Autumn

As I sit outside at Caribou, it’s hard to imagine we are already in October. Time is certainly flying by!

However, one thing has changed…(besides that Mel is in the UK for a couple weeks, to ensure Geert does not get lonely, and the cats don’t forget about her)… autumn is here!

I don’t know what it is about that season. I am more of a summer, beach kind of person. But something about this period in the year grabs me. Maybe it’s the last swan song of nature, showing their abundance of colour. Maybe it’s the promise of Christmas being around the corner, and all the coziness that goes with that. 

Or maybe it’s just that this season each time reminds me of Gods promise to us. No matter how rotten we feel, there will be new life.

For many this season brings despair, loneliness, falling leaves, depression. I sometimes get caught up in that too. I am a true worrier, and this season of the year I worry more. 

A day like today however, blue sky, too warm for jogging pants, beautiful autumn colours… I think I want to keep the Godly reminder in the forefront of my mind!
What about you?


The Kindness of Strangers

Sometimes strangers touch your heart and leave a warm fuzziness inside…

Let me start from the beginning. After we flew back to the US from Costa Rica I already started to feel a little funny. Worn out maybe? I put it down to the hot sun, and ignored it, but suggested to the family we would start our camping trip a day later. We got everything unpacked and repacked and on Friday set off to Bear Head Lake state park in Northern Minnesota. The state park had very good reviews and the trip to it went smooth. As we got closer I started to feel more unsettled but thought that a few days of no outside contact, cooking on fire, family time, fishing etc would do the trick. 

We arrived and got the tent nicely set up. We cooked over a hot fire and yep… that which I had been fighting came back with a vengeance in the evening. What a shame of the lovely salmon, corn and mashed potatoes! Each one of those would make my meal normally! Off to bed I went, and the other 2 followed out of sympathy (after clearing everything away… bear aware!) 

It was a bitter cold night, although Geert said I was like an oven… I did not sleep…. the first day of our holiday started well!

The next day I could do nothing much but stay in bed, trying to sleep it off. Geert and Mel went off exploring around the campsite and met the wonderful host from the side. God always sends lovely people to lift the spirit! An uneventful evening, (we won’t mention the soup….) and another night to pass.

On Sunday I woke up feeling more like myself… so off to Ely we went. We wanted to visit the famous mukluks shoe shop we had read so much about! We walked over a lovely little village market before going down a hill to the shoe shop. Shoes always make me feel better! Except… this time it did not and I realised I had already done too much. We decided to have a quick drink, mostly because I needed to rest… no sooner did I sit at the bar seats or I passed out… Mel sweetly held my hand… Geert ran off to get the car. The bar tender came over to ask if he could do something… a glass of coke, no ice…. I asked… I needed sugar in my blood fast! I felt a little better and could go to the toilet…. and God sent another little angel. ‘Minnesota nice’ the bartender called it…. don’t need to pay…

Sometimes it’s just the little things that make us smile… it takes little to be kind!

Musings

This morning I was watching the livestream at our church, where my husband just got up to share a life story with the kids there. It’s too much detail to retell it, you can watch online via this link (http://stanboroughpark.adventistchurch.org.uk/)

The point of the story is worth retelling though. You are valuable!!! No matter what happened to you, crumpled, dirty, alone… you matter!!!

You matter to me, and you are valuable to me.

Happy day!

Selah

A word often used in the Bible to indicate rest… although a quick google shows that the translation is not really known. It often occurs at the end of a verse in the Psalms… 

I like that interpretation… at the end of a verse, rest… at the end of a week, rest…. and that is what Mel and I did. While Geert is away in Spain drumming his heart out at the Youth conference (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mrCJLA9W_xA&list=PLOGSrwS5xR71GO1ZoQOZdvVri-XSOkqan&feature=youtu.be) we went on a Friday evening sunset cruise on the St Croix river.

We had a moment to pause and take in the beautiful rock formations, against a beautiful sky which had just cleared after a down pour. The paddle boat pushed us gently down the river, quite a novel experience! We saw a couple of bald eagles, such majestic birds. The family sitting next to us asked what we were looking at and so enthusiastically taking pictures of. They may not understand how lucky they are to have bald eagles in their state. Their white head and tail sticking out against the green of the trees.. it never ceases to amaze me. And it always reminds me of 2 things: the eagle story in the Bible as told by Moses in the last phase of his life.. when Israel is once more reminded that God is watching over us, but at the same time teaches us to fly… and of my husband who so beautifully can recount that story…

We also so beavers, just as the sun was setting and we were munching on tacos with salad. At least, that is what we think they were. Big animals sitting at the side of the river, taking occasional dips in the water. All so peaceful.

Even though the family next to us on the table had probably had a little too much to drink and were quite noisy, for us this was a Selah. A rest point in the week and the beginning of a beautiful Sabbath.

Below some pictures, although these never do any justice to the scenery… maybe you need to come and enjoy this yourself?

Lonely

IMG_4676Yesterday and today are turning out to be me feeling a little lonely, and emphasise the fact I am all the way in America and my loved ones are in Europe. It goes a little like this:

For weeks there has been a buzz going through the Adventist church, particularly the younger ones (read teens and young adults, typically classified as youth). The International youth congress is taking place in Valencia, Spain and 1000s of young ones are gathering for a week of friendship, worship, good times etc… my husband and the band he drums in have been practicing and gearing up to go…. the church community I belong to (Stanborough Park Church) has teens going, my niece is going… and I am far far away…

My husbands flight was early this morning, Sunday… we have a six hour time difference… so we called him at 9pm Minnesota time to ensure he got out of bed, before the taxi would arrive to take him to the airport…. it took a few rings, but he answered… and got ready to go…without me..

In the mean time, my phone started buzzing… the family Knopper chat…. my niece is on her way to the airport also… ready to go to Valencia… my brother and the other 2 in his family started driving to go on holiday…. without me (we like going on holiday together)

What about me? I am a little sad…. am far away, different time zone, not travelling either on holiday or to participate in the congress (am feeling youthful). These are the moments my year away feel lonely, I have to work….

Well, gotta pull myself together… so here is the plan… the theme of the congress is ‘Journey’. There will be plenty of opportunity to follow along via Facebook, instagram and the webpage: http://www.aycongress.org/

This way, I won’t have to feel so lonely… hope to get a glimpse of my husband on stage also!

 

East, West, Home is Best

After a great business trip, sprinkled with some beautiful friendships and great sightseeing, it is time to go home…. and actually, I am ok with that…. after all, being in America for a year is a real privilege also and so far am loving it!

Costa Rica has a great phrase, used in all sorts of circumstances: Pura Vida! It’s used as greeting, as response to questions, almost like a life mantra… and it shines through the whole culture as an upbeat, happy go lucky and friendly mantra. It translates literally as pure life… but actually it does not have a real translation as such. It’s definitely a thought I want to keep holding on to.

My actual house is in the UK, my husband is there too, as are my cats, friends, car..all that is dear to me.. and yet, home is now also here in the US, where lots of adventures are still waiting for me… a bit like that phrase… Pura Vida…

 

so.. happy to be in my US home… and enjoying life!

Lessons Learned

Well, we not only survived camping, we actually loved it. Northern Minnesota is very pretty, with lots of nothings… we did not see the bears we thought we might, or the moose, but we saw plenty of deer, mosquitos and bald eagles.

we ventured into Canada also, being only a half hour from the border. The lady at the border was extremely friendly, even if I was terrified to even cross the border and leave safe America. She not only stamped our passports on our request, she also gave us a Canada pin each. How sweet!!!!

And..they let us back into the US also..

So what lessons did we learn?

we can set up a tent without fighting, even if we did not know what the tent was supposed to look like.

we can build a fire and cook food on it… and roast marshmallows…

we can survive with a ‘vault’ toilet. If you gotta go and don’t want to walk 10 minutes, it certainly will do.

mosquitos love me more than Melody…

we saw no bears, but loved being outside and slept perfectly well…

we want to repeat the experience as often as we can

And now we are packed again…Costa Rica is the destination… not a bad location for work…

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See you on the other side!!

Women Leaders

Its been a couple days since we shared another blog… today is my turn again.

We are a day away from going on a new adventure… it’s the long holiday weekend (celebrating kicking out the Brits…. feels a little odd.. huray!! Free days!!) and Melody and I have decided to try out ‘going up north’. Camping…. bears.. do we say more?

We will faithfully report back IF we return..

Back to women leaders, the title… having travelled extensively over the last years, I have had the privilege of coming across many different leaders. Leaders who inspire, leaders who motivate you to do better, leaders who should not be leaders.. Being now stationed in the US a little longer, I have more opportunity to interact with the women leaders in our own team. Women I look up to, women inspiring me to do better, to be better… Kim, Liliana, Karen, Wendy (our awesome boss) to name just a few.. I guess this is a shout out for women..

So, Mel and I will join women leaders this weekend away… I certainly hope our tent will listen to us and the bears will be scared of us!! See you at the other side!!

USA vs UK

Here we are 3 weeks since we moved from the UK to the USA for a year. It was a big move, but one that I was ready to make! The first couple days were hard, adjusting to the time zone, the heat (more than 30 degrees every day), the humidity (50+%) and of course the food!

Moving in to the apartment was a nerve-wracking one for me, as all I had been told was that it was big, over looking the Mississippi river and that my bedroom is usually the dining area. However, stepping inside I instantly fell in love with my (not so) ‘little’ nook. The first week was pretty much spent buying things to make our apartment feel more like home, including pillows, bedding, some furniture and photo frames, plus getting a feel for the area. My highlight for the week was definitely the Joyful Noise family festival (which has been mentioned in our previous blogs and in the vlog, go check them out if you haven’t!!!). Worshipping with 18,000 people whilst listening to some of my favourite christian artists was an experience!!

However, it suddenly came time for dad to leave us and go back to his job and to the cats! Suddenly I was on my own, no taxi to drive me around. No one to pay for my food. No company, whilst mum is at work. It definitely had its benefits too though, I managed to make a nice dent into my masters project (message me or leave a comment if you want to hear more!) and was finally able to watch what I wanted to on the tv!!!

Now you must be wondering what the blog title means. Well, there have been things that I truly miss about the UK and things that I will definitely miss about the USA when I leave. These are the following:

  • Walking here in St. Paul, Minnesota is a lot nicer than where I leave in the UK. Its not every day that you can just take a walk or a cycle along the mighty Mississippi river and watch turkey vultures and bald eagles flying over your head, or watching herons wading in the water to catch their next meal.
  • It is definitely more expensive to live here than in the UK. The average that we spent on groceries in the UK was a lot less than here.
  • Chocolate here definitely does not taste the same! However, Reese’s peanut butter cups are amazing!!
  • HGTV is the best channel ever!
  • The cars and the roads are a LOT bigger! Making me feel even shorter than before! There are plenty of cars here that I would need a ladder to climb in to!
  • The shops are HUGE! I’m easily able to walk my target number of steps set out by my Garmin, whilst enjoying seeing what the country has to offer!
  • AIRCO! The best invention ever when it is close to 40 degrees celsius and 90% humidity!
  • The storms here are not taken lightly, whenever there is a thunderstorm forecasted, I straight away get a weather warning on my phone (damaging winds, large hail and tornados are all possible).
  • Trenta Cool Lime refreshers!!!!! The best thing when it is hot outside!!
  • What I can’t get my head around though is going into a store and seeing a sign saying ‘no guns allowed’. It still feels so foreign to me, and it will the whole time I’m here! Also going into any outdoor store and there along with camping stuff they also stock guns and crossbows along with fake deer and turkeys for practice! Or having displays of real stuffed animals that have been shot!
  • What the UK offers that I truly do miss though are my cats, my friends (its difficult to connect when you are 6+ hours behind them!) and church (we have yet to find one where we connect!). And I miss tea! Afternoon teas and just drinking a tea is so not normal here. When you order a tea you have to specify that it is a hot tea, otherwise you get cold, strong, unsweetened black tea!
  • And lastly I miss being able to talk and not pulling attention because of my accent. In the UK I have a pretty standard southern english accent as I was brought up in the area near Windsor. Here however, I just open my mouth and suddenly I have 20 people surrounding me wanting me to just keep talking so that they can hear more. It is pretty terrifying being the centre of attention like that!

I’m sure there are plenty more but for now this is my list! On to a new week of new experiences and adventures!