This blog is going to get a little personal, just a disclaimer, warning, or even an invitation. It will also be long, covering my surprise gift from Bart… a cruise!
In Ephesians 3:14 and on, Paul writes some pretty passionate words about his desire for the church in Ephesus. He says that he hopes they can be strengthened by the power of God’s Holy Spirit at work within them. Then he closes his letter by saying “now to the God who is capable of doing immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout generations forever and ever amen.”
Our purpose, in all of our messiness, is to bring glory to this extraordinary God who works in us. A God whose desire is to love, to reach people with His purpose…not to check them off of the “church attender, saved, good deeds” list, but because He is a God who longs for His children. He wants everyone to come to know the radical, life changing hope of Jesus Christ. Hold on to this for a second, and let me catch you up.
The last blog I wrote was on faith and righteousness…and the day I wrote it everything crazy started happening….because crazy has never been a part of our lives before right?
That was the morning of the 4th, and we were supposed to drop our kids off at a friend’s house that afternoon for our surprise getaway. Bart plans something each year, because I love surprises, and because my birthday, Christmas and our anniversary are within weeks of each other. I knew that we would be away from the kids for 5 nights, and that Bart would tell me what I needed to pack.
The night of the 2nd I dumped boiling water on 3 of my fingers leaving 2nd degree burns. I have never screamed that loud aside from child labor. It was definitely not bad enough for the hospital, and we didn’t have any aloe on hand. I tried everything from a slice of potato, tea bags, ice water, and what helped the most for pain relief…white vinegar! I was so surprised by that. Who knew?! Obviously some awesome lady on the internet…
The morning of the fourth we were getting all dressed and ready to head to the playground nearby. I opened the door to our apartment and the kids stepped out into the hall. As usual, I stepped back inside to get my keys from the closet by our door. Bart was heading out the door when I hear a very distinct, loud scream and crying from Hosanna. They like to chase each other down the hall by our door….you know…the concrete hall with the concrete and tile flooring. At some point Lucas attempted to assist his sister in running, at which point she lost balance, flew forward, and bashed her head into the concrete wall. I sprint waddled down the hall, losing all of my grace with Lucas, exclaiming “GET in your room” With the mom voice. I scooped Hosanna off the floor; she had her back to me. At which point I turn around and Bart says “Andi! She’s bleeding! A lot!” Hosanna had split her head, an inch long and ½ inch open. It was deep, and I could tell that from the first look. We ran her in the house and I put her in Bart’s arms. These are the moments when I thank God that Bart has so much emergency medical experience. Also, there was no way I could put her head by the sink to rinse off some of the blood with this HUGE belly. We have this awesome coffee table in our living room that is super sturdy and we used that as our work space. I laid out a towel and Bart laid her down. We prayed immediately and checked all of the basic signs for concussion, and she was fine. We immediately felt frustration to the fact that Bart’s suture kit had somehow gotten left behind. I hunted for butterfly band aids while he cleaned the cut. Hosanna had stopped crying and seemed more fascinated by what daddy was doing. We used make shift butterfly band aids, and I stayed with her while Bart ran to the pharmacy (He’s getting kind of popular there) to get real butterfly band aids, gauze and whatever that stretchy white stuff that you wrap around someone’s head is called. Obviously, Hosanna’s bleeding had stopped almost entirely. She stayed horizontal the whole time, and I turned on Tinker Bell for her to watch. When he returned, Bart made an awesome job of pulling the cut together, keeping pressure on it, and wrapped her head the equivalent of a General Hospital star with a concussion! Hosanna didn’t cry until we mentioned that we might have to cut her hair to get the bandage to stick. She took her nap on the table, and I made sure I rechecked the concussion signs when she woke up. Every emotional faculty I have as a mom was on high alert. Don’t get me wrong, I never once panicked, but when you see your child covered in blood it makes you very aware of how much of a “vapor” we actually are. We called the friend who was going to watch the kids and explain the scenario. We explained that, although we had the situation under control, if she felt in the slightest bit uncomfortable, we would keep Hosanna home for the night to make sure she was healing well. Our friend is a mom of 3 amazing and rambunctious kids, and has the experience of cleaning and changing stuff like this and assured us that she would be fine. Hosanna literally acted as though nothing had happened, and when Bart checked the bandaging later he discovered that it was already beginning to pull back together. We praised Jesus. Our friend came to pick up the kiddos, and Bart and I breathed a nervous sigh of relief.
Now to get back to what I said earlier, about that awesome God who WANTS to blow our minds with love. He wants to give us more than we can ask or imagine! Bart and I left the morning of the 5th, and took a train. I had no idea where we were going or what the plans were. I saw the sign for Marseilles and inwardly smiled. We had come here with Bart’s parents. Maybe we were staying a few nights here and going to explore. Then we took the metro to the bus, and the bus to the middle of nowhere. The bus was awfully full, and I couldn’t figure out where we were going, aside from the fact that it was near the docks. We followed a herd of people and were super excited to see a 1967 red convertible mustang. I love old cars. It was so out of place and so very personal. Up to this point everything was going completely right and in truth I kept expecting something bad to happen. I didn’t want to get my hopes to high because I knew that, well, let’s face it, I’m not that great of a wife, and I am already having an inkling of guilt. What would our supporters think? Would they criticize us for taking this time? We kept walking, getting closer and closer to the boats. Hmmm…maybe Bart was taking me on a boat tour of Marseilles and we would stay on one of the islands nearby. Then I started to notice all of the people we were walking with going in different fence entrances for these HUGE cruise ships. I stopped. I was completely stunned. “Bart, be honest with me” Bart’s face grew worried…. “Are we going to take a cruise?” His face exploded in a smile. “Mmmhmmm”.
Immediately tears began running down my face.
Once we were on the boat we hunted for our room, and upon walking in to ours Bart stopped. I understood, everything was absolutely beautiful! We had a balcony view of the Mediterranean Sea, and the room was gorgeous. “I hope this is right, because this isn’t what I paid for at all! I paid for the least expensive room, and then checked the little box that let us upgrade for free if possible”. We checked the information in the room, and it was ours! It began to sink in that maybe God was just as happy about this time as we were. He seemed to be blessing us at every turn. I sat down and let it sink in. Again, tears ran down my face. This was completely incomprehensible. Soon my soft cry became a pretty big bawl. Bart came and snuggled next to me and I began to say thank you, probably 100x. You see….I was convinced that I was pretty worthless. I think we all hear that message from the world we are in, but mine might have come in a little louder through the megaphone of some really horrible relationships; some pretty messed up people, and even some family. I have forgiven and moved on, but there is no time frame on trust. I never, in a million years imagined myself married to a man who could love me so completely. How could God bring this guy, who prays for and with me, helps me in the house, adores our kids, and accepts God’s call whole heartedly into my life? Our cruise was a huge stepping stone of belief in God’s unimaginable love for me. While on the cruise we ate like kings. The first night I had a famous French soup “Bouillabaisse” and a salad. Like all things French, it came with bread. We had endless drinks on the cruise, and every meal was bottomless, it was all paid for. My husband is awesome at bargain shopping. It was completely unreal to me. Amusingly, the cruise was advertised as Franglophone, meaning French speaking. Yet because of the destinations of the cruise we were surrounded by Italians. It was sooo funny and entirely countercultural for French.
Our first stop was Savona, Italy. Each night a little paper was delivered to our door that had the excursions for the stops, and we chose to go see the 2nd largest Aquarium in Europe. I love all things water, including seeing dolphins, and beautiful fish. It was very cool! After the aquarium we went on a boat cruise around the cape and saw some extraordinary views. We came back, and stumbled into a couple we had met upon arrival of the ship. They were older than us, but had been married about 8 years. He had surprised his wife just like Bart had surprised me! They also were native French speakers, so we made arrangements and ate with them for the next two nights! We also went to the cruise spectacle, which was a musical display of gymnastics, incredible voices, and an amazing performance. I knew almost every song by heart, and they even did a tribute to Whitney Houston. The next day we went to Barcelona, Spain and we were able to see Gaudi’s amazing artwork. We took a bus tour and had a small time to do some souvenir buying. We came back to the boat, and spent time at the pool, which was a salt water pool…where I very quickly learned that salt water is an amazing (ly painful) cleaning agent for open blisters. We had incredible weather the entire cruise.
Our last day, in honesty, stands out above the rest. The day we left the cruise, we took the metro and the bus again. Again, the bus took us to a beautiful place, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. We got off the bus and looked off of the bridge we were standing on and saw such a breath taking view. The Mediterranean Sea was under us. I turned and looked at the beautiful sights, and noticed a pretty blue and white building that didn’t really fit in to it’s surroundings. “That’s a peculiar looking building! It’s blue and white and just kind of juts out from the rocks.” Bart turned “You’re right! Let’s go check it out!” So as we came upon the building Bart led the way up the stairs, turned and smiled that glorious love filled smile. “This is our hotel, Andi, let’s go check in.” Once in our room Bart had to disappear (More plotting). My first discovery was that we had a balcony that overlooked the Mediterranean Sea, and also that the room looked like it was decorated for a princess. Not at all in a tacky way, but it was very soft colored, with beautiful linens and a round curtain that came out from the balcony window. I was completely speechless. Bart didn’t even know he would receive the balcony when he requested an ocean view. When Bart arrived he led me to the bathroom. It was the first bathtub I had seen since we took my mom to Paris. It was HUGE! We quickly changed into our swim suits and went exploring. I was able to swim in the Mediterranean Sea, the same sea that Paul sailed in during his journeys, and was even shipwrecked in. It was beautiful, as was the beach. We ate at a little beach stand that night and the next day we took a bus tour all around Marseilles. We ate our breakfast on the balcony. We didn’t take another trip to Chateau d’if, but we had an amazing last day of adventure. Even now, looking back, it feels like a dream. This….this love, this trip, was truly beyond my ability to imagine. The dedication of my husband during the whole time, his patience when I broke down, or when I was too tired to move from all of our walking, was a powerful symbol of the way Christ loves the church, and laid down His life for it.
The night we got our kiddos back Lucas woke up with the flu, and since then we have been finishing even more vaccinations, Bart has been tested for his allergies, with no real answers. He was able to get the needed vaccine while closely monitored. We have been avidly using a program called Conversation Exchange, which allows us to schedule rendezvous’ with French people who want to speak English. This has helped me tremendously, and most of the time the people want to continue meeting week after week.
I am now 31 weeks pregnant and Bart is preparing for his trip. Lucas is on his break from school, and the cold weather has officially blown in! The wind is back! Today it was in the high 40’s, and I was pretty cold!! I think Indiana might be a little rough on us. Speaking of which! Please pray for all of the travels necessary before we leave the country, and also for our teammates as they will be departing for the US in November and we will miss them tremendously!!
Thanks for reading my insanely long blog post friends!