Goodbye #Netherlands Book Clubs

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 12.06.11 PM

My Netherlands Book Clubs read ONE of these. (Image found on

We discussed so many great reads. You brought books to my attention I might have never discovered otherwise. You read books I nominated. You forced me into genres I rarely explore where I discovered wonderful insights and perspectives. Our members were American, Australian, Dutch, British, Polish, Hungarian, Indian, Kazantzaki, German and more. Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Agnostic and Atheist. Liberal to conservative. And we gathered in delight to discuss what we enjoyed, what failed for us, what made us think. We shared wonderful moments focused on books, and yes, a bit of food as well, and life as we knew it. We went to each others’ homes. We laughed. We encouraged. And so much more. We were always welcome whether we read the whole book or any of it. We looked forward to each gathering and mourned those we could not attend.

Thank you. I will miss you all so very much. I am grateful we gathered around a shared love of reading.



The Books

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (the best of all of them IMO)
Wild by Carol Strayed
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City by Russell Shorto
The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming
The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
Five Days At Memorial by Sheri Fink
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Breaking Night: Homeless to Harvard by Liz Murray
Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown by Paul Theroux
Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriaty
The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee
Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
The Secret River by Kate Grenville
Shakespeare by Bill Bryson
The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi
The Circle by Dave Eggers
The House on Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper
Survive Little Buddy: Iron Curtain Memoirs by Irene Kucholick
The Twins by Tessa Loo
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman
The Nest by Cynthia d’Aprix Sweeny
End of Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
A Prayer for Own Meany by John Irving
The Last Man in the Tower by Aravind Adiga
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
Perla by Carolina De Robertis
A Man Called Ove by Frederik Bachman
Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil by Jean Sasson
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks
The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins
Bolter: Idina Sackville–the Woman Who Scandalized 1920s Society by Frances Osborne
Saree by Su Dharmapala
Days of Awe: A Novel by Lauren Fox
The Russian Debutante’s Daughter by Gary Shteyngart


Leave a comment

Posted by on June 7, 2017 in Living in Holland


#Retirement Goes #Sideways

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 7.51.39 AM

Before the computer blue screen there was this TV screen.

The military lifestyle, although not without sacrifice, is not without benefits. My husband’s career took us to far away places to live: Germany, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, Arizona, Maryland, and North Carolina. He was on mission, and the adventure we had together brought excitement, travel, new food, and best of all new friends literally from all over.

The plan for retirement was to continue similar work as a civilian. My vision had us living in new places with new people. I wanted to take advantage of globetrotting travel opportunities close to wherever we would live next, and after that, and after that.

“Your will, not mine,” is the prayer of the devout. It’s Jesus’ words as he prepared to die for you and me. Dire circumstances for a profound goal. The interruption in Jesus’ life was his death. My interruption is going back to Kentucky. Not very earth shattering, and yet I’ve been struggling to let go of my will in exchange for God’s will.

Do you struggle with that as well? Our vision was set, and now God is leading us into His vision. Our plans have to be scrapped, but we know God’s plan is still going strong. Maybe like me you really thought He was on board with your plan, but now comes the interruption, the derailment, a completely different turn of events.

All those job opportunities that were available three or four years ago are gone. There’s a hiring freeze. There’s new enforcement of old rules. One by one every door has closed. Every window. There is only one way left to walk forward after my husband’s retirement, and it is back to small town life, to his hometown in Kentucky. And as much as I love our families, and our hometowns, and the idea of being close to them, this was not the plan.

Do I turn to God and say “not my will but yours?” Is my reaction positive? No. I’ve been angry, resentful, and honestly mourning the loss. No one died. No one is sick. My life has been interrupted by a good turn. I just wasn’t ready for that. The settling down was supposed to come later…in my plan.

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD” (Bible book of Isaiah 55:8)

That was the verse, the first verse in my recent group Bible study. For seven weeks we have looked at Jonah’s life, at his poor reaction to a change in plans, at what it took to bring him back from rebellion. This video study was lead by Priscilla Shirer who says we can see life interruptions as “divine intervention” in Jonah’s life and in our own lives.

For the last two weeks God has been bringing me around. Gladly no time in the belly of a big fish was required. God keeps reminding me that He is good. (Count the blessings I’ve poured out on you.) That He is love. (Remember how I gave my son to die for you?) That His timing is perfect. (Remember how adopting your sons worked out, Kristin?) That His plans for me are not only for good but for the best. (Remember what you asked for and I said ‘No’ and what came next?)

So I’m giving God my sorrow knowing He will give me His joy. I’m saying “Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord” (Lyrics-Trading My Sorrows). Each day I find something new to look forward to in our coming rural-America life.

Today I opened my Jonah homework and saw these words: THE INTERRUPTED LIFE is the significant life.

Before Jonah’s direction was changed by God, he was just another prophet with barely a mention in Second Kings 14:25. Now his story is one far greater, even his bad behavior is a lesson, and he’s become a blessing across the years to multitudes.

My wide cultural adventures may come to an end this summer, but embracing what God has next, what His plan is for this interruption, this turning point, this about face, is where life becomes significant. God is moving. He is preparing the way, not just any way but His way for me and my family.

I am singing, “He gives and takes away. He gives and takes away. My heart will choose to say, blessed be the Name.” (Blessed Be the Name of the LORD)

What comes next?

Better. That’s what.


Thanks to Priscilla Shirer and Jonah: Navigating Life Interrupted.




Posted by on May 30, 2017 in Unexpected Blessings


Wanting to #Belong

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 7.15.55 AMOur kids are sometimes surprised at the jobs I’ve worked in the past such as McDonald’s and waiting tables. For a time one of my volunteer duties was putting a message, letter by letter, on the church sign. There are tons of quirky sayings you can find online for these sorts of signs, but I liked to make my own or relate the message to what we had going on.

One simple composition said,” BE WELCOME, BE-LIEVE, BE-LONG.” Wanting to belong to a group, to a community, to be identified with them was a prominent desire of many of the people I knew at the time.  There is a universal desire to belong, to be accepted, to be secure, to be significant. If you’re familiar with the Freedom in Christ project, you might recognize those last words as fundamental to the assurances they reiterate time and again to encourage Jesus Followers and reach out to Seekers of what is beyond.

Today, I wanted to share these points of belonging that mean so much to me. Perhaps they will lift you up today and give you strength and hope for tomorrow.

I am accepted…
John 1:12 I am God’s child.
John 15:15 As a disciple, I am a friend of Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1 I have been justified.
1 Corinthians 6:17 I am united with the Lord, and I am one with Him in spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 I have been bought with a price and I belong to God.
1 Corinthians 12:27 I am a member of Christ’s body.
Ephesians 1:3-8 I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child.
Colossians 1:13-14 I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins.
Colossians 2:9-10 I am complete in Christ.
Hebrews 4:14-16 I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ.

I am secure…
Romans 8:1-2 I am free from condemnation.
Romans 8:28 I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances.
Romans 8:31-39 I am free from any condemnation brought against me and I cannot be separated from the love of God.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 I have been established, anointed and sealed by God.
Colossians 3:1-4 I am hidden with Christ in God.
Philippians 1:6 I am confident that God will complete the good work He started in me.
Philippians 3:20 I am a citizen of heaven.
2 Timothy 1:7 I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.
1 John 5:18 I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me.

I am significant…
John 15:5 I am a branch of Jesus Christ, the true vine, and a channel of His life.
John 15:16 I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit.
1 Corinthians 3:16 I am God’s temple.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 I am a minister of reconciliation for God.
Ephesians 2:6 I am seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm.
Ephesians 2:10 I am God’s workmanship.
Ephesians 3:12 I may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

If you follow Jesus, then the statements above are true of you. If you are not a follower of Christ and would like to know more, click here…

-Freedom in Christ Ministries

Rereading these can knock me back a few steps: I am hidden in Christ, I am a friend of Jesus, I am a citizen of heaven. When we soak in who God says we are (or can be), we might be amazed. How much more awesome then to meditate on who God is.

My heart begins to sing a old favorite hymn, “…He walks with me, and he talks with me. And he tells me I am his own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”



Leave a comment

Posted by on May 21, 2017 in Soulful Sunday


Happy #Day to You, and You, and You #Girlfriend

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 8.56.07 AM

Today I say “Happy Day” to my online friends who have no children to call their own. To my friends who have watched as other women receive a flower at church, perhaps a flower for each child, as many women will today. You have watched as I used to, year after year with ebbs and flows of longing as that symbol passed by. Happy Day to the ladies who could no longer bear it and choose to stay home away from the hoopla wherever it appears in our communities. My dear friend who calls her own mother to give a greeting she herself may never hear.

Today I celebrate my friends who chose a different path, who pour their mothering might into other mothers’ children at schools, at churches, at childcare facilities, through Big Sister programs. You give so much. I thank you.

Happy Day to my friend on the next round of IVF. Happy Day to my friends scraping, saving, and raising money for that adoption. Happy Day to my friends trying again.

How well I remember my first Mother’s Day flower. In only a few months we would bring our first two sons home from Ethiopia. Flat stomached and expecting, I accepted a long stemmed rose from a youth. A flower so heavy with pain from the past and hope for the future that I sank beneath the weight pressing down on my chest into my stomach. Tears flowed, a silent torrent of emotions, most unidentifiable. Overwhelmed.

Today I pray blessing and comfort for my friends who raised for a time, within or without, a child who is no longer here to give greetings. To my friend who raised her sons to adulthood and lost them both. To my cousin who mourns the baby come too early, who she never got to hold. To my friend who held her daughter for only a few hours before her precious child slipped away.

We say Happy Mother’s Day. I’ve said it already, heard it already this morning. My secret heart goes elsewhere, though, to be with you ladies who live the struggle and face each day, even this one, with courage, hope, and love. Today I say “Happy Day” with wishes and prayers for you. Let us never be far from each others’ understanding hearts.


P.S. Wrote this before church and another group of moms came and stayed on my mind, Happy Day to women and men who would love to say Happy Mothers Day one more time to their mom but can’t.

At church the time for roses came. All the children were called down front to help distribute those long stems…to every woman. “Mothers and spiritual mothers who mentor and encourage,” she said. Yes! And what would you expect from the sermon on Mothers Day? The preach, as it is called here, was about Singleness, what Jesus said about being single and the gift it can be as well as our role in supporting each other whatever our time of life. Love our church home and family here in The Hague. Will miss Redeemer International so much when we move.

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 14, 2017 in Living in Holland


Large Family Food Budget EU #Holland

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 9.50.54 AMWith less than 60 days till our return to the US, I can wax sentimental on almost every aspect of our lives in Holland. Earlier this week the topic was our tiny transportation costs which makes me think about the family budget for the grocery.

Our four sons range in age from nine to 15 at the moment, so folks often comment on how big our grocery bill must be. I’ll be honest, we don’t eat as healthily as we might. Pasta, rice, and potatoes are the biggest plate portion of almost every meal at our house. When I’ve tried to serve vegetarian meals, the boys ask “Where’s the real food?”

For our family of six, an average of the last 3 months grocery budget comes to 299 euro a month ($325). That includes cleaning supplies and my regular extravagance at the Seafood Kiosk/Stand, but it does not include eating out.

Every trip to McDonald’s or call to Dominos is a splurge for our family of six even when we limit ourselves to the “cheap eats” menu or sales. The most recent three months of eating out included 40 euro at McDonalds, 111 euro at Dominos, 72 euro at KFC, and 144 euro at our favorite donner kabab place around the corner from our church. Add that up and you’ll see how expensive eating out is compared with eating at home (122 euro a month–yikes!).

Then consider the cost of school lunches at 38,50 for 10 meals. If we actually bought their lunches, it would be 77 euro a week for our four sons and probably more since the older students eat cafeteria style where their all natural “soda” costs two euro alone. A meal for 3,85 sounds pretty good until you do the math and see another 308 euro on the food budget. Double my food budget for 1 of 3 meals? No, thank you!

Big shout out and thanks every day to my husband who makes and packs up 5 lunches (his own included). We go through 4-5 loaves of bread a week, but I have to say those sandwiches won’t quite be the same without all those wonderful Dutch cheese slices. My kids think square yellow slices were made just for grilled cheese.

The optional items are really the ones that can blow our monthly budget for food, clothes, or entertainment. During spring break we vacationed at home working on cleaning out closets for everyone. We’ve been blessed with tons of fabulous hand-me-downs (Thank you Patrice, Sandy, and Toni especially!), but it was time to set a size cut-off (I know it’s your favorite, but it’s just too small now) and narrow down how many pounds of clothing is reasonable to ship. (Goodbye Thor, Batman, and Ninja costumes!)

Since we weren’t traveling and Dad was working, I decided to be extravagant with outings around home a bit. That meal at our local beach where the boys chose any lunch entree they wanted was 68 euro for burgers (huge 200 g burgers, but still). The day out for the movies (with one guest making us 6 again) was 46,60 at KFC, 52 euro for the 3D movie, and 12 for parking.

It will be interesting as we re-patriate and splurge on food we’ve missed to watch how our budget goes. I imagine the first 3 months will be out of wonk while we adjust and celebrate being home with family and old friends. Until then we will add to the budget with extra stops at the Dutch bakery, the cheese shop, the donor place, the fish shack, and…well, you get the idea.


1 Comment

Posted by on May 6, 2017 in Living in Holland


A Country In Silence #Holland

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 10.22.07 AM

After saluting the WWII Memorial, my husband and the wreath bearers step back from the three country flags at half mast.

In the small Dutch town of Hoogeloon, my thumb catches on a golden uniform rope as I slip my cold hand into the crook of my husband’s arm. The light breeze does not disturb the performance of the flag twirlers nor does it raise the British, Dutch and American flags at half mast to full furling. The occasion is Remembrance Day, and to refer to it as Dutch Memorial Day does an injustice.

In the US, Memorial Day has for most become a day off with a nod to those who gave their lives for our freedom. Not so in The Netherlands where two minutes of silence are marked across the land at 7:58 pm.

My husband and I march behind the wreath carriers and scouts holding high eternal-flame reminiscent torches. Two Dutchmen, one Brit and four Americans died during WWII in this little place with 2000 residents. Their photos sit in the church beside the wreaths during the first half of the remembrance service. My husband was invited to honor these men, to lay a wreath, to salute their memorial.

Acts and speakers are punctuated by music. With uniformed members from ages twelve to 70+ at attention, the community band plays the Dutch national song, and My Country Tis of Thee, then a hymn, and The Star Spangled Banner. Three high school students read about what remembrance and sacrifice means to them. The Mayor, bedecked in the silver collar of his office, speaks. The scouts fan out beside the memorial, and I notice one tilting his feet on edge. Feet unused to standing for so long a period. Feet, about 10 years old, learning what sacrifices were made for their freedom to rest while a boy plays video games. Feet unconcerned with hiding from invaders or being exceptionally quiet so as not to disturb oppressors.

The youngest participant marches his feet when the band plays, even though he is part of the drum corps, which is a separate unit dressed in blue with feather-plumed floppy round hats. Not until the end, when over 300 community members crowd forward to lay flowers at the monument, do I see other smaller children. I remembere my father lamenting the small turnout for a bygone Memorial Day ceremony by the courthouse in my small Kentucky hometown. Do the Dutch make too much of the day or we back home too little?

Do the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of these soldiers know how their family member is honored and thanked again and again by people grateful for young soldiers crossing oceans to fight?

We speak their names: Eddy Jones, William Williams, John Burke, Nick Pehote, Jacob Fraasse, Jan Goosens, Jan Balkduk. We speak to recognize their sacrifice, to acknowledge the pain and loss their families bore, to remember history should not be reduced to numbers but has a name. Names and faces taught to young Dutch children in small towns and large cities all around The Netherlands.

The Remembrance Day organizers thanked us, were grateful for the gift of our presence, but they gave us, our soldiers, and our country so much more.

Two minutes of silence, and then thousands of church bells peal.




1 Comment

Posted by on May 5, 2017 in Living in Holland


Tiny Fuel Bill – Will Miss U, Goodbye Holland


What I will miss about living in Holland

…and what new folks can look forward to.

We unintentionally became a one car family when we moved to The Netherlands. My husband’s work moves one car for your use overseas, and normally we buy an old beater to supplement. We went very Dutch in the Netherlands, though, as my husband joined the 1 in 4 workers who bike to work. Our children biked to and from school, and I even biked for many of my errands until my last bike accident put me on crutches.

Biking downtown, to a friend’s house, to the park, to the beach (etc.) have all become the norm for our family. Our older sons have the freedom of transportation I never had till I turned 16. They’ve biked to Leiden, to the lake, to The Hague, as well as used great public transportation.

What will I miss when we return to rural America?

The tiny fuel bill for our vehicle.

I kept track our 3 of our last months in The Netherlands. Even when you add in regular maintenance of our bikes (about 20 EUR a month), public transport use (26 EUR), paying for parking (25 EUR including 2 EUR you have to pay to park at the hospital), and a road trip to Germany, our transportation costs have been minuscule compared to the U.S.

Goodbye 116 euro a month transportion costs. We’ll miss you.