Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z, Two Year Blogaversary, and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 334

Z is for Zig Zag, Zebras, and "Z" End of the A to Z Blogging Challenge!

Zig-zagging through this month, not really sure how to combine the A to Z challenge with adventures in vacations, blessings, and just life, somehow I've come to the end of the road. Or at least the end of this particular road. I'm looking towards the next horizon, making plans for how I will finish off my 365 Days of Blessings Challenge.

In one of my zig zags, I had hoped to create a contest and award for my two year blogaversary. However, I have been having too much fun in the sunshine of Hawaii to create anything like that. In my moments on the pc, I've been exhausted, answering e-mails with the wrong information, creating blog posts that may or may not make sense. Basically, if I have energy, I'm with my family outside. If we are all sunburnt and too tired to stand up, then I can sit at my laptop. Tomorrow night, we return home . . . late.

So, for now, I just want to say Mahalo (Thank You) to all of you for joining me in the last few years, and to those of you who joined me this last month in the A to Z challenge. It has been a priveledge to get to know all of the amazing bloggers that create posts about writing, faith, life, fun, and adventures of many kinds.



So, since I can't give you anything at the moment, I encourage you all to take some time and enjoy today. Enjoy, look up, pretend you are soaring above the world in a house held up by balloons!



365 Days of Blessings, Day 326



Giving thanks today for:

1. The award I found waiting for me from Elizabeth Mueller. Thank you Elizabeth! Here's the Zebra she gave me:


If you completed the A to Z Challenge, take this and post it on your blog. We survived!!!

2. The A to Z Challenge has helped me meet many new bloggers and has given me a focus for each day this month, when it would have been easy to just let it all slide otherwise.

3. Waking up in Hawaii . . . even at day 12, it's pretty amazing.

4. We're all sunburned slightly for good reasons - we've been playing in the sun, and not laying in the sun.

5. Iao Valley - our pic.


6. Getting behind one of the Twin Waterfalls.


7. A Road to Hana overlook.


8. Exploring a lava tube leading to the ocean.


9. Palm Trees


10. Climbing around the Oheo pools.


11. The Lord is the Alpha and Omega, our A to Z, beginning, middle, and end!

Scripture Blessings:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8

Friday, April 29, 2011

X, Y, and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 332 and 333

X - you can find it at dictionary.com all by itself. The letter can symbolize Christ, but it can also symbolize crossing something out. It can symbolize the "x factor" or some unknown quanitity, or something extraordinary.

I struggled with this one yesterday morning, and we started our day early and ended it late, with no ideas forming in my head for a post. Today, X seems to stand for all of those things at once.

Christ on the cross is the X symbol at Xmas time, and I like thinking of it that way whenever I come across the letter. Jesus died for our sins. He rose from the dead, and the cross and the tomb are empty. We are saved, and it is finished. All our sins have been crossed out by that one X.

Jesus as both Lord and Man, has baffled us for more than two centuries now. How do we wrap our tiny brains around the Lord of the Universe giving everything up to be just like us, and then die for our sins. Jesus, as Lord and Messiah, and also Immanuel, God With Us, definitely fits into the "unknown" part of X. We just don't get it fully, because we can't. As it says in 1 Corinthians 13:12,

"For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

Extraordinary Love . . . what else describes the Lord's love for each of us. Extra - ordinary.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:16

Now, for Y. I'm going with yonder, and the y symbol in sign language, which when turned and shaken, looks a lot like "Hang Loose."

Yonder: –adjective
1. being in that place or over there; being that or those over there: That road yonder is the one to take.
2. being the more distant or farther: yonder side.

I've been Yonder lately . . . distant lately from where I usually live, and it's been great. However, there is always a "yonder" place that beckons, isn't there? Another horizon that we gaze towards, whether it is across the hills and mountains on land, or yonder across the coral beds beneath the sea. We are pulled forward, yonder, into new places and looking toward new horizons.

Y in sign language:


Shaka, the Hawaiian sign for "Hang Loose"

The "shaka" sign is a common greeting gesture. It is often associated with Hawaii. It consists of extending the thumb and smallest finger while keeping the three middle fingers curled, and raising the hand as in salutation with the back of the hand facing the person that is being greeted; sometimes the hand is rotated back and forth to emphasize the sign.

Hawaiian locals use the shaka for various meanings, like "all right", "cool", and "smooth".



I so wish I had taken pictures of some of the people who have given us the shaka sign . . . you would be surprised by who and where this sign is used the most . . .not just at tourist central stops. Our favorite one, the one we wished we had gotten a picture of, was an older policeman on Big Island. His smile was so bright, and we totally didn't expect a policeman to be giving us the "shaka" sign.

So, for Y, I encourage you to visit someplace yonder, and just hang loose.
365 Days of Blessings, Days 324 and 325

1. The Road to Hana. Beautiful sights, and many turns.


2. The Twin Waterfalls.

3. The many waterfalls we saw along the road to Hana.

4. Swimming under waterfalls in Hawaii.

5. Watching some amazing surfers surf in the "big" waves.

6. Seeing a wild mongoose, not native to Hawaii.

7. Seeing Rainbow bark trees . . . where did I put that guide with the real name?


8. Apple Bananas, tasty treats on a road trip.

9. The Oheo pools.

10. The backroad back from Hana . . . a fun adventure on dirt roads, and bumpy pavement.

11. Snorkeling trip with the Pacific Whale Foundation.

12. Snorkeling at Molikini.

13. Seeing so many tropical fish just a few inches away . . . wow!

14. A fun slide off the side of the ship. My youngest went again, and again, and again, and . . .

15. My husband's sharp eyes caught the sight of three whales in the distance. The captain of the ship slowed, and turned us so we could all see them spout water, and then wave their flukes up as they prepared to dive deep. They were a long, long ways away, but it was still cool.

16. Snorkeling off the coast of Maui, by Lahaina, our second snorkel stop. The coral reefs were incredible, and so were the fish.

17. Snorkeling with green sea turtles. They are so beautiful, and fun to watch.

18. I had a moment of fear today in the ocean. I felt vulnerable, and had to grab onto my oldest daughter's floatie. After a moment, I realized that this incredible opportunity to see the world under the sea would only last so long, and I didn't want to waste it. After that I had a hard time not wanting to visit "yonder" horizon of coral reef after coral reef. It was hard being told it was time to get back on the ship.

19. My daughters actually learned more about coral reefs than they knew before . . . about how and why the coral has different colors.

20. We could have snorkeled yesterday, except for a big "oops" on my part with the location of our pick up point. I was very upset at myself for that, even though the Pacific Whale Foundation graciously allowed us to change our trip date for today. Turns out, that God's providence must have been at work. Yesterday they had heavy winds, and had low visibility. Today, it was beautiful, except off the coast of Lanai - and so we snorkeled off the coast of Maui for our second spot and saw more turtles than we would have seen otherwise. So the painfully embarassing "oops" turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

21. The Lord is Extra-ordinary, and X's out our sins forever!!!

Scripture Blessings:

"For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1Corinthians 13:12

Sorry, for not having more pictures - we have yet to upload for the last week! Tonight, we'll get to that.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Waves, and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 331

Waves

Waves lapping gently against a lakeshore, or crashing against the beach, surging inward and outward, fascinate and invite us in to dip our toes, swim, play tag with the swells, or throw ourselves facefirst onto a boogie board and ride the foam onto the sand.

I love living in a state that is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, and I love visiting states that are bordered by the ocean. Visiting Hawai'i has been a dream come true for my daughters, as I shared in my post, "Under the Sea" a few days ago. They love the water. And I would post pictures, but it seems that most of the time we are in the water, we are all in the water with no exceptions. We love jumping in it, splashing in it, swimming in it, riding the waves on boogie boards, or even just body-surfing (throwing ourselves into the surf without a board). We've all been pounded and rolled under the waves against the sandy beach, gotten saltwater in our eyes, and after a breather, have gone back for more and more.

This isn't a pic of us, it's a general boogie boarding pic:


But this post isn't just about ocean waves and water. It's also about the kind of waves that surge and swell through our lives, and the stories that we write.

Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an ending. It sounds simple, but the best stories have layers of complexity in emotion, action, and relationships. Every main character experiences layers of waves throughout her/his story, some of the waves criss-crossing as they crash to the shore. For example, in a book I happen to love, and my daughters happen to love, Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George, the main character Creel experiences many wave layers in her story.

Creel seems very much alone at the beginning of her story, except for her brother. She has been orpaned by illness, and mistreated by her foolish Aunt who hopes to gain prestige by setting Creel up with the local nobility. Of course, Creel's Aunt's idea involves setting Creel up as bait for the local dragon.

So, there are at least two waves criss-crossing each other at the beginning of the story - both an emotional wave and a suspense/action wave, criss-crossing into each other and building into a larger swell, that foams up gently the shoreline of the story as the dragon Theoradus puts Creel at ease . . . in an unexpected turn of events. Creel saves the dragon from the annoyance of having to battle the noble lord, she learns some things about dragon, and she gets to pick out a piece of the dragon's treasure, a pair of slippers that will complicate the story with new waves of action, emotion, relationships, and complexity.

I could go on in this example, but I don't want to spoil a great story.

In real life, our lives our filled with different waves surging in and out, criss-crossing, building on one another, or pulling against each other in a way that creates bigger waves. When one large wave pulls out, and another wave surges in, there is the greatest possibility for a painful pounding into the sand or a great ride on the top of the surf.



Waves of Blessings:


1. Catching the top of the wave at just the right time to float swiftly into the shore just at the edge of the foam.

2. Warm waves that buoy us up and set us down gently.

3. Waves surge into the beach continually, so we know that when we miss one, another one will come.

4. When the waves pound us into the gritty sand, roll us over and over under the water, or fill our noses with saltwater, we can find our footing and get up again.

5. Playing chase the waves, especially with kids, or watching a small child play chase the waves. Their smiles and giggles of delight are wonderful upswellings of joy.

6. The crash, and swoosh sounds of waves against a sandy ocean beach.

7. The trickling, drumming sound of waves tumbling rocks against a rocky beach.

8. The roar of the ocean wind.

9. The feel of wave-water against skin, whether it's cold or warm, it feels as delicious as chocolate tastes. I'm not sure how to describe it well enough. As soft as silk doesn't even begin to do it justice.

10. The surge of our oceans' waves is one of the most unique parts of our world. Our tides make life possible, not only for marine life, but for us. Our oceans are precious gifts to us from our Lord, the Creator of the Universe.

Scripture Blessings:

"And God said, 'Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.' And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good." Genesis 1:9-10

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for, and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 330`

V is for Vanguard, Vanquish, or Victory, and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 330
I had settled on a V word. I really had. I had chosen Victory, and then these other two words kept popping up: Vanguard and Vanquish. Why? Trying to follow my own stream of scattered thought, I realized that I had them all related in my mind.

In a story, the hero is the vanguard who vanquishes the enemy, and emerges victorious.

Too many V words, I know. But each piece feels important to me today, in both writing, and faith.

Vanguard:–noun
1. the foremost division or the front part of an army; advance guard; van.
2. the forefront in any movement, field, activity, or the like.
3. the leaders of any intellectual or political movement.
4. ( initial capital letter ) Rocketry . a U.S. three-stage, satellite-launching rocket, the first two stages powered by liquid-propellant engines and the third by a solid-propellant engine.

Some related words to vanguard: van, avant-garde, new wave, cutting edge, forefront

Every hero in every story, whether they are vanquishing darkness, blandness, evil, or their own fears is the vanguard of their story. They need to be in the forefront, the cutting edge of the story, and act like the propellant to their own rocket ship.

Vanquish–verb (used with object)
1. to conquer or subdue by superior force, as in battle.
2. to defeat in any contest or conflict; be victorious over: to vanquish one's opponent in an argument.
3. to overcome or overpower: He vanquished all his fears.

Whether we are following definition 1, 2, or 3, I think every character needs to vanquish their enemy in their story. Again, they could vanquish darkness, blandness, the status quo, their own fears, their own bitterness . . . anything.

Victory:–noun, plural -ries.
1. a success or triumph over an enemy in battle or war.
2. an engagement ending in such triumph.
3. the ultimate and decisive superiority in any battle or contest.
4. a success or superior position achieved against any opponent, opposition, difficulty, etc.

Every hero needs a victory moment. Every hero. Maybe this is too American of me, wanting heroes to have victory at the end of their stories, but I think Victory is found in different ways in different cultures. I recently watched a British movie that dissatisfied me because the heroine didn't live "happily ever after" in the way that I expected, but I realized that in the end she had victory over her own fears, her own desires, and her own jealousies. She had a personal victory, and newfound freedom, even if she didn't get the guy, or conquer the castle.

So, in my faith life, which criss crosses with my love of fiction writing, reading and movie watching, I believe that the words Vanguard, Vanquish, and Victory are always relavent. Jesus offered a new covenant. His words and actions were a vanguard. He vanquished sin and death, and has achieved the ultimate victory of redemption for each of us. His story is the best, and most exciting story ever told.

Blessings:
1. Jesus has vanquished sin and death!

2. Jesus is victorious for all time!

3. Jesus is our hero!

4. The Bible is avant guarde, fresh, new, and like rocket propellant for those of us who sit too much on our faith, and need a swift kick in the pants.

5. The Bible is one of our foremost weapons in spiritual warfare, even though the ultimate battle has been won, we each face temptations and trials which test, try, and strengthen our faith.

6. Prayer is another one of our foremost weapons in spiritual warfare. Such a simple activity offers great defense, and gives us a way to work with the Lord in this world. Prayer, with the Lord, can change lives.

7. The armor of God.

8. Love is more powerful than hate, bitterness, or anger.

9. Faith is more powerful that doubt.

10. Hope pierces the darkness, and leaves shadows in its wake.

Scripture Blessings:
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people."
Ephesians 6:10-18

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for Under the Sea, and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 329

My daughters love the sea, and all that is in it, both mammals and fish.

This is due in part to the once weekly trips we used to make to Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium which has an amazing shark tank, as well as touch tanks (one finger and no picking up that starfish), seahorses, walruses, seals, and other amazing creatures. We know the walruses "names" and have watched each fish tank get fed. My daughters have been to "under the sea" zoo camps, and stood above the shark tank and watched the marine biologists feed the sharks individually (with a pole, not by hand). It's true that they love the other animals there too, especially the elephants, the tigers, and the leopards.

However, my oldest daughter's two unwavering fascinations are: marine life, and dance.

My youngest daughter's unwavering fascinations are: marine life, cats (especially tigers), and dance.

On some days, dance is number one. On other days, marine life wins out. It depends.

My oldest daughter can, and has, sat for 90 minutes in front of the full window shark tank at the zoo and aquarium, watching the behavior of the sharks and how it changes when there are more people in the room, and less. She has even taken notes on which sharks are "friendlier" and which aren't. Her biggest dream of all time has been swimming with sharks. When she first asked if that was possible, I nearly had a panic attack right then and there. My baby? With sharks? And would I go with her? No, no, no.

My youngest daughter will watch the tropical fish tank, the sharks, and used to watch the belugas (they are no longer at our zoo) for long periods of time, again, noticing behaviors and talking about them afterwards. She has wanted to snorkel with fish, swim with dolphins and sharks, and get under the sea for a long time now.

I blame this all on Disney:



Just kidding. I have encouraged their interests, knowing that passion and perserverance need to be honored, and feeling that the care of God's creatures is a part of what God has wanted us to do since the beginning in the garden of Eden. I have also seen ways that people can share their faith in Christ while caring for God's creatures.

On our Hawai'i trip we have made many of their dreams come true (or at least for the "first" time). We have snorkeled at night with manta rays. We have cage-dived/snorkeled with Galapagos sharks. We have body surfed with a sea turtle, and watched one come ashore and eat. We have stated again and again, how amazing God's imagination and creation is, as we have had these experiences. And guess what, here in Hawai'i, we've found that others agree with us. (where we live, people just give us strange looks and give us "Jesus Freaks" wide berth)

My husband would like to help our daughters learn to scuba dive. He learned in the Navy. I don't think I will ever do that, due to a problem with my ear drums. I have an ear drum that has broken open several times now, and diving deep would probably break it again. However, I am thankful that I can snorkel with my daughters, and that I have gotten over 99% of my fear of the water with their interest pushing me out of my comfort zone.

So here, are some of the amazing blessings that I have seen under the sea or in aquariums: (If I don't name your favorite sea creature, feel free to add to my list in the comment section)

1. Manta Rays

2. Galapagos sharks

3. Sea Turtles

4. Coral

5. Dolphins

6. Crabs, especially the hermit crabs.

7. Anenomes

8. Jellyfish - from a distance, they are beautiful to see - or at least from a seated position in a canoe. We don't like being in the water with them.

9. Sea Cucumbers

10. Octopus (Octopi)

11. Walrus

12. Seals

13. Whale Sharks - I've never seen one personally, but they are amazing.

14. Orcas - seen them up close in the wild - they prefer kayakers to speed boat whale watch groups that chase them.

15. Sea stars, especially the purple ones found on the Puget Sound, and Northwest Coastline.

16. Barnacles are fun to look at, but not touch.

17. Seahorses

18. Sand Dollars

19. Clams and Mussels

20. Krill and plankton, the sustaining food of the ocean.

Scripture Blessings:

"And God said, 'Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.' So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, 'Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.'"
Genesis 1:20-22

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunday Blessings, 365 Days of Blessings Day 328

Easter Sunday Blessings, Hawai'i style

1. Jesus is risen! Alleluia!

2. Celebrating Christ's resurrection on a beach at sunrise.

3. Celebrating Christ's resurrection with beautiful hand gestures in a hula dance.

4. Celebrating Christ's resurrection with white birds flying up in flocks behind the speaker.

5. The witness and ministry of the Waikiki Beach Chapel, a co-mission involving four different churches of different denominations.

6. Hearing God's word.

And on a different, more travel adventure note:

7. First time at an Easter service wearing a swimsuit under my dress.

8. First time my kids have built a sand valley while listening to a pastor speak.

9. First time after worship, we've gone to swim with sharks . . . not sure it was a fitting Easter day celebration but it was our only day available to go. And it was fun, and amazing! Not scary at all. And we didn't get seasick . . .not sure why so many people do.

10. One of our shark crewmen wore white today in honor of Easter.

11. A lady in a convenience store was listening to her worship service in the store, and wearing her best clothes to work . . . in honor of Christ's resurrection.

12. Many, many people celebrated Easter on O'ahu.

13. Saw huge sea turtles on the beach, both in and out of the water.

14. Went boogie boarding and body surfing on a different beach.

15. Saw a dark shape in the water behind me while body surfing . . . jumped three feet, and then realized that another sea turtle was "body-surfing" next to us. Wow!

16. Feeling as if the day has been well spent.

Scripture Blessings:

"After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.'"
Matthew 28:1-10

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Treasure, and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 327

As a kid, I dreamed of digging up treasure chests piled with gold and jewels out of a sandy shore. However, as I've grown older, I've found that the treasures that matter the most aren't ones that can be stored in a box.


Treasured Blessings:


1.Eternal Salvation

2. Family fun moments when everyone laughs together

4. Forgiveness

5. A wonderful, loving marriage

6. Sweet daughters

7. Exciting experiences

8. Joy

9. Peace

10. Exhileration

11. Love

12. Faith

13. Hope

14. Friendship

15. Sunshine, sand, and warm waves

16. Writing

17. Reading

18. A well told story

19. Writing more . . .

20. Living life with all five senses, and a heart fully engaged.

Scripture Blessings:

"indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God."
Proverbs 2:3-5


Travel Blessings:
A treasured experience captured partly on video. This is a 90 second look at our manta ray snorkel experience, from the professional videographer diver.

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for sourpuss? or Sunshine, Sand, and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 326

S is for Sourpuss, Sunshine, and Sand, plus 365 Days of Blessings, Day 326
I’m back to “original-moment” posts, not previously written while in flight. I realized this morning that posting blessing posts early may defeat the purpose in counting blessings each day, because last night and this morning I had a hard time being thankful . . . which is crazy, because I’m in Hawaii, and it is amazing.

Am I being a sourpuss?

Our Manta Ray dive was so awesome that anything we did next would not be up to that same level of exhilarated excitement. I knew that. And yet, although yesterday morning was great, with a rock clambering hike to the river by Boiling Pots waterfalls on Big Island, I had some tough moments yesterday.

After three days of successfully navigating our way around the Big Island, I couldn’t figure out where we were on the map compared to the airport. We worried about not being early enough only to hurry, arrive, and find that the plane we would board wasn’t there yet. A fire alarm went off in the airport while my daughters were in the bathroom, and they screamed and nearly panicked until we found out it was a test.

The island hopping plan flight was great, easy, no worries, and my husband and I chatted. I wrote in my journal, and we were excited about starting the next part of our journey. When we went to get our rental car, my daughters and I were given flowers to put in our hair by the rental car bus driver. Geannie, our Dollar rental bus driver, was amazingly sweet, and the Dollar rental car place was really nice. We were off to a good start in the afternoon on O’ahu. We drove to our hotel with no problem, and our jaws nearly dropped at where we are staying.

My husband accepted a sales call over a year ago. It was one that I would have ignored, but he chatted with the sales lady, and landed us in the most expensive, fancy hotel we’ve ever stayed in, for about the price of a “normal” hotel. Let’s just say this place has been visited by actors, singers, a few Presidents, and my husband thought he saw a famous basketball player last night. It has at least three pools, a protected saltwater lagoon, and beach access. There are at least five buildings. The furnishings and d├ęcor are far more elegant than what I have in my own home. Far more elegant. So, what’s the catch to all this?

We have to go to a Vacation Club Rental Sales meeting for two hours tomorrow.

And why am I not finding thankfulness here?
Because I feel like I don’t fit. I found out on a trip we took a few years ago that I can love elegant hotels with big swimming pools and water slides, but this one is so fancy I feel like I’ve been dropped off on a different planet. Plus, it’s in the middle of downtown Waikiki.

I find myself looking to the mountains beyond the city and wondering if there is a place there. And wondering what it looks like outside the city. I am surrounded by tourists, and not every day kinds of tourists, but limo-riding, Yves St. Laurent, Tiffany’s type tourists.

What is a “regular” girl like me doing in a place like this?

I like semi-elegant hotels with in-room kitchens, or “mom-and-pop” run hotels with in-room kitchens with casual furnishings, and decent beds that I can sleep in. I’m even content with a Motel 8 with a refrigerator and a microwave for a few days, as long as the ice machine across the hall doesn’t make noise all night. I’ve slept in cabins with mice, and tents with mosquitoes, and found wonder and beauty in those settings.

So, am I being a Sourpuss?

Yes, and I know that I have no reason to be one. I have been undeservedly, immeasurably blessed.

It is unlikely that we will ever stay in a place this elegantly appointed again, so I need to run my feet over the hardwood floor, swim in all three pools, the lagoon, and the ocean with the white sandy beach, plus make some great meals in a kitchen with all the extras, let my kids play games on the game player in our room, and soak in the sunshine. We need to do all the complimentary activities like lei-making, and hula lessons, then go to the Rockin’ Hawaiian show (also complimentary), and possibly take in the hotel luau at a discounted price that came with the hotel package. Then we need to drive all over the island with our rental car (also came with this hotel package). Then I can sleep again in between super soft sheets, with extra pillows on a King sized bed, while my kids sleep in their double beds – they each have their own double bed. So, I’m not dressed in the same, designer clothes as most of the people in this hotel, that doesn’t matter. We are in Hawaii. It's the land of the bikini . . . and I'm happily wearing a one piece.

Sunshine is pouring on our windows with an amazing level of brightness. The sand is just 100 yards away, with blue waves racing to meet us.

I no longer feel like a sourpuss. I feel immeasurably blessed by sunshine, sand, family, and rest. So, thank you for letting me let it all hang loose for a moment and get through my foolish slump.


Blessings:

1.Sunshine

2.Sand

3.Sunscreen

4.Blue waves

5.Warm water

6.Diamond Head on one horizon.

7.The Pacific Ocean on the other horizon

8.Flowers

9.A beautiful kitchen for making our meals.

10.Knowing that Jesus Christ is my Savior, and He is the richest treasure that anyone could ever have, or share.

11.Seeing opportunities to share Christ while on vacation.

12.Overhearing two men talk about the awesomeness of God in a small grocery store.

13.Seeing at least 4 banners inviting us to Easter services.

Scripture Blessings:

“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so.”
Hebrews 13:7-9

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Renewal and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 325

R is for Renewal, and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 3325
Have you ever reached that point when you aren’t just physically dragging, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well?

There’s only one place I’ve found that can truly give renewal: the arms of Jesus.

Blessings of Renewal:

1.Prayer.

2.Communion.

3.Maundy Thursday.

4.Good Friday.

5.Easter.

6.Baptism.

7.Praise and Thanksgiving.

8.God’s Word: The Bible.

9.Forgiveness and Salvation.

10.Holiness as a free gift of grace, undeserved but full of peace.

Writing Renewals:

1.Writing
2.Reading
3.Writing something completely new.

Scripture Blessings:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 1 Corinthians 4:16

Travel Blessings:

We swam with Manta Rays off the Kona coast last night. With no previous experience snorkeling for my daughters or for me, we slid off a Snorkel and Dive boat, The Manta, last night with my husband, two professional divers, and 16 other newbies. The sun had just dipped below the horizon before we put on our snorkel gear, and were handed flashlights that strapped to our wrists. My oldest daughter was nervous about getting off the boat. My youngest had trouble with her snorkel mask a few times on the swim over to the dive and snorkel site from the boat. I’ve had panic attacks in open water before, and felt myself shivering, but I stayed brave for my daughters.

Sound totally crazy? It probably was. However, I knew that we could do it, with the help of these experienced professional divers and snorkelers, in the trusty hands of a professional outfit, while holding onto a floating ring the whole time. The water was dark, except for the bobbing lights in our hands, and the lights of the divers below us.

When we reached the site, we floated, keeping our legs and bodies straight out around the circle of floats, and our lights pointed down into the center of the ring. Divers below us had lights set up on the shallow (at least 40 feet) shelf beneath us. We saw a ray swooping in circles over by another group. We could hear their shouts of excitement. We waited, and waited, just seeing the edges of the rays outside our circle. Then one swam up to eat the krill attracted by our lights.

The rays do this swooping circle to feed, with their bellies flashing white just below the surface. We were floating right above them. At least 6 different rays visited our circle, coming up right underneath us. One came less than a foot away from me, belly to belly, and I just tried to stay as still as I possibly could. I was scared, but elated, amazed, awed, shivering from excitement and a little cold. I made everyone laugh by shouting into my snorkel, “Holy Cow! That’s close enough. That’s good. Close enough. Holy Cow!” as the ray circled again and again, getting closer every time. Afterwards I was a little embarrassed by my corny expression, but most of the snorkelers got out only, “whooh, and whoah!”

The smallest rays that was saw last night were 6ft across, and the largest was 14ft. Thankfully, "Chloe" stayed down with the divers. I wasn't sure I wanted a 14 ft ray next to me. Maybe if I did it again, I would be braver.

The Kona Manta Rays are the only rays that are safe to swim with in the wild. They have no stingers. They have no teeth. They are very shy, and will swim away if people try to approach them or touch them. However, if they come to feed next to you, and you stay still, you can swim “with” them close.

My youngest daughter, aged nine, said it was the best night of her life. My oldest said it was awesome, definitely one of the coolest things she has ever done. My husband bought the professional dive video right away and tipped the crew of the boat . . . after simply saying that it was amazing. He's an actions-speak-louder-than-words kind of guy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Quilted Quiet, and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 324

Q is for Quilted Quiet, and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 324
Have you ever spent a few hours, wrapped in a homemade quilt, resting in the quiet of a morning?

I highly encourage it, for rest, for relaxation, and for journeys of the imagination.

1.My grandmother’s quilts. They may be in need of repair, but they are soft, and sweet. Every stitch reminds me of her.

2.Quilt pieces kept in a box. I remember when my grandmother had a box of quilt pieces, and she would let me go through them, and imagine the quilt before it was pieced together.

3.Crazy quilts with bits of memory cloth.

4.Quilted banner art. I grew up in a church with quilted banners. My favorites were of a lamb and a lion, with the verse about them laying down together in quilt block letters, and the other was of Jesus, in quilt patterned shapes, with quilted rays of light streaming out from him.

5.The quilt show at the local library every year.

6.My oldest daughter’s baby quilt. It was made with such love, and such sweetness by a member of the church we went to at the time of her birth.

7.A cozy quilt made of fleece made for me for my graduation from high school. My youngest daughter has it on her bed these days.

8.Stories about quilts. There are so many good short stories in this subgenre that I have loved. I wonder, is there a fanciful, imaginative quilt novel out there?

9.Quilted Quiet – a time to rest, wrapped in a quilt.

10.The Lord knows every piece and part of our lives, and in Him, we are pieced together into a masterpiece beyond our imagination, or understanding. Without him, we are just bits and pieces, but with Him, we are whole.


Travel Blessings: Too many to count, but here are a few:

1.Beautiful frog and bird song . . . I never knew frogs could sing before this trip.

2.Walking around and then through a crater at Hawai’I Volcanoes National Park . . . an awesome experience.

3.Steam vents, lava tubes, flowering plants growing out of cracked lava fields, and more.

Scripture Blessings:

"He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.

They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men."
Psalm 107:29-31

Monday, April 18, 2011

Over the Ocean, and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 323

Over the Ocean, and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 323

Over the Ocean.
That just says it all for me, right there. Can I stop?

6 and ½ miles over the ocean, in a 767, flying to Hawaii.

Could life get any better?

I’m not sure for a moment, and then I think, yes, it could. We could have world peace, freedom from sin, redemption for each individual and the whole of creation all at once for all time . . .

However, at this moment, I’m enjoying the dot, the moment, right here and right now, and giving thanks and praise for:
1.Vacation

2.Hawaii


3.Flight

4.Three Islands and 13 days.


5.Macadamia nuts.

6.Parents who take care of pets.

7.Kids who love dance so much that they danced for two days at convention, and then for an hour in the airport before our flight, and now, with muscles ready for rest they are content with sharing a DS, their books, lettuce wrap sandwiches, and a tiny snack.

8.Rest under a warm blanket with a seat tilted back. The reality is, I can’t sleep on a plane, but I can sure doze in a haze for hours and just daydream. It’s the most rest I’ve had while semi-awake in months. I’ve finally set it all aside, for nearly two whole weeks.


9.Posting is so much fun, that I’ll keep this up. Especially, if I can pre-write several posts at 6 and ½ miles above the ocean. I love it.

10.Reminiscing in the airport this morning. We were on the concourse closest to the Alaska Airlines hangar where my dad used to work. We passed by the restaurant corner where my mom and I met my dad so many times for lunch. That was back in the old days when you could go to the airport, walk through the security archway, and gaze at the planes, without having a boarding pass, an ID, or a full security search of your person. However, it has changed, I still love the airport, especially that part of it. I always admired my Dad’s work, and loved the privilege of flight.


11.The Lord gives us souls meant for the freedom of faithful flight. (That’s my personal interpretation of salvation – I know that at best it’s allegorical)

Scripture Blessings:

“but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not grow faint.”
Isaiah 40:31

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Blessings, 365 Days of Blessings Day 322

Sunday Blessings, 365 Days of Blessings Day 322
Taking a break from the A to Z Challenge today, to just give thanks for some Sunday blessings . . . and a few random blessings too.

1.Started the day reviewing the Order of Worship for Palm Sunday worship. I can’t be there today, but I’ve been worshiping with those scriptures and songs in my head all week.

2.Palms for palm Sunday.

3.The encouragement and enthusiasm of our congregation for celebrating Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem with whatever we can find . . . I thought I had a Palm Branch “emergency” and everyone found a way to help, or give ideas for making the day a celebration.

4.Hosanna!!!

5.Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty!

6.Reading Matthew 21:1-11.

7.Heart of Worship.

8.In Christ Alone.

9.Communion with family, with all the people of God throughout all time and with Christ.

10.Ate my new favorite Banana Nut Muffins – gluten free, egg, free dairy free, corn free, rice free, soy free, homemade – this morning. When I can make substitutes work and the recipes turn out, I am extremely thankful for my tastebuds.

11.Friends from our dance studio saved me a seat in the “mini” room at the dance convention.

12.My youngest daughter is starting her day learning choreography from a choreographer who has choreographed for Britney Spears and others. I have to admit, I’m not fond everything in those videos, but he’s doing a great job with over a hundred kids aged 6-10 in a convention room. They are having fun, and learning exciting choreography that is appropriate to their age group.

13.And just as important, my youngest daughter just told me, “I really like him as a teacher!”

14.My oldest daughter is past her awkward growing stage (last year) and now is so beautiful as a dancer that it brings tears to my eyes. She’s just beautiful as a person anyway, but when she dances it’s like she’s fully alive.

15.My youngest daughter who did not like Hip Hop at our last convention is loving Hip Hop at this one, and doing a great job!

16.The tap teacher is keeping them moving!

17.My daughters are determined to stay to the end of convention despite collecting bruises on their legs from other dancers, and their own tap shoes – double click heels in the air can be dangerous.

18.A new salad for lunch today – yummy, and homemade. Let’s hope I remember those ingredients: lettuce, quinoa, turkey, apple chunks topped with homemade honey mustard dressing.

19.Billy Bell, a dancer and dance teacher, was a highlight at JumpDance Convention. My youngest really appreciated him as a teacher . . . and she didn’t know he was famous until afterwards.

20. Billy Bell Solo - This one doesn't even come close to the one he did today for Jump Convention, but it gives an idea of his style and skill as a dancer.

Scripture Blessings:
"A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

'Hosanna to the Son of David!'

'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'

'Hosanna in the highest heaven!'"
Matthew 21:8-9

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Many Thanks! and Newness Now! and 365 Days of Blessings, Days 320 and 321

M is for Many Thanks!!!!
Or Much Thanks!
or Muchas Gracias!
Merci Beaucoup!



Much thanks to each of my 100 followers!!!



Newness Now! Every Day is New! Every Moment is New! Right now!


Blessings, lots of them!

I apologize for not posting yesterday. In my stolen spare time, I actually (gasp) read half of a book. I have felt book deprived lately, or at least "fun" book deprived. I was supposed to be cleaning house, organizing stuff for our coming vacation, and instead I sat down, opened up my oldest daughter's plane ride book and read . . . and it was blissfully relaxing. And while I was doing that, my follower count jumped up and I received great comments! Wow!

This morning I started a post, but had to be out the door by 7a.m. so I'm just now finishing it up.

So, to make this short for time considerations (yours and mine), I am going to just jump into my Blessings with a short note for M and N.

Many Thanks, Muchas Gracias, Merci Beaucoup, and Much Thanks for:
1. Many new followers thanks to the A to Z blog!

2. Many dancers with great attitudes at my daughter's dance competition yesterday.

3. Many kind and sweet people in Seattle who gave me a smile as I walked down the street carrying a red tricycle and two jumpropes.

4. The many drivers who don't text while driving to Seattle at 65-70mph.

5. The Many books of Barnes and Noble. I miss Borders. But I admit I am wowed by any bookstore that can cover a large space by books, many, many books.

6. Muchas Gracias to the kind, and helpful salesman at Barnes and Noble who helped me find Long Way Home by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman for my Dad's birthday!

7. Merci Beaucoup for/to my husband for being our Palm Leaf Hero. He climbed up high and retrieved a palm branch with 50 leaves for our Sunday service. Turns out they curl, so we are having to straighten them out . . . but hey, he's still my every day hero.

8. Much thankfulness for leftovers and my family's willingness to eat them.

9. Much good rest, and many giggly dancers.

10. Many amazed thanks to the Lord for His continual provision!

And for Newness . . . Now is New Blessings!
1. We went to a "New-to-us" dance competition and convention this weekend. JumpDance is turning out to be great!

2. New wristbands for the dance convention - they are actually souveneir quality.

3. New books. I love old ones too, but there is something that just smells, feels, and looks wonderful about a new book.

4. New sunshine after rain.

5. New spring flowers.

6. New growth.

7. New shoes. I love my new Keen shoes - they feel like I'm walking on clouds.

8. New perspective. My daughters saw the homeless area under the freeway in Seattle today for the first time. I think it gives them a new perspective of what I mean when I say we are abundantly and undeservedly blessed, and we need to share.

9. Now is the new moment in time. I love that.

10. Newness of life in Christ.

Scripture Blessings:

"Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his."
Romans 6:3-5

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Love! and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 319

L is for Love!

Love Blessings:
1. Love is Hugs.

2. Love is Romance.

3. Love is holding your child for the very first time.

4. Love is holding your pre-teen child on your lap.

5. Love is Holding Hands with your spouse of 15 years, or 50 years.

6. Love is putting your arms
around your mom and dad.

7. Love is the look in your loved ones eyes.

8. Love is laughter with family and friends.

9. Love is butterfly kisses.

10. Love is a gift.

11. Love is an action.

12. Love is the nature of God.

This list could go on and on for me. What is love for you?

Scripture Blessings:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. " 1 Corinthians 13:13

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Kindness, and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 318

K is for Kindness!

But what is kindness? Is it simply being "nice"? or is it something more?

Have you ever heard the statement "cruel to be kind"?

Or the phrase, "killing them with kindness"?

How do these sayings relate to actual kindness?

In the dictionary it states that kindness is:
1. the state or quality of being kind
2. a kind act; favor
3. kind behavior
4. friendly feeling; liking.

And the synonyms are:
benevolence, humanity, generosity, charity, sympathy, compassion, tenderness.

Kind means:

1. of a good or benevolent nature or disposition, as a person: a kind and loving person.
2. having, showing, or proceeding from benevolence: kind words.
3. indulgent, considerate, or helpful
4. mild; gentle;
5. loving; affectionate.

The phrase "cruel to be kind" originated with Shakespeare's character Hamlet, who states:

"I do repent; but heaven hath pleas'd it so
To punish me with this, and this with me,
That I must be their scourge and minister.
I will bestow him, and will answer well
The death I gave him. So again good night.
I must be cruel only to be kind.
Thus bad begins and worse remains behind."


By the end of this speech, Hamlet is speaking about his behavior towards his mother. He thinks that by being "cruel" to her and scolding her for her relationship with his uncle, she will learn better behavior, so he is being cruel to encourage her to leave the bad relationship behind and become a better person.

This reminds me of statements about "tough love" which I'm never sure I completely agree with, ever. Yes, there are moments as a parent that I have to hold my kids to a standard, and I have to say no when it feels like it would be easier to say yes, and I expect them to learn from their mistakes. In a sense that is being "cruel to be kind." However, I think that this phrase can also be used as a horrible excuse for horrible parenting as well. So, as the song we all know states, it must be done only "in the right measure."

Then, there is the phrase, "killing them with kindness." What does that mean?

In dictionary terms, killing them with kindness can mean:

to be too kind to someone
or
to get what you want by being very kind to another person

In some ways, the heart of the matter can be found in Proverbs 25:22-23

"If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the LORD will reward you."


When we encounter someone who seems to be going out of his/her way to be cruel, we can choose to react with anger, or we can be kind. This is kind of like "turning the other cheek," but not quite. There is a satisfaction in knowing that we are essentially heaping burning coals on our enemy's head when we don't give in to bad behavior.

Maybe I'm being a bit sinful in that regard. When I really read my Bible, I know that I am to love my enemies and pray for them, and it isn't about heaping burning coals on their heads, but about freeing myself and them from the sins of bitterness and anger.

Do you struggle with kindness in the face of cruelty?

How do you love your enemies?

And how do you define kindness?

365 Days of Blessings, Day 309 - Blessings in Kindness:

1. My grandmother set an example for me as a child by smiling and saying hello to everyone in the neighborhood day after day, even if they didn't respond nicely. Eventually, "that grumpy guy down the street" smiled back at her, and started greeting her every day in return. To me, this is a good example of killing someone with daily kindness.

2. My oldest daughter may tease her little sister now and then, but she also stands up for her.

3. My youngest daughter watches out for me in deep powder snow when we ski, because she knows I don't like to be left behind, floundering, if I fall.

4. My oldest daughter always shares her "special" allergy-free food, even if other kids have their own "regular" food.

5. My youngest daughter makes her sister bracelets and get well cards when her sister is sick, or just feeling down. She also makes special bracelets and presents for everyone in our immediate family well in advance of holidays or special events. These are often unexpected, and in addition to other presents she gives.

6. My husband will stop everything he is doing and help someone change a tire, their oil, or fix their comptuer.

7. My husband has helped countless kids and adults down the ski/snowboard hill after they've been abandoned by "friends" who took them up and left them to get down the hill on their own.

8. My mom loves to make origami animals like "flapping birds" and "jumping frogs" with any paper on hand (restaurant napkins, etc) and then she gives them out to any kids nearby.

9. My dad will go miles out of his way to help someone with car trouble, and when he was younger, he would help just about anyone move from house to house. He seems to get a kick out of helping others.

10. The Lord has shown us true kindness in giving His Son to us as our Savior.

Scripture Blessings:
"I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD,
the deeds for which he is to be praised,
according to all the LORD has done for us—
yes, the many good things
he has done for Israel,
according to his compassion and many kindnesses.
He said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will be true to me”;
and so he became their Savior."
Isaiah 63:7-8

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Joy and other words, plus 365 Days of Blessings, Day 317

J is for Joy! and other blessings too . . .

Official dictionary.com definitions of Joy:
–noun
1. the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation
2. a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated
3. the expression or display of glad feeling
4. a state of happiness or felicity. –verb (used without object)
5. to feel joy; be glad; rejoice. –verb (used with object)
6. to gladden.

Interestingly enough, my definition of joy is a bit different.
To me, Joy is a deep inner gladness that is beyond circumstances or time. Joy is a deep welling up of thanksgiving and gladness that comes from knowing the Lord Jesus as my Savior, as knowing the Lord as my Creator, at knowing the Holy Spirit dwells within me undeservedly.


What is joy to you?


Giving thanks for Joy and other random J Blessings like Jumping:

1. Joy!

2. Jumping for Jesus!

3. The Jump for Jesus song with Phredd - looking forward to jumping with my kids in the Creation Fest Kids Tent this summer.


4. Jumping for Joy!

5. Jubilation!

6. Jumping rope for fun.

7. Jumping rope with tap shoes.

8. Jumping as high as possible - defeating gravity for just a second.

9. Jello

10. Juice

I know this isn't my best post, but I am glad/joyful that I can participate even at a minimum in this A to Z challenge, and continue my blessings count.

Scripture Blessings:
"The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him."
Psalm 28:7

Monday, April 11, 2011

I Blessings, and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 316

Thank you all for your prayers for my mom-in-law and my Dad. My mom-in-law's doctors are still working on how to best help her recover from her breaks. My Dad is out of the hospital, and is feeling much better.

Today, in the midst of our family's busy Monday, I thought of ideas for my post, over and over again . . . and all I came up with was words. And then, I started thinking a few minutes ago, why not words as blessings?

So here are some I words I think of as blessings tonight:

1. Indescribable - God's Glory is indescribable.

2. Insight

3. Integrity

4. Intelligence

5. Inspiration

6. Illuminate

7. Imagine

8. Inverness

9. Island

10. Ideal

For me, each of these words has texture, light, meaning, thought, and feeling attached to it.

Try them out, say them out loud. What do you think? Do these "I" blessings have texture for you?

I think our rich language is a blessing. I thank God for His Word, which is better than any of mine, but I also thank him for giving us the ability to speak, to listen, and to write.

Scripture Blessings:

"For by You I can run against a troop,
By my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the LORD is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

For who is God, except the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?"
Psalm 18:29-31

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Blessings, 365 Days of Blessings, Day 315



This week has been interesting, full of ups and downs.

My mom-in-law was in an accident at Whistler and has three broken ribs and a broken clavicle.

My dad, coming home from the southern states with my Mom in their RV, has been feeling sicker and sicker. They stopped at one hospital, and now, another. They are only five hours away from home and his regular doctors, but the docs at the hospital where he's at are trying to figure out what's wrong.

In the midst of all of that, we enjoyed some amazingly beautiful days at Whistler resort, skiing and boarding on some of our most favorite runs in the world. We visited with family. We swam, and hot-tubbed, and even did a little walking in the snow between the hot tub and pool. We laughed with cousins, aunts, uncles, and Grandparents. We rested a little, and played a lot. We packed a huge amount in 4 and 1/2 days.

We're home for a bit, and then we'll be off again for an even bigger vacation. My parents, if all is well, will take care of our dogs and cat, and house.

I feel as if we are in the middle of a balance, or a teeter totter, waiting for one thing or another to fall or rise to the occasion.

Have you ever felt like that? In the middle of joy and grief? Not sure whether to smile or feel sad? Or feeling some odd mix?

The A to Z Challenge, and my blessing count have given me a reason to see the rainbows, to rise in joy instead of falling in sadness. Worship today at church felt tailored to my emotional state even though when we were planning it I had no idea I would be where I am today. I am thankful for God's voice in my wilderness, his provision that amazes me every time.

10 Sunday Blessings

1. Picking up my dogs and cat at the kennel this morning. Their joy is infectious. And I know they have been well cared for, by their relaxed postures and their glad goodbyes to the staff.

2. Making it to church on time . . .or at least within reason.

3. Great announcments at church that make me rejoice! We have a prayer ministry that is thriving, plans for community service, and plans for a fun retreat to Creation Fest 2011.

4. Singing: Come, Just As You Are.

5. Ephesians 6:10-20, putting on the armor of God so we can stand firm.

6. Psalm 130, my soul waits for the Lord.

7. The book of Job - Job is tested but true.

8. A good sermon message: Know the Enemy, and be prepared to stand firm, relying on the Lord.

9. Phones. This is an odd one for someone like me, slightly phone-a-phobic, but today and yesterday, and all the days when I have wondered just how my Dad is doing, or my mom-in-law, I have had great reason to be thankful for phones.

10. A picture of the "kids" in Whistler village, not long after they had fun on the spinning toy on the playground: (Notice my husband is in the "kids" picture)



Scripture Blessings:

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."
Ephesians 6:10-20



"Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD;
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.

If You, LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning—
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the LORD;
For with the LORD there is mercy,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel
From all his iniquities."
Psalm 130


"There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil." Job 1:1

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for Hope, and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 314

Before I start my post, I just wanted to say Thanks! to all of you who have been praying for my mom-in-law Mary. She has a long recovery ahead of her, but we feel hopeful that she will heal with strength.


H is for Hope!

Hope

–verb
1. to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.
2. to believe, desire, or trust

H
ealing
O
n the inside
P
ouring out
E
verlasting

F
orgiveness
O
nto the
R
eal

N
eeds
O
f the
W
orld we live in today.

Hope's Blessings:

1. Hope is lasting in Christ.

2. Hope encourages us.

3. Hope gives a backbone to new ideas.

4. Hope gives us a fresh perspective.

5. Hope is patient.

6. Hope shows us the way.

7. Hope looks beyond circumstances.

8. Hope lifts our eyes to the highest peaks.

9. Hope in the Lord does not disappoint.

10. Hope builds trust.

Scripture Blessings:

"Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint."
Isaiah 40:28-31

Friday, April 8, 2011

Goodness, part 2, and a Prayer Request

In addition to the links I already listed, here are a few more organizations that I feel represent some goodness in our world.

Children of the Nations This organization will come to our church on May 8th and help us pack 10,000 meals for hungry people.

Nations Foundation on Facebook Nations Foundation is a Christian Snowboard organization. Joel Parker, who founded Nations Foundation, recently spoke at our church.

Also, I have a prayer request for my mom-in-law Mary.
Yesterday, she was in an accident at Whistler, and has three broken ribs, and a broken collarbone. She is 77 years old, and a great skier, but she happened to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time when a snowboarder lost control on a black diamond run and flew out of control into the green run she was on at the time.
Please pray for her recovery, for comfort, and for peace for both her, and for the snowboarder who was in tears after the accident.

G is for Goodness, and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 313

G is for Goodness!
Goodness
–noun
1. the state or quality of being good.
2. moral excellence; virtue.
3. kindly feeling; kindness; generosity.
4. excellence of quality: goodness of workmanship.
5. the best part of anything; essence; strength.
6. a euphemism for god: Thank goodness!

When I started this post a few days ago, I thought . . . oh, goodness, that will be easy. Not true. I started thinking of all the different connatations there are about goodness like "goodie two shoes", and "looking good," that don't really fit what I mean about goodness. I even thought about the section of scripture where Jesus states that only God is good, and then back in Genesis when God creates the world, and each day, He says, "it is good."

So, what happened to goodness? The fall into sin in the Garden plunged our world into something less than good/sinful, and Christ bought us back with his body and blood. When we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, goodness is a fruit of God's work in us. So what does that fruit look like? A nice outfit? A great body? The kind of goodness that causes bullies to call us "goodie two shoes"? I don't think so.

And since I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around goodness this morning, what does that mean for my "good" characters in my writing? What qualities do they need to have, or actions do they need to do, that will make them good?

If I go back to the definition, I see the words "moral excellence" - ok, that's a tough phrase again for me. Does that mean never making mistakes, or does it mean admitting them, and then turning in the right direction?

Other words I see that are a bit easier for me are: kindness, generosity, essence and strength. Those are easier for me to grasp. I've seen them at work.

And there's the rub. I think I associate goodness with certain actions. Goodness means the act of giving to me. God is good. Because He is. And because He gave His son for us. Because He gave us life, breath, a world to live in, and relationships to build. He gives us good works to do.

So here are 14 organizations that represent Goodness and that I count as Blessings today (in no particular order):

1. World Vision

2. Samaritan's Purse

3. Compassion International

4. Lutheran World Relief

5. Water.org

6. YWAM Youth With a Mission

7. YMCA

8. Open Doors

9. World Mission Prayer League

10. Gideons International I have only one reservation about Gideons International, and that it is an organization that seems to be soley for men. However, I appreciate their heart for getting Bibles out to people all over the world.

11. Dolphin Research Center one of the organizations that actually does take care of the animals they work with on a daily basis.

12. Harbor Hope Cat Rescue - I wish I had a web page for this one, but they do have a facebook page now. Harbor Hope Cat Rescue on Facebook

13. Habitat For Humanity

14. Go Missions

Scripture Blessings:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23

Thursday, April 7, 2011

F is for Faithfulness, and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 312

F is for Faithfulness!

–adjective
1. strict or thorough in the performance of duty: a faithful worker.
2. true to one's word, promises, vows, etc.
3. steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant: faithful friends.
4. reliable, trusted, or believed.
5. adhering or true to fact, a standard, or an original; accurate: a faithful account; a faithful copy.
6. full of faith; believing.

Faithfulness is every day, constant, trustworthy, and constant.

In my current WIP, I have been attempting to highlight faithfulness, and a lack of faithfulness through the story, but I know I haven't quite shown what I want to say. My MC has spouted out a bunch of stuff about faith and doubt in her dialogue, but that is so not what I want the story to be like. So, I have to sit down and revise . . . faithfully. Of course, revising faithfully every day is a struggle for me. So, it goes around. Doubt, faith, trust, daily constance, step after step for the right direction.

Faithfulness often requires a steadiness of thought, and an active decision to stick with a project, or a person. There are times when faithfulness seems to be an uncommon blessing in our world, something rare and precious. And yet, I see it in my life daily. I just need to remember to look for it.

Blessings in Faithfulness:

1. The Lord is faithful to me. He is faithful to each of us. As a shepherd, he seeks us out even when we are lost, or in danger of jumping off a cliff of our own making.

2. The Lord works in and through His Creation to show us faithfulness. In the seasons, the orbit of the earth around the sun, the growth from seed to flower to fruit, the Lord works in and around us deeply entrenched in the daily life of His creation. There are problems of course since the fall in the garden, the world and all that live in it wait for the final redemption and return of the Lord. But in the parts of creation that continue to thrive, we see God's handiwork.

3. When we turn to the Lord and turn our lives over to Jesus, He works in us and through us, growing His fruit in our lives. One of these fruits is faithfulness.

4. My husband's faithfulness to his faith in Christ. When I see him reading his Bible, I remember to pick mine up. When I see him at work in our church, I get to work. When I see him helping someone in need without being asked and often without recognition, I remember that I don't need a plan to serve, I just need to do it. When I see him in prayer, I pray with him.

5. My husband's faithfulness to our marriage, and to me. Many, many years ago - back in the dating days - we both struggled with faithfulness in our relationship. We placed our relationship in God's hands before we married. The Lord healed us both individually and as a couple, and has blessed us with honesty, faithfulness, and trust ever since. Of course, waking up every day and giving thanks for each other and our marriage helps too. (That's that daily decision to walk in faithfulness part)

6. My husband's faithful parenting. His relationship with our daughters is sweet, precious and includes those every day moments that mean much over a lifetime. Plus, he's really fun to be with . . . if anyone is going to start a snowball fight while skiing and snowboarding, it will be him. If anyone is going to find a fun spot to ski through some trees that ends in a jump, it will be him. He's a fun Dad, and a faithful one.

7. My parents faithfulness in their marriage. Their example has guided me.

8. My in-laws faithfulness in their marriage. Their example has guided me too.

9. We have some friends whose faithful marriage shines bright with love and joy. It's awesome to see. And thankfully, I'm not just talking about one couple here, but several.

10. The faithful work and service of those who come to our church every week, especially those who serve in worship.

11. Daily writing. I am thankful that I have been able to write every day in some form or fashion, whether it's here on my blog, with my WIP, poetry, or in small journal. Writing is like food for my mind and soul.

12. The faithfulness of my dogs and my cat - ok, that seems to easy, right? But the reality is, if you've ever owned a pet and treated that pet well, they reward you with amazing amounts of faithful dedication. Our dogs and our cat follow us around the house. They meet us at the door, and sit by us when we sit. They wake us up in the morning better than any alarm, and they keep us in good exercise routines . . . or can, if we walk them every day at the same time, they'll make sure we walk.

Scripture Blessings:

"Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, LORD, preserve both people and animals."
Psalm 36:5-6

“'See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.'" Matthew 18:10-14


"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for Exercise and 365 Days of Blessings, Day 311

E is for Exercise!

Exercise is a blessing, whether we are stretching our writing muscles, our heart muscle, our bodies, our minds, or our souls. Exercise keeps us fully alive.


Blessings in Exercise:


1.Writing Exercises keep my writing in shape, or at least stretch my abilities.

2.Writing exercise books.

3.Walking

4.Skiing

5.Dancing

6.Kayaking/Canoeing

7.Giving time and talent in service in our community – stretches our heart muscles.

8.Bible reading, prayer, worship, and serving in our church community are all soul exercise.

9.The puzzle section in the newspaper, reading new books, and homeschooling my kids all keep my mind exercised and ready for the next adventure.

10.Singing – it’s good for the heart, mind, soul and body.

Scripture Blessings:


"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."
2 Timothy 4:6-8


This isn't the one I was thinking of as I wrote this post, but it was the one I found this morning . . . sometimes God provides what we need to hear, and not what we think we need/want.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

D is for Dance, and 365 Days of Blessings Day 310

D is for Dance!

Dance:
1. to move one's feet or body, or both, rhythmically in a pattern of steps, especially to the accompaniment of music.

2. to leap, skip, etc., as from excitement or emotion; move nimbly or quickly: to dance with joy.

From some of my earliest memories to this very day, dance is a word, and a verb, that has shaped my life. I'm not a competitive dancer, or a professional dancer, or a dance teacher. I don't have great skill, and there have been many, many years that I haven't practiced any particular type of dance. But I still love it. I love moving rythmically to music, or just to the sound of my own made up rythm. I love dancing with joy. I've even danced when I've been angry or sad, in a determined decision to dance myself back into joy. I like dancing with a crowd, or a partner, or just by myself. One of my favorite metaphors about faith involves dance. One of my favorite quotes about writing has the word dance in the midst of it.

"Writing is a dance of language." - Ivan Doig

Do you love to dance your way through life and writing too?

Dance Blessings:

1. One of my earliest memories of dancing as a child involved dancing around the living room to my mom's classical music and pretending I was with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.



2. And of course, there is this classic, that has inspired me to dance through puddles - a necessary ingredient to enjoy living in the Northwest.


3. Plus, my favorite dance from that same movie, with Donald O'Conner and Gene Kelly is Moses Supposes

4. Then, one of my more recent favorites in dance and rythm:


5. I didn't like my desire to tap dance as a kid being compared to Shirley Temple so I refused to watch all of her movies until my kids were little and did different versions of Shirley Temple dances for their first recitals. They wanted to know who she was, and so . . .I rediscovered Shirley's amazing talent with them. This is one of my favorites:


6. Baryshnikov in White Nights gives this intense performance, showing how dance can express sadness and grief:


7. Back in that early 80's breakdancing craze, I was totally into that, and loved it. However, if you want to see some pretty cool breakdancing from a more current time this lady is pretty amazing. This is a commercial clip, but I still like it:


8. There are cool Christian Hip Hop Teams, which I discovered not that long ago:

My daughters were able to take a few classes from this same teacher just a few weekends ago at a Hollywood Dance Connection Convention in Seattle. My oldest daughter loved it - the first time she's really enjoyed Hip Hop.

9. Dancing with my Dad, with my Mom and my Grandma, with my Husband, are all amazing memories for me. I love dancing with family and friends.

10. Dancing is in the Bible too, especially when there is a celebration.

Scripture Blessings:


"Then young women will dance and be glad,
young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow."
Jeremiah 31:13

C is for Courage, and 365 Days of Blessings Day 309




C is for C-C-C-Courage!

When I hear the word courage, it is inevitably linked with the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz movie. He attempts to scare Dorothy, the Tinman, and the Scarecrow in the forest, but he is really scared of them. He wants courage so he can be the King of the Forest. So he joins them on their quest, and finds courage in himself. The Badge of Courage he gets at the end of the movie is really a celebration that he has found his courage while adventuring with Dorothy, finding the courage to help Dorothy and his friends. To see the Cowardly Lion as he struggles with his courage, check out this link: Cowardly Lion meeting the Wizard of Oz

However, another Lion I think of when I hear the word Courage, is the Lion of Judah. Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of OT prophecies, was the Lion of Judah. His unexpected submission to the cross still amazes the world today, but yet, it took courage for him to decide in the Garden of Gethsename, "Thy will be done." He gave himself for each one of us, a Lion turned into a willing Lamb of God.

Courage:
–noun
the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.

—Idiom
2. have the courage of one's convictions, to act in accordance with one's beliefs, especially in spite of criticism.

For today's 10 Blessings, I'm picking 10 out of the many real life characters, and fictional characters who stand out to me at this moment for having courage:

1. The apostle Paul, found in the Bible.

2. The missionaries of today who live in many countries around the world. Today, I'm especially thinking of the Kraft Family in South America. Each person in their family from age 7 to age 40ish acts and lives in a missionary.

3. Stephen, in the book of Acts.

4. My dad, who has lived life fully even with a lifelong disability.

5. My mom, and she knows why.

And in fiction

6. Creel, in Dragon Slippers.

7. Bilbo, in The Hobbit.

8. Ender, in Ender's Game.

9. Lucy, in Prince Caspian.

10. Marcus, in the Farworld series.


Scripture Blessings:

"Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, 'O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.'" Matthew 26:42

Sunday Blessings, 365 Days of Blessings Day 308

On Sundays, we take a break from the A to Z Challenge, so I'll be celebrating some random blessings today with no theme, no limit! :-)

1. Quiet mornings.

2. Two dogs and one cat excitedly purring and rubbing up against me for morning love, and taking turns . . . mostly.

3. The game Sorry!

4. Re-organizing some old videos so that I have a bookshelf dedicated to Worship and Music, and Homeschool Co-Op teaching - my working shelf, so to speak. This now separates our fun reads, and our general homeshool books and materials from materials I use for the volunteering and teaching I get to do. Hopefully this will help streamline my time, and allow for more sanity in keeping track of my papers.

5. A recognition of a need for a writing shelf. If the "working" shelf were bigger, I could put my writing books and notebooks on there too, but it's a half-shelf, a leftover from my college days when I couldn't carry a truckload of books with me everywhere. So now, I have plans for an Ikea trip. :D

6. Night reading. I love reading to my kids and our family at night. I have read many books that state that reading out loud is a healthy and mind-stretching activity at any age, and have experienced that to be true. We read serious, homeschool books both aloud and silently during the days, but at night we read for imaginative fun, and enjoyment. Plus, we read our Bibles out loud too. It means that I read out loud sometimes for an hour, but I wouldn't trade that time for anything else.

7. Waking up when the sky is dark and the house is quiet, except for the ticking of a clock, the beating of our dogs' tails against hard floors and the soft purrs of our cat.

8. We were given a wooden dollhouse nearly six years ago, and now my daughters are ready to give it away to another little girl, someone they thought of right away when they decided to pass it on.

9. We organized our garage sale piles yesterday. We have a big box of Barbies, and Barbie accessories including a car, a few dress up items, baby dolls and stuffed animals, a crate full of fun books, and a crate full of educational books. We're ready to give this all to the lady in charge of our dance academy garage sale, which will benefit our dance academy. My daughters are actually happy about giving this stuff away, and picked it all out and organized the toys themselves. I was amazed, especially when my youngest said, "I like my shelves and my room better now. I can see everything, and it looks pretty." They've inspired me to work on my own organizational projects. (On a side note, this does not mean I expect my kids to give away all their toys, or their meaningful ones any time soon. I still have some old stuffed animals and a doll from my childhood sitting on a shelf, and see nothing wrong with keeping those memorable lovies. I even have a few old toy cars, some wind up toys, and some dog-eared Star Wars cards.)

10. Today is the Lord's day, and I am thankful for being alive!

Scripture Blessings:

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13