Jun
20
2010
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old stairs, old roads, and laundry

I have a thing for old stairs. Don’t ask me why.

old stairs

These are old stairs. Please ignore the graffiti.

These particular stairs were kind of annoying, though. They were too shallow, and too wide. I think they were made that way so that horses could walk up them.

Really.

walking down old stairs

Some people walked down the old stairs like horses, but some decided it was easier to walk down the smooth slope on the side. Like this.

smooth slope

I confess that, until that moment, I had never considered the difficulties of riding a horse on stairs.

I did have a friend who adopted a greyhound who didn’t know how to go up stairs . . .

So the Perugians (is that what they’re called??) live in a city on a hill with stairs built for horses. Naturally, it could be difficult to navigate the city using modern transportation. I think that’s why we parked in a garage and walked all over.

car in Perugia

But the locals seem to be managing just fine. One more picture:

laundry

Can you imagine how annoying it would be if you dropped a sock, though? Or other things . . . how embarrassing!!

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Jun
19
2010
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landscapes 2 (the other side)

It’s too tempting.

Perugia

This is one of those times when I almost regret taking pictures. I think the pictures are supposed to bring back happy memories. They do bring happy memories, but they also bring discontent thoughts.

Really, who wouldn’t want to live in a walled city with a nifty tile roof, surrounded by green trees and a beautiful blue sky? Here’s a closer look in case you aren’t sure.

Perugia, closer

I think it looks amazing.

However, being a debater, I have to look at both sides. So, observation 1–lots of those old houses probably don’t have air conditioning. Observation 2–it’s hot there in the summer. Observation 3–look at the next picture.

Perugia, the crowded side

Observation 3–the houses are crowded, there’s graffiti, there’s lots of stairs, and I still don’t see a grocery store. That makes me feel a little bit better about not living in Perugia.

More about the stairs later.

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Jun
19
2010
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landscapes (they’re different in different places)

When I was kid, we would go on long road trips to visit my grandparents. As we drove through different parts of the country, sometimes I would wonder, “what would it be like to live here?”

I always worried about those people who lived in the mountains, on curvy roads, surrounded by lots of trees and rocks. Miles and miles from the nearest grocery store. What happens when they run out of ice cream?

I’ve always said that my dream home is located on a country road, five minutes from a Wal-Mart.

So anyway, about landscapes. I grew up in lower Alabama, which is relatively flat, and has lots of trees. I didn’t think that we had lots of trees until I visited northern Illinois, where my husband grew up. They have not so many trees.

We had trees, but it was pretty flat, so you usually couldn’t see very far because the trees and buildings got in the way. I think that’s why I always wondered what it would be like to live on a mountain. Unfortunately, my phobia of living more than five minutes away from a grocery story always stunted my imagination on that subject.

Perugia landscape

This is the view from a high point in Perugia, Italy. I think I could get used to seeing this every day. It’s a great view, but there’s plenty of civilization. It’s not really in the mountains, but it’s got the highest hill in the immediate vicinity. Hence the great view.

Unfortunately, things are a bit crowded. And I don’t remember seeing any grocery stores. They probably look different in Perugia, so I didn’t recognize them.

Another Perugian Landscape

Still, isn’t that nice?

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Jun
19
2010
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old places

I like old places.

I’m going through some mission team photos tonight, and I came to this photo.

Old Street SignThis is a street sign from Perugia. Well, it’s sort of a street sign. The “street” was more like a passageway, and it was inside the citadel. Anyway, I think the sign is saying that this is the way to the plaza and a particular church.

I think it’s much nicer than our road signs.

This next picture encapsulates many of my pleasant memories from Italy.

corridorI loved walking down open corridors like this. The shade gave us a break from the heat, but we could look out as we walked along, and sometimes we could feel the breeze. And some of us might have wished that we were princesses gliding along in beautiful dresses, sipping iced tea and eating baci.

And then some of us might have remembered that 1) eating too many baci would make us fat and 2) our modern-day “normal” lives are much more comfortable than any princess’s life. Even princesses had to worry about intruders storming the castle. That’s what the citadel was for (protection, not for tourists).

I still wouldn’t mind having a corridor someday.

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Jun
08
2010
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a neckheld book

SLCBookMy friend slc makes books, like the one in the picture. I always love her books, but I’m especially intrigued by her newest creation: a neckheld book.

That’s right. A book, held by your neck. Also known as a book on a necklace. Or should we call it a neckbook? Check it out!

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May
31
2010
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Kudos to Chick-fil-A

When my friend SLC at seemingly random sent a message saying that I could get a free spicy chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A, I was skeptical. I’ve learned that, when restaurants offer free food, people go crazy. Bad things happen. The chances of actually receiving the food are slim.

I signed up anyway.

The process was a little more complicated than I expected. Previously, with other restaurants, I would print out some coupon, and show up (only to find out that they’re out of food, but instead of telling you that, they tell you that your coupon is counterfeit even though it isn’t. Thanks a lot, KFC.). Chick-fil-A had a totally different approach. First, I had to choose my location. Then, I had to choose the date and time I wanted to come. THEN I got to print a coupon, and that coupon had my name and e-mail address. There was a link that allowed me to automatically add an appointment to my Outlook Calendar. The day before, I got an e-mail reminder.

Tim and I drove to Chick-fil-A today, anticipating our sandwiches. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were parking spaces available. Plenty of people were eating inside, but there was definitely room for us. The employees greeted us, and treated us like valued customers. [I guess that’s not unusual. Chick-fil-A employees are always impeccably polite.]

It was a wonderful experience. Kudos to Chick-fil-A for having a give-away, and for handling it excellently.

This is just another reason why I go to Chick-fil-A on a semi-regular basis, even though it costs a little more than other fast food places. I also love their lemonade. And their icecream. And the chicken.

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Feb
21
2010
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realizing what matters

Introduction:

My parents are out of town, and I’m staying with my sisters. Right now, my role is mostly taxi-driver and cook. My grandmothers both live nearby, so I’m also helping them however I can. Grandmama  is my mom’s mom. She’s almost fiercely independent, even though she is blind and can’t get around very well.

Story:

This morning, Kara and Stephanie and I loaded into the van and headed out to pick up Grandmama and go to church. As we turned onto her street, we noticed a police car. It was parked in the middle of the street, mostly blocking the way. Behind it were cars, people, and firetrucks. The policeman wasn’t there, but some neighbors were standing out in their yard. I rolled down my window.

“What happened?” I asked.

“A fire.”

“Which house? Do you know which house?”

They didn’t.

I squeezed the van around the police car, heart pounding. There were at least three huge fire trucks, and they were right in front of Grandmama’s house. I thought, “There’s been a fire at Grandmama’s house. She probably left the stove on and didn’t realize it. And if there was a fire in her house, she probably wouldn’t get out. She probably died in that fire.” I briefly wondered why no one had called us, but realized there probably hadn’t been enough time. There was still smoke in the air.

But the smoke wasn’t coming from Grandmama’s house. It was the house across the street. The back corner of the roof was black, and the house sported tyvek instead of siding.

I never did see the policeman, but people were out in their yards everywhere. I stopped and asked if everyone was ok. They were. No one was hurt.

I couldn’t get to Grandmama’s driveway, so I parked on the street by the edge of her yard.

I rang the doorbell. Soon she came to the door, I explained what had happened, and we walked across the yard to the van. Then we went to church, even more thankful for Grandmama than when we woke up that morning.

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Feb
10
2010
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1 way to simplify right now

Simplify. Declutter. Eliminate. Streamline.

These are big themes in my life right now. I’m frustrated by the amount of clutter (physical and mental) in my life right now, but my progress in simplifying has been halting, at best. Today, I was thinking about how I could simplify, and I had a very freeing thought.

You can’t change what other people expect from you, but you can change what you expect from yourself. Therefore, you can simplify by eliminating expectations for yourself. It’s something that you can do almost instantly, and the results are wonderful.

Think through your task list, and even beyond it to the “ought list.” The “ought list” is that impossibly long list of things you ought to do, hope to do, beat yourself up about, but know you’ll never get to. In my case, my ought list contains the beginnings of projects that sounded wonderful at the time, but no longer hold any interest to me. In many cases, the ought list contributes to clutter in my house. I save things that I ought to use for a craft, and books that I ought to read.

The crazy thing is–no one is telling me to read those books. No one else cares if I read those books. I’m the one that decided that I should read them, and now I don’t want to read them anymore. So guess what? I don’t need to read them. And I don’t need to make those crafts. In fact, I can cut my losses and get rid of the clutter associated with those “oughts.”

You can do it too.

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Jan
28
2010
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MMT 23–Italy, Part 1

On the drive to Italy, we were supposed to spend our time practicing Italian.

Mountain on the way to Italy

The drive to Italy

We had trouble concentrating, though. I heard a rumor that some people were listening to Pavarotti, too.

When we arrived at our host church in Fontannafredda, we felt very welcome. Why? Well, there was a welcome sign.

Welcome!

There was a nice comfy seating area, and wifi.

Fontannafredda (15)Some people talk about how they love to get away from their computers. They shut down their e-mail. They voluntarily turn off their computers on the weekend.

We are not those people.

I wish I had pictures of the wonderful American military families that met us at the church and served us American food for supper. Instead, you’ll have to be content with a picture of the bookshelf.

Fontannafredda (17)The bookshelf  had English books for sale. Some of us spent half our souvenir money on English books there, because we had already read all the books we brought with us. And some of us bought books from that shelf and still haven’t finished reading them because we read our friends’ books instead.

It’s a good thing we studied our Italian in the car, because we definitely weren’t studying now.

Fontannafredda (21)Some of us were singing, though. The birthday crew used the wifi connection to sing the birthday song to Megan McCauley. Then the rest of us lost our connections because Dr. Mom’s video chat used up the whole bandwidth. At least we were amused by the birthday crew.

After the amazing American supper, it was time to do what we came to do–proclaim God’s love through song and word. The pastor, Rob Krause, had arranged for us to give a concert in the nearby town of Sacile.

Fontannafredda (90)20Those are our posters on the doors of the concert hall. The concert was advertised as a free evening of music, a gift to bless the community. We were thrilled that we could give them more than music. We gave them the truth of God’s love. Afterward, we got to meet lots of people, and Rob had some great conversations with people who wanted to know more about what they had heard. It was a wonderful evening.

The next day, Rob showed us around town. He told us the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version of the history of the area, and an old Italian man in a striped shirt made sure that Rob told us how the American helicopter placed the angel on top of the tower.

Fontannafredda (64)

Fontannafredda (86)

The angel spins when the wind blows.

A friend of Rob’s wanted to give us all pizza for lunch. We didn’t complain.

Fontannafredda (132)After lunch, we walked around another neat, old Italian town, and in the evening, we had another concert in a different town. The next day, we had to leave, but fortunately, we weren’t leaving Italy yet.

Jan
26
2010
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MMT 22–Vienna, Austria

It’s been a while, I know. But now, we return to our irregularly scheduled mission team reports. At the rate I’m going, I’ll have to hurry to finish these before the mission team goes out again (without me this time, though).

After two days in very rural Slovakia, we headed to Vienna, Austria.

Thoughts about Vienna:

  • Vienna is spelled “Wien” in German.
  • In 2008, we did a service in Vienna, but didn’t have time to see anything in the city. That was distracting.
  • Vienna is very different from rural Slovakia. I saw no goats in Vienna.
  • The music majors on the team were incredible happy to be in Vienna.
  • Finally, we were thrilled to hear German. After two days of hearing Slovakian, German sounded wonderful. Compared to Slovakian, German seemed like our native language.

Happenings in Vienna:

We arrived at our host church in Vienna, unloaded a bunch of stuff, checked e-mail, grabbed our concert clothes, and headed off to a nearby town (I think it was called Krems) for supper and a service at a Romanian Baptist Church. The church people took us out for genuine Wiener schnitzel before the service. The schnitzel were amazing–they tasted wonderful, and they were huge. So we stuffed ourselves on wonderful schnitzel, and then we went back to the church for dessert. Really. I think there was lots of left-over dessert.

The people at the Romanian church were friendly and fun to talk with. Their building was new, and they were really trying to reach out into their community. They especially wanted the local German speakers to know that they were welcome (i.e., the church isn’t just for Romanians). Hopefully our service helped with that. We certainly didn’t sing in Romanian!

Kai and Missy Soltau were our main hosts in Vienna, and both of them had just lost a parent. They were kind and encouraging to us, even though they were hurting. They were a walking testimony of God’s grace while we were there, and I hope that we were able to encourage them in some small way.

The next day we had a whirlwind tour through Vienna. There was no way that we could visit everything, so first we drove around, and Kai pointed out the important buildings. We all went to St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stefansdom), and we got permission to sing a few songs inside! This was particularly cool, because Haydn and Mozart both performed there. We always try to sing inside cathedrals, but sometimes it doesn’t work out, especially in the bigger ones. This was definitely a big cathedral, but we got permission to sing, and a crowd gathered. We were able to testify about God’s love, and several people asked questions afterward.

After Stefansdom, we got gelato, and visited as many buildings as we could. Then, we went back to the church for supper and did a service at Kai’s church.

Kai and Missy Soltau
Stefansdom
Singing in Stefansdom
The crowd listening
We love gelato!
Statue of Mozart

Jan
19
2010
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injustice

“But you denied the Holy and Righteous one . . . and you killed the Author of life.” Acts 3:14-15

Injustice bothers me. I’ll see people who seem to get away with terrible things, and suffer no consequences. Sometimes, my sense of injustice makes it hard for me to function. I’ll become obsessed with an unjust situation, and find it hard to think about anything else.

When I read this passage last night, I thought, “This is injustice.” We rebelled against God, and then rejected the One He sent to save us. We killed the Author of Life. Justice demands punishment. God did satisfy His own justice, but not by punishing us. God showed mercy to mankind and to me personally. He let me live and allowed me to see what Christ was really for.

We killed the Author of Life, but that didn’t stop Him from His purpose. Still, He gives us life.

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Jan
18
2010
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Google Error

Today when I was using Google Insights for Search, my Google toolbar observed that the page was in Ukranian and helpfully offered to translate it for me.

Thanks, Google, but actually this page is not in Ukranian.

Google thinks the page is in Ukranian.

Google thinks the page is in Ukranian.

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