Preparing for Holy Week

Lent began with Ash Wednesday on February 18th.  Another local church marks this season with soup dinners and Lenten services.  I’ve been attending (Ryan works that night of the week) and I have enjoyed the community as well as learning about the Lord’s Prayer. At home for Lent Ryan and I have been reading daily and remembering the season, focusing on Christ and the cross.  My favorite reading so far, that I think encompasses the spirit of Lent, is called The Mourning.  It is part of a Lenten series that can be found on Redeemer New York‘s website. We began this season with seven lit candles which you can see here in my February 19th post: Lent and Remembering.

IMG_0730

But now there are only two candles lit in anticipation of Holy Week.  Each Sunday we blow out another candle and read from this devotional called Lenten Lights from Desiring God Ministries.  Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, the Sunday where we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  At that point we will have only one candle still lit.

At some point this week, I will make hot cross buns.  I’m not really sure when, where and why hot cross buns started being made for the Easter season but I do know that they are delicious and another sweet reminder of the cross.

Ryan and I are excited to celebrate another sweet remembrance of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday.  We will be driving up to Santa Barbara to connect with our church community there as we share a Christian Seder meal.  The Seder is the meal that is traditionally eaten at Jewish passover.

And on Friday, the 3rd of March we will attend services for Good Friday.  Good Friday is the day we remember Christ’s death on the cross.  This solemn occasion isn’t fun but it is a pivotal part of the Christian faith. Without Christ’s death, his resurrection is meaningless.  On Good Friday we will also blow out the final candle symbolizing our final descent into the darkness of sin and death.

But darkness doesn’t win.  Hope remains because we know how the story ends.  Christ defeats death and comes back to life. (Luke 24:6-7)  On resurrection Sunday Ryan and I, along with Christians across the globe, will celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead.  At home we will light all the candles again as a symbol of light reigning over darkness.  We serve the creator God, the one who endured death on a cross for our sins but was not defeated, instead he won the battle and rose again.  Easter is the celebration marking the fact that Christians serve a living God.  He is Risen indeed.

They Fell For Each Other

IMG_20150307_144904~2Today Ryan and I got to participate in a wonderful wedding celebration.  Remember Jill’s wedding shower?  Well, one month later and Jill is married to Kevin.

IMG_20150307_165912Today they shared their first dance as a married couple.  Both of them love to dance and they showed off their skills on the dance floor.  It was beautiful and very fun to watch.  Later on they had a limbo contest.  Needless to say, Ryan and I are not very good at the limbo.

IMG_20150307_144830~2Kevin and Jill also shared their first kiss.  Waiting until their wedding day to kiss was important for Kevin and Jill.  I love seeing their commitment to each other expressed in many different ways.  Now they have the rest of their lives to enjoy each other’s kisses.

IMG_20150307_174441Ryan and I had a great time at the wedding, we danced, had our fill of nachos and donuts, visited with friends and had some fun at the photo booth too.  Kevin and Jill fell for each other and we wish them the happiest of ever afters.

 

Ryan’s Grandma

Please be in prayer for Ryan and his family.  On Monday night his 96 year old grandmother died peacefully in her sleep.  This woman had an amazing influence on her grandsons.  I had the privilege of meeting her twice and I’m so thankful that I can share, at least some, memories of her with Ryan.  We will never forget her reaction to seeing my engagement ring for the first time.  And we have other sweet reminders of her too.  She made the dishcloths that we use every day in our kitchen.  I love the tangible, useful reminder of her.  Ryan’s Grandma was a strong, wonderful, Christian woman and her legacy lives on in her family.  They are rejoicing that she is in heaven but still mourning their loss.Grandma

Ryan will be flying to Wisconsin on Thursday.  All of Ryan’s brothers will be there with the family.  This is important for them to have time together to mourn and remember.  Please pray for safe travels and please pray for Ryan and I, because 4 days will be the longest we’ve been apart since we’ve been married.

Losing a loved one is never easy.  Expecting it doesn’t take away the pain but the mourning is much sweeter when you know that the person you lost is a believer.  We can rejoice because Ryan’s Grandma is in the presence of her savior.

Brookton and Beyond

We’re back in Perth after a few days of country/bush adventure.  This included an accordion, many meat pies, dead kangaroos, an Elvis sighting and British game shows.  Pretty random but we’ll take it.  Here are some picture highlights.

P1020710These signs are as common as deer crossing signs in parts of the US.

P1020864Brookton on a Sunday morning is amazingly quiet.

IMG_20141026_090302The church where we worshipped in Brookton…

P1020876…which featured hymns accompanied by the accordion.  Awesome.

P1020798We did a lot of driving.

P1020678This is not where we stayed but it’s nice to know that, as a respectable couple, we would have been welcome.

P1020840We saw lot of birds and even managed to capture one on camera. Can you spot him?

P1020820And we saw Elvis too!

P1020764Ryan got in some rock “surfing” at Wave Rock.

P1020805Along the road there were many, many sheep.

P1020749And we took in some amazing views.  This is what the countryside looks like from the top of Wave Rock.

P1020782Last but not least a picture taken just in case you didn’t believe that Ryan is tall. (These are markers used to show how deep water is when the area floods.)

Our Part of the Great Commission

This morning Ryan and I rose early to attend an 8am Missions Breakfast at the church here in Camarillo.  It’s hard to get up early on a Saturday (especially for Ryan since it’s his only day to sleep past 4:10am) but it was worth it.  We enjoyed our time rubbing elbows with other people who have a vision and a heart for the Great Commission.

missions breakfastEd and Kelli Compean, who work in Kenya, and their son spoke to us about their lives, ministry and what sustains them.  Thanks Krista for this great picture!  I appreciated the Compean’s candidness but especially enjoyed Ed’s reminder to us that all Christians are part of the Great Commission (“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20).  

No matter where God has you, whatever stage in life, whatever job or circumstances, we should be faithful to our little slice of the Great Commission.  We aren’t called to do it all ourselves.  We are a part of a greater whole.  This is such a sweet reminder to me in this time of transition and waiting.

I’m thankful for a church that takes the gospel seriously and for the reminder at this breakfast of all the work that is being done here in the area, in other parts of California and to far away places like Kenya.

 

Online Dating Tips, Tricks and Opinions

So I figured that one day I would hit the publish button before I was ready to post a blog.  Today was that day.  So if you saw the beginning of this blog already I’m sorry but I hope you saw it and it made you want to read more.

Online dating has lost some of its stigma.  But Ryan and I still see some raised eyebrows when we tell people how we met.  Although it is also common for people to tell us their own stories of friends and family members who met their spouses online.  I also have a few other friends, including a brother-in-law, who are in this growing category.  I’m hoping that more people who want a relationship will try the online route and that the experience will be positive.

Ryan and I are often asked which site we used.  ChristianMingle, eHarmoney, Match.Com, Christian Cafe, Plenty of Fish, Zoosk and there are so many more.  I’ve written about OkCupid before but one site isn’t necessarily the key to online dating success.  Both Ryan and I tried multiple sites before we met and each one had a different feel.  I was determined not to pay but many of the sites only give you limited access if you don’t pay.  This includes many of the Christian sites.  Whether you make a choice to pay or go with the free options, dating online can work.  So what can you do to make the most out of your online dating experience?  If you just want a date, that’s easy but here are some tips (from my perspective) if you want to try and find a relationship online.

1. Put effort into it.

If you are serious about finding someone then you need to put time into looking through profiles, responding to and writing messages, making dates (men), going on dates and communicating in general.  It takes time.  If you don’t have time to make it a priority, wait until you do.  Or if you aren’t paying for a site, then it’s easier to date for a month or so and then take a break.  That’s how I kept my sanity during the online dating process.

2. Be strategic with your site choice.

Everyone is different but in my experience I didn’t like eHarmony or Match.  I also tried a couple of the Christian sites but found that the men were looking for a ‘nice Christian girl’ but they weren’t necessarily solid Christian men.  I didn’t like having to sort through a lot of Christian lingo and niceties that didn’t really tell me about the person.  I liked OkCupid because being a Christian wasn’t a good thing if you were just looking for a little action or some friday night fun.  The men who were serious, solid Christians automatically distinguished themselves on a free site like OkCupid.

3. Know what you are looking for.

Once you get to the point of meeting someone, one date can only tell you so much.  That person could be having a bad day or be super nervous.  So I worked on a very short list of my ‘must haves’ and no this didn’t include a height requirement.  The book Marriage and Mr. Right helped me think through what really was important to me and what wasn’t a true deal breaker.  In theory if a guy had those ‘must haves’ then he got at least a second date and if the guy didn’t then I would shake his hand and that was it.  I say in theory because there were some men that it was more difficult to stop dating even once I knew they weren’t someone I would consider marrying.  But looking back I can say that those dates were seriously a waste of time.  Fun dates but not potential mates.

4. Be smart with your communication and meeting choices.

We all know about being safe with strangers.  But this is more than that.  Most of the time I didn’t give out my phone number until I met the guy in person.  Then if the date didn’t go well I didn’t have to worry about unwanted phone calls.  And I also didn’t have to worry about a random stranger having my phone number if they misrepresented themselves.  Be wise about where you meet and what time of day.  I did go hiking with someone I just met but it was on a well traveled trail in a familiar area.  Be smart because if you feel comfortable with your choices then the date will most likely go better too.

5. Enlist the help of friends.

Once you meet someone who has more potential than just a date then don’t be shy introducing them to close friends.  One of the downsides of online dating is meeting someone outside of your normal sphere.  I’m a big fan of getting your community involved.  This doesn’t mean bringing in the calvary but a few people can help you see if you’re overlooking anything.  Ryan met some of my friends on our second date, that might be a bit early for most people but it worked for us.  It also helped us to start mingling our friend groups because meeting online often means you don’t have any friends or even acquaintances in common.

I’m sure I could think of a few more things but that’s it for now.  I’d love to hear your stories of online dating, the adventures as well as misadventures in finding and keeping love.

Time with God

As a Christian I believe that I have a relationship with God and that through prayer I can communicate with the trinity.  I also have the privilege of hearing from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit: in stillness, through other people and through the pages of the Bible.  I believe that the Bible is the word of God and although it was written in a different time to different and diverse cultures that the truth and the message are still applicable and transformative today.

But like any relationship, this one takes time, effort and commitment.  I have no problem carving out time for friends that I meet with face to face.  And so i’ve had to learn how to schedule devoted time to seek God’s face.  Many Christians set aside morning time for God.  I’ve heard many people say that it helps them to start their day out right and it is them easier not to forget it at some other time.  However, while I was in PNG the morning was usually get up and go.  In town that was market time or we were taking advantage of the clear skies to get laundry done or taking advantage of the daylight to get work and other errands completed.  And in the village, there was the morning radio sched and neighbors visiting and all sorts of other distractions.  Depending on where I was I had to set aside time in another part of my day.  In the village this was often the afternoon right after lunch.  The village was usually quiet and there was time before the afternoon work to just sit on the back porch, read my Bible, pray and listen.  In Ukarumpa I usually set aside time at night right before bed.  It was sweet to contemplate my day, read my Bible and pray before I slept.

IMG_0427So the point here is that I’ve had to adapt and change to my circumstances but I’ve also made it a priority to find what works.  Once back in the US I struggled for many reasons and finally settled on a system that is working for me.  While reading my Bible, I often found it discouraging when I would miss a day or two or 5 and come back just to have forgotten what I was reading.  This made me not want to start again, like when you see your friend who you’ve been meaning to call at the store and part of you wants to hide in another aisle because you’re embarrassed that it hasn’t happened.  To counteract this I began to write down what I was reading, along with one daily prayer and committed to read through the Bible, not in 3 months, not in a year but until I was done.  I’m finally (after 3-ish years) seeing the finish line to this commitment.  After reading through some more proverbs and a few more of the minor prophets, I will have read through the Bible once again.

It takes effort and commitment to grow my relationship with God.  However, it is worth it because I am getting to know the God of the universe.  The words of the Bible are his message to mankind as well as his message to me personally.  What an amazing gift.