Friday, August 29, 2008

Promotion and Gain

Greetings everyone,

We have a few praise reports this past week.

Harry has been promoted from Lieutenant Junior Grade to a full Lieutenant. Another milestone achieved for his Navy career. It is an honor to be able to stay in the Navy and serve God and country. Also, it seems a little odd for a (near) 40 year old man to still be a LTJG. So we are thankful this week for Harry's promotion. (I understand it is a pay increase as well)

We have pictures, but not the permission to post them just yet.... so I will insert them hopefully, first of next week!

For my praise report..... we now have Gain laundry detergent in our NEX mini-mart! So to all of those who have sent care packages containing Gain in powder form.... thank you! I walked in the NEX....and saw a bright sign indicating "New Item". And there before my eyes sat Gain liquid laundry detergent. I have expressed before how I do not like change.... My clothes, our clothes have smelled of Gain for over 10 years. Good ole' regular Gain. Not the Spring Time Fresh. Nor the Joyful Expressions, even though Gain is a joy to have. Anything other than Gain and I feel like we stink. Yes I understand it is weird...but there is nothing like the familiar smell. "The irresistible fresh scent," as the label reads.

First, the Navy sends an express shipment. Which means, 1000 lbs of household goods, clothes, towels, linens, etc., arrived within the first 6 weeks here in Greece. Next comes the larger shipment. It's everything else we decided to send (which was not much) was to arrive within 3 months. Of course, Greece being Greece, the shipment arrived in 4 1/2 months.

I still remember the day we received our boxes. The excitement and anticipation of what was inside. It was like Christmas. And it had been so long... we had forgot what we had it really was like opening presents....with no clue what was in them.

Box after box. Item after item. Little pieces of home revealed with the opening of each new box. Opened in efforts of making the "new" home feel the essence of our former residence. Dishes arrived (in one piece thank God), dishes we had acquired as wedding gifts. Knickknacks from around the world symbolizing our travels. Vacations, anniversaries, and birthday memories materializing before our eyes. Little tokens that transitioned the old us with our new Navy us.

Oh, just the sight of these few small things brought a sense of self. The Hansen's from 4686 IvyGate Circle still exist beyond IvyGate Circle. And the smell. I still remember the smell of home. The smell of our kitchen and its Grapefruit scent. The bedrooms smelling of Clean Linen. Blackberry Vanilla for the family room and office. The bathrooms smell of Fresh Spa. Every room in the house had it's distinct smell. Once it began it fade, new oil fresheners replaced the old.

I dared not change the smell, that is until Bath and Body Works or Glade decided to discontinue the fragrance. Causing me to shop the B&B Works outlet store and buy everything they had left on their shelves.

But there is nothing that compares to the smell of fresh laundry washed in Gain. When we were opening the boxes and came across the remaining clothes and linen... the smell of Gain was overwhelming. I was amazed that "our" smell could last 4 1/2 months in a wooden crate, shipped from IvyGate circle, to a storehouse on truck, then to a port and loaded on a ship for the remaining journey. How had the smell remained?

It did not matter! I loved it. I held each piece up to me nose just to inhale the "irresistible fresh scent." Each piece. Well, maybe not the undies and Harry's socks, so almost every piece. Even Oliver, the cat, smelled everything. Purring and rubbing his head on all the boxes. Box after box, Oliver rubbed first his jaws then proceeded to do the "drive by". Starts with his face then lets his whole entire body rub the items ending with his backside. The vet said it's his version of marking his territory. So if the cat recognized and enjoyed the smell... surely I was not crazy! I just wanted our old things to mark the territory of our new residence.

Though I needed to wash everything, I could not bring myself to wash a single piece of clothing or linen. I feared washing away our scent. Washing away the little piece of home left in our belongings. So I unpacked everything. Clothes in the drawers and comforters on the beds.

Within minutes Oliver was on the bed rubbing his head and rolling around and around on the comforter. He too was trying to recapture his scent. I looked at him. Intrigued by his persistence. Thought about rolling around myself, but decided against the idea..... it had taken me 30 minutes to get the bed skirt, fitted and flat sheet, comforter, pillow cases, shams, and European shams just so. Again, I like clean lines and perfectly ironed sheets.

I know in the scale of important things in life...these items fall way short. However, the more I adorned our new Greek house with the things from our old house the more I restored a feeling of peace within. A peace and comfort settled inside me. The feelings of isolation and abandonment seemed to dissipate just a little. Our pictures of friends and family brought back the feelings or love and acceptance. The various books reminded me of everything. Travel books....the vacations with family and friends. Christian books....the times at conferences and on mission trips. Furniture pieces handed down from family members. All items bringing with them a sweet smell of remembrance. A breath of times when things were different. The household goods were bringing life in to this skeleton of a house.

It reminded me of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel, a prophet carried into Babylonian exile, wrote of the God's judgment, sovereignty, and hope for the future of God's people. Ezekiel in chapter 37 describes a vision . It called The Valley of Dry Bones. It's a description of the lifelessness of the house of Israel. And how once God breathes life into the bones it created a vast army.

"...I will make breath enter you,

and you will come to life.

Then you will know

that I am the Lord."

Ezekiel 37:6 (NIV)

You see, our stay in Greece at this point felt dry. Spiritual dry. Isolated from not only family and fiends, but God as well. With our days and weeks consumed with this new ministry, I unknowingly allowed my bones to become decrepit and weak. I allowed the loneliness of Greece to feel like exile. Myself being exiled and forsaken on this deserted island in the middle of nowhere. Feeling isolated and allowing those feelings to deaden my spirit, my breath of life.

I allowed a spiritual death to creep into my frail and brittle bones. A slow agonizing deterioration that could have led to destruction. I allowed people here on the island to tell me, “You have to give it 6 months, then you will call this place home.” Yet, calling this place home was not my problem. I consumed myself with too many chores and did not stop to ask for the fresh breath of anointment.

We become so busy with life. Running to and fro. Forgetting the important things of life and filling your days with empty errands. Trying to satisfy of lives with the redundancy of day-to-day activities that we forget we the need of renewal from the Holy Spirit.

An inhale of the sweet fragrance from the Father.

The Gain from our laundry caused a renewal, an awaking from our days at IvyGate Circle. A scent of things familiar. These items gave a sense of comfort to our ever increasing desire for the security of home. Gain brought joy and peace to a restless household.

Like the Gain, our lives need the same intake, the breath of Life from the Father. The breath that restores lives and changes attitudes. The breath that rejuvenates the soul from frail and weak to healthy and strong.

A fresh inhale from the Spirit causes great things to happen for Him when you exhale. So today, I pray for constant breath from the Father. To inhale His sweet fragrance of life we to often take for granted. I pray we do not get so busy with our life that we forget to allow God to breath new life into us.

Inhale His greatness. And exhale His love to others.

Blessings until next time,

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Zorba the Greek Sirtaki

Greetings everyone,

For those of you not familiar with exactly where we are located, we live on the island of Crete. The largest "city" near us is Chania, which is about 20 minutes away. Our town or village is called Stavros. Stavros is somewhat famous for the movie Zorba the Greek. You may have heard of it... if not....

According to Wikipedia....

Zorba the Greek is a 1964 film based on the novel Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis. The title character was played by Anthony Quinn. The dance theme, "Sirtaki" has become famous and popular as a song and as a dance (especially at parties). The movie won 3 Academy Awards.

The movie was shot on location on the Greek island of Crete. Specific places featured include the town of Chania. The famous scene, in which Quinn's character dances the Sirtaki, was shot on the beach of the village of Stavros.

When we moved to Stavros (back in January) I became interested in this Zorba the Greek frenzy. I had no clue (1964 was before my time) the Greek dance, Sirtaki, even had a name much less came from some movie filmed in Crete. I knew the dance. I knew it was entertaining when played at weddings and parties. I never imagined I would live in the village it originated.

In my interest of the movie and the dance I found something very intriguing....

Anthony Quinn memoir One Man Tango...

.... related an amusing story about Zorba the Greek's most famous image - the ending, in which Zorba teaches Basil a little dance on a beach. The scene was set for the last day of shooting. The day before, however, Quinn broke his foot. When filming resumed after several days, the foot had been wrapped in tape, which could be removed for the shots, but Quinn could not jump or hop around as the scene required. Cacoyannis was worried, but Quinn reassured him.

"And I danced. I could not lift my foot and set it down - the pain was unendurable - but I found that I could drag it along without too much discomfort, so I invented a dance with an unusual sliding-dragging step. I held out my arms, in a traditional Greek stance, and shuffled along the sands. Soon, Alan Bates picked up on the move, and the two of us were lifted by the music and the sea, taken arm in arm to a spiritual place, out of the ordinary and far away. We were born-again Greeks, joyously celebrating life. We had no idea what we were doing, but it felt right, and good."

Afterwards, Cacoyannis asked him what that dance was called. Quinn replied, "It's a Sirtaki. It's traditional. One of the villagers taught it to me."

He drew the name from thin air.

The excerpt from One Man Tango is similar to our Christian walk. We are in this dance ... a tango we call "life". Trying to mimic the fluid movements of a dance. Yet, we are injured and broken. Brokenhearted. We tape ourselves up as best as possible to relieve the discomfort. We try to hold out our arms in a way tradition has taught us, shuffling along and pretending everything is okay. Everything is within our control. When in reality everything is within His control.

However strong we think we might be... however tough we feel.... there is pain still on the inside. So we drag our feet ....trying to avoid the tenderness felt from the pain revisited. The discomfort causing us to create a new dance. A shuffle. A throbbing shuffle ... when we could be dancing a pirouette. We miss the blessings of dancing with and for Him. The one man tango is inpossible.....It takes 2 to tango. You and Him.

Pirouetting with the help of the Great Physician. The One with the ability to heal the outside and the inside. Mend the brokenness.

When dancing through life, arm in arm with the Father, into a joyous place is really what we desire. A spiritual place. Place where He calls us to be. Brokenhearted and needing Him. Fully relying on His Greatness and Mercy. Awaiting the anointed power of the anointed One. The best medicine available. Not something made up or drawn from thin air.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he hath anointed me

to preach the gospel to the poor;

he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted,

to preach deliverance to the captives,

and recovering of sight to the blind,

to set at liberty them that are bruised,"

Luke 4:18 (KJV)

He is waiting for us to say to Him, "Lord, teach me to dance."

Let Him teach you to "dance" tonight! Let Him teach you to live free from the brokenness. Live free from the pain. Live victoriously arm in arm with Him.

"You turned my wailing into dancing;"

Psalm 30:11 (NIV)

Blessings to those broken yet want to dance,

Zobras Cave at Stavros Beach 2008

Zorbas Cave

Stavros Beach

Monday, August 18, 2008

Vacation Bible School

VBS 2008

I started this blog in hopes of keeping everyone informed of our ongoing ministry. However, the majority of the ministry happens on base or around military personnel. For those of you not associated with the military... you are not allowed to take pictures on base nor post pictures of the base online. We have rules regarding the Operational Security of the base, or OPSEC.

Fortunately, we have been given permission to post the success story of VBS 2008!

Outrigger Island

Yes, we used Lifeway even though Lifeway would not ship their curriculum or any merchandise to an APO/FPO address. My mother, cousin, and myself checked a total of 6 suitcases totaling 300 lbs. (Not all VBS supplies, a few house supplies, doggie treats, Lucky Charms, Gain, a 8 X 10 rug even made it.) You should have seen us…. 2 women and a 11 year girl trying to maneuver 6 suitcases and 3 carry-ons from Fort Walton Beach, FL to Atlanta to Athens then finally Crete.

Harry brought 1 car and another passenger to retrieve us from the airport. We stuffed 3 bags in the trunk dumped the contents of 2 bags into the small cervices in the trunk. We had 3 bags in the floorboards on 1 in a lap. Oh, what a comfortable 2-hour ride from the airport to home! Remember the Beverly Hillbillies, the Clampett’s? That's what we looked like! If I can pack it, stuff it, cram it, shove it, reshape it, or declare it through customs… I will or at least try!!

So if anyone has any Lifeway pull out there …. “Ship to APO / FPO addresses PLEASE!!”

VBS, a 2-week marathon! One week with our community Chapel and the next a VBS mission trip to another military installation on mainland Greece. My family and I arrived only days before the festivities started. And unfortunately, so did the supplies. “Sorry teachers, next year we will plan better.”

The Chapel was transformed into a Hawaiian island over the weekend. Luau themed, tiki torches, outrigger boats, leis, life jackets, and yes, pink flamingos adorned the interior of the Chapel. A total of 6 men work in this building and we had it luau decorated for the entire week. Not sure what the guys thought of the decor. But we thought it was cute! The kids loved it.

You see… our base is considered an unaccompanied billet. (Civilian translation: no spouse or families.) However, there are a few families brave enough to ride the storm and try. For those moms and kids, life on the island is tough. We do not have a school (kids are home schooled), no kids department, not even playground. The base is designed for sailors. Not that it’s right or wrong, that’s the way it is and this is the Navy.

The kids were able to enjoy a little socialized Christian education and a lot of playtime. The Chapel does not have a playground, but it does have a parking lot, olive tree, and a picnic table. Believe it or not….. the kids had a “blastedie blast” or that’s what they called it. The olive tree and picnic table turned into the jungle gym. The parking lot....a soccer field. Everyday for about 4 hours, that section of the base was swinging! Outrigger Style!

I will just let the video speak for itself….. Enjoy!

After a week long VBS, Harry planned a graduation / block party. I think he just wanted a block party...he invited the entire base. We sectioned off our end of the block (and medicals… sorry about that anyone needing access to the clinic) and had tents, water sports, food, a bouncy, and outrigger island music set up.

The Chiefs association donated the food items and their time to prepare the meal.
The Chapel community thanks you!
“Chief’s, know you made many kids very happy (and fed) that hot summer Friday in Crete!”

The Fire Department donated their time and water! They hosed the kids down with water in the parking lot! And a few adults. Again, hats off to the fire department.
“Firemen, know many kids enjoyed the surprise you had it store for them!”

A special thanks goes to the administration department, MWR, security, media, and the many other members of “Team Souda” that made this years VBS 2008 such a success!

These military superheros took time from their busy week to allow our kids a to have a memorable VBS. Thanks guys for making our kids feel loved and important!

Jesus said,
“Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them,
for the Kingdom of God
belongs to such as these.”
Luke 18:16 (NIV)

And to all of you, thanks for showing an interest in our ministry, thanks for being a part of our guided steps, and thanks for walking with us in this season of our lives.

Blessings until next time,


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Home Sweet Cinder Block

Greetings everyone,

We are finally home. Home sweet home. Or I should say, home sweet cinder block. Because that's exactly what we live in... 3-story cinder block. I guess being in the states for the past few weeks has spoiled us. In the short time we became accustomed to the comforts of the good ole United States of America.

Yes, a 3-story cinder block. The entire house is made of concrete, marble, and tile. When I first saw the house I loved it. Loved the entryway... all the marble... tile everywhere. Every square inch (or meter) is covered with the stuff. It was beautiful, clean and white as far as the eye could see. White tile, cream-colored marble, white concrete walls. And for a person that has to have things a certain way (plain colors, clean lines, everything neatly in it's place) was wonderful. Did I mention the grout is also white?

Or should I say was. Key word - was. We have a dog. Miss Peabody. She goes outside for the restroom. We have red clay outside. And we no longer have white grout inside. Have you every tried to clean light colored marble tile with white grout? There is just so much of it. Everywhere! Three floors of "now" clay stained flooring. Oh, and as for the white walls... this past winter, we tried to use the fireplace (instead of the ever expensive electric heating and the even more expensive oil radiators). Every time the wind blew a certain way (which was often).....the smoke billowed back into the house. So the walls are now stained with soot. And yes it blew all the way up to the 3rd floor. Don't ask me how... it just did.

Once we moved in.....

Our cinder block house.... imagine heating concrete during the winter? I think it took 3 days for the house to reach positive on the Fahrenheit scale. However, in the summer the concrete and tile are nice and cool. Sometimes to stretch out on the bare floor is the coolest and most comfortable place indoors. (It's the outside temperatures that are scorching beyond comfort)

Our 220 volts of electricity cinder block house.....We did not bring a lot of electrical appliances because they were all 110 volts. We have what has been termed as "dirty power." It surges high and low and zaps the plugged-in appliances. Then the power is constantly going out... sometimes its our fault... You cannot run the dryer and the iron at the same time. If you try.... you throw a breaker. You cannot run the washer, dryer, microwave, dishwasher, TV, and computer at the same time. If you try.... you burn a fuse and sit in the dark for hours.

Oh the houses here.... no storage. Greeks housing schematics do not include closets. The bathrooms do not have vanities, but pedestal sinks. The washing machine and dryer are in the bathrooms. The kitchens are tiny with little to no cabinet space. No pantry cabinet for food. No linen closets. No garage to store and stack all the junk. I have nowhere to hide my junk.

Our cinder block house..... is not exactly exact in its measurements. The walls are not straight. The windows do not fit exactly in their casing, which allows the rain to pour through the edges. The doors either slide easily or you have to slam them to close them. I am sure our neighbors would think we are mad at each other if not the same builder built theirs as well! The staircases are small and do not allow much to fit through them. The furniture was hoisted up to the balconies on the 2nd and 3rd floors. Several of the kitchen cabinets are blocked by the refrigerator. The stove temperature is in Celsius. Takes a little while to convert everything from the US food packages to Celsius temperatures. The dryer does not have an outside exhaust and one must dump the water reservoir after each load. The washer and dryer dials are in a foreign language.

Our cinder block house......The water.... oh the water. I take baths...lots of baths, hot water baths (at least 3 a day and yes I know that is not normal). The water is heated by the solar panels. But... in winter, if you want hot water... you must turn on the electric heater at least 1 hour before you need hot water. And if Harry takes a shower must wait another hour before you have hot water again. I have been late to many Sunday school gatherings because Harry and I did not coordinate our hygiene schedule. Also, the drain in the bathroom will only allow a certain amount of water to go down. You cannot release all the bath water at one time. If you try the water comes back up the drain. You cannot release bath water while washing a load of clothes. If you try... you flood the bathroom. You cannot release bath water, wash clothes, and flush the toilet. If you try....YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW!!

While in winter it is hard to keep the water hot. In the summer months... it's hard to have cold water. It's so hot during the day the only times we have cold water are late at night and early in the morning.

My greatest grief with this cinder block house is the fact that, like most European plumbing, toilet paper is not allowed in the toilet. Uh, what? Are they crazy? .... Exactly how does that concept fair with no circulating central air? Stagnant air and poor hygiene? Um....Let's just say we only have a one year lease and I ship a lot of septic tank Rid-ex from the States. Please septic tank...make it until January 2009.

But... for all its faults....and I just listed a few, Greece is a Mediterranean island and the brochures call it paradise. I would call it paradise if it had a Target or Wal-mart Supercenter. (and flushable toilets)

Although this cinder block house may seem unbearable, non-functioning, insufferable at times, I know my God is here with us. I think He is probably laughing at the way in which we try to cope, but here just the same. I am sure when He sees me maneuvering the shaving cream top into the bath drain to slow the flow of water, He chuckles just a little. When it actually works and I am screaming down at the drain, "Hah you thought you'd get the best of me" then start dancing a little victory dance as I patiently watch the drain to await any upcoming water....He is most certainly full fledge laughing at me. (It's the small victories that mean so much!) We may feel abandoned and forgotten out here on the island, but He remembers us. He sees us struggling to make a home out of our innumerable difficulties. He hears our cries when the days seem too long to make it through. He knows our loneliness when the seclusion feels suffocating. He is able to create an oasis in the mess we call our home.

(walking distance view from house....our oasis)

Jesus replied to him,
“If anyone loves Me,
he will keep My word;
and My Father will love him,
and We will come to him and
make Our home with him.

John 14:23 (NKJV)

When the days become overwhelming just remember He will come and dwell with you. As John 14:23 says in the NIV way, if you love Him you will obey His teaching and He will come and make a home with you. Just love Him. He is only a call, a longing, a prayer away. When the things of this life seem profoundly out of synch, there is someone who makes all things right again. Someone who takes life's garbage and flushes it down the toilet. The only One able to help no matter the circumstances, no matter the time, no matter the country or continent you reside on. I am so thankful tonight to be able to serve a God bigger than my habitat difficulties. Larger than any problem I have to date stumbled upon. And more encompassing than one I will ever encounter. Thank you God for being so gargantuan (BIG).

Greetings until next time,


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ladies of the Lobby

Greetings, from a place in our life where we treasure your friendship more than ever. This past week we experienced the loss of Harry's father, Big Harry. Big H age 80, passed away due to complications with colon cancer surgery. We appreciate all your prayers and words of encouragement. We will devote a blog to him in time, when the pain and emotional turmoil is not so close to the surface.

This week Harry and I were in Texas for our denomination's assembly. What a blessing to be near our friends and church family. The fostering of old friendships and the beginnings of new ones is comforting beyond words.

A few days before each assembly our Chaplain's commission meets with the various Chaplains to discuss, train, counsel, and just love on us. It's during this amazing time of fellowship I met the "Ladies of the Lobby". After a day full of events several of us women would meet in the lobby to discuss life in general. Conversations ranged from military life, kids, spoiled grand kids, overworking husbands, parents, chaplaincy, parishioners, anything and everything was fair game. And I mean anything! The difficulties of life were brought to light and then by the end of the night (and some were late nights) made comical.

These astounding women have 20 - 30+ years in the ministry. Their wisdom and knowledge is beyond measure. Of course I being the youngest and newest member of the group had little to offer but frustrations and concerns. Yet they listened.

You see the ladies were given the name "The Ladies of the Lobby" after the men began teasing us of our late night adventures in the lobby of the hotel. We laughed at the label, but it was not until Harry and I were on the plane leaving did I realize what an enduring term "Ladies of the Lobby" actually implies. Yes, these women are ladies in every sense of the word. Classy, sophisticated, hilariously refined women of God.

But the significance of the term lobby is what really defines these women. According to Webster's Thesaurus, Lobby (SYN) is the foyer, entry, entrance, reception area, vestibule, passageway, or entryway. These women were there to ease me into my entryway. Into our new way of life. A new season in our ministry. These wonderful women with years of military chaplaincy experience were my vestibule. My passage into the building representing what God has in store for both Harry and I. They were there waiting with me in my reception area. As I am hesitant to proceed further with paralyzing fear. The ladies of the lobby were in essence there to help my passage between the outer door into the interior of a building. They are my shepherds into a military ministry life filled with uncertainty. Shepherding me with my insecurities and doubts (outer door) into a life God has ordained (interior building) for Harry and I.

These women were also my lobbyist. Lobbying for me to make it. To be a success in the ministry for the Glory of the Father. Lobbying that regardless of our blunders Harry and I can make a positive difference in the lives God sets before us. Lobbying for me to make, actually make the steps necessary for the guided path before me.

These women, like Jesus were there to help usher in the new season. Jesus is there to walk you through the vestibule and into the storehouse of God. Holding your hand and guiding you step by step. Guiding you through the passageway of self serving and into service for the Kingdom.

This is my commandment,
That ye love one another,
as I have loved you.
Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life
for his friends.
John 15:12-13 (KJV)

These women will be my friends in Christ for years to come and I thank God for the opportunity of meeting their acquaintance years ago and the new ones I met this past week. Everyone needs someone in their life such as these "Ladies of the Lobby". Ladies that are for you and not against you. Only wanting and praying for your success and not your demise. Real friendship. Sincere love developed from a common bond. Loving God. Serving God. Placing your life in His hands.

Teresa, Wanda, Tammy, Charlotte, and my Trish, you have a special place in my heart. I thank God for the opportunity to have met you, shared invaluable memories with you, and felt the friendship of such Godly "Ladies of the Lobby". It is a title I will gladly carry. See you next assembly.

Blessings until next time,

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