shining and we woke up in the morning to sunshine. I love that! (This picture was taken at about 9:00 p.m. Doesn't it look like mid-afternoon?)

Anyway, since it was getting later in the day and we were starving from our trip, Julia and I headed toward the Royal Mile for dinner. We hadn't had an pizza on our trip yet, so we indulged our American tastebuds and ate at Pizza Express. Yum!

*Edited to add: How could I forget?! After our pizza we took a very interesting tour that our B&B host had told us about: The Real Mary King's Close, which was a walk through a long-buried neighborhood of Edinburgh--it actually got buried underneath a building!--with some history of the Black Death and the very difficult life of peasants in the 1600s thrown in for good measure. Eeep! Kinda creepy, lotta touristy, but fun for a laugh.

After The Real Mary King's Close tour, our legs could barely carry us any further, so we headed back to our B&B, 23 Mayfield, for a good night's rest. I forgot to take a picture of the outside of our B&B, but here's a picture of our room--so comfortable and well-appointed. We loved it!

And check out this view from our window!

That's the back garden where guests can sit and enjoy a dip in the hot tub or a glass of wine. Lovely.

The next morning, after a fantastic breakfast at our hotel, we were ready to tackle Edinburgh, and tackle it we did since it was our last day of sightseeing. We had a full agenda. Surprised?!

First up, Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Royal Mile.

No trip to Edinburgh is complete without visiting the castle. Julia and I bought audio guides, which give you lots of great information, but you could also take a free guided tour. Whatever you do, take some kind of tour when you're there because there is so much history.

And the views cannot be beat.

My favorite place in the castle is the apartment of Mary Queen of Scots where Mary gave birth to her only son, James VI, who later became James I of England and translated the Bible into what we now know as the King James Version.

This was my fourth visit to the Castle, which is why I didn't take many pictures, but I saw exhibits that I had never seen before. The prison exhibit was new to me and really interesting.

Next on our list: walk the Royal Mile.

The Royal Mile is a steep, cobblestone street full of history. And shops. And tourist traps. But still, I love it. It's where B and I saw J.K. Rowling herself back in 2005.

Julia and I meandered our way down the Mile, taking our time, ducking into woolen shops, and trying on hats.

(Sorry, Julia, I couldn't resist!)

(And besides, she's at camp and won't see this for several weeks.)

We were nearing the bottom of the Royal Mile around lunch time and happened upon the cutest little tea room, Clarinda's, where we felt like we had stepped back in time. The tiny restaurant still looked like it probably did 30 years ago, with prices to match!

It was such a respite for us--a hearty sandwich and a pot of tea were just the ticket--that it became one of my favorite memories of the trip. And check out these homemade goodies!

One of those scones just might have become ours. With clotted cream and jam, of course.

Next up: Holyrood House, Arthur's Seat, and a Harry Potter tour.

Please come back tomorrow for more of our trip to Edinburgh. And I'd love it if you'd invite a friend or two along!