Wednesday, May 25, 2016

On the Hunt for Hidden Treasure

My friend Marilyn is spending a month in Paris and her emails about her adventures along with photos of sidewalk cafes, spring flowers and a Parisian dog or two, are giving me a severe case of wanderlust. 

I asked her if she planned an expedition to the Paris flea markets. 

When my mother and I traveled to Paris a few summers ago, a French flea market was at the top of my can’t-miss-list {after the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower of course}. 

I was hoping to find a few French treasures there, but now when I remember that day, I think of a taxi driver, a group of men at a pub, and a delightfully delicious pizza.

Before I went to Paris, I’d seen glorious photos of stacks of French chairs with curvy legs and tattered fabric lined up on the sidewalk, rows of gilded mirrors leaning against each other and crystal chandeliers resting carelessly on the ground at the flea markets. 

I knew I could never afford to buy anything, let alone figure out how to ship it home, but I still wanted to visit an authentic Paris flea market to find something small enough to fit in my suitcase.

Concerned about pickpockets and the Metro trip, my mother and I decided to take our chances with the Porte de Vanves flea market in the 14th arrondissement instead of the much more famous Les Puces de Saint-Ouen {at Porte de Clignancourt}. It was supposed to be easier to navigate so we took a taxi there. 

Our driver spoke little English but asked if we wanted him to pick us up when we were done. We thought this was amazing and agreed to meet him in 3 hours where he dropped us off.

We crossed the street and when I spotted the gold cherub candelabra wrapped around a tree, I knew we were in the right place. 

We browsed up and down the rows of shoes and clothing, knickknacks and dishes, looking for treasures.  

My mother bought a vintage magazine. I bought a pen and ink drawing of Place de Concorde signed and dated from 1932, a page torn out of a fashion book, and a tiny painted portrait that I thought was beautiful. 

I’m sure I overpaid for all of them, but I wanted souvenirs from a Paris flea market more than I cared about getting a good deal.

I wanted to be reminded of Paris every time I saw my treasures. 

I've been thinking about what God treasures. 

I think it’s people. You and me. 

And I think he wants to be our treasure. 

He wants us to spend time looking for him, lingering in his presence, sharing our secret desires and clingy fears with him. 

He wants to be the conversation we look forward to at the end of a day, the confidante we cherish, the one we bare our souls to. 

He longs to join us in our search for purpose in life, our pursuit of holiness and our quest for happiness.

We can spend a lifetime knowing him and never unearth all the treasure that is God. 

It's a great mystery that the more we know of him, we discover there is far more to adore, more to worship. 
My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. - Col. 2:2-3

In Paris, when my mother and I were done shopping, we went back to meet the taxi. But he never showed up. 

We searched for a taxi stand, asked directions and couldn't seem to find anyone who spoke English. 

We headed toward what seemed to be a cafe. But it was really a pub. Where we were the only women. 

The bartender finally understood we were looking for a taxi and offered to call one. We thought it might be better to wait outside on the street than stay in the pub.

But a few minutes later a man from the bar came out and in his limited English told us he wanted to wait with us until the taxi arrived. To be sure we were safe, he said. 

Now when I look at my Paris purchases I not only remember the taxi ride to the flea market, but I remember the kindness of men spending their Saturday in a pub.

And I think of the pizza my mother and I ordered as we chose an Italian restaurant in the middle of Paris for lunch after the flea market trip. 

We were famished after our adventure and we thought it was the best pizza we'd ever had.

By the way, my friend Marilyn said she wasn't planning to go to the flea markets since her 90-year-old mother is with her and they are avoiding crowds.

But I wonder if they'll sample the pizza in Paris? I think it's some of the hidden treasure of Paris.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Join me there for more inspiring posts from my blogger friends!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pondering Your Purpose in Life? It's All Relative

What is it about reaching the midpoint of life that sets off the alarm bells about making sure our lives matter? Should we change direction, start over, adjust mid-course? And how in the world can we be happy through it all?

Maybe it's all relative. Or maybe it has something to do with my relatives. Maybe you can relate? 

{Overuse of the word relate intended!}

On Mother's Day I rode with my sister and her family to church. Since my brother-in-law’s mother also went with us, I was sitting with my nephew in the way-back row of my sister's SUV, where I could be a quiet observer.

Just as we’re ready to depart, my brother-in-law can’t find his sunglasses. We wait for him while he looks in the other car, and just as he gets back in, my niece says wait, she forgot her earbuds and disappears into house. 

When she returns, my sister asks the kids if they remembered to bring the gift bag sitting in the kitchen for their grandmother. They say no so my sister gets out of the car, but they call her back saying wait, they have the gift after all.

Finally we roll out of the garage.

Just one exit down the highway my sister chokes on a bite of granola bar and has a coughing fit that lasts all the way to the next exit.

Which we miss. 

My brother-in-law says my sister’s coughing fit made him forget where he was going. 

From the center lane, he takes the SUV over the grassy median to rejoin the exit ramp we were supposed to be on. {No worries, no one was harmed during this stunt.}

We finally arrive at the church parking lot and as my brother-in-law backs the car into a parking space, my nephew decides to show me a video on his phone.

As we’re backing in, someone lays on the horn. We jerk to a stop and all look around. No one seems to be near us. “WHAT was THAT?” my brother-in-law asks.

My nephew sheepishly realizes the horn was coming from the video on his phone.

“Oh Dad, that was my video,” he says. “Remember that time you laid on the horn to scare Mom and I recorded it?”

My sister interrupts, “Yes we all remember it, but why are you playing it now?”

Whatever my nephew wanted to show me now seems unimportant as he puts his phone back in his pocket.

We pile out of the car and I’m somehow handed my niece’s stuffed animal dog, complete with a leash to carry into church. 

I make a mental note to drive my own car to church next time. 

Just to preserve my peace of mind {or at least preserve a piece of my mind}.

It's all relative, isn't it? 

There’s always a way that seems smoother, a life that looks more beautiful, more rewarding, more peaceful than ours. 

There’s always one that seems richer, with accomplishments greater, and a path that seems easier than the one we're on.

But maybe our place, our role, our purpose in life has less to do with what we make of it and more to do with how we receive what we've been given.

That dry and dusty desert is what transforms us as we refresh ourselves in the springs of solitude as an oasis to experience God alone. 

Those times we’re overlooked, passed over and rejected, turn the clay and rocks into fertile ground and uproot the stubborn weeds of self-importance and resentment. 

The years spent waiting are the beautifully hand-lettered invitations to dwell and linger in the lavish mercy and grace of God.

The hours of simply serving when no one notices bestow the secret titles that will one day be renown. 

So maybe climbing the corporate ladder, chasing dreams and making my own way isn't really the standard I want to set for myself.

Maybe mid-life is about really seeing with my heart and soul and mind what it's all about.

Maybe it's about living my real-life that's been given to me, here and now, and aspiring to live a holy life, as we all are called to do.

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time. - 2 Tim 1:9

A few days later, I have another outing planned with the relatives.

I'm waiting on the curb for my sister to pick me up to see the play “Mary Poppins,” staged by my niece and nephew’s school. The car is full and once again, I'm a passenger.

My brother-in-law opens the door and says, “Welcome to the Mary Poppins bus.”

I climb in and suddenly realize what I need. 

Perhaps a spoonful of sugar would help when I go on these traveling escapades with the relatives.

In the most delightful way, of course.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Join me there for more posts from my blogging friends!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Come On Ride the Train

When I first heard I was riding the train, I protested. 

I took a day off work and while I was gone my colleagues decided that it would be fun to take a 20-minute ride on the commuter train and have breakfast a few stops down the tracks from our office.

I don’t think train rides are fun. 

I’m not much of a public transit rider unless I’m in a city where I’m forced to use it. I’ve taken the subway in New York and ridden the MARTA in Atlanta. I even rode the train when I was in Italy last summer. 

But Orlando is new to the commuter train game. 

The train debuted last year with much fanfare. A renovated station from the olden days of train travel sits on my company's campus so I've driven by it for years and always wondered what it looked like inside.

I guess now I’d get my chance to not only see the historic 1920s station but to ride the train for the breakfast whistle-stop tour I was being invited {coerced?} to take.

It would seem as if riding the train would be a good fit for me since driving new places makes me anxious and parking difficulties stress me out.

But maybe I just don’t like giving up control of my journey.  

{You too?}

I try to remember that when God invites us to come with him and join him on this journey of life, it can turn out to be the ride of our lives.

Even though I'm not sure of the direction we’re traveling or where we’ll stop or how long we’ll be staying. 

And I don’t know exactly when we’ll gather steam to get moving again or if we’ll unexpectedly screech to a halt. 

But all I have to do is get on board, settle into my seat, and enjoy the ride. 

Except that's not so easy because there's still a lot of activity required in those words: board, settle, enjoy.

I'm learning it's less about looking for what God’s going to do for me, and more about traveling with the one who goes with me on this passage, through every season, no matter what it brings.

Sometimes the most brave thing we can do is follow and yield, instead of insisting that we make our own way.

Even if it looks as if we don't know what we're doing or worse, that we look foolish when we tell our friends that we're at a temporary stop and we're waiting on God.

Maybe you feel as if your life's journey is stalled in the middle of the tracks.

Or maybe your life is traveling at such a breakneck speed, you're afraid you’ll miss the next stop.

Maybe your life feels more like a train wreck than a joy ride.

Or maybe it seems as if you’ve missed your train since it’s long ago left the station without you and you're still standing there holding your suitcase because you aren't sure what else to do.

But take heart, because we have God's word that he is always with us on this journey of life.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” - Deut. 31:8

When I rode the train last summer in Milan, I couldn't help but notice the giant sewing needle with three colorful strands of thread standing in the center of their Metro system symbolizing the train lines {and the fashion industry} that connect the city.

But I didn't realize the second part of the sculpture was a knot located a little further away. It wasn't even in the picture.

Isn't that an image of our journey through life? 

Just as a needle and thread can't create clothing without the knot that secures all the stitches yet to come, our lives need God who holds all the threads of our lives, creating our beautiful stories. 

So as I'm on the train with my colleagues, I spot the big green coffee shop sign just ahead as I get off to have breakfast.

We stay a while, eat breakfast sandwiches and drink coffee, then head back to the station to catch the next train back to the office. 

I think I'm on the right track.

Or I can at least ride the rails with this train of thought. 

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Join me there for more posts from my blogger friends!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

How Do You See Things?

I think I’m finally growing used to my new surroundings. 

Oh, I haven’t moved anywhere. 

I’m still in the same place but my place seems different. 

I got new counter chairs for my kitchen and had three pieces of furniture painted —a buffet and two chests of drawers. {
Oh -- and I got a new little kitchen rug to stand on when I’m at my sink, too.}

I like all the changes, it’s just that my own house seems unfamiliar and it’s a little disorienting.


So now when I walk into my kitchen for coffee in the morning, instead of my old red counter chairs, the new blue ones are the first things I see. I ordered them online and they’re a lot bigger {and bluer} than I thought.

And did I mention I had to assemble them? Except I really couldn’t. 

I had a hard time just identifying all the parts on the instruction sheet that arrived with the two big boxes filled with chair legs, cushions and a red bag of assorted bolts, screws and an Allen wrench. 

So I called my 12-year-old nephew. 

He rode his bike right over with a pocketful of screwdrivers and spent the next two hours putting the chairs together for me. 

So he was {understandably} a little deflated when I wasn’t sure I liked the chairs.

Meanwhile in the rest of my house, my friend Shawna’s been transforming my dark vintage furniture with coats of white paint. 

The dark holes where they stood in the corners of my rooms are now so bright, it's almost too dazzling to look at. 

Although I've been wanting these furniture facelifts and new chairs for quite awhile, I wasn't sure I wanted them all at once.

Every room I walk into there's something new to greet me and I feel a little off-balance.


Isn’t that how God works in our lives? 

He's on the move. Always. And sometimes it's uncomfortable and unfamiliar and awkward.

He rearranges our priorities and shakes our circumstances. 
He moves people in and out of our lives and disturbs our routines. 
He shifts our hearts and nudges our souls.

He does this because he's moving us closer to him, to a deeper maturity. Our hearts move closer to him and we get a glimpse of how he sees our lives because he's looking at the things we can't see. 

He's looking at our future. 

When an unexpected turn of events or a difficulty moves into my little corner of the world, I spend a few days wringing my hands until I realize maybe there’s another way to look at it. 

My place hasn’t changed but I start to see my place differently.

That problem I was wringing my hands about could be a golden opportunity. 
The hassle might have a silver lining. 
The mishap might be a blessing in disguise.

When God moves in our lives, it changes what we see.

Because God is always moving, always maturing us, always working out his purposes in our lives, we have to decide if we’ll wade through the strangeness, the awkwardness to get to the next plateau.
Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God. - Heb. 6:1

I’m getting used to seeing my blue chairs {I told my nephew I'm not returning them}, and I'm liking what I see when I look at my lighter vintage furniture. 

And there is one thing I’ve been sure of since the moment I brought it into my house.

I really do love my little sky blue rug that lies under my sink. 

When I stand on it from my corner of the kitchen, I can see things in a very different light.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart and Bonnie Gray at the Faith Barista. My blogging friends there are serving up encouraging posts!