“When you grow up, we’ll visit the Louvre in Paris and see the most beautiful paintings in the world!” Growing up, I heard my mom’s dream many times, she talked of taking me to Europe since I was a little girl, but something always seemed to push those dreams to the back burner. My dad was the adventurer in the family, taking us on cross-country trips to see the Grand Canyon, Mount St. Helens (before and after its eruption), Niagara Falls, and sights along historic Route 66. He loved the west and all things historical about our country.
And even though my mom enjoyed these family vacations, she always longed to see Europe.
When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, mom’s dreams of a trip across the Atlantic began to fade. Vacations and travel were far from her mind as care-giving for my dad grew to a full-time labor of love. Toward the end, mom’s sorrow over the loss of a dream spilled out occasionally. She let go of the hope that she and my dad would ever visit the places she’d asked for, as she began to realize she was facing her future without him.
Dreams Unfulfilled ~
After my dad passed, Mom started to dream again. She pulled out the “European Travel” books and studied the possibilities. She threw out suggestions of who else might be able to go on her dream adventure, unsure that she and I could safely navigate it by ourselves. And then the world grew an even less safe place, with the rise of terrorist groups, airport bombings, and scary threats she’d never encountered.
With the ominous news reports of a world unraveling, once again, my mom let go of her plans and resigned herself to the fact that she’d probably never see her dreams fulfilled. She closed up her hopes and sealed them in a drawer with the fading books that held pictures of far-away lands and art museums.
My Mom, the Artist
From my earliest memories, my mom has been an artist, she’s drawn, doodled, sketched, designed and created beautiful clothes (for family), but mostly she’s painted. Her favorite artist is Mary Cassatt and she loves impressionist art. She has an art degree, and studied with a local artist, but she’s used her love of art as an enjoyable outlet, not a vocation.
Her vocation has always been: Loving Mom and Wife. She’s been the typical “June Cleaver” mom who keeps her home spotless, has cooked countless meals, and washed an eternity’s worth of laundry. Without warning, you could step into her home, any day of the week, and it would be as lovely as if she’d planned to host the “Lady’s Garden Club Luncheon.”
Katie Sets Things In Motion
Mom’s dreams of seeing the Louvre died about a year before my niece, Katie, found out she was chosen for a program to study abroad in Liverpool. Katie is an artist as well, and if you follow my blog, you’ve probably heard of her travels and seen some of her art work and pics. Mom was thrilled for Katie, and at first, even though Katie was setting off for the land Mom had always longed to see, her dream stayed sealed up in that drawer with the fading tourism books.
But something started stirring as we visited at the send-off party for Katie at Mom’s house. Katie’s sister and a family friend (my travel buddy, actually) were working on a plan to visit Katie and do some touring of the country together. Mom joined in the conversation, but still wasn’t considering the thought that she might go, she wasn’t about to get her hopes up again. She wanted to go so badly, but kept voicing things like, “I’m probably too old . . . I missed my chance . . . it’s so dangerous right now . . .”
A few weeks after Katie arrived in Liverpool, her sister, Courtney, and my friend, Jeanne, made their travel plans and booked their flights for a visit. Mom’s dream was still sealed shut tight in that drawer, but I knew she would love to be joining them. Many times, she’s offered to pay my way (knowing a preacher’s wife doesn’t have a budget to include vacations to Europe). But as badly as I wanted to go with her, the timing never seemed right, and I started to wonder if she was getting too close to eighty and it might be too difficult a trip for her to enjoy. (Sorry, to put that out there mom, but you actually look and act way younger than anyone else your age!) So, I didn’t try to pry open her sealed dreams, I just stayed quiet.
Living Without Regret
I remember exactly where I was when the Spirit began to move on my heart and deal with me about my Mom’s dreams. It was early February when Mom found out that my Sister-in-law was planning to join Courtney and Jeanne on their “European Invasion” as they call it. That’s when Mom started to nudge open that drawer of hope just a crack. She renewed an old conversation and started asking me again what I thought about us trying to make the trip.
My first response was to come up with reasons that this was probably not a good idea, and that’s when it happened. The Holy Spirit stopped me. This was my mom’s dream and I was about to squash it again.
He quickly took me back to the last ten years of my dad’s life. I made a commitment during those years to do all that I possibly could to care for him and spend time with him. There were several things we turned down, significant opportunities we passed up, and years that we put things on hold, in order to be there for my dad. When he passed, I had no regrets about any of that. But I knew that if I didn’t do all I could to help mom make this trip, I would always regret it.
And so, I helped her pull open that drawer full of dreams and we started to plan.
Opening Up to Dream Again
Our little “Europe group” of five met together for trip planning meetings, hours of discussion and laughter, working on flight schedules, looking for affordable places to stay, listing what we hoped to see. Courtney spent long hours figuring out how to put it all together for us and served as our handy travel agent before she and Jeanne left the country for their trek across Europe—22 countries on $50 per day in six weeks. They left the last week of March, and will meet up with us in Paris (today!!). Our plans are for a much shorter stay, twelve days from the time we leave the U. S. until we return home.
It has been years in the making, but Mom’s dreams are about to become reality today! My mom, sister-in-law, and I are making the trip she’s talked about for years. We flew to Chicago on Monday, from Chicago to London, then on to Paris yesterday afternoon. We are as excited as a group of little girls!
Experiencing the Stored-Up Gifts
At Katie’s send-off party, I gave her a card and this Scripture as a reminder of God’s graciousness:
[box]Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! (Psalm 31:19)[/box]
That truth, the abundance of God’s goodness, is beyond what we can imagine, and He pours out good gifts continually for us to enjoy: the air we breathe, the sunrise we admire, the tart burst of a sweet strawberry, and the cool drink of water. God delights in us enjoying Him, and we know Him more as we receive the good gifts He has for us, knowing they reflect His gracious character.
[box]Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17).[/box]
God’s gift to my mom today is to fulfill those long held dreams, as we set off to explore a country more than four thousand miles away from home!
I want to include you on our trip as much as possible, if you follow my Twitter or Instagram feed you’ll see our pictures. And if I get in the vicinity of WiFi, I’ll try to send you a quick post with an update. I’ve prepared a few regular daily posts for you already, for when I’m out of the country, and Molly will be faithfully baby-sitting the blog while I’m away, but I also hope to have some news of our adventures that I can pop in with occasionally.
People ask if I’m excited about this trip. I am, but what I’m most excited about is watching my mom experience something she’s dreamed of most of her life.
Will you pray for our safety as we travel, for my mom’s health, and for her to experience much joy in this good blessing?
And now to the Musée du Louvre!