Sweetly Sent

Today is the day. I’m as nervous as I am excited, and I’d appreciate your prayers so much…

For open doors to gospel conversations and faith sharing. I love the way my friend Christina put it in a text message yesterday: “Praying for unexpected opportunities and conversations with faith-filled responses.”

Yes, that!

Also…the forming of new friendships,

and the encouragement of those who work there full time in anticipation of these things.

A couple of weeks ago, I found this on a stack of checks and notes of encouragement people had sent to help with my trip:
When I opened it, I found a very generous gift from Kayla. It’s not the first time she’s been generous with her hard-earned babysitting money to someone going on mission, but something about her generosity toward me and the country I’ll visit was just so sweet.

While I packed last night, she and Robert cooked me dinner. They prayed over me while we sat at the table. Robert gifted me with a small journal in which he’d written a scripture for me to meditate on each day that I’m away, but left lots of blank pages for me to record the details of the journey. Such sweet moments and gifts from these two whom I’m very sad about leaving, even if it’s only a week.

At the risk of sounding overdramatic about this short mission, which involves slight risk, yes, but not in comparison to what others risk every day, I just wanted to share a couple of things that have encouraged me from the Word recently.

Last week, my seminary lectures were all on the book of Esther. My usually dry and witty professor got very emotional as he taught on Esther’s willingness to risk her life for her people. Through tears, he repeated her famous words, “…and if I perish, I perish,” and urged us to reclaim that attitude in our own lives. “We’re so prone to seek comfort and protection, but the gospel is worth our very lives.”

I believe that, but I certainly fight the desire for not only safety, but also the acceptance of people. Sometimes I won’t even risk speaking the name of Jesus here where it’s still (somewhat) safe, because I fear the loss of approval.

And here’s the other encouraging bit:

 But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Luke 21: 28

Again, not be be overdramatic, but the world does seem an increasingly volatile place. We’re experiencing so much tension and turmoil and disaster these days. Somehow, whether we be near or far from the return of Christ, this verse encourages me not to fear, because my full redemption is drawing near.

Good, sweet news, and I’m feeling very sweetly sent off across the ocean by all of these things.

(And if you would, pray for Allyson, Jordan, Angela, Rob, and Aiden, too.)

A Winner & A Podcast

So fun!  I would have been so thrilled to send a Bible study workbook to any of you who commented on the last post, because each of you are really precious to me. Really. I truly love connecting with you here, and sharing life’s battles and our common faith. But, Sara Evans was the winner, and I’m so glad I get the chance to introduce her to you.

(And just in case you wonder how I chose, here’s the site I used and the results.)

Sara’s husband, Austin, was a part of our Manchaca Baptist Church (Austin, TX) youth group way back in the day. (Circa: 1991-1995) “Austin from Austin” is the way girls from other youth groups would refer to him when we were at camps and conferences…if you know what I mean. Yep, he was quite the catch back then, but Sara was the eventual winner of his heart.

They met at Pepperdine University while studying and surfing the SoCal waves. Just kidding. I don’t think they surfed all that much, but Austin did play baseball there.

Sometime after they married, they were crazy enough to pack a U-Haul with all of their earthly belongings and drive it to Amherst, Massachusetts to live and work and help us with our church-planting endeavors here.

I absolutely loved having them here, and miss them very much now that they’ve moved to Bend, Oregon. Now, whenever young families join our church, we almost always say “Oh! I wish the Evanses still lived here. You guys would have totally hit it off with them!”

Sara exercised both the gift of hospitality as well as her gifts for administration and bookkeeping in such joyful and generous ways, and I absolutely loved spending time with her. One of the great highlights and privileges of my life was participating in the birth of her firstborn son, Dominick. It was a water birth. It was without any pain meds. And it was absolutely amazing. Sara remained her beautiful, determined self throughout the entire process and I was on cloud nine for at least a week afterward. What a blessing.

They went on to have another boy named Nolan, and then they adopted a little girl from China whose name is Maelyn. Currently, they are in the process of adopting a little boy from China. It is truly an incredible story in that their son, Nolan, was diagnosed with Freeman Sheldon Syndrome early in his life, and little YouYoung shares that diagnosis in an even more pronounced way. The tears just start flowing when I think that not only will YouYoung soon have a forever family, but he’ll have a brother who shares a common struggle and syndrome – even if he shares a different ethnicity. And Maelyn will have a brother who shares her ethnicity soon. It’s all just so beautiful to me.

If you’re interested, you can follow their family’s story here. 

So, congrats, Sara. I’ll contact you soon, so you can tell me which workbook you’d like!

Okay. So I really wasn’t planning to ever mention it again, but the podcast I mentioned in a previous post aired today. Bethany texted me last night to give me a little heads-up about it, and I wish I could say that I did not experience the same horror I felt in the days leading up to the interview (which had begun to subside) all over again. But them something really sweet happened.

With much trepidation, I pushed play on the podcast app as I started off on my morning run. I truly expected to cringe at the sound of my own voice, but that’s not what happened. The story was not as random and disjointed as I imagined, my voice was not as awful sounding as I had assumed, and things that are very dear to me came out in ways that I couldn’t have manufactured on my own.

Somehow, God used my listening to myself tell my own story to very sweetly encourage me.

Somehow, my estimation of myself changed as I listened to the ways the Lord has carried and sustained me.

Somehow, I could see and hear His love for me, His acceptance of me, His working in and through me.

Somehow, I ended up in tears over the ways I don’t see myself as He does, how I condemn myself, limit myself, and believe things that aren’t necessarily true or right.

Somehow, He used my own podcast interview to comfort me and remind me of His love for me.

I did not expect that at all. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what I expected.

He is so good like that.

(And Bethany, thanks for having confidence in me and for being such a great host, minister, wife, mom, and encourager of the church in New England.)

(You can find the podcast here, here, and here.)

The How of Eating (And a Giveaway)

On July 28, 2000 I gave birth to a beautiful little girl named Kayla. It was a scheduled c-section for several reasons, and it just happened to be Kathie Lee Gifford’s very last day on “Live With Regis and Kathie Lee.” Random, I know, but the show was playing on the TV in the surgery prep room, and my OB/GYN, Dr. Elliot Greenberg,  joked about what a landmark day he’d chosen for the birth of my third child. We don’t celebrate Kathie Lee on Kayla’s birthday, but now I’ll forever know how many years she’s been retired from her show with Regis.

(By the way, Dr. Elliot Greenberg at Baystate OB/GYN is awesome.)

Little Kayla had to spend some time in the NICU due to gurgly breathing and fluid that didn’t get properly pushed out of her lungs, but when I finally got her back into my room, I requested an appointment with the lactation consultant. Initially, my nurse said yes to booking an appointment for later that day, but then she reviewed my chart, saw that I’d birthed and breastfed two other babies, and suggested that I didn’t need any help with lactation.

But I really did. Though I’d done it for six months with each of my two boys, I never felt like I was doing it quite right. Not only that, but I wanted to nurse this little girl longer than six months, and I was in need of some expert “how-to’s.”

I love how-to’s.

How to train for a half marathon.

How to better manage time.

How to make buttercream icing.

How to say good morning in Greek.

How to get the pinwheel to stop spinning on my Macbook Pro.

How to best pack a suitcase.

Anyway, that’s a very long introduction to this post, but I’ve been thinking that I didn’t really explain, in my last post, how God’s Word made me well.  How did it work? What were the steps?

I think I mentioned that a few Bible folks – Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and John -were asked (or chose) to eat God’s Word, and though it sounds weird, I think that’s exactly what it requires.

We have to eat it.

Just like actual food, we have to sit down and partake of it regularly. We need everything from a quick breakfast to a four course dinner. Better yet, and I think the argument can be made from Scripture for the exact opposite: a four course breakfast and a late night snack. (See here, here, here, and here!) Either way, we’ve got to ingest and digest it regularly. Just like food to our physical bodies, the nourishing Word makes us well.

So how do you eat it?

It sounds so simple, but the answer is that we’ve got to read it.

And can I say very gently here that Jesus Calling does not count? Nor does My Utmost For His Highest, or Streams in the Desert. And just so I’m stepping on everyone’s toes here, neither do Morning and Evening or Valley of Vision.

Many of those devotional readers are both encouraging and edifying – protein packed snacks that will carry you through the afternoon with your cup of coffee, or send you off to sleep with a satisfied belly. But they just really aren’t a good substitute for reading chunks and chapters and whole books of God’s actual Word.

It would be like eating a Cliff Bar for every meal.

So, how do you read it?

When I was in that season of darkness and despair, I did a couple of things. I read two chapters of the Old Testament and two chapters of the New Testament every day. Depending on how fast you read (and how long those chapters are), it could take as little as 15 minutes or as many as 40. (At that rate you could read the whole thing in a year. Remember this?)

The other thing I did was work through two different Bible study workbooks, both written by Beth Moore: Esther and Living Beyond Yourself. Not at the same time. Just slowly doing a page or two a day until I finished one, and then starting the next one.

And here’s what happened: Since God’s Word is living and active, the chapters I read were relevant to my despair. They taught me something about my situation. They encouraged me that I was not alone. Not only that, but the Scripture I read in say, I Samuel, would often correspond to the Scripture I was reading in Colossians or some other New Testament book. A handful of times, the exact same phrase or principle would be used in both. Occasionally, my workbooks would have me reading some text I had just read in my own Bible ready.

This is how God speaks. This is how He heals. This is how He encourages and nourishes us toward wellness.

Remember Isaiah 55:10-11? It’s a guarantee. Eat His Word, by reading His Word, and it is not possible that you continue in a sick and stunted state. The sustenance will bring growth and healing and maturity.

I think this verse is really helpful in understanding how the Word heals:

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Romans 15:4

We believe God’s Word is how He speaks to us, how he instructs us, so we persevere in reading it, and the result is hope. That hope is what heals.

And check the context of v. 4. Paul is encouraging Roman believers to serve their neighbors and be strong for those who are weak, and he’s quoting a Psalm of King David for precedent. In essence, he’s saying, Got a problem? Need some wisdom? Think you’re the only one to ever face this situation? Nope. Check the Scriptures. David struggled with the same thing and came to a conclusion that I really want you to learn from.

One caveat, though: We can’t just check the “read the Bible” box in our bullet journals and mental to-do lists.

Oh, Isaiah 55 will still hold true on some level, but there’s one more “how-to” required, and I think Psalm 1 tells us what that is:

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.

Delight in the Word. Meditate on it day and night. That’s the caveat for truly benefitting from the Word.

Delight in it. Meditate on it all day.

It’s like the advice we often hear on how to eat and enjoy a meal.

Sit down.

Give thanks.

Small bites.

Chew 20 times.

Savor the flavors.

Put your fork down after every bite.

I’ve been guilty of shutting my Bible after a morning reading and never once thinking about or re-visiting what I read for the rest of the day. Could that be likened to an eating disorder? Like binging and then unconsciously purging? Because the truths don’t stay in that case. They aren’t properly digested. They neither nourish nor effect wellness.

So, the how of eating?

Read. Meditate. Believe.

I’m still a work in progress on implementing these Bible reading how-to’s. (And please don’t ask about how well I’ve implemented of all I know about time management either) But I’ve come to treasure God’s Word so much via these steps, and He’s granted healing and wholeness in the process.

I ended up having to insist on an appointment with the lactation consultant. While I greatly appreciated the fact that my nurse considered me a seasoned mother, and nursing champ, the truth was that I still needed help. Would you believe that Kayla never took a bottle? Sometime around her first birthday, she transitioned from breastfeeding to a sippy cup, and I was one happy mama. Those lactation how-to’s made all the difference, and it’s my hope that these Bible reading how-to’s will make a difference to you as well.

I’d also love to back these how-to’s up with the gift of a Bible reading tool today. So, leave me a comment here on the blog or on Facebook, and I’ll enter your name into a drawing for either one of the workbooks I mentioned above (Esther or Living Beyond Yourself) or the workbook we used in a women’s small group Bible study this summer – Seamless.  Your choice. I’ll tell you who’s name was chosen on Monday.

Happy Bible Eating – and have a wonderful weekend.

Wellness and His Word

6am morning run. We’d meet at the corner, start up the hill, and she’d open the conversation with, “How are you doing?” It was years ago, but I’m still so grateful for the question, and knew exactly what she was getting at.

My answer often felt unsatisfying.  I wanted to report that I was better, healed, happy, that all was well with my soul. But I couldn’t, because it wasn’t.

But there I was getting out of bed at 5:30am, going for a five mile run, and chatting even….with a person. A good friend, of course, but even seeing people during that time was not so easy.

I keep thinking about that woman I wrote about last week.  The one in Luke 8.  The one who fearfully (I’m assuming) and humbly, yet courageously and expectantly reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ robe. I’ve been staying in the gospels for reading lately, and she stands out to me, along with several others Jesus touched. Hers, though, may be the only account of someone intentionally seeking, reaching out, and literally touching Him with a specific hope.

This is what I wrote:

Especially precious to me is the story of the woman with the long term issue of bleeding who anonymously reached out and touched the fringe of Jesus’ cloak. She was immediately healed of her chronic illness, and Jesus knew immediately that someone had touched Him even though there were hordes of people pressing in on Him. When He investigates and she comes forward, He says

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

So, I’d run the miles and answer Betsy’s question and tell her that I was okay. Okay, but not well. Okay, but not exactly healed in the way I’d been hoping for. This continued for several years, and oh how badly I wanted to give a different answer each week. To report that the sadness had lifted, that the tears had dried up, that I was hopeful again, that I was free from despair.

Betsy has moved away now, and I miss her, but if we met for an early morning Thursday run this week, I’d be able to give her a different answer.

Here it is: He has made me well.

I wish I could say that it was upon my first effort to reach out and touch Him. (Or do I?) That Jesus and I were both immediately aware that power had gone forth from Him and dramatically into me, but that wasn’t how it worked in my case.

Remember that podcast interview I told you about? Well, this season of depression in my life is one direction that conversation took, and when Bethany asked about how I made it through those years, my answer felt unsatisfactory again. Not to Bethany, of course, but to me – even though the answer I gave is really the only one I know to give to anyone who finds themselves in a season like that:

I prayed and read my Bible.

Yep. That Sunday School answer.  That cliche.

Oh, I also did a lot of distance running, a lot of right eating, a lot of water drinking, some biblical counseling, some vitamin D taking, and some intentional resting. And those things certainly set a good stage, but I know it was the praying and the reading (and the receiving and the meditating and the practicing) that performed the true healing.

In fact, God promises that it will. Just take a look at these verses, which have come to be favorites:

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

and do not return to it without watering the earth

and making it bud and flourish,

so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire

and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55: 10-11

His Word (now our Bible) accomplishes just what the rain and snow accomplish: growth, good fruit, nourishing food. God gives His Word to accomplish our growth and our healing. He uses it to produce good fruit in our lives. And just as it is a guarantee that things will grow when they are watered, the same guarantee holds for those who take in His Word.

Remember how I mentioned right eating as a part of healing? Well, I did eat literal food. Still do. Good and healthy food. But as you can see, His Word is to be our food, too, and we need it daily.

Both kinds of food – literal and biblical – provide the faith that make us well.

(Did you know that some people were told to eat God’s Word?  Like, literally chew it up and swallow it? It’s true! Those stories are for another post, though.)

But, here’s the deal: It took time.

And here’s the other thing: Reading His Word is not just a recipe we use for healing from depression or anxiety or physical illness or heartache or grief or loneliness. Nor is it a way to bargain with or manipulate God. Neither is prayer. Both are to be our way of life, not tools we whip out when we really want something from God.

Can you imagine if your friends or children only spent time with you when they wanted something?

My daily, hopeful, and expectant reaching out and touching Jesus by reading His Word was how He made me well. Many days that was a choice by faith, an act of my will in obedience…and expectation.

So was the running, the eating, the meeting and more. And He finally met me…with true wellness. I’d say it’s been about two years now.

Word fueled faith in Jesus makes us well, like I wrote last week…safe, kept safe and sound, rescued from danger or destruction – meaning the danger and destruction of sin, and faith also makes us well…thriving, strong, resilient, sane, healthy, hearty, and more.

Hers was a courageous choice in the midst of what must have been a season of great weakness, but her touch displayed a faith that resulted in complete wellness.

And hers is a story I read in His Word.

Very Random Things

Warning: This might be the most random post I’ve ever written.

I’m wearing white jeans and sandals today…after Labor Day. Please don’t tell my dad. At least my sandals are not white, and I do have on a cardigan. (And it is in the 70’s today) At my 8:15am dentist appointment this morning, the hygienist suggested I might be in denial about the current season, but then went on to commiserate over how we were cheated out of a proper summer this year. She and her husband have a boat and didn’t get much time on the water. Water skiing was almost out of the question, because then you’d have to ride around soaking wet in the cool breeze. I kind of hated answering her question about any trips we took this summer, but it made me relive our adventures in Greece all over again. So thankful for those warm and sunny memories, because the pumpkins and mums have now arrived in New England.

Speaking of the dentist, I finally made the whole family appointments, and I was the last to go. Good reports all around.  Would you believe no one in this family has ever had a cavity or needed braces? Dental mercies, I tell ya. (Well, I have several fillings, but those are from my teen years, and I might just be a test case for the fact that improving the diet strengthens the teeth and gums. And God’s mercy, too, of course.)

Moved Cooper into his dorm at Gordon College on August 28th
Izckra and I went to a Beth Moore conference in Springfield, MA August 25-26. Beth wasn’t able to get home to Houston right away due to Harvey’s destruction in Houston. Wonderful teaching by Beth as usual. Wonderful time with this dear friend, too. (And evidently, I really like these white jeans)

Kayla is in her third week of Challenge IV at Classical Conversations. This week she had to lead the Old Testament/Theology discussion on the book of Exodus. She worked really hard on it, got great feedback, and is falling more and more in love with God and His Word. It has been one of my main prayers for her. She’s both applying at a couple of colleges and considering a gap year, too, for which the Lord seems to be opening some interesting doors. We are praying for His continued direction here. In fact, I was literally sitting and praying for her (journaling it all) and asking God to show her what her next steps would be, when she came and found me just a little while later and told me she was pretty sure about the gap year. After that, a few opportunities for gap year activities were presented to us, and I’m learning more and more how much the Lord wants us to come to Him with the smallest and largest of concerns.

We’ve been gearing up for the return of the Five College Students at church. Enjoyed this free cookout last weekend for first-year students who were in town before upperclassmen.

I got to participate in Classical Conversations this week (I’m not teaching this year) by helping to take the Challenge II class on a quick field trip to collect pond water samples and leaves for a future tree identification project. I loved taking my previous classes to do this. There is just something about getting outside and being given time to observe and interact with the natural, created world. It’s just something the classroom and a textbook can’t truly offer.

I’ve hardly told one soul about this, but I was interviewed for a podcast last Friday. The night before the interview I had a dream that when Bethany, the interviewer, arrived at my house, I sent her down to the basement to set up in Robert’s office while I settled some matters with my kids upstairs. (Somehow my kids all reverted to being 12, 10, and 7 in my dream and needed some wrangling before I could meet with Bethany.) When I finally started down the basement stairs, after leaving Bethany to fend for herself down there, I found her mopping up an inch of water that was covering my basement floor. Evidently my washing machine had broken and leaked water everywhere. I was horrified.

This horrifying dream may have been because I was fairly horrified about giving this interview. 3,000 listeners? Yikes. I’m horrified at the sound of my own voice.  I spoke at a women’s breakfast for a church in central Massachusetts in the spring, and still haven’t listened to the recording for which the pastor’s wife (Hi Christina!) sent a link. Every time I happen to hear a recoding of myself, I wonder why anyone wants to sit and talk with me at all. Ever. Seriously. But I’m learning that many people feel this way, and that all this self-horror is really just too. much. self. focus. And I pray God would rid. me. of. that.

I don’t know when the podcast will air, and I’m still not sure why the interview took the directions that it did. All I know is that I prayed…A LOT. Prayed that it would all be led by the Holy Spirit, and that the things recorded would be just the things that some other woman needs to hear. And Bethany prayed. And then we prayed together before we recorded. So, I’m trusting that, as confused as I was about what ended up being talked about, God has a purpose. Here, I’ll give you a hint:

Just don’t make the mistake of listening to the “hey, girl” podcast – with lowercase letters and a comma. That would NOT be the one on which I’ll eventually appear. (Or on which my voice will eventually be heard. Ugh.)

One of my favorite things. This group – a very random assortment – was gathered around my table on Sunday after church. No one moved until 4pm, as we listened to each other’s stories of faith and new jobs and spontaneous proposals and weddings and ultra-marathons and growing up a homeschooled missionary kid in Afghanistan. Sweet fellowship.

Speaking of opportunities to be horrified at the sound of my own voice, I was invited to speak at a women’s retreat the first weekend of November, and have been working with the women there to decide on a topic. Several themes have been on my mind, and I look forward to which one they’ll choose, so I can begin preparing. (Especially since I just discovered it’s one of my heaviest workload weeks for my seminary class. (Old Testament II)  (Good thing we get to drop three quiz grades!) But one theme has been jumping out at me in my own reading lately.

I’ve really only read the gospels this year – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. (With some occasional departures into the Psalms and Colossians in moments of desperation.) My goal was to read all four gospels each month, and I was able to keep up with that until summertime arrived. Since then, I’ve still stayed in the gospels, really wanting to soak in all that Jesus did, all that He was and still is, but I’ve not made it through all four each month. As I’ve read, a few things have jumped out at me, one of them being how often Jesus touched people, and how often they touched Him.

Especially precious to me is the story of the woman with the long term issue of bleeding who anonymously reached out and touched the fringe of Jesus’ cloak. She was immediately healed of her chronic illness, and Jesus knew immediately that someone had touched Him even though there were hordes of people pressing in on Him. When He investigates and she comes forward, He says

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

I just love those words. And I don’t think she was just made physically well. I think she was made wholly well – spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and yes, also physically. That she believed Jesus was powerful to make her well was a choice by faith, and that faith made her well from sin first and foremost. It reminds me of the paralytic man who was taken to Jesus by his friends. His most obvious need, his most presenting symptom, was physical disability, but Jesus forgave his sins first and foremost. His eventual healing of the man’s inability to walk was only a verification of His authority to forgive sin.

Faith in Jesus makes us wellsafe, kept safe and sound, rescued from danger or destruction – meaning the danger and destruction of sin, and faith also makes us well…thriving, strong, resilient, sane, healthy, hearty, and more.

He has done that for me. He has made this daughter of His well, and continues to do so on a daily basis. I’ve been praying for this wellness in one young woman in particular this week. I know the wellness is coming, but right now it doesn’t feel so certain to her.

So, I really don’t know how to transition from the woman who touched Jesus’ cloak to Taylor Swift, but I do hope and pray that Taylor comes to know this healing touch of Jesus by faith. How’s that?

This is from Urban Dictionary, and I have to say that I am in full agreement with this definition. 😉

My family and a few other Swiftie friends had a lot of fun tracking Taylor’s crazy marketing ploys for her new album a couple of weeks ago. The group texts were such a fun source of laughter and ridiculousness, and you know what? Sometimes laughter and ridiculousness are just what the doctor ordered.

For the record (I can never pun on purpose), I like her new songs. To be quite honest and vulnerable here, I think Taylor is a gifted, creative, gracious, strong, generous, humble, compassionate, and beautifully confident. I have a theory that people who love to hate on her, are actually just mad that she is able to embody all of those characteristics. Envy and jealousy are oftentimes obvious in our misplaced outrage. True story.

But I’d like to suggest a few edits to her most recent song, “Ready For It.” She has a couple of other songs that are just as suggestive, and I really wish she’d make a lyrical u-turn in this area. So, Taylor, if you are reading, tell me what you think of these changes:

I-I-I see how this is gonna go,

Propose to me, and we’ll never be alone

I-Island breeze, and we’re takin’ it slow

‘Cuz soon enough we’ll know

***

In the middle of the night, in my dreams

You should see our wedding day, baby

Mmmmm…

I can’t wait to be with you

So I pray and I pray

Are we ready for it?

I’ve got my eyes open for a part-time job for when Kayla goes off on her gap year or to college, and I’m really thinking Taylor might want to hire me. I mean…her songs only need this slight tweaking. And I could do it from home – after an initial meeting, autograph, and selfie, of course. It’s a win-win in my mind.

Here’s something else I haven’t told many of you, which has absolutely no connection to Taylor, well, except for the letter T. I’m going on a mission trip overseas. It will be a first for me. I’ve been on several mission trips – to Mexico a handful of times and to Louisiana to help with hurricane clean up in the early 90’s, but never overseas. I’ll get to work with a team and help with English classes, provide respite care for long term missionaries in the country, and participate in outreach to people on a spiritual (superstitious) pilgrimage during this season.  Here’s my team:

I’ve never had to raise my own support, though I’ve helped my kids do it several times. If you’ve sent me money, thank you so much. It has been so sweet to read the notes you’ve sent along with your gift, and I’m always overwhelmed by the joy with which people give. In many ways, you’ve taught me how to give – with both generosity of resources and encouragement. I’m not quite fully funded, but almost.

I leave in just about two weeks, and I’d really love it if you prayed for us – for many open doors to share the gospel, to bless others, to serve others, to learn about God’s work in a very different context than my own, and for safe travels. It’s still scary to me to cross an ocean in an airplane and leave all of my loved ones behind, but this invitation to mission and service seemed like one the Lord was asking me to take.

How’s that for randomness? Thanks for loving me enough to track right along.  I love sharing it with you.

Heartbroken for Houston

In 22 years I don’t think I’ve ever been as homesick as I have been this week.

22 years. That’s how many years I’ve lived outside of Texas, and you’d think I’d be over it by now, but I suppose that’s the kind of affect a place can have. I didn’t even know I was affected by it until I left, but then again Texas is not just any place.

It’s a warm place – in weather, in jalapeños, and in friendliness.

It’s a diverse place – in landscape, in culture, in ethnicity.

It’s a fun place – on a Friday night under the lights, on a river tube, and in a live music venue.

It’s a place of faith – with its churches, seminaries, and mission-minded service groups

But this week it’s a hurting place. A place literally flooded with pain and loss, and it’s causing me to ache with homesickness and helplessness.

My friend, Laura, was trapped in her third floor apartment and without running water until a boat rescued her yesterday. I still don’t know where she ended up.

Other friends, Shawn and Lynette, have a family of strangers living with them – folks they met at the grocery store who were without a safe and dry place to go.

I’m seeing dear friends from high school and college post general well wishes or updates on Facebook only to have their comment threads turn into desperate cries for help from those who have not had a rescue yet. People on rooftops with cell phones.

And I’m watching those threads turn into literal lifeboats as a network of friends and strangers write comments and work together to dispatch a husband or brother with a boat to their exact location. (Thank you, God, for social media during times like this.)

The family of 6 washed off the bridge in their minivan, the driver unable to help them out, but able to hear the children cry as they sank below the floods.

The police officer of 34 years who left his home because he “had work to do” against the desperate pleas of his wife to stay, and who drowned on his way to report to his station.

The police commissioner who told the story through tears of pain, but also tears of hope as he discovered they “are a family of faith, and where’s there’s faith there’s hope…the hope of eternal life in Jesus.”

The caravans of trucks pulling boats on every open highway, headed to give their time and resources to the rescue mission. The caravans of H.E.B. grocery trucks.

The rallying tweets and posts of the local churches who mobilized volunteers immediately.

The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams with their food tents and emergency equipment.

And I just want to be there. I just want to go home. I want to help. I want to serve. I want to comfort. I want to cook and clean and give rides. I want to go shopping and make beds and wash clothes. I want to pray with and for those who have lost everything.

But I can’t, and you know what? I think God has been preparing me for this week. Here’s how: He keeps bringing up this famous Oswald Chambers quote in conversations. I haven’t read Oswald Chambers since college, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that at least five times in the last three months I’ve had a conversation with someone about this very quote:

“Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work.”

And so in my in my heartbrokenness, my homesickness, that’s what I’ve been trying to do.

Pray.

For the church there to rise up, to join together in sacrificial service, and be a powerful witness to the gospel.

For the world to look on, see their good works, and praise their Father in Heaven.

For those who are still stranded and alone to be found.

For lives to be spared.

For the helpless, the elderly, and the hospitalized to be protected and provided for.

For the schemes of the devil, who would love to capitalize on the destruction, to be circumvented and sent back to hell.

For the usual voices of criticism and condemnation to be silenced.

For the strength of the divers, the firemen, the National Guard, the Coast Guard, the police, the volunteers.

For the strengthening of the people of Houston and Rockport and Port Aransas and Dickinson and Beaumont and more – in faith and in hope.

And not just for Texas, but Louisiana, too.

Chambers goes on to write,

“Prayer is the battle, and it makes no difference where you are. However God may engineer your circumstances, your duty is to pray. Never allow yourself this thought, ‘I am of no use where I am,’ because you certainly cannot be used where you have not yet been placed. Wherever God has placed you and whatever your circumstances, you should pray, continually offering up prayers to Him.”

and…

“When you labor at prayer, from God’s perspective there are always results.”

Oh, how I’d rather do the shopping and the cleaning and the sheltering and the feeding. You know… work that feels so much more tangible than prayer. But He’d already prepared me, and He’s showing me now that prayer is a great work – even a greater work than any small amount of hands-on labor I could offer.

Texas, I ache with you today. I’m heartbroken over your losses and devastation. But I (along with so many others) am praying for God’s mercy upon you today and for His healing upon you tomorrow.


And while prayer is indeed the greater work, there are also some ways to help from afar. We’re choosing one or two of the following ways, and hope that you will, too:

Southern Baptists have the third largest disaster relief organization in North America – behind the Red Cross and FEMA. Read about their work and give here. 

Bayou City Fellowship is a great church in Houston. It’s also Beth Moore’s church, in case that rings a bell. They are hard at work dispatching volunteers with shop vacs, shovels, boats, food, and more. They would be a great place to direct your resources. Here is their volunteer/donation page.

Chip and Joanna Gaines are selling this t-shirt and donating 100% of proceeds to disaster relief.

James Avery is a Texas and faith based jewelry designer. 100% of proceeds from the purchase of this charm will go to relief efforts in southeast/northeast Texas.

And if you’d like to give personally to one of our friends in the Houston area, just send me a message, and I’ll connect you with them!

Adventures in Greece: Part 3

These Greece posts are reminding me of my grandpa’s old slide shows – which were everything from their recent travels to Hawaii to our birthday parties from years passed. He’d load the round tray of slides just right, set up the screen, turn off all the lights, and narrate as we laughed or ooohhhed and aaahhhhed. He called them “cartoons.”  That was his trick for getting us interested in his show…”Want to watch some cartoons?”

Agia Roumeli, Crete – More on this below!

So, thanks for watching my cartoons, guys. Pretty sure I inherited the show-and-tell gene from my Poppy, and it’s been fun to share these adventures with you.

(Pretty sure I inherited the adventure gene from him, too.)

We stayed three floors up from where this photo was taken. Though you can’t see it, that paved walkway leads right to the sea.

Our last three days in Greece may have been my favorite? Hard to say. Definitely different and definitely more of a true adventure.

Probably THE best breakfast I’ve ever tasted. Something about the flavor/spice/ingredient combinations made it so delicious.

To our great disappointment, we lost a whole day in Crete due to missing our early morning flight there from Athens. We waited standby for an afternoon flight, but did not get on. Then we waited standby for a 10pm flight, but figured we’d probably be sleeping in the airport, because it was also a full flight and all passengers had checked in. We were booked on a 5am flight the following morning, hence the plan to sleep in the airport. There aren’t really any hotels near the Athens airport, and it didn’t seem worth it to Uber ($) back to the city, pay more $$ for a hotel, sleep there for 3-4 hours, and then Uber ($) back to the airport at 3am to catch a 5am flight.

We prayed for mercy, especially when a construction crew pulled out nail guns and jack hammers to begin overnight construction in our terminal. Sitting right next to the gate agent desk, we watched the passengers walk out and board the bus that would take them to the plane. After a while the gate agents started paging two passengers who had not yet boarded. More paging. More paging…

Then we started to get winks and nods from those gate agents. Then they told us we could board! I had been corresponding with our Airbnb hosts the whole time, so I sent one last message that we had boarded and would be there around 11:30pm. They left us a key, and we were never so thankful for a bed.We spent our first day in Crete walking around Old Town Chania (built under Venetian rule), sitting on the nearby beach with iced cappuccinos, swimming, and going for a glass bottom boat tour that included more swimming along the way. Swimming and a boat trip were two things I really wanted to do while we were in Greece, but we were glad we only did the 1.5 hour boat trip with one swimming stop rather than the 3 hour boat trip with three swimming stops. No octopodes, though. Those were on the 3 hour trip.

Oh well.

Greece is one of the world’s main exporters of sea sponges
Even Chania, Crete has a Starbucks. All we did there was take this photo.


After the beach and boat, we spent the evening shopping for a few last souvenirs as well as snacks for our next adventure, and then ate dinner overlooking the harbor.We set our alarms for 4:15am that night in order to catch an early morning bus for the Samaria Gorge National Park. The 1.5 hour bus ride was pretty amazing, and I wondered if I ought to awaken the German students across the aisle from us so they wouldn’t miss the gorgeous views. (I didn’t)
Most people hike the ten mile gorge (the longest one Europe) from top to bottom, which is why our bus dropped us at the top of the park’s mountainous range. This is what the first several miles of the trail looked like.
Thyme grows wild all along the gorge, and it is the main plant used by honeybees for pollen and nectar. (The honey is delicious!) Oregano grows in wild abundance in Greece as well.

The hike took us just over 6 hours, and midway through we were in desperate need of more fuel. It was nearly 100 degrees that day. Fortunately there are clean mountain spring water stops along the way.(Rustic, squatty-potty toilets, too.) The nectarines and rice cakes are missing from this photo, but here’s our semi-Greek trail lunch: grapes, olives, trail mix, dried/cured camel meat, and cheese – all from Chania’s Agora Marketplace. 

Blooming where it was planted

It was a fairly challenging hike and we kept being surprised by the footwear some people chose for the 10+ mile journey – Tom’s, flip flops, sparkly sandals. We wore our running shoes, and were still very sore three days later.

When we finally made it to the 13k (10 mile) mark, there were vendors selling fresh squeezed orange juice. We passed up the first one, ready to get to our final destination – the beach and rural village we’d be staying in that night – but we stopped at the second one, as it sounded so refreshing. And it was! Oranges also grow in abundance there, and our two glasses of juice took about 10 oranges to make. Such a nice treat as we walked the last few kilometers to the sea.
The beach at Agia Roumeli is every Samaria Gorge hiker’s reward. The trail leads right to this spot, and it is just what your sweaty, sunburned, and sore self needs at that moment. We found two vacant lounge chairs under umbrellas, put on our bathing suits in the nearby changing booth, and dipped ourselves immediately into that clear and refreshing water.As we did a little research online about the hike, we read several recommendations regarding staying overnight in Agia Roumeli, rather that taking the ferry back to the bus station that same day. Agia Roumeli is not accessible by car, and the thought of staying there after all the hikers/tourists left sounded so wonderful.

And it was wonderful. We even got to see a full moon rise over the gorge as we walked the abandoned beach all alone (unlike the sunset on Mars Hill!) that evening and went for a moonlight swim.

How will I ever settle for a restaurant that doesn’t serve iced cappuccinos and include a Mediterranean view from now on?

Our Airbnb hosts suggested that, since we were staying the night in Agia Roumeli, we should take the 11:30am ferry and get off at the village of Loutro, the stop before the village where we would catch our bus back to the city. We really had no idea the incredibly beautiful and historical sites we were about to see.

Goodbye, Samaria Gorge and Agia Roumeli.
Loutro, just beside Ancient Phoenix

Turns out Loutro is also ancient Phoenix where Paul hoped “somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.” (Acts 27:12) We had no real recollection of this until we pulled up the Bible App and searched “Crete.” Paul never quite made it to Phoenix, because “a moderate south wind came up, (and) supposing that they had attained their purpose, they weighed anchor and began sailing along Crete, close inshore.” (v. 13) This is how he ended up shipwrecked on Malta. 

Anyway, we knew Paul had been in Crete and left Titus there to pastor the church, but we didn’t realize we were sailing along the same course he eventually sailed. We could see both the new village of Loutro and the ruins of ancient Phoenix as we sat on this hillside cafe. And the views from the ferry we took to get there were just unbelievable.

And someone was dreaming out loud about what it would take to stay here three months for a sabbatical someday as we sailed along.

Robert was also Snapchatting all along the way……though I’m not sure his Snapchat friends (mostly our children) were as super-impressed as we were!

Watching the ferry leave

Okay ~ end of show-and-tell. End of slide show cartoons. Thanks for indulging me.

It was the trip of a lifetime, and we loved every minute of celebrating 25 years of marriage on this Greece Adventure!

 

Homeschooling: The Beginning Of An Ending

I can’t believe I wrote this post eight years ago. Today arrived much faster than I anticipated: Kayla’s first day of her senior year, and my first day of my last year of homeschooling.

Does that mean it’s my senior year, too? Because it kinda feels that way.

Just look at this cute little second grader working on her “months of the year” with those Saxon Math worksheets.And learning keyboarding skills years ago on that ancient computer in our dining room…
…to working Algebra II problems at the kitchen table. Today, I’m remembering all the highlights of this homeschool journey…The days and hours at home to nurture and learn with my kiddos.

The big breakfasts, lunches at the picnic table or by the fireplace, and snacks at 10am and 3pm.

The read-alouds on the couch every afternoon, where I was either fighting off sleep from exhaustion or tears over The Bronze Bow.

Pregnant frog dissections

The family prayers around the table after “Bible Time.”

The wonderful friends we all made – me with an increasing number of truly incredible women, and my kids with sweet playmates-turned-confidantes and sisters in Christ through the years.

The education I received from educating my own kids.

Protocol Nights..Boston Dinner and Dancing Cruises

The thrill of seeing a child learn to read and write, and being used by God to teach them those basics.

The stages of maturity we celebrated.

The field trips to museums, symphonies, farms, big cities, re-enactments, mountains, theaters, and ponds.

The first day of school special breakfasts (cookies? pie? ice cream?) and new supplies.

The liberty to learn through a biblical worldview, and to consider other worldviews against it.

The swapping of kids from house to house for school with friends.

The sick days and snow days – on which someone was always doing school.

Tuesday “class” days with peers

 

The freedom.

The flexibility.

The fun.

Several years ago, I was tutoring a high school seminar on economics (in Classical Conversations Challenge I) and we learned about “cost-benefit” analysis. I couldn’t help but think about our choice to homeschool in those terms. The costs are pretty high in choosing the homeschool route (and I’m not just talking about living on one income and buying textbooks), but I believe the benefits outweigh those costs, and I would do it again.

I don’t regret any of the last 17 years of this homeschool journey. (My kids might regret a few!) Oh, I have a lot of moments that I regret, mostly having to do with my own impatience, but today I’m thanking God for the years and for His sustaining grace throughout.

Thanking Him, also, for the blessing of all these highlights…or benefits.

One more year. One last kid.

Senior year, here we come!

Adventures In Greece (Part 2)

When is the last time you touched or stood next to something from the 6th century BC? I remember thinking several times as a little girl how much I would love to be an archaeologist some day (and a professional ice skater), literally digging up and discovering history. Well, I got to at least see the careful work and findings of archaeologists in Greece, and it was pretty exciting.

This is the Temple of Apollo in ancient Corinth, built around 540 BC. Before archaeologists started excavation on this ancient city, these columns were all that could be seen. Monolithic, they are made from single pieces of limestone. Incredible.

On our way to Corinth (which was a half day tour and about an hour from Athens), we stopped at the Corinthian Canal. After nearly 2000 years of vision and attempts, this canal (one of four like it in the world) was completed in 1893.

And here’s where I have to give a shout-out to my history geek major friend, Alena. I sent her a selfie of Robert and myself in front of the canal at about 4am her time, and asked her “Guess Where?” She didn’t even mind, and said she loved waking up to a pic of the CORINTHIAN CANAL.

I mean, doesn’t everyone discuss their spiritual lives AND the Corinthian Canal over coffee in the UMass Campus Center on a regular basis? No? Well, we are just an extra-special duo, I suppose. 😉

Corinth was fairly advanced for a city of its time – running water toilets, bath houses, and more. Here’s some evidence of those things…

We got to see the location of the Corinthian church which Paul started and wrote letters to, and we also stood on the Bema seat. This is the raised platform (for speeches/decrees) before which Paul was brought by the Jews to stand in judgment before Gallio, the proconsul, for “persuading people to worship in ways that are contrary to the law.” (Acts 18:12-17)

We spent some time in the museum there, seeing beautiful pottery and mosaics and statues before taking our bus back to Athens.

Dinner at an outdoor restaurant (of which there must be a million) in one of the shopping markets was our next stop. Greek Salad and Tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber, dill, garlic, olive oil for dipping) here…

…and “mixed grill” to go with it. Robert was pretty excited about the “mixed grill” which is a plate of piled up, grilled meats with potatoes underneath. So good. Pretty sure we had this for every subsequent dinner with just slight variations.

The next day (and our last one in Athens), we went on a Four Hour Gourmet Food Walking Tour of Athens. So much fun, and incredibly interesting. Very friendly, our guide, Eirini (“Irene” in “American”), was a young woman born and raised in Athens.  She had a lot of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry, knew her culture and history so well, and was lots of fun.

After sampling some breakfast items (Robert tried all the gluten savory pies and sweet pastries for me), she took us to the local meat market, the fish market, the nut, seed, and spice market, and the fruit and vegetable market.

They eat a lot of seafood in Greece…a lot of interesting sea food. I don’t know who first saw an octopus and thought it would be a good idea to serve it for dinner, but octopus is a seafood staple in Greece. And squid of all sizes. And eel.

And no, we weren’t THAT adventurous in Greece. I know that will be a disappointment to some of you.

We did eat camel meat, though. Water buffalo, too. We’re from Texas, what can I say? Anything that resembles beef (or venison) seems appropriate to make a meal out of.

 

Eirini liked taunting the crabs with her tongs. “I’m just saying hello,” she insisted, “but they snap at me.”
Nuts, seeds, grains.

Just casually sampling the olive selection. Not staged at all.

Eirene bought tomatoes at the fruit and vegetable market, so that she could make us a Greek salad at our next stop: a local gourmet food shop.

She put up a map of Greece and pointed out various regions while she let us taste olive oils from those regions. After we chose our favorite (Spartan?), she poured it over our salad and then gave it a couple of sprays with a balsamic vinegar/truffle oil combination. Wow.  So delicious.

We also tried plain Greek yogurt with local honey – yum.

Next we visited a delicatessen. Those dark red club shaped hanging meats are pastourma – or cured camel meat. We sat down here for a while for a sample plate of pastourma, water buffalo, stuffed grape leaves, and two different kinds of cheeses. All very good. In fact, we even went to another deli for more camel meat to pack for a ten mile hike we’d go on a couple of days later.

A cafe for Greek coffee was next on the agenda. They don’t really grow coffee in Greece, but they drink a lot of it. There is a big “coffee culture” in Greece. A smoking culture, too, as you can see. Greek coffee is just like Turkish coffee with fine grounds in the bottom of the cup.  You don’t drink them, you pour them out on your saucer and read your fortune in them.

The last stop on the tour was for souvlaki – or what we call gyros here in the states. A gyro is really the contraption you see above – a “gyrating” or rotating skewer of stacked chicken or pork. It cooks from the outside in as it passes by hot grills and is periodically shaved off and put in pita bread – taco style. The meat filled pita (or sometimes a kebob) is called souvlaki. We left the pita and ate the meat and grilled veggies. Delicious.

There was absolutely no need for lunch or dinner this day! We were full, and headed straight to Mars Hill (Areopagus) for that view of the sunset our tour guide had told us about two days prior. It was jam packed with people, but beautiful still. We’d get our private sunset/moonrise viewing a couple of days later in Crete.

From this perch we could see the sunset and part of the city (the domed building is an observatory) to the west and the Acropolis to the east. Pretty amazing.

We absolutely loved our time in Athens and Corinth. Our next adventure was on the largest Greek island, Crete. Stay tuned for the biggest adventure we had on our trip – a missed flight, standby status, last flight out by the skin of our teeth, and a hiking trek through the longest gorge in Europe.

 

Adventures in Greece (Part 1)

Greece was really amazing, guys. Thanks for praying for us and being excited with us.

One way to know for sure that it’s going to be a great trip is finding that the airline you’re flying (Turkish Airlines) has individual foot rests. I just can’t even tell you what a game changer this was for me. It even adjusted to various heights, and I’m pretty sure it’s the main reason I was able to sleep for much of the 10 hour flight that left Boston at 11:30pm. I can hardly ever sleep on an airplane.

And then there was the food.

A week or so before the trip I was looking up “Turkish Airlines amenities” and found that you could order special meals for special diets – gluten free in my case.  I really despise having to be “high maintenance” in the food department, and oftentimes just choose to bring my own snacks, so I don’t have to make a scene inquiring about accommodations. I’ve actually tried to request meals before with other airlines who promised, but did not deliver in the end.  Not so with these folks.

The flight attendant knew just where the “special meal” people were seated and pulled out special trays with our names on them. We did not have to ask or remind.  Amazing.

That’s fish, red potatoes, peas and carrots, fruit salad, some kind of tomato/eggplant salad with feta, green salad with chicken on top, a rice cake, a small jar of honey, and inside the packet of utensils was butter and a wedge of hard cheese. The things that were supposed to be hot, were hot, and the things that were supposed to be cold were cold. It was delicious, and about 5 hours later, they served us another meal for breakfast that was equally amazing.

But you’d probably rather read about our destination…

It’s just that I really love food, and so I won’t be able to talk about Greece without mentioning and posting photos of the food. The local and traditional Greek food is even one reason I was interested in going there. Olives, olive oil, yogurt, meats, cheeses, hummus. Though I learned that hummus is not really Greek.  Syrian, most likely. The Middle Eastern countries. That’s where hummus comes from. The word hummus is Arabic for chickpea. Though, there is a lot of crossover when it comes to foods in that general region.

The main difference between our typical food routine and the Greek one was breakfast. We eat eggs and bacon and potatoes; they eat pastries. I have to tell you, life would have been a lot easier if we could have eaten pastries. Pastries and espresso, this is the Greek breakfast.

Fortunately, there are some local restaurants that cater to big-breakfast people, and we hit the jackpot on our first day in Athens. The place was called Meliartos, and was just down the street from the Acropolis.

Espresso, Cappuccino Freddo (iced), beautiful glass bottle of ice cold water, Greek yogurt with honey, and Greek Scrambled eggs. So, so good.

And like I mentioned before, plenty of Starbucks in town – really all in view of the Acropolis, but this one was probably the one with the most direct line of sight. We only went once for iced tea, electrical outlets, and wifi.

And not to worry…PLENTY of “You Are Here” mugs to collect from your travels.

I promise, we did see some sights on that first day, but we also drank another iced cappuccino while we waited for our Athens Walking Tour group to assemble.

We also seemed to hit the tour-guide jackpot. Ours was a man who was extremely knowledgeable, and spent from 11am until 3:30pm with us, which is about an hour and a half longer than the tour is advertised. It enabled us to skip the very long line to buy a ticket and enter the Acropolis area, and provided all of the details on the major sites along the way to the top and once there. I would not recommend trying to visit the Acropolis on your own, unless you happen to be an expert on all things ancient Greece and Rome. (Which I know a couple of you probably are, but not most.) Reading Percy Jackson does not really count, but it would certainly help.

There are many sites along the way to the top and at the top of the Acropolis, which just means “high part of the city” really. Many cities had an acropolis.

akros “highest, upper”  + polis “city”

I’ll just show a few photos/sites here…

Theatre of Herodes Atticus. It is located at the south slope of the Acropolis and was added in 161 AD during Roman rule. The theatre was built by Herodes Atticus, a wealthy Roman, in memory of his wife Regilla. It has exceptional acoustic capacities and can sit up to 5,000 spectators. (Source: www.greeka.com) Sinatra, Pavarotti, Sting, Elton John, and Diana Ross (and many others) have all performed here. We also saw the Theatre of Dionysus on the way up which held more like 15,000 in its day being near the bottom of the Acropolis with seating up the hillside.
Erechtheion On the north side of the Acropolis, it was erected in 421-406 BC as a replacement of an earlier temple dedicated to Athena Polias, the so-called ”Old temple.” This is where, according to the myth, Athena’s sacred snake lived. The sanctuary also contained the grave of Kekrops and the traces of the dispute between Athena and Poseidon for the possession of the city of Athens. (Source)
Parthenon It was dedicated to the patron goddess of the city, Athena, since Parthenon means also the apartment of the virgin. Athena was the goddess of wisdom, war and also a virgin. The Parthenon is located on the top of the Acropolis hill. It was created between 447 and 432 B.C. (Source: www.greeka.com)
Standing on the Areopagus (Mars Hill). Acropolis in the background.

Coming down from the Acropolis, the Areopagus was next on the tour – or Mars Hill – probably from “Ares” the Roman name of the god, Mars, and “pagus” meaning rock. Ares Rock in Latin or Mars Hill in Greek, I suppose.

Our guide wasn’t planning to have us walk to the top, but he clearly didn’t know who he was working with, because not standing on Mars Hill was not an option for the Bible nerds in the group. (See Acts 17:22-34) He gladly obliged, and then gave us the insider information that people like to watch the sunset from the top. We finally did that on day three.

I’m sure that sunset viewing from Mars Hill was a top priority for the Apostle Paul, too. Or not.

The Apostle Paul’s “Men of Athens” sermon.

After Mars Hill we walked next door to the Agora – or marketplace. Every city had one of these as well, but this one is best known for it’s philosophical debates, the beginnings of democracy, and lots more. Here’s a good description of its importance in the 6th-1st centuries BC:

…the heart of the government and the judiciary, as a public place of debate, as a place of worship, and as marketplace, played a central role in the development of the Athenian ideals, and provided a healthy environment where the unique Democratic political system took its first wobbly steps on earth. During this time, the Agora’s political, cultural, and economic influence shaped some of the most important decisions undertaken in the shaping of what we commonly call today Western Civilization. (ancient-greece.org)

Temple of Hephaestus located in the Agora – He was the Greek god of blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire, and volcanoes.

This is where Socrates was exposing faulty logic and weak worldviews (and corrupting the youth?!) with his incessant questions. It’s probably where Plato, his famous student, was developing his ideas of transcendent Forms known only by reason, whereas his pupil, Aristotle decided that reality was not dependent on those universal forms.

And yes, I had to look those guys up for a refresher. You’d think after many years of tutoring Classical Conversations and several grad level philosophy and theology courses I would remember those important ideas, but philosophy still feels Greek to me!

And I haven’t taken Greek yet, so it makes perfect sense.

The Stoa of Attalos Also in the Agora, the Stoa became the major commercial building or shopping center in the Agora and was used for centuries, from its construction in around 150 B.C. until its destruction at the hands of the Herulians in A.D. 267. (Source)

We were starving after this almost 5 hour tour, so we got an early dinner at a nearby restaurant and did some shopping. Leather sandals, olive oil, olive wood, olives, and honey – these were the contents of most every shop, just in various forms and brands, and we bought a little bit of each to bring home as gifts.A trip to Corinth and more food were on the agenda for the next two days in Athens, so I’ll be back soon with more pics and details.

Truly an amazing adventure.