Traveling to the Dominican Republic

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San Juan de la Maguana

I love traveling, but probably even more, I love planning trips.  I love putting together the budget, researching and planning the itinerary.  Maps.  Travel time.  An hour spent on TripAdvisor or Sygic is an hour spent in my happy space.  I could daydream about traveling for hours.

Planning for our November/December 2016 trip to the Dominican Republic was pretty similar.  My brother and his wife and children live in the DR, so part of the trip was visiting family and seeing their work.  The rest of the trip was about relaxing, hanging out at the beach, eating good food and creating memories.

I also had big ideas about what we were going to experience and learn.

  • My spiritual life was going to blossom (and I was going to get great photos for my blog).
  • My children were going to experience new cultures and foods.  They were going to have their eyes opened to poverty and have a life-changing experience.  Probably they would come back to the U.S. and never complain about anything again after seeing how people live in real poverty (OK, I am half-joking . . . but part of me really hoped for this).
  • My husband was going to discover a love for world-traveling that would catapult our future travel experiences into a new realm.

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Reality was a little different.

Day one we flew into Santo Domingo, the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic.  It was pouring rain and we were unsure if my brother was going to be able to pick us up or his migraine would keep him at home, which would mean we’d need to find our way from the airport to a taxi to a bus station to buy bus tickets (we don’t speak Spanish) and take the 3 hour drive to San Juan de la Maguana.  All by ourselves.

Fortunately my brother’s migraine cleared up enough so that he could pick us up and drive us to his home.

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The drive through Santo Domingo in the rain

San Juan de la Maguana was beautiful.  And not to sound biased, but I am pretty sure I have the most adorable nieces and nephews in the world.  San Juan de la Maguana is surrounded by mountains and hills.  Beautiful people.  Delicious food.  We visited villages where my brother and sister-in-law are working and met their co-workers.  Their ministry is pretty amazing – if your church is looking for a missions partner or if you are looking for a ministry to support, check them out:   Miguelandkristina.blogspot.com

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San Juan de la Manguana

My children did get exposed to different cultures and a different lifestyle.  No traffic rules (at least not enforced).  Being a minority.  Lack of hot water.  No air conditioning.  Not speaking the language.

They also got sick.  So did my husband.

By the end of day four of the trip I had dumped about 1,000 buckets of vomit.  I’m exaggerating.  But it felt like I did.  My 9-year-old thought she was going to die.  My husband wasn’t very happy with me and my status as an expert trip planner was quickly deteriating.

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Due to vomiting children our bus trip back to Santo Domingo was delayed by several hours, but armed with Ritz crackers and plastic bags, we climbed onto a lovely Caribe Tours bus and made the trip to the capital where we transferred to a private van to take us to Dreams La Romana Resort.

Here is the good, bad and ugly:

  • The vomiting continued.  We were very careful about not drinking water so I’m not sure if we had a bug or ate something bad.  But by the end of the trip we’d gone through lots of bed sheets and Pepto-Bismol.
  • The beach at Dreams La Romana was lovely.  They had free snorkeling gear, kayaks, peddle boats, etc.  I spent hours floating in the clear, calm water viewing fish, stingrays and starfish.
  • Even though we were staying at an all-inclusive resort they had sales people who tried (relentlessly) to get us to sit through a sales pitch.  We didn’t do it so I don’t even know what they were selling, but they got pretty upset that we didn’t participate.
  • The food was pretty good and there was a good variety.  We could have probably enjoyed more if we weren’t sick.
  • We did not do the upgraded “preferred” package and I thought the beach and pool-area were completely lovely without the upgrade.

After three days at Dreams we headed back to Santo Domingo and stayed at the Real Intercontinental which had just opened.  It is a beautiful hotel.  Fantastic service.  The pool is amazing and the food service was great.  Below is the view from our room.  Pretty amazing.

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Panoramic View of Santo Domingo from the Real Intercontinental

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The last day we went to the Colonial Zone (Zona Colonial) which is the oldest constantly inhabited city in “The Americas,” dating back to when Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492.  We only had a few hours in the Colonial Zone, though for a thorough exploration I’d suggest at least a day (or two) to tour everything.

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The Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor

The Cathedral of Santa María la Menor; the oldest cathedral in the Americas, begun in 1512 and completed in 1540

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On this trip we created lots of memories – some good, some not so good.   Pepto-Bismol became my best friend.  My girls came home from the DR and still complain about “first world problems” but seeds were planted and hopefully their eyes were opened to a bigger view of the world.  My husband put his passport away.  I’m not sure if he’ll ever get it out again.

I think all of us have a better appreciation for what we have.  And we better understand what we don’t have.  And what we don’t need.

And that is something that all the trip planning in the world won’t prepare us for or provide.

So until next time (and hopefully there is a next time), “Adios” Dominican Republic.  Thank you for the memories!

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Respecting my Husband

Scriptures and Observations:

Growing up I witnessed women being demeaned.  Treated like lower class citizens.  Acting like doormats.  Basically being treated like crap.  And mainly being treated that way by men in the church.  I saw so-called Christian men demanding “respect” from their wives as part of marital duty, but these same men seemed to ignore Jesus’s command for them to love their wives.

I never saw a true demonstration of love/respect in marriage the way it was meant to be.

And from those early experiences I decided never to submit to a husband.  And only respect a man if he really earned it.

Fast forward thirty years.  I’m in my second marriage and “respecting my husband” is still a very difficult command and concept for me.

But I know it is something that God wants me to do.

Today’s reading (and if you are reading along in the Life Journal Reading Plan, yes, I am behind):

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Romans 13:1 NIV

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Romans 13:7 NIV

And not from today’s reading, but a passage that convicts me over and over:

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her Lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. 1 Peter 3:1-6 NIV

Most days I feel so far from this image of the woman with “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit”.  I’m much more apt to nag, complain and criticize than to be full of reverence.

So, how do I become a respectful wife?  Is if fear (1 Peter 3:6) that is holding me back?  Or a lack of knowledge on how to do it (because honestly, I haven’t seen it modeled much in my life)?  Or lack of discipline?  Or selfishness?

If you have any ideas on how to show your husband respect, please comment!

Doing some research on the topic here are a few articles I found:

Action Items:

  • Send at least one loving/encouraging text to my husband a day
  • Thank him at least once a day
  • Schedule date nights . . . and keep them nagging free

Prayer:

Jesus, please help me to respect my husband and be full of unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.  Help me not to nag, complain, criticize or disrespect him, but to be full of love, honor and respect.

 

 

 

 

Submission and Respect

When I started getting more serious about my spiritual walk over four years ago I was very focused on my career.  It took almost all my energy just to get done with my daily to-do list.  And though I hate to admit it, my husband and children were often another item on the list that needed to be tended to and maintained.  And reading the Bible was something I did if I had the time and energy at the end of the day.

Through a Bible study I felt a whisper: my priorities were all wrong and my identity was in the wrong place.  I was putting my worth in my professional accomplishments.  I needed to put God first.  Then my husband (and I needed to respect him, something I am TERRIBLE at).  Then loving my children and demonstrated to them how to live a godly life.  I’ll be really honest, the thing I was most concerned with demonstrating to my children was how to be a hard-working, driven, successful woman.  Demonstrating to them how to submit to God’s will wasn’t on my radar.  And demonstrating respect to my husband didn’t cross my mind.

Now, almost five years later, I still have the same struggle.  Today I read in Romans 7.  Most of the time, I feel like this chapter sums up my spiritual life.  I want to do good,but I don’t.  I don’t want to sin, but I do.  

So what is the answer?

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8:5 NIV

The answer is where I set my mind.  The more time I spend reading the Bible, studying, praying, memorizing verses . . . the more my actions change.  The more I submit to God.  The more I respect my husband.  The more I love my children.

I can’t change on my own.  But the more time I spend with God the more my life is transformed.

I Stand in Awe

SCRIPTURE

  • Job 26-27
  • Mark 15-16

And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” Job 26:14 NIV

OBSERVATION

Who then can understand the thunder of his power?

I love the poetry of these words.  It brings to mind the song “I Stand in Awe” written by Mark Altrogge.

You are beautiful beyond description
Too marvelous for words
Too wonderful for comprehension
Like nothing ever seen or heard
Who can grasp your infinite mercy?
Who can fathom the depth of your love?
You are beautiful beyond description
Majesty, enthroned above

And then juxtapose with today’s reading in Mark.  Jesus, the Son of God, standing before Pilate and the chief priests, listening in silence while they accused him.  In the palace, Jesus stood while the crowds put a crown of thorns on him and made fun of him.  Hit him.  Spit on him.  Laughed at him.  Killed him.

All for me.

Mind-blowing, really.  But again, so much bigger than my mind can fully comprehend.
ACTION

Sit still and absorb the words and scenes in these passages. The words of Job “The Thunder of His Power” and then picture the crucifixion.

Spend time worshipping.  Sing a hymn.  Praise.

PRAYER

You are beautiful beyond description 
Too marvelous for words, 
Too wonderful for comprehension, 
Like nothing ever seen or heard. 
Who can grasp your infinite wisdom? 
Who can fathom the depth of your love? 
You are beautiful beyond description, 
Majesty enthroned above. 

And I stand, I stand, in awe of you. 
I stand, I stand in awe of you. 
Holy God, to whom all praise is due, 
I stand in awe of you.

I Stand In Awe
Artist: Mark Altrogge

Overwhelmed

Most days I feel good – positive, happy, etc.  But then there are days that I feel overwhelmed.  My children don’t obey me.  My husband hurts my feelings. I yell at all of them . . . and then feel guilty and like a failure as a mom and wife.

I feel tired and distracted when I read the Bible.

I feel uninspired when I write my blog and muddled when I pray.

But then I read about Job and Peter.  These men were facing horrible experiences – the death of children, health issues, prison, murder of friends and more.  These aren’t just stories.  These were real men.  Men who ate, slept, laughed and probably cried.  Men who experienced  ups and downs in their walks with God.  From Job crying out for death and Peter denying Jesus . . . to God restoring Job’s fortunes and Peter being freed from prison by angels.

God had wonderful things in store for these men and plan for their lives beyond what they could have ever imagined.  But their lives were far from “happy” and they experienced deeper lows then I have ever experienced.  But they persevered.  They kept their eyes focused on God.  They fought the good fight, even when it was hard.

This is what I am loving about reading through the Bible – meeting these mentors through their words and experiences.  Learning from them.  Seeing the big picture.  And being encouraged to keep up the walk and the faith, even on days when I feel like my head will explode and I can’t do anything right.  Just keep walking.  Day by day.  Step by step.

SCRIPTURE

  • Job 6-8
  • Acts 2

Fasting

October 6, 2016 Reading

SCRIPTURE

  • Ezra 7-8
  • Luke 20

He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel. Ezra 7:9-10 NIV

There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions.  Ezra 8:21 NIV

So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer. Ezra 8:23 NIV

OBSERVATION

  • Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord and to teaching its decrees . . . and the gracious hand of God was with him.
  • Ezra petitioned God with prayer
  • Ezra called for the Israelites to humble themselves before God
  • Ezra and the Israelites fasted
  • God answered their prayers

ACTION

I am fasting (and praying) today for my oldest daughter’s heart procedure  tomorrow (on October 11)  and the salvation of a loved one.

PRAYER

Lord, please give me the strength and discipline to fast and to bring my prayers throughout the day.  Please listen to my prayers.  Hear my cries for my daughter and loved one.  Please help us to cast our fears on you and give my girl strength.  Please guide the doctors and nurses and may the surgery be successful.

Pray without Ceasing

October 4, 2016 Reading

SCRIPTURE

  • Esther 3-8
  • Luke 18

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.  Luke 18:1 NIV


OBSERVATION

Always pray – Don’t give up

Jesus told a parable of a widow who kept coming to judge asking for justice on an issue.  Over and over she came.  This judge didn’t care about her or her issue, but after enough times of her showing up he got tired of her bothering him.  And he was a little scared of her.  So he relented and did as she asked.

I, on the other hand, have a Judge who loves me.  A judge who sent his son to die for me. I should keep asking.  Keep bringing my concerns to God, even when I don’t seem to be getting an answer.  Even when I don’t get the answer I want.

One of my regular prayers is for the salvation of a loved one, and this is a prayer I’ve been praying for a long time.  There are times I feel like giving up.

But maybe in this parable it isn’t just about getting my request heard and answered.  Maybe it is also about my faith.  And the more time I spend talking to God, the stronger my faith and walk will become.  And my ability to witness to this person will become stronger as they see me living my faith.

ACTION

Prayer.

I keep a prayer journal.  Kind of.  Some days I’m really on, some days I’m off.  Basically I have three people I pray for every day:

Then my goal is to rotate through praying for other people, organizations, causes, etc.

This parable is a reminder to not give up, even when I feel frustrated or like my prayer is futile.

PRAYER

Jesus, thank you for this reminder to always pray and to never give up.  Please give me discipline and consistency in my prayer life.  Help me to pray without ceasing.  Thank you that we are able to lift our petitions directly to you and that you listen.