Tag Archives: Christmas

Being Merry and Bright


Since I have finished my semester, I have been able to fully embrace Christmastime. I am not sure what will happen when I am no longer finishing exams and papers right before Christmas. I think when I am working as a Nurse Practitioner in the grown-up world, I will expect everything to come to a halt around December 14 so that I can focus on decking the halls and strolling the malls. I’m pretty sure that won’t happen though so I better enjoy it while it lasts.Here are a few photos of the merry-making around here.

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We bought our very first married people Christmas tree. It is very small. But spirited. The little guy is already loaded with ornamental memories.

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We lit up our little cottage with all kinds of festive things scrounged from Dad’s garage over Thanksgiving….

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The Aussie toured his first Honolulu City Lights. I LOVE the City Lights.

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I’m practically a Dremel spokesperson these days.

We are obviously having a very Merry Driftwood Christmas. ‘Round about the day after Halloween when I began to get the holiday gleam in my eyes when I passed anything tinsel in the stores, I saw Roger get nervous. So I  promised him I wouldn’t buy a single Christmas decoration. All those long walks on the North Shore in the fall yielded some pretty great driftwood hauls.

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Roger even did some decorating of his own.

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And we, of course, hosted a White Elephant gift exchange party. This little tradition is something Roger sort of married into. I believe I have hosted one every year for about 6 years now and this Christmas was the first time I stopped and asked myself if I was the only one who liked these things. The answer was maybe and I did it anyway. Every year there is a good story. There was 2009 when Darren proposed to Stel with an engagement ring wrapped in the last present (It took skills to organize that one). Then there was 2010 when a certain unitard was received…and fought over…and tried on by some very merry men. Then of course, I can’t leave out 2007, the year in which I received Joseph Zephaniah the Beta Fish and best friend Lindsey and I began a year-long saga of beta replacements. So, the White Elephant tradition will continue.

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We also decked the dogs with ribbons and bells. That little guy is Bear. Jasper’s only dog-friend here on Oahu. He’s a bit of a grinch when it comes to making friends.

I hope you are all making merry, loving your friends and family, and worshiping the Savior who is constantly merry over his children!

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Do Not Be Confused


My plan was to post photos of our great Christmas party and discuss White Elephant antics but I can’t bring myself to that point quite yet. Something tragic happened in Connecticut and there is nothing Christmasy about it. There are tragedies that happen daily causing no direct effect on my life, but, I am sure you agree, this one is lingering in our hearts. With a feeling akin to September 11, I fought the urge to weep all weekend. My husband pointed out the overwhelming nature of this event lies in the overtness of the sin. The plain evil. It is crushing. And it can also be confusing.

As I washed dishes on Friday afternoon, I turned on worship music to battle the sadness. Halfway through the dishwasher loading, my iPod shuffled to talking instead of worship. I walked over to hit the skip button and stopped when I heard my mom’s voice. I hadn’t heard her strong voice, her “I have something to tell you people” voice in years. I’ve been wanting to hear it for so long. And all of the sudden, on a sermon file stuck in a random iPod mix, I hear it. She spoke for two or three minutes and I wept through it, of course. And then replayed it to actually listen to what she was saying. Oh, and it was good.

She had just returned from a trip to California with my dad. God had blessed her and refreshed her and given her words of hope and she was sharing them with Living Stones Church. And she said it in her “Let-me-tell-you” voice that I love.

“You know, it’s really simple, but I didn’t know this. God is GOOD and the devil is BAD. God shuts bad doors. He doesn’t open them but he is the shutter of evil doors. And it is such an amazing thing …and we just need to praise Him to the heavens today because that’s what he wants to do. We get so confused. We think he may not want to shut this door. But God is good and the devil is bad. He is good today. That’s what we need to remember. GOD IS GOOD. Let’s not get confused! And praise God I’m not confused anymore! God is good….”

I listened to this several times over and then I did praise God to the heavens for reminding me that he is good. My mom is not confused on that issue anymore. Sometimes I ache for that clarity and that face-to-face assurance of Jesus that she is basking in every day now. And I know there are parents and families in Connecticut with that same ache today. They know the overwhelming desire that everything be set right, for God to obliterate these evil doors that are open once and for all. We, the nation of bystanders and onlookers into this tragedy, should have hearts full of tenderness and compassion, but not confusion. God is GOOD. Jesus came to take on our tragedies and thank God that one day, all WILL be set right.

This Christmas, don’t be confused. Celebrate that God is good. And come alongside the people in your life that can’t quite see the goodness through their own tragedy just yet. God is good…Praise him to the heavens.

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Remember the Rush


So, as I’ve mentioned before,  I am darn near crazy about holidays. Love them. The older I get though, the more I realize why adults get stressed over the winter months and for some it is a crazy time of laboring under expectations and fighting for joy.  The more I see this trend, the harder I try to buck it. And to do that, we have to be brave.

I know it may not naturally be the hap-hap-happiest time of the year, but it should be merry and free. After all, these holidays are all about freedom: we are free to worship and not worship as we please thanks to the voyaging of the founding fathers. And we have the ultimate freedom through what happened on that night in Bethlehem when God pierced this hurt-filled world with the most thrilling hope ever. That piercing, freeing, miraculous, rush of a night. But round ’bout this time, complicating factors steal the rush.

The Aussie has been on the Big Island for work this week and I go over in a couple days for Thanksgiving week. He took the Porky Terrier with him so that the whole family, dogs included, would be together for Thanksgiving. So, missing my little family, I went and spent a few nights with friends Zan and Matt and their massive hound Harley.

There is something about spending a night or two away that simplifies your life. I think that is why I love hotels so much (well, also the puffy robes and room service with the metal covers on the plates). I like the fact that I can get by with two sets of clothes, a toothbrush, a few books, and my laptop. I am more productive with studying (as evidenced by this blog entry) and I’m not surrounded by half-finished projects and distracting tasks like laundry and dishes. It’s been refreshing to sit and study over cups of coffee with Zan and take breaks to listen to her sage marriage advice or dream about the rural health clinic we will open one day.

These few days have made me look forward to joining the whole family with a simplified mindset for the first round of holiday cheer. It is undeniably a season requiring bravery. It is only our second round of holidays without Mom. And we have elected to spend them at home instead of in a memory-less vacation house. I know a lot of you are steeling yourselves for a fresh wave of grief in the coming months. But remember, these holidays are about new life and freedom. So be free to grieve. Don’t steel yourself against it. Just make sure you have people who love you close at hand and keep it simple. If we don’t belabor the minutia, keep from emphasizing expectations, and focus on a free and purpose-filled future, it can and will be a hap-hap-happy time.

Let’s all buck the trend and remember the rush.

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The Barley Family Does Christmas.


It was epic, it was quick, and it was messy. But we did it.

First, we all played a part in hosting 1,500 people at the Living Stones Christmas Eve service. Some of us played big parts and some small parts. Ryan just did all the music and worship and Dad just preached a rocking sermon. The rest of us had big jobs but I’ve forgotten what they were.

Next, we ate a lot of delicious food on Christmas Eve because I couldn’t stop cooking all week.

Then, on Christmas morning Dad, Megan, Sam and I drove to sister Sara and family’s house and did the fastest Christmas morning you’ve ever seen. It was a flurry of wrapping paper, “thanks, I love it so much”s, toys, treasures, and “Get in the car!”s. We were out the door and heading for the airport, Home Alone style, by 9:00 am. Kauai bound! Dad had planned the whole thing and even got us great rolly carry-on bags for Christmas. Yes, I do feel very cool rolling it. It’s silver and awesome.

And we didn't forget a single person.

Flying with the nieces was perfect. No time to worry about turbulence.

We spent an unforgettable four days on Kauai going to beaches, relaxing at a blessed and beautiful vacation house, playing games and enjoying the family. I have also discovered why all outdoor movies seem to be filmed there.

I could live here.

Or here.

Candlelit dinners on the lanai were my favorite.

Waimea canyon was a once-in-lifetime experience. So I’ve had my one time and I won’t be driving that car sick wonderland route again. It’s breath taking, so go at least once. And if you enjoy puke-inducing mountain roads, drive it again and again.

We were the two happiest people to be done driving.

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Well, the parents might have been happy the drive was over too.

We also went bike riding for the first time since 1993 and got a kick out of ourselves. We certainly rode in the same order as before: Stand-up Pedal Adventuress Sara blazed the way, I Can Too! Megan followed close behind, and Wait, I Can’t Make Right Turns on This Thing Erin brought up the rear.


But we ALL looked cool.

Even this kid.

It was a successful Christmas. We missed Mom. We celebrated Jesus. We had fun. Well done, family.

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What are you waiting for?


These are a few of the things that kept me busy this week:

Foam and wood block!

With all the hip blogs out there, I still find the best ideas in Living Magazine. Hard copy baby.

Sister's engagement party!

 

They're so great.


Last week I kept myself busy with all kinds of crafts and baking and even threw an engagement party for sister. Being a stay-at-home mom without a husband or kids is super easy! But then on Wednesday, I baby-sat my two-year-old niece. Zoe is awesome. She didn’t pitch fits, cry, or get injured. But I still once again stare at my twin sister in hero-worship awe and pray that one day I will be able to brush my teeth and take care of children.

During these un-busy transition seasons in life, I sometimes get cranky waiting to figure out my next step: where do I live, where do I do my next clinical location…but if I didn’t have to wait, when would I listen to God? When would I exercise my faith? It’s in the wait that the process happens. It’s in the wait, that I sit down on the inside and trust my good God.

Isaiah prophesied about Jesus’ birth and didn’t see the fulfillment in his lifetime. Anna and Simeon waited in the temple of Jerusalem until almost the very end of their lives before they saw the Messiah-child. But they all waited and they all believed because it was going to be EPIC. God still has epic plans in the works and my little life weaves into that somehow. Totally worth waiting for.

If you are waiting for something, maybe something that didn’t happen for you this year, keep your head up. Your life weaves into God’s epic plan too. Stay busy but sit down on the inside and trust our good God.

 

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For the birds.


The Christmas season has been going well. They say the first year of grief is the hardest because you go through each “first” with your new big empty space. I say whatever. Maybe it’s true. But that is about as helpful as the grief books I still haven’t read. Grief isn’t an emotion. I didn’t wake up yesterday feeling grieved. Grief is a giant magnifying glass for the normal feelings.

Yesterday I woke up mad. And since Mom isn’t here, I woke up furious. I swam for a mile in the ocean with my friend Carol and that slightly improved matters. But then I hit a too-slow pigeon with my 30 mph Cavalier. I realized when I burst into tears after parking that it probably wasn’t the pigeon death that started the tears. It was probably the fact that every day I decide to be happy about Christmas and that means I have to make a lot of little choices. Turn the radio station to a different channel when Amy Grant starts. Don’t hang that ornament. Buy a new tree topper. Don’t light that cinnamon candle, light the pine candle. Don’t make the spritz cookies, make the gingerbread men. Every day I decide what part of Christmas I can do and what part will turn me into a mascara mess. We pulled out just the right amount of decorations so that we weren’t a Bah Humbug house but not so much that every end-table told a story of a past Christmas. And it has been working. We are enjoying the season. But the wrenching sobs over a pigeon reminded me that it is a bit tenuous.

So, yesterday, I did the only thing to be done when the tear ducts go rebel, I went to the movies with sisters and girlfriends. We went to see New Years Eve featuring just about every star in Hollywood between the ages of 20 and 70. Let me tell you, they got their money’s worth out of me. Every sappy line, every broken heart, every reunited family got me. The sisters vote cheesy. I vote heartwarming. See it for yourself.

As Megan and I drove back up to the house, we spotted a Christmas-presenty looking thing by the door. We may be 24 and 28 but we might have gotten a little excited still. Turns out it was only a cracker box but it was tweeting. Dad had trimmed the palm tree and had trimmed two baby pigeons right out of their nest. Dad’s a tender guy so he left them on the ground for a few hours hoping the mother bird/cat would find them. But finally he made a box nest and gifted them to his daughters. I’ve done the baby bird thing before so I knew what I was in for. But this time I resented it a little less since I had just killed a member of the species a few hours earlier.

Each time I have fed the little helpless things, I’ve thought how completely dependent they are on a caregiver. They eat until their eyes close and they sleep little pigeony sleep. And I remember how fragile I am in God’s hands and how carefully he takes care of me. A bird-lover friend is coming to pick them up this afternoon so the analogy ends there. God’s got me for keeps…from my first Christmas to my last.


 

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Craig and his List


Last week I took off on trusty Hawaiian Airlines for Oahu. I had three days worth of appointments and apartment searching to do before a group of friends from church spent a relaxing weekend at some beach cabins in Waianae.

I arrived at around 7:00 am since I am cheap and my boyfriend picked me up on time with Starbucks steaming since he is awesome. We had a great early breakfast at Wailana’s coffeehouse where I scoured Craigslist on both of our iphones over another cup of coffee. I was on the hunt. I made a dozen calls and looked at a few places. Nothing worked out but I was still putting my trust in Craigslist. It’s always worked before.

We went on a hike to the Makapuu Lighthouse Lookout. I’ve done very few hikes on Oahu so I was glad to build my hiking resume. I received a callback about a studio apartment while enjoying a panoramic view of the rugged Waimanalo coastline. I am glad the view was so incredible because a “studio apartment” is not a “studio apartment” when it is actually a two car garage and you share the bathroom with the fifty-year-old landlord man. But I told Craigslist it was okay. I’m still into you.

Andy is an avid hiker. I'm grateful for that.

Over the next two days, I reunited with a close childhood friend that is interviewing for medical school, attended a going-away dinner, met with a state senator about Hawaii healthcare, had a job interview, met with several professors, and ate escargot for the first time in my life (it tastes like garlic butter and is delicious). And all the while I was Craigslisting. Well, I put the List away for the Senator but I think I snuck a peak during the escargot.

Here are some of Craig’s funniest offerings:
A lady that swore she knew me since my name was Erin. Yep.
A woman who wanted a grand a month for what I am fairly certain used to be her kids’ playhouse in the backyard.
A man that told me he couldn’t afford to patch the holes in the wall but the place was still worth two grand.
I didn’t bother talking to the individual who posted “serious inquiries only, I don’t have any time to waste.”
A nice landlady that told me her neighbors would be watching me while she was away. To make sure no one spent the night for free. Because she charges.
Several people that either did not speak English or told me they had no idea why their number was on Craigslist.
And let’s not forget the garage with the timeshare toilet.

I won’t even list the gobs of apartments in my price range that I rejected out of hand for safety, hygiene, and pure pickiness reasons. Or the apartments that I would gladly live in once I win the lottery. By the time I arrived at the Waianae cabins, I was not on speaking terms with Craig or his List.

Seven of us shared two beautifully appointed beach cabins thanks to some handy military connections. I had my very own air-conditioned room with a nice closet and began to wonder if I could just claim squatters’ rights and be done with the List forever. The beach was steps away and we grilled out, played cards, went to sleep to crashing waves, and woke to stand-up paddlers in the misty waters. But it’s too far from town so I decided not to claim my cabin.

Hammocks and sunsets.

Now, I am back in Kona and still close to breaking up with Craigslist but we are getting along by spending less time together. Because he’s not in charge anyway. My good God has a good plan and will show me in his good time.

In the meantime, we have decorated for Christmas as of tonight. And it’s perfect. I’ll never break up with Christmas.

 

 

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I’m not quite done being Thankful.


I may be a little behind but I can still be thankful.

After all…I have a lot to be grateful for.

All week I was grateful for a wonderful wintry Waimea get-away with the Evans family.

I am grateful for sisters and cozy nights.

I'm grateful for twin sisters that look good in stripes and fireplaces. Both very cheery.

I'm grateful for all of these people. And fireplaces still.

I'm grateful for best friends near and far.

I'm grateful for a whole lot of eating. And a great kitchen.

I'm grateful for these amazing kids and their talented parents.

I'm grateful for sunny days and long walks.

I'm grateful for brother and nephew and naps.

I'm grateful for our expanding family - an engaged sister!

And I'm grateful for a Dad that still loves to take us exploring "around the next bend".

As we leave Thanksgiving and barrel toward Christmas, I am grateful for every single person who has made the last five months bearable…even happy when possible. If you are reading this, thank YOU.

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