Pursuing Life's Daring Adventure

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Start to the Very Short Trip

It’s a very short trip. While alive, live. ~Malcolm Forbes

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined. ~Henry David Thoreau

To me, dreams are like mountains, disappearing for a while, obscured by daily life and the blinding fog of busyness. But if we pause to look and listen, they are always there, always guiding us until the dream becomes reality, if we dare to take the adventure.

I love the New Year. I love celebrating the gifts in the year coming to a close, and thinking on the year ahead. There is no time like the present to reflect on how far we have come, and the direction which tells where we want our lives to go.

Many sites and blogs and gurus give advice for how to form resolutions which you’ll stick beside, and for the best methods for achieving your goals. But for me, I prefer simplicity: where is it that my heart lies, and each day, how can I consistently move in the direction of those dreams?

So today, I send you heartfelt wishes for a meaningful day today, at this threshold of a whole new year. May you hear the whisper of the direction of your dreams. And I hope in each day to come, you’ll have the perseverance to walk that way, and to live the life you have imagined.

Keep on in the direction of your dreams ...

Happy New Year!

How are you going forward in your New Start, this New Year?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

An Alpine Storybook Christmas

Nature is too thin a screen; the glory of the omnipresent God bursts through everywhere. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last week, at Christmastime, we took a roadtrip from Prague to the Austrian Alps, to stay the week in the tiny ski village of Rauris.

For our family, fresh expats living in Prague only six months from Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, this seemed an amazing opportunity. The reality of living in Central Europe makes driving from Prague to the Alps only a five or six hour drive—breathtaking Alps in our backyard (the US equivalent to roadtripping to Chicago, or Cleveland, or Detroit,or the Smoky Mountains from Cincinnati).

Growing up skiing every year near Durango, Colorado, where my grandmother lived, I always dreamed of teaching our boys how to ski. We saved up, and waited. And this year, in the Alps, the dream came true.

It was fantastic …

Starting our boys, ages 7, 8, and 11, without poles, proved to be a great experience, even with the cold temps (-20 degrees Celsius). After a couple of days, they skied like old pros.

The village did not disappoint, as it had been described to us as “a chocolate-box town” with a church in the center. The Christmas Eve service at the village church filled our hearts, as it turned out to be so packed that children sat along the banister to the balcony. I had never dreamed of listening to the Christmas story in German, sitting in centuries-old pews alongside Austrians who share the same Faith, and hearing the same carols accompanied by a simple accordion. A memorable experience for all of us …

Driving home, with a fresh layer of snow and a heavy dollop of fog, we experienced the beauty of the mountains in a new way. With tired limbs from a week of skiing, and hearts filled with the majesty of the Alps, we returned home to Prague. A storybook Christmas …

How did you see this Christmastime in a new way?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Now What?: Three Daily Goals for Moving Forward through Change

I had lunch with a friend yesterday, and we talked about the struggle with Now What? Maybe the question is familiar to you, as well … so I thought I’d write about it, at this time of year of new life and love at Christmas, and fresh starts at the New Year.

The Nativity near Saint Nikolas Church, on Old Town Square, Prague, Czech Republic

Jesus came. And we ask: Now What?
He said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” –John 10:10

Now What? is a question I face whenever I’ve crossed the threshold into a new phase in life. This year, I’ve been challenged in new ways (all our boys are in school full-day this year, and we’ve moved to Prague as expats), and so I’ve asked the question quite a lot. Now What?

Sometimes the question sneaks up as we work hard and struggle through something to achieve a worthwhile goal (maybe losing a few pounds, going for a job interview, or even—defeating cancer). But once we’ve reached that goal, we get to the triumph, breathe a moment, and then wonder Now What?

For me, maybe it’s that I’ve changed a bit during the journey to get there, or maybe had to grow a whole lot. After the goal, the world looks different. And there at the brink of our next step, if we listen closely, we can hear the question ring out from deep inside: Now What? Because nothing is the same—the way we see the world, the way others see us, and our relationship to our prior goals. Maybe it’s that the pieces of our lives have rearranged themselves in order of importance.

I’m a firm believer that 1) Life is a gift, and 2) We were each made for a reason. This article post written by Michael Hyatt, based on the new Andy Andrews book, The Noticer, sums it up well:

We have been given the gift of today because we have yet to fulfill our biggest purpose; we have yet to make our most important contribution. [my paraphrase]
In that light, today is another step closer toward fulfilling that for which we were created.

These are my three answers to the question, Now What?, and coincidentally my goals for each day:

1) Love.

2) Be Loved.

3) Make the best use of the gifts I’ve been given to shine for God.

God offers us new beginnings every step along the way. Today is the next step …

Starting the Conversation: When have you thought the question, Now What? And what is the answer you heard?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Fragrance of Christmas

As Christmas approaches, and life becomes busier with the celebrations of the season, I enjoy settling down for a few minutes each day to remember the reason for the joy we have. I'm sharing an excerpt from my daily devotional, The One Year Mini for Busy Women, published in Tyndale House's The One Year Brand line. Daily inspirationals / devotionals are a great way to slow down, and reflect for a few minutes each day.


Prague, Wencesles Square at Christmastime

December 6
She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger. (Luke 2:7)

Every perfume counter at the mall offers a new fragrance. Department stores are decked out in the sparkly splendor of the season. Beside every store’s entrance, a person rings a bell and asks for donations. In a world decked out for the holidays, it is time to spend money on gifts wrapped in glittery papers. In the bustle of buying, we can be far from experiencing Christ’s birth.

When Christ was born, he was not greeted by fragrant perfume, but by the aromas of a cow barn. Instead of the flashy lights we find in every store, Jesus was born under the pale light of a star. Instead of ringing bells and jingling money, Jesus heard the movements of cattle. There was no fanfare of radio jingles, but Jesus’ birth was announced by the glorious radiance of an angels’ choir. Jesus’ world was far different than the world we know.

This Christmas season, step back from the familiar commercialism and experience the simple truth and beauty of Jesus’ birth. Make time to reflect on the sights and smells, the sounds and feel of Jesus’ manger on that first Christmas Day. Jesus’ gift of life began that starry night.

What do you do during this busy season, to help slow down and enjoy the Christmas season?
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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

2009 Book Recommendations (from my shelf)

The View of Prague, the Vltava River, and the Prague Castle from Strahov Monastery

Around Prague, new wintertime scents linger on every corner—logs burning on raging fires, sugared chestnuts roasting at street vendors’ carts, and the tangy aroma of Czech mulled wine. Adding much shorter days, frostier nights, the twinkle of lights on Christmas trees, the sounds of seasonal operas and the Nutcracker from the National Theaters, and the impending celebration of the Czech St. Mikulas Day, we know the Advent season is upon us.

With December here, I’d like to recommend a few great books from the stack (more like a towering stack) we’ve read here in our house this year. Books always make great gifts, and stocking stuffers …

Yesterday, I had the privilege of seeing the Strahov Monestary on Petrin Hill in Prague, which includes libraries with books dating back to the Ninth Century. It was a complete Wow experience—amazing to witness the works of the ages collected in such a beautiful place.

the 9th Century New Testament

I’m currently reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a European bestseller. The book includes the story of a book, found in a very special library. I believe Zafon says this about libraries so poetically, I have to insert his words to share with you:

“’This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it’ … I wandered within the winding labyrinth, breathing in the smell of old paper and dust. I let my hand brush across the avenues of exposed spines, musing over what my choice would be. Among the titles faded by age, I could make out words in familiar languages and others I couldn’t identify. I roamed through galleries filled with hundreds, thousands of volumes. After a while it occurred to me that between the covers of each of those books lay a boundless universe waiting to be discovered …”
My Shortlist of Book Recommendations: (click on title for link to Amazon)
Women’s Fiction:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer

For Children, Fiction:

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis

Adult Non-Fiction:

The Hole in Our Gospel by Rich Stearns

The Noticer by Andy Andrews

And … (if I may) my book: The One Year Mini for Busy Women by Jennifer Lyn King
I hope you, or those on your list, enjoy one or more of these as much as we have …

Happy Reading!


For you: What are some of your favorite books you've read this year?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gratitude, in the Year's Best Photos

Though our Thanksgiving this year is vastly different than all Thanksgivings in the past (Tomorrow is just a normal day here in Prague--school, work, etc.), we're still remembering those things for which we are thankful.

I've been blogging a whole year already (this is the 56th week), and out of gratitude, I'm posting, here, my best photos from the past year ...

I'm thankful for:

... my husband, and the daily fun we squeeze out of life ...

... our three precious sons ...

... glimpses of God's art ...

... and power ...

... our new home, in Praha ...

... and the incredible place in which we now live ...

... for life's seasons ...

... the beauty of Summer ...

... the painterly beauty of a simple garden ...

... the great canvas of the Hand that paints the sky ...

... and the monochrome of nature's gifts ...

... for new places to discover ...

... and new spots to refresh ...

... the immensity of Freedom ...

... and finally, the tremendous gift of friendship.

I'm thankful for so many slices of life.
Thank you for sharing in my blog, and the View through My Lens.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!
From our home to yours,


Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Writing Time of Year

I had to suppress a laugh this morning, when one of my sons went to pour milk on his cereal, but poured water instead.

I couldn’t help laughing because I, too, often do absentminded things, especially during this time of year.

During this time of year, the scenery in and around Prague is glorious. The final leaves of autumn glow in ochre and lemon brilliance in fading sunlight, and flutter and twirl their way to the chilling ground. And as the seasons give way to the frosty entrance of winter, I prepare to hunker down in my writing chair, and set off to write my next novel. Then, when I’m submerged in writing a new story, I drift toward committing absentminded deeds. Thus, why I had to chuckle, and enjoy that my sons love to read and get lost in a good story, too.

I’ve had a few people write and ask if I am writing, amongst the changes and busyness of expat life. I am.

November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month in the States. The goal is to write a short novel, or 50,000 words in one month. If you do the math, yes, it’s a lot of writing. Somehow, though, November is a great month to start a novel.

I always find, as I begin to write on a new project, the hardest part is getting past the blank page. There is something paralyzing about the endless possibilities of a white piece of oblivion that causes the writer, the painter, the musician—creative people—to lock up. And though NaNoWriMo is the month to write a novel, perhaps the greatest accomplishment achieved in the entire month is getting past the blank page. Putting the words on paper. Overcoming the gripping paralysis that keeps a new story from coming to life. Whether it’s 50,000 words or 50 words, a true success might be birthing the courage to triumph over the Blank Page. For only once there, moving forward, can the true literary genius begin. Only there, moving onward past page one, can the beauty of a story take shape. And only there, putting our seat in the writing seat, can the habit of daily writing begin.

From here, in November, we have the rest of the glorious days of winter to draft, rewrite, and polish. November is a great beginning …

Happy writing, and finishing up with a successful NaNoWriMo!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Twenty Years Ago ...

It’s been an exciting time to be in Europe, this November 2009.

Velvet Revolution, Prague, 1989

Twenty years have now passed since the historic fall of the Berlin Wall. And on November 18, 1989, the Czech people staged the Sametova Revoluce—the Velvet Revolution, which fed off of the collapse of communism in Poland, Hungary, and East Germany. The term Velvet Revolution is freely used in Prague to describe the relatively peaceful transfer of power from the Communist Party to the civil rights movement in then Czechoslovakia. This month is indeed a historic and monumental month in the area of the world in which we now live, as expats in Prague, Czech Republic.


For the past several months, I’ve been taking Czech language lessons from a lovely Czech woman who lived during Communist times and actively participated in the Velvet Revolution protests. Last week, I told my instructor that we were getting a new puppy in our family, and of our excitement in getting our puppy. My instructor then reminisced of the Velvet Revolution days, of protesting, and of the presence of a puppy, similar to what I described our puppy as looking like. She said one of her friends, a protestor, brought his small puppy burrowed in his coat, to the protests on Wenceslas Square. And the trained police dogs went a bit crazy by the scent of a puppy in the crowd. My instructor then laughed, and said, “Puppies bring humor to a very serious situation. It made us all smile. Every time I see a puppy, even today, I think of the maly pejsek (small puppy) that broke the tension between opposing sides.”

The stories I hear, places I see, and monuments and photos as tribute to the struggle for freedom from Communism, are wholeheartedly humbling.

I’m so grateful for the brave souls who stood up for the cry of the human heart—the fight to be free.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pisa, the Italian Riviera, Switzerland, and Home to Prague: a photojournal

The opportunity to drive to Italy for a family vacation was truly a dream. Not only did we experience the grand mountains of the Alps, but also saw things we did not expect to see: countless castles, gravity-defying vineyard terraces and hillside towns, and sailboats dotting the azure Italian Riviera. It was surely a trip to remember for a lifetime.

Out of all the places to see in Italy, our boys were most excited about our first stop on our drive home to Prague from our beach villa in Maremma-- Pisa. The Leaning Tower of Pisa!

 View of the square in Pisa

A statue on the square in Pisa

the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa

Who knew that the mountains surrounded Pisa, as it sits also near the sea?
A view of the Italian Alps as they sweep into the Northwest coast of Italy by the Mediterranean Sea.

The view that took our breath away, driving on the Northwest coast, the Italian Riviera.

Looking out over olive groves, to the Sea dotted with sailboats beside Lavagna, and across to the snow-capped Alps beyond.

The amazing villages built onto the sides of mountains.

We turned north at Genova, Italy, and crossed into Switzerland near Lake Como. Below, the beautiful Lake Como.

In the lower part of Switzerland wedged beside Italy, castles appear on every mountain ledge.

The magnificent waterfalls and views while climbing through the Swiss highlands.


Before our trip, we had hardly heard of Liechtenstein ... we ate dinner in Liechtenstein, a country of 62 square miles and 35,000 residents. Beautiful!

 The royal family in Liechtenstein lives in a castle (not sure if it's this one, though).

We love, love, loved Italy, and cannot wait to go back. There are so many regions to explore, so many new foods and wines to taste, and so many beautiful sites and works of art to experience. I have a feeling this trip is only the first in a long love affair with Italy, one of the most beautiful countries imaginable.

Back to the rolling hills and mysterious mists of the Czech Republic ... the place we now all feel is home. A wonderful feeling for new expats, indeed!

Thanks for coming along for the ride ... -JK