Oh Barcelona! We came…we trained…we explored!

Training in Spain!  A land of sunshine, beaches and so much warmth!  Who wouldn’t want to go to the coast of Spain for any kind of conference or training time!  You get to spend time with people you love and who challenge you in a common calling.  You are served wine for lunch and dinner….every day!  Oh, and did I mention the SUNSHINE!  Being in Germany this last year was pretty dreary and cold – a record-breaking year, I’ve been told.  So this past trip was a true delight.

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Here we are..some of our Young Life staff from all across Europe…

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A walk along the coast of Platja d’Aro

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A new way of eating fish….loved the tails in the mouth!

Making The Most of It!  Brent and I are learning, that when we go on these trips all across Europe – for training or helping with Young Life camps, we need to plan for some exploring time – if possible.  So this time, we decided to “See Barcelona” as we waited for our evening flight to go home.  We offered to take our awesome friends Liz and Aaron to the airport at 4:30am.  This was a no brainer, not only because we love these guys, but also because it gave us a full day to explore the city.  Ok…I can hear some of you now…1 day for Barcelona????  It’s the best we could do, for now.

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The city is alive with street art everywhere!

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Allie way near the Cathedral

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It’s amazing what you see when you look up!

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Sculpture that represents the “castelliers” – human towers, a popular sport in Spain.

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Even Christopher Columbus loves football!

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Lot’s of “Live Statues” everywhere!

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Etched on a vacant business’ window painted white…so cool!

Like every other first timer to Barcelona, we  visited Sagrada Familia.  It’s been called “An architectural bible”.  This church is facinating.  Living in Europe we’ve seen many churches.  They all have history,  all were designed for worship, and became the center of community for years.  Yet this one stands out, for many reasons.  Every part of this church symbolizes something.  It tells the Biblical story as well as a story of worship and adoration. Because of the lens I am using (an 85mm fixed lens) I was not able to get a good shot of the whole exterior of the church, but found more delight in the details anyways. (Actually, there was so much scaffolding around, it took away from the exterior.)   By no means am I able to describe and explain all the meaning found in this magnificent church.  That’s something you would do well to read about on your own.  Yet, here are a few photo’s that stand out to me.  (You know there’s many more than these.)

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Part of the Passion Facade. At the Front of the church are different scenes depicting the Passion of Christ – those last days before his death. The other side of the building depicts his birth.

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At the entrance…part of the Passion Facade

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One of the panels on the doors to the entrance.  Each panel had another word in gold, such as Grace and Hope.

At one point, it began to rain and we heard the loudest crack of thunder.  I have never experienced the type of echoing that took place within this structure. It was incredible!

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The ceiling decor

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The columns give the feeling of trees. Acknowledging God as the Creator.

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The suffering Christ at the altar

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Magnificent stained glass throughout

 I felt many emotions while walking through this structure. I must admit, there are many churches we have visited that I questioned the extravagance, the gaudiness of the interior.  For some reason, this is not the feel I had here.  To me, everything was built and designed to be an expression of thankfulness to God.  An act of worship to Him.  (I would strongly suggest to purchase the audio sets to explain all the details. Not sure I would have had the same reaction if I didn’t understand those details of the architecture.)

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Lot’s to ponder!

So much more to see in Barcelona!  Can’t wait for the next visit when we get to return in May.

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Facing my own…….(fill in the blank)!

We just returned from visiting Istanbul, Turkey.  Great time with friends, lot’s of walking, lot’s of great food, and lot’s of history lessons.  This was our first time in Turkey and to be honest we didn’t know what to expect, yet we were excited to see  this new and different culture.

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque

Puppeteer Street Performers

Puppeteer Street Performers

Beauty in the Details:  I loved the sounds of the city and the colors.  We stayed in the older part of the city, so were definitely among a multitude of tourists, but even so, the movement of people was welcoming and invigorating.  One thing I love to do anywhere we go….take photo’s.  Istanbul is a photographers paradise.  So many opportunities to capture culture and beautiful details.

Pottery in the Grand Bazaar

Pottery in the Grand Bazaar

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Beautiful embroidery….would loved to have bought these!

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The Green Mosque in Iznik, Turkey. For those of the Christian faith, Iznik is where the Nicene Creed was adopted by the first ecumenical council, which met there in the year 325. Iznik is also a sweet little town famous for its pottery / tiles.

Beauty through Faces:  Beautiful architecture, mosaics, and colorful pottery are more than enough to captures one’s eye.  Yet, my favorite is people.  I love taking pictures of people to tell the story of a culture.  They are the ones’ that capture my eye and my heart….they are the shot’s I remember the most.

As women, our heads needed to be covered to enter an active Mosque.  If we didn't have a scarf, they provided on - as well as something to cover our exposed legs.

As women, our heads needed to be covered to enter an active Mosque. If we didn’t have a scarf, they provided one – as well as something to cover our exposed legs.

A woman selling seed to feed the pigeons

A woman selling seed to feed the pigeons

Shoe Shine Man

Shoe Shine Man

Our new best friend that worked so hard to sell us some scarfs.

Our new best friend that worked so hard to sell us some scarfs.

A woman making flat bread at the restaurant we ate at while sitting on pillows on the floor.

As we sat on pillows eating dinner one night, this woman was making flat bread. I’m sure it’s for tourist…but it was fun to watch none the less.

Kebabs or Donner's.

kebab or Dönner’s.

A sweet young girl playing her accordian for money.

A sweet young girl playing her accordion for money.

A day of fishing on the bridge.

A day of fishing on the bridge.

Elivs is in the house!  I could have taken photo's of him all day...but he kept looking at me

Elvis is in the house! I could have taken photo’s of him all day…but he kept looking at me

A restaurant owner and his employee that became favorites of ours.  They definitly went out of their way to serve us...even giving us apple tea - on the house - just for passing by them every day.

A restaurant owner and his employee that became favorites of ours. They definitely went out of their way to serve us…even giving us apple tea – on the house – just for passing by them every day.

There are so many things that I come away with from our 1st visit to Istanbul.  Just thinking about how Istanbul was the center of the Roman Empire under Constantine who made Christianity the religion of the empire.  And now it is where Islam meets the west.  And how these Mosques that were once Christian churches, are now places of worship for the Islamic religion – it is a lot to process being a person of the Christian faith.

Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey.

Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum.

Signs of where the Christian cross is bleeding through the Islamic covering

Signs of where the Christian cross is bleeding through the Islamic covering

Beautiful details.

Beautiful details.

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Beautiful mosaics uncovered and displayed throughout the Hagia Sophia museum. This one depicts Jesus enthroned – 11th century.

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A door that once had a cross was changed to fit a house of worship for Islam.

So I started this blog posting off with the title…”Facing my own….(fill in the blank)”.  Why?  You see, the things that hit me the most in going to Turkey, is how, again….being in another culture I am faced with my own.

#1: Facing my own Fears:   I realize I am a product of my own American culture.  I will admit that going to an Islamic culture brought out some fear. I think…in my opinion…we are a fearful culture due to past events in American.  Being in Istanbul, helped me work through this – I’m always thankful for having an opportunity to see things with new eyes.

Women coming out of a mosque after afternoon prayers

Women coming out of a mosque after afternoon prayers

#2:  Facing my own Judgements:  Even though I have seen women in their burka before…my thoughts kept focusing on these women.  As I watched one woman – in her full burka, sitting among tourists and among many other women with just their heads covered….I wondered what she was thinking.  Does she look out on other women, with condemnation or is she looking on with a desire to be more “free”?   Just this comment alone shows my own judgement and conception of what being “free” means.  To me, I see a form of oppression – my eyes can only look on the outside and  form an opinion.  I admit, I know so little of this religion and it’s people.  As I walk away from our visit to Istanbul, it has reminded me again how important our stories are.  How important it is to be in relationship with others, to learn from each other.  I may never fully understand these women’s lives and I may never even agree with it.  Yet to have an opportunity to sit with them and learn from them would be a true gift.

I have so much to still learn and experience.  Today I am thankful for the opportunity to be exposed to so many different cultures!