Recalling travel days in photos

For those of you who are new here, I wanted to share some photos I took while living abroad in England. I lived there for three months in 2008, and again from 2011-2012 for six months. It changed me, formed me, and was such a gift. It, in many ways, launched my love for capturing beauty through photos, as well as writing and sharing my journey.  I don’t know what it is, but when we get away from ‘normal’, it seems we are more aware of our surroundings!

These photos are all available for purchase through digital file or prints, so please let me know if you are interested! (digital file is $40 each, prints: 5×7 $10, 8×10, $20) Enjoy!

Paris, France

Paris, France

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Roman Wind

Good morning! In my Facebook memory feed the other day was a reminder that it’s been five years since I was in Italy with a friend. I looked back on some of my writing and memories from that trip, and thought I would re-share an original post from here, called Roman Wind. Enjoy my little journey through Rome and what it taught me that day! (and boy does it make me want to pack up my little family and explore Europe!)

Bike, Rome, Italy

There’s this picture that I have framed at home that reminds me of a special day. A moment in time I will never forget. It’s a portion of a bike, the one you see to the left. Let me take you to that day …

I visited Rome, Italy with a friend last fall. We had six days filled with pizza, pictures, and people in masses. It. Was. Delightful!  On the final day my friend and I decided to go our separate ways for a few hours. I had been doing some research on Trip Advisor that week and REALLY wanted to rent a scooter. Hello Audrey Hepburn. I had envisioned a scarf-adorned up-do with large sunglasses and an ice cream cone in hand whilst whipping through Roman traffic. Well, not really. But the thought of driving a scooter in Rome sure appealed to me! Everything I read online however cautioned against Rome traffic with eager foreigners and I ultimately opted for safety over adventure.

Feeling a little bummed, I received a text from a friend in London about it all. He said the most brilliant thing that set me free to do what I pleased that final day. He said, “As long as you remember some things are coolest because Lani found them at 4:58pm with her own wind.”

It may not have been a scooter, but it did have two wheels, a basket and a dingling bell that made me smile! So, for several hours on that sunny Friday I was the happiest girl on a bicycle meandering Rome’s cobbled alleys as I passed pizzerias and leather shops.  I nearly hit several people in my glee-ish state, but I didn’t even care.  Scusi.

After I risked my life winding through some traffic, I decided I’d better stay on the quiet and narrow streets of Rome! During my bike escapade I stopped in Piazza Navona . This square of artists and musicians is surrounded by restaurants and the waiters stand outside, charming and beckoning you to enjoy their services. Cappuccino per favore.

I leaned my bike up to the restaurant while he steamed me a delicious beverage, and then took this photo. Coffee break, I call it.

I sat by the fountain outside the restaurant sipping my latte and enjoyed the live music. I was soon on my way towards the river, as that was my destination. After bartering for two purses with a persistent man on the bridge and nearly being attacked to purchase said purses, I turned around towards “home”.

On my way back to the bike rental place, I stopped in a leather shop and bought a purse. I was excited and savoured the Italian leather smell. About 20 minutes later, I stopped at a cash machine to get more Euro and as I reached into my backpack, my heart stopped. My camera was gone. My first thought, rationally lacking in rational, was that it had been stolen blind off my back. I kicked myself mentally and started saying “Jesus. Jesus. NO! My camera. Jesus.”  Glee was gone. My camera and the whole week of memories were ruined.

As I walked (yes, walked) my bike past the crowds surrounding the Pantheon, people stared. Mascara running in streams down my face no doubt. I returned the bike, paid my 10 euro reluctantly, and found my friend. As I talked through with her when I last used my camera, I remembered the leather shop and thought maybe, just maybe I had left it there.  To me it was a miracle, because half an hour later we retraced my sobbing steps back to the leather shop, and lo and behold there was a relieved sales lady holding my camera.  How we ever found our way back there is beyond me. Thankful for honest Italians, we hit up an espresso bar and ate some chocolate. As you do😉

I had found a piece of my own wind on the bike that day. I nearly lost my wind on the bike that day. And I believe God led me right back to where I needed Him to … on that day.

That day two wheels and a map of Rome, with no specific plan, will stick with me always.

You know, I think God sets in each of our hearts little things just like that. That makes us smile. It’s like a little gift meant just for us.

Psalm 139 talks all about how He has intricately woven our hearts, and knows our every thought.  He says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are deeply known and created with such love and intent, that I think it’s a shame if we live our lives with the wind knocked out of us.

That bike picture will always be a reminder to follow my heart and of my God that sees much more than my eyes can see.

Whether it’s meandering happily on a bike, or something else that you need to find that makes you smile like it does for no one else, then do it! Try new things. Because I believe that even along the way, God is with us in that pursuit and makes it so memorable.

Pregnant, sweaty, and running through the airport: setting the stage for 2016

 

Old MillThis past October I had the opportunity to go to a Christian women’s creative conference at a retreat centre about 1.5 hours from Atlanta, Georgia. I’d followed the group Pursuit Community for a couple of years, and felt drawn like a magnet.

After three days of speakers, meeting new people, amazing food on an old dairy-farm-turned-retreat-centre, my new friend and I were ready to head to the airport. But not before checking out the 100-year-old mill we had heard was close by and worth the view.

My new friend was from Alabama, and had kindly offered to pick me up and drop me off in Atlanta, after we connected over the Facebook group. Praise for not having to drive myself! After we had taken a few pictures at the old mill, we hopped into her SUV. Instead of putting the vehicle in reverse, she went forward. Immediately, radiator fluid started to leak, and within less than a 1km distance, we were out of fluid and stuck on the side of the road. I had about 5 hours before I had to be at the airport. No worries, we’ll figure this out.

A kind local photographer stopped to assess the damage, and visited with us while we waited for the tow truck. Meanwhile, my phone data plan for the US was racking up as I tried to access local car companies and call my husband on my unreliable phone. I was panicking – driving the I-95 in Atlanta traffic was not something I was ready to take on, and I had no idea if there’d be a shuttle available in this small town.

We waited in the Georgian autumn heat, and I immediately regretted not grabbing more snacks for my purse. 16-weeks pregnant and not knowing when the next time I would eat wasn’t boding well!

After about an hour, our tow-truck came and dropped us at a local auto-body shop. I felt terrible that my new friend had me tagging along and likely wouldn’t have been in this mess if I hadn’t been in her care. She felt bad that our great week had to end this way.

As we waited at this hole-in-the-wall auto body shop, I scanned the room for a vending machine. Water cooler. Nothing and empty. The lady at the desk was eating her late lunch, and I almost asked if there was more.

I had made a call to a local cab company and secured a price for them to drive me to the Atlanta airport. ASAP. It was the same as me renting a vehicle and there was no way that was happening! After waiting twice as long as he said he’d be, the Latino Taxi Man showed up. Now, he had a hangry-pregnant woman on his hands! I confirmed the price with him that I had been told over the phone by his boss, and was ready to barter and fight if I had to. He said, “That’s a very very cheap rate.” I responded heatedly. “That is the price your supervisor offered me, and I’m not paying any more.”

I refused to get in the vehicle until he called his boss to confirm. After a quick hug to my new friend and her husband who had come to her rescue from Alabama, the Taxi Man and I were off to the airport.

Immediately, the smell of Lysol invaded my senses, nearly sending me over the edge from hungry to nauseous. After making a quick stop at a convenience store to get some more US cash, I figured I needed to make friendly with this gentleman since we had the next 1.5 hours to drive together to the airport and I really needed some kindness right about then. Something in me needed to be diffused.

From the backseat to the front, I began to ask where he was from and about his family. He was from Guatemala and had six kids, and six grandkids. As we merged onto the freeway, he rubbed the rosary beads hanging from his rearview mirror, and cross his fingers over his chest. That was either a really good sign, or a really bad sign for what lied ahead. I decided to take it as good, and as an open door to talk about faith.

I asked, “Do you pray to Jesus?” With some language barrier still between us, I could tell he didn’t quite understand. I responded, “I pray to Jesus too!” Taxi Man said, “You like that?” “Yes!”

As we talked back and forth about family the best we could, I shared that I was pregnant with my first. He lit up. He said how girls are so good for a father. His heart melted with pride for his children.

After about an hour of driving and still feeling oh-so-hungry, Taxi Man looked back in his mirror and could tell something was right. “You ok?”

The Chik-Fil-A mints I had in my purse just weren’t cutting it. I said how I was hungry and not feeling very well (I didn’t mention the smell of Lysol that added to that!). He reached down to his car door and handed me an aging banana. Never had I been so excited to see a browning banana!

I confirmed again that I was to be dropped at International, not Domestic departures. Again, I wasn’t sure he understood. As we pulled up to the Atlanta airport, he responded that all taxis do their drops at Domestic, and my connection would be just right through the door. I was flying through Chicago, and perhaps with all the huff and puff of the day, hadn’t put two and two together that, yes, Domestic was where I actually needed to depart.

I paid the Taxi Man the promised US rate, thanked him, and was off. As soon as I entered the Domestic doors, I was overwhelmed. I’ve been in a lot of airports, and the Atlanta airport has to be the largest and most confusing I’ve ever been in. Horrible signage. I was certain the Taxi Man had done me in, and dropped me at the wrong departure. After asking for some help from customer service, and watching the talk clicking until I had to be at my gate, the lady said that I needed to get to International (though I didn’t tell her my connecting flight was Chicago).

I found a shuttle that took me the 20 minutes to International. The lady driving the shuttle had a Purpose Driven Life book in her console and looked like Whoopi Goldberg. Again, I figured this was all a good sign. She helped me with my near over-weight bag, and I was off, certain that International was where I needed to be. Looking at my watch, I figured that I had just enough time to get through security and find a quick sandwich somewhere before boarding. Well, as soon as I got through those doors, someone else told me, “No darling, you need to be at Domestic.” I cried. For real.

I went back out to the shuttle pick-up, only to discover Whoopi Goldberg had made her rounds and was back again. “Didn’t I just drop you off?” she said. “Yes, I guess I need to be at Domestic.”

Back on the shuttle I went for another 20 minutes I didn’t have to waste!

Finally, I got to check in at my airline and my bag was just under the weight limit. Sigh. Something was working today! I followed the minimal signage to security, only to be met with the LARGEST line-up I have ever seen! Seriously, over 200 people were weaving slowly through to get scanned. I nearly cried again, but was thankful for that brown banana. But now my bladder was as full as it could be, I was still hungry, and the clock to take-off was ticking.

Because I’m pregnant, I opted not to be scanned, but have a body-pat-down. The lady was a southern black woman, and took her sweet time. She commented on my engagement ring and said to make sure my husband buys me a real good “push present”. I smiled and was off to my gate.

I had just enough time to pee, buy a sandwich and water, and get to my gate. This flight was so full that all overhead bins were consumed, therefore making us late in leaving as they sorted that problem. It was the first flight I’ve ever been on where I was asleep before take-off and woke up in the air!

Knowing this flight was late leaving, I was certain I was going to miss my connection in Chicago. Dollar signs began to ring up on getting a hotel for the night, taxi, food and figuring out the next flight out the next day. I’m like that – think ahead. As we landed just a short hour flight later, the stewardess mentioned the local time. I nearly did a happy dance in my seat. I had gained an hour! It would still be tight, but if I ran, I could do it.

I got off the plane as soon as I could, my back and feet sore, and swoob starting to take over my chest area. Picture a tired, hungry, and frustrated pregnant woman running through the Chicago airport with a carry-on that was way too big. That was me.

I found my next gate and saw they hadn’t even started boarding; they were late as well. Praise! I peed, grabbed some candy, and called my husband on what little battery charge I had left. Huffing, crying, and sweating.

“I made it to my gate. And I have Starburts.” He laughed. His voice never sounded sweeter and I couldn’t wait to be home in his arms. And out of those boots.

Our flight was about an hour late, and I slept and drank a latte on the way. I read some of my Baby Whisperer book. I was waiting for someone to engage and ask what I was reading so I could get some comedy from the day and share that I was learning about breastfeeding. I guess making someone else uncomfortable at that point would’ve brought me slight comic relief.

I finally made it home, after nearly a 20 hour-awake-day. The worst travel day ever, but one with so many moments. I cried as soon as I fell into Troy’s arms.

I share this very very long travel story because a) it’s just downright horrible AND funny b) If I look back on it, it actually sets the stage for what I want from 2016…

In 2016, I want to be more intentional with relationships. Whether it is using my voice to speak into a situation, being more vulnerable, engaging someone who is otherwise unengaged, or just outright connecting with loved ones in a deeper way, I want to connect more. Thank you Taxi Man for showing me what a little bit of kindness can do to soften a situation.

And knowing that this year is the one we become parents and there will be so so many transitions, learning curves, and changes… I want to rely on God’s grace and let my imperfect and high expectations go out the window so that God can give me what His best is for Troy and I. Whether things are what I expected or anticipated, I will trust Him to get me home at the end of the day.

When a day that started in search of some simple beauty, and then ended up very messy, I still made it home, safe and sound. May 2016 be a year where we learn to be thankful for the simple and small things along the way…

Happy New Year to you all!!! xo

 

Monday Minute: Look. Consider. Seek.

If you google the most amazing places in the world, many of them are off the beaten track; hidden walkways, waterfalls, mountains. Secret places that God has given unimaginable beauty.

Check out these few…

Wisteria Flower Tunnel, Japan

Wisteria Flower tunnel_Japan

 

Tunnel of Love, Ukraine
Tunnel of Love_Ukraine

 

Mount Roraima, Venezuela/Brazil/Guyana

Mount Roraima, Venezuela:Brazil:Guyana

 

Bamboo Forest, Japan

Bamboo forest_JapanLast week I was reading Matthew 6, and since it’s all in red (Jesus speaking) I tried to read slowly. Digest it. The portion from verse 25-34 is one that has often been preached on, ‘don’t worry’!

We are admonished to not be anxious; and if you look at nature, God clearly loves to ‘take care’ of that which He created. Anxiousness in itself is a sign that some part of our heart has yet to be redeemed and transformed by the gospel. There’s something we are still holding tightly to.

As I read this, I saw three things that Jesus directs us to do with our hearts, instead of being anxious:

  • ‘Look’ at the birds of the air, vs 26

So I asked myself, ‘how many kinds of birds are there in the world?’

This site says:

“The answer to that is about 10 thousand. Several of these kinds, or species, are numbered over 3 billion in the world. There are lots of kinds of birds that are very common, including some sea birds that spend their whole lives flying around the ocean except when they are having babies on some tiny island. That makes them very hard to count correctly. All together the total number of wild birds in the world is somewhere between 100 billion and 400 billion! The fact that there is such a big difference in those numbers shows how hard it is to count them all.”

And God takes care of THEM ALL.

Look at the unfettered way He tends to the millions of birds. They are fed. Cared for. Provided for.

Look. God will provide.

  • Consider the lilies, vs 28

According to this site, there are over 300 kinds of lilies around the world. They don’t toil or spin (vs28). And even King Solomon, in all his splendor, was not arrayed like one of these (vs29). Lilies show up. Shine. And they are one of the most beautiful and fragrant flowers out there.

Considering, also, is a position of the heart. Consider the outward appearance that is obtained without toiling or spinning, but being.

Consider. He makes all things beautiful in time.

  • Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, vs 33

Seeking the Lord first, is also an outward action that requires a certain position of the heart. With all the distractions we have these days, it can be difficult, but if the Lord asks us to do something, then we know He provides a way to do so as well.

Seek. Him first, always.

For Troy and I, there are some unknowns in our future, and these verses were such a good reminder for me!

Don’t be anxious, fuss, toil about tomorrow.

Look. Consider. Seek.

Because God loves to make even secret places beautiful!

Happy Monday!