Amsterdam Bike Town

Amsterdam – Bike Town

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Amsterdam.

I’ve returned from my first journey overseas. While technically my first stop was Frankfurt, Germany for my layover and also my first passport stamp, Amsterdam was the first city in which I got a view of more than than just a runway.

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The weather in the spring can be fickle, and it proved so on our journey. Amsterdam was a little more wet and cold than we had originally thought that it might be. It worked out well for my photo of the I amsterdam sign. I don’t know anyone in this photo, but it was the only occasion on my 2 1/2 days there that the sign wasn’t swarmed with tons of people. That is the Rijksmuseum in the background.

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In case you missed it, we did not take only carry-ons. However, that decision was made 45 minutes before we got in the car to drive to D.C. and included dashing to the store to buy two medium suitcases and rapidly moving our clothing from two of the carry-ons…which meant I did not actually get to take more clothes, only that my camera traveled in its padded case. Priorities… ūüėČ

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The view of the Earth from the sky was beautiful. We watched the sun set and rise again, over the ocean. After we landed at the airport and collected our luggage, we decided to take the train and then tram toward our hotel. Amsterdam has a good public transport system. We purchased a 3 day travel ticket.  This was good for trains, trams, ferries, metros, and buses operated by GVB. I will note that this is 3 physical days, not 72 hours. We were there for 2 1/2 days and did try to see if it was valid to take the tram to the train station our final day, at less than 72 hours. It was not.

IMG_0743.jpgWe stayed at the Hotel City Garden, which is located on P.C. Hoofstraat. Finding accommodations for a family of five is never easy. Add to that fact that we were traveling during prime tulip and spring bloom season, wanted a hotel that made the city walkable, and did not want to stumble into the red light district (which we did anyway…but that is a future post) and this hotel worked well for us.

We had the room listed as Souterrain family 5 person. ¬†It has 5 single beds, although 2 are pushed together, so if it’s a friend group going, you should make sure you don’t mind feeling like you’re in a king bed together. Our room was located in the basement, with a window opening into an enclosed garden. Since it didn’t appear that there was air conditioning, the window came in handy.

Right at the end of these buildings is an entrance to Vondelpark, which is a beautiful 120 acre park that we spent a lot of time strolling through.

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I will tell you that this was the location where we most encountered the scent of marijuana, so if you are hoping to avoid that smell, this probably wouldn’t be a lovely stroll for you.

But then again, Amsterdam may not be for you if you think you will avoid the smell. We smelled it here… we smelled it near the I amsterdam sign…. we smelled it down at the fun fair in Dam Square… and probably tons of other places.

Personally, I think it smells better than cigarette smoke, the scent of which seems to be more prevalent in Europe than it does in the parts of the U.S. that I frequent.

And yes, Amsterdam is known for it’s legality of pot and prostitution. But I went there for its tulips, its architecture, its canals, and its friendly reputation.

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On the train from Schipol Airport to Zuid station, we were trying to make sure that we were going to get off at the right stop and this lovely girl informed us that this was the correct stop. ¬†When we got off the train, we were looking at the map that came with our ticket. The girl had walked toward her destination, and she turned around and came back to us and told us how to get to the tram station. It was a welcome experience upon my first interaction with a foreign country. We made it to the tram and were trying to figure out how far until the stop listed on the directions to our hotel. A gentleman offered to look it up on his google maps (and yes, I had this app downloaded, but was so overwhelmed that I hadn’t thought to use it yet. It would prove to be a lifesaver throughout Paris and extremely helpful in Amsterdam).

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Another thing that Amsterdam is well known for is…

Its bikes.

And there were bikes everywhere.  They have their own lane and lights.

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I took the photo above while on the canal cruise. ¬†It had just stopped raining so there were still raindrops on the windows. ¬†That’s an entire parking garage of bikes!

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The kids really wanted to rent bikes and go for a ride, but the weather was mostly drizzly and our time there brief.

What I found most surprising was how many children just rode behind a parent on the little metal piece over the back fender. I don’t tend to take pictures of strangers unless they happen to be in my shot so I don’t have any examples of how it appeared. One child was toddler age and the mother rode along with her arm behind as a back rest holding the child in place.

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Quite often there are baskets attached so they can carry the groceries or other purchases.

I have read that bikers get irritated if you are in their way. I don’t know if this is sometimes true, but there were accidental moments of stepping onto the bike path because it seems like a sidewalk. They would ring their bell as they approached and you would realize your mistake and move. Never once did I see anyone angry about anything.

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While most bikes are purely functional, there were quite a few that put time into making their mode of transportation unique.

I did not even capture a fraction of the amazing bikes or multitude of bikes around the city.

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Another sight that seemed so romantic were the girls who were probably in their early 20’s riding sidesaddle behind what I assume was their significant other. ¬†They were just sitting on the metal plates over the back fender. I wondered how in the world they could stay up there, but given the fact that they had probably been on a bike since infancy, it was probably deeply ingrained into their being.

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Amsterdam definitely stole a piece of my heart.

I’m only just beginning to process through my pictures and have so many more to share.

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I hope that you’ll check back as I share more about my excursions in Amsterdam and then over to Paris!

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr "A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions"

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

 

 

 

Reflecting on a Door

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I love old buildings.

Some buildings, I’m sure, were admired from the moment they were built. ¬†Others, perhaps not until well after their builders and original occupants had long since moved on.

And not every building is admired by every person.

The same thing could be said about humans.

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He has made everything beautiful in its time. – Ecclesiastes 3:11

This building is in downtown Roanoke, Virginia.

I have admired this building since first moving here in 2013. Perhaps it is because of the symmetry… the double arches over the windows, the black rectangular word boxes drawing the eyes upward, the green window frames along the alley side popping off of the brickwork.

It wouldn’t be until later that I would realize this building now houses Walkabout Outfitter, a store that I mentioned in this Friday Faves post.

But another reason that I came to love this building is because of a surprise door in the alleyway.

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Every exit is an entrance to somewhere else. -Rebecca Puig

This door.

This door would open up a whole new world for me.

Why?

Because about three months into my blogging journey I would stumble upon Thursday Doors. Hosted by Norm 2.0, it’s a place where door lovers come together to share wonderful doors from around the world. Now I wouldn’t have considered myself a door lover. I was working on my photography skills and had found various photo challenges hosted by other bloggers and also one hosted by WordPress. ¬†I found Thursday Doors intriguing because it forced me to look at details that I usually miss in the rush of everyday life. I was practicing living in the present and what better way than taking the time to notice one of the most important features of a building: the way inside. The welcoming point (or perhaps, as can be the case of an alley entry, a place only known to the inhabitants).

This door would become my first post published and shared on Thursday Doors. A chance encounter. ¬†We had spent the day downtown. ¬†I was looking for the door that I might want to showcase, but none had caught my eye. ¬†We were heading back to the parking garage when this door caught my eye. ¬†I snapped a few shots, did what little editing I knew how to do (if I weren’t leaving town so soon, I might have tried my hand at finding the original and re-editing), and shared the post here.

This week I was thinking about Thursday Doors because I will soon be heading off to Europe (Amsterdam and Paris) for the first time ever and I am sure to encounter amazing architecture and beautiful doors. So I looked at my first door post. ¬†Imagine my surprise to see that it was published one year ago, tomorrow. So much of the blogging community that I interact with has been met through Thursday Doors. I am not as active there this year because I had no archives and my recent journeys have not afforded me time to stop at many doors. Even still, when I do not have a post to offer, I stop by and visit many people’s door posts each Thursday.

That journey that began with that first door has changed the way that I view my every day world. I still notice doors as I pass. I wonder about the occupants. I marvel at the intricacies. I am present. I am living in that moment breath by breath.

I hope that you have the time to read the original post¬†(it’s a very short read),¬†but I will offer the part that left me in awe as I re-read the words that a penned one year ago.

I have not yet left this country so I have not been able to gaze upon some of the stunning overseas architecture that I have seen in pictures. I hope to someday walk among some of those streets, standing in awe, and creating my own moment in history. -Amy Lyon Smith

Tomorrow, exactly one year after I published those words, I will board a plane and leave United States soil for the first time.  I will walk the canal-filled streets of Amsterdam. I will admire the tulips and walk among history. I will travel to Paris and walk along the Seine. I will see sites that I have only witnessed on TV or in the pages of a magazine.

I will marvel at the works done at the hands of people who are long gone and in some cases long forgotten.

But that brick that they lay or that cobblestone that they placed is there… a reminder that they existed.

A small change they made in the world by showing up and doing what they were meant to do.

How will you show up today? What difference will you make in the world? Every choice has a ripple effect. Even if you don’t think that you are making a difference… You Are.

I hope that you have a lovely day. I will be pretty scarce on the blogosphere over my vacation. I’m hoping to schedule some posts, which I have never done (that’s right, you usually get it fresh from the presses), so we’ll see if that works. I do plan to update Instagram and hopefully post some things to my story (if you haven’t used these, just click on my IG profile pic if there’s a colored circle around it… that means that I have a story to be seen).

I hope that you have an amazing day filled with sunshine and smiles!

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Let your light shine!

Amy

18 Years Later... And Still Doing Life Together

18 Years Later…And Still Doing Life Together

I’m still running around like crazy trying to plan for our first overseas trip.

BUT…

I wanted to pause for a moment.

To pause and acknowledge the man who has stood faithfully by my side for the past 18 years of marriage. To be thankful that he is with me on the journey of raising teenagers.

To stop and smile because he still has my heart.

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Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. -Ruth 1:16

When we stood before our pastor, our friends, our family, and our God and declared our vows 18 years ago, we had no idea what was in store for our future.

We didn’t know that we would have three children. Or that there would be two boys and one girl.

We didn’t know that we would move from our first home in Naples,Florida. First to a new city in the center of the state, and then to another city on the opposite coast. Or that we would¬†then cross many state lines and settle down for this season of life in Roanoke, Virginia.

We didn’t know that we would experience heartaches, sicknesses, and deaths.

We didn’t know there would be moments that would test our commitment to each other when life became hard. Those moments when it would be easier to walk away. Those moments when you don’t agree on how life should be done.

But it’s there in those vows.

…for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.

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Marriage is a commitment.

Each person growing and changing.

It takes a choice. Both people have to make that same choice. The choice to stand firm in the words that you spoke.

To find harmony in the ebbs and flows of life.

To love greatly and deeply.

My husband has stood faithfully by my side through my edges of depression, through my moments of anxiety.

He has been my encourager when self-doubt begins to creep in and I begin to tell myself that I am not enough.

He reads my words. He looks at my photos. He believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself.

He helps me feel a sense of security¬†when he wraps his arms around me or when he calls me “sweet love”.

He knows me. He sees me. And he chooses to love me.

This is not to say that he is perfect, but this is the place where I share who I am, not everything about those who choose to be a part of my life.

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He puts his family at the head of the line. ¬†I don’t know if our children see that now. ¬†Teenagers are fickle beasts. But someday they will know how deeply he loved them and how he has made sacrifices to give them all of the opportunities within his ability to offer.

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He has been my partner, my helpmate, my lover, and my friend.

I can’t imagine doing life with anyone else.

So I close this moment of pausing in gratitude for the man who brings spontaneity, laughter, and joy into my life, by sharing this song:

Happy 18th Anniversary to the man who makes me smile at least once a day.

I hope that you all find some smiles in your day!  Offer some of your smiles to those you pass.  You never know what kind of difference you may make.

We all are a little weird. And life is weird. And when we find someone with weirdness whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutual satisfying weirdness - and call it love - true love. Robert Fulghum quote

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

 

Spring is here: Virginia

Spring is Here : Virginia

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No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow – Proverb

Thank goodness!

I’ve been waiting patiently for some green to begin sprouting.

And finally… Southwest Virginia has obliged.

 

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Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. – Laura Ingalls Wilder

There are vibrant greens reminding me that spring is a time of new growth.

This spring I am growing…. branching out in new ways…starting with my first overseas trip in a week and a half. Amsterdam and Paris are that much closer to having my all of my senses take in their beauty.

 

 

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In winter, I plot and plan.  In spring, I move. -Henry Rollins

Like the brand new shoots on a tree, I am determined to press through into new growth and emerge as an evolved creation.

One who doesn’t let fear create stagnation.

Who are you and what do you know of the world if you stay in your little box?

I understand that this is fine for some.  In fact, this is joy for some.

For me, I want to experience the world. To see things that I have only imagined. And this requires pressing outside of my comfort zone.

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To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Just as my yard retains the remnants of fall and winter, I too retain what those seasons have taught me.

Fall has taught me the wonder of letting old things go.  It taught me that change can bring about the most beauty.

Winter has taught me to be grateful.  Grateful for the warmth of a fireplace and cozy blankets. Grateful for the blanket of snow that covers all the ugly and makes it beautiful.

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No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. -Hal Borland

And now Spring.

With its tiny buds shooting forth here and there.  The vibrant pink that will give way to the green leaves that will emerge on this tree.

I will continue to grow.

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Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own. – Charles Dickens

The blossoms on the crabapple tree in my front yard. ¬†It’s weeping willow style branches ¬†reminding me of an aging grandmother . ¬†Standing there despite its decay, producing beautiful blossoms. ¬†Soon little apples will follow and the deer will come to feed. ¬†A circle produced before my time in this home. ¬†This tree who keeps offering what it can.

I want to be like this tree.  Changing the world in the most imperceptible ways just because I have done what I can to make a difference.

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The beautiful spring came; And when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also. -Harriet Ann Jacobs

I stood below this dense canopy of blooms, reminded that we are all a part of the whole.

Our choices have a ripple effect.

What do you choose?

Do you choose kindness? Generosity? Compassion?

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Where flowers bloom, so does hope. – Lady Bird Johnson

Each individual CAN make a difference.

Even if it is a smile you offer. Even if it is a helping hand. Even if it is a kind word.

You can make a difference.

You can make the world a little better.

What are you going to do to change the world?

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

Rumi quote "Don't you know yet? It is your light that lights the world.

Atop the World

How’s the view from atop the world?

How’s the view when everything is going your way?

A smile on your face?

A kind word on your lips?

A light shining for all to see?

How’s the view when you’re all alone?

How’s the view when life is caving in?

Do you still radiate the light of a thousand suns?

-Amy Lyon Smith

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It’s springtime!

A time for new beginnings.  A time for new growth.

A time for being finished with being sick (I’m crossing my fingers for that one. ¬†I’m finally on the mend.)

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The loop road on the Blue Ridge Parkway that leads to Roanoke Mountain has finally opened again and daylight savings means later sunsets. ¬†I haven’t been up there yet, but I’m hoping to get back up there sometime in the next week so I can capture some more sunsets like the two above.

The first photo is from my hike to Dragon’s Tooth . If you missed¬†that post, you can check it out here.

I’ve realized that springtime will be extremely busy for me. Soccer…Vacations…Prom… Parenting teenagers in general. ¬†More than anything I need to be fully present during this time in their lives. My first and foremost job is mothering my children through this rocky, crazy, all-consuming phase of teenage years.

As such, I will probably be scaling back from posting ¬†3-4 days per week to 2 days a week, over the course of the spring. ¬†I want to leave enough space to still have time to communicate with all the wonderful people I’ve met through Blogging, Instagramming and other social media outlets.

If you aren’t already following me on Instagram, you can find me here. ¬†I usually post a photo a day over there. ūüôā

Looking forward to sharing my crazy, jam-packed spring with all of you.

And catching and spreading a little sunshine along the way.

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

Jessica Kirkland quote about daughters on a Naples Florida sunset background

Thoughts on International Women’s Day

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I’m gonna be honest.

When I woke up, I did not know that today was International Women’s Day (even though I wrote about it here last year). I have a hard time keeping track of more than Christmas and birthdays (this is a slight exaggeration…but just slightly).

Every morning I wake up to the sounds of birds singing. No, really! It’s just that they come from my phone. I use the bedtime setting on the iPhone 7plus and one of the choices is birdsong. Although, sometimes there are also real birds singing. One weekend, I wondered why I had set an alarm and realized that it truly was the birds outside singing me awake.

I digress.

I usually take a quick scan to see what came through on my Instagram overnight, before rolling out of bed to make some coffee. One of my lovely Instagram friends, Cate, who lives in beautiful Italy, had tagged me in a post wishing a Happy Women’s Day.

You can read all about how the day came to be,¬†here. I was surprised to learn that the day had been around since the early 1900’s.

I have watched the movie, The Suffragettes, which I think was eye opening for me. And while it specifically refers to those women in the U.K., the same call for rights was taking place in the United States. You can see that on¬†this timeline¬†that I found on the National Women’s History Museum website.

By the time I was born in late 70’s in the United States there were many rights which had been fought for and won. And I, being on the receiving end of those benefits, took the hard work done by those before me for granted.

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Most of my college was covered through an academic scholarship and financial aid. But one scholarship, which I used for books, was through a Women’s Club. I knew I was eligible because I was a female and why it was important to promote females pursuing an education. I was 16 and naive about the world. I didn’t understand the depth of its purpose.

The other side of selfie with the girlie. #carolinabeachboardwalk #carolinabeach #beachlife #selfie ūüď∑:my hubby

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At that time, I did not have aspirations to change the world.

My biggest prayer was to become a mother.

And I became one. To three different loves of my life.

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The last one, my only daughter.

And I began to think about her future and what her life should be able to look like.

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That she should be free to choose to become whoever and whatever her heart desires.

To dream big dreams.  To set her sights on the stars. To achieve her goals.

That there should be no limitations to what she can achieve solely because she is a female.

I want her to be more than I ever imagined that I could be. ¬†I think that is the wish on any mother’s heart… for any child they have… male or female.

I pondered my dreams for her in this post.

And then I wrote a love letter¬†¬†for her 13th birthday, pouring out my heart’s wishes¬†for her to always stay true to herself.

No matter who the world says she should be.

Because it will try!

I love that she has dreams that I never dreamed.

She has been a soccer player since she was 7. ¬†You might remember from this post¬†that this year was going to be a big change due to a decision on age brackets by U.S. Youth Soccer. I won’t address my thoughts on it all, but will just say that having major upheaval and complete change to your known and comfortable existence…. is not the best thing for a 13 year old female.

Or any 13 year old for that matter!

Our oldest son was 13 when we moved here and it took him a while to find his “tribe” and enjoy living here.

Last year the girlie was a manager for the middle school soccer team and this year is eligible to play.  So this spring, on top of her travel team, she will play for the middle school.

And I will be the willing chauffeur, because as it says in the photo above… I love watching her do what she loves.

In my Friday Faves, I shared how she wants to become an Engineer. I realize she is young and that may change, but I am grateful that she was born into a time and place where that dream is possible.

So today, I am grateful to all of those who have fought, and continue to fight, for a woman to be seen as an equal.

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

Please note: Since the fact that Women’s Rights unfortunately deal with politics, instead of just being a natural part of life, I realize some people may want to make political statements. ¬†I prefer love, light, and kindness. I don’t discuss politics on here and any negative, name-calling, or hateful comments will be removed.

 

 

This Road We Travel

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Thanks so much for all the love on Monday’s post.

We’re preparing for a storm here. ¬†They’ve released the schools 2 hours early to get home before the high winds start. ¬†I’ve secured the yard the best I can. ¬†As a Florida girl, I’m pretty good at preparing for high winds ūüôā ¬†I’ve been through plenty of tropical storms and hurricanes. ¬†Although after my experience during Wilma, wind and trees do get me a little concerned.

Yesterday, I traveled to visit my mother-in-law in the Lynchburg area. Weather permitting (and usually during daylight hours because of the amount of deer) I take the Blue Ridge Parkway for a portion of the drive.

I pulled off at some overlooks, just to see if there were any amazing things to capture. ¬†It wasn’t the best time of day for lighting so I was not very inspired.

I heard my phone going off and pulled into the next overlook to check it. Only a handful of people text me so I needed to see if it was urgent since once I left the Parkway, I would rather not stop.

It was from my son.  A snapshot of some artwork that he had created.  It made my heart so happy because he has this talent that I could only wish to possess.  He prefers to keep his works mostly private for now.

It reminded me of what I had been pondering. ¬†What we teach our children to chase. I think it’s fine and great for your child to want to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer,¬†or international businessperson. I have children¬†with some of¬†those ambitions at this moment in time.

But it’s also fine for your child to have other passions. Passions that may not lead to fortune or fame. Passions that are still a life lived full. It’s also okay if your child has no clue what they want to do for a living. ¬†Lord knows that I didn’t! Sometimes I worry that they are expected to have their entire life mapped out by the time they are entering high school. That there’s this pressure to follow a prescribed pattern for life, whether or not it makes you happy.

I get a devotional email from Proverbs 31 daily. ¬†Today’s resonated with everything that I’ve said and thought. ¬†If you want to see it, you can read it here.

The key verse hitting on the feelings that have been tumbling around for days.

You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you.  Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure. -Psalm 39:5

 

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Sometimes I want to say to all three of my children…

Yes… Spend a year living in van, hanging out at the beach, living off your savings or side jobs.

Yes… Take a year to backpack around Europe.

Yes…Expand your horizons. ¬†Meet new people. Find Yourself.

Yes…Travel the road less taken.

Yes…Find the one that fills your life with meaning.

Yes…Go. Live. Adventure.

To live is the rarest thing in the world.  Most people exist, that is all. -Oscar Wilde

I find many moments of peace as I travel along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

It’s like life.

Often, you don’t know what is around the distant bend, but you travel along anyway, trusting that you will reach your destination.

This capture was from our hike to Dragon’s Tooth.¬†I liked¬†that there were two ways around the obstacle in our path. ¬†Neither of them were the right way or the wrong way. ¬†Either way we ended up at our destination.

Raising children is not a simple matter. There is no instruction manual. ¬†No prescribed way to successful parenting (okay, there are some claims, which usually make those of us who don’t achieve it, feel like crap).

We fumble along, get some things wrong, get some things right, and trust that in the end they will find a way of compassion, kindness, and joy.

Pay attention to the things you are naturally drawn to. They are often connected to your path, passion, and purpose in life.  Have the courage to follow them. -Ruben Chavez

 

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Let your light shine!

Amy