Retreat IceBreakers – Copy, Borrow, Steal!

This past weekend was the annual Women of Hope retreat.  140 women gathered on the beautiful North Shore at  Camp Mokule’ia.  I was invited to be on the ministry team for the event, and it was my pleasure to help out.

photo courtesy of robyn pratt - to give y'all an idea of the cafeteria we were in all weekend, this is where we played all of the ice breaker games.

One of my roles was to come up with and lead some icebreaker activities.  A lot of the women were new to retreat and new to the community.  Hope Chapel has multiple services and campuses, so even women who’ve been attending for years may not have had the pleasure to cross paths.

The theme of the ice breakers was to connect the women.  Our goal was to foster friendships, highlight commonalities, encourage teamwork.  Basically, it was all about bonding and creating a stronger sisterhood.

Annmarie, my dear Irish pal, was my co-leader and we had a blast all weekend!  We’re both pretty funny (if I do say so myself) and we were able to inject a lot of banter and jokes into our on-the-mic time.

here's a pic of annmarie - with her hubby vic. i snagged this off of her fb!

So, since I helped create all of these games, with lots of borrowed common ideas and a little bit of my own creativity – I’ll be the first to encourage any readers to go ahead and re-use them.  Borrow these ice breakers for your next retreat, workshop, classroom, whatever.  And if you do, let me know how it goes!

Stand Up / Sit Down

I’ve played variations of this game tons of time, in all kinds of group settings.  Since the idea was to connect women, we came up with this idea in a planning meeting for the event.  We drafted a list of categories to call out, some serious and some fun.

How to Play the game:  Basically, Annmarie and I read a list.  We told the gals, if what we read applies to you – stand up.  While standing, look around and see who else is standing with you.

For the first night it was a good way for the women to get a feel for who they’ll have things in common with – who’s going to be up nice and early, who will stay up late.  For the newest members, finding out commonalities is a great way to start a conversation.  It’s also a gentle way to start things out, no one had to do anything crazy or super outgoing.

The list had administrative items like “first time at a retreat,”  “if you’ve been to five or more retreats,”  we listed out all the church services HCKB offers, we asked about what campus they attend, if they’re visting from another church.  Morning people and then night owls were asked to stand – this was all so people could find a familiar face, so newbies wouldn’t feel alone.

We had a lot of silly items, “love sushi,” if you “like rock’n’roll” please stand up!  Dog lovers, cat lovers, parents, married, single, and so on.   Oh, and we called out for “motorcycle owners” knowing durn well it would apply to a specific person, and it was so funny!

Pros: it was easy, fun, our jokes made it funny, and people seemed to have fun when something they liked or included them was called.

Cons: it was simple, possibly kinda boring, and it doesn’t really work if it goes on and on forever.

I didn’t hear any negative feedback on it, in fact people said it was fun.  I know it sounds like it would be really boring, but when you actually do it – people get pumped.

Things in common game! 

I’ll preface this game by saying that when everyone checked in to camp, they were given a yarn tied around their wrists.  Groups who came in together were told to get different colors.  We had pre-cut a pile of them, seven different colors.  Then, during the event when we needed to break up into groups – using yarn color was the easiest way to go.  By breaking up people who traveled together, ladies were forced to make new friends and get out of their social comfort zones.

How to play the game:  Teams were given five minutes (or was it ten?) to brainstorm a list of things they had in common, every single one of them!  Team with the most commonalities, wins.  A prize will be given (we used a paper bag full of candy and treats).  The catch is that if other teams also listed the same thing, they’d cancel each other out.

After time was called, we went one team at a time and they read their lists, if others heard something called out that they had written down, they’d cross it off.

It went really well.  They ladies had to get creative, clever and learn about each other very quickly.  The ONLY way to succeed was to find things out about each other.   The pressure of the timer helps everyone to bond by coming together.

I created this game based off some similar ones I’d seen online.  I really loved it.  The winning team had 37 items!  Examples ranged from “we all love chocolate,” to listing anatomical consistencies, “we all have boobs,” “we all have hair” being some (it’s easier for a same-gendered team to play if you go that route!).  Some answers were really sweet.

Pros: Players get to know each other, it was fun, the sillier the answers – the more everyone laughed.  It got the teams working together, competing.  It was everything an ice breaker should be.

Cons: I think it could get a bit boring during the reading.  Since there’s only one list, a lot of people just had to listen and hang out during the reading phase.  It could be hard to figure out things you have in common, especially if they were more meaningful things/less superficial.

Mad Libs-styled Skits

skit performance - this one took place in narnia!

We ran this game in three parts – so it helped to fill a lot of time, and the opportunity for teamwork was immense.

How the game is played: 

every team did a great job!

Part One: Every team takes out a sheet of paper.  Annmarie and I give them six categories, they must come up with something for each one.

Our’s were:  a location (anywhere – real or fictional), a date (day, month, year – past, present or future), a food, a celebrity, a Bible verse, and an Olympic sport.

The teams filled in the lists and then we collected them.  And of course, we redistributed them so each team had a list they didn’t create.  The instructions were that each team must create a performance using ALL six elements on their list, each one must be incorporated somehow.  We told them they could write a song, put on a skit, anything really!

amanda on the guitar as her team sang an original, and hilarious, song!

 

i loved watching all of the performances

Part Two: We just gave them all 20 minutes to practice.  Practice during free time was encouraged, but just to make sure everyone did a great job, we opted for practice time instead of doing a different ice breaker.

Part Three: Performance time!

This was so fun.  Our lead pastor, Tami, was in tears watching the show.  She was so impressed at the great job every team did.

Groups were judged on creativity, humour, thoughtfulness, fact accuracy, props, energy and using everything on their lists.  Prizes were given to first place and two runner ups!  Picking the winners was about impossible, each team did an amazing job!

Pros: LOTS of bonding time.  We saw so much teamwork and creativity.  Groups spent a lot of time together.  Women who usually stay behind-the-scenes totally got up on stage and gave it their all. New friends were made, people had fun, it was fun for the audience to watch.  Since our retreat was faith-based, having a Bible verse in there was a good way for them to incorporate the Word into the project.

I just heard rave reviews about the skits, everyone seemed to have enjoyed it very much.  By creating the mad libs style lists, the skits were wacky and funny!  Since they had no idea they’d be doing skits ahead of time, they didn’t really have props, so it was fun to see everyone come up with stuff on the fly.  We had a lot of musicians at camp, with instruments, so the music abounded!

Cons: I used Curling as an example of an Olympic sport, and I’m pretty sure five out of seven teams used it, so that was kind of a bummer.  I’d caution anyone using this activity to limit the number of examples you give.   It was a time-consuming activity, a lot of the groups needed much more than the 20 minute allotment to put it all together.

The idea for this game just came to me Friday night during the teaching.  I quickly scribbled the rough idea down, then Annmarie and I hashed out the details.  I’m really quite sure the inspiration was Devine – it just popped into my head out of no where.  So praise God for the spurt of creativity!

So, if you were at retreat – what did you think about the ice breakers?  Annmarie and I really tried to give everyone activities that would encourage friendship, sisterhood, and bonding.  Mostly, we wanted everyone to just have fun.

If you’re going to use any of our game, please let me know how it goes and what modifications you make to suit the needs of your groups!

as always, thanks for reading!  xoxo, hhr

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Whew. What An Amazing Weekend – Women Of Hope Retreat 2012

I spent this past weekend on the North Shore with 140 of God’s LOVEliest women at my church’s 2012 women’s retreat!

the women of hope

I’m fired up, filled to overflowing, loved, happy, encouraged, humbled, grateful, and … exhausted!  Hence, this post isn’t the actual rundown post.  No, this weekend was so full of post-able pieces of wisdom, insights, joy, fun, photos, and good ideas it’s going to take me a hot minute to compile it all together.  I think I’ll actually make a few posts.

I was so honored to be on the ministry team, working at the event.  I was in charge of the tie dye event and I came up with/led some ice breakers.  I want to post about the group bonding games we did in hopes that others could take the ideas and use them for their own events (Annmarie and I co-led the ice breakers and we are oh so clever, we invented our own games for the ladies to play!!).

The ministry was amazing.  We had devotionals, testimonies, teachings, praise and worship, prayer, prayer and more prayer.  Eight women were baptized in the ocean! EIGHT! Countless women had their faith renewed, re-ignited; sins were purged, the enemy was attacked, others were forgiven.

ocean baptism - amen!

The theme of retreat was LOVE.  We are Lovely, Overcoming, Victorious, and Eternal.

I learned so much, I just feel so pumped up.  I’ve been falling off in my obedience and commitment to God, and this weekend really gave me a chance to dig in and reconnect.  I was able to lay a lot of my own junk down and serve my God, happily.

So, there is MUCH to share, much to say and much to show.  Just give me a few days to collect my thoughts (and notes – I used like seven different notebooks, so everything is all scattered and out of order)… and a series of posts will ensue!

camp mokule'ia is amazing.

If you have any requests of stuff you’d like me to talk about, lemme know.

Oh, and the location!  The location was epic.  Camp Mokule’ia is peaceful and amazing.  The new direction of the facility is to live and run the operations of the camp in a way that is most kind to the land it’s on.  Sustainable living is totally promoted with a new gray water system, aquaponics, composting, gardening, and beefed up recycling.  A hippie like me couldn’t be more excited, especially because Camp management bases all of their green-inspired efforts in Scripture!  I’ll be interviewing the owner of the Camp and giving a full explanation of all their new eco-friendly installations, what the impact has been like, the theological inspiration for the efforts, and how camped have been responding.  So rad, right!?!?

I’m excited to get cracking.  Love to all of my sisters – thank you for a wonderful weekend.

Thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr

capture: women of hope’s january 2012 event

Capture God’s Heart

January 23rd, 2012: Capture. Women of Hope’s Event at HCKB.

one of tami's capturings of God's amazingness - sunset over the koolaus

Monday night was an amazing women’s event at Church.  Oh man, it was really fun and well done and I feel like the message taught went straight to my heart.

The night started out with some really good worship jams.  I walked in and heard the band playing and I said to a friend, “oh man, they sound so good!”  And she was all, “what, they regularly don’t sound good?”  And I was all, “you know what I mean.”

Really.

So we sit down, Ola gives some announcements and then they played a commercial for Women’s Retreat (the first weekend in March, holla at me for info).

you can totes skip this next part, it’s totally a tangent: 

I bring up the commercial for one reason, and it’s totally vain.  I was in the commercial.  In fact, I was happy and blessed to be a part of it; I got so much out of camp last year, I was really super glad to tell others how good it is.  My problem is that I looked TERRIBLE in this commercial.  Like crawl under the table and die kinda terrible.  I’m still rolling in mortification over here. 

It was HD.  And the camera was lower than me and I was all acne and jowls.  I didn’t even know I had jowls until Monday night.  So anyways, I was super duper embarrassed.  Afterwards people kept telling me what a nice testimony I gave about camp, and so on, but really I just bee-lined it to my car to get out of there. 

I’m a little sad that I let it get to me so much.  I’m pretty sure this is some sort of lesson in my vanity.  Which I know is up there, I’m way too vain. 

But really? Ugh.  Why must lessons be so painful sometimes?  I’m trying to not let it be my focus and weigh me down.  So moving on..

The actual start of the post:

Tami started the event beautifully.  She let us in on one of the ways she prays to God.  Tami asks Him, “let me see the way you see.”  What a totally beautiful thing to ask God for.  She’s so sweet, I really love and admire Tami’s heart.

i totally forgot to take pics on monday night (i was writing so much)... here's a cute one of pastor tami. love her!

The enemy loves distraction.

So by keeping that in mind, the theme of the night is capture – to capture God’s heart, to capture those moments when you see His beauty and you feel His love.

Tami: “We aren’t here by mistake.  We all have people to reach; so focus in, and capture. We believe there’s a movement and He’s calling His daughters to rise.”

And then she prayed for all of us, and if you’ve never had the pleasure of being prayed over by Tami, you are sorely missing out.  She is an epic prayer warrior, and she so speaks to the hearts of women and just emotes out these lovely, heartfelt prayers.

“Holy Spirit come and capture us.” was the last line of her prayer (I can’t take notes while praying, yo.  It’s bad enough I was trying to “check-in” during praise and worship. oopsies!)

The Kanani came up to teach the lesson for the evening.

“Jesus didn’t go looking for fights, or telling people how broken they are.  Jesus didn’t point out flaws… He just loved.  He loved the broken.”

kanani, on monday night, as captured by tami!

Kanani opened by just speaking to us about brokenness and how Jesus isn’t the type top kick you when you’re down, or suss through your problems, your flaws, and point them all out to you.  He’s was an uplifter.  He was a positive speaker.  He spoke life and love.

Just like Instagram captures the moments of our lives, in pretty pictures.  (Instagram is an iphone app that everyone is totes obsessed with).

“You’re never too young or too old to capture Jesus. Take pictures of your life; you can see the beauty in so many things…

God is causing a seismic shift; there’s a groundswell for Jesus.”

Its like when you’re surfing, and you’re waiting to catch a wave and you feel that little pull back … God is tugging at us to catch this wave.

sidenote: my elementary school motto was “catch a wave with the braves” and I always think of that every time I hear the phrase “catch a wave” used in any sense other than when I’m physically surfing.  haha. random. 

Back to Kanani’s teaching:

NOTHING can separate us from God’s love.  No one,  no event, nothing can get between you and His love.

No higher price has been paid for you!

John 3:16

For He so loved the world… HE SO LOVED US.

He gave up Jesus for us, and through His blood we are bought and claimed!

“the Most High has summoned you into His presence… so what do you do?”
The rest of the teaching was on Psalm 34, as it’s written in The Message.  It’s just amazing. For this blog post I typed it out myself, and I was so blessed to go back through it and read it again.  How have I never focused on this gem before?  It’s seriously epic and touching and beautiful and it’s such a love letter.

Okay, read it.  Really, read it!!!

Psalm 34 (The Message version) 

I bless GOD every chance I get;

my lungs expand with his praise.

I live and breathe God;

if things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy:

Join me in spreading the news;

together let’s get the word out.

God met me more than halfway,

he freed me from my anxious fears.

Look at Him; give Him your warmest smile.

Never hide your feelings from Him.

When I was desperate, I called out,

and God got me out of a tight spot.

God’s angel sets up a circle or protection around us while we pray.

Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see-

how good God is.

Blessed are you who run to him.

Worship God if you want the best;

worship opens doors to all his goodness.

Young lions on the prowl get hungry,

but God-seekers are full of God.

Come children, listen closely;

I’ll give you a lesson in God worship.

Who out there has a lust for life?

Can’t wait each day to come upon beauty?

Guard your tongue from profanity,

and no more lying through your teeth.

Turn your back on sin; do something good.

Embrace peace – don’t let it get away!

God keeps an eye on His friends,

his ears pick up everything moan and groan.

God won’t put up with rebels;

he’ll cull them from the pack.

Is anyone crying for help? God is listening,

ready to rescue you.

If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there.

If you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.

Disciples so often get into trouble;

still, God is there every time.

He’s you bodyguard, shielding every bone;

not even a finger gets broken.

The wicked commit slow suicide,

they waste their lives hating the good.

God pays for each slave’s freedom;

no one who runs to Him loses out.

Does it get better?

There is so much in there, and Kanani really went verse by verse, and I took like eight pages of notes.  So let me see if I can point out some highlights here.

Kanani showed us some slides of her sister, a woman who literally blesses God everywhere she goes.  There are all these pics of her out on the beach, out anywhere and she’s just hands up saying “hi” to God.  It’s amazing!  She sees God everywhere, she recognizes and thanks Him for the beauty all around us.

My own words here… Ever since I was little I remember by mom always saying things on a super beautiful day like, “how can people not believe in God?”  Like when we’d travel and step out into a gorgeous scene, she’s always be in awe of God and His creations.  I think her reverence for His masterpiece has really set into me, and that’s just something I’ve done all my life too.

Now living in Hawaii, it’s so easy.  I mean, really!  The views, the mountains, the clear water, snorkeling on beautiful tropical reefs, hiking through lush jungles.  Waterfalls, sunsets and sunrises over the water.  I see it all. DAILY.

No wonder so many people out here love God!  Hawaii is such a strongly Christian state.  (And it’s a blue state, just sayin).

It feels so easy to love God here, because even the rainy days are gorgeous.  There’s a rainbow every two feet.

So back to what Kanani was saying…

“Have a passion for everyday, have a lust for life.”

when you step out and see God’s love, capture that blessing in your heart and thank Him.  Talk to Him, praise Him for what you experience.  Keep Him with you, and be close to Him always.

Never hide your feelings from Him. If you’re in a tight spot, call out to God.  Cry out for Jesus!

“Even when your life is a wreck, He hasn’t abandoned you; God is in you.”

We should be declaring the praises of our sister instead of tearing her down.  We should be speaking victory and life.  Use your mouth to say nice things, don’t talk stink.

“God is there when your heart is breaking.  If you took a picture, you’d see God in there.  He’s right there.”  –   then she was speaking to different kinds of heartbreak, not just romantic.  And I know that when I lost my baby last winter, that was heartbreak.  My heart was shattered.

And it was God who pulled me through.  He dragged me out of the sadness and pain and into the sunlight.  Literally and metaphorically, and spiritually.  God was there right with me.

“We’re here to save souls, to connect with our sisters, putting God first.”

In the middle of a busy situation, be the one who notices the person having a hard time or who has a sad look on their face.  Be the one to not worry about the mainstream and go over to the one who needs some love and give them that love.  Be like Jesus!

“No one who runs to Him will be turned away.”

Preach by living. Worship by living.  Have joy in your life!

Okay, then there were some snacks and chatting, and the prayer team was there (which I took advantage of, and I got some prayer to seriously help me get better. Amen!).

And they had this photo booth set up with all these frames so you could “capture” yourself and your friends… (ugh, but after that vid I was so not into being in front of a camera, let’s not kid).

kanani and her daughter, captured!

But mostly what I walked away with was this call to arms to live a happy life.  To use my voice to speak kindness, and to help others be happy and to always praise God.  Just to put Him first, and then to love others like Jesus did.

I feel compelled to rally up my sisters and bring them with me on this movement.

And to notice the moments as I go.  To take pause when I see God’s wonder, and say, “yo Daddy God, thank you! This is amazing! I love you!”

I mean, my blog here is happy hippie rose… and well, what’s better to make one happy and to be a hippie than to be kind, love on others, help those in need, and to appreciate what we have.  Be grateful, love this earth and all its beauty and everything God has provided us with.

I feel like Psalm 34 is totes the happy hippie rose anthem.  Totes!

So go out, have a lust for life!  See beauty and be grateful.  And when you need God, call out to Him!  When you don’t need Him, still call out to Him!  Run to HIM!  He will never turn you away, and nothing will ever come between you and His love. Blessed are those who praise Him, so sing His praises all day long. 

as always, thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr

here's an instagram of me, capturing this moment of blogging and smiling!

my 11 best of 2011

This past weekend Duggs and I have spent so much time going back and forth, asking each other: “what were your top moments of 2011?”  We tried to make a top ten list, but it was harder than you’d think.

What events were more significant than others?  What meant the most to us or had the most impact?

A lot happened this year.  Matthew and I were reunited after a seven-month deployment.  I grew my hair out long.  I tie dyed more garments than I could even count, and we hiked, climbed, swam and crawled all over this island.  2011 was a busy, crazy, strange year.   And here’s the best of it:

My Best of 2011

i LOVE those sun rays

I hope it goes without saying that certain things are the best in my life, regardless of the year, entities like my pooch, my family, my friends, etc.  So this list isn’t meant to be exhaustive of everything I’ve ever loved in 2011… it’s just the highlight reel of things that happened this year: 

1. Matthew’s Homecoming!

welcome home, my love!!!

Duggs came home from Afghanistan.  He came back, safe and sound, from his third and final combat deployment with the U.S. Marine Corps.  Homecoming was totes my favorite event of the year.  Having Matthew back here with me is just beyond words.

best. feeling. ever.

2. This Here Blog: happy hippie rose dot com

I started this here blog, yes! The very one you’re reading!  It’s been a very fun project, a constant in my life that I’ve really come to look forward to.   I enjoy this blog.

And more than any of my feelings – I LOVE when something I’ve written helps someone else, makes another person feel better, or informs someone.  The lovely feedback has just been so inspiring.

2011 hasn’t been an easy-peasy year; during the challenges and hard times (mostly talking about my health here) having a reader reach out and tell me what nice things they’ve gleaned from what I have to say – pushes me to get through it, to carry on, and to do so with a smile.  So, to everyone reading, commenting and being a part of this: THANK YOU!!!

3.  I got a job! 

This just came to be very recently, but it totally counts as a best of the year!  I am so grateful and happy.  I’ve been entrusted with this amazing opportunity and I hope to work really hard and to do a great job.

(If you want to check out who I’m working for, go here: http://www.icucmoderation.com  Just remember, this is my personal blog, and anything I say is just my opinion and nothing to do with ICUC.)

4.  Baptism (and Church in general) 

I was Baptised this year, in September, at Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay.  It wa s decision that I stand by (Catholic family members reading this can speak to me one-on-one, I love you and I’ll always be Catholic-by-birth).   Waiting for Matthew to get home, and wanting his support: September was the perfect month.  Matthew took pics and participated by being there, watching, and praying with all of us, his love on that day meant a lot to me.

Being Baptized as an adult is a really public way to declare my faith, and to just go big with it!  A highlight of the year is certainly Hope Chapel, and the level of faith I’ve exercised in general.  From Women’s Retreat to teaching at Children’s Church, to just attending service with my husband every Sunday, Church has been a solid and wonderful aspect of 2011.

Giving back, community service, helping others, and kindness have been such outward reaches of the church, that we’ve found ourselves really doing good in 2011; many of the projects we participated in were church-related.

Baptism is that symbol of being part of the church, and I am so happy and glad for that.  Praise God!!

5. The Holidays

For the first time ever, Matthew and I were able to celebrate the entire run of holidays together.  From Halloween straight to New Year’s.   Being together made the holidays so much fun.  We both love Christmas, and this year we were able to get so into it and go nuts with decorating, and cards and just everything.

happy new year!!

Sharing that New Year’s Kiss was so wonderful, too. Half of 2011 was spent in deployment mode, me alone in Hawaii and Duggs all the way in Afghan.  Kissing that all away and starting a fresh new together year, was just amazing.

6. The Tanners!

Did you think I’d leave our Hawaiian besties out of the list?  This past year we’ve really grown close to the Tanners, and we’ve made so many fun memories with them.  From the Navy Day Ball to boating out on K-bay, crafting nights with Ashley and watching Jed and Duggs be utterly ridiculous together, we love the Tanners!  Thanks for so much fun in ’11.

bailey and jj, BFFs

this is not drunk knife throwing

duggs and jed

me and ashley

7. Tie Dye Business! 

me, hard at work

Yeah, this year brought into being my little homespun tie dye business.  There’s been a lot to learn, and it’s also been a lot of fun.  I’m not sure what the future of hhr is, as of now.  Regardless, it brought purpose, focus, creativity, and ingenuity to my 2011.  To all my customers, I am so thankful for your support!

Want to check it out?  www.facebook.com/happyhippierose

8. Family Visting

This year saw a lot of our family members out here in Hawaii.  First came my Dad and Stepmom.  A couple weeks later, my Mom came out to see us.  In the fall,. Matthew’s Aunt Anne and Uncle Jeff were out here for business, and we were able to spend some time with them.

my stepmom and dad, cheers!

matthew with my mom (kathy)

aunt anne and uncle jeff out to lunch at the shack

matthew with his aunt anne, on k-bay

Being so far away from family is hard.

So seeing those familier faces in the baggage claim was such a joy.  During their trips we were able to see so much of this island by playing tour guide, it was like being on vacation ourselves!

9. My Birthday

Duggs says that my birthday was a highlight of 2011 for him.  That he loved buying me presents and making the day (heck, the weekend) so special for me.  It was our first time being together on my birthday!  So I know that it was special.

I gave a tithing Testimony at church the weekend of my birthday.  So, in that respect, my birthday was a very important day to me too!!

10. HAWAII 

ahhh, amazing

Just being here is a constant amazement.  This is really the most beautiful place of earth.  All year long we explored, hiked, swam in the warm waters, and sighed at the neon sunsets.  I love living here, and I am forever grateful to have spent 2011 on gorgeous O’ahu!

the view from turtle bay

yeah, turtle bay is gorgeous

aloha!

When we leave, Hawaii will carry such a special place in my heart for a long time to come.

11. Overcoming

I was going to put climbing Stairway To Heaven as one of my highlights.  I mean, it was totally a highlight!  An achievement, for sure.

But there were a lot of metaphorical stairways to climb this year, and I’m proud to say I reached the top, or damn near close, of most of them.  With Duggs holding my hand, the climb is always easier.  And once at the top, the view, spectacular.

trigger point injections, my favorite way to spend a day

grrr, i AM tough!

Pushing through and overcoming the tough stuff is the sort of thing that builds character, and gives me that resolution to dig in and overcome the next time ’round.  You only become strong through opportunities that require strength.

2011 has been amazing in it’s own ways.  But it’s a year I’m glad to see behind me.  I’m so stoked for 2012 and all that it may hold!

As always, thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr

christmas in the pokey

I’m talking about bringing the holidays into the big house. Jesus’ birthday in jail. Holly Lock up! Jingle bells behind bars. And so on…

Incarcerated Christmas

the wccc in kailua

But seriously, all joking and cheap attention-grabbing aside, it’s been a good week with great acts of giving to chat about.

The Women’s group at my beloved church, Hope Chapel Kaneohe, aptly called the Women of Hope, recently participated in an interesting Christmas-related drive.  We collected hygiene items, basic toiletries, some chocolate and other simple, nice, feminine gifts to help supplement the holiday presents female inmates will receive this year at the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Kailua.

I know that might sound weird to some.  In fact, a couple people have expressed to me how odd they find this idea.  But Prison Ministry is no new concept, and well, people in jail are still people.

A rant on my personal beliefs:

As an American, I believe in our corrections system.  I believe that jail can and should rehabilitate people so that after serving sentences they can return to society.  How is that to happen if incarcerated people are treated like lepers?  Aren’t given any love? What’s the motivation to get out and assimilate into law-abiding culture if the average American won’t touch you with a ten foot pole.

I believe that love goes a long way in the rehabilitation process.  And that it’s a necessary ingredient in creating well-adjusted citizens, in general.  We all need love.

Now, I know that folks are locked up for a reason.  They’re not all lily white and innocent.  I get that, c’mon, I’m far from dumb.  But people are people.  And people need love.

And pssst Christians, we’re called to love everyone!  Even those behind bars.

/soapbox.

Onto the gift giving:

I am so humbled and honored by the friends who came by my house and dropped off items to give, the people who literally wired money to me and sent me carepacks of toiletries.  I’ve literally been bowled over by the generosity I’ve witnessed this holiday season.   Even in the toughest of times, people are still finding a way to reach down and give out.  It’s so beautiful and amazing.  And I’m just honored to be a part of this.

There are roughly 300 women in the Kailua WCCC at any given time; currently there are about 260 lady inmates.  Every single one of them, even those in lock down units, will receive a gift bag this year for the holidays.  The donated hygiene items will be essential for many of these women.  And for too many, it will be the only gift they receive all year.

I am so spoiled with love.  I literally cannot imagine spending a whole year in a place as dark, scary and lonely as prison and then only being loved on once.   It breaks my heart and it makes me wonder about the crime cycle and the derivatives of criminal activity.  The optimist prime in me knows that love and kindness can break that cycle, and prevent people from going down that road in the first place.   I mean, I obviously have no study to cite on this one, but I just imagine how broken and angry, how lash-y out-y I’d be if I was relegated to a cell and ignored.

My friends gave me all kinds of goodies, shampoos and nice lotions.

salon samples of super high end products, nice!

kenny helped buy all of these bottles, thank you kenny! i think maggie's are in here too. you two ROCK!

We collected all the items at the Women’s event held on Monday, An Evening In December.  It was an awesome night of praise, worship, fellowship and a fired up message from guest speaker/local celebrity Dawn O’Brien, from FM 99.5 “The Fish.”

On Wednesday, Pastor Tami, the women’s pastor at HCKB, drove all of the goodies up to the WCCC where my friend Chiffon and I met her.  The two Pastors from the Correction Facility’s Chapel, along with a couple inmates came out to the car to get everything from us.

tami's car was stuffed!

We all held hands and prayed together in the parking lot.  Seeing the excitement and glee come over the faces of the ladies receiving these gifts was priceless.  That was my Christmas present right there.   They called me “sister,” and they asked God to Bless me.  I have no idea who they are, or what anything in their past could be…. but when they thanked me, and prayed with me and called me sister, I had never been more affirmed of the importance this type of giving, ever.

the entrance of the facility

chiffon and me, by all of the stuff!!

chiffon, one of the women's pastors, me, pastor tami from church, and pastor tami from the wccc

I’m also feeling really called to go work in the system, hopefully with women or at the youth facility.  Getting to meet the Pastors who work inside the jail and talk to them, and hear their excitement at new volunteers was really motivating too!

To everyone who bought items, gave money, brought things in: THANK YOU SO MUCH!  It was truly a successful drive, and the holidays of so many women will be blessed.  They also will use some of the items to gift to women when they get out, as they go to a halfway house or what have you, so these blessing will keep on going and keep on giving, all year long!

And for reading my little blog, as always, thank you!!

xoxo, hhr 

time to crank out the jams…

…And By Jams, I Mean Tie Dye!

I’m so excited, I just gotta share this news with someone.  I’ve been asked, last minute, to host a craft booth at my Church’s Women’s group event this Monday.  As in, a few days from now!

Over 350 women have already signed up and paid, but even more are expected. For some people this may sound so small-timey.  But for me, this is my first time selling tie dye at an event, or really selling in person at all.

So between now and then, I need to crank out some tie dye!  

i need to make lotsa tie dyes, like this!

Now, I do have booth selling experience. Quick story:

My folks used to own a phone card business (trust me, I know that sounds so bizarre).  Back in the 90’s my dad and I went to France with my elementary school’s exchange program (he was the group translator, that’s a whole ‘nother story on it’s own; he learned french in eight months just so he could be the translator, hahaha, Viper is amazing!).

(i know i had a photo of us in france somewhere. i can’t find it… grrr… i’ll keep looking later on)

So we get to France – and all the pay phones required these prepaid cards you swipe, no coinage. Dad thinks it’ll be the next big thing, we become the biggest phone card dealer in the whole Southeast, and the only licensed dealer of Visa Cash Cards (a derivative of phone cards, it’s a prepaid card, like a credit card – but not based on credit, it’s just prepaid so you don’t have to carry cash around).

Next thing ya know… those pesky cell phones become all the rage, and payphones become all but obsolete.

But anyways, back in the heyday of the phone cards, we used to travel around to all kinds of conventions and sell them.  I’m talking Europe, Asia, everywhere.  So I know how to stand at a booth and sell… I just haven’t done so in a decade and a half, and never with my own tie dye.

I have a feeling it’ll be like riding a bike though.

My Dad (Viper) and Step-mom (Anna) still actually run the business… it’s just not as crazy booming as it once was.  You can check them out: Kars Unlimited. 

Okay, I have company coming in this afternoon.  Another guest for dinner will be coming over tonight.  And I have all this tie dye to crank out. (And maybe make some pricing signs, I have to sort and prep all the inventory I do have, and make some kind of poster for custom orders or something).

Not to forget- at the very same women’s event I’m hostessing a toiletry drive for the local women’s correctional facility.  They do gift bags at Christmas for the inmates, and we’re collecting donations for said gift bags.  Oh, busy busy!!  Lots of sheets to wash, laundry to fold, sweeping and fixing up to do. Oh my!

Thanks for reading!  xoxo, hhr 

P.S. If you’re interested in helping with the toiletry drive, let me know anytime before midday on December 5th (Hawaii time), and we can figure something out!  You can comment here or email me: happyhippierose@gmail.com   -thanks!!

P.P.S. I really will make a siggy soon! I swears it!

one of the kids' shirts i'll be selling!

operation christmas child part 2: seven new awesomely crafted care packs

I asked and y’all answered!

OCC Part 2 – Seven More Boxes Made With Love, Thanks To You!

My Church, Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay, participated in this year’s Operation Christmas Child project, a drive to send shoes boxes stuffed with toys, gifts, candy and what-not to underprivileged kids world-wide.  The church’s goal was 3,000 boxes.  Matthew and I made two on our own.  When we turned them in, our church was well under it’s goal.  I solicited an offer – if anyone funded the cost of a box, I would do all the legwork to create, shop and fill a box.

I wrote this blog about OCC a couple weeks ago.

Seven more boxes were funded, packed with love and turned in – thanks to y’all!  My friends and family came together to help us with this amazing project. And ultimately… our church reached it’s goal!  3,002 total boxes are being sent to kids in need.

AMEN!

How awesome is that?!?!?

Thank you: Miss Alice (my wonderful mother-in-law), Viper and Anna (my Dad and step-mom), Claire and the Williams Family, Kayla and the Hayes Family, Staci and the Ostrowski Family, and my lovely friend Ariana!  With all of your love and funding we were able to make SEVEN boxes to go out and send some love to seven more children.  How amazing is that?

I’m so appreciative.  I love this project and just believe in it so much!

So, because I’m too lazy to sort through all these pics… here’s a big mishmash of the assembly and turn in process, including what the inside of each box looks like.  Check ’em out:

Just to mention, every box got a hand-written note from me… I finished them so late on Saturday night though, I was too tired to snap any pics.  I used some nice stationary I had, and I just kept the letters simple and sweet.  For those of you who OK’ed it, I included your name, photos and address!   I basically just said that God loves them (the kids) and that we’re thinking of them.  And for each of you, I gave a couple generic/simple sentences about what you like to do… “We like going to the beach” or “I live in New York!”  etc.

THANK YOU SO MUCH EVERYONE!

girl’s night out – women of hope april 2011 event

Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay’s women’s ministry is the Women of Hope.  Almost every month there’s a different event for us and April’s was “Girl’s Night Out.”  Held on Thursday, April 28th 2011 – Girl’s Night Out was a really relaxed and fun night of fellowship, meeting new women, and getting some tools for us to go out and be the best, strongest, most graceful women we can be.  So rad!

And I got to use the Britney Spear’s handless mic, so you know it was an awesome event.  (Yeah, they let me have a microphone, please read on for the full explanation!)

As always when I write a blog – this is just my own reflection/rambling based on my point of view – nothing official, okay?

Girl’s Night Out


The whole mentality behind the Girl’s Night Out event was for us to have a more casual way to fellowship, but yet not a free-for-all.  Tami, the Women’s Pastor, approached me a while ago.  She really buttered me up and told me the women at retreat had so much fun making tie dye and that it was such a hit.  So just when I was all placated by the flattery, she asked if I would be interested in teaching the women how to make friendship bracelets at an upcoming event.  How could I say no?  (I would have said yes without all the flattery, but that part was nice so I let her go on.  haha!)

Not only was the bracelet-making going to be a fun activity and something new for a lot of the women (and something fondly nostalgic from childhood for many of us), but it would be a craft that reiterates a really cool verse from Ecclesiastes that spoke to Tami.   I love when things all connect, and this whole bracelet thing was one of them.  Not only did the craft tie into the Word, but now all of us who attended would have matching bracelets.  So rad, right?

My Prep

all the strings

At the planning meeting for the event it was decided that all of the women would have the same colored string.  Like true “friendship bracelets,”  we’d all have matching ones!  So cute.  So Tami and I played around with the colors, and found this coral pink, a soft blue, and white that all looked very pretty together.

I took home a giant sack o’ string and set to work prepping it all so the night of there’d be no measuring, cutting, and all that stuff.  While I was sitting at home making all of the little bracelet starters, I was thinking about the shells we got at women’s retreat.  Tami told us that she had prayed over all of the shells before we all got one.  So while I was touching all the string, prepping it, I just thought about all of the Women of Hope.  I thought happy thoughts for everyone, and I prayed for each person who might end up with a particular string.    It just felt nice and positive, and I felt so honored and humbled to get to do such a thing.  I’m so new to Hope Chapel, being welcomed in the way I have been is just awesome.

one table's worth of string

The Event!

We had a great turnout.  It’s so awesome to see so many women make the time to come up to church on a weekday evening and spend some time with their sisters.   All twenty tables had people at them – so that means there were almost 180 women present! Good job!

the view from standing right outside of the sanctuary. the mountains, the big cross lit up. i just thought this was a pretty scene. this was taken right before the event started.

The event was in the Clamshell (the sanctuary), which had been set up into tables of nine.  There were some pretty paper lanterns hanging.  And the vibe was just really casual.  We were coming together to worship and learn, yes – but to just chat and get to know each other as well.  The design of the seating was so that we’d meet new people.   Even though that whole concept was a little harder to pull off in practice than it was in theory – I think everything ended up working out just fine.

all set up and ready to go

(Not to dwell on the plan that didn’t work perfectly – but to explain it I’ll say… The plan was for everyone, as they entered, to draw from a basket a table assignment.  That way, people who came together would sit at different tables and meet new people.  It was a great idea – but ended up being a bit tough to pull off seamlessly in real life.   It’s of no matter though: the intention of the idea did work out, a lot of the tables had mixes of women who don’t necessarily hang out all the time or know each other).

All of the tables had a “hostess,” who led everyone in the ice breaker game and just sort of facilitated the evening.  A big thank you to the 20-ish women who stepped up at hostess tables.  What an awesome thing to do to help ensure a great time was had by all.  Thank you hostesses!  (I don’t have a copy of the list or else you betcha I’d thank everyone).  Patti was my hostess and she was such a pleasure to be seated with, she’s so sweet and fun!

Oh, the snacks were awesome!  Veggies, humus, pita chips, and more.  The food is always such a highlight for me, I totally have a problem.

the awesome table of snacks

dessert table

Two Truths and A Lie

As an ice breaker, we all played this cute and easy game at the table.  Everyone had to give three statements about themselves – two of which are true, and one is a lie.  Everyone else tries to guess which is which.   You end up learning fun little things about each other, and the chosen “facts,” usually lead to a story or two and a lot of laughs.  Our table was totally giggling the whole time we played, and I could other tables busting out into laughter at various times as well.

The whole point of an ice breaker is to get people warmed up, talking to each other, and to help us get to know each other.  So hopefully for all of the tables the mission was accomplished.  And it was accomplished in an easy-going, fun way!

here's carly lying away about pink being her favorite color!

I’m trying to remember what my three things were… I know one of my truths was about swimming the English Channel, and my lie was about doing a semester of study abroad in Singapore.  Shoots, I can’t remember my other truth.  I’m sure whatever it was it was rad, because well… I’m rad. (hehehe).

Rikki Talks About the Strength of Lady Friends

Next up was the beautiful and sweet Rikki Wurlitzer praying with us, and saying some words about what Ecclesiastes 4:12 means to her. The verse this whole bracelet thing is based on, is as follows:

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. (NLT).

Rikki talked about how when we’re together, like a triple-braided cord, we’re stronger.  She told us that the enemy tries to isolate us, make us think that we need to be alone, and that is such a lie!   It’s good to need each other, and to want to be together as sisters in Christ.

because of the lighting, it's so hard for me to get decent quality pics - but here ya go, here's one of Rikki on the mic

She gave the example about that girl, we all know one (or maybe we are one), who says the ole I don’t like women!  This is another lie.  Rikki spoke out that we do need our sisters.  And she gave the illustration of life being like a game of red rover.  When hard times gets hurls at you, if you’re standing there with your arms tightly linked around your best girlfriends – you’ll be able to resist breaking down and getting beat up by life’s challenges. Afterwards you’ll still be standing tall and intact.

First of all, I totally related to the “I don’t like women” statement, and I just loved the red rover analogy.  I used to be one of those women.  I used to have all guy friends, and I used to think that being friends with girls just wasn’t for me.  I went through a couple different stages of this kind of thinking. Once was in high school when I was a total surfer chick, and all my pals who I surfed with were boys; it seemed like the girls didn’t really like me back then.  I said, in a way to protect myself, that I didn’t need those girls.  Later in college I was in a sorority, and after being hurt by some of the women who were supposedly my “sisters,” I was very defensive about gal pals, and again donned the “I don’t need girls” attitude.

But it sure isn’t true these days.  I LOVE my lady-friends, and I have no idea where I’d be without them.  I’m blessed to have a whole army of awesome women I know I can count on.  I do have some guy friends, but they’re really tiny in percentage compared to the amount of women in my inner circle. I’ve come to love and embrace all that is being a woman, and I’ve come to love and embrace having women all around me.  I relate to women, I get advice from them, they help me as I help them.  During deployment, I feel like my gal pals and I really pull each other through.  I heart girl’s nights. And finally… I cannot imagine the look on my husband’s face if I told him I was going to hang out with my dude friends. Haha!  That would be a riot.

Looking back, I see that when I was in anti-girl mode, I was doing it out of defensiveness.  I was saying it because I was scared that they wouldn’t like me back.   Now I see how great having female friends really is.  And every time one of my girlfriends tells me that they don’t like women I need to point out that I happen to be a woman!

Back to what Rikki said, the red rover analogy was just so cool.  As she was talking I got this awesome mental image of me linking arms with all of my best gal pals and just daring bad things to try and mess with us.  Seriously, we’re pretty hard to take down and we know it!

Rikki shared some really wise and sweet words with us.  I love that she was shooting from the heart, talking to us all with such love.  I totally see a Pastor-in-the-making, as she was well-spoken, comfortable on stage, and so right on with her words.  Well done Rikki, you had such an awesome contribution to the evening and to all of us who were blessed to hear the thoughts that God put on your heart.

My Turn- Bracelet Making Time

Because it’s my blog and all I do is talk about myself, I’ll keep this short and sweet.  I basically just stood up there, showed everyone how to make the bracelets using three cords and a really simple knot.  Then I wandered around to the tables and helped out anyone who asked me for a bit of help.  I used the term “y’all” a lot, and I was probably louder and more nasally in real life than I am in my head.    I did have one sweet thought that I shared with everyone:

Seeing as we were all making these bracelets together and they’d all be matching, I thought that maybe it would be cool to remember this evening whenever we looked at the bracelet.  I told the ladies:  Maybe if you wear it on your wrist every time you see it you’ll think about church, your sisters of hope who sat with you on this night, maybe you’ll think about praying, and seeing the bracelet will remind you to do so.  Whatever the connection is that you have with it, I hope it’s happy and positive.

here i am, barking away instructions

adjusting the hands-free mic, lol. of course i had to mess with it and fidget. my mom is sighing just reading this, lol.

I had a really fun time helping out, and honestly I was honored and humbled to do so.  It’s just so flattering that everyone has such a fun time with these little crafts that I do enjoy so much.

We didn’t really go out of our way to advertise “friendship bracelet making” when the event was being promoted, for fear that no one would come.  For a lot of people, the thought of making bracelets is probably a turn off and sounds boring, not fun, or whatever.  But all in all, I think it was a hit.  Or at least it was tolerable.  Some women really surprised themselves and had way more fun than they thought they would.  In the days since, I’ve had a couple gals tell me they can’t stop making bracelets on their own and they’re having so much fun with it.

And the gift that keeps on giving?  The Dom Rep mission team is going to take the leftover string with them on their trip and use bracelet making as a way to bond with girls they meet in the DR.  How cool is that?  I love that this is being paid forward!

Kacie told me that she made 9 knots in each color, for every woman at her table.  Then, after repeating that a bunch of times to make the whole bracelet she finished it off with 33 white knots: one for every year that Jesus lived.  How cool is that?  I love that Kacie took the concept, and made it her own and made it special and as a remembrance of this evening, her sisters, and Jesus.  So perfectly done!

kacie's bracelet, groups 9 with 33 white knots at the end. so awesome!

here's what my bracelet looked like

Worship

The Women’s worship team moved us all with three songs: Blessed Be The Name, Came To My Rescue, and How Great is Our God.  Kacie, one of the women’s worship leaders told me after the event that she was almost in tears as she was leading us through “Came To My Rescue.”  All three songs were beautiful.  And as 180ish women stood and sang together, I was honored to be part of such a pretty tribute to our God.

the women's worship band

every lady in the house was on her feet and singing to God!

Since three songs were played, Kacie pointed out to me that the worship team was giving us all a musical triple cord braid, how cool is that?  Another connection.  I love it!

Tami’s Sermon

The meat and potatoes had yet to be served.  Tami, our Pastor, gave a sermon after the games and crafts were done.

The main idea of the whole evening was about equipping ourselves, strengthening ourselves for whatever may come our way.  And while having our sisters with us is one way of equipping ourselves, prayer is another.  Prayer is something that any of us can do, in any situation.  Tami’s message was about different places to find prayers (for when we don’t have the words on our own), and different ways in which prayer equips her to be the strongest, fiercest warrior-princess she can be, as a means to inspire and motivate us all.

Tami told us that no matter what happens to her, prayer is her first reaction.  As we’re told in First Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing,” Tami prays all the time, and for any and everything.  As an aside: this is so true!  I’ve tried to watch a movie with Pastor Tami, and she spends the whole time praying for the characters.  It’s so cute, her heart is pure gold.

tami speaking from the heart

In Hebrews 4:12 we’re told that “the word of God is alive and powerful.”  Tami told us that something she really loves about our God is that He’s a living God.  His word is alive just as He is.  Meaning that, what He’s told us rings true now and always and we have the privilege of calling on our God and interacting with Him whenever we need Him.  This is amazing.  He’s alive and accessible and open to us.    And our way of accessing Him is PRAYER.

Tami opened up to all of us about some of her more personal struggles.  She’s talked about social situations that were like salt in a wound for her, but all she could do was sit and smile and trust in her God.  (I don’t want to disclose all of Tami’s personal business on my blog – but she opened up about her own fertility issues, a struggle that can pang so deep into the heart of women that long for babies but aren’t able to have them).  I was sitting at the table crying, knowing the feeling now myself, of congratulating another pregnant Momma and wishing so badly that it was me.

But it’s in these sad and hard times that we have the option to pray.  We can ask our God for solace, for comfort.  We can ask our God for whatever it is that we need in the moment we need it.  That’s what is amazing about loving and interacting with the real and living God:  He’s always just a prayer away.

For some people, prayer is a challenge because choosing the right words is hard to do.  The Bible has a verse for just about every situation you could ever find yourself in, or at least there’s a verse that can apply to just about every feeling you could have.  So in those times of needing to pray, but not knowing what to say: use God’s Word!  You can pray the Word!

It’s one of those things that seems so simple and so obvious for some people.  But for someone like me (I grew up in the Catholic church), praying the Word back to God is new to me.  It’s unfamiliar territory.   Hearing Tami speak about how our God wants us to learn His Words, understand the Word, and say them back to Him – it was like turning on a light bulb.  Of course I can do that, I should do that, I need to do that!

Tami printed up these really cool cards for all us and they’re full of the Word.   There are a couple dozen bullet points with different Words to inspire us, to remind us of how much He loves us (His daughters!), to show us where in the Bible we can go for different needs (healing for example).  The last bulletpoint simply reads, “Pray His Word.”

the cards Tami made for us

In John 10:10, we know that Jesus came so that we may have life and life and live it abundantly.  It’s the part of John 10:10 that people always focus on.  But the first part of that verse is telling us that there’s a thief – the enemy.  And the enemy comes to steal and kill and destroy (NASB).  So to battle this thief, and to enjoy life abundant – we must equip ourselves as best we can.  Prayer is essential in this way (Ephesians 6:18).  Tami, at this point, literally pulled out a cardboard sword and brandished it for a minute.  Giving us the visual of fighting.   Her point is that in real life we don’t carry around swords of metal – but we can brandish the word, or use a prayer to fight back the thieves we encounter, the enemies that attack us.

a blurry washed out photo of tami waving a sword

Finally, the point of us all being connected by the triple-cord braid is that just like we can use prayer for ourselves, we can use it for each other!  When one of our sisters falls down, we can pick her back up with prayer!  (I totally got the Sister Act song in my head “if my sister’s in trouble so am I” – remember that from the movie Sister Act? It totally came to mind then and now, lol).

So, at our tables we all had these little cards.  And since we were seated in groups of nine, we were asked to get into groups of three, and make a commitment to be prayer warriors for each other.  To be there for one another spiritually.  This is bold and important commitment, and one that I was so honored to make.  What a cool idea, that not only are we connected by having fun times, fellowship, worshipping together – but we’re not becoming three-cord bracelets of prayers!

Tami ended the evening with some closing words and then by praying for us all.

I have to say:

I hope that the women had a great time.  I know that there were aspects of the evening that were very new to some of us.  I’m not used to speaking in front of a big group like that.   I don’t think many of the women were used to sitting at tables with new people, working on a craft like bracelet making. But sometimes getting out of our comfort zone is a good thing, and I appreciate the effort everyone made.  And hopefully we can all learn that when we’re with sisters-in-Christ, we’re always in our comfort zone.

women’s worship night (women of hope)

March 31st 2011 was Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay’s Women’s Worship Night – a part of the Women of Hope Ministry.

Not only did I attend, but I was honored to participate as well.  It was an amazing night full of joyous worship, an amazingly delivered message by our lovely Pastor Kanani, a performance by the Hula ministry, as well as our own Cardboard Testimonies (that’s where I got to participate). Oh, and an epic snack spread.  Super epic!  Major props and thanks go out to Pastor Tami, who runs Women of Hope with the fiercest love.

So here’s my point of view on the whole event, along with blurry pics taken from my iphone.  Oh, and if you want to scroll past me talking story and rambling and get to meat of the meal, the Sermon, I won’t be mad at you!  The Word and its message is the most important part of this post.

Getting Ready

Okay, so like I said – epic snack spread.  I may be talking it up a bit since Carly and I helped out and we produced some delicious baked goods.  But the rest of the snack line was truly awesome.  Hummus and veggie rolls and veggies and all kinds of chips.  And Subway sammies!  Zoiks!

carlita baked about a million cookies

yummy!

kitty and kano were there for moral support (and hoping for hand-outs, but since chocolate was involved, no such luck!)

I made rice krispy treats, in Carly’s kitchen, and I made a total mess doing so.  But they were a hit, everyone loved our bake goods! Yay!

Back it up – Getting Ready… and not the day of.  Prepping for the Cardboard Testimony!

Let’s talk about the Cardboard Testimony thing for a minute.  Do you know what this is?  If you don’t, just google “cardboard testimony” and watch a couple videos.   It’s so powerful!  Well.  When the powers that be (in this case, Tami and Laura and Lori and Kacie) decided on having a cardboard testimony done during this worship night, they asked me to participate.  I was so honored!

So, I needed to come up with a bad and a good side for my cardboard.  A before and after, almost.  Okay – for the people who didn’t go google yet or just don’t know, a cardboard testimony is a presentation.  Basically, a bunch of people come out one at a time and silently hold up a piece of cardboard and show you one side that has a statement on it, then they flip their piece of cardboard and show you an opposite statement, then this person silently exits front stage and a new person walks up.  The two sides are sort of a before/after… a godless/God kind of thing.  Or just a hard challenge/God-got-me-through-it thing.

So, for example… someone could have a cardboard that says “Addicted to meth” *flipover* “Addicted to HIS Love,”  or their’s could be “Diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer” / “That was in 2004, He heals and sustains!”  You get the idea?  Some powerful videos I’ve seen have all kinds of testimonies that run the gamut with issues we, as people, face.  My favorite one ever shows a couple walk up together, husband and wife.  His card says, “we’ve been having trouble”  and her’s says “trying to have children.”  Then he flips his, “we’re adopting this May.”  (btw- at this point watching, I’m teary-eyed).  She flips her’s, “and we’re pregnant now!”  When I saw that one, I just cried.  (I totally paraphrased btw).

Just watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvDDc5RB6FQ  (copy and paste the link, i’m not fancy enough to be able to insert vids)

So I was asked to make a cardboard.  And I wasn’t sure what direction to go in.  Do I talk about cancer? I could have… and I think maybe that’s why I got invited to this shindig.  But really, when I had cancer (I fought Stage III Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2004 – surgeries, chemo, radiation, the works, and here I am today, thriving and happy)… back when I had that battle with cancer, I was so close to God.  I was so happy and grateful and not feeling spiteful or mad.  I was seeing and experiencing blessings EVERY day.  (That’s a whole ‘nother blog in and of its own, really).

So I didn’t truthfully know what to do.  I just prayed on it and figured it would come to me.

Then one day I was hanging out at the beach with Carly, and I ‘splained to her what the whole cardboard testimony thing was and that I was going to be in it.   Next thing you know, we just kinda came up with a really cool idea that we could do as a team.  It just came to fruition organically (duh, God!).

I texted Laura and asked if Carly could do it too and we could be a team, pls.  (I love that I’m so the little sister Laura never wanted.  At some point I need to write a post about how great Laura is and how much I love and admire her.  Seriously.  She’s become a mentor to me, and she just always takes care of me, looks out, and loves on me.  Its such good stuff that I am privy too and I’m grateful to be so blessed).

Woah, I ramble a lot.  Okay, back on track…

Obviously, Laura said yes, and I’m so stoked she did.  You see, for me public speaking or being up in front of everyone is usually something that doesn’t scare me.  For my dear friend Carmela (Carly) – not so.  Carly is wicked shy, and just the fact that she was willing to put herself out there like that, to be bold, to step up – I am just proud of her and I feel lucky that I got to be a part of her pursuing something that is a challenge for her! (and not only was she bold enough to participate in the event at church, but she’s allowing me to blog about her involvement, so rad!!)

Saturday night Carly and I had a cardboard-making fiesta at my house and we watched movies (documentaries, we are nerds), and ate pizza (Kashi, we are healthy nerds), and made our signs.  It took us such a long time to get the wording just right.  We really wanted to keep it simple and keep the statement clear, but strong.  Editing is tough work; we really put a lot of thought into the whole endeavor.  We were super ready to go for Sunday’s practice, and I think its cute how into it we got.

The gist of our signs is based on the fact that if Carly and I met five years ago, we would NOT have liked each other, tolerated each other or gotten along at all… let alone become BFFs.  She was a teensy bit on the judgmental and pious side.   I was a tad on the reckless, wild, devil-may-care side.    And well, now we’s like peas and carrots!

Let’s actually talk about the worship night!  Seriously, I bet you’re thinking, can I get to the goods already? Y’all know I ramble… whew!

The Night Itself – March 31st!

me and carly in the car - we had quite the ride there! (we totes forgot our signs at home and had to go all the way back. oopsies!)

laura coleman gifted me this parallel Bible with the rad purple case... here i am walking into the event all excited with my Bible!

we can't let anyone see our signs until go-time!

Everyone gathered up at the church and we did some hugging and snacking and fellowshipping before things got officially started.

we had an awesome turnout. i caught two women going in for a hug. how awesome, so much love and fellowship! (i know this pic is so blurry... but it was a cute action shot).

carly hitting up the snack line. i love how they do the water with lemon and mint, i gotta do that at home. its so refreshing!

I should have taken more pics of the before-hand.  Of everyone saying hi, and what-not.  But since we had to do a final run-through of the cardboard testimonies, I was a little hectic and I had the excited nerves going on.

Praise and Worship!!

Pastor Tami welcomed us all, and started the evening in prayer.  Tami is just such an amazing lady, and I’m so grateful to know her and have her in my life.  The way she shepards her flock, the way she truly loves all of the Women of Hope – its just a really neat thing to be a part of.  We are so blessed to be under her guidance.

Tami calls us her Warrior Princesses.  I love it!  She always tells us we’re the warriors in sexy armor (but not too sexy).  It’s an awesome image really – we’re tough and ready to fight for what we believe in, but we have that femininity that we love to embrace too.

pastor tami kicking off a great night

First up was the Hula Ministry, Makana O Ho’omana (Gift of Worship).  They did an interpretive Hula dance to “I Am Blessed” by Racgel Lampa. It’s so cool living out here in Hawaii and being privy to a culture that’s new-to-me.  It’s so rad to me that my church has a hula ministry, right? They did a lovely job and we were all blessed by their special way of praising Him.

hula dancing for God, what a beautiful thing

Up next was the Cardboard Testimony.  Because I was in it myself, I didn’t get any pics during the presentation.  And well, our of respect for some of the participants, videos and photos weren’t taken for privacy reasons.  Some very gritty, real, tough and personal things were aired out on cardboard signs.  Eating disorders, rape, drug use.  Heavy stuff.  Sad stuff.  But the awesome thing is that EVERY card had a flip side, every story has a happy ending (my most favorite kind of stories).

The testimony was powerful.  As I stood on the stage and looked out at the Women of Hope, I saw so many ladies wiping tears away.  It was moving, for reals.  May I add at this point that it was a packed house! Standing up there on the stage, it was pretty durn rad to realize what great attendance the event had.

Here are the signs Carly and I made:

our "before" side.

and our flip

bam! surprise drop-down panel with the awesomest part.

Once we got back to our seats it was time to jam out with the women’s worship band.   Worship Pastor Kacie (guitar, vocals) and Worship Pastor Lisa (guitar, vocals) led us in so many awesome songs, along with musicians Tammera (guitar and vocals) and LeeAnn (drum).

ladies leading ladies in rocking out

We praised Him with the songs, “God is Great,” “God of Ages,” “Here I Am to Worship,” “All Consuming Fire,” “How He Loves,” “Empty Me,” and “All I Need is You.”   I’m sure all of these songs have writers and I’m not annotating them properly at all (copyrights and stuffs?).  But that’s all I know – the names of the songs.   The energy while we were praising was just awesome.  I’ve always LOVED female vocals in music, and I just get so moved by a pretty female voice; I’m a girlie girl.  Well.  To hear all these women singing together, it was just a super lovely sound.  At one point I was just looking around and marveling in all the prettiness going on.  This womanly fellowship, all of these ladies from teenagers to great-grandmas, all singing in unison.  It was just a rad thing going on.

When it came to jams, we got not one, but TWO special treats last Thursday.

1. Lisa led us in the song she wrote at the retreat in February, “Arise N Shine.”    While at the women’s retreat, named Arise and Shine, Lisa was inspired and she composed this awesome song.   I tried to sing it to my mom on the phone the other night and I have a feeling she threw the phone across the room.  I mean, we all know I can’t hold a tune , but trying to imitate Lisa’s range… dang!  I really hope some version of Lisa performing this tune gets recorded, put on youtube or something.

2. Worship Pastor Trevor came in and played a special Hillsong jam for us, “Aftermath.”  (I’m actually listening to the Hillsong version right this very minute while I type).   I know what you’re thinking… Trevor sounds like a boys’ name, isn’t this was the womens’ night?!?! Well, Trevor is in fact male, and it was women’s night – but this was a special situation.

Kanani had this awesome experience while driving her kids around the other day: this song, “Aftermath,” came on and all these things just clicked for her, it just hit her like a ton of bricks and the song affected her super deeply.  So she asked Trevor (last minute!) if he could play it so we could sing it.    If you haven’t heard it, check it out.  Its a pretty song, and its a really powerful song.  I got goosebumpes and teary-eyed while we were all singing.  Not to mention Trevor has an awesome voice and sounds just like the Hillsong version.  For serious, y’all!

So the whole time we’re singing I have to admit, I was kinda waiting on a certain song.  At retreat Kacie led us in her version of “I Will Celebrate,” a couple different times.  And her arrangement, her personal version, is just epic!   I have spent over a month now searching for a version anywhere near her’s – and I’ve come up with nothing.   A lot of “I Will Celebrate” versions are really mellow and hokey.  Kacie wrote a bangin, hardcore, rock out arrangement that is just way too fun.  WE HAVE TO DO IT SOON!  (I’m going to beg that they let you do it at 10 o’clock Sunday service, I have to hear it soon or I’ll just have a temper tantrum).

(Kacie, if you’re reading this… I love you!  You are so talented, sorry to stomp my feet.  I loved all the songs you did lead us in that night and you did an amazing job.  You’re an awesome Worship Leader!  Your arrangement skills are just so talented, there’s not a single thing online/in existence elsewhere comparable to what you do).

The Sermon (for the folks scrolling down: salad and apps are over, this is the main entree)

We were blessed last Thursday to have the beautiful, witty, and genuine Pastor Kanani preach at this service.  I want to give credit where credit is due: part of the reason I so love the women’s ministry is because of the privilege it is to get to hear Kanani preach.  She’s hilarious, and makes me legit LOL.  She’s genuine, and just such a real person.  Not some stuffy, untouchable, stereotypical Pastor’s wife – Kanani is down to earth, fun, and just so full of His light.

So anyways… the teaching part.  We’re in Isaiah 52, and the rest of this blog is quoting and paraphrasing Kanani, based off the notes I took that night:

Isaiah 52:1

This teaching started out with the message that God is telling us to wake up!  That we are not fully awake, meaning we aren’t really living up to our full potential.  And God wants us to wake up, and go for it.

We aren’t created to exist.  We’re created to thrive.

I totally believe in a get-the-most-out-of-life mentality, 100 percent.  And I do believe that our God wants us to be happy, enjoy life, be all that we can be and really thrive.   I really enjoyed the phrasing though of that nugget o’ wisdom- that “we aren’t created to exist, we’re created to thrive.”

So in Isaiah 52 we’re told to strap on the armor and suit up.  My NASB says “Awake, awake, Clothe yourself in strength…” (Isaiah 52:1).   And “The Message” version (which conveniently happens to be right next to the NASB version in my rad new parallel Bible (thank you again TuTu Laura; for those of you who have never checked out a parallel Bible, its so super duper awesome rad.  I lurve having my side-by-side translations. I love me some biblegateway.com for comparative reading, but I love having a hard copy with the two versions literally right next to each other. And I love that my Bible was gifted to me by my awesome friend, mentor, teacher, guide, sister-in-Christ, doggie sitter, gal pal TuTu Laura.

(Now…  where were we?  Clothing ourselves in strength, Isaiah 52:1, yeah).   “The Message” says: “Wake up, wake up! Pull on your boots…”

Kanani talked to us about wearing the proper armor for the task at hand.  A soldier puts on his boots when he’s off to war.  These March Madness fellas gotta wear their best pair of sneaks!  “The Message” is giving us that metaphor of putting on the proper attire, your boots, to do the tough job.  We need to wear the armor of God – and that will give us strength.  God wants us to be strong.

At this point Kanani taught us that we are being strong when we’re being real.  I have to hold it together for my family is one of those commonly heard misnomers.  No.  You don’t have to hold it together for your family.  Let them see you cry.  Be real, show your loved ones what is really going on with you.  “You’re the strongest when you’re real” – Pastor Kanani.

Isaiah goes on to tell us to wear our “Sunday Best,” or our “beautiful garments.”

Isaiah 52:2 – Remove the chains of slavery.

Honesty time: During the first part of this Sermon, I was a little not locked in.  I was sorta thinking that this sounded like a re-heating of what we had been served at the retreat.  I respected the power of this message, its relevance and meaning, the fact that it’s always good to re-study the Word, and most importantly that women who didn’t make it to the retreat could now hear it.  But despite rationally knowing all of this, my heart just wasn’t into it.  I was selfishly kinda bummed we weren’t doing something “new.”

Oh me of little faith!

Perhaps the first part of the Sermon had some carry-over themes from Sermons we heard at retreat… but once we got to Isaiah 52:2, things got heavy and powerful!  Its zing! time now.

Remove the chains of Slavery.

Kanani: It’s easy to hear that command, or read it and just say to ourselves I’m not a slave, this doesn’t apply to me, moving on. But that’s not true, you are a slave.   The USA tried to abolish slavery, we still have slavery in America today, sex trafficking is just one example.   But we are all slaves in another sense: we’re in bondage to sin.  Anger.  Bitterness.  When someone wrongs you and you can’t forgive them – we become slaves to that grudge.

During this part of her sermon, Kanani has the tech crew throw some images of human slavery up on the screen.  Photos from slave auctions in the 1840’s, and an image of a sculpture in Tanzania, depicting slaves in chains.  POWERFUL IMAGES.

I actually found the images that were used:

(i could not find photo credits for this, but i found it via google image search)

a sculpture in tanzania - courtesy of david wilmot: http://www.flickr.com/photos/david_wilmot/2319811838/

The point in using these images was to give us a visual on the HEAVY chains of slavery.   We’re talking giant, heavy, burdensome, painful, debilitating chains.  Humiliating chains.  I was affected; I got how powerful the literal image of slavery is.   Seeing these photos during the Sermon was making my stomach churn.  I just hate the thought of people being treated like this.

Kanani says, “those chains are HEAVY!  How can you live life in these chains?  How much fun can you have with those heavy chains?  Take them off!  Live life!  Have fun!”

So I’m hearing her words and looking at these pics and really feeling kinda sick to my stomach over the thought of having those chains around my neck: those rusty, nasty, rough chains just hurting me and restraining me.  And then I go back to the statement Kanani had just said.

You are a slave.  Bondage to sin, anger, bitterness, to holding a grudge from when someone has wronged you.

We all have spiritual gates that guard our hearts and minds.  Jesus forgave us, and He wants us to forgive each other.  The whole part about clothing ourselves in beautiful clothes – Kanani tells us to interpret it as forgiving others.  Is there a more beautiful act?  When we forgive other, as He forgives us – we are literally casting off the ugly, painful chains and donning beautiful garments of love and lightness.  (Woah, this image is just so powerful to me.  I love it).

When we forgive others – they don’t enter our spiritual gates anymore either.

So not only is forgiveness liberating us, its protecting us too.  <– AMAZINGLY POWERFUL AWESOME STUFF

In my own life I really have a hard time staying mad or holding a grudge over most things.  Holding a grudge is so hard to do!  It’s draining.  I feel like to stay mad with someone takes up so much energy, and to keep focusing on that anger, bitterness, hatred, or what have you – you’re giving so much power to the act, thoughts, or person who wronged you.  You’re letting them come right on in through your spiritual gates, because you’re focusing on them all the time!

So Kanani is telling us it’s time to forgive those who have wronged us, and set ourselves free.

She says, “if you’ve been abused – you should be allowed to be bitter and angry, it’s a natural reaction.  But ultimately, forgiveness will set you free.”

[sidenote: Have you ever heard Terry Caffey’s story?  IT IS AMAZING.  When you finish reading my blog, go listen to his story.  He has a website:(http://terrycaffey.com).  I heard his story because recently he was on an episode of “The State We’re In” (a radio show; you can actually download the podcast for free on itunes – he was the Feb 18, 2011 episode “Let It Go”).   What happened to Terry and how he reacted – it’s a story about forgiveness, and it’s just incredible.   If Terry can forgive after what he lived through- I feel like I have no excuse.]

So Kanani urges us to forgive the people we’re mad at, the ones who have wronged us, hurt us, abused us.  The people we’re carrying around a grudge for and in doing so we’re actually letting them in past our spiritual gates.  “Forgive those who have devastated you.  Say it out loud.”

WE HAVE TO GET OUT THE BROKENNESS.

We cannot be spiritual hoarders.  And we are not museums (an amazing Kanani original metaphor).    Don’t keep carrying around that junk. Speak forgiveness out loud.  Burn the pictures, write the memories out on paper and burn them too.  Literally, get rid of that pain and hurt, let it go. TAKE OFF THE CHAINS.  Stop carrying the anger.  Forgive.  Do what God wants you to do: don’t exist in slavery, but thrive in beautiful freedom.

We are all worthy of worshipping.  We all deserve freedom and to live out our fullest lives possible.

Our Pastor then tells us the story of Harriet Tubman.  Of course we’ve all heard of her and we know of her remarkable bravery.   But what Kanani wants is for us to all step up and become Harriet Tubmans.  Now that we know the way to cast off the chains – to let ourselves be forgiven by Him, and to forgive others as He forgives us – its time to go get other slaves and help them find freedom.   Find the lost and bring them to the light; be a Missionary.   And in doing so, do not be scared.  God goes before and behind us.

The lyrics of “Aftermath” (by Hillsong) are just ringing through me and I now understand even better why Kanani insisted that we had to hear that song last Thursday.  It’s just so perfect.  I’m going to play it again now myself (ya know it takes me a few days to write up a post this long – so its not like I have the song on repeat as you could interpret, although right now I’m tempted to listen to it a few times, its just really hitting me):

And in that moment, of glorious surrender / Was the moment You broke the chains in me / Lifted out of the ashes / I am found in the Aftermath / And in that moment You opened up the Heavens / to the broken, the beggar and the thief / Lifted out of the wreckage / I found hope in the Aftermath

AMEN!

And to think I thought we were going to get a re-hashed message that was leftover from retreat.  Wow.  I’m so embarassed.  I should know by now that my Pastor knows how to bring her A-game when she’s teaching.  I’m so sorry.  I have a feeling she will forgive me though.

The whole event was a serious success!  Sunday at Church, women who had been there on Thursday were coming up and saying how awesome the cardboard testimony was, how powerful.  It was cool to get that feedback and to know that the testimonies had spoken to people.  I just feel so blessed to be a part of the Women of Hope, and I’m honored that I was able to help contribute to a great worship night with my sister warrior princesses!

Thursday night, after the event,  I went home and prayed for a long time.  During my prayer I really did go through and forgive people who have wronged or hurt me. Even if I’ve already forgiven them in my heart, I went through and said it out loud.  I forgave a guy who stole from me, some ex-boyfriends who broke my heart, some mean girls who stabbed me in the back (sorority drama in college, oy)… ya know, the list can go on.  I even ended up talking to a couple people and just clearing the air that I had forgiven them, there was no hard feelings.  (It was sort of like a reverse AA).

I know that a lot of people reading this will be the ladies who were there, and they’ll read this as a sort of way to re-cap the night – and that is so fun! I hope y’all like my write-up.

To everyone else who may read this – I hope and pray that you’ll take this opportunity to toss off the chains and end your own slavery.  If you need a Harriet Tubman, please just let me know, I want to bring everyone out of bondage and into true freedom.

We all deserve to be happy, have fun, and live out our lives.  It’s what God wants for us.   Let go of the negative energy, and forgive.   I speak from experience: the lightness feels amazing.

Everything God is good, everything good is God.