Blog Archives

Vienna, Personified

Someone once said that Paris is a woman, London is a man, and New York City is a transvestite.

Granted, I haven’t been to New York outside the airport, but after my visits to Paris and London, I must say I find that statement to be shockingly true.

It always amazes – and delights – me how each major European city has a distinct and unique personality.

Paris is the haute cotoure model that intimidates everyone; strong and beautiful inside and out, but with a hidden daintiness that surprises even the model herself at times.

London is the slightly stuffy businessman. He’s all propriety and decorum with a hint of conceit. During business hours, anyway. There’s a wild/unkempt streak running through him that he tries hard to conceal, but it is there nonetheless.

Athens is the vibrant, eclectic woman that lives across the street. The one with the amazing energy, infectious laugh and zeal for life everyone else secretly wishes they possessed.

Dublin is the angst-ridden teenager trying desperately to find his place in the world, not sure if he loathes or loves himself. His convictions and culture run deep and strong, but at times he longs to be anyone but himself.

But Vienna…Vienna is somewhat of an enigma. Some might call her a melting pot of cultures, languages and ideas,  but I see her with starker dividing lines than that.

Vienna PersonifiedVienna is like the Johnny Depp of cities. Vienna is the city that is cool beyond reckoning – without even trying or meaning to be, and I’m not sure she cares. She can be both stunningly beautiful and breathtakingly disturbing.

She is full of art, music, and culture; vibrant and alive, brimming with life, love and creativity. Sometimes you feel as if your very breath might be stolen away by the sheer weight and magnitude of the beauty displayed in the most mundane of places and around unlikely corners.

Other times, she scares the crap out of you with her dark secrets and mysterious ideas that are more terrifying than intriguing.

Vienna is a city loved and revered by young and old alike. The elder folk loving the tradition, the stability, the classical nature of architecture and music that runs deep in her life’s history. The young come for her vibrant night life, new ideas in art, science, language and more.

But when I love Vienna the most – when I most relate to her and feel I most belong – is in the morning. Early. This city never stops, it is always teeming with people. Streetcars. Subways. Taxis. Buses. All the time. Day and night.

But morning…

The morning commute is somewhat of an anomaly that resonates deep within my own heart. The trams are full, subway cars packed to the brim. Sidewalks and stations full of people, of shuffling feet. And yet, all is near silent. Words are only spoken when absolutely necessary, and eye after eye is bleary and groggy.

In one way, Vienna is quite the morning city. Schools and businesses open early, and people are on the move before the sun many days. And yet…she is also like the jazz-playing-actor who spent too many hours the night before wailing a tune or spinning a tale for friends over a drink. She functions in the morning because she must – but she’s not happy about it.

I love the morning in Vienna. It feels like a collective protest against rising early and getting things done. We’ll do it, but we don’t have to like it, the city declares in silent unity. This, too, is how I feel about mornings.

By midmorning, and certainly by the lunch hour, the delicious coffee has been had and the city is truly awake and interacting with one another. Conversations in a hundred different languages heard on every street all the live long day.

But morning.

Yes, Vienna to me in many ways is a very strange city; one that I will likely not ever fully understand. We have had our ups and downs, not always having started off on the right foot. But Vienna and I? We’ll always have the mornings.

5 Things I Learned About Myself on My First Ski Trip

Having grown up a desert rat in central and southern Arizona, skiing was always somewhat of a foreign concept to me. It was something either rich people did, or college kids on winter break. Certainly not an option for a girl like me: not an athletic bone in her body who lived hours away from any possibility of snow.

Then we moved to Austria.

During the week long semester break in February, just about everyone in Austria who has kids does one thing: go skiing.

My husband, who grew up with a ski-instructor for a father, also naturally grew up skiing. He’s told me fondly many times how he remembers skiing between his dad’s feet when he was only three or four years old. Our nomadic lifestyle, coupled with the fact that most of our adult life had been spent in either Ireland or Texas – two places not well known for great ski conditions – made it so it had been years since Seth had been able to ski, even though it’s one of his favorite pass-times.

So, this year we decided to embrace our inner Austrians and head for the hills to shoop-shoop-shoop (to quote my gal-pal Rachel Greene) down the slopes. tumblr_m0f36d7Yzz1r5idzso1_500

Guys, I was slightly terrified. Excited, but terrified.

I mean, what if I was awful at it? What if I hated it? What if I embarrassed myself, not even able to make it down the kiddie slope? What if I broke my whole body??

5 Things I Learned About Myself On My First Ski TripWell, friends, I am here to tell you that I not only survived, I really enjoyed it! I even learned a few things about myself along the way, that I’d like to share with you.

1. I’m physically stronger than I thought. My instructor (yes, I took lessons rather than my husband teaching me. We were told it would be best for our marriage…I believe “they” were right. Anyway.) started me out not with going up the mountain on any kind of lift, but side stepping our way up. “To help me get a feel for the skis and my body on them.” Ha. Also, once I did use a lift, it wasn’t the kind with a seat. It was just a rope that I had to grab onto for dear life as it tugged me up the hill, but also had to let go of soon enough that my hand didn’t get sucked into the vortex of death. You guys, I spent the day tugging, pulling, squatting, lifting, bending and all manner of other “-ings” and I’m not too humble to say I rocked it! I had much more stamina and physical ability than I would have imagined (Thank you Shuan T and Insanity!). At the end of the day, my muscles were totally shot and that’s when I learned the next lesson about myself.

2. I’m mentally stronger than I thought. There were several times when I just wanted to give up. Like the time I ventured higher on the run and bit it big time and slid halfway down the slope on my back. I briefly asked my husband to just bury me there and go on; and tell the kids I love them. But I got up anyway, and my mind gave my body the strength to continue on – without breaking every bone!

3. My husband and I make a pretty darn good team. This one I knew – it was cemented home in the deepest corner of my heart just how great a team we make after the birth of our first child. However, I was reminded of it again this trip. After the massive face-plant described above, Seth was encouraging me to try again from the higher spot on the run. I was – ahem – less than willing. He offered to go with me, and I reluctantly agreed. As I started down the slope, speed caught up with me quickly and I started to panic. That’s when I heard his voice behind me, “You got it. Pizza slice the skis. There you go, good. Now turn, gently. Keep turning, keep turning. Great! Now straighten out. Yes! You got this!” and so on. Man, guys, just hearing his voice – so calm, so confident – gave me the mental boost to get myself under control and do what I had been taught to do. Cross over into real life? Uh, yeah. In short, my husband rocks and he’s my hero.

4. I’m more of an athlete than I thought. I have used many words to describe myself over the years. Athlete or athletic has never, ever been one of them. However, as I was skiing down that hill, it hit me: I am actually quite athletic – as long as it doesn’t involve a ball, puck, or any other such device. I’m great at sports that require self-awareness, balance, and good body control. A friend bestowed the word “sporty” upon me when she saw a photo of me on the slopes on Instagram. At first I balked, but now, I take that adjective and own it proudly!

5. I’m still not an adrenaline junkie or extreme sport enthusiast – and that’s ok! I have spent most of my life (and particularly my childhood) wishing I was something other than what I was. I wished I was more sporty, or better at math. I wished I longed for adventure and excitement; that I would love the “thrill” of the free-fall feeling on a roller coaster. The truth is, I just. Don’t. I’m finally, at the age of 36, starting to feel at home in my own skin, and appreciate who and how God made me to be. I don’t want to waste any more time mourning the things that I’m not – and that Susie Smith next door seems to be. No. While I never want to grow complacent in life, and I never want to be unwilling to push myself and try new things, I want to spend my energies and time developing and honing the skills and gifts God placed in me from the beginning. Skills, gifts and talents He gave me on purpose. For a reason. To wish those away for some other trait or talent I see in someone else is not only insulting to my Creator, it is denying and wasting who I am.

So, there you have it. Some deep personal/spiritual lessons I learned about myself last week while undertaking a new and scary endeavor that I ended up loving.

When was the last time you tried something new and/or scary? Did you learn anything about yourself? Share in the comments!

What’s the Point of Singing “Peace on Earth?”

Bombs exploding around the world.

Children gunned down in their schools and classrooms.

What's the Point of Singing Peace on Earth??The “Land of the Free” and “Home of the Brave” ripped apart once again by racial tensions and ethnic divides.

The world is going to hell in a hand basket and it flies in the face of what we see and hear during this Christmas season.

We sing songs of Joy, Hope and Peace. We declare peace on earth and goodwill to our fellow man, and yet what we find when we step outside our doors or turn on our televisions or scroll through our Facebook feed is the exact opposite.

I read an article the other day bemoaning this exact state of affairs. The author shares her experience of how she no longer anticipates Christmas with excitement and jubilance, but rather with lament. She says,

Around this time of year I become a battering ram of lament, pounding against the season’s greetings and wreath-clad doors. We are dying here and there are none to comfort. Does anyone sense the dissonance between our Christmas songs and our actual stories? Does a quick scan of the headlines remind you that Christ, the deliverer, is a long way off? Does anyone care that West Africans are still dying of ebola, Syrian families hang by a thread and brown bodies are under constant threat in their own country?

When I first read that, my  heart groaned in agreement. Yes!, I thought. Why are we proclaiming peace and joy when we should be mourning and lamenting the state of the world and the godless existence so many experience?

Yet, something didn’t sit right with that thought alone. My heart laments the state of this world. It breaks under the weight of grief, despair, depravity, hatred. And yet, I sing.

Peace on earth, good will toward men is not some naive declaration of the way things seem to be every time December rolls around. It is not some empty platitude used only to fill the void and make an attractive Christmas card.

Joy the the World is not merely a rote exercise in remembering better days long past. On the contrary.

It is a prayer. It is a cry lifted to the Holy One, to continue to bring about His master Plan.

It is Hope embodied as I turn from that which is seen to that which is unseen yet so desperately hoped for.

It is a reminder that the best is yet to come, and this world hasn’t been fully left to its own devices. Yet.

These days, these dark times are but a glimpse of what humanity without Divinity would be. We are looking head-on into a dingy mirror of our own souls and seeing what would become of us if left to our own devices. If the Holy, the Almighty, the Great and Compassionate God were to remove the entirety of His presence from among us.

I sing JOY because I see what could be, and I see what He has done.

I declare HOPE because I see what Christ has rescued me from. It may seem now like a mere tiny candle flame in a Grand Canyon abyss of darkness, but it flickers there nonetheless.

I sing PEACE because I look ahead to the day when our Prince of Peace will come and make all things new; will make things as they were always meant to be before the decay of pride set in on that day so long ago under the apple tree.

The darker the day, the louder I will sing.

Because though my heart lament the Shadow of the Valley, my soul will sing His praise because the break of dawns glows dim on the horizon.

My soul grieves in the depths of me for the evil in this world, yet my heart shouts joy! because I’ve been lifted out of that miry, disgusting grave.

My view today is only as  a smeared image through a filth-coated glass, but I see it anyway and it burns hope so deep and so hot that song nearly bursts forth on it’s own.

These days are hard. They are dark. Full of pain and grief. Humanity groans just like a woman in labor for the pain. But I sing PEACE and I sing JOY and I sing HOPE all the stronger because I know Whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is more than able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.

Will you sing with me?

When JOY Seems Lost

5 Verses to Renew Your JoyLights twinkle white and rainbow in windows, on trees, stores and street lights, and one words seems to be on everyone’s lips.

We sing songs about it, pose our kids with cardboard letters of it, and plaster smiles on our faces as we spread Christmas cheer near and far.

JOY

Yet, maybe it all feels lost on you this year? Maybe you’re singing Joy to the World out loud, but inside you feel like a big, fat liar because joyful is the last thing you feel. Overwhelmed? Yes. Tired? Oh, yeah. Guilty? Bingo. But joy? Not so much.

I’ve been there, friend. In fact, I am there. So I decided to take action to try and reawaken true Joy in my heart, and in my life. I want to share some of what I have been learning with you. Join me at The Better Mom, where I’m sharing 5 Verses to Renew Your Joy {and they might not be the verses you think!!}. So if, like me, your joy is running a bit low, come on over and see if these help it start to bubble up.

If you’ve just clicked over from The Better Mom, I want to say thanks! And welcome you into my crazy little corner of the Interwebz. Grab some cocoa and a gingerbread man, make yourself comfy and look around!

The Best Gifts are the Ones We Don’t Ask For

You’re four today.

FOUR.

You love Star Wars and big trucks, your sisters and the color green – followed closely by blue and orange.

You have a laugh that goes for miles, your joy even farther. You bring energy, life, love, mad-crazy-hugs and a new perspective to this family.

Isaac CollageAs I sit and remember this day unfolding four years ago…the waiting, the wondering, the worrying if we were both going to be okay. I remember you coming thundering, screaming into this world and exploding my heart into a million pieces.

It may be your birthday, lil man, but I am the one receiving the gift.

We’ve all heard before that God’s ways are not our ways. They are higher, holier, more mysterious and not to be understood fully. The Bible also says that God is the most amazing gift giver. If I, a mom who messes up, loses her temper, gets lazy, gets tired and frustrated knows how to give good gifts to my children – and revels in doing so! (I’m so giddy for you to open your gifts, dude, I can’t stand it!) – how much more wonderful is God, the awesome and perfect Creator of the universe at giving gifts?!

And boy did He knock it out of the park with you!

What’s more amazing is that you are an extra special gift. You’re the gift that God had hiding in the corner only to bring out at the last second when we thought the party was over. You were the gift we didn’t know to ask for, and then with a teary-secret-keeping smile He pulls His hands out from behind His back…

And hands us you.

Oh, the breath taking awe, my son. What a humbling, honoring, laughter-filled gift you are!

With every tackle hug, every belly laugh, every dragon fight, every Captain-America-Weilding-A-Light-Saber-Fighting-Off-Ninjas moment, I stand in utter awe of the little man you are – and are becoming.

I am so thankful that God knows how to give such good gifts – and that He delights so much in it.

So enjoy your day, Buddy. Fall asleep tonight clutching your blankie (don’t worry, it’s totally manly to sleep with one) and your newest favorite toy and rest deep and well knowing that you are loved, you are cherished, you are special.

Happy Birthday, son. I love you.

%d bloggers like this: