She Set Out on a Life-Changing Journey. My Life was Transformed As Well.

My youngest daughter Kaden spent last summer in Europe on what I lovingly dubbed her globetrotting, backpacking- through-Europe Find Yourself tour. What I didn’t realize is that I’d find myself as well.

I stayed updated through her texts, FaceTime calls, and Facebook posts. She visited Paris, Rome, and Venice and I got to see the photos and hear the descriptions along the way. It was incredible to experience places I’d only read about in books, even if it was just vicariously through my child.

It was exciting.

But it was the lesson she learned that meant the most. A lesson I learned through her.

After graduating from high school, Kaden wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to do. A good student, I encouraged college. “I’m not that smart,” she’d tell me.

I was not only her mother but her 7th grade teacher. I knew better. But I also knew that going to college when you weren’t ready left you with a GPA that was hard to raise once you were. So I didn’t push it.

A few minimum wage jobs later, she knew that life held something more for her and jumped at the chance to visit her friend Begona in Spain. BB, as we loving called her, spent a year in America when the girls were in high school and they became fast friends. Post-graduation, BB returned to the United States for a fun sightseeing visit and they began planning Kaden’s trip to do the same in her country.

A trip to Spain became an entire European excursion and she visited France, Austria, Italy, and Hungary as well. They spent their days seeing popular tourist destinations as well as little-known local favorites. Her oldest sister was even able to join her for a couple of weeks getting some amazing photos, like the ones featured here. Callie is a professional photographer and graphic designer and she captured the very essence of Kaden’s journey: finding joy in life.

Because, in Europe, she learned what very few Americans do. You work to live; you don’t live to work. Europeans go to work, as we as all do, but when they get off…they’re off. They get out and do things. They see things.

And they WALK. Everywhere.

Kaden’s two biggest complaints were the walking and the lack of red meat. She couldn’t wait to come back home for a giant cheeseburger! So, of course, we all had to eat steak and burgers when she’d FaceTime. After all, what are families for?!

But the trade-off was worth it. She felt healthy. She felt happy. And she found out that every moment of life didn’t have to be scheduled to be lived. In fact, it COULDN’T be planned to live fully.

That realization hit ME the hardest.

I am a planner. I have a calendar on my desk, in my phone, and in my head. To-do lists take up valuable head space and a trip is never planned last-minute.

The latter caused some trouble early in my marriage.

My husband thought packing was all one needed to do prior to taking a trip. You drive until you get tired, get a room, leave out the next morning.

I needed to have a map, decide how far we’d get on the first day, and reserve the room for that night, preferably somewhere with breakfast but if not, somewhere near a restaurant. The thought of not being able to find a room bothered me.

The thought of stopping and losing drive time before he was ready bothered him as much as having to drive tired just to get to a reserved room bothered him.

Years later we still approach trips in a similar way though traveling without kids has made me more flexible and getting older has made him appreciate dependability.

But I still forget sometimes to live.

I do, I go, I work…I’m a 100% give-it-your-all kind of gal. It’s the passionate force that breeds success in my life, I firmly believe. But is it…hurting me?

Based on my daughter’s trip to Europe, I knew it wasn’t helping. I looked around at all the people I’d begun neglecting as I ironically tried to help others. I even had to look at how my relationship with the Lord was on the back burner as I was telling others about Him.

I wasn’t living my life fully. I was… doing. I wasn’t… being. I was a Martha when I needed to be a Mary. (Luke 10:41-42)

In true Gigi fashion, I initially tried to “schedule” some downtime. Eventually, though, I just played it by ear. I’ve gone to a lot more movies, taken trips to the parks, walked on the beach, visited with friends…

I’ve listened to my daughter and really learned how to just LIVE…






Are You LIVING Your Life?

As I pulled into the parking lot for the dreaded Wal-Mart shopping excursion, I knew it was going to take awhile. I had to buy ingredients for our PASCO dinner for the men and women tomorrow night plus I needed a few things of my own. I wished, not for the first time, that I still had kids living at home to help!

I realized that I could be that help for someone else. Just a couple more hands to load bags for someone. They’d leave a little faster and maybe with a smile.

The first lady I passed was on her phone. I watched for a minute to see if she would hang up but she didn’t so I moved on. Another lady on her phone. A man. A mom pushing two kids. A young couple. Not one person walked to their car without talking or texting on their phone.

I ended up going in the store without helping anyone.

I greeted the greeter and she seemed pleasantly surprised. Do people not usually greet the greeter? Are they on their phones?

I use my phone constantly. I can’t cast stones here. But today I had to face the reality of living in a society where we talk about our lives more than we LIVE them.

We Instagram our meals instead of savoring them. We post our thoughts instead of musing on them. We text instead of conversing.

We’ve created worlds where you are the center of your own design. Reality becomes relative and you can ignore or accept everything around you.

Technology is great and we learn so much. But what are we NOT learning?

How to resolve conflicts? To have patience? To live each moment to the fullest?

I noticed everyone in the store. I saw the overwhelmed mother, the supplier who probably didn’t expect to be working at this stage in life, the young stocker who was on his first job. I saw fellow women, older gentlemen, young families.

I talked to every one of them. I wanted to be present in their lives and I wanted them to be present in mine. I wanted to LIVE.

As my turn neared at the conveyor belt, an older man came up behind me with just a few things in his cart.

“Come on, you can go before me,” I said. I’d heard my phone dinging the entire time I was shopping and figured it was time to check it. I pulled it out as he moved in front of me.

“Thanks,” he replied. Pointing to my phone he continued, “It’s hard to get away from that thing, isn’t it?”

My self-righteousness flew out the window.

I put it away until I made it home.


Challenge yourself to live fully. Put the phone away for a day, limit social media for a week, turn off tv and play board games for an evening…you decide! Pray about what keeps you from living fully and take steps to make a change. Be present in the lives of those around you!