A Story about Westminster Abbey

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A Story about Westminster Abbey

She stood at the end of a row of empty seats, searching the arriving crowd with anticipation. She would wave when she saw them, familiar faces in the crowd of mostly tourists come to hear the Eucharist sung in one of the most glorious, most celebrated cathedrals in the world. But the splendor of the church was beyond this woman as she ushered her friends and families into the seats she had saved for them. She greeted each one with a kiss and gratitude for their coming.

As I watched the choir boys file in, I wondered which one was hers, this proud mama who had gathered a crowd to witness a confirmation.

Her last guests arrived holding a baby just as the music began. She made room for them and then took her seat at the end of the row. Head held high, she was all excitement and smiles.

Mary Polly and I had arrived early enough to be seated towards the front of the visiting section and enjoyed watching the seats fill as people wandered in. As the scene in front of me unfolded, I wondered at what it would be like to be a regular Sunday morning attendee at Westminster Abbey. To attend church in a place that held coronations and royal weddings.

I was caught off guard by how moved I was by the service. Traditions different from my childhood but similar to our Aberdeen church life, the songs and words were sweet to the ears of this traveler. I miss the word of God read aloud for corporate worship when I’m on the road.

My attention never left the woman in front of me and she participated in the liturgy with an enthusiasm I could appreciate.

The homily preceded the confirmation and I listened with awe to the man in black speak not in pompous tones as I had expected but with grace and gratitude about Jesus.

My Jesus, the same in a hot Arkansas YMCA gymnasium as He is in the hallowed halls of Westminster. All grace and good will toward men (and women).

‘If we follow him closely,’ the man preached on, ‘Jesus will always lead us to unexpected places.’

Don’t I know this to be true? My life this last year has been a series of unexpected journeys, all of them part of one great adventure, a story with no clear ending. Only mystery.

I scribbled notes into my program as the sermon drew to an end and the confirmation began. We sang together words that remind me of the great truths of the gospel, the incredible freedom we have in Jesus.

And then the people came forward who were to be confirmed. Mostly choir boys in long white robes, but also a few adults. She stood up, this woman I’d been watching. I thought that she must be helping in some capacity, that perhaps there were certificates to be handed out.

Not until the minister began to speak to the row of them did I realize that it is her and not her child being confirmed. Her face holds all the joy of one who has found faith in Christ.

When the Liturgy of Initiation began, she spoke the corporate words with confidence. She had clearly memorized the affirmations that I was reading from the pages of a program.

The minister finished the corporate questions, and then he addressed each candidate by name. Tears were rolling down my cheeks by now. How precious to be able to point back to this moment in your life that a man of God spoke simple and true words to you and you alone.

Then he called her by name, this woman I have been watching all morning. Her heart is so full as he says the words to her,

Morgan, God has called you by name and made you his own.

Then he anointed her head with oil, placed his hands on her head and said,

Confirm, O Lord, your servant with your Holy Spirit.

And we all answered, Amen.

After all the candidates had been anointed, the minister stepped back and said to them all,

Shine as a light in the world, as one of God’s chosen ones, beloved and accepted in Jesus Christ our Lord.

And again we answered Amen, mine a bit louder than those around me. Unfamiliar with corporate reading of liturgy, I find my cadence is always a bit off. But I could have stood on my chair and shouted Amen in solidarity with Morgan, a woman I had never met.

To watch a child affirm faith in Jesus is beautiful. I have had the great honor of seeing it in my own children and it makes my heart swell.

But it is a special kind of wonderful to see an adult come to Jesus. I love to see a grown man or woman stand alongside children in a baptism or confirmation, whether they are returning to the faith of their childhood or coming to God for the first time. Either way they understand Jesus’ command to become like a little child.

Humbled by life that brings me again and again to my knees, I cried tears of joy with Morgan. We both hold our hands up to Jesus in our different ways.

When the service was over, I wanted to tell her that it was a special privilege to watch her confirmation of faith. But she was surrounded by the happy friends and family who had come to watch. So I just gathered it into my heart. I turned to Mary Polly, who had found the entire service intolerably long and somewhat boring, and she was only a little surprised to find me in tears.

She rolled her eyes at my whispering, That was just so beautiful.

As we exited the Abbey in the same uniform manner in which we’d been escorted inside, someone tapped my shoulder and asked if I would take their family photo.

Of course I would. It would be my privilege.

And as I snapped the picture of Morgan with her family gathered around her in front of Westminster Abbey, I thanked The Lord for these small priceless gifts. That I was the one asked. That I caught one more glimpse of this daughter of God, beaming with joy.

We are partnering as a family with GowithOh this year as we travel around Europe, and our visit to Westminster was part of our June stay in London in a GowithOh apartment. Stay tuned for more glimpses of our life on the road.

Beauty from Ashes

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Twelve years ago today, we received one of those phone calls you never want to get. A family friend called from Switzerland to let Taido know that his father had tragically drowned trying to recover his daughter, Maya, who had also drowned. Maya, Taido’s half-sister, was five years old at the time, the same age as our oldest son, Cole.

We were living in Seattle and some dear friends offered Taido their frequent flyer miles so that he could leave immediately for Engelberg to lay his eyes on his father one final time before he was cremated, and to be present at a small ceremony.

Kobun, who I only ever knew as Taido’s father, was a celebrated Buddhist priest, so many ceremonies followed. In all corners of the world, people gathered to remember this man and his daughter. Two years ago, for a 10 year memorial of the tragedy, a book of essays was published about Kobun and Taido wrote the closing piece. I am a bit biased but this chapter remains one of the most beautiful pieces of writing Taido has ever penned, and that I have ever read.

I was reading it again today because, thanks to the radical generosity of the same friend who called Taido twelve years ago, we are spending much of our summer in the very home in Switzerland where Kobun and his family were living at the time of his death. I had never been here before and I was concerned before coming that it would be too difficult to be here, but the opposite has been true. The place (both the home and the surroundings) is soaked in beauty and peace. Our time here has been, in many ways, redemptive.

We spent a small part of this rainy anniversary remembering and praying together. As I light candles around the photos of Kobun and Maya, I pray that the memory of their deaths will be an instrument of grace for others today.

And if you have a minute today I highly recommend reading Taido’s chapter remembering his father, which can be found on his blog.

A Walk in Montmartre {Paris} (21/48)

Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, Paris, Go with Oh Apartment

When Mary Polly and I were in Paris in June, we rode bikes from our apartment in Marais to Montmartre early in the morning, so we could spend our last morning in Paris walking the hill that overlooks the city.

Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, Paris, Go with Oh Apartment

Sitting on the steps of Le Sacre-Coeur was on Mary Polly’s Paris Wish List, so off we went through this park to find the famous stairs.

Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, Paris, Go with Oh Apartment

We began to catch glimpses of the church as we climbed higher.

Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, Paris, Go with Oh Apartment

And then, we were there. We spent over an hour just sitting here on these steps, looking out at the city and watching people. A bride was being photographed. A group of people were filming something. Tour buses came and went.

A Walk in Montmartre, Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

We were both glad we had made the effort to see this spot we’ve seen in so many pictures and films, and we were reluctant to leave the stairs at all but we took a spin inside Le Sacre Coeur before we went on to have a bit of breakfast and a walk through this quatier of Paris!

Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, Paris, Go with Oh Apartment

La Mere Catherine claims to be the first cafe in Paris, so we had our coffee and pastries here.

A Walk in Montmartre, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

I loved watching the artists set up in the square for the day and all the people coming and going, shouting Bonjour Madame! Bonjour Monsieur!

A Walk in Monmartre, Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

We walked through the square a couple of times before setting off to find Rue Lepic, the long winding street that takes you back down the hill.

A Walk in Montmartre, Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

Along the way, you get to see the former home of Victor Hugo and his brother. Amazing.

Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, Paris, Go with Oh Apartment

It’s just a normal house that someone still lives in with a small plaque to the left stating that he and his brother lived there once upon a time. Number 54.

A Walk in Montmartre, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

And at the bottom of the road, The Moulin Rouge…

A Walk in Montmartre, Paris, Go with Oh, #48walks

With a big Heineken truck in front of it. :)

After seeing The Moulin Rouge, we turned around and walked all the way back to the Seine to spend our last hours in Paris by the river, Mary Polly’s very favorite Paris spot!

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

We are partnering as a family with GowithOh this year as we travel around Europe, so we received our apartment in Paris gratis. We love staying in neighborhoods and having space to hang out together, as well as being able to cook. Stay tuned for more of our fun summer travel adventures!

Summer Harvest Menu

Summer Harvest Menu, Summer Squash, Purple Hull Peas, Tomato, Okra, Cornbread

We are having a absolutely FAB summer, but I have to say, I am still missing hot, hot summer in Arkansas. I know that sounds crazy, but it just does not quite feel like summer without daily trips to the pool and constantly dripping of sweat.

Other things I miss include Arkansas tomatoes, purple hull peas and okra! A plate full of foods that taste their very best when harvested in the hot Southern summer is something we would have regularly around my parents’ table. So if you find yourself with an overabundance of summer squash or juicy tomatoes, this menu is for you!

Southern Summer Harvest Menu

Summer Squash

Purple Hull Peas with Ham

Oven Roasted, Cornmeal Okra

Skillet Sizzled Cornbread

Guacamole

Sliced Tomatoes

You also might add a summer salad or two to fancy up this menu a bit.

Happy Summer Eating, Y’all!

 

 

Snapshots of London

Snapshots of London, Summer, #IGTravelThursday, View from London Eye

I am back in London this week so I thought it would be fun to share just a few of my favorite photos from my last trip to London with Mary Polly.

Snapshots of London, #IGTravelThursday, #GowithOh, England

Our big splurge was riding The London Eye (super pricey at 20 pounds per person), but we got some very fun shots from so high above the city!

Snapshots of London, Summer, #IGTravelThursday

We had the most unbelievably gorgeous weather while we were there in June and we stayed in a gorgeous apartment in East London with GowithOh.

Snapshots of London, #IGTravelThursday, #GowithOh, England

From there, we explored the city mostly by bicycle, stopping whenever we found a fun building or park. LOVED this yellow building near the Tate Modern.

Snapshots of London, Summer, #IGTravelThursday, Columbia Road Flower Market

Since we were in London on a Sunday, I went to the Columbia Road Flower Market that happens on Sunday mornings. It was only about a five minute bike ride from our flat, so Mary Polly had a bit of a lie-in while I took about 1000 photos of flowers.

Snapshots of London, Summer, #IGTravelThursday, Columbia Road Flower Market

The peonies were my favorites! But also the hydrangeas and roses were out of this world. It was just fun to watch the markets being set up for the day and people coming to buy piles and piles of flowers.

Snapshots of London, #IGTravelThursday, #GowithOh, England

I was guessing what kinds of events folks were preparing for as they chose armfuls of bouquets.

Snapshots of London, Summer, #IGTravelThursday, Westminster

After the flower market, we went to attend a morning service at Westminster Abbey, which was so special, I have plans to write about it in more detail soon. It was a treasure of an experience for sure. I highly recommend seeing the abbey this way!

Snapshots of London, #IGTravelThursday, #GowithOh, England

Of course, no trip to London is complete without a walk across the Tower Bridge. Mary Polly and I actually tried to see all the bridges in London and we got pretty close. I took a quick vine of all the ones we hit. Now I can’t wait to see London through Simon and Ben’s eyes. It’s their turn this week!

Snapshots of London, #IGTravelThursday, #GowithOh, England

We are partnering as a family with GowithOh this year as we travel around Europe, so we received our apartment in London gratis. We thought the apartment was precious (Mary Polly is standing in front of it in the above photo) and we loved staying in East London and eating, walking, biking like locals in the neighborhood! Stay tuned for more about Paris, London and all our summer adventures!

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#48 Walks Update

#48walks, St Cuthberts Way, Lindisfarne

Friends, I have so enjoyed taking walks this year.

Even more, I have loved that so many friends are walking along with me via the internet. (and sometimes in person!)

I thought I would just do a little #48walks update since it is about halfway through the year. Personally I find the summer to be a much easier time to start projects than January, so I wanted to let you know that it’s certainly not too late (it’s never too late!) to start walking in 2014. And even if your walks don’t number 48, I would still love for you to join in using the #48walks tag to take a walk with me!

I’m a bit behind on the goal of 48 myself, but here are the 20 walks I have blogged so far this year!

#48Walks, Scotland, England

A Year of Walking 2014

1. Seven Bridges Walk

2. Bennachie Walk

3. Aberdeen Walk

4. Tyrebagger Forest Walk

5-8. Aberdeen Walks

9. Scottish Coastal Walk

10. Aberdeenshire Walk

11. MacLeod House Walk

12. Balmedie Beach Walk

13. Roseberry Topping Walk

14. Whitby Beach Walk

15. Killarney National Park Walk

16. Muckross House Walk

17. Bray Head Loop Walk

18. Carrontohill Peak Walk

19. Glen Clova Walk

20. St Cuthbert’s Way Walk

Even if I just manage to blog ten or twenty more, I will have a wonderful record of our Year of Walking. I hope you’ll feel the same way if you blog a few of your own walks this year!

In The Pipeline + London Planning

London Planning, In the Pipeline, Scotland Suspension Bridge

Y’all! My family is in town!

We are making the most of a week in Scotland before we take off together to see some other places in Europe. Peter and Whitney are over for three weeks and we are loving being together + seeing the world at the same time!

We’re heading off to London next week and I’ve been collecting some fun London Planning Links just for our trip.

After London, we will swing through Paris on our way to Switzerland!

We are doing a combination of plane, train and car travel to Europe from the UK. I’m super curious to see which we prefer in the end!

You can follow along on Twitter or Instagram. Our hashtag is #CousinsTakeEurope because it is so much fun to have the cousins together!!

London Links!

Budget London in A Day

Unusual London

London on the Tube

Saving Money in London

London Travel Guide

Things to See and Do in London

Free Things in London

For Hikers in London

Hope your 4th of July was amazing! I got to participate in an interview on the BBC about how Americans celebrate the 4th abroad in Scotland. Happy Summer!

XO

Alison

 

 

Snapshots of Paris

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

So, Mary Polly and I went to Paris for two days and nights with our dear friends, Sarabeth and Elizabeth. They were stopping over on their way to Kenya, so we jumped at the chance to stopover with them.

To Paris!

Because Paris is always a good idea.

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We were positively giddy to be in the City of Light. We kept looking at each other and saying, “Oh my gosh! We’re in Paris!”

We had to keep reminding ourselves because our time there was so short that it felt like a dream.

Also, it was just a little bit fast and furious, because I had to keep these girls moving in order to get through our Paris Dream List.

Which looked like this:

Snapshots of Paris, Paris Wish List, IG Travel Thursday

We planned to meet up at Shakespeare and Company, because it was fairly close to our Go with Oh apartment in the Marais district.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

Mary Polly and I were late to this adorable bookshop because of flight delays, a train strike and an unaccounted for time change.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

Not to worry. Mary Polly and I were just giddy to be walking on one of the many bridges that crosses the Seine.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

And after a wander through the neighborhood, we met up at a wonderful cafe, right across from the Centre Pompideau.

Snapshots of Paris, GowithOh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

The whole area was bustling with people and activity in the evenings.

Snapshots of Paris, GowithOh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

Since the cafe was right around the corner from our apartment, I went by our last morning and took a picture or two as a souvenir of our lovely first evening in Paris, laughing and having drinks in a street side cafe.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

We loved the courtyard of our apartment so much.

Snapshots of Paris, GowithOh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

Sarabeth and I snuck out early while our daughters were still sleeping to have a coffee in a cafe. Then we brought back warm pastries from down the street.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

Pain au chocolat? Yes please!

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

After breakfast, we rented four bikes and took off down the Rue de Rivoli and the Champs-Elysees until we reached the Arc de Triomphe.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

Riding bikes in Paris was super happy to me. I love seeing a city that way. Breeze in my face, glimpsing amazing architecture plus the thrill of almost being hit by buses.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

Okay, maybe not the part where you almost get hit by a bus, but we did feel such a great sense of accomplishment after riding bikes all over Paris.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

And it was a great way to quickly get to the next major monument.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

We bought sandwiches and other picnic foods to eat in front of the Eiffel Tower, so we spent a long time sitting on the lawn and watching all the people.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

Our favorite street performer near the Eiffel Tower was this man with a simple string and a tub of soap bubbles. He was a magnet for all the kids milling around and we loved watching them be amazed by his string of bubbles.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

There’s something pretty magical about the Eiffel Tower. You kind of can’t take a bad picture of it.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

And it’s fun how it pops up in pictures for a while, even when you’re not right in front of it anymore.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

After Le Tour Eiffel, we went for treats along Rue Cler, both sweet treats and eye candy treats.

First, crepes!

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

Then flowers!

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

Especially peonies!

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

And then gelato!

How can you not love gelato sculpted into a flower.

Also, it tasted amazing! We had gelato three times from three different Amorino’s and one was right around the corner from our apartment in Marais! So good.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

After all the treats, we walked and biked some more along the Seine in order to work off all that food. We loved this area near the museums that was full of public art made from recycled materials.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

There were old containers turned into meeting rooms along the river and you could see people who had reserved them having meetings or playing games or working inside of them.

There was also a pop up dance floor where you could plug in your phone and have an impromptu dance party, complete with a disco ball.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

Mary Polly left her mark on this chalkboard wall.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

My favorite Paris museum is the Musee D’Orsay. I wanted everyone to see it but the girls really did not want to wait in a line to get into a museum. Especially since they weren’t super sure they wanted to go to an art museum at all. But the Musee D’Orsay is open late on Thursday evenings so we wandered by at about 4:30 just to see what it was like.

There was no line to get in and it was free for both the girls!

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

Perfect! We went right in and I got to show Mary Polly some of my favorite paintings in the whole wide world! Such a treat!

Also, you can go outside from the top floor and look over across the Seine at the Louvre!

SO beautiful!

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 Later we rode our bikes right through the courtyard of the Louvre!

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

After the museum and a little more lazy sitting along the Seine, we hopped on bikes again and headed back to our apartment. Up the stairs we went for a little rest before we went with friends for a dinner picnic.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

I told Mary Polly that I almost looked Parisian with baguettes coming out of my backpack.

She totally disagreed.

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

Yummy picnic dinner + the sun going down behind the Notre Dame = PERFECT last night in Paris!

Snapshots of Paris, Go with Oh Apartment, #IGTravelThursday

We are partnering as a family with GowithOh this year as we travel around Europe, so we received our apartment in Paris gratis. We love staying in neighborhoods and having space to hang out together, as well as being able to cook. We even had friends from Arkansas visit us in our apartment in Paris! (Hi Stacey and Anthony!)

Stay tuned for more photos and stories from our time in Paris!

 

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More of my IG Travel Thursday posts.

 

 

PS I love participating in Instagram Travel Thursday with Skimbaco Lifestyle! Simon was even featured in last month’s eMagazine on family traveling!


A Story about Yoga on the Beach

A Story about Yoga on the Beach, Mauritius, First Choice Holidays, Long Beach

A Story about Yoga {On the Beach}

It was that time of day when the light is so magical you can hardly bear to tear yourself away from staring at the horizon, except that there are young children with you who do not care about the color of the sky. They care about making it to the climbing wall before it closes.

And so we were walking towards the gym at the resort where we were staying in Mauritius, and we passed a gentleman who was carrying a roll of yoga mats under his arm.

I stopped him to ask about yoga and it was starting in ten minutes. On the beach. At sunset.

Sally graciously allowed me to leave our party and follow Roj back to the beach.

I have an up and down relationship with yoga, which is strange because I enjoy it immensely. If I charted my yoga frequency, I’m pretty certain it would look something like this:

Winter: Almost Zero
Summer: Lots

I know that my muscles need yoga (and exercise) in the winter but it just feels better in the summer.

Yoga clothes are summerish. Beachy.

Sun salutations work best for me when there’s a sun to salute.

So being in Mauritius where the breeze is warm and the air is soft opened my heart wide up for yoga. And for all that yoga on the beach in Mauritius has to offer:

Breathing in the sea air.

Balancing in the warm wind.

Walking barefoot on crushed seashells as a form of acupuncture for tired feet. (Yes, really)

Soft light and softer voices.

Kicking sand on your mat and brushing it off again.

Slower than slow sun salutations. Light, simple movements that remind you that you never want to be in a hurry again.

No rushing. Just being.

Receiving praise for doing something so simple. Taking time to stretch. To pull yourself wide and just be still.

Falling over from your tree pose into the sand and being put at ease by a new instructor’s soft guidance. A kind reminder to take your time.

A Story about Yoga on the Beach, Mauritius, First Choice Holidays, Long Beach

I love to meet a good yoga teacher. I have done some yoga teacher training myself and I have so much awe for instructors who can lead a class and maintain an air of relaxation themselves. A good yoga instructor’s voice draws you in to their circle of peace, their good vibes are part of your experience.

Roj was definitely all good vibes. You would never know it, but by day he is a headmaster of an all boys’ school. Practicing and teaching yoga is an outlet from the stress of his daily life, and he teaches classes at Long Beach three evenings a week. They are free to attend for guests or private sessions can be arranged as well.

What a gift to get to practice yoga in such a magical setting!

A Story about Yoga on the Beach, Mauritius, First Choice Holidays, Long Beach

Simon and I were sent to Mauritius, along with Sally and Flea, as part of our role this year as First Choice Out of Office Bloggers. First Choice has chosen five bloggers to visit their resorts in 2014 and blog about them. I’m feeling super thankful for the privilege and already looking forward to my next trip Out of Office!