Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Photo by Liz Gray

Go and wake up your luck.  Persian Saying

        Life is so beautiful.   I should easily be able to think of at least a thousand memories from the 17, 184* days I’ve lived so far,  but for sake of the preciousness of your life, allow me to account for just one day.

Yesterday was such a very happy day.  I woke up;  as is my custom, God willing, and that right there is something major to be grateful for.  This was followed by a series of multiple media message checking from cell phone, to email, to facebook, to homephone—all before I had a chance for my morning coffee.     Make the beds, make a plan for the day, change the litter box; change the plans for the day after consulting all the other family members and their plans.

Thankfully, it was Saturday, so we didn’t have the usual workday/school day stress of all trying to get out the door.   As words were exchanged and plans revised and rearranged, I first felt the twinges of stress creeping in from an “overstuffed” day, but for once I was able to pause  and remember something:

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118:24)

See I wanted to go to a dear friend’s daughter’s high school graduation.  I also already had plans to go see my daughter’s dance recital at a studio about two hours away, two hours from when the graduation ceremony started.  I had not seen my friend in over a year or her family.  Not only was her youngest daughter graduating, her oldest daughter was coming into town with a brand new baby, only a few weeks old.  I could not skip my daughter’s recital, yet how could I miss the graduation of someone so dear to our family?

What to do, what to do?  We’ve all been here.  How do you either A: Stop Time or   B: Be in two places at one time?

Well, if you figure that one out, please be sure and let me know, because it seems every day I live, there is more that either NEEDS to be done, or that I WANT to do, and sadly it’s just not possible to do it all.

So I prayed.  I rushed, but I prayed five simple words:  Lord, please order my day.  BOOM!  No sooner, than this simplest of prayers get lifted up, a possibility floated into my consciousness.   It was as if God let me know a visit with a friend delights and warms our heart no matter how brief.  I decided I would meet my friends, and hug her beautiful daughter if only for a few moments outside the church shortly before graduation started.  We spent about thirty true quality moments.  I did not get to see her graduate.  But I did get to see her.

I got to admire the serene beauty of a mom who raised four amazing children who have grown into Godly, well-adjusted, kind, compassionate young adults who will make this world a better place because of their purpose in it.  I got to see her two beautiful boys, one with a family of his own,  and her lovely oldest daughter, a mom of three with her newest gorgeous baby boy.  Hugs were exchanged and plans were made for a future visit.

Kiss, kiss, and off I went.  I drove the two hours west where the foothills, turn into what I guess I would call sledding hills.  Not quite the mountains, but there is a hint you’re getting closer.  Along the way to the dance recital, I kept stopping because I am the kind of person who gets distracted by Kodak Moments.  Rural America has a hundred snapshots a mile.  I could write into eternity, and I’m not even sure that would be enough time to capture all the beauty I see all around me.  Old wells, broken down cars,  wheel wagon mailboxes, giant ten-foot neon signs decades old, purple houses with pink petunias everywhere, and even the unique, humorous, and downright weird billboards I saw were all “signs”  from a higher power to:  SEE!  ENJOY!  WHAT BOUNTY AND ABUNDANCE I HAVE PLACED BEFORE YOU!

My favorite pic of the day was a sweepstakes building.  There was only one car there; I assume it was the owner or employee. There was not another car in sight.  They were open for business.  But no one came.  Maybe it’s because this small town felt like I did; I already won the lottery!!   Who needs a windfall, which often is accompanied by curses and broken promises, when beauty and memory is to be found everywhere.

I ultimately made it to the dance recital where my daughter sat in the front along with the other teachers, as opposed to dancing on the stage like all the recitals of the last ten years.    Her choreography was amazing and loud applause warmed my heart, because God continues to water the seeds of her gifts too.

I thought of all the unwritten chapters yesterday.  Not just what I want to write about, but what God wants to write about.  He truly has written eternity into the hearts of man.  Who will this new graduate become as she starts her voyage from this day forward as an adult?  Who will this new baby be?  What new adventures await my lovely friend who has successfully raised four amazing children and now after nearly thirty years will have the joy of time to do more of what she loves?  What lies ahead for all the talented dancers I saw yesterday? Their possibilities of choices, colleges, and careers are endless.

See I didn’t have to go inside and play the lottery.  For I have a secret to tell you.  I already won!!

It’s not about what we have or haven’t gotten yet.  It’s not about the career we have or don’t have that defines us.  Life is about  enjoying the gifts God puts all around you and within you.    It’s not about  stuff or status; it’s about purpose and perspective.  Ah yes, definitely perspective.

Yesterday I hugged three beautiful moms and one beautiful graduate!  I kissed a new baby.  I met a new toddler.  I saw dancers that could soar so high and dance so magnificently it made me cry that even that much talent can be squeezed into one person’s body, and even that was repeated in multiple dancers.   I hugged and kissed a beautiful teacher–my daughter.   Throughout the day I listened to music that inspires my soul and saw scenery that leaves me with only one thought.  Thank you!    Thank you God for letting me win life’s lottery.  It’s not free from struggle, by any means, but it’s days like yesterday, that make me realize, I’m infinitely rich beyond measure.

Today I even got to wake up for the 17, 185th time.  Seriously, how SWEET is that???

The soul, like the body, lives by what it feeds on.  ~Josiah Gilbert Holland

  How long have you been blessed?

Serendipity means a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise”;  specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it.      Wikipedia

“Vital lives are about action. You can’t feel warmth unless you create it, you can’t feel delight until you play, you can’t know serendipity unless you risk.”   Joan Erickson

      Have you ever packed a suitcase, gotten in the car, and just drove off with no destination in mind?  I highly recommend it.    It goes like this.  Pick a predetermined amount of miles you want to travel, say about a hundred.  Leave your neighborhood and then turn right. Now, drive a hundred miles, but only make right turns (or left–whatever floats your boat).  Where are you now?  The interstate?  A weird street in a subdivision? The middle of a farmer’s field?    Anyway, somewhere about now, turn on your GPS and find the coolest places closest to right about here.  Or the absolute best way pick a destination?  Close your eyes.  Stand in front of the map of either the United States or the state you live in.  Now put your finger out in space and try and hit the map.  Open your eyes.  If you are not in the ocean or on a remote island, then that is where you need to head to.   Now get your keys.  Let’s roll.

I call this the Leap Before You Look decision process, also known as the Serendipity Principal.  For most people, it’s really hard to do—to  just get in a car, with the bare essentials—your wallet, a toothbrush, a change of clothes, a swiss army knife (I always have a swiss army knife, unless flying –you just never know!). To wake up and to literally not know where you’ll be by dinner time tonight for most people sounds too crazy, a little big unhinged.  For most people it sounds…unsafe, maybe down right scary.  Not me; I like to think of it as edgy but not so far as say, living on the edge, which is generally predicated by a fall of some sort.

In 1999, I worked for a major airline when my daughter was 6 and my son was 11 ½.  I was known to wake up and say, “Let’s go to Chicago and see if we can catch a Cubs game today!”    We did this several times.  But one particular unplanned trip stands out.   Just the kids and I got to Chicago, and made it to Wrigley Field via train and bus in record time. The next stroke of luck was scoring two tickets in the second row at the front of the first base line. As soon as we went in, our backpack, and everyone else’s bags or purses were thoroughly searched.  What in the world?  Lucky for us, we had just flown, so no Swiss Army knife was found in my bag.

Well, it turned out President Bill Clinton was coming.  He arrived in the 5th inning.  But thanks to getting our nearly front row seats, we were just a few yards away and diagonally we were about a stone’s throw away under the President’s box seat.  I could read the label on his can of beer.  We were that close.  Forget my political stance; I couldn’t believe hours after waking up without a concrete plan, I’d be watching a baseball game with my sweet kids, seated near the President of the United States!  We woke up that morning, went to the airport with nothing but my Mickey Mouse backpack, and a change of underwear and a toothbrush for each of us, and hoping we’d actually get a flight as we always had to travel stand-by.  Instead we saw Sammy Sosa hit a game winning home run, which was actually a double miracle:  One:  My son’s baseball hero at the time was Sammy Sosa and Two: The Cubs WON!!!    After the amazing game, we ventured over to the Navy Pier and late that night ate the best Chicago pizza!  Our day had started at 5 am, and by 2 am, we had seen the President, witnessed two baseball miracles and were now tucked safely in bed in a random hotel we never had reservations to begin with.  My kids were learning the art of traveling by way of serendipity.

Another time, in 2006, before taking my daughter to school, after hearing on the radio that today was the last day the crew of Extreme Home Makeover was in town, I suddenly found it more important that morning, that she skip school, in order to go see Ty Pennington and crew who were in Raleigh finishing up a home for the TV show.  It was the day of the Big Reveal.  I mean seriously, which is more important, learning how to diagram sentences or learn a new geometry theorem, or watching an entire family’s lives change before your very eyes.  Really, to me it’s a no-brainer.  We shouted “Move that bus!” and got awesome reveal pictures and high-fived Ty as he ran by us.

Last summer, while my daughter was in NYC for a week long dance competition, I rented a car to go see U2 in Philadelphia, which I did plan.  However, once I arrived at the rental company, they had a situation where they couldn’t get me the economy car I requested.  “Would you mind driving a Cadillac instead, no extra charge?”  Me:  Definitely not.  Hey, wait a minute.  There’s no place for ignition keys!  Ah, who cares!

     A saner person may have wondered how I was going to navigate the streets of NYC in a totally computer-equipped, unfamiliar car and get to Philadelphia and back by myself, but not me.    See this is a huge gift God has given me.  I’m always up for the adventureI don’t need a man, or a woman for that matter, beside me to feel secure. At least when it comes to traveling, I don’t necessarily have to have a game plan.  I’m just the co-pilot who happens to be in the driver’s seat.

       I mean I knew I had to get to the concert, but that’s all I needed to know.  I felt confident my 18 year old daughter, already a seasoned solo traveler to NYC (her 6th trip) would be fine for just twenty four hours at the hotel.  (She totally survived without me, probably even thrived!)  Once in Philadelphia, I met up with my husband’s sister who I had not seen in thirteen years and didn’t know what to expect.  She and I had a blast.  I met U2 fans who later became amazing friends.

Only five days later, I would ever so briefly meet Bono and the Edge just outside our hotel, because of a stray comment I accidentally overheard another guest say because I just happened to be checking my U2 concert pics on the hotel lobby’s computers.  I didn’t know they were in NYC since it was the middle of the U2 360 tour.  I was only checking the pictures to kill time, while waiting on my daughter to come down from the room.    Who knew?  My favorite musicians of all time were only yards away from where I was,  yet I met them without planning to. But that’s another blog.

The thing I’ve learned about plans, on vacation and in life,  is that plans are often foiled by the unexpected and end in frustration.  The journeys that are  traveled with an open mind,  and no expectation of outcome often are the ones that become the lasting memories of your heart.

Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous–Albert Einstein