Sunday, January 31, 2016

God will fulfill his promises

We've been studying the story of Abram at church the past few weeks, and it has been quite applicable.

From the people who can literally relate, who have also struggled with infertility, to those who can simple relate to the part about waiting on the Lord, Abram's story is relatable today.

This morning the study is on Genesis 17. Abram is 99. It has been 13 years since the previous verse, and just because God had been quiet didn't mean he hadn't been working.

You see, God had waited to fulfill his promise of giving Abram a child because if it had been earlier it wouldn't have been obvious it was God. It could have been a fertility fluke that Sarai had a baby in older age. It would have been wonderful but maybe credited to nature, to Abram and Sarai, to luck.

But God is El Shaddai, God Almighty. He wanted the glory for what he was going to give Abram and Sarai. So he waited, and they waited, I'm sure becoming more and more frustrated and hopeless and faithless.

Then God spoke to Abram and finally gave him a true sign of his promise; he changed Abram's name to Abraham. That means "father of multitudes." Abraham still had to have faith though; he still didn't have a son by Sarai. He just had God's promise, and he had to wait and believe.

Sarai's name then became Sarah, her sign of the covenant.

More than a name change, a covenant involves a sign. Like the marriage covenant, in which we change our names and wear rings, this covenant also included circumcision. Can you imagine going through circumcision, a sign of this covenant, before you see the covenant fulfilled? Abraham didn't have a son by Sarah yet, but he had to go have the physical sign of the covenant. That's faith in God's promise.

It might hurt to believe God will keep his promises; think how much it hurt Abraham to get circumcised. But God had a reason. He has a plan. He will wait until the time he will get the glory. Life isn't about us; it's about him and his glory.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Take it and be thankful

This week's theme has been "Take it and be thankful" for me.

On Monday night, we decided to cancel dance class, so I had an evening free with Nate, which is always wonderful. However, it was leading up to a Tuesday and Wednesday off work as well. I was taking off these mid-week days in exchange for working weekends, but I still felt bad about jetting off in the middle of a work week and leaving other staff and volunteers to cover for me while I had fun. I even felt bad about not being at dance on Monday night.

So I decided to "take it and be thankful." It was a treat to have a non-weekend off with my husband, and we sincerely enjoyed it. From getting brunch to running errands to a day off skiing, it was one of the best "weekends" we've had in a very long time.

Next up, a friend told me some very sad things about life, and it made me hurt to hear that I had what someone else wanted so dearly. I had to realize that was nothing I should feel guilty about but that I should take what I consider a very wonderful life and just be thankful that God has blessed me and Nate so.

Finally, I didn't end up having to work this weekend, and I yet again felt guilty that when I was supposed to work I didn't end up having to. I even thought about going to put in hours just the same so I didn't feel bad about it. However, instead I decided to take yet another unexpected blessing this week and be thankful.

I think we often want to repay someone or make sure the scales are even between ourselves and someone else. It's hard to see unfair discrepancies in life sometimes, and it can make us feel very guilty.

But we never know the whole story. Perhaps someone else's life is really quite good, but they have a pessimistic attitude. Perhaps God is trying to teach us all a lesson, but it's a different lesson in each of our lives. We really shouldn't judge the reason that we feel blessed.

When you give someone a gift, you don't want them to feel in debt or to question why they received this gift. You just want them to enjoy it. When God wants to give us a gift, or when someone wants to give us a gift, we should just take it. Take it and be thankful.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Driving the Pacific coast

I always thought it was weird that my parents enjoyed going for drives. As a kid, my brother and I dreaded those days that Mom and Dad loaded us into the car and headed out for who-knows-where.

I get it now though. Drives are nice. It's nice to spend some time together with the person you love.

After the Iowa pep rally, Nate and I embarked on a journey. He started driving, and I tend to just let him do it. We didn't have anyplace we needed to be, so I just like to sit back and let him take me somewhere.

He said we were headed for the second-most beautiful road in the country, according to something he found online.

Along the way we saw a Japanese-looking structure at the top of a hill, so we pulled off into a parking lot to see what it was. Climbing a dirt hill without a path was the only way to reach the structure that we could see, so we stepped off the pavement and saw a bunch of holes.


OK, there weren't any in sight but I knew that was what those holes meant.

Ewww, snakes.

I speedily tiptoed and ran past the holes in hopes that we didn't upset any of them in their homes.

At the top of the hill, we circled around the Asian structure, trying to figure out what it was, but the only sign was certainly not written in English. Inside the shelter was a giant iron bell, and there was a brief description engraved on it. Apparently this was a gift from Korea, showing a goodwill offering to the people of the United States in appreciation for what we did during the Korean War.

In the distance, across a bay, Nate and I could see a dark mass of land. We wondered what the island was, and thanks to the beauty of technology, we just looked at where we were on the map and diagnosed that we were across from Catalina Island.

Four years previously we had been to Catalina, but we left from Newport Beach. From where we were standing now, we were seeing a completely different side of the island so it didn't look the same. Plus, years ago it was hazy and the island was difficult to make out from shore. It was neat to be able to see someplace we had been before from a different angle.

We hopped back in the little white Ford Focus and continued down the road. Until it ended. Hmmm, apparently we had made a wrong turn somewhere.

The GPS then took us through a few neighborhoods to get us back on the right track. And that's when I yet again realized Nate and I are becoming more and more like my parents. We had an absolute ball driving around this neighborhood, checking out the houses and guessing at just how much they cost with a hilltop view of the Pacific Ocean. We oggled at the flowers and cacti in the yards, and I laughed at the Christmas decorations that seemed out of place in the summer-like environment.

That's when Nate pointed out something in the road to our right, a peacock! The beautiful turquoise bird was just walking across the road like he belonged there. A few houses down two female peacocks walked through another yard. More peacocks in the next yard.


I had no idea peacocks walked around here like they owned the place. I know it was probably funny for people who lived there to see us excited about seeing peacocks, like we laugh at people who are excited to see deer or turkeys or like our friend looked at us like we were crazy when we were excited to see a fox in Denver.

We just laughed and laughed and talked and smiled.

The day was shaping up to be a truly spontaneous, wonderful day.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

USS Iowa pep rally

We got up a little early on the first full day of vacation. I guess it was a mix of anticipation and the time-change, but two hours before we planned on leaving we got in the car and headed out.

The Iowa Hawkeye pep rally at the U.S.S. Iowa wasn't supposed to start until noon, but at 9 a.m. we rolled in. We figured we would check it out quick and if there wasn't anything to do we could just drive around for a while until it was time for the event.

Apparently we weren't the only early birds though, because the workers looked shocked that there were so many people already at the venue. A line started forming at 9:30 a.m. for the 10 a.m. opening of the battleship tours.

When we finally walked up the gangplank, the first tour guide rushed through his schpeel about the size of ammunition and hurried us along. It was obvious they weren't sure what to do with this large crowd and someone asked how many visitors the ship usually had.


What was the most they had ever had?

About 7,000.

We continued walking, weaving our way through the ship's interior and different decks. And it was comical that as we walked higher and higher, we could see the line of black-and-gold-wearing people grow and grow, stretching farther and farther from the gangway.

It was a neat experience to see the underbelly of a battleship, to see where sailors spent so much time. I have to say my favorite part was seeing the kitchens. Not only was it interesting to see the difference between a regular kitchen, the bakery and even the "meat and vegetable prep kitchen," but it made me think about my grandfather who worked in a ship's kitchen on the way to Korea during the Korean War.

"He got in trouble," I told Nate, "because he was always late."

Nate was surprised that the strict schedule on a ship would allow him to be late, and I told him I'm sure my rebellious grandfather would have done it on purpose just to spite his superiors. He didn't change much as he got older.

On and on we went, and finally an announcement came over the ship's loudspeaker asking people aboard to speed up a little bit because the crowd waiting to come on board continued to grow.

When we finished up our tour and ate a quick lunch of a pastrami melt and a pastrami breakfast burrito, we decided to head out for the rest of our day.

It was noon, just when the pep rally was supposed to start.

By noon, Hawkeye fans had already broken the attendance record for the U.S.S. Iowa. We found out later that the ship's employees and volunteers had expected 1,000 Iowa fans and ended up playing host to 20,000.

We travel.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Whole Foods and In 'N Out Burger....

Nate and I arrived in Burbank and waited for our luggage at the outdoor carousel --- outdoors, as in it never gets cold enough that they have to have it indoors. I couldn't even see my breath as we waited.

We walked to the rental car place and chit-chatted with the man behind the counter. He asked what we were doing, and we said, "Going to the Rose Bowl."

"You're going to go freeze?" he asked.

"Freeze? This is warm to us. When we left home it snowed 16 inches and was 12 degrees."

He just looked at us strangely.

After a quick jaunt to the hotel, which had a small kitchen, we decided to purchase a few food items so we could snack and eat quickly in the room instead of going out for every meal. We drove to a nearby grocery store --- Whole Foods.

This is comical for people in places like California, but we were disillusioned with the prices that we found. Nate has been to Whole Foods before, so he wasn't surprised, but we still oggled at the $7 granola bars and $6 bottles of juice.

Nate was in search of a certain California-made beverage that wasn't at this store, so we headed to the next Whole Foods.

It was the same. Obviously.

We just circled the store, unsure of even where to start to buy food. I mean, I wanted to get some groceries so we could save money. A $7 package of lunchmeat and $4 loaf of bread didn't seem like saving money though.

Nate suggested soup. But cans of soup were $3.50-$4. I finally broke down and got two cartons of soup for $2.59 each.

How about chips? Nope. Not when 5 ounces are $3. So I put tortilla chips and some salsa in the cart, not cheap but not astronomical because you got a little more for your money.

Then we stumbled upon pretzel nuggets for $1.99. In the cart and out with the chips and salsa.

Sometimes at these moments, I feel so small town. I can't imagine how much people pay when they actually have to get a complete load of groceries.

We then circled the block to find an In 'N Out Burger, and we passed by a line of cars parked alongside the roadway to the entrance, where we found that the line of cars were not parked but were waiting in line for fast food.

So, we headed back to the hotel and ate pretzel nuggets for supper.

It might seem odd, but that was perfect for me. A relaxing evening after a long day of traveling.