Weepy Eyes. Full heart. Can’t Wait Till Christmas.

Ya’ll already know how much I love to have people around my dining room table, but these people right here are my favorite ones to have gathered in one place. They are my favorite people to cook chocolate chip pancakes and bacon for. This is my favorite group to hang out with and laugh with and reminisce with, and I got to do all of that and more this last week. It’s why my eyes are a bit weepy today, but my heart is so full.

We picked up Kory and his girlfriend, Rebecca, from the Boston airport on Friday at noon and drove straight to Beverly, MA for lunch at Atomic Cafe and GF cupcakes at Crave Cafe & Bakery. Cooper had a 2pm exam, so we had to kill some time before going to see him in his natural college habitat. Coop and his girlfriend, Madison, gave us a great tour of campus, and we all enjoyed coffee and apple cider at Chester’s on campus.

The campus was decorated so festively, and it was perfect fall weather – even a little on the warm side. My dad and the rest of our group were impressed with the beauty of Gordon College, but Grandad was not so impressed with Cooper’s actual habitat – a.k.a. his dorm room. He probably would have appreciated it much more if he had seen and smelled Cooper’s previous dorm room at the end of last year. Yikes.

Gordon College is only three miles from the coast, and so we decided to visit Singing Beach on our way to dinner. Fresh out of the water, a man greeted us as we walked onto the beach. He strongly encouraged us to go for a swim saying the water was nice and warm. And I think it really was – warmer than the air temperature anyway, but none of us were really up, or dressed for a swim.

We did try to take some photos, though. I was pretty disappointed that Cooper was unable to attend Kory’s Baylor graduation back in May, mostly because it seemed like my one chance to get a family photo for the Christmas card. Well, we made several atempts, and as you can see, none of them are perfect.  Parents of young children take heart. It does get better through the years, but not that much better.

The sunset was easier to capture that evening right before enjoying a nice dinner in Manchester-By-The-Sea at 7 Central.

Cooper followed us back to Amherst that evening, and Saturday had us driving to Vermont in order to enjoy the fall colors via the chairlift at Mt. Snow on the last weekend they offer it. Whew.

But you have to drive right past the flagship Yankee Candle store to get to Vermont from my house, and we just couldn’t NOT expose Rebecca to the wonders of the “Scenter of the Universe.” Robert set his phone timer to 30 minutes, and we managed to see Santa Claus (who was decorating pumpkins with kids that day), get snowed on (it happens every 4 minutes there), walk through the castle, see the trains, and smell lots of candles – clearing our palates every now and then with coffee beans.

You might see this one on a Christmas card though.

We managed to buy absolutely nothing, and we missed the Green Mountain Boys show, but we scored some free samples of apple cider, and still made it out in 30 minutes exactly. Definitely a record of some sort.

The colors have been a little slower to show this fall, probably due to the warmer weather lately, but driving north a bit made a big difference. It didn’t hurt that Saturday might have been the most perfect fall day ever. The view from the chairlift and peak of Mt. Snow was really gorgeous.  We were able to spend an hour or so at the top before riding back down at the beginning of sunset. The lighting at that time of day made the colors even more vibrant.

Or maybe this one?

I’ve only been at the top of this mountain in the dead of winter, so I had no idea that was water down there. It was really fun to see it in a different season. And please remind me to never ski down Chute ever again. It is scary-steep looking with snow, and even more so when you see it without. No wonder I did damage to my tailbone on that run. I am definitely getting too old for that.

Sunday was church, and then we had a few people over for lunch who know and love Kory. It’s crazy, but there aren’t that many folks around who know him anymore.  I have to say things now like “my oldest son, Kory” or “my son that lives in Texas” because he’s been gone over four years now, and we have a big turnover in our mostly-college-student-congregation in that time. The Moylan family couldn’t make it to lunch, but they were so sweet to stop by later in the afternoon to say hi and meet Rebecca. You might remember the Moylan fam from this post.

Cooper left early Sunday morning, because he was invited to tryout for the Gordon basketball team and needed to be back on campus by 10 or 11am in order to get ready and warm up. And with this unexpected event, my plans for an afternoon family photo shoot were derailed yet again. At least we got a few shots together on Saturday.

Robert took Kory and Rebecca to Boston to catch their flight on Monday morning (they missed it!) and then left for a three day pastor’s conference/retreat in New Hampshire.

On Tuesday, my dad and I did something I’ve wanted to do forever – or ever since I heard you could do it: a tour of Fenway Park. I’ve taken him to do the Freedom Trail, Boston Common, The Prudential Building, John Adams’ house, Lexington and Concord. We’ve even done the capitol building in Hartford, and Ogunquit and Kennebunkport in Maine.

The Fenway tour was awesome.

This was the part where the tour guide let us sit in the press box and told us that portions of the movie Moneyball were filmed in that very spot – so we were breathing air in a space that had been inhabited by Brad Pitt.

We had burgers and fish tacos at Cask and Flagon after the tour and then walked the one mile it takes to get from Fenway to the Prudential Building, which my dad was only slightly concerned about. (I promised we would be on public transportation at all times after that.) He actually enjoyed the walk, and he mentioned several times how neat it was to see the brownstones in Back Bay. Plus, it ends up being part of the Boston Marathon route, so there’s that as well.

It took some strong exhortations on my part, but I did convince him to walk a little beyond the Prudential to the marathon finish line at the Boston Public Library.  When he got a little grumpy about it, I just reminded him that he would not be able to tell his friends he saw the finish line or stood right where the bombings happened if he did not continue on to about 1.2 miles. He just laughed and kept walking, and then took several photos of the famous landmark. He was totally unimpressed with Eataly – the incredible new food court at the Prudential, and so we headed straight over to the Marriott Starbucks to rest our legs and warm up over coffee. We ended up hailing a taxi back to Cambridge where we had parked just to skip the T at rush hour and the need to change trains half way through.  Plus, we were just tired.

Side Note: I can now say I’ve met someone from Benin, Africa. Benin, Africa! Our very kind and friendly taxi driver was from there, but has lived in Boston for 20 years now. I pulled it up on Google maps as we rode into Cambridge and showed him, asking him if I was correct in spelling/location. He loved talking about it and then telling us a few stories about his previous work in the U.S. in a psychiatric ward in which a patient once broke his wrist! The list of friends and acquaintances God has brought into my life from African countries continues to grow, and I truly love it. They are always such lovely people, and I learn so much from meeting and knowing each one. It’s one of the gifts of living in a college town and near a major city – a gift for which I’m really thankful.Wednesday, my dad and I left a bit early for his flight out of Hartford, so we could have breakfast at Sylvester’s in Northampton, and then do a little bit of shopping in West Hartford. Some of you know that my Dad likes to shop, and enjoys clothes and fashion very much having worked in the industry his entire career. What this means is that there is almost always a trip to the mall for a new outfit for me when he visits, and this time Ann Taylor Loft was having a 40% off sale. And just in case you don’t do math like a true shopper, 40% off means that you buy MORE clothes than you usually would.

I feed him home cooked meals and make him walk 1.2 miles to Boston landmarks, and he buys me new fall and winter clothes. It’s really a win-win. (Kayla got a new sweater on Wednesday, too, and she wasn’t even with us.) Don’t ever suggest to him that he enjoys shopping, though, because he will deny it every time.

But new clothes don’t make up for the quiet house and near empty nest I’m living in again. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone this week. Maybe it’s good that the goodbyes happened in a staggered fashion – Sunday, then Monday, and finally Wednesday. Christmas is only 65 days away, though. The countdown clock at Yankee Candle was a bit frightening at first, but then I remembered that we’d all be back together again, and I can’t wait.

Turkish Delights

Passport, Visa, packing lists, notarized forms, planning meetings, books to read, letters to send, phone calls to make, a pantry to stock, and fears to face. The trip to Turkey finally came and went, and it was truly an incredible experience.

Full Turkish breakfast every morning – included!

It’s difficult to express all that it meant to me, especially with an inherent limitation on specifics, but I learned so much, met some very special people, and had a couple of opportunities to serve.

My son, Kory, traveled to Turkey in 2012, and I’ve been interested in going ever since. A leadership development and service trip, he returned with a deep respect for those who’ve chosen to live and work in one if its largest cities.

Where I’m sparse on specifics, I can be prolific in photos – and you should know that some of these photos are mine, but some are stolen from other members of the group I traveled with. (Thanks, guys!)

Simit – the Turkish (and Greek) bagel. He walked up and down our street every morning yelling SIMIT! SIMIT! SIMIT!

Olives. And an olive shovel.
Artichoke hearts and figs and lots of free samples.
The Hagia Sophia. Couldn’t believe I was seeing it in person.
Men’s washing area, before entering the mosque for prayer.
Symmetrical marble pieces cut with silk threads – about 1500 years ago.
Islamic symbols next to and covering up Christian symbols.
The crosses were removed from the walls.
Blue Mosque – or Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Still an active mosque. Long pants, skirts, and head coverings required even for visitors. Shoes are removed.

We stayed in a part of the city that was also ancient Chalcedon – where the fully man-fully God nature of Christ was settled by the 4th church council.

We HAD to run through the pigeons on our way to the Spice Bazaar.
Waiting for the metro.
I was captivated by the coverings.
Gözleme at the Sali Bazaar. Kind of like a quesadilla – filled with potato, cheese, and spinach…I think. Or any combination of those.
He gave me that fig, and it was delicious.
Ginger, Cinnamon, and Carob – in the ginger box. We ate the whole carob pod and all

 

It doesn’t look like it, but Angela and I really enjoyed that “Ottoman Coffee” and all the free samples of nuts, fruits, tea, and Turkish Delight.
Beautiful bowls everywhere.
Tea for breakfast…
…tea on the ferry…
…and more tea! (But without me that time, because…stomach bug. Ugh.)
The whole group in front of the library at Ephesus.
Jordan reading from Ephesians in the Ephesus theater.

The goddess, Nike. (Also a shoe maker from Oregon according to our guide. 😉 )

We got to make some American treats for our Turkish friends – pancakes with Nutella, jam, fruits, and syrup. They weren’t so sure about the syrup part.
Making friends, practicing English, playing games, taking classes.
Baklava! There was baklava everywhere, and we even found a shop that had a gluten free version. Yippee!

 

Does this Turkish doughnut shop look familiar?

There were so may highlights, but I think the most meaningful part of the trip for me was meeting a few expat women who live, work, and raise families there. Angela and I got to spend a morning with them – being silly, listening to their life stories, and studying the Word together. The challenges they faced prior to arriving in Turkey and have faced since moving there were truly heartbreaking, but also in line with what Robert always says about those called to that type of work: it requires purification and refinement – often severe, and as if by fire.

The fire-tested faith stories of those women will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Yes, so many Turkish delights. Really, too many to count, and I’m so thankful.