“Isn’t it what all the great wars and battles are fought for -
so that at day’s end a family may eat together in a peaceful house?”
(Ursula K. Le Oiun)
Our Month Itinerary
Amsterdam - Day 6
Geithoorn - Day 7
Haarlem + Leiden - Day 8
Munich, Germany - Day 9
Salzburg, Austria - Day 10 + 11
Berchtesgaden, Germany - Day 12
Hallstat, Austria - Day 13
Venice, Italy - Day 14 + 15
Nice, France - Day 16
Rouen, France - Day 17
Normandy, France - Day 18
Mont Saint Michel, France - Day 19
Paris, France - Day 20-27
Disneyland Paris - Day 28
Fontainebleau, France - Day 29-30
The longing to be able to bring others into my actual thoughts is incessant. Moving from the boundary-less brain to the confinement of word, written or spoken, or visuals, is a frustrating process. It never is as clearly overlapping, stumping, united and profound on the outside as it is inside the home of my mind.
I posted in 11 different parts on my IG feed the 11 different strands to a braid; a braid that has been wrapped round, and stitched up, to become the metaphorical basket holding our trip. Everything we did, gathered, overcome, and felt was set inside our little Thought Basket, and we arrived in the States yesterday with special things overflowing from the top (we’d stop often to bend over, and smash an item or two back in for the time being. Everything will be sorted out and unfolded and given a place soon.).
Here are these thoughts listed out in blog-format for ease of reading and referencing, and to try to communicate the headspace we’re in… and why “all this” meant “so much.”
PART I: THE ABILITY TO CREATE HONESTLY, TO SAY SOMETHING MEANINGFUL
Our flight to London from Newark was delayed by many hours (come to find out, the entire airline would cease to exist after an instant bankruptcy a few weeks later. But that’s a Tom Hanks style story for another time). This Tom Hanks story is about his young lookalike, an 83 year old NY art professor, and a world-champion-boxing, Reebok-sponsored, international model-and-painter.
The three were on the same flight as us, delayed like us, and happened to sit by us with water bottles and sandwiches at our gate. The three talked for hours, and Caleb and I eavesdropped for hours. Young Tom gave every reason to believe he was a spirited, affected writer or journalist of some sort. He did the majority of the prodding and question-asking, creating an empty bucket for the other two to spill their thoughts. Our modern age, communication, art, intimacy, money-making ... they covered much ground. When asked his thoughts on Instagram, the professor paused and said, almost word for word (I took notes):
“For 55 years I’ve been teaching students the critical nature of authenticity and art. ‘Say something, ask something, and mean it,’ I tell them. And now I see pretty girls in pretty outfits, out in every corner, with their boyfriend or girlfriend taking dozens, hundreds, of pictures. They run to the camera and check, then run back and try again. All this time, and effort. And I wonder: what are they saying? Everyone can make art, but not everyone does. The quantity of images that exist is beyond grasp, but what is being created? And what are these voluminous creations saying? What do they *mean*? I worry about losing the ability to create honestly; to say something with art form.”
PART II: ROOM FOR GOOD THINGS TO RUN WILD
A few days before our trip I received a message from @littlemamaclark, who was sending along a GK Chesterton quote she thought would resonate with us.
"And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.” On our little drive to Normandy, France Caleb and I spent most our time thinking out loud about these ideas. We agree with them.
Not let the wild things run wild.
Not let the good things be hidden under a bushel, locked inside a tight box, or walled in (with patrols in the look-out towers, watching every move).
Then the questions are begged: What is this room-giving order? What is good? And how do you let it out? We’ll be dwelling here for some time. “Whatever is honest, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of goodness, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."
PART III: THE PRESENTATION OF HONEST JOY
Someone Caleb and I followed before we even met, who is known online for her beautiful everything: family, pictures, home, parties, body, words, thought process, etc shared some significant and heavy life updates recently, while constantly proclaiming freedom, hope, and joy. She wrote this on Facebook during our trip, in response to messages she was getting after her ‘big announcement’: "I've had maybe a dozen messages that read something like this one I got:
'Incredible what we will portray to the outside world because we feel we have to. I always thought you were so blessed in life and love... a picture perfect life...'
I'm sure the messages aren't in ill-will, and I am glad for them as it gives me the opportunity to share of the Power of God.
Every picture I have ever posted was real joy. It was, and is who we are! We never put on a show. Ever. We never ever even thought to hide. We never felt we had to portray anything but who we were. And here is who we were and who we are now: strong and resilient [and joyful.]
We made daily choices to find the good and joy in our lives. This is my mantra and my mission, and my heart.
I led us all these years to not just be content, but to thrive, and fight, and love, and enjoy all there was to enjoy in life. I have always been honest with the world, friends, and anyone that God is near to the broken-hearted and that suffering has drawn me close to Him and to see life in an entirely different way. I spoke of this insistently and with still respecting my own privacy and life.
There is no need to portray. There is no need for picture perfect. We are just us - the joy of the Lord was our strength to bring us into freedom.
I was also given the power of the Most High God. That, you guys, is not a portrayal, it is Matthew 22:29: 'And Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God."' I have known His power. I have experienced it. Seen it, felt it, been saved by it, been comforted by it. Been renewed by it, healed by it." ( - @hope.chronicles )
PART IV: THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS • By Wendell Berry
“When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time I
rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
PART V • TAKE YOUR TIME, AND HAVE IT, TOO
We ate in Rouen, right beside La Couronne, the restaurant that introduced Julia Child to French Cuisine and her destiny. “The most exciting meal of her life,” she later wrote. When I had checked a few months earlier, the Michelin-rated establishment did have a few reservations left for the day we’d be there but we opted for a more flexible, kid-friendly dinner plan.
Inside the neighboring restaurant Caleb and I talked over our risotto and a pasta dish called “Surprising!” Other than us and our affectionate waiter, the place was empty. As we were finishing up a pair of couples (probably in their 60’s) came in, then seem confused. The waiter went smiling and running towards them “Yes, yes... you’re in the right place! No one is here yet because it’s so early!” It was 7:30 PM. They laughed, and we couldn’t help but overhear as they engaged the waiter about American vs. European culture.
Someone asked our server about a day in his life: “Oh, well, I get up around 9 or 9:30, you see, and start to work at maybe 10:30 until 2. Then I have the afternoon off for my pleasure, and I come back to work at 5:00. Please, sit... and you must take your time.” I ordered a re-fill on my wine.
PART VI: STOP AND STARE, LIKE ANIMALS DO • Sheldon Vanauken, “A Severe Mercy”
“Those walks, especially as the sun got up and began to warm us, were leisurely, full of pauses to talk to a farmer or farmwife. Some-times they would have us in for a glass of fresh milk. Or sometimes we would stop and sit on a wall, eating a sun-warmed tomato, talking or peacefully silent. Often we talked of the sad and somehow outrageous fact that in most lives, perhaps our own before long, there isn’t time for long walks and sitting on walls.
We quoted a poem by W. H. Davies to the effect that it is a poor life if we have no time ‘to stop and stare’ as sheep and cows can do. We agreed. Nor were we cheered by the prospect of an occasional day off from an office, for with only one day there would be a sense of time at one’s back, a time too limited to ‘waste’ sitting on walls.
How were we to contrive a life full of time—a timeful life—where we could be quiet and leisurely, where we could stop and stare?”
PART VII • THE ART OF CREATING TIME
European law requires all companies to give employees a minimum of four weeks of paid vacation. Many countries have holiday requirements, too. (Forget some of that northern-Europe maternity and paternity leave...!). While this is obviously a very political, economical, and statistical conversation, all of that is secondary to the essential, soulful nature of having time.
Time to rest. Time to sleep. Time to waste. Time to bond, and stay bonded. Time to experiment. Time to wonder. Time to prepare. Time to see where this good thing called “time” goes when it has room to run wild. Time for time to go slow. Time to create quality (because quantity time DOES create quality time. Every product that would be considered “high quality” takes more time to produce. Rush is not the creator of merit.). Productivity! Goals! Hustle! Progress! Innovation! I know. I know. There’s outstanding reason to believe that the outcome of released pressure, gathered hours, and enough pausing (daily, weekly, yearly) revives a worker to be their most creative, rejuvenated, sharp self.
Before the Industrial Revolution, and light-bulbs and electricity, there was no government mandate. There was darkness. And coldness. Long winter in many parts of the world to guarantee a built in hunker, hygge, and re-fill. One of the very first things we know about God in Scripture is that He produced creative work (without effort), He loved what He had done and made, and He (not because of tiredness) rested to do nothing but enjoy.
One rest-day a week is about 15% of a week. 15% of an average waking day is about 2.5 hours. 15% of a year is about 7-8 weeks. As much as Caleb and I have discussed and agreed on these loose principals, it’s taking time to turn this big ship named Lady Life. We arrive here, in 2018, with all the shoulders of past generations under our feet... and we’re convinced we must figure out how to take hold of the time we’ve been offered through the sacrifice, and often brutal drudgery, of others.
The best of the past (villages, organic, local work) can go hand-in-hand with modern technology, education, and access to the world and all its potential. We can create room for time.
PART VIII: THOSE WHO LIVED
A week before this trip, we as dinner with my mom’s best friend and her husband, who recently returned from their 30th-anniversary-trip: a week in France. ⠀
We saw their pictures, and heard their stories. We told them our itinerary and hopes for our upcoming month. At one point they shared an observation, after describing their long, lingering meals every day: “Our guess is that the difference in cultures is in large part due to the World Wars. They had to live here, see it, re-build it. It’s like they collectively understood they have to take time to enjoy good in life...” ⠀⠀
Their thoughts matched precisely with what I heard Esther Perel, a skilled marriage and relationship therapist, share about her parents. They were concentration camp survivors, and met on road as they walked the direction of Home after liberation. Her parents felt a sense of special honor and fortunate responsibility. Esther said “There were those who didn’t die, and there were those who lived. My parents lived.”
PART IX • FAITH IN THE STORY PROCESS
“Telling a story is like reaching into a granary full of wheat and drawing out a handful. There is always more to tell than can be told.” (Wendell Berry)
One of the, oh, how do you rank these things?, Top Three most important values we are hoping to instill in our kids is the value of story. “What happens??” “You have to read it; you have to watch it.” What happens? You have to live it, little ones.
Everyone has a true story — many would break your heart — and everyone has their version of their story, some more accurate to the truth than others. Be the kind of boy, or girl, or man, or woman, who cares about the stories. Cares enough to ask. Cares enough to see what happened. Stories, by definition, must have “a conflict,” or “a problem.” You’re a living story, and you must be prepared to overcome and resolve.. Imagine, reflect, envision — make up stories, and re-tell stories, and write them on the tablet of your soul, and read them — on paper and on faces.
“Keep your faith in all beautiful things; in the sun when it is hidden, in the Spring when it is gone.” (Roy Rolfe Gilson) Believe in the power of all these pieces, more than could ever be told, and be curious about the Author. What is He saying? What does His story mean?
PART X: WHEN THE WORLD GOES TO WAR
Actually, 1850-1950. 100 years where the life as century upon century before had known it, changed for good. We’re the great-and-grandchildren of these unbelievable years. I have an enormous amount to say our perspective on the Industrial Revolution, WW1, Belle Époque and the Roaring 20’s, The Great Depression, WW2, and “the fabulous 50s.” What a whiplash for our collective psyche. What a series of intense brokenness and valor. I’ll share more with time.
To say the least, though, it was powerful to watch our children play on the rocks at “Bloody Beach” (Omaha Beach) in Normandy, to walk over the buried bodies of the men who died there... for things just like this: families to safely, freely vacation and enjoy their lives together.
On this trip we’ve seen our children in Anne Frank’s bedroom in the Secret Annexe where she wrote her diaries, in the hiding place the Ten Boom Family used to save hundreds, if not thousands, of lives, beneath the crest where Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” sits today, in front of the wall of names of French Jews at the Holocaust Museum in Paris.
Another Tom Hanks moment, before he dies in Saving Private Ryan: “Earn it.” Know what happened. Live like you care that you’re alive — not just that you didn’t die. Do something that matters (the courage of love and kindness, the smallest ways, matters). Prepare to be brave. And enjoy all their sacrifice granted us. When the evil things threatened to run wild, room was made for good. It didn’t eradicate evil or it’s consequences, but our generation has been giving the chance to make room. We have voices, ability, and opportunity... may we earn, use, and enjoy them deeply.
PART XI: ROOM TO SHARE, TIME TO GATHER
“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.” (Wendell Berry)
When we travel, almost more than ever, we find ourselves commenting about who we know and care for would love this! or that! or thus! “Gosh, I was my dad was here...” “Wouldn’t your sister be losing her mind?!” “Ugh, if I could teleport The Girls right now...” Within the community of our family of four, it is sweet work, expanded joy, and a precious gift to be able to welcome people into our world. We share our home dozens of times throughout the year, but this trip was an extra layer of “dream comes true!” by being able to work it out that we could include six of “our people” with us. To not just wish so-and-so could be seeing “_______,” But to actually see them seeing it. Experiencing it together. From 13 days to less than 48 hours, each person who became a part of this trip is deeply special to us. My sister, Katelynn, then our like-a-sister friend Caroline, then “my bestie” and her husband, Lydia and Stefan, and ending with Caleb’s mom and sister, Cindy and Bek, added so much to the story of this month. (We had hoped Caleb’s twin and family could join us, but schedules didn’t work out... instead they were able to take advantage of the cheap flights and go on their own month long voyage earlier this year!) It’s meaningful to get to add memories, to overcome little travel hurdles, to be seen at your best and worst, and to share “once in a lifetime” with ones your soul loves.
Sometimes space and privacy is very important and necessary and good, but sometimes sharing space, joining together, and coming along with each other is the beautifully good. (We missed a few dozen others, though… Can’t we just all re-locate to the same lovely village and live there forever, growing and connecting and creating side-by-side?)