operation christmas child: cute crafts that bring big blessings, you can help too!

Operation Christmas Child

I’ve totally found the most perfect charitable project for my skill set: Operation Christmas Child!  The important part is that it’s an awesome project, delivering gifts to children in serious need.  The fun part is that I get to make care packs, and not just regular care packs, Christmas care packs!  How perfectly rad is that?!?!

And there’s more… you can help me! 

christmas care packs for an amazing cause

Samaritan’s Purse is a world-wide ministry that brings food, medicine, clothes, vocational education, supplies, and love to the world’s most vulnerable populations.  Operation Christmas Child (OCC) is a project that delivers hand-packed boxes of small toys, candy, clothes, toiletries, personal letters, and The Gospel to children in 130 different countries.

My church, Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay (HCKB), is participating in OCC this year with a pledge of 3,000 boxes!  National collection week is later this month, and our boxes are due by November 20.  (Boxes are actually collected year-round at Samaritan’s Purse HQ, but HCKB’s 2011 drive has a hard deadline).

the OCC pod at church, handing out empty shoe boxes and then collecting the full care packs

so much empty space that needs to be filled with OCC boxes - this whole pod needs to be packed!

This video moved me to tears when they played it during our Sunday service a couple weeks ago: 

So how can you help?  My church is shy of their goal.  We haven’t turned in 3,000 boxes yet.  Duggs and I made two, and while we wish we could make a million boxes, we have financial limitations of our own.  Here’s where I’m asking people for help:  if you would like to fund a box and send me some cash money, I’ll do all the legwork and handicrafting! I’ll shop, decorate, pack and pray over a box that will have your name, contact info and any personal touches you’d like me to include (if you want I can put pics of you in there, we have a photo printer, and if you give contact info some children will write back as pen pals).

It’s up to you how much you’d like to spend per box, and you can pick if you’d like it to be for a boy or a girl, and what age group.

you decide!

Samaritan’s Purse does ask that $7 be included with every box to help cover the shipping and handling, so please keep that donation in mind as well.

If you’d like to just donate directly to the organization, you can always just do that.  Go to http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/occ/ and you can give money online to help kids get boxes that way.

I know there are so many charitable organizations to work with, and there are so many projects this time of year.  I know that so many of you are tapped out and pulled in many directions.  Please don’t feel like I’m panhandling… I’m just putting the offer out there: if you’d like to fund a box, I’d love to put it together for you.   Matthew and I had such a great time making our boxes this past weekend, we’d be honored to keep it going.  Something about OCC has seriously touched my heart and I just feel so compelled to do as much as I can.  If even just one more child gets a box, that’s a great thing to me.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve picked some kind of service project to do at the holidays. It used to be because my Mom made me… but the tradition stuck and I’ve kept it up as an adult, happily!  Since being married, my hubs has gladly jumped on board (thank you Duggs, for sharing your hard-earned money with those less fortunate than us). This year, making the boxes and having such a hand in the actual gift the kids will get, felt so special to me.

I love how personal OCC is.  I like actually selecting the items, the possibility of being pen-pals, that every single box will be unique.  OCC is specialized, it’s different, and I really know and believe in my heart that these boxes will have a great impact on the children who receive them.  Based on the religious nature of the project, I know it’s not for everyone.

I’m so pumped to work on the boxes, to give these kids a smile, and to offer them the hope and peace that is the love of God.   In the darkest of places, God’s Light is needed the most!

….

Check out the boxes we already made: 

i busted out the glitter glue, of course!

our boxes are going to mongolia, so i looked up how to write "merry christmas and happy new year" in mongolian cyrillic!

tie dye was included!

all the goodies we packed on in

costume jewelry!

we wrote personal little notes and included pics of our lil fam

packing it all in there was no easy feat. but i mean, i am a care pack expert.

i used every inch of space i had

As always, thanks for reading and looking at my photos.  If you are interested in funding a box, we have just less than two weeks to get it done!  Email me: happyhippierose@gmail.com or just comment here.  THANK YOU!!

rest in peace, grandpa lyle

Lyle Lawrence Stanbro: February 24, 1937 – September 1, 2011

As this September started, the world got a little less funny, a little less opionated, a little less sweet: My Grandpa Lyle passed away and with him went a lot of wise cracking, jokes, a little bit of unsolicited advice, and a ton of LOVE.  He was a man who loved so very much.

As this is my blog, I can only write about him from my own point of view, tell my own story of him.  I don’t know too much about his childhood, or really much about his life before he moved to Florida.  I know he served in the Air Force, that he raised his children in Western New York, and that he was always a character, a strong personality, with a strong presence.

My mom told me he even died wearing one of the white shirts that was just so typical of him.  He had a wardrobe that I can remember forever.  These tight jeans, and his white muscle shirts with the rolled up sleeves.  His western wear, he’s a cowboy branded into my memory forever.

You Need A Grandpa?  You’ve Got One.

In 1993 my Aunt Sheila married my Uncle Tim.  A few months before the wedding we went up to Western New York for my Aunt’s bridal shower.   The road trip was just me, my sister Anna, our Mom Kathy, and the bride-to-be Aunt Sheila.  The trip was a hoot, I still remember little snapshots of it, and as a result Aunt Sheila got a wedding shower, and Anna and I got new Grandparents (I also got a CB Handle of my own, but that’s a different story for a different day).

You see, my sister and I haven’t really ever had grandparents on our Mom’s side, seeing as they passed way before we were born or too little to know them.  We’ve heard so many stories and we share a familial love for their spirits, but we’ve never had a Grandma or Grandpa on that side.  While we were in WNY for that wedding shower and this grandparentless issue came to the attention of Lyle and Moni, the groom-to-be Tim’s parents… it was decided for us!

I literally remember Grandpa Lyle declaring he would be our Grandpa.  And ever since then, he has been.

It’s why we’ve called him, “Grandpa Lyle.”  He asked us to.  He came up with the moniker and we happily complied.  To have a new grandparent was a special treasure, it was this exciting, lovely thing.  And it just stuck.  He adopted my Mom right in there too, and in the spirit of love we were all family.  And as we all got older together, it just became a thing that was known.  We didn’t explain it or talk about it, he was just our Grandpa, and that’s that.

….

I remember a year or so after the wedding, we spent Christmas up north and we actually stayed with him instead of other relatives on our side of the family.  His house was so fun! He could draw pictures of anything you called out, he had a motorcycle he could take you for rides on.  He’d order fried fish from the local bowling alley for dinner, because it was the best; the local tavern for wings.  He and Grandpa Moni gave my sister and I gold earrings for Christmas, I still have them.  He was funny and charming, and wore his hair like a 50’s greaser.  He was the coolest, and he just loved us like we were always his.

anna posted these on fb today, the top is gpa lyle holding justin as a baby... and anna with gpa lyle on his motorcycle! ("motor-sickle")

I will never forget that.  Sometimes, you don’t need blood to just love someone.  Anyone married knows that.  But it sure works in other sorts of relationships too.

As we got older, he moved to Florida to be with my Uncle Tim and Aunt Sheila.  And he just became part of our little family unit.  My Mom, My sister and I (and sometimes my Dad too), would just celebrate every holiday and special occaision with my Aunt, Uncle, cousins and Grandpa Lyle too.  It was just normal for me, he was just my grandpa.

He always spoiled us at Christmas and did too much.  I know he loved to do that.  He was kinda hard to shop for, I remember that.  I remember being maybe 19 or 20 or so and fretting about what to get him for Christmas every year, never sure what he was into or what he needed.  He was always one of those guys who seemed to already have what he’d like and anything frivolous didn’t make sense for him.

grandpa lyle on the morning of christmas 2007, holding up the gift from anna and me

When my cousins, Justin and Nicole, were younger and loved to color all the time, you could name anything and Grandpa Lyle could and would draw for you.  He was an artist. It was always a fun game.  He’d always point out paintings and say that he could do better.

I’ll always remember his hands.  Big, strong hands, with caluses, and wide fingers.  He has the hands of a lumberjack.  Given his trade it made sense.  Not only could he draw and paint, but his life’s work was building.  Houses, buildings, cabinets, anything.  He could build anything with those big strong hands of his.  Standing in my Aunt and Uncle’s house, one that he and my Uncle built with their hands (which happen to look very similar)… it always was a marvel to me when Grandpa Lyle would draw something delicate or dainty. It was a clever oxymoron to see his Herculean hands draw little flowers or some cute animals for Nicole to color in.

His love for Nicole was special, and very sweet.  I like the way she says the word “grandpa.”  Grond-pah.  Maybe that’s how it sounds? I’m not so good at phonetics, but I can hear it in my head.  It was a very matter-of-fact word to me, the way she says it, in her own Nicole way.

grandpa lyle and nicole

When Nicole was little and she was starting to like music, she would tell me about these oldies or country songs she listened to with grond-pah in his truck.  It was cute the way they did that together, their special bond.  I can just hear her voice saying that word, her name for him, and it makes me smile.  It’s a sweet, sincere term of endearment, grandpa.   Maybe she’s outgrown that way she used to say it.  But I can still hear it my head, and I like it.

I have my mom on the phone now.  She’s saying she loved how Grandpa Lyle always wanted to go out west and look for treasure.  He knew where it was and he had a plan for it.  I think my Mom and Grandpa Lyle should have done it, gone out west.  They’re both a bit kooky and the two of them together was usually trouble.  Especially if booze was involved.  They’d get silly and get to talkin’ about wacky things.  Perhaps one would say, carried away.

My Mom remembers when Lori told him he was going to be a Grandpa, he was over the moon.  Mom remembers that he was at her house, in Ormond, when he got the call and he was just totally excited. He loved having grandbabies.  His Sweet Babies.  There are seven of them, not counting my sister and I, who will always miss their Grandpa.  He was such a good Grandpa, so into it.  He loved spoiling the little ones and bouncing babies on his knee.  When I was pregnant, he told me I was going to look like a rope with a knot tied in it. It didn’t happen, but I wish it would have and that he could have seen it.

….

We’ll miss him.  We’ll miss his wacky stories and his silly ideas.  He liked to watch the History Channel and documentaries and really get into conspiracy theories.  He loved them, stuff about aliens and everything.  It would be funny at family get togethers to see him talk someone’s ear off about all these ideas he had.  When my husband Matthew was first going to meet Grandpa Lyle, I told Matthew that he should go ask my Grandpa Lyle about one of these things, maybe about Pyramids and ask who built them, knowing that Grandpa Lyle would go on and on, and my husband would get stuck in the conversation for a while.  Perhaps that’s malicious, but I really mean it a lovingly, sweet, way.  A funny way.

my husband and gpa lyle talking on the porch, that's my stepmom sunning in the foreground

There is such a strong memory of him burned into my memory.  The way he dressed, walked, talked, carried himself.  Like an Elvis Cowboy with a toolbelt on, squared back shoulders and an incredibly handsome face that aged with nobility and charm.

gpa lyle and anna

I wasn’t around him much during his final year, seeing as I lived in Hawaii and he was in Florida.  I didn’t see him get sick, really.   I’m sad for that.  I mean, I had cancer some years ago.  I should have been there for him, to relate to him.  I talked my Aunt a lot.  She kept me in the loop about his health and how he was doing.   I was sad that he was sick, of course.  I was proud of my family for taking such good care of him.

After he passed a couple people said that maybe it was nice that I didn’t see him ailing, I didn’t see him change.  Maybe they’re right.  Instead of knowing how he looked ill,  I have that indelible imagery of him that I’ll carry forever, the strong handsome Grandpa Lyle that I know.

justin and gpa lyle

But there’s part of me that wishes more than anything I could have given him a proper hug goodbye.  To hold his hand.  You know.  But that’s not how it happened.  And now I’m writing this in his memory.  I’m glad that he was so surrounded by family in those last days, so many people came to hold him and say goodbye.  After he took his last breathe, my Mom held the phone to his ear and I told him I loved him, and that I will forever.  That’s my sweet, final memory of him, my end of this story.

My Mom told me his death was beautiful.  My sister said the same thing.  The two of them, my Aunt and Uncle all around him, just the four of them.  After Nicole went up to bed, he stopped fighting and let go.  One final, sweet gesture for his special Nicole, he waited until she had gone to bed.

It’s funny how you can live such a long life and know so many people, and then have your death be such a point of interest.  I’m sure if we could ask him, he’d have other stories he’d prefer we focus on, perhaps.  But the story of his passing is a reflection of him: sweet and dignified, beautiful and loving,

It’s always sad when someone passes, it’s hard to say the right things.  Maybe I overstepped some lines with my honest reflection? But honesty is love, and this is my reflection of him.  I had such a good cry writing this.

This is my take on my Grandpa Lyle.

Grandpa Lyle was a strong man, a bold and brave man, funny, a bit wacky, often silly, very charming and full of love.  He will be greatly missed. 

gpa lyle at the head of the table, where i've seen him sit for countless family dinners

mom and gpa lyle, christmas 2009

gpa lyle at a sushi bar, imagine that?!

Memorial services will be held this weekend at the American Legion in Forestville, NY.

I send my love and my regrets for not being able to fly there and be with everyone this weekend.  I pray for peace for my Granpda Lyle as he’s in Heaven now, and when I pray for him I smile as I think about him hugging his parents and brother, his sweet welcome home, and being with the many other loved ones he’s now reuinted with.  I’m happy for him to be in God’s arms now.

Rest in peace, Grandpa Lyle. 

Just saying hi + I have a couple prayer requests

It’s your favorite tie dye wearing housewife checking in!

Hi There 

Today is Monday, and well, I’m just buried in the laundry and catching up on cleaning.

We had a super fun weekend, spending time with friends as well as being super lazy around the house.  Whenever we have lazy Sundays, I always have busy Mondays, catching up on cleaning.

me and ashley on saturday night, weaing glitter eye make up because we're fancy and awesome like that!

the boys team when we all played "cranium." since we didn't technically finish the game, i can't really say who won.

jj came out with us! he's so popular, he got to visit with our friend's pooch, bailey. they had fun!

Today I’ve been working on a pot of red sauce, that’s happily bubbly away.  I’ve been browning meat, chopping onions and smashing garlic, sautéing, tasting the sauce and adding the right amount of this and that.  Red sauce is an all-day affair!

I woke up feeling not-so-hot today.  It’s certainly one of my crummier days as far as my health is concerned.  I know I need to finish up the health update I’ve been promising and working on, the Part II of my blog about my health.

Writing the post about my health history last week was intense.  It drained me in some ways and in other ways it gave me a lot of closure.  Cathartic is the fancy word.  But when you dredge up all that stuff, it’s a big deal.  Reflecting back on the cancer days and thinking about my health in general can drain me; but in so many ways it uplifts me and reminds me how grateful I am for all that I do have!  (Don’t know what I’m referring to?  I made a blog about my health last week: read it now).

So I just wanted to pop in and say “hi.”  I’m just hanging out at home today, being super housewifey and homemakery.  I love that feeling!

hi there! this is me today in all my homemaker glory

I love whipping our home into shape, and when Matthew comes home from work, the house is tidy, clean, the smell of delicious food fills the air.  It’s kind 1950’s in some ways, and it’s kinda perfect and fitting.  The whole point of women’s lib is to give us choices, right?  And well, considering how tired and crummy I feel (I’m in a fair amount of pain today) , staying home is nice.

laundry is crappy dappy!

Serious Stuff – Prayer Requests

For my friends who’d like to do some praying or send some good vibes out: my Grandma Sally is in the hospital, and my Grandpa Lyle has Hospice taking care of him now.  I’m worried about both of them, and I know that their caretakers (my Dad/Stepmom and my Aunt Sheila, respectively) are exhausted, burnt out, worried, and scared.  So send some good vibes or prayers for them too please.

a photo of me with my gma sally

a recent photo of my cousin justin with our gpa lyle

My family is tight-knit and all of us sick folk worry the well folk.  They want us to all be okay.  We all take care of each other and the phone calls, emails, texts, and messages are nonstop.   I love my family and I love how well we keep in touch, from Afghan to Hawaii, and all in between!

At times like this I wish I was closer.  Most of my fam lives on the East Coast, and when I say that I mean both Matthew’s and My families, I don’t discern between the tow any more, family = family, by marriage or blood.  I wish I could help all of our family members who are sick; I wish I could be in New York, Virginia, and Florida all at the same time.   Thank God for technology though, that keeps me in the loop and keeps me connected.   And prays work no matter where you are; God can hear us all the time.

So that’s all that’s going on here. 

Matthew’s at work.  I have some clothes to fold.  I may try and force myself to run a bit.  Even though I’m in pain, I think working out a bit will actually help.  (Maybe that sounds weird, but it makes sense to me – running relieves stress and stress causes pain, and I’m always in pain and I can’t just sit around on the couch forever, I have to break the cycle at some point and just go for it!).

I’m trying to figure out how to make a signature to sign off with on all my blogs – but until I do: thanks for reading!!  Love, happy hippie rose

the health history of happy hippie rose

My Health History, Well A Brief Summary Anyways.  Consider this Part One of two, the “two” is going to be the update post about what’s going on now, okay?

Here goes nothing… and I’m sure I’ll forget something.  (If I do, someone let me know, will ya?)

Growing up as a kid and teen, it seemed like I was never sick.  I remember an occaisional fever, and the time we all got the chickenpox (my mom and all her friends had us all get it at the same time by rubbing us all over my friend Mary when she cropped a pox, clever thinking!).  But never “sick.”   I swam and ran track in high school, I was a beach lifeguard.  I was really healthy, athletic, I was fine.  (What a blessing!!!!).

My sophomore year of college, 2002, started off with an emergency appendectomy which lead to the diagnosis of “Crohn’s Disease” and it was all downhill from there. When they did they appy they realized my needless organ was fine, but that my small intestines was inflamed and horrendous, misdiagnosed as appendicitis, and thus the Crohn’s Diagnosis.

Immediately I started treatment for Crohn’s Disease, which was fun, let me tell you.  I took steroids, antibiotics, anti-inflamm meds, and immunosuppressants.  Tons of meds.  I was “sick.”  The meds for the Crohn’s didn’t work, things got dramatically worse, and in the spring of 2003 I has a major surgery losing a couple feet of small bowel and a snippet of colon.

2003: the prednisone made my face huge. woah.

not to be totally porn... but you can kinda see my scar that runs from hip to hip from the bowel resection. What a doozy!

In 2004 I battled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which was actually acquired as a result of medications I was on to treat the Crohn’s disease.  All of the immunosuppressants done broke my immune system.

I did chemo (went bald, yes!) and radiation.  They also sliced me open a couple times to take out some lymph nodes, put a portacath in there.  At one point they hacked into my bone marrow (thank God the cancer hadn’t spread to there) and they did oodles of biopsies, fun times.

sasha's on the left, i'm on the right. i know this is terrible pic quality, but i hardly have any pics from back then!

Here I am on a news story about harvesting eggs.  Yeah, I had my eggs harvested before I started chemo (because of the chance I’d go infertile).   Check me out, I’m about four minutes into the video clip:  http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=617776n&tag=mncol;lst;8

The Sorority I was in raised money for my treatment.  The entire Greek system at my school did, really.

the school paper (UNF's "The SPinnaker) did a story on my cancer and on all the fundraising that went down. it was just amazing the love i was shown.

a close-up of the photo from the paper article, that pic is from right before i started chemo.

It was an intense time… coming from a Stage III Diagnosis and back to health all in one year.  But it was also formative, powerful, inspiring.  Clearly it changed me, and I think much for the better.  I had an AMAZING support system.  My doctors and cancer team was all at the Mayo Clinic, and they were pretty serious (duh).  My family was incredible.  Driving up to Jacksonville to take turns going to treatments and appointments with me.  The guy I was dating at the time was a lifesaver, literally, as well as all of my friends.  It was just incredible the literal physical love that embraced me.  Strangers and people I was close with all teamed up to save my life.  It’s such a hard thing to put into mere words.  Thank you, is as close as I can get.  Thank you for my life everyone. 

My overall ability to appreciate life increased tenfold – at least.  Ever since I’ve been happier, kinder, more grateful.  My faith is God was solidified (my testimony of God coming to me in those days is pretty awesome) and my trust in humanity restored.   As hokey and bullcrap as it sounds, I’m grateful for having had cancer.  It changes your perspective on everything and after having gone through it, everything is better.

The day I was diagnosed I pulled into Publix after leaving the hospital to grab a couple things to eat.  I was feeling pretty sorry for myself after leaving the hospital, knowing I had cancer.   I pulled into the parking spot and I’ll never forget what happened next… the spot next to me was occupied by a van.  I saw a mom get out of the driver’s side door and walk around to the other side… and a special door slid open: it was a wheelchair ramp.  Out came a child, maybe four or five years old in an electronic wheelchair.  I have no idea what illness that child had, but I just remember seeing scrawny, twisted legs… and a HUGE smile.  The mother talked to her kid as the wheelchair lowered down, using big smiles and a happy tone, clapping once the chair made contact with the ground.  These two people were so happy.   This child who would probably never walk was smiling, and here I was: 20 years old and getting sick now.  I’d had an untouched childhood, full of running around and doing “normal” kid stuff…  (now seriously, don’t anyone get all politcally correct on me for my retelling of the anecdote.   I’m not saying this child wasn’t normal or that I’m special because I’ve never been in a wheelchair…. that’s NOT the point, okay?).   I saw this child who would never run a lap or be on the swim team in the same easy way I had experienced.  I had about nineteen years of flawless health, and so many many people don’t even get half that.  Nineteen years!  (I got cancer when I was twenty, but I started getting sick when I was nineteen).  From that moment on I decided never to ever feel sorry for myself.  In the grand scheme of things: I have had everything to be grateful for and not a thing to feel sorry about.

Anyways… I could ramble on and on about my cancer experience…  chemo sucked, radiation was worse.  One night a sorority sister of mine cried because she had gotten a bad haircut.  We were all going to a concert together, and we met at a frirend’s house first to eat dinner.  This one girl, A, came into the house just in tears.  She’d gotten what she considered a bad haircut.  A cried, huge tears rolling down her face.  And I just sat there, bald and gobsmacked.  She really had the audacity to cry about a bad ‘do while I was sitting there bald?  At the time her insensitivity made me mad.  I remember being pretty annoyed.  Looking back it just gives me broader perspective.  Next time you think your mop looks ugly, just be grateful you even have a mop!

a wig and hat catalogue the ACS sent me, along with some other cancer info

my completion of treatment center from mayo clinic's rad dept - for the last several years i've been celebrating my cancerversarry as dec 5th - but son of a gun, that thing says the 3rd! shoots!

In 2006 I had an inguinal hernia which needed surgical repair; it was done openly (as opposed to lap surgery) and I had some mesh put in there.  They used the same scar as my bowel resection and just extended it.   In 2008 I had some skin cancers cut out, they were Melanoma, which is annoying because I can’t say “cancer-free since 2004.”  Ugh!

Backtracking for a minute… In 2007 (after a crazy series of events and symptoms) I was diagnosed with porphyria. Porphyria is a blood disease that has a whole variety of symptoms – for me the most notable is GI problems.  Tummy aches, digestion problems, nerve cell death in my GI tract, they can all be blamed on the Porphyria.  My doctors actually think now that I don’t even really have Crohn’s Disease, that it was the Porphyria all along.  Even though I was officially diagnosed with this genetic blood disease in ’07, I’m just now learning about it.  But that’s a post all on it’s own.

In 2009 they cut me open to get out scar tissue that had grown in me from all the times they had cut me open before.  “Lysis of Adhesions.”  The irony never ends.

I’m the “sick girl.”  I guess.  It’s weird.  As sick as I am, I’m also not really sick.  The most I’ve ever spent in the hospital was a couple weeks.  I have both arms, both legs, I can walk and talk.  I can even run more days than not.  I’m honestly okay, and I enjoy a fabulous quality of life.  I’ve never spent a minute feeling sorry for myself.

When I moved out to Hawaii I had never felt better.  Duggs and I quit smoking (I know, a cancer survivor who smoked = as ungrateful as it gets, I KNOW).  I got back in shape.  The only med I was taking was my thyroid pill (when I had radiation for the cancer they lasered my thyroid to death,  oopsies!).

2010: the best I've ever felt!

As I was feeling so awesome and healthy, we decided to strike while the iron was hot, and we conceived.   We found out we were pregnant right before Halloween and I would have been due ’round the 4th of July.  I don’t think I’ve ever been happier or felt better in my life. Honestly.  It was the best.

I miscarried around Christmas.  It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever experienced. Matthew was deployed and in Afghan when it all happened.  On December 17, 2010 I had a regular appointment, when I got there they couldn’t find a heartbeat.  They gave me some meds and sent me home to take care of business on my own.  I bled for almost a month; starting cytotec on December 19th and not passing the “products of conception” (my precious baby-to-be) until fifteen days later.  (If I could go back in time I would have done the D&C a million times out of a million times.  Cytotec should be illegal).

I’m so glad those sad times are over.  I don’t know what else to say about all of that except that if you’re blessed enough to have a baby yourself, give them a little smooch for me, will ya?  I know I’ll be a Mom someday, when God’s timing for me is better.

So I’ll end my “brief health history” there, and pick up Part Two with my 2011 Health Round-up in a post all it’s own.

I thank God for my health every day.  Despite everything that I’ve been through, I consider myself to be blessed beyond measure and more fortunate than 99.9999% of people on this earth will ever be.  I’ve had great care, good doctors, nice hospitals, and excellent treatment the whole time through.   Too many people who are sick can’t say the same.

Thank You God, for the health I have today and always.  Please bless every doctor, nurse, tech, and friend who’s laid a hand on me, cared for me, thought good thoughts for me, and been there.  Please bless them all.  I pray that you continue to bless me with a healthy body, heart, and mind now so that I may keep growing and bettering myself to do good things and help others.  I want to be healthy enough to pay it forward and take care of those who are sick.  For all those seeking better health and comfort, I pray.  Thank you God for your endless love and mercy.  Amen. 

happy hippie birthday to me!

On July third I celebrated my twenty-eighth birthday.  It was one of my very best birthdays to date!

happy bday to me!

Last weekend as a whole was just great.  

Church Stuff:  Friday night and Sunday morning I was blessed by being able to share a testimony at Church, live!   I’d never gotten up and done anything like this before in my life: publicly talking about my faith on a microphone, sharing my personal life and beliefs with others like that, talking about our family finances.  But the story that prompted me to give the testimony was too good not to share.  A real God Story.

My hubs came with me on Sunday, and like a real champ he went to both services with me.  He also recorded me.  You can check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ja_xf6w_VK4

Or you can go to my church’s archive page and check it out there: http://www.hopechapel.com/Publisher/Article.aspx?ID=1000053339  on this one, i’m about 35 mins into the 3-Jul-2011, 8am service.   If you feel like watching sermons, watch the Sunday 10am service.  It was an epic epic sermon.

screen shot of my testimony

making faces and flossing my iphone = totally standard.

Getting up and telling my lil’ story was just an honor.  I feel like it was a special birthday present from God.  And it’s a super rad story!!

Leisure Times With My Duggs: My hubby and I also got some nice beach time this weekend.  Being Active Duty military, he had a “96” to celebrate the holiday:  a 96-hour period off work to enjoy the long holiday weekend.  Having him home and getting to spend some laid back time with him was just perfect and awesome, we needed some time like that.  We cooked together. relaxed, worked out, went to the beach, etc etc etc.  Luxurious!

i heart peace and the beach and sunshiny happy days

ole boring stinky duggs reads and gets burnt

I dyed my hair black!  WOO!  My natural hair color is like dirty blond, I think.  For the past year I’ve refrained from putting any color in my hair to see what it would do.  It’s gotten soooo light, it’s been fun.  But I dig contrast.  I love having either dark dark hair or white blonde platinum hair.  Which is weird, because I don’t do a lot of makeup and really look done up.   But I like fun hair.

So anyways, I went back to black.  I had a box of dye that was collecting dust, so I just used it!

dying my hair on the back porch

Oh the food!!!!!!

I’m probably addicted to food.  As soon as I’m eating, I start worrying and wondering what my next meal will be.  I think about food all the time.  So for my birthday, all I asked for was some snuggling on the couch with my boo and some really good food.  And, because I’m spoiled rotten, I got both!

We ate at Koa Pancake House on my birthday morning!!  I love that place.  We had banana pancakes, pork vinha d’alhos, eggs, fried rice.  Oh yum.  It was just Duggs and I, and it was a cute date.  I love breakfast dates.

my birthday breakfast

crazy duggs, eating some eggs n stuff

This is the first birthday of mine that I’ve ever spent with Duggs.  That made it so special and wonderful.  My heart is just all full and bursting, ya know?  It was so nice to have a happy birthday with him!  I’m all mushy and sappy for my Duggs.  What a great guy, I really am the luckiest gal in the universe.

He made me pineapple upside-down cake from scratch with fresh pineapple.  Then some lovely friends came over, and we had a DIY Sushi party!  Duggs made an amazing spread of hors d’ouvres to snack on, fried panko shrimp, and he cut and prepped a kajillion things to go into sushi rolls.

my birthday cakes that duggs made me

nom nom nom... i heart the homemade sushi

chef duggs!

Duggs took some cute pics of me opening my presents, but I don’t have them.  And I was just flooded with emails, FB posts, calls, cards, texts, etc.  I just felt so much love from so many people!  So to everyone who was friendly and gave me some b-day love: thank you so much!  Y’all made me feel so happy and special.

All in all, it was just a lovely weekend and one of my happiest birthdays to date.  That husband of mine sure did good this year!

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.

arise and shine (and tie dye)

Arise and Shine was this year’s retreat put on by my church’s women’s ministry, Women of Hope.  February 25-27, 120 women all met at Camp Mokuleia for a weekend of fellowship, sisterhood, singing, s’mores, laughter, swimming in crystal clear water, and a giant tie dye adventure.  It was an amazing time!

I know this entry is SUPER LONG, but its full of such good stuff and happy thoughts.  (the end is the best part of the whole story btw, i’m for serious!)

How I ended up at Retreat:

Before the retreat, I didn’t even know what a retreat was.  They kept mentioning it during announcements at church… but I wasn’t really sure what it entailed, I sure couldn’t afford to go, and I had no one to watch JJ.   But, A few of my friends from church kept asking me if I was going, and insisting that Carly and I should go.  Finally, about 10 days before retreat Carly and I talked to Pastor Tami (who was in charge of the whole shebang) and we got on the list for sponsorship.  We decided that if we got sponsored, it was meant to be.

A few days later Carly and I were sitting in Church.  During his sermon, Pastor Carl mentioned that some people had just recently donated to pay for scholarships to the Women’s Retreat.  I just got this hunch that it was for us.  After service I spoke with Tami, and it was official – we were going!

We (yes, I’m speaking for Carly here) were full of a mix of excitement and nerves.   But we were officially going now, so it was time to keep an open heart and just see what happened.  God obviously hooked it up, and it came at a time when we both could use a weekend away… so we were eager to make the most of it. (Carly and I are make-the-most-of-it kinda people in general anyways).

On top of covering the costs, God also found some amazing friends to watch our dogs for us, AND to drive us all the way up to the North Shore.  Everything fell into place.

But wait. It gets better…

Tuesday morning (three days before retreat) I was having coffee with Laura and some other ladies.  One gal complimented the tie dye shirt I had on, and I mentioned that I dyed it myself (of course I was wearing tie dye, I do pretty much everyday).   I went on to say I was actually a tie dye expert, and it’s one of my most fave hobbies.  Laura gets all excited and eager… and informs me that they planned a huge tie dye project for retreat, but no one is too sure on how to do it.    Moral of the story is that I will gladly be helping to guide the project; talk about things just working out perfectly.

First Day of Retreat (Friday)

Whitni, Erin, Carly and I all carpooled up to Camp and had a super fun time snacking on McD’s and chit chatting in the van.  When we arrived, I was so taken back by how pretty the site was.  The North Shore of O’ahu is so gorgeous, and we’d be spending the weekend right on the beach taking it all in.

carly and rose (me) in the van

welcome to camp!

beautiful north shore sunset on friday night of retreat

We checked in and went to our cabins to get settled in before dinner.

our cabin

i call top bunk! (notice how nerdy and neat i am. sigh.)

We went and ate a super tasty dinner in the cafeteria.  With full bellies, we headed to the Chapel for some Praise and Worship, and some teaching from the beautiful and strong Pastor Kanani.  After some silly icebreaker involving singing Christmas Carols (which obvs my team one, I know like a million), we filled the night air with sweet feminine voices, singing up our Praise.

The theme of retreat was “Arise and Shine.”  The whole weekend we’re learning about how to shake off the burdens of everyday life, let God’s light on in, and shine it out for the whole world to see.   We got away from our everyday routines, to relax in a beautiful location.  No TVs, no chores to do.  For many of the women this weekend meant no kids, no work, no carpool, no meetings.  It was a time for us to be selfish in a good way, to let our hearts and bodies rest and recharge.

Friday Night’s message focused on being truly ALIVE.  On making the most out of life, of living the best we can.  On living for God and feeling truly alive and we’re filled with His light.

kanani teaching friday night*

My notes from the first night’s teaching:

We can rise up and accept the Lord and as He fills us with this light we can SHINE.  When we shine, we share this light and love with others.   God wants us to love life, to enjoy life – too often daily life crushes us, crushes our spirits and brings us down.  God’s love can un-crush us – rejuvenate our souls and give us light.

God sends the Holy Spirit into us, and that’s what fills us with light.

Proverbs 18:14, “The spirit of a man can endure his sickness, But as for a broken spirit, who can bear it?”    – As long as our spirit remains intact, we can endure anything.

Given all of my health issues, past and present, the teaching on Proverbs 18:14 just spoke straight to me.  I can handle being sick, I can handle any physical pain – as long as I have my spirit.  I know I’ve been blessed to have a strong, optimistic spirit, and I thank God for equipping me with such a light that’s helped me get through many a hard time.

After teaching we broke for prayer and a bonfire!  Some of the ladies graciously helped pray for me and for my health, they prayed for my healing.  And while physically I’ve been in a rough place and going through a lot since the retreat (the update on my trigeminal neuralgia will be a totally separate blog) – I know their prayers helped me because my anxiety level relating my health has been totally reduced.

Outside of the Chapel that night I met a lovely lady, Lori (alliteration station right there, lovely lady Lori, whew!).  Lori was chatting about some injuries she’s endured as a result of a bad fall she had.  Hearing her talk about surgeries and medications, doctor’s visits and hospitals… I just knew she was a kindred spirit.  Her positive attitude through such adversity was amazing!  She fell at work, and refused to sue (knowing it was an honest accident).  She bears severe pain with a smile, and unless she told you what she was dealing with – you’d never know.   She embraces life and refuses to let her injuries affect her happiness.  She truly has an intact spirit, and thus sickness cannot stop her – she’s so living Proverbs 18!  Talking with her reinforced the nights’ teaching to me, so amazing.  I love this type of life-goes-on, making the best of it, attitude.

As we kept talking, I found out that Lori was an artist.  When we checked in, we were all given journals to use during the weekend.  Each had a hand painted watercolor on the front.  They are beautiful, and Ms. Lori here painted them ALL by hand.  120 paintings!

handpainted journal covers - with glitter sand, omg, glitter sand!!

Since she’s an artist, Lori was originally asked to run this whole tie dye thing.   Wanting to help out, she agreed – but admitted to not having any experience.  She bought the supplies, got all of the fabric, and hoped for the best.  When she heard that a lady with lots of experience would be at retreat (me), she was seriously relieved.  We had a funny chat about how she was so glad I ended up there, and once again – things were working out so perfectly.

SIDENOTE: I mean, how uncanny and random is it that the ministry was in need of someone who knew how to tie dye, and then I was sponsored at the last minute to attend?  It was all really overwhelming.  Honestly, I was humbled by it all and I was just so excited to be able to help.  After a stranger had paid for me to be there – I wanted to do anything I could to help out, give back, contribute.  So I was excited and honored to be asked to help.

After chatting with Lori and getting some prayer, I went to the bonfire.  Hooray, s’mores!!

bonfire

my gal pals roastin' mallows*

Saturday Morning

We woke up to an insanely gorgeous sunrise:

breaking dawn

oh hay sun, i love to see you!

I didn’t get much sleep that night at all… so I was in serious need of coffee first thing.

i wish i had tiger blood so i didn't need coffee. or sleep.

We walked the beach, chit chatted over coffee and slowly we all seemed to wake up.  At 8:00am, it was breakfast time.  Cafeteria breakfast!  I was so excited.  I happen to LOVE cafeteria food.  I love the trays, I love scooping out my food.  I think its so fun.  So, no surprise, I was right at the head of the line rarin’ to get some bacon.

cafeteria brekky, yum! scrambled eggs, melons, hashbrowns, rice, and BACON.

me and erin in the cafeteria

After breakfast, we spent some time enjoying our surroundings:

carlita and crystal clear water

we met such a nice sea turtle

he decided to swim away as soon as we met him though. rude!

pretty pregnant whitni

from the rocks, looking out into the ocean. so rad!

awesome

oh hay! i'm having so much fun at camp.

Mid-morning we had another session of Praise and Worship, and teaching.  We all went into the chapel, ready to celebrate God together.

setting up for worship

carly, erin, myself and whitni in the chapel*

kacie leading worship - "i will celebrate and sing unto the Lord"*

Saturday morning’s teaching started out on John 4:7, the story about Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  As we were learning about this parable, I pulled out my iphone and went to Biblegateway.com and started reading the Scripture in so many different translations.  In my journal I even wrote out “The Message” and “The Amplified” versions.

My notes:

This Scripture speaks to me as Jesus didn’t judge the Samaritan woman.  He went and talked to her, He showed her that He was/is the Son of God – and her choices, her sins, and the fact that she was a Samaritan has no bearing on His want to approach her.

Jesus is for everyone.  It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you’re from.  The only thing he has for us is LOVE.

Sometimes participating in a church is intimidating.  In the past, I’ve been scared of being judged, of not fitting in.  I was worried that if people know where I’d been they wouldn’t want me around.  (I am a sinner, and trust me – I’ve sinned big and hard).  But the deal is, if a church is truly Christian (Christ-like) – it doesn’t matter where I’ve been.  Just like Jesus didn’t judge, and he accepted sinners, a church that is genuine should and will accept me.  Reading this Scripture and knowing how open and welcoming Hope Chapel has been to me just solidifies what an amazing and genuine Church it is, this Scripture was reinforcing to me all those good, happy feelings I get when I’m doing anything with the Hope Chapel Family; its real.

journaling during the service*

women worshipping*

The teaching went on to talk about Fragile Clay Jars (2 Corinthians 4), and the parable of the one lost sheep (Matthew 18:12-14).    The teachings of the morning focused on letting go of what ties us down.  We talked about how special we are to God.  The theme that Pastor Kanani kept reiterating was to live your life with “no strings attached.”  To not let things burden you down, and hold you down.  I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes:

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose,” Jim Elliot, missionary and martyr. (Kanani actually talked about Jim Elliot and his mission the night before during her teaching, full circle!).

The gist of that quote is to get rid of the things you cannot take with you, in exchange for the things that you cannot hold.  Get rid of your worldly, material things.  Get rid of the items that stress you out, that bog you down.  Because when we die, the Chanel handbag and Gucci clothes ain’t coming with us.  Instead, fill your life with the intangibles: love, happiness, laugher, pooch smooches, hugs, rainbows, smiles.

More of my notes:

We need to empty our hearts of all our worldly stuff: pride, hate, anger.  And we need to fill them [our hearts] with love.  With God’s love.

Kanani says: God has way more stuff than we have.  Annie didn’t bring her bed from the orphanage with her into Daddy Warbucks’ house.  We cannot drag what we have into Heaven, why would we?

Saturday Afternoon

After morning worship, we had free time before lunch to go swimming! Hooray! I love the ocean so much.

me and whitni in the ocean

me and carlita. we are fishies.

After lunch… it was TIE DYE TIME!

The Tie Dye Project

According to Wikipedia, a Pareo is a wraparound skirt.   Pareos are popular in Hawaiian culture, and we would be making tie dye Pareos, that could be used as skirts, wraps, prayers shawls, tapestries, almost anything!  The fabric Lori got was this really light linen.  And Laura had picked out all kinds of pretty colored dye for us to use.  Most of the women at camp had never tie dyed before, so it was really fun seeing them learn and get excited and just enjoy themselves.

Everyone met in the chapel after lunch and did some icebreakers, while a small group of us was outside mixing the dye.  As we were mixing them up, and setting up the buckets, we realized we were way short on salt.   I advocate for dying wet garments (pre-soaking in water vs. dying somethin dry; optimally soaking a garment in water w/ soda ash) – so the idea to have people soak their fabric in the ocean came up.  The dye needed more salt mixed in, and the garments needed to be wet first.  Perfecto!

I popped into the chapel to try and give some direction.  Talking on the mic was more intimidating than I though, and I’m pretty sure my instruction was more confusing than helpful.  I ended up telling everyone to just find me and I’d be down to help anyone with anything I could.

i'm on the mic, laura is my vanna white

mixing the dye right out on the beach*

getting all set up

The only instructions I gave: get your fabric wet first (there was a spicket of fresh water, or the dunk in the ocean idea), choose a pattern and use rubber bands, we have gloves available so you don’t dye your hands, you can hang your pareo up to dry right away or you can bag it and let it soak over night – I recommend the soak and wait.

For the people doing the soak and wait I gave some washing tips – wash on the hottest cycle you have with a cup or so of whit distilled vinegar.  vinegar will help lock in the dye (think: Easter Eggs).

THE MOST IMPORTANT TIE DYE INSTRUCTION: don’t sweat it and just let it happen.  Colors will run together.  It will get messy.  Its supposed to, the meshing and blurring of colors makes tie dye beautiful.  The imperfections make it unique and show that it was dyed by hand.  Just embrace and go with it.

All that said… and they’re off:

tie dye bonanza

getting the fabric ready*

dipping the linen right in the ocean*

My hippie heart is just exploding at this point:  tie dying outdoors, right on the beach, dunking the fabric in the saltwater and just shooting the breeze with all these wonderful women… such a rad afternoon for me.  The setting was gorgeous, and here I am teaching all of these women about one of my most favorite crafts.  I was just so full of excited energy and joy.

twisting the fabric*

i'm so large and in charge

usually i dye with squirt bottles, but mixing enough individual bottles for 120 women would have taken so long and been expensive. instead we used buckets of rit dye and powdered tulip dye - so i came up with the idea of using these tiny cups to help localize where the dye went instead of only dunk dying. the technique worked SO WELL, i was so stoked.*

of course, dunking is always still an option when you have buckets o' dye*

whitni dying with some pink, pretty!*

pastor tami tie dying*

action shot of me being all bossy*

Ready for the results?  Finished products:

pareos in the wind*

they came out so awesome, right?

leeann did an AMAZING job

love how bright this one is, amazing

the starburst technique was epic on fabric of this size. perfect!

this makes my heart so happy

bright and pretty, just awesome!

are you sick of tie dye pics yet? i'm not! i love them!

I helped all of the ladies tie dye for four hours.  It was such a gorgeous day, we had so much fun out in the sun chit chatting and laughing and dying.

And then I realized, I hadn’t made one for myself yet!

i didn't get to do one yet

i labeled my fabric

super tight twist = the bomb

My final product:

my pareo is hanging up in my kitchen to make me smile everyday

Saturday Night

We had another service Saturday night.  Again we started with singing worship songs, and then had some preaching and teaching.   Saturday night’s theme was about being awake.

My notes:

Rev 3:3 = You must wake up or you’ll miss it all

Being aware, being awake not just to what’s around us – but being honest with ourselves.  Its about taking a long, hard look at ourselves; self-actualization.

God doesn’t want us to be something we’re not – He created us the way He wants us!  -That said, its about living up to our potential, being the best versions of ourselves that we can be.

We need to wake up to who we really are.

We learned about asking God to wake us up, to really open our eyes to what’s inside us and what we are.  This can mean so many things: tapping into potential that isn’t being used, facing and dealing with the things we’ve suppressed, learning who we really are, smashing down those walls and guards we’ve put around our hearts.

I believe this message is something really powerful.   But at the same time, I was having a hard time figuring out how to live it.  I feel like in the past few years I’ve gone through a huge process of learning who I really am, looking way inside me and digging up all the junk, of going through a lot of the exercises that were being discussed this night.   I feel like I know the burtal honestly about who I am, and I’ve even come so far that I love the real me and I want to be the real me forever.  Icing on the cake: my husband knows, loves, and accepts the total real me.  (seriously, does it get any better than that?)

I loved the message about not being perfect.  God never asks us to be Perfect – but just to be who we are, and to try.  I love that.  What an empowering and liberating thing to know.  I wish I could spread this message to all the women in the world, all the people even.  So many people waste the fun and happy parts of life by trying so hard to be perfect, or be something they aren’t.  I am who I am, and its such a freedom that I have not pretending to be anything else.  I wish my lightness for everyone, I really do.

Sunday Morning

Sunday morning, after breakfast we had a different kind of service together.  Pastor Ruby gave us a beautiful devotional.  She talked about Psalms 102 and 103.  Just the night before I had diligently studied Psalm 103, and it was so crazy to me that she was preaching on it the very next morning.

What Ruby had to say was personal, and touching, and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the chapel.

After Ruby, Pastor Tami talked to all of us.  She put in so much hard work to make this retreat a wonderful event.  Its crazy to know she had been working and planning this all for months and months, and until a few days before I didn’t even know much about the whole thing.  I’m appreciative of her hard work though, I had such a great time and I don’t have the words to properly tell her how much I look up to her.

Then the microphone was opened up for retreat testimonials.  Hearing these women, my sisters, get up and just open up their hearts was amazing.  Women talked about what they got out of retreat.  They admitted to not wanting to come and being dragged there.  Some talked about being nervous and how they ended up making friends and having fun.  Some asked for prayer.  Some had praise reports.  It was just a cool experience to be a part of.

Last, but not least, I decided to get up on the mic myself.

tellin' my story*

I told everyone how just a couple weeks before I didn’t even know what a retreat was.  But God brought me to this retreat.  Someone paid for me.  Someone’s husband was watching my dog.  Someone even drove me there!  All I had to do was pack and keep an open mind.

I explained how it had been a rough couple of months for me:  My husband deployed in November with three weeks notice, I lost our baby right before Christmas, I was so ill because of the miscarriage I was unable to go home for Christmas and I spent the whole time alone on my couch, and the stress on my body has spurred up some exacerbations of pre-existing conditions that I have.

I’ve been trying very hard to get back into the swing of life.  I’ve been staying busy, spending time with friends, laughing, having fun.  I’ve been throwing myself into church and I’ve been loving it.  I go hiking and swimming, and try to keep my heart light and move past this sadness.  I like to be happy, and usually I am a happy girl.  But to be really truthful, the past couple months haven’t been a cakewalk, yo.

Saturday afternoon of retreat Matthew (my husband) called me from Afghanistan.  When he asked about how retreat was going I told him all the great things I was doing:  I had so much bacon for breakfast and s’mores around a campfire!  I went swimming in the ocean, and this afternoon I taught 120 women how to tie dye!! His response was, “sounds like your most ideal day ever, huh?”  LOL, he’s so right.  He also told me that I actually sounded HAPPY.  I sounded genuinely happy to him and he loves to hear that, it does his heart good while he’s over there.

So I thanked these women.  The chit chats, the giggling as we all had melted marshmallows covering our faces, swimming in the ocean and scaring away the sea turtles, just having someone to pray with: all of this sisterhood, in such a beautiful place away from my usual surrounding was just such a great way to hit the reset button.  I felt so refreshed and alive, and I just thanked all of them for being part of it.

Then I sat down.

Well, remember how I keep mentioning that a stranger paid for me to come. After I sit down, Laura leans over and whispers in my ear, “Lori is the one who sponsored you.”  Lori! LORI! The one who I related to about smiling through the pain, about doctor’s visits and being in the hospital.  Lori who loves arts and crafts, and who painted those journals for us.  Lori who didn’t know how to tie dye but said she would anyways and then heaved a huge sigh of relief when she found out some random gal attending knew how to do it.  LORI! Talk about kismet.  Talk about full circle.

I was so overwhelmed I started crying.  I ran up and grabbed the mic and announced this little tidbit to the group, and everyone burst into applause.  What an amazing, perfect, God-given fit.  The coolest things like this always happen to me, and I love it.

hugging and thanking lori as soon as i found out*

Finally it was group photo time, and retreat was over.  What an amazing weekend!!  I was so blessed to be a part of this, and I know I’ll carry these north shore memories with me long after I leave this island.  I am just so thankful.

arise and shine 2011 retreat*

THE END!

*All of the pics with the lil asterisk are courtesy of the beautiful and wonderful Joy Pishcura.  Thanks Joy!!!!!

BONUS UPDATE!

here’s a photo of Lori and me outside church on 13-March:

lori + me (and yes, i dyed that skirt!)

Jesus is LOVE. hear me out!

Let’s have a chat about Jesus.

Christianity, like all things, can be interpreted and lived in different ways, with different intentions.  If filtered through love, I believe Christianity is an amazing, beautiful, great way to live your life – its a good thing.  But, if filtered through hate and anger, it can be a powerfully destructive, scary and bad thing, used to judge, condemn and hate on people.

I choose to be a Christian, and I chose to be the kind of Christian that filters my belief system through love.

Jesus didn’t hate anybody.  Jesus loved everybody.  And that’s the Christ that I want to be like.

I don’t want to have any hate in my heart; I want to fill it up only with love, acceptance, happiness, gratitude .  I don’t want there to be any room for hatred, grudges, judgement, meanness.   I know I’m so very far from perfect, and as a human I can never be perfect like Jesus – but that’s the goal to work towards.  To try to be as like Him as you can.

I think that’s what being a Christian means – you want to model your life after Jesus, be like Him, and celebrate Him.  And the Jesus I’m getting to know, He only has love for the world.

I want to clarify: the people that use Christianity to hate others, to attack and judge others – that is not me, and I have no interest in living my life like that.   None whatsoever.   I’ve seen “Jesus Camp,”  and “Hell House,” and other documentaries about Evangelical Christians that can be pretty over the top, and just well… scary.   Or groups like Westboro Baptist Church, for example, they spew hatred and they are so opposite of what I want to be.  Those are the people who take the Bible, and Christianity, and filter it through hate.  They’re on the attack, and they’re ready to judge and pounce on others.   I don’t see the point in using my energy like that, and it makes me sad.  It feels like a misuse to me, an abuse of the Word.

I want to be happy, help others, love everyone.  I want to accept people the way they are – the way God made them – and love them as is.   I want to filter everything through love.

I have been reading the Bible lately.  Studying it.  And I love it.  Its beautiful.  To live your life by the ideas Jesus taught seems like a great thing to me.  To embrace the big ideas and try for them.  Not to be legalistic, nit pick, and make life about rules and do things just because the Bible says I have to.  That’s not the point either.  Its about feeling it with your heart and living it because you believe in it.

I’ve been reading the Book of Matthew (which is lovely by the way) – and the tenants I’m taking home from the Gospel: love everyone, don’t judge others, accept everyone for who they are, don’t talk trash about people, don’t be mean,  just love, love, love.

Galatians 5:13 (NIV) tells us:  “serve one another humbly in love.”   What a beautiful concept.  Its so simple, but there it is.  Serve one another humbly in love.

Galatians 5 goes on, 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (NIV).

The Word is right there, and its awesome.  What a concept.  Can you even imagine a world where everyone promoted love, peace, faithfulness, gentleness, etc?

My understanding, and what I’m cool with, is that being a Christian means loving the world.  Don’t have room in your heart for hate.   Respect and be grateful for everything God has given us (go green!).  Just try to be the best version of yourself that you can be.  Seems so simple and awesome and good, and that’s why I’m down with it.

I’m human though, so as great as my ideas and intentions sound – I know that in practice I have such a long way to go.  I know this.  I know I’m a sinner – and a crazy sinner at that.  (Let’s not even go there, right?)  I don’t feel guilt, regret, or anything like that when I examine my life.  I know I’ve been where I was to get to where I am.  And where I am now is amazing.  I do feel apologetic for the bad things I’ve done, but life is about moving forward.

Rather than wallow in my past, I seek forgiveness and I seek to learn from my mistakes and improve as a person.   And you know what?  Jesus is so down with that.  He’s all about forgiveness and second chances, about getting up after you stumble, dusting yourself off and taking it from there.

For my friends who read my facebook updates and are sitting there with furrowed brows wondering what the eff Rose has gotten into now… IT’S STILL ME!  I promise.  I”m not drinking the kool-aid and becoming a robot.   I’m just studying a way of life that shows me how to be the best version of myself, and I like it.  The more I learn about pure Christianity, the more it appeals to me.   And as fun as my wild days were (I wouldn’t trade my memories for anything), I like growing up and cleaning up and getting my act together.  I like being a positive and optimistic person and putting love out into the world.

I’ll always be nuts and silly.   But, I love the way I’m living now, I love the happiness and peace I feel.

So my message to everyone who reads this, my belief in making the world a happier, better place – whether you choose to be a Christian or not:  filter your life through love.  Take everything you hear, see, and do… and run it through some love.   Love what you have, and the people you meet, and the beautiful earth you live on.

And if you do choose to be a Christian, I hope and pray you filter your beliefs through love.  I hope you interpret the Word through love.  And I hope you act in love.   Its what Jesus would do.  “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

cute christian kids crafts

I teach kindergarten CCD (Catechism, aka Sunday School for Catholics) at the base chapel every week.   So cute, right? I’m not even really a practicing Catholic these days – but I made the commitment to teach so I’m sticking with it.  The kids are so sweet and their perspective on spirituality is refreshingly untainted, I love it.

The kids are all at varying levels as far as reading, writing, prior knowledge, and attention span go.  The first few weeks I was teaching I tried to just follow the book directly.  The problem is that the textbook is too difficult for them to use properly, and its too boring if I have to read everything to them.  Rather than just pop in Veggie Tales and call it a day, I decided recently to create my own curriculum every week.  I do really simple lessons, with accompanying craft projects.  The goal is to get them to learn one basic concept every week.

Its been a win-win, and the kids have gone from dreading to loving my class.   The happy feedback I get from parents (and how sweet and happy they are during class time) is so rewarding.  And since our classroom is super plain and empty, we’ve been using the projects to help jazz up the room and add some color.  The kids LOVE seeing their work up on the walls.

“Jesus Loves Us” –    I literally just hand drew big bubble letters and let them color them in.   I used a hole punch, some string and hooks to hang them all from the ledge around the room.  (That ledge is designed to be able to hang things from and I’m just using Christmas ornament hooks to hold everything up, lol).

Jesus Loves Us!

With this lesson I also made each student a sheet that says “Jesus loves” with a big blank at the bottom for them to write in their names.

Jesus Loves __________

While they’re coloring I read from the text book or use my own words to explain the “lesson.”  I re-word things to express the same idea in a few different ways.  Then I ask them simple questions that lead them to reiterate the lesson back to me.  For this class I kept asking, “Does Jesus love me?”  “Does Jesus love the cashier at the grocery store?”  “Does Jesus love your parents?”  etc.

The Cross – I traced and cut out crosses on white cardboard (perfect medium) and let the kids decorate both sides.

side A

Since they’re hung up on the hooks, they freely spin around showing off both sides.

Side B

For this lesson I explained about Jesus dying on the Cross for us, and how the Cross is a symbol of Christianity.  I had them make the sign of the cross multiple times during the lesson as well (Catholic component).  I read out of a children’s Bible and showed them the illustrations to help them understand.   We discussed that Jesus went up to Heaven after dying for us, and He lives in Heaven forever.

“God Made Everything” –   This was their favorite lesson by far! I read them Genesis from the children’s Bible (and showed them all the illustrations) to explain that God created the entire world – sky, stars, plants, animals, people, everything!   They were asked to draw things that God made, or draw pictures of the world that God made for us.   They made the cutest little pictures of turtles, cats, flowers, rainbows, the sun, etc.

I cut out all of their little drawings and put them together on a big poster that I captioned:

God made everything

I took their scenery drawings and connected them into a big poster-sized piece:

we live in God's world

This project was such a hit that they requested to do a part 2.  Five year old students asked me if they could please draw God’s creations – how amazing is that? I love it!  So today they worked on more drawings.  I’ll make a new post once I’ve put them all together into a poster (or whatever I end up doing with them).

Here’s a shot of one corner of the classroom:

our classroom

The bulletin board there was decorated by the church, but its the only decoration in the room other than a chalk board and a supply cabinet.  The posters of the students’ art is on either side, hanging by hooks from that ledge.

Finally, check out the sweet note one of the girls in my class made for me this morning.  AWWW!  It doesn’t get any sweeter.

"I love Miss Rose"

Feel free to copy and use my ideas!  I post everything I do in hopes that others can use/benefit from them.  And if you’re a Sunday School teacher, or have your own religious craft ideas – let me know.  I’m always looking for new projects.