Richard the Lionheart and taking time to make memories afresh

Today, I am home after 4 weekends away out of 5 weekends. Whew! So happy to have had the conferences, and speech tourneys and have finished the book–but now, even though my house awaits cleaning and mail is in stacks and suitcases need unpacking and cabinets empty of food, I know that if I do not regularly rest my body and soul and heart–I will not last well and I will burn out. Life pulsing through patterns of light and dark, spring and winter, busyness and laze–illness and health–disaster and mundane–whatever seasons come my way, I lean into them and ride their waves instead of fighting against their patterns of washing through my life.

And so now, weary to the bone, but content of soul, I ponder just how I might visit my daughter, Sarah, who is in Oxford, before she returns. I think I may have a free overseas ticket–of course I will find a way to justify my secret pleasure–time alone with my kindred spirit, who always fills my soul and inspires me, as do her siblings, and so I plan my course. As I was searching, I came across this memory–(doesn’t Joy look young! Oh, my–just a few years ago, and now gone!)

So, I am thinking, a trip to my beloved Austria would be just the remedy to this soul in need of fresh stimulation, pondering, dreaming and rest–so I share this memory with you today. And maybe this is the day you need to take a break and make a memory, too!

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All work and no play makes Joy, Sarah and Sally dull girls. Recently on our mission trip, we had spent an endless stream of days speaking and giving out books and then hopping on another train or plane to go to another group of women with whom we would speak, minister to, give out books and serve. My children usually have to take care of other children, help serve meals, haul boxes of books and wait patiently for me to be through.

How delighted we were, at the end of our trip, to find a whole day free to do as we please. Since we had one free ride left on our train ticket, we decided to take a train to one of our favorite little towns that sits right on a quiet curve of the Danube River. Durnstein is the name of the town. It was a medival town with one narrow road passing through the small, ancient houses. Even today, only one car at a time can fit through the narrow passageway. Once when Clay and I were very young, we visited this town on a free weekend and stayed in the home—(bed and breakfast) where a wine press, over 900 years old, filled the middle of the house.

We chugged along through prim and predictably orderly Austrian villages. Flowering bushes, tulips, and daffodils marked the roadways and pathways and towns. Finally, we arrived at our destination. Story has it that Richard the Lion Heart went to the Crusades through Austria. When he reached his destination, he unearthed Leopold of Austria as the ruler in charge of the Crusades. In retaliation, when Richard was on his journey back home, he was capture by Leopold and place in a prison cell in the castle at the top of the mountain in Durnstein. He kept the whereabouts secret so that no one could rescue the English monarch.

Blondell, Richard’s beloved friend and servant, was a musician, seeking to discover the whereabouts of his master. The story tells us that Blondell strolled throughout the Austrian countryside strumming his lute and singing songs that were familiar to his king. He hoped that his king would hear him through the cell windows and respond. Sure enough, as he climbed around the mountain castle of Durnstein singing, Richard heard and sang back as a sign of his whereabouts. Blondell was then able to bring a group of English soldiers to rescue the King and take him back to England.

The morning we started our hike up to the top of the castle was chill, but sunny. The hike was straight up and arduous to my worn-out knees. Yet, with the encouragement of my younger hiking companions, Sarah and Joy, I completed the hike one more time to walk among the ruins of the old, remains of the legend tale. The views were incomparable as we looked out over the budding vineyards and caught the curl of the Danube winding its way through the sleepy valley. Rewarding ourselves with a hot, marrillen (the small town boasts of its apricots!) and cream cheese pancakes, lathered in whip cream, satisfied our overwhelming hunger. Then, seeing that the time was late, we literally had to run at full speed, a quarter of a mile, fearful of not being able to run another step, to barely catch the last train of the day that would return us to our friends in Vienna. What an adventure to put in our memory books.

Grace undeserved


Love a man, even in his sin, for that love is a likeness of the divine love and is the summit of love on earth.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Life in the contemporary is standing against my ability to be mature all the time. The pace of life, the interruptions, the lack of time by myself to become centered, and the constant flow of food and messes are the hardest for me or most stressful for my personality, I must say. Looking back at this post from a few years ago, I see that often the struggle with myself is still pretty much the same. But even as I see the beauty of His hands all around me, and His grace happens every day, so I know His grace for my frail humanity is constant and new every morning. Great is his faithfulness.

Everything is a rush and hurry and then a wait and see. Yesterday, I found myself sinning far too easily. After three attempts to confirm some seats on a plane going overseas, I finally got the auto response to go almost to the point of confirming seats, after thirty minutes of frustration. I did not find it humorous that a very soothing, recorded voice was placed precisely at one point of choosing an arbitrary host of numbers, to comfort me—though I know a machine cannot really feel emotion. “I’m sorry! I didn’t understand you. It must be my fault.”(Can a machine be faulted for making mistakes and can it feel sorry Does it really care for my frustration???)

Finally, a real and very surly woman answered my phone call. I gave her all the right numbers for our ticket and then told her I wanted to be sure to secure seats on our overseas flight, as the seat numbers were deleted from the confirmation I had received on the Internet.

“You cannot secure seats until the morning of the flight. It is company policy that once we book our flight more than 45%, we cannot give out anymore seats. And, by the way, I am the supervisor, and there is no one higher than me that you can talk to!” (Obviously, she had had a difficult day and didn’t even want to have to address the fact that there was no one higher up that I could talk to—and we had only just begun our conversation. Could there have been a hard phone call before she ever got to me?)

“I have never heard of an overseas flight where I couldn’t get my seat assignment. I am traveling with three of my children and would like to sit close together,” I said in my most authoritative voice.

“If your children are over 10, they can obviously sit anywhere on the plane by themselves, and I can’t guarantee that they won’t all be in different rows. You will just have to wait until you get to the gate. Obviously you haven’t traveled very much. It is always done this way.”

I raised to my full-bodied stature at this point, even though she couldn’t see my shock or my rising at such a statement. After all, I had been traveling overseas for over thirty years and had never come across this particular problem or such a definitively closed airline operator.

In a very irrational and immature moment, I asked the woman, “If I call back, is there a good chance I won’t have to talk to you again?!” Well, I had been on the phone a long time and she wasn’t very nice to me and I did have a hard day and……..

Immediately, when I had hung up the phone, remorse set in. The accusatory finger in my mind said, “Well, that was real mature! Bet you made that lady feel real good. I can’t believe you are a serious, committed Christian, and you actually talked to someone like that! The Lord is so disappointed in you. Probably He is eventually going to quit using you in influencing others, because you just keep blowing it!”

I must admit, when my own life is stressful, and I have had a hard day, I want sympathy, kindness, forgiveness, grace. I want someone to understand that I am doing my best and to tell me it is ok. It is what I want from God. It is what I want from my husband. It is what I want from my children.

My heart became open to the Spirit’s prompting. Just happened, my morning reading came across this verse: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Now this much I already knew and agreed with.

But the context of the verse was further explained, “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jew or Greek or the church of God. Even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good, but the good of many in order that they may be saved.” I Cor. 10: 31-32

So, I glorify God, not by knowing all the right theological answers, or by keeping a perfect house, or having quiet times every day, but by glorifying God by seeking the good of everyone else–even a stressed out operator.

My sweet children have taught me this. They see through false piety. They know what it means to be fair. They comment on other adults in our lives who speak loudly about piety but whose lives scream loudly of hypocrisy. But, they are also very willing to forgive.

Joy placed her arm around me and sat sweetly in my lap. At almost 12,(now almost 16)  it is too rare of an occurrence, (but she still does sit in my lap on occasion), but oh so cherished. “Mom, we’ll get some seats. Don’t you worry. It always works out.” A kiss on my cheek and then she was gone. Suddenly I saw God’ s glory in an unsuspecting angel in my own home, who chose to give me grace, and then I felt He, the one from whom patience and love was given their meaning, had gently restored me to himself.

An Unexpected Adventure on my day with the Lord!

Piles of snow, loss of pathway, and no one to help.

Thanks so very much to all of you who prayed for me yesterday. I have been quite blessed and am so excited about what the Lord has put on my heart. Your words and well wishes were of great encouragement to me and made me feel so very special and loved. I appreciate your taking the time to fb me and to write comments.

One of the reasons I am seeking the Lord for guidance at this point, is that at 57, I feel keenly that I need to make the next years of my life count. I do not have endless years of ministry and speaking ahead–but a limited time, realistically. And with my last child graduating from high school in May, I have been impressed by the Holy Spirit to really become intentional about my plans and priorities.

If you have read any of my books, you know that God have given to me an adventuresome heart. Many stories and lessons have come from walking, hiking, climbing mountains and getting lost! Yesterday, I was enjoying a wonderful quiet time where my heart was being filled with excitement for what is ahead. It seemed pretty clear what I needed to drop and what I needed to focus on in my life. (more on that next week)

After a couple of hours, I decided to talk a walk outside, as I love to walk and it provides a great time for me to think and pray and clear my mind. There is a small lake up from where I am staying. It has a pathway around it and our family has walked it many times. As a matter of fact, I walked it just three days ago by myself one morning.

So, I climbed the hill to the little lake, and began to walk around it, looking for some familiar benches where we have shot family pictures and sat many times before. Three to four feet of snow had piled up in mounds in many places just from the previous 3 days of snow. I thought I knew this path very well and so took off in the direction of what I thought was my pathway around the lake. However, as I ventured into the obscured path, I found myself deeper and deeper in snow. What had started out as sinking down 3-4 inches in snow, eventually turned into a foot of snow. Stomping my feet 12 inches down, falling with each step became very grueling.

I kept thinking I was on the path and would find a cleared out place to walk just a few feet ahead. But, eventually, I found myself in snow that was over my knees with each step. I had looked back after about 10 minutes to go back, but it looked like the clearest path was just ahead. Finally, I realized I had walked deep into the woods, as I could not see a path or the lake. It all happened little by little. All the while I was thinking I was going a familiar way.

Now, I hate to admit it, but I had no gloves on. (I know all of you moms who prepare for everything–I know what you are thinking.) But, I had walked this a million times and the sun was out and I have hot little hands, so I don’t generally wear gloves outside unless it is below freezing. But, I found myself falling every few steps (when you are sinking down below your knees in jeans with every step, the awkwardness of the snow and uneven ground underneath, caused me to fall numerous times.

Because I have lived in the mountains so long, I knew that I had to hurry and keep going as fast as I could to find a way out, as the colder and wetter one gets, the more danger of exhaustion and frost bite and inability to keep going. I was deeply out of breath, keeping a constant pace and climbing towards what I thought was a flat trail.

Finally, I found some footsteps where someone else had gotten off the train. Though each footstep was about 18 inches deep, it was a sure foundation from the packed snow and gave me the steadiness I needed to keep going forward. Of course the Lord was speaking to me the whole time.

“When you are searching for a trial in a difficult climb, it is always easier if you can follow someone else’s footsteps who have gone before you to lead the way.”

It seemed to me a paradigm of so many moms. Going on a pathway that is against the storms of culture, but without anyone to show them the way. I have forged this idealistic trail of life, to raise godly, moral, educated children in a culture that is challenging at every point. God had step by step taken me through the rough and dangerous turns and twists of a hostile culture and had been faithful to, by His grace and guidance, allow me to raise Whole Hearted children, healthy, alive and vibrant in their young adulthood.

The Lord really seemed to underline how much of a stewardship I had to be the footsteps in front of moms who need to find the way to go. I need to continue giving my life to help, to encourage and to show the way in the midst of all the cultural storms. Of course this was added to all He had been speaking to my heart earlier that morning when all of you sweet friends had been praying for me.

Finally after an hour and 40 minutes, I was able to climb up onto an abandoned ski trail. It was being prepared for skiing but was not opened yet. I saw flashing lights ahead of a ski patrol and so I walked about a quarter of a mile towards the light.

Finding 3 ski patrol staff, I explained my story, and they commented, “Oh yeah, I heard they hadn’t cleared the pathway yet and had piled snow against the former trail. It was too much snow in two days to clear.”

“Why don’t you hop on the back of my4 wheeler and I will ride you up to the top of the mountain and take you back over to the place you are staying.”

Of course she had gloves, a helmet and a snow suit. I had my coat, soaked jeans and was out for a leisurely walk with no gloves. And so she began to jet up the mountain. It was actually gorgeous and thrilling, when I stopped the beating of my pounding heart from overcoming my feat of bouncing off. We climbed all the way up to the top of the ski trail and over the mountain to the other ski slope. She, used to the mountain, was speeding over bumps and twists. I prayed, “Please don’t let me die now, Lord. Clay and the kids would never forgive me.” :)

After about 5 minutes, I began to enjoy myself and looked out over the sparkling snow and beauty of the sun shining through the trees. Again, the Lord reminded me what an adventure He had taken me on throughout my life, and yet how faithful He had been to provide and to help me along the way.

And so, I came home, took a very tall and hot bath, and sat down for my final alone hour. God poured out all sorts of dreams, ideas and ideals to follow in the next phase of my life to come. But, my day had been a little more interesting than I ever imagined it would be.

Getting back in the saddle!

Welcome to my newly moved over site! (itakejoy.com) I am just beginning to fill out this blog, but am excited for the possibilities of having some new ways to be creative with my blog.

For those of you new to itakejoy, I have been on a wonderful history trip with 2 moms and 4 kids to Philadelphia, Boston, New York and ending up at a great blogging conference in Harrisburg, Pa. Great, great days!

However, it will take me a few days just to get back to my center in this home where I live. My sweet husband and children are my priority and so I want to provide for them as I get back in the saddle of life at home! Several weeks of traveling have fed my soul with beautiful memories, roused my mind with challenging and inspiring conversations, and invigorated my passion to keep writing and reaching out to so many women who long for a personal touch, voice of life and encouragement.

We are gearing up for the mom’s conferences, will be doing some new online book studies, giving some books and conference registrations away, so stay tuned and I will be back with lots that is bubbling up in my heart. For now, an omelette and tea with Joy are on my immediate agenda.

But, alas, my suitcase awaits, the refrigerator is empty and Joy and I need to get to the business of making this last year of her education at home the best one yet. So, I will post soon.

Peace and grace today!

Great quotes! Louisa May Alcott’s home.

Too busy talking to friends, so I asked Joy and Christie, (my daughter and her bf) to write the past couple of days as they share some of their impressions. What fun I am having and how blessed I am to have a few days of pure fun! Here are just a few of the great quotes we saw as we walked through Louisa May’s home–the author of so many wonderful books, including Little Women.

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”
- Louisa May Alcott

So true.

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”
— Louisa May Alcott

“A faithful friend is a strong defense;
And he that hath found him hath found a treasure.”
— Louisa May Alcott

Great memories and tears coming to my eyes several times. What fun we have had running through halls of history, homes of great writers and talking, talking, talking as we go.

The girls brought tears to my eyes yesterday morning. “Who gets to have an education like this! To read their stories and then to see the lives these great people lived and to know the rooms where they lived and wrote, the places they fought battles–makes us so very grateful to have known and seen these things! It makes me want to think, “How am I going to live my life in such a way as to leave a legacy of faith or courage that will help and influence others.”

And so we have been busy every minute, and in the evenings we have had precious conversations with friends where we are staying and being treated to great meals, rousing conversations and heart-felt prayers. Such a blessing to me and a filling of my soul. All grateful to God for strewing my life with such blessings.

Deb, Jane, me and Shelley (below) staying up too late but having fun talking around the kitchen table. What great food and hospitality. 

Off to see Paul Revere’s home! and then training to New York City for more fun and friends. Have a blessed day.