Some of our HUG students have been able to explore Amsterdam during their independent travels after our semester together ends and have recommended the city to us. We've heard fun reports, so after the spring semester, we decided to follow their advice and adventure in The Netherlands before flying back to the US for some friends and family time. Learning from our students is always fun, and we're very glad we listened and followed their advice about spending time in this part of Europe! Here's the journey we shared together recently:
Finding beauty in everyday life is the purpose of a friend of mine. Praising the creative Creator for the arts is the search of my friend's heart. My friend is an artist himself, so he has an eye for all things beautiful and wants to focus on appreciation for such finds. God made us this way. We like pretty thoughts, pretty smiles, pretty sunsets, pretty foods, pretty words. Our students will meet in Amsterdam soon to fly back home to their families. Most will explore a bit of the city before the flight. My family is now among the people who find beauty of all sorts in The Netherlands.
We first find beauty at Keukenhof Garden. The tulips have been on my list, so we schedule the adventure. They are at their peak, and the paths are crowded with spectators. The flowers are showing off today. Their varieties are endless. Their colors are intense. The blue tulips trick my eyes to see a brook. The yellows make me think the sun is on the ground. The whites take me to innocent times and thoughts. The reds remind me of Christmas, even in the springtime. The pinks and corals invite adoration and remind me of my friend whose yard is a purposeful, precious gift to the neighborhood. And the green lawns send me home in my mind. I could spend a lifetime in these gardens with the people I love, never needing a change of scenery. Heaven has myriads of tulips, I'm certain. My eyes are full of color and of God's creation of nature.
Using centuries-old methods, people in Delft, about half an hour outside of Amsterdam, still create Delftware. We tour the factory and showroom. Blue and white pottery is my favorite. I'm in the number one "pretty things" place in existence, as far as I'm concerned. We are educated on how the pieces are fired, painted, and fired again. We see the traditional designs and modern ones. Artists daily paint pieces that will be in homes and cherished through the years. Next month is our twentieth anniversary. China is the traditional gift. We are in The Netherlands, so a tulip vase is the natural choice to commemorate such an occasion. I mention that my mother could spend an eternity here, and we talk about our thankfulness for my daughter' relationship with all of her grandparents. I tell my daughter that I'll likely pass down our new tulip vase from Delft directly to her daughter one of these days and tell her the story of the purchase, thinking already of my future granddaughter that I'll spoil. This earned me a look and a, "Mo-oooom...you're going to skip over me?" You know the tone. "Yes." I smile back. I get my enjoyment of blue and white from my mother. My kitchen at home favors her own. All of a sudden in my mind's eye, I'm in Mississippi chatting with Mother, watching Daddy cook. My memories spill over. I'm full and satisfied. Funny how blue and white beauty can fill me up.
The obvious beauty of Van Gogh's impressionist paintings speaks for itself. In Amsterdam's museum headquarters, people from all over the globe wait in a long line that curves around the entrance to soak in his works. We slowly meander through the museum dedicated to his art and contemplate his mind and his ability. Van Gogh cut off his own ear and eventually took his own life, so we are not assuming when we know his mind was troubled. But despite his struggles, his talent still shines today. We all would paint like Van Gogh if we could claim his gift. And we all have gifts of some sort. My imagination of Van Gogh's life in those years sails from being scared to bring brave. He faced critics and scoffers but his success lasts through time. Ours can, too. Impressionism was a bold new method of expression. My brain is full today of influential people in my history books and in my own life who have made me better along with the world around them.
Anne Frank's hiding place is not beautiful on the eyes. But the courage of her family and the other people who hid is extraordinary. They looked at death straight in the eye and fought. People who aided them by bringing food and supplies were just as courageous, if not more so. Touring this place takes me back in time and makes me pray that I'll have such courage when I feel as if I'm surrounded by giants. Courage and focus on the only One who is absolutely constant is the answer. He gives us glimpses of heaven when we're ready. And one day, our reward will be right before us. Until then, we will face our battles (and they will come) with bravery and confidence that we are in the right team and that warriors are fighting alongside us. My spirit is full today of encouragement from Anne Frank's words and her parents' decision to persist.
Before we leave Amsterdam, we attend a symphony concert. The concert hall is beautiful with boxes lining the walls above us, making me wonder who bought the first class seats. The moldings are significant. I see name plates honoring musical composers throughout time. The lighting is sparkling, waiting to dance. After the musicians enter the stage, they tune their instruments and wait. The maestro enters. His gray flowing hair makes me think he's a young Einstein. He raises his baton and commands attention and takes us all on a ride. Individuals take strings, horns, and flutes and then master their technique to make pretty sounds. But when talented individuals come together, they create an absolute masterpiece that transports the rest of us to a musical place that words can't wrap around. This conductor works with men and women to create and share beauty for our ears. I feel like I'm flying. Music truly is the universal language connecting us all if we choose to hop on the ride. My heart is full of love for my high-school band and the people with whom I worked to create something special; for Mrs. Cindy, my forever piano teacher; for Mrs. Lewis and Kalypsó, Ann-Clayton's piano teachers who are taking her further than I could on my own and who expose her to different types of music; for my friends that I made in the concert choir during that introduction to Harding, giving me an instant family when I moved away from home for the first time to be a freshman at college; for my own mother who first introduced me to music while I sat at her side at the piano keyboard during my growing up years, making me want to be like her in this and every way; and for my present church family in Searcy, Arkansas, where traditional a-cappella four-part harmony fills the air with praise for Him when we worship together. Music turns individual chaos into united, almost indescribable loveliness. Music takes us soaring together.
Oh, we hit the beauty-jackpot when we decided to search for it in The Netherlands. Beauty takes many forms here. I'm certain there's more to uncover. Amsterdam and the surrounding area gives us layer after layer of beautiful life and experiences. We will come back here in our hearts for a long, long time.