Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Toronto Travel Journal #4

I really wish I had a more creative format to this whole travel journal, but I am not feeling particularly inspired. My apologies.

Another day in Toronto, another day of shopping and eating!

The girls walked around the University of Toronto - which had some fabulous, old architecture. The forecast today was for rain, but there was barely a cloud in the sky. We took lots of pictures of the campus buildings & definitely hit up the bookstore. Not too far away was an upscale shopping area - Yorkville. The main street had the large, super fancy stores (Tiffanys, Louis Vuitton, etc.). We parked a few blocks in and walked around for a while. It ended up being a reverse of yesterday - Mary was really tired and Mom & I could've shopped much longer. We had especially good luck at a yoga store (Mary got a swimsuit & I got ridiculously comfortable - and cheap - flipflops) and Roots.

Probably my favorite stop of the day, however, was Pusateri's - a food market. It didn't look like much from the outside, but it was an upscale grocery in the heart of this neighborhood. It was amazing to walk through.

Tonight was another fancy meal - this time at Morton's - a steakhouse. It was excellent (especially dessert). On the drive home, Mary and I hopped out of the car because we saw that the Toronto Jazz Festival was still happening. We couldn't really see the people playing - it was housed in a tent (for the people who purchased tickets). We could, however, still hear a bit. We walked around for a while and took our time walking back to the hotel. I was glad we got to walk down Queen Street West one more time - it's a fun neighborhood that we've walked through almost every day here. Mary has been kind enough to let me use her camera on this trip. Tonight I took a picture of The Fat Belgian (just one of the restaurants nearby - including Joe Mamas and Hey Lucy). It's exciting to walk around a big city at night when it's still very much alive.

Tomorrow's the final day of vacation. We're going to attempt to get up a bit earlier than we have been. Plans are to hit up Tim Horton's one last time, visit the Casa Loma, and then head home.

See y'all in the U.S.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Toronto Travel Journal #3

Today was a hot day in the lovely city of Toronto. Mom, Mary, and I made some special memories - starting at Urban Outfitters (and all of their AMAZING Saved By the Bell t-shirts), then trying to find a Goodwill Store (that had been torn down), visiting a super cool Market, shopping every place we could find, and eating at Quiznos.

You might think that after all of this fun that we'd call it a day. But not us! We ventured to a new part of the city (Chinatown) to find Kensington Market - home to lots of vintage shops. Mary needed to go there. The heat, some blisters, some construction, and some map-reading deficiencies slowed us down....but we prevailed (just barely)! Fortunately, our hotel serves Diet Dr. Pepper.

Then tonight we got dressed up and were treated to a super-nice dinner at the top of the CN Tower. Despite the fancy surroundings, we remained true to our Clampton roots - eating too much, laughing a lot, and taking lots of pictures.

Quotes of the day:

  • Bethany: "Hey guys, look it's a Flatiron Building!"
    Mary: "That's not a flatiron"
  • Dad: "Look what I got today. I got a bag, a pen that lights up, a yellow sucker...and an iPod shuffle!"
  • Girl who gave Dad the iPod shuffle: "It plays music."

Monday, June 25, 2007

Toronto Travel Journal #2

It's late & I don't have too much to document, so I'll do bullet point highlights from the day.
  • We slept in and ate at Tim Horton's for breakfast. Good donuts.
  • It was a gorgeous day - and we walked around & shopped most of the day.
  • We tried to find the PATH (an underground walkway with shops that goes around a large section of downtown) - but the entrance we wanted to use was being blocked by the bomb squad. We will try it another day.
  • I had my first international driving experience. It was only 10 blocks or so. I feel empowered.
  • Mary and I were on our own tonight. We compromised on food choices - Subway for dinner and crepes for dessert. I had a dark chocolate and banana crepe...very nice.
  • Mary noticed an Umbra store - I'd seen their products in stores back home, but it was cool to see a bunch of their stuff in one place.
  • At Umbra, I found this book - "Toilets of the World" - it was actually pretty fascinating. A store employee saw me looking at it and said it was one of her favorite books.
  • I'm definitely getting my big city fix - which is a very good thing. The fact that it's a city outside the U.S. is a big bonus.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Toronto Travel Journal #1

I'm on vacation, kids! Pretty exciting. I'll try to keep a bit of a travel journal of all of the interesting things we do and some snapshots of the family fun.

After the 3 services this morning, Josh was kind enough to drive me to St. Louis through torrential rain. He also got to see me get stressed about not getting to the airport on time (I'm a bit high-strung when it comes to traveling by air). Good times so far...

I was scheduled to fly out of St. Louis to Chicago O'Hare leaving St. Louis at 3:51pm (Central) - connecting to Toronto by about 9pm (Eastern). I got to my gate in plenty of time - just to see that they'd changed my gate number. At my original gate number, I noticed a flight departing at a nearby gate that was going directly to Toronto. I chuckled about how much faster that flight would make it to Canada. Not too much later, the airline attendant paged a passenger with my last name for that flight. While my last name is pretty common, I thought - I'm a high-strung traveler - maybe I should just make sure I'm not doing the wrong thing. I went up to the counter and told the lady why I was confused. She somewhat listened, but quickly said, "Well, do you want to go straight to Toronto?" I was a bit surprised - but after a few questions, a lot of fast work by her (including getting my bag switched), and a text message to my family that I'd be coming sooner than planned - I was on a direct flight to Toronto! How cool is that?!?

(I landed in Toronto at 6pm Eastern. Turns out my flight out of Chicago was delayed and didn't arrive here until 10:35pm Eastern.)

So I got to walk around downtown Toronto and eat dinner with my family tonight - and already, I'm VERY impressed with this city. It's really clean, very pretty (right on the lake), and we've already seen some serious shopping potential. Yay vacation!

Other quick notes from the day:
  • Mary: "I left my pillow and blanket in the car because Dad didn't want me to carry it through the hotel lobby looking like the Clamptons."
    Bethany: "The who?"
    Mary: "The Clamptons!"
    Bethany: "You mean...the Clampetts?"
    Mary: "Whatever"
  • Note to self: wearing Illinois apparel will make you friends in large cities - even internationally (though the thousands of engineers in town doesn't hurt the odds). I made a friend on the airport shuttle who went to the U of I - and met another random Illinoisian in the restaurant. I was not surprised by this in Chicago (with my awesome orange and blue scarf) - but I didn't expect it in Canada

Friday, June 15, 2007

What's Right in My World

I just returned from 7 straight days of traveling (an unusual occurrence for me). I've been in several states for several reasons - but it's been really great. The first part of my trip (to Indiana and Kentucky) provided me a chance to relax and be with the Spear clan. I caught my first fish (there are pictures - will share if/when I am able) and went tubing for the first time. The second leg was the Willow Creek Arts Conference which is something I always look forward to. I got home tonight and my brain feels very full. The theme of the conference was Hallelujah: What's Right with the World - and I just wanted to process some of what I experienced. (To see some pictures taken at the event - not by me - go here and here.)

  • I am always challenged at Willow about the value of building relationships with non-Christians. This conference was no exception. Part of that message came via Dan Kimball, who talked about his new book, They Like Jesus, But Not the Church. After talking with lots of people outside the church, Dan came up with 6 things that people frequently think about the church - and I think he's right on in voicing these common hang-ups. I think a lot of these are big issues for people and I'm excited to read the book and dialogue with some people about it.
  • I got to see the arts team from Mosaic (a church in LA - where Erwin McManus teaches) twice at the conference. They have a dance/performance group, and I was reminded again of how much dance (especially when done with high skill and passion) moves me in a way I can't really explain. The dancers are able to express emotions in such a visible way that I wish I could come close. So amazing.
  • The Blue Man Group and their weird version of audience participation/engagement. Also, biggest toilet paper party ever.
  • A commitment to tell a better story with my life and to tell the best Story.

And I want to add to the beauty
To tell a better story
I want to shine with the light
That's burning up inside
(Sara Groves)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Praying with the Church

When it comes to reading, I have some definite habits. I don't mind reading non-fiction if its something practical (work or school or just interesting), but it rarely grabs my attention in a way that makes me unable to put it down. It usually feels like work to make it through a non-fiction book. Fiction, on the other hand, has a way of getting me to stay up all night reading and to take the book with me everywhere until I'm finished with it. I've been that way ever since my teen days (Christy Miller, anyone?) - and experienced it last fall with the Harry Potter series. There are times when I'm jealous of people (Melissa) who get jazzed about reading things that are very practical. Rather than read about church or ministry, I like to travel and escape and explore through books! Can you blame me?

However, this past week, I got this book ("Praying with the Church" by Scot McKnight). And I didn't want to put it down. I've messed around with fixed prayers for the past few years (which I've blogged about before). I think it appeals to me because it's different from what I grew up with - and it incorporates practices from church history that are rich theologically. What's great about this book is how simply McKnight gives the history of fixed prayers (from Israel's practice to Jesus and the first Christians, then through Christian history), makes a case for how they can be formative spiritually, and discusses how to get started in a very practical way. I love that he's from an evangelical perspective that stays away from this type of prayer; consequently, he handles the common reaction that people from that background can have (it's too Catholic, can be insincere, etc.).

A common theme for this approach to prayer is creating a rhythm of prayer that gives structure and centeredness to our days. And by praying prayers like the Lord's Prayer, we join Christians throughout the world (and throughout time) who are praying/have prayed the same thing.

So, I started doing morning and evening prayers again this week. I've already been blessed and challenged by it. I use Phyllis Tickle's volumes, The Divine Hours. Here's a hymn that she included that just blew me away (especially after praying the Lord's Prayer several times this week):

“Forgive our sins as we forgive,”
You taught us, Lord, to pray,
But you alone can grant us grace
To live the words we say

How can your pardon reach and bless
The unforgiving heart
That broods on wrongs and will not let
Old bitterness depart?

In blazing light your cross reveals
The truth we dimly knew:
What trivial debts are owed to us,
How great our debt to you!

Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls
And bid resentment cease.
Then, bound to all in bonds of love,
Our lives will spread your peace.

-Rosamond E. Herklots