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Breaks are Good

I really needed a break from blogging when we left Iceland, it felt like I just needed to let that time rest and in some ways continue at the same time by leaving my last post up for a good long while.  I still have things  to catch up on, perhaps in a designated time each week to stretch out the remembering as long and sweetly as possible.  We miss our life there, but returning to St. Louis has also been joyful, and we have packed in the craziness (as we do so well!) since coming back to the States.  The weather here is starting to feel a bit like Iceland. . .well, Iceland in July. . .and we’re putting our sweaters and hats back on after a month or so of shorts and t-shirts–just the right amount of time for me, I think.

I look forward to sharing more about St. Louis life, but first, Art House America has kindly published another essay of mine, this time about Iceland (here’s mine from last summer, about Dutch L’Abri).  While you’re over on that blog, check out some of the other articles there, there’s something for everyone and they’re always worth the time.  Here’s the link to my essay.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2012 in Travel, Writings

 

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Highlights: Kara’s Visit

As timing would have it, baby girl arrived 2 weeks early which meant our friend Kara got to be here for the first two weeks she was alive!  Kara is someone we got to know last summer at L’Abri (remember? here, here, and here); she lives in the UK and the plan was for her to come and help me through the last two weeks of pregnancy, but timing is everything and I just love it when God’s turns out to be way better than mine.  She was a tremendous help as we got used to two little ones, often cooking and constantly doing the dishes (which seem absolutely endless), holding the baby or playing with Everett.  Bryndís’ birth was such that I recovered much more quickly than with Everett, so we also got to have a little fun with Kara. Here are a few highlights:

Holding the little one.

Bryndís’ first road trip at 1 week old!!

Kara at þingvellir

Snæfellsjokull, view from the car. The day was perfectly beautiful, though very very windy and chilly, so we were content to stay warm and snap pics out the window. We briefly considered driving the road that goes right through the glacier, instead of around, but a strongly worded caution sign changed our minds!

Everett, NOT sleeping on the way home from a long day’s drive around Snæfellsness

Kara on her last day with us, taken by the Viking ship sculpture down by the harbor, Harpa concert all in the background. We miss you, friend!!

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2012 in Bryndís, Travel

 

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Belated 1st Birthday

So I confess, life back in St. Louis hardly seems blog-worthy these days.  Eric teaches two days a week, during which he has our only car, and keeps a pretty rigorous research and writing schedule the other three-to-four days, so mostly I hang out with Everett, try to keep the place liveable amongst a mess of stuff that has been displaced from the lowest shelves, and try to find things to keep both of us occupied, inside or outside the house.  This does not often include world-class museums, monuments, or even shopping that is not necessary for survival.  And it rarely leaves time anymore for creative endeavors.  Eric’s mom was visiting us for awhile back in September, which gave me some extra time, and planning and preparing for Everett’s first birthday party–which we held a week and a half after his actual birthday–has been my main creative outlet recently.  I thought it would be fun to have a travel-themed party, given the fact that Everett spent more of his first year outside of the U.S. than here, so we had some travel themed activities, favors, and food from each country we visited.  Both sets of grandparents were here, as well as my brother, and we had an absolutely perfect day for the outdoor affair.  I think it was a total success!

Little sketchbooks made to look like passports ("PASSPORT" is stamped in gold on them but it was pretty hard to see), along with stickers that looked like passport stamps

Our favor boxes, meant to look kinda like suitcases, with some luggage tags made from leftover oilcloth scraps--tutorial anyone? They were super easy to make! Inside were European candies (from World Market) and space for their activities like. . .

these little wooden airplanes from Oriental Trading Co., easily "painted" with crayola markers!

Some decor--simple flags cut from an old U.S. road atlas and sewn together at the top--also super easy!

The cake--maple walnut with maple cream cheese icing--to represent Canada (along with the moose finger-puppet-turned-cake-topper)

The birthday boy with his first taste of cake

Our earliest guests enjoying themselves--eventually the backyard was full of toddlers and older sibblings and parents and it was fantastic!

Unfortunately I didn’t get any good pictures of the food table, I was too busy trying to get the food finished and out and keeping cool or warm!  But we had dutch pannekoeken (pancakes, a lot like crepes) with nutella and other spreads, scones with jam and cream mini steak and ale pies, chips (fries) with malt vinegar (English style) and mayonaise (Dutch style), salad with our favorite L’Abri recipe dressing, and Icelandic skyr (yogurt) that I managed to find at Whole Foods.

Everett opened presents with just family after everyone else had left, at which point he was totally overwhelmed and a bit glassy-eyed so the pictures are more amusing than adorable, but he got lots of good stuff, and we are grateful for lots of new toys to keep him occupied (we had painfully few after all the traveling!)

I am hoping to participate in a couple of craft shows coming up, and I also want to add a few things to my currently inactive etsy shop, so keep an eye out for a possible giveaway as I attempt to draw more attention to myself:)

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Fun with Everett, My Projects

 

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Art House America Blog

Hey faithful readers!  So I haven’t posted in awhile. . .but I have been writing and I’m thrilled to share it with you!  Jenni Simmons, editor of the Art House America Blog, kindly invited me to write an essay having something to do with our time at L’Abri.  I was so honored–I have been enjoying this beautiful collection of short and sweet reflective essays for several months now.  It took three drafts and some serious tough love editing from Eric to get something I felt I could send to Jenni, but it’s up today, horray!  Click on the Art House logo below and my essay, Daily Bread, is fourth from the top.  But don’t miss all the other amazing writers–I never fail to find something inspiring when I visit.  Thanks, Jenni!

The other fun activity I’ve been occupied with lately is an art show opening up at the new Kingsbury Gallery at Grace & Peace Fellowship in the Skinker-DeBalivier neighborhood here in St. Louis.  So if you’re a local and you love good art, Various and Sundry: A Ted Smith Retrospective opens this Saturday, the 17th, with a reception from 7-9pm in the gallery.  Ted is a founding member of Grace & Peace and has worked as an artist and graphic designer for over 40 years.  This exhibition, organized to complement the celebration of Grace & Peace’s 42nd anniversary, showcases a variety of Ted’s work including a series of charcoal portraits, small graphic work, larg-scale paintings and banners, and drawings.  We will also have giclee prints of one of Ted’s original drawings available for sale to benefit the Kingsbury Gallery programs.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2011 in At Home, My Projects, Travel, Writings

 

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Reflection

About a week ago I sat down and started to write a long essay about our time at L’Abri with the hope of posting it soon.  I have concluded, however, that the long hand material is probably best left to my journal or a conversation over coffee (should you and I ever get the chance).  For here and now I will just say that it was a phenomenal period in the life of our family.  We learned a lot; I feel like I learned a whole lot about myself, which I hope will lead to a more fruitful life of service in God’s kingdom, as well as continued growth and a delightfully unquenchable yearning for truth and beauty.  We learned a lot about our marriage and about being parents, and the experience of meeting and getting to know and spend some rather intense time with people from all over the world was extraordinary and special.  I think the most difficult aspect of leaving and going forward, as filled up as I have felt, is the separation from a group of people who were so important to our daily lives in a more intense way than one can find anywhere else.  It feels a little like being pushed out of the nest sometimes, but it is a new challenge to continue those relationships over distance and  to find ways to continue to be a part of each other’s daily lives.

I give you now a whole slew of pictures that I feel just scratch the surface of capturing the beauty of this place and our time there this summer:

Huize Kortenhoeve, the main house

Eric's desk with his collection of books for the research he did while we were there (when the project comes to fruition, you can be sure I will shamelessly plug it here!!)

Tea break! (Thanks to Noah Emrich for the picture; he's way too cool to be my friend, but I'm glad he is:-))

Pitting endless amounts of sour cherries (how awesome that it was cool enough in June to wear a scarf?)

Strawberry rhubarb pie by yours truly for afternoon tea

Bonfire on a Sunday evening

New friend Story in the living room at evening coffee time

Mia (Everett's little buddy) in the pajamas I made for her (still more time for sewing!!)

Everett loving the tire swing (in the days when he would still wear a hat)

I hope we get to go back one day but for now I’m thankful we got to go at all, and thankful for every person that we met, the deeper friendships that had a chance to evolve over the 7 week stay, the books read, the lectures listened to, the frustrating, challenging, maddening moments, and the sweetness of a simplified life.

 

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Catch up!

Ah dear readers, if there are any left, forgive my long hiatus! To be honest, I’ve stayed away because of a desire to hibernate a bit in addition to the fact that I really have not had access to internet on any consistent basis since the end of May! I will spend a few days playing catch up on some fun and interesting things that have happened over the past couple of months, then hopefully I can share a little bit about what it has been like to come home. . .whatever that means, right? So, first up, I just have to share about what we did on our anniversary back on June 30th:

Strong Christmas-card pic contender--thanks Meg!!

So, what do you get when you combine a beautiful national park, free bicycles (with baby seats!) and a world-class art museum? A VERY happy Emily! The Kröller-Müller Museum in Holland (and yes, it’s just as much fun to say as you might think) is one woman’s collection housed in a museum right in the middle of a huge park with bike trails and very unusual landscapes for the Netherlands. Our dear friend Kara had been before and drove us, along with another friend Meg, one Thursday (free day for L’Abri students) which also happened to be our 4th wedding anniversary. We parked at the edge of the park, grabbed some of the free bikes, and rode around till we reached the museum.

Meg and Kara in the strangely desert-like landscape of the park

A stop for lunch and to feed some ducks.

Once at the museum, we took in the sights which included an incredible collection of Van Gogh’s–famous ones like Cafe in Paris at Night, and some very early ones, arranged beautifully to show a progression of his style (plus I learned the proper pronunciation of his name, which is neither Van Go nor Van Goff, but it’s impossible to spell out the guttural sound that is correct!) Also in the museum were some great Mondrians next to some members of De Stijl (like Theo Van Doesberg); a few cubist masterpieces with Braque, Gris and Picasso juxtaposed nicely with some lesser known artists; some old masters like Vermeer; and a temporary exhibition of one contemporary artist whose work was interesting but I could personally take or leave it. So this art geek was happy! There was also a sculpture park, around which we wandered (with the complimentary stroller) to try and get Everett to sleep–he loved the bike ride, got a little restless in the museum–and then met back up with Kara and Meg inside for a coffee.

yummy Dutch beer

We stopped for pannekoeken–Dutch pancakes that come in all manner of sweet and savory varieties–and beer on our way home, which was a perfect end to a pretty much perfect day.

Happy Anniversary Mama and Daddy!

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Fun with Everett, Travel

 

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Freedom’s NOT just another word. . .

Everett loves the goats here, and they seem fascinated with him as well.

We have now been here at L’Abri for a week and a half and it feels nearly utopian. . .for me anyway. Eric is hard at work on a writing project and feeling lots of pressure to complete a number of projects, and we’ve been finding the balance between both of us getting study time and sharing responsibility for Everett. It seems like Everett loves it here though; there are kids to play with nearly all of the time and he’s down to one (yes one, as in 1) middle of the night nursing session! We’ve also discovered he likes green curry soup, kidney beans, red currants (picked fresh from the bushes all over the property) and black olives with pasta. He wakes up at almost the same time every morning, which is early but at least consistent, and takes regular fairly predictable naps, making the day easier to plan for than it has been for nearly 9 months.

But when I say utopian I suppose what I’m really getting at is the experience of a certain brand of freedom. We had a theme weekend last week, which means that people came from out of town just for the weekend and we had more lectures and discussions than usual just for Friday evening through Sunday afternoon. The theme was “Autonomy to Freedom” and without going into detail about the various points of theology covered (partly because it would take too long and I don’t really feel this is necessarily the place), I was impressed by our discussion of how the search for freedom from one thing often leads to enslavement to another. An example that’s just a little too easy but may help make my point is someone who takes mood-altering drugs to be free from a harsh reality only to find themselves enslaved and dependent upon that substance. Or, perhaps more apropos, a film/book reference one lecture made was to the story Into the Wild where a young man wants to be free from the bond of society and so runs off into the wilderness to be completely on his own, only to find himself at the mercy of a harsh nature and, in fact, longing for the community left behind. I feel sure we could all come up with hundreds of examples.

What, then, is true freedom?

Mid-morning coffee break

I’m not going to attempt to answer that, other than to say that I believe it has something to do with acknowledging that there is no such thing, and that’s really good. When we’re honest, we realize that structure is necessary. Structure makes it possible to protect certain aspects of our freedom, and attempts to assure that our freedom is not dependent on someone else’s subjugation.

So here I find myself, having come to L’Abri with no particular agenda to “get away” or “be free” from anything–I was truly looking forward to those things which would be added to our lives by being here–and yet I find myself refreshingly free from things I thought I couldn’t live without–tv, Facebook, email, Skype, my RSS reader, Etsy, regular shopping trips (and consequently, a spirit of greed that I was not even fully aware of), and even the burden of trying to cram too much into every spare minute of a day in order to feel productive. The structure of our days, split between study, work and community interaction (over meals and set tea and coffee breaks), provides a framework in which I can commit myself to a specific endeavor for a specific amount of time, and be satisfied and appropriately tired at the end of each day. Furthermore, relying upon others for certain aspects of life–food, mainly, as every meal is planned and prepared by someone else, though I may help–also provides a shocking amount of freedom, and not just from that particular responsibility but from the need to have control over that aspect of my family’s life. And finally, the communal living, being constantly surrounded by others, working and studying and eating and talking together in common areas (and yet maintaining some personal space) has freed up bits of my head and heart to be able to experience relationships that can be so very different from those I may experience in my normal life, i.e. less scary and not quite so weighed down by expectations.

I fully understand that this is not really sustainable, and I also believe this is good. This place can, and has, become a very easy place to hide from the world; embracing the utopia and staying forever sounds very appealing to me (and others)! But it cannot be, and should not be, because we need to return to our “real world” existences that are not so protected and perhaps to not structured as we’d like sometimes and too structured at others. Even the families who live here permanently lead different lives from the students because long-term, they live in the world and must interact with it.

But what we can hope for is that when we get back to our so called normal lives, we carry some of what we value so highly about our lives here into that place–a bit of the structure that frees us up to be ourselves, to fully dedicate ourselves to the tasks at hand, thereby adding value to each moment; the spirit of community that makes dependence a safe, loving aspect of human relationships; a reigning in and sorting out of those things which in and of themselves can be instruments for beauty and goodness but which so easily become poisonous distractions.

Those are my thoughts for the week.  Forgive me for not writing more often, even when I do get time I tend to want to spend it in other ways.  Thank you for continuing to check in!

View near the end of the driveway with the little canal

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2011 in Travel, Writings

 

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