Ireland’s Fascinating National Museum

Did you watch any of the festivities celebrating the beginning of the 2012 Olympics in London? There are many, many things that the the U.K. and Ireland do extremely well! Their music, literature, and health care system were all well represented in the opening, but there’s another area where I believe they do a fabulous job: they have a marvelous system of national museums and art galleries that are free and open to public. Many of these places have wonderfulcafes with excellent food for very reasonable prices. For an example, we relished some eye-popping pastries at Ireland’s National Museum for tea time! 🙂 This museum spans 4,000 years of Irish history and is filled with fascinatingtreasures and information that explain much about this wonderful land. Irelandlost 1/4 of their entire population during the potato famine in the 1840’s and they are still feeling affected by the trauma today, even though they’re working hard to restore their national language and identity. Shortly after we left, Queen Elizabeth visited Dublin, the first royal visit in 100 years. Can you imagine?It made me stop and think about those deep, age-old conflicts in life. What arethe keys to unlocking the secret hurts from our past? Did you know that all of usare born spiritually dead? Sound crazy? Jesus tells us that we must be “born again” by coming to him. He is “the door” to freedom from all the pain of our past, forgiveness in the present, and a future bright with the hope of heaven.By dying on the cross, he paid the price for our sins & conquered sin and death!He saves all who trust in him and gives us the seal of the Holy Spirit to keep us.If you’ve never received Christ as your own Savior, won’t you take him today?

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

2 Corinthians 6:2

Touring Dublin…in a Day?!

Dublin, originally founded as a Viking settlement along the Liffey River, now boasts  a populataion of nearly 1.5 million in the metro area and is the biggest city and bustling heart of the Republic of Ireland. I’m sure Dublin deserves at least at week if you want to savor shopping on Grafton Street or tour all the siteslike Dublin Castle, but alas—we just had a day, so we did what we usually do inbig cities: we zipped into town first thing in the morning and hopped on a brightgreen Dublin tour bus! In 90 minutes, we got a birds’ eye view of all the most notable sites in the city with a colorful, running commentary. We whisked byPhoenix Park and saw the obelisk commemorating the first Duke of Wellington.We drove past the gigantic Guinness Factory and learned how they’d had to relocate the psychiatric hospital from under the brewery’s shadow, since the stench (to my nostrils) of yeast brewing made it nearly impossible for their alcoholic patients to recover! The tour guide told us tales of the heroic efforts ofDaniel O’Connell, a 19th-century nationalist leader, and of the union leader, “BigJim Larkin,” who championed the cause of unskilled workers in the early 20th century. After our orientation tour, we stopped at Trinity College, which is the oldest university in Ireland, founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I. We joined awalking tour led by a philosophy professor with a dry sense of humor and a unique demeanor that conjured up visions of Count Daracula. The tour began atthe Campenile Bell Tower at the center of the campus, past all the buildings andiconic sculptures, such as Arnaldo Pomodoro’s “Sphere within a Sphere,” & endedat the line to see the fabulous “Book of Kells,” a monumental rendition of the four gospels from the 800’s with exquisite scripting and glowing illuminations.By then, it was more than lunchtime. I’d read that the best fish’n’chips was at Leo Burdocks, but they were a take-out only, and we were just tired enough to want to sit down, so we went down the street and had a fabulous lunch at the Bull and Castle, complete with a complimentary side of mashed peas. Excellent!There are two especially famous and beautiful cathedrals in Dublin. We visitedChrist Church Cathedral first, a magnificent tribute to our Lord, founded in 1028AD and filled with wonderful mosaic floors, statues and other treasures (like thisgolden lectern), and adorned with richly ornamented stained glass windows thatportray the biblical stories for those who cannot read down throughout the ages.Christ Church also has the largest cathedral crypt (cave-like basement) to be found anywhere in Ireland or Britain. It’s very cool (literally) and worth visiting!The other wonderful cathedral is St. Patrick’s. It is said to have been built on thesite near the well where St. Patrick baptized converts as early as 450 AD, making it the oldest Christian site in Dublin. The present cathedral is massive and magnificent, filled with soaring stained glass windows above and elaborate floors inlaid with beautiful geometric designs. Best of all, the cathedrals are bothactively holding services where scriptures are read and God’s praises are sung.After a time of quiet reflection within the cathedrals, we enjoyed a pleasant strollthrough St. Stephen’s Green. Alan always says he feels closest to God in a bigcathedral, but for whatever reason, I feel closer to God just out in nature. I guessthe most important thing is to love God and be good neighbors wherever we are!

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Ireland’s Spectacular Powerscourt Gardens

Powerscourt Estate’s thousand acres of garden is considered one of the finest in all of Europe and is just 12 miles south of Dublin, so if you love gardens and get achance to visit Dublin, try to save half a day for a visit. The 18th century manorhouse was gutted with fire in 1974 and has never been fully restored, so we didn’ttake time to tour the home. The gardens were designed by the famous landscapearchitect, Daniel Robertson, who personally oversaw their layout between 1745-1767 (that’s over twenty years)! He had gout in his older age, and the story is toldthat he was pushed about in a wheel barrow to oversee his marvelous creation!As I write today, it’s a blistering 100° July day in Michigan, and my gardens arelanguishing in the drought-like conditions. If you’re also feeling wilted in your part of the world, I hope this refreshes you (and I’d love to hear where you liveand what your weather is like when you read this, because I’ve noticed that I getvisitors from every continent around the world (except Antarctica)! 🙂Although the Japanese Gardens filled with gorgeous azaleas and rhododendronswas one of my favorite areas, there were no end of fascinating specimen plantsand enticing, flower-strewn byways to explore. One of the most alluring paths ledthrough a moss-covered, petrified rock grotto overhung by ferns and glistening with sunlit water streaming down the walls. The ancient rockery adorned bylush foliage and stunning accent plants really made me feel like we’d come upon a fairyland for Irish elves and leprechauns…romance incarnate! I wished Alan might have been close enough to propose all over again, but sadly, he hadmeandered on ahead by himself (remember this tendency for future tales).The gardens are also interspersed with pools and decorated in statuary inspired by Greek & Italian art. One unique touch was a cemetery dedicated to all of the owners’ beloved, deceased pets! Hard to imagine, but to each his own! Another especially beautiful touch was all the wrought-iron gates embellishedwith designs in gold leaf. I couldn’t help but think of the gates around the garden of Eden…what did they look like? I’m guessing that this world, burned out like Powerscourt—although still beautiful—will someday be restored to its originalparidisal  glory, and when it is, I want to walk through the gardens with the Master Designer and hear all about how He did it!

“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.’ And he that sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And he said unto me, ‘Write: for these words are true and faithful.’ And he said unto me, ‘It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son’.”

Revelation 21:3-7

Boogie Boarding with my Beach Boys

It’s supposed to get up to 98° today and 100° by tomorrow, so just in case you’refeeling as hot as I am, I thought I’d cool you down with some pictures from ourtrip to the beach last weekend. Aaron and Carlie live in Connecticut, but theydecided to try a popular Atlantic coastal beach in Rhode Island. It was a perfectday for playing in the waves, and the beach was absolutely packed. In fact, Aarondropped us off and spent an extra half hour “commuting” each way  just to find a place to park. (Note to Michiganders: the water is cold and not so wavy on the Great Lakes, but for $10 you can get an annual state park pass and pretty much walk straight out onto a stretch of white, sandy beach.) However, just for a  minute I hope you share the joy of playing at the beach with us! Baby Giles was sound asleep when we arrived, so I took the first turn babysitting while Carlie and the rest of their gang played in the surf. When it was my turn to play, Itook along my underwater camera so you could feel the “cool” with us! 🙂People were surfing down the beach, and one advantage of RI over HI is that youdon’t get worn out swimming through pounding surf over your head to catch a wave. Instead, we waded out to waist-deep water and waited for just the perfect wave to come rolling in, ready to break right where we were standing! 🙂Here we go, hang on tight!When we catch a big wave just right, it carries us almost all the way in to shore!But every ride’s super fun! Carlie doesn’t like to use the boogie boards,  but let  me tell you, Grandma could have stayed in the surf boogieing all day long!!!By the end of the afternoon, even 2-year-old Reid was taking rides on Aaron’sback, shrieking with excitement. After a huge, sunburned day, we had to take a break for some ice cream treats before heading home. I even got special approvalto let each boy choose his own treat. (Grandmas are special that way.)And on the way home, everybody was as good as gold and best of friends!

“The LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth…the sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.” (Psalm 95:3-5)

Don’t Cha Love the Dairy Queen?

The weather has been so hot that one night Aaron decided to take us all for a walk to the Dairy Queen. They live in a lovely neighborhood close enough to thetown center for Reuben to ride his bike, Gideon to walk, Reid Solomon to enjoya stroller ride, and Baby Giles to ride all snugged up to Daddy. Their city is fullof wild horses this summer, and we caught sight of one. Lucky us! 🙂 Being one ofthose hazy, lazy, crazy summer evenings, the DQ was the place to be, so it took usa long time to get our treats, but they were definitely worth the wait! Aaron andCarlie are super healthy, super careful in their diets, so they had the kids sharerather than stuff themselves with big desserts (where half of them get dumped orend up dripping down the front of them anyway).  We all got enough, had fun, and even caught a few fire flies on our way home…a perfectly lovely outing!

“Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.”

(Psalm 51:8)

Working Hard at the Children’s Museum

Aaron & Carleen have a family pass to the “Stepping Stones” Children’s Museumin Norwalk, CT. I love children’s museums, and this is certainly a great one! It isfull of fascinating exhibits for the kids to watch, and there is always somethinghands on so the kids can interact and learn things about their world…Well, except for maybe the youngest babies!It’s hard to take in everything there is to see…but of course, we tried!Since Carlie’s father does construction, they had a special interest in dressing upin all the gear and trying their hand at building a house!Gideon is quite gentle and works well with Reid (most of the time).After finishing the first floor, they decided to tackle the upstairs.Reid took a break to consult with the contractor over several ambiguous details,and before you know it, they had a beautiful playhouse built…again!On to new challenges: suiting up in raincoats for water play. Unfortunately forGrandma and Baby Giles, this area was restricted to big little guys only, which makes a lot of sense because it is very wet and wild in this part of town!So, I invited Giles to spend a little time with me thinking lofty thoughts as well ascontemplating the more intimate details of existence and our personal realities.Just about the time we had all the world’s problems solved, the boys returned,ready to practice being computer software developers, like their dad…dentists, like their uncles Mike and Dan…and doctors like their grandpa (or, at least, ambulance drivers)!So many, many opportunities to explore and learn and grow!There seems to be no end of light at the end of the tunnel for a child.And, thankfully, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for all of us who will follow the light!

“Walk in the light.”

Ireland’s Highest Waterfalls: Powerscourt

Here it is “Travel Tuesday,” and I’ve spent the last seven hours in bed feeling sick, feverish and fluish. The next stop on our tour was really the gardens at Powerscourt, which are breath-taking, but given that I’ve been spending two weeks with my grand children in Connecticut, it may be another week before I have the time and energy to share that marvelous part of our adventure.Meanwhile, I’ll content myself with just a few pictures of this gorgeous falls on the Dargle River, which cascades nearly 400 feet down the side of this mountain. (Can you see Stephen on the rock in the foreground? Six feet looks short here!) Powerscourt Falls are frustratingly hard to find and are a bit of a drive from the estate and gardens, but it is definitely worth the search. The waterfalls are accessible until dusk, and so we stopped there last in order to maximize our time to visit in the gardens. It was also raining off and on, but the water was very fulland thundered down. It reminded me of God’s voice…hard to find but worth the search and overflowing with a river of life…mercy, help, and refreshment for everyone who will only search for Him with all his/her heart!“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy, and eat!…Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good…Incline your ear and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.”     (Isaiah 55:1-3)

Pictures of an Exhibition (in July)

So, how was your Fourth of July? We started with a trip across the George Washington Bridge in order to spend a big day at beach in Spring Lake, NJ. Thehighlight for Aaron, Reuben, and me was boogie boarding, although everybodypretty much got their fill of swimming and playing in the sand, which is almosta unique experience, but the four adults on four kids doubtless helped…a LOT!Michael and Grace are back in Hawaii, but while they were visiting, Aaron did sponsor an exhibition of fireworks for all of us. There were lots of explosions andsuch, but I really think the kids’ favorite thing to do was play with the sparklers!AaronMichaelReubenGideonCarlie with ReidEowynNycteris

“This little light of mine…I’m going to let it shine!”

Having a Hot Time in Grand Haven

   The weather has been sweltering in GR lately…into the upper 90°s at times.And so, in honor of Stephen’s  24th birthday, we decided to hit the beach! Grand Haven isn’t quite Hawaii, but it’s still marvelous in its own right. 🙂Stephen also thought it would be fun to bring Steve C. along with us, since these guys have been hanging out together for the past ?…well, over half their lives!First stop was to fuel up at Mr. Kozak’s. It’s not the only place we ever eat, but     they’ve got the best gyros plates, and their home-made fries are “to die of!”Walking the beach is a beloved tradition, but for some reason, Alan said we’d walk along ahead. I was about to complain, when I remembered that one of my best friends met her husband on a Lake Michigan beach…so…who was to know?          Hey, here are some cute kids! Of course, they’re Steve’s cousins…Grand Haven is a charming little resort town with a scenic boardwalk that ends in a pier and a lighthouse on the lake at the mouth of the Grand River. Alan and I have spent many years enjoying the beaches and boardwalks around Grand Haven both on our date nights and with our family. This particular evening Stephen and Joel were especially intent on evaluating the waves for their surfability and were happy to note that one guy was actually able to ride, although boogie boards, swimming, sailing, and power boating are much morecommon, and the throaty roar of cigar boats pierces the quiet now and then.Back at home, it was time for birthday cake and ice cream. Stephen is actuallymature enough to be uninhibited about requesting our old family favorite: a chocolate clown cake loaded with frosting. He didn’t share his wish with us, butI sure hope it comes true! I’ll tell you, enjoying the friendship and fellowship of  Stephen, Joel, and our family is certainly a dream come true for Alan and me!