Thursday, March 26, 2015

Three Reasons to Blog Again

Although there are many more than three reasons to blog again, I have quickly decided on three that are... important.

1) It has been too long since I've blogged
2) St. Valentine's bones are rather disturbing... just sitting there and staring at you every time you enter my blog
3) I'm going to Italy

Yes - you did hear me right. Italy is next on my destination list. And for several reasons!
Cinque Terre
Vatican City

It has been a dream of mine to travel -- for several years. And after asking Dad and Mom, and seeking the Lord, God has opened the doors for me to travel to Italy with my dear Mommy! :) We are scheduled to leave fairly soon. I know that millions upon billions of pictures will be taken, and they'll be posted someday to this blog... or another. I'm thinking of starting afresh... we'll see!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!

Okay... those of you who know me well may think, "Uh... she's doing a Valentine's post?" ;) But of no worries, I'm not going to write a cheesy ridiculous post about Valentine's Day. I think people definitely take this ancient Roman holiday way too far. But despite all that, I thought I'd share something I ran across last night. :)

This is St. Valentine's skull, preserved in the Bascilica of Santa Maria in Rome. :) I'm still not sure I really like this picture. ;)

Yes, he was a martyr for the faith; and was killed on February 14, 269 AD. Not much other than that is known about him, but can this be a reminder to pray for persecuted Christians around the world? That they will stay strong in the midst of persecution, and be willing to die rather than deny?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Encouragement from the Word

"But now, thus sayeth the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, 'Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name: thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through tht eirvers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior.'" ~Isaiah 43:1-3
  "But the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father..." ~John 15:26
"Behold, I have refined thee: but not with silver, I have chosen thee for the furnace of affliction. For mine own sake, even for mine own sake will I do it: for how should my name be polluted?" ~Isaiah 45:10
"If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." ~John 14:23
"If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments; and abide in his love." ~John 15:10
"This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you." ~John 15:12

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Culture of the Islands

Hawaii. When one hears the name, they may think of it as a bit of a mystery state, one that isn’t as easy to visit as others, and maybe a bit unknown. My family and I have had the privilege of visiting this state twice in the course of the last seven years, and we have had the opportunity to relieve some of the mystery in our minds.

This trip, I purposed to take note of the culture, to observe the differences between that state and our 49 on the other side, and learn to appreciate it more fully. I personally have only visited the island of Kauai, but I almost think that if you see one island’s culture, you’ve seen them all. And by saying that, I’m not undermining the reality of each island’s uniqueness, but rather, taking them in as a whole.

In order to accomplish my goal, some note-taking occurred (little scribbles on the top margin of my journal, most times!), and by no means do I see this as exhaustive. This is strictly observation, nothing extremely extensive, and I am aware there are many gaps in my observations. I didn’t go out of my way to observe anything in particular, but what I noticed on the surface and managed to pick up as a fellow United Statesman is what went down in the notes. In order to relate what I’ve observed, I’ve decided to put down in story form an extremely exaggeratedly-filled day in the life of our family while staying there.

  Around 6:30, we start to stir from our various sleeping quarters – a couch for the three girls, and beds for the rest. We’ve missed the sunrise, but certainly not breakfast! We scatter about, reading our Bibles, and eating our cereal or oatmeal or whatever else we can scrounge up before we go about the rest of the day’s activities. 
  Today, we have a trip to the nearby beach planned, so we make some sandwiches to eat later. Oh dear! We’ve run out of peanut butter and oh! I guess maybe we should get some cheese, milk, POG (Passionfruit, Orange, and Guava juice), and yogurt. Looks like we’d better make a quick run to the nearby super mart. 
  As we walk to the car parked on the street, a friendly man passes on the sidewalk with a cheery, “Aloha!” We greet him in like manner then pile into our vehicle. We pull into Big Save, and browse the aisles for the necessary items. What? No yogurt? No milk? No cheese? It now looks like there won’t be any cheese for our chicken sandwiches. Bummer! Is it really true they only stock these stores two or three times a week? Thankfully we’ve found the peanut butter, and a few other things we’d forgotten we needed, and we go to the check-out. The Hawaiian cashier scans our items and we’re thankful she has paper bags for us to put our items in since plastic bags have been banned. We tromp out to the car, making the numerous chickens scatter to the bushes. As we load our bags into the trunk, we spot a beat up pickup driven by a native roar past with his sun-glassed son riding in the back. 
  We return to our house, finish making the sandwiches, and once again load up and head down to the beach. We drive down the road at a snail’s pace of 20 mph and dream of celerity until we’re granted 50 mph, but only for a short time before we have to slow back down to 30 mph. I agree with my dad’s statement, “Round here, it’s a never-steady speed limit, and an ever-changing speed zone.” As we cruise along, we pass a corn field with outhouses every hundred rows and lights along the perimeter to penetrate darkness when working in the night becomes a necessity. A little while later, we also spot horses put out to graze right up alongside the highway and we slow down to take a picture because it looks so strange. 
  Before long, we’ve arrived at the beach and as the sun blazes down, we watch the waves and take pictures. We laugh together as we notice that someone across the beach has decided a large family dressed decently on the beach is an interesting sight and deserving of pictures. We attempt to act normal and pretend not to notice. My gaze wanders to a jungle-like area across the way, and I know natives are probably there with their dogs, hunting for wild pigs. 
  Eventually, lunch sounds good, and we chow down before heading back home. Our gas tank is running low, so we pull into Costco to fill up. The price of fuel is shocking compared to back at home; we try not to wince as $3.78 a gallon goes into the car and out of the credit card and especially try not to think of the $1.81 price back at home. The rest of the ride is spent quietly, observing the flora and fauna. Plants from all over the world make up the landscape  – the Bird of Paradise, Thai plants, African Umbrella Thorn trees, and the Blood of Christ bushes, just to name a few. 
  After we arrive back home, we rest awhile before the older ones head out to Lapperts, one of the few places they serve coffee on the island. We just don’t understand why Shave Ice seems to be sold at every corner but coffee is so rare! As we putt down the street, we watch all the guys, young and old alike, walk around on the beach in their loose Hawaiian shirts and shorts – even the most dedicated formal button-up-shirt-guys seem to mysteriously break into Hawaiian shirts and shorts like the plague! We also watch the fishing boats float along the horizon, hoping for their next big catch. Once we arrive, we order mocha chillers for three, and sip them slowly once they’re made. 
  On our way back to the car, we pass both a tourist and a native busy chatting up a storm in pay phone booths close by. A surprise awaits us as we drive by a nearby resort – an authentic Hawaiian wedding is taking place in the yard! We curiously peer out the windows and notice the few attendees are all dressed in white, and someone there is serenading the group with the sound of the ukulele. 
   By this time, sunset is nearing, and natives and other workers are wrapping up their jobs for the day. The old-style lawn mower is stowed away in a nearby shed, the tiki torches are lit, and others run to their cars, ready to be done with the day’s work. To end the day, we, and many others, gather on the rocks and beach to watch the sunset. We all ooh and ahh, and take pictures, watch for whales while we’re waiting for the sun to actually set, and then keep our eyes peeled for the alleged green flash as the sun disappears behind the ocean. Then the time comes to say goodnight and aloha to a day gone by.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Love of God

 As we flew over the ocean on our way to Kauai, my thoughts naturally went towards the ocean. There were, as there are in many cases, some "what-if" thoughts. The ocean just stretches and stretches and stretches, with no seeming end. You fly over it for hours with no sight of land. Just blue, blue, blue. But then my thoughts took a turn to one of my Dad's favorite songs... "The Love of God". As I thought of the third verse, it took on a whole new meaning when I could actually SEE the ocean and visualize what the verse was really saying!

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

 That brought me to look up some verses specifically about the love of God. Here are a few that I came across.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 8:38-39

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. ~1 John 3:16

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. ~1 John 4:19

And lastly, an admonishment for us:
Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. ~Jude 1:21

The Love of God
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

P.S. And if you haven't guessed already, my hopes are to post more this year. ;) And no, that doesn't have anything to do with 2015 New Year's goals. :D

Thursday, January 8, 2015

2014 to 2015

Warning: This post is extremely random, and doesn't flow. I just have thoughts that need to go somewhere, so each paragraph is completely different than the next. :)

 The year seemed to come and go too rapidly. Wasn't it only a month or two ago that we invited friends over to celebrate the entrance of 2014? No, I guess it was a whole year ago. But how did that happen?

The year of 2014 was one of extreme challenge. It was, undoubtedly, the most challenging year of my life. The struggles faced, the hurdles jumped, and the battles fought brought forth questions, answers, and things I didn't know were inside of me. Needless to say, it was also a year of heart-searching.But the Lord is good. He is gracious, and keeps His promises. His Word reprimanded me, encouraged me, and brought change in my life, for which I am so grateful. Now 2015 has brought in new challenges (already!), and God has shown me new ways that He wants to stretch me and grow me.
Two of the kiddios sitting outside the airport while waiting for our rental car

On the 31st of December, our family headed out of our snow-blown town and stayed the night at a hotel near the airport that would take us to Kauai, Hawaii the next morning at 6:30, which meant getting up and leaving by 4, which meant getting more than 4 hours of sleep (if you're going to stay up til 12, which we normally do). Now, I'm a girl of traditions. :) I was rather devastated that we weren't staying up until 12, as is our custom. But, I agreed, I wanted to stay awake and study Italian while in the plane for 6 hours. I decided to set the automatic wake-up call for 11:55 p.m. so that I'd have at least 5 minutes to wake up and celebrate the grand entrance of 2015. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. :) Sometime while Dani was sleeping, she grabbed hold of the phone and took it off its hook, thus, the wake-up call never came. ;) So, I didn't celebrate the coming in of 2015, which was a terrible disappointment (sort-of ;). For a few days, I still felt like I was living in 2014 - 2015 just didn't seem real to me.

The natives light the tiki torches every night. Beautiful.
 Anyhow, we've arrived safely in Hawaii, and so far, have enjoyed the time together. All the scenery of Hawaii is simply gorgeous. Hiking, walking, and watching the sunsets have been some of the highlights, as well as taking photos, window shopping (yes, quite unusual for us! And no, we didn't buy anything), and simply relaxing.
Manda, graciously posing on our hike to Hoopii Falls


This stream reminded me of Psalm 23 - the beauty was stunning!

One of the many pictures I've attempted to capture of the ocean. This one was a bit special though because of the sky... oh the beauty!

A little spray makes a photo a tad better ;)

Today we had the time of our lives at Barking Sands Beach - one of the most secluded beaches you'll find. After rattling along (at 5 mph for city slickers and 20 mph for country bumpkins/hicks from the sticks) on an "unimproved, narrow [(i.e. fits three cars side by side!)], dirt road [that you] drive at your own risk", we arrived safely there only to find that the sand doesn't bark, but the waves are something you don't see every day.

We also found the lighting was something else and that photos were extremely needful.

I can't even begin to describe the waves to you. They were the most ginormous and powerful waves I have ever seen - and having seen the ocean several times in my life... I have a tid bit of authority on the subject. :) I even felt the pulling of the ocean (slightly scary - I didn't do it twice!) when I allowed the waves to wash over my feet. Not safe to surf in, I hear, but safe enough to watch.

The weather was predicted to be overcast and not so nice, but this has been one of the sunniest days we've experienced thus far!

Mom and Hannah enjoying the beach

The little ones enjoyed getting their feet wet

It has been rather hilarious - big families must be an extremely strange phenomenon down here. Since we've been here, we've had our pictures taken at least three times by complete strangers. Some guy on the beach was having fun snapping photos of all of us for quite a long time, a woman at the Grand Hyatt Hotel the other day took our picture with her own camera while we posed for our camera ;), and when we visited Waimea Canyon a few days ago, a lady pointed her iPad at us and started snapping, so Greg waved (just to enhance her photo, I'm sure!). ;) What else can you do?!

Sisters! ♥

The 5 youngest

 We had brought our lunch up there, so we found refuge in the picnic canopy and continued to observe the ocean while eating and drying off.

I am compiling information for a future post while we're here, and am eager to share that once we're home  (we're heading back the 17th). May the Lord bless you and cause His face to shine on you!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Have I done MY best for Jesus?

This song convicted me MUCH when we sang this as a family a little while ago. I hope it blesses you and makes you stop and ponder. Please, stop and read these precious words.

I wonder have I done my best for Jesus,
Who died upon the cruel tree?
To think of His great sacrifice at Calvary!
I know my Lord expects the best from me.

How many are the lost that I have lifted?
How many are the chained I’ve helped to free?
I wonder, have I done my best for Jesus,
When He has done so much for me?

The hours that I have wasted are so many
The hours I’ve spent for Christ so few;
Because of all my lack of love for Jesus,
I wonder if His heart is breaking too.

I wonder have I cared enough for others,
Or have I let them die alone?
I might have helped a wand’rer to the Saviour,
The seed of precious Life I might have sown.

No longer will I stay within the valley
I’ll climb to mountain heights above;
The world is dying now for want of someone
To tell them of the Saviour’s matchless love.

He has given so much for us - how could we not give back? How could we not surrender our lives fully to His ways? How could we not love? How could we not listen to His voice and His promptings?

On a side note, the subject of love has been impressed on me for some time, and how little I love. I think we all need to ask the Lord for His love to penetrate our hearts so that we can love others without reserve. I don't want my love to be conditional - because Christ's isn't. Love is not only in feeling, but in word and deed as well. And the way the world sees us love is a reflection to them of how Christ loves us. Aim to be a channel of His love, and show it to others without reserve.

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