God’s Spectacular Rainbow

rainbow-august-2016-3

A few weeks ago I took this picture standing on my front step at home. My camera did not capture the startling beauty of two complete double rainbows, each color glowing and vibrant. This awesome gift from God lasted more than fifteen minutes. The experience touched my heart. I am truly grateful. This morning, as I focused on Psalm 118, the following poem/psalm poured forth from my pen. I feel called to share it with you.

God’s Spectacular Rainbow

God’s rainbow arch
holds me in its cradle.
God is with me.
Nothing I do is wasted.

God uses me.
God uses all things, beings actions,
to bring goodness.
God holds the light
and the darkness.
God blends them together
INTO WISDOM.

God’s loving power
doesn’t depend on me
my faith, my understanding, my feelings.
This is my hope.
I will trust in God. 

“This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

  (Psalm 118: 24)

Food For Your Soul

food-for-the-soul

 

Sometimes I get down on myself. All I can see are my faults, mistakes I have made. What is the point in doing the things I need to do to care for myself? I know that “eating healthy” will improve my health. I will feel better if I have some exercise every day. One essential action for me every day is to spend the first hour of my day in prayer, inspirational reading and journal writing. Without that hour, I quickly begin to feel like a zombie. It’s so easy to let that go. Other people’s needs ride high in my mind. The phone rings. There are jobs to do. Since the first week of August, we have been travelling. For me, travel means excursions, people and exhaustion. I don’t want to wake up early. I don’t want to take the time, so my morning prayer time disappears.

On Monday, even though we were still away, and I wanedt to spend every possible precious moment with family, I returned to my morning meditation time. This morning as I sat down to journal, I felt my heart begin to lift. “Thank you,” my soul said. “I can be at home in you, wherever we are.” Once again, I have accepted who I am.

I picked up a book titled Psalms Down-Under by Joy Cowley. In it, she talks of showing hospitality to ourselves. She reminds us that we welcome others easily, but forget to welcome the person we call “ourselves.” I’d love to include this meditation in my blog. It is truly beautiful and carries my message, loud and clear. But the soul that lives within me said, “Check the copyright information.” When I did, I found that “no part of this book can be quoted without permission.” Honoring my soul within, I suggest you check Amazon and buy the book. It’s wonderful food for your soul.

May God bless your day today and always.

Friendship Can Be a Taste of God’s Love

Life shared is a blessing.
Life shared is a blessing.

Lately, I have been particularly conscious of the preciousness of friendship. Over the past seven years, I have retired and moved to Peterborough. Letting go of the past and starting new relationships requires courage, patience and intention. For over forty years, my friend, Nancy, has been my anchor through this kind of upheaval. Although she lives far away, we have grown our friendship through letters, emails, phone calls and visits.

Because we have lived separated by great distance over the years, Nancy and I have both been intentional about maintaining and growing our friendship through all these different methods. We share our joy and reach out when troubles come. There is no greater gift than the peace and confidence that comes when we know we are loved just as we are, warts and all. With Nancy my mistakes, problems, grief, fun and celebrations are all accepted without judgment.

The writer of the Bible’s Psalm 139 claims God as his life-long friend. He tells us that God has loved us from our very beginning. There is nowhere we can go without God’s presence with us, God’s love surrounding us. My relationship with Nancy has taught me the reality of this Psalm. Within our friendship, I receive a taste of God’s eternal love.

Today I suggest that you give thanks for your friends. Tell them they are precious to you. Tell them of the goodness they bring to your life. In the same way, give thanks to God, who will never abandon you or throw you away. Rest in confidence as you walk your journey supported by your ever-loving God.

Jesus said, “If you, then…know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”(Matthew 7:11 NIV)

Angels Lead Us Home

We’re at the Airport, or more precisely and formally, “Liszt Ferencz International Airport.” On boarding passes and baggage tags, is written “BUD” bound for “YYZ” (Toronto).  It’s August 26th. Tonight, we’ll be home. This is a joy filled moment.

 

The trip home today has surpassed all my expectations. This morning, the courteous and ever-helpful front desk clerk printed our boarding passes and summoned a taxi for us. He negotiated the fare to the airport in advance, allaying Tom’s fears. The cab was prompt and spotless, the driver polite and helpful. He even folded down the front seat and pulled it forward, unasked, accommodating Tom’s size thirteen feet. We spent the long ride to the airport giving thanks Tom wasn’t driving. That was joyful. We felt God’s guiding hand leading us home.

 

 

On the plane from Budapest to Amsterdam, I was entertained by a most interesting, generous and kind man. When I struggled into my seat, he very carefully cleared the seat belt to the side. Our conversation began with my thank you. He seemed to want to talk so I asked him if he was visiting in Amsterdam.

 

“I’m Dutch,” he said, “And I’m heading home to Amsterdam.”

 

We talked. Proudly he told me about Amsterdam and the places that it would be good for us to visit. In the end, he ordered from the duty free shop on the plane, a tin of special Dutch waffle biscuits and the neatest music box egg timer painted in the Delft tradition.

 

“These are for you and your husband,” he said, “a gift.”

 

He touched my heart with his generosity.

 

The plane had been late leaving Budapest, shortening our connection time. Our new friend, Eugene, led us through the maze of the vast Amsterdam airport. He made sure we had our documents verified and escorted us into the correct line up. He couldn’t have been more caring and kind. He was an angel in disguise. Meeting Eugene was a total joy-filled experience.

 

Our good God had yet another angel in store for us. When I boarded the plane for Toronto, I was pleased to discover that my seatmate this time was a lovely women from the Ukraine, who spoke very little English. We had a great time as we struggled to share info about our lives, our children and grandchildren. The stewardesses, through their access to her passport, had discovered that today was a her birthday. They, brought her a birthday surprise of lemon cake and champagne which she shared with us. I got to pay Eugene’s kindness forward as I helped her get the movie screen going and fill out the Canada Customs form we all have to fill out. She enjoyed her company even with the language barrier. It was a privilege to sit beside her.

 

We have been truly blessed by angels of joy to finish our special journey.

 

 

A Day on Our Own

We delighted in Budapest yesterday, our last day. We began with the luxury of a slow morning, nowhere to go but breakfast. After breakfast, a short walk brought us to a shopping mall. Two of the casters on one of our big suitcases had disintegrated. With help from the desk clerk, we found the mall and the equivalent of Walmart or Zellers or Sears. Suitcases in every size, color and price awaited us. We focused on lightweight, cheap and sturdy. Our new suitcase fits the airline requirements and cost only 16,900 FORINT. We were grateful that the exchange rate was 204 FORINT to the Canadian dollar.

 

An afternoon nap prepared us for the rest of our day. We packed and weighed suitcases until our “stuff” was organized. The hotel clerk identified for us a live “Folklore” concert that evening, sold us the tickets and wrote down directions for the subway and concert hall. The Hungarian words seem to have an excess of letters, which makes them hard to remember. The tickets were worth every penny/FORINT. We soaked in a history of Hungary, superbly recounted in almost two hours of professional traditional dancing, singing, and orchestra. The evening was a highlight of our trip. Tom and I decided that we much prefer concerts and dramas to touring palaces. We returned to the hotel joyful and proud. With some good advice, we’d planned our own evening, found our way to the concert hall and back on public transport, chosen a fine Hungarian restaurant for supper, and experienced an awe-inspiring show. We crawled into bed still smiling.

 

One More Step to Home!

Yesterday morning, we disembarked in Budapest. Scenic had a big meeting room set aside in the Marriott Hotel for any of us who needed it. We left our luggage in a secure room. With two lovely couples from Australia, we walked over to the biggest local market in the twin cities.

As we wandered, I finally bought souvenir gifts for our grandsons. We had a lovely conversation with the young woman working in the stall. She and her husband had lived in Canada for a while. “My husband was homesick,” she said. “We returned home.” We talked a while longer. It felt good to connect with one person in this huge market that covered about three city blocks.

An hour and a half of noise and brightly colored stuff left us all exhausted. We stopped at a local café for an iced coffee. The men bought a beer. After resting a while, we three women continued perusing the shops on the way back to the hotel. By 2:30 it was time to say goodbye. We exchanged emails and offers of visits. We had enjoyed these new friends during our canal cruise. They were truly God’s gifts to us.

Tom and I took a taxi to our hotel. After checking in, we dragged our suitcases into the world’s smallest elevator. Without exaggerating, it was no more than 3 feet square. On the fifth floor, we unlocked the door to another tiny room with two single beds, not even pushed together. We’d endured single beds on the ship. We were too tired to care. We dropped our stuff and collapsed on the beds for two hours. Once awake, Tom agreed to ask for a main floor room. I was not ready to go up and down many times in that tiny elevator. The desk clerk agreed with a smile to moving us to the first floor, as low as we could go. That meant climbing one flight. There was no extra charge. I was grateful. To our surprise and delight, this room had a regular queen bed. For the first time since we left home, we could cuddle up properly. Now that was a joyful moment.

We unpacked, changed some money and walked to the Huszar, the loveliest Hungarian restaurant, for supper. The hotel had recommended this place and it was just great. We had chicken paprikash, and Hungarian goulash with the sides that accompanied it. They were served on a board platter for us to share. The food was delicious. The young man who served us was helpful and sweet. We took our time and enjoyed our dinner. Our extravagance included tea for me and apple strudel to share. The entire meal was a joyful moment.

After dinner we walked a bit, returned to our hotel and once again collapsed into bed. Our wonderful cruise has taken its toll. We are both exhausted. We slept well…

 

 

The Party Is Nearly Over.

Wow, what a fabulous final day on our cruise. This morning, we were given a guided tour as our ship cruised into Budapest. Hunor Nagy, our Hungarian tour director, spoke with pride as he pointed out the attractions that can be seen from the Danube and gave us the history behind them. Our ship docked across from the stately and stunning parliament buildings. He deserves a lot of credit for securing that docking space ahead of everyone else.

We spent the afternoon at the spa, enjoying the hot springs. My knees and back were grateful. Back on board ship, we experienced an hour of Hungarian traditional music and dance. Four young dancers and three musicians filled with exuberance entertained us with their artistry and agility.

Tonight, the captain sailed from our docking place down the river and back so that we could experience Hunor’s daylight tour of magical Budapest after dark. High above the city, their statue of liberty holding the olive branch of peace looks down with love. She is free. After World War II, the Russian Communists had put a red star upon her. In 1990 when the Russian soldiers left Hungary, the star was removed. Once again, she is a Hungarian symbol of integrity, peace, and strength.

The short evening cruise brought a perfect ending to a dream holiday. Now, I am sitting on our little veranda. I am looking across at the parliament building. Totally illuminated against the dark sky, this bastion of new democracy outshines any prince’s palace. My heart is filled with joy and gratitude.

Tonight, we gave a copy of my book, Spectacular Stella, to one of the young women who served us all day and evening for the last two weeks. She has a four-year-old son at her home in Croatia. Our small gift obviously brought her joy. She fetched her phone from her cabin to show us a picture of her beautiful son with the sparkling blue eyes and long eyelashes. Her love and pride in her little boy touched my heart. This day has overflowed with joy.

Vienna

We woke up this morning in Vienna. Just the thought of being here filled my heart with joy. I like cruising while I sleep. It’s a wonderfully painless way to travel. Our first concert took place at the Spanish Riding School. That’s right, we actually went to a performance of the Lipizzaner Stallions. Both horses and riders amazed us. The sand floor arena in the centuries-old school gleamed under the light of chandeliers. The horses danced to the music of Strauss, Schubert and Mozart. Years of watching my daughter and later, my granddaughter practicing their riding has given me just enough knowledge to be deeply impressed by the skill and precision of these riders and horses. This was definitely a joyful moment.

After the show, Tom and I wandered around Vienna on our own. That meant we got lost. We were searching for St. Stephen’s Cathedral. As we wandered, we discovered a stunning rose garden. There were plenty of big churches. We’ve seen so many ancient towns that the buildings and churches are looking very similar. We finally asked for help and learned we had set off in exactly the wrong direction. That helped a great deal. Eventually we found St. Stephen’s. It was truly a joyful moment. We went inside to pray. I thought it was a good idea to give God thanks for the good people who showed us the way. From there we caught the shuttle bus back to the boat.

This evening we attended a special concert at the Liechtenstein Palace with the Vienna Imperial Orchestra. The music was excellent. Two opera singers performed arias and a duet, and two ballet dancers interpreted the orchestra’s performance of Johann Strauss’ Blue Danube Waltz. During their performance, they chose audience members to dance with them. Tom was thrilled to be chosen. It was a joyful moment for both of us. What a fabulous day.

Saltzberg and The Sound of Music

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are no words to describe the joy of this day. I think it’s mixed with my childhood, my love of stories and the wonderful movie the Sound of Music. Of course we are here, actually here in the Austrian Alps. It’s hard to believe.

This was our longest day. The boat docked in Passau this morning. Planned for us was a two and a half hour bus ride to Salzberg, lunch a show and another bus ride for 1 hour to Linz to meet the ship. Many people decided the bus ride was too long and declined the opportunity.

I was determined to go. I have enjoyed the movie and the musical, the Sound of Music for most of my adult life. Tom came along because the only other choice was a day on the ship or tramping through Linz by himself. I’m glad he came along and so was he.

The bus ride up the mountain was beyond description. Mile after mile, turn after turn, brought a wider view of the idyllic countryside. It felt like we were on an airplane looking down at the neat fields and villages. Vista after vista appeared with every break in the trees. The winding road was narrow. We thanked the bus driver when we got to the lodge. Already the day was filled with joy-filled moments.

The meal was yummy. The show opened with a beautiful young woman singing, “the hills are alive with the sound of music”. I felt like I was living a dream. My heart soared. Tears dripped down my cheeks. Every song, the ones by the kids, the ones by the handsome young man, instrumentals by the orchestra touched my soul. Even as I write this the tears pour down my cheeks. One of the last songs they did was “Silent Night” written by Salzberg’s Franz Gruber. It was introduced as a song of peace so much needed by the world.

We still have Vienna but as far as I’m concerned I have flown, flown on God’s Spirit. Thank you God. I’m glad, I’m a woman and can weep with joy when my heart is so totally touched.

 

This trip has been filled with joy filled moments. Wow. It was expensive. When I was planning it I struggled to spend that much money for a holiday for us when half the world is starving. Yet today, I understand what Jesus meant when he said to the woman who poured the nard on his feet and wiped them with his hair. “Leave her alone. I will not always be with you”. Sometimes it is good to just relax into the joy God gives you.

Healing has begun.

Today I sat at the front of the ship soaking in the beauty as we travelled down river. Mile after mile of idyllic peace. A yellow canoe cut through the sparkling green water. Occasionally, a small village nestled against the hills and protected by its tall church spire, broke the lush green of the countryside with white and blue and red. Today families enjoyed the tiny beaches. Children frolicked in the water at the river’s edge. This is a joyful morning. On this trip most mornings bring this peace.

 

When we arrived in Nuremberg, both of us decided to skip the historical documentation of WWII. Hitler’s Germany is a dark and painful blot on human history. Today’s German citizens feel the shame and the pain. Everywhere we’ve stopped we have seen the results of their hard work, rebuilding and restoring after the war. This is a monumental job, not just with their buildings but with their souls.

 

Instead we went on the walking tour of Nuremburg titled, a taste of Nuremberg. Mostly we saw the castle and some spectacular churches, Besides feasting with our eyes, we were given a sample of German gingerbread made with spices and ground nuts- a yummy cookie. We also enjoyed German sausage on a bun plus a generous sample of the local beer. The tour was delightful, the people of the city warm and friendly. Our taste of Nuremberg was delightful – a joyful moment a new memory of Nuremberg to lay beside the horror of Hitler and hopefully add to the healing.