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Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Neuschwanstein

Neuschwanstein Castle

When I was in grade school, back in the Dark Ages, we would sometimes watch filmstrips about other countries. (Sorry to the younger people, who have never heard of a filmstrip. It is, basically, yesterday’s version of a Powerpoint presentation.) These filmstrips were in black and white. So were most of the pictures in our text books. Perhaps that is why, when I would think of another country, the pictures in my mind would be black and white. The only images I had of faraway places were those I saw in school or on television. (And television was black and white back then, too.)

Alpsee

Alpsee

DSC03530In May my husband and I traveled to Europe for the first time—specifically Germany and Austria. It was a wonderful time of seeing new places, as well as some very old places. Castles, palaces, even some Roman ruins. We tried different foods, walked on cobblestone streets, went on a boat on the Romantic Rhine, and had fun practicing our very basic German. And we met so many people of many different nationalities. Not all of them were the stereotypical blond-haired, blue-eyed Germanic people. There were people from all corners of the globe. We soaked in the experience as much as we could.

Heidelberg

Woman singing in Heidelberg

Those old black and white pictures in my head transformed themselves into living color. The blue of mountain lakes, bright green leaves trembling in the breeze, pale pink wild roses, multi-colored stained-glass windows of the cathedrals, gold-lined murals in the castles, a whole rainbow of colors. And a rainbow of skin tones that I found quite delightful.

Oberwesel

Oberwesel on the Rhine

I will never see Europe in the same way, because it has become real to me. I wish everyone had the ability to travel to other countries. Perhaps if they did, they would see the world with new eyes. Perhaps we would see that we are all amazing people—each unique with special gifts to offer the world. And all of us brothers and sisters under the skin.

Hellbrunn Palace

Hellbrunn Palace, Salzburg

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Dad 2011Treasures come in many forms, sometimes quite unexpected. But an old pack of cigarettes?

My father died a couple of months ago, and so I am spending time at his house sorting papers and cleaning out cupboards and drawers, in preparation for an estate sale. The process brings back many memories, as I unearth old photo albums, wall hangings I remember from childhood, and other memorabilia. It can be a bittersweet time.

Yesterday was another day of interesting finds as I began going through his desk. An envelope containing half a dozen two dollar bills. Hmm. Wonder what those are worth today? A drawer full of those address labels that charities send out, hoping you will donate. If Dad had lived another hundred years, he couldn’t have used all of the labels he had there.Galatians 5:1

Then I pulled out something different. An old pack of cigarettes that looked like someone had started to open it and then stopped. Odd. My dad used to smoke. He had tried many times to quit, but never quite succeeded. Until my mother died of lung cancer. Actually it was the kind of cancer usually caused by asbestos exposure, rather than cigarettes, but there was some speculation that secondhand smoke could have played a part. I never saw my father with a cigarette after that.

Now here was this old, yellowed pack of cigarettes. But there was something different about this package. Securely taped to both sides of the pack were Bible verses. On one side: “Galatians 5:7: For freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage.” And on the other side: “John 8:32: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

John 8:32This must have been the last pack of cigarettes my dad ever purchased. I could imagine him picking it up when he felt the urge to smoke, reading the verses, and then placing it back in the desk, gaining strength to resist one more time. How telling of my dad’s character that when he became determined to quit, he turned not to hypnosis or a patch, but to God. And he found what he needed to win the battle.

Treasures come in many forms, but I never expected to find one in an old pack of cigarettes.

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A writing conference is a wonderful thing. A place to learn more and improve the craft. A chance to talk with editors and present articles, book proposals, etc. for their consideration. A time to see old friends and make new ones. And maybe even a little time to write…

Aldersgate in Turner, Oregon was the place for my recent writers’ conference– beautiful surroundings and special people. A wonderful time that will inspire me to keep writing, keep saying the things I need to say, keep listening to hear the words God whispers to me for me to share with others.

Writing can be a lonely enterprise, at times. A writing conference takes away the loneliness and replaces it with purpose.

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Family is one of the most important things in life. I’ve heard that many times, and I really believe it. But often I get so busy that family gets ignored, particularly family that doesn’t live in the same house. I intend to call or visit, but time flies, while I crawl along, loaded with the chores of everyday.

Last weekend I spent time with family. My brothers, husband, sister-in-law, and I took our father to the beach for two nights to celebrate his upcoming 90th birthday. It was the first time I’d been to the beach with my brothers since we were kids. And it was wonderful!

We spent a lot of time remembering adventures—and misadventures—we’d had when we were little. “You know,” one brother said. “I can’t blame any problems I have on my childhood.” So true! We had a good childhood. Our parents weren’t perfect (although they didn’t make any more mistakes than I did with my kids!), but we always knew we were loved, and that they would be there for us anytime we needed them. That sense of security made childhood a safe place to explore and learn and grow.

We walked on the beach once the sun cleared out some of the clouds—at least all of us did except for my dad. Legs no longer steady enough for beach walking, he sat by the picture window, content to watch the crashing waves and kaleidoscope sky.

If any man fits Paul’s description in Philippians 4:12, it is my dad: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” He has been widowed twice, survived four types of cancer, been on three-times-a-week dialysis for years, and yet I rarely hear a word of complaint. “The secret to happiness is not feeling sorry for yourself,” he told me.

I’m so glad we could all spend the weekend together. It’s good to be with people who know and love me just the way I am. Not all families are like that, I hear. I feel so blessed!

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My husband and I returned recently from a two week trip to Japan, where we visited our son and saw some new places. I will have to do a post on Kamikochi soon; it was an amazingly beautiful place! However, today I want to talk about some of the people we met over there and the kindness shown to a couple of sometimes-confused Americans.

Police let children sit on their motocycles at the Karuizawa Half-Marathon

While my husband has been studying Japanese and can speak a bit, I know little beyond “Konnichiwa” and a sentence asking the location of a certain necessary room. However, everywhere we went, people were overwhelming gracious and helpful. I will mention just a few of those encounters here.

Matsumoto Castle

When we visited Matsumoto Castle, we noticed a group advertising free English-speaking tours. Our volunteer guide, Horoshi, led us on a wonderful tour, explaining the history and purpose of the castle and its various parts. He used our camera to take pictures of the two of us at different points in the tour. At the end, it was lunchtime, so we asked if he could recommend a nearby restaurant. Instead of giving directions, Horoshi led us several blocks to his favorite soba noodle café. When we offered to donate some money to his organization, he refused, although he did laughingly suggest that if we had a million dollars, we could donate that!

Bus Travel

Another time we needed to take a bus to the hotel near Kamikochi where we had reservations. We apparently looked confused at the station, as two different workers came out to tell us where to wait and which bus to take. When it arrived, they put our luggage aboard and talked to the driver. Later we realized that they had told the driver our destination—and that we had luggage to unload. The driver looked back and smiled at us when we arrived at our stop, as well as making sure we got our bags. The worker at the stop pointed out our hotel to us. And always, whether or not they spoke English, they offered help with a smile.

Tokyo train station

There were many other instances of kindness: Toshiro, an associate professor of civil engineering whom I met on the train, who offered to give us a ride from his stop to our destination a few miles away; the restaurant workers who patiently explained the menu to us as best they could, given their lack of English; those who pointed out where to wait for a train or where to find an elevator before we even asked; the friendly elderly couple who tried to talk with us as we all waited for the bus; the three giggly junior high girls who thought it was exciting—and apparently funny—to talk with visitors from America.

Power rangers at Karuizawa Half-Marathon

All of these people helped to make our trip to Japan a very pleasant memory.

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