Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Farewell to 2008

Greetings from the last day in 2008,

I am thankful I no longer write would take me at least 2 -3 months before I would remember to change the year.

But wow what a year this has been. Lots of good times and too many bad. It's hard to believe Big H is gone. Several times this Christmas season I would pick up an item in a store that I thought would make a great gift for him. Only to remember he is not with us anymore. Time heals all... or so we are told, but it just seems difficult still. And even harder during the holidays.

In 2008 we packed up all our belongings and headed to Greece. Without a clue in the world as to what life would be like fully relying on Him. This past year was the first time in our Christian walk that we allowed God to fully control our financial destiny. It may sound easy to say I trust God. I listen to God. I am the co-pilot and God is the pilot.

It was easy to go tho church like good Southern Bible belt goers. It was somewhat effortless to tithes. It was no problem to take a mission trip. Not even difficult to stay 2 or 3 months then bounce back to the states for a few months.... then off again. Seminary took a while, but Harry enjoyed most of it.... maybe not Greek so much. (How ironic...his hardest subject was Greek and we find ourselves smack in the middle of Greece) Preaching for Harry came natural... well a few Sundays we rough, but he got the hang of it. Even the 2 year stint of Youth Ministry was fulfilling, rewarding, and trying at times.... But almost everything we did for Him we enjoyed.

Little did we know, we were prepping ourselves for what was to come in 2008. A call to ministry unlike anything we had ever done before. A call for Harry to leave a lucrative career and work for literally peanuts. (Like that... not like the airline was the one with Honey roasted Peanuts.. I miss those a little.) 2008 brought a change of life. A change in geographical location. A new career path. A new home dweller (Peabody). And a new attitude toward the phrase "Fully Relying on God."

And God knew how to make Harry fully trust Him. In financial matters. Harry is the kind of loving husband who knows how much you shop before the loot even makes it home. (we have online banking) I think he may even have some sort of thingy that alerts his phone if I use my debit card prompting him to immediately check the Delta Credit Union web site. Any of your banks offer this service?

True story: I took a girls trip to Paris. Arrived safely, but did not call Harry until later that day at the hotel. When our friend Mary talked to her husband... he replied, "We knew you had arrived, Harry saw that Kristie had bought something at the Paris airport. So we knew you guys were okay."

Yelp.... that's my Harry. Always making sure I am okay.... or maybe his ending balance.

But if God wants Harry's attention... he does it through $$. But He has taken care of us this entire 2008 year. We have kept our house in Atlanta, thus keeping a pilot salary mortgage. And GOD has kept us faithful renters. We had no idea how to make it all work financially, but it has.

So 2008 has taught Harry and I a different kind of relationship with Christ. And I cannot say it too many times. Trust.

Trust. In a way we never knew before. Trusting Him with our livelihood. Trusting Him to find us a new family of friends in a world so foreign. Trusting Him to provide for our family. Trusting Him to allow Harry to prosper ministerially in His name. Trusting Him that our 3 loved ones are in a better place today than here on earth with us. Trusting Him with every breath we take. Through the good times and the bad. Through 2008 and beyond.

So farewell to 2008 & May God Bless and keep you safe throughout 2009,

Harry & Kristie

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thirty Something

Birthday Greetings,

I have now entered the ranks of thirty something. I have been told that turning 30 is hard. But to turn 31 is extremely difficult. 31 is now firmly out of the 20's and on your way to 40.

I can say I feel no different than yesterday, or the day before. Actually, I am not sure I know or feelany different than when I was 21. Well I guess you could say I do not travel as well anymore. My body aches for 2 days after any flight over 8 hours. Harry on the other hand has a hard time getting older.... not sure why, but he does.

Maybe our lack of children contribute to our juvenile outlook on life. But Harry and I take life as it comes. We trust God to guide us. To direct our path. And lead us where he would have us go.

Blessings from a thirty something year old,

Monday, December 29, 2008

And Again

Hospital visit again.....

CAUTION picture is graphic.

Kadence took a spill at church. According to her, "I was walking gently and I tripped." She was not.... I repeat not running in the Fellowship Hall. Or so she says. And she tripped into a chair. So another trip to the hospital for this family.

Kadence was familiar with the emergency room and its inner workings. When the nurse asked her if she wanted to be a doctor or a nurse when she grew up. She replied, "I am already a nurse to my Poppie." And yes, she is correct. She has been with him most of his hospital trips and doctors visits. At home she uses the automatic blood pressure machine thingy all the time. I have had my blood pressure checked several times a day now.

So our we are hoping this will be our last visit to the hospital this year. And hope next year will bring better health.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Santa or the Bungee?


Today we went shopping. All day shopping. Leg dragging, back breaking, bankrupt leaving marathon shopping.

And we took a toddler. Why, I have no clue? But Kadence, my 4 year-old neice, wanted to go to the mall. I thought she wanted to see Santa. Maybe add a few more requests to her already staggering list. Or in her case.... double check with Santa .....see if he is actually coming.... since her tantrums earlier in the day.

So off to the mall we go. My expectations.... A winter wonderland. A North Pole landscape. A festive winter montage with a warm cozy Santa cottage.

Nope, we venture no where near the Santa entourage.... but head directly to the Bungee Mania Man. Yelp, my niece.... who my sister claims is actually my child that she is raising... because Kasey would never behave in the manner of Kadence.

Kadence or who I call... Madie has a mind of her own. A 4 year-old trapped in a 20 year old attitude. But on this holiday season....she had no desire to sit upon Santa's lap. She wanted to be strapped to a bungee cord and sent shooting into the air 20 feet above to come rocketing down. Only to do it over and over again.

And this was not her first time. She does this every trip to the mall. As my mom sits with motion sickness, my dad dizzy from watching her, and Kasey... her mother, doubled over with fright. Kadence laughs and giggles... up and down.... again and again. "Hey, watch me do a back flip," we hear through the laughter. As for me.... I am watching her... taking pictures.... encouraging her to do more.... So okay maybe she is a little like me.

Sorry for the view.... I forgot that you can flip or rotate a picture... but not a video. So you will have to tilt your head slightly and try not to get motion sick....

And like all good things.... they must come to an end. And like most toddlers they go kicking and screaming away. (Straight to the Mall restroom for spanking #3.... I think?)

Blessings to those plunging into CHRISTmas,


Monday, December 22, 2008

All out of sorts


Meet Logan.... my cousin , but more like a nephew.

Logan, his mom Danelle, and Kevin (my mom's brother) live in Charlotte, NC. The only other member of the immediate family to live outside the 3 mile radius.

The picture was taken as Logan and his mom traveled to Lowes to pick out their Christmas tree. Only Logan had a little "accident" and had to retreat back to the car for a change of clothes. As you can see he was stripped down and had to return home. He looks so disappointed.

I think the picture is absolutely adorable. If you know Logan's personality... he is the sweetest little bugger. His disposition is gentle and loving. He seems to never meet a stranger. So to see him look so disposed...seems just wrong.

But after being de clothed, cleaned up, and on his way home he seems so sad.

It reminds me of myself.... I can be dressed and ready. Eager to go in to something full force....and then wham. An "accident" or disaster. Then you find yourself stripped down, naked, and venerable wondering what how it all went wrong?

But sometimes that is the best place to be. Down to your bare bum and waiting on the Father. Stripped down and broken. In that state is where I find myself ..when God is trying to tell or teach me something and I am not wanting to listen. He is trying to get through to me, but in my hardheadedness I am so busy going down the aisles of life... pushing my cart... trying to find my Christmas tree... not paying attention to others... that He has to stop me in my tracks. However the "accident" happens... it is a show stopper. One that stops me wether I want to or not. One that causes me stop and reevaluate my circumstances.

An example... after Harry and I were married I was on the fast track to Law School... or so I thought. I was no longer working so I double timed my schooling. A 20+ hour semester was the norm. There were even several semesters that I was enrolled at 2 universities.

Life was busy.... studying, keeping house, working on applications. The question was which Law School do I attend. There are a few in Atlanta, but all focusing on corporate law. Not my cup of tea. I wanted international human rights. That's what I love. Like I have said before....that is my life's theme song. I love a good injustice. Well, not like that. I love to fight a good injustice.

The closest school for my hearts desire was Duke University. Still quite a ways away. Harry was still full time flying plus overtime. We were not sure if we wanted to relocate or just commute back and forth to and from Atlanta.

I remember Harry's dad, Big H, remarking on how a young couple just starting out could not make it through a separation such as we were thinking. And I remember how infuriating I was with his parents. To me it seemed like they wanted me to sit at home, keep house, and make babies or something. They did not want me to have a career of my own. Harry began expressing concerns... financial, geographical location hardships, etc.

Wow... hard times now at the Hansen household. In just a blink of an eye.

I began to resent Harry and his family. I was having a hard time with this whole marriage thing anyway. I was and continue to be very independent. So 2 becoming 1 was a little hard for me to grasp. And I felt the Hansen's were stifling me. And now Harry was listening to them. I am very supportive with everything Harry has ever done. I did not understand why Harry would not do the same for me. It caused a rift between us. Small at first, but it began to grow. And it had the potential to become damaging to our happy ever.

I even became mad at God. I had married the man I thought was in God's will, now Harry seemed to be crushing my desires, and in turn I blamed God a little. Again I was pushing my cart through aisles of life and not paying attention to anything else. Just me and my cart.... pulling items off the shelf and filling my own cart. Not thinking of the devastating effects of what my purchases would have on others. I was too independent for far too long. But it was the only thing I knew.

There's more to the story.... but for another day. In short, all the hard work in school went out the window. My last semester before graduation... Harry and I took a mission trip to Ukraine with our church. Again long story... but God had moved me to a point where the 2 week mission trip turned into 2 months. I stayed. I felt God directing me to stay with the kids in Ukraine. I had no clue what to do, but I had to stay. I had to drop out of my last semester. I had permission to stay for 2 weeks not 2 months.

But God had an education far greater than anything I could have been thought at Georgia State University. Of course I did not know it at the time, but God was going to show me my hearts longing. Let me live me desire.

I thought I wanted international human rights. God gave me a crash course that summer in Kiev, Ukraine. He showed me the need for human rights. He showed me how to love the unlovables... and not just on paper, but in my heart. He gave me kids faces to leave an impression on my heart. I had a love for law and thought I had the love for international kids and their well being. He showed me what it was like for these kids. The poverty, sickness, and destitution they lived through.

I had my cart full and ready to check out. Trying to figure out what check out lane to use. Yet God was not ready for that just yet. I did not see it then , but hindsight again has thought me so much. He has a plan for me. This life is not self check out... or if they is they lane you choose you will miss the Glory He has for your life.

"I was naked and you clothed Me;

I was sick and you visited Me;

I was in prison and you came to Me."

Matthew 25:36

And for my favorite part.....

"‘Assuredly, I say to you,

inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren,

you did it to Me.’

Matthew 25:45

I wanted to feed and cloth the kids, but I had not learned that when I did it to the least of these I am really do it to HIM. Or the things I withhold I am withholding from Him. And that was what He was trying to teach me. That's what He wanted to show me before I went off half cocked and ready to take on the world.

And that's why when I see poor Logan's face in the picture.... I chuckle a reminds me of me own disappointment when God had to stop me.... when He put the brakes on my cart... sent me back to the car... stripped me down.... tossed me back in the co-pilots seat... and waited for me to sit back and listen to Him... allow Him to show me what He had in store for me.

And I am so thankful for the experience.

Blessings to those stripped down and all out of sorts,


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Back to the hospital again...


what a year this has been. What a trip this has been. And not one that I am relishing so far....

Yesterday, Italia, our cousin / almost little sister... was helivaced to the hospital with injuries from a go-cart accident.

Italia and her younger sister Haley have been an integral part of our immediate family since they were about 4 months old. My sister was there babysitter on the weekends. And from there they just kind of took root. Fourteen years later they have their own room and spend about 3 nights a week at my parents home. Like I said... they are more like little sisters than cousins, but I think cousin is their official title.

Italia sustained injuries from a go-cart rollover accident. She has several broken bones in her hand and has basically tore the top of her right hand off. From her wrist to her knuckles she has exposed tissue, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and bone. Needless to say extensive damage to her dominant hand.

More damage than what our local doctors felt they could handle. So they have sent her to the nearest (5 1/2 hours away) kids hospital in Birmingham late last night.

She is on heavy medication and antibiotics. Morphine every 2 hours. She will undergo a cleaning and sterilization tonight. Then Monday if the hand is still clean they will take the tendons from under her arm and begin to rebuild her hand, possibly taking more tendons from her other arm. Once they feel the tendons have properly healed they will begin the skin grafts.

She will spend Christmas in the hospital. And she is not to happy about it. My dad has several doctors appointments here in Florida. So we will be traveling back and forth from hospital to hospital this Christmas.

It just does not seem like Christmas for us.....yet. The Christmas spirit just seems like too much work. This year in our family we have lost Harry's dad, my great grandfather, and my uncle. Also two helicopter rides to hospitals. Kayne and Harry are a Continent and 8 hour time change away.

I have bought almost zero Christmas presents. The only ones I have are the ones I brought from Greece.... and I still do not have my luggage yet. I love to go was something I did almost everyday when we lived in Atlanta... but I am loathing the thoughts of dragging myself aisle after aisle trying to find gifts for my loved ones. And the crowds.... and traffic.

I need to find the holiday spirit. We are taking my niece Kadence to see the Nutcracker Ballet in a few days... maybe that will help. I am going to try reading the Christmas story over and over until the Holy Spirit allows the scenery of the manger, wise men, Mary, and baby Jesus to flood my mind.

I have the warmth of family and friends. My mom has the house decorated. Even my little niece has her playhouse decorated. I see Christmas everywhere... it's just not inside me yet. I hope this is not what it is going to feel like with military living. This is not our first Christmas in the military, but it is our first overseas military Christmas. And so far it's rough. I am hoping it's because of our traumatic year.

In the past, I my agenda has been filled to the brink. The past few years... was the church Christmas play. I wrote and helped produce a Church Christmas play for about 100 kids. We were so busy creating, painting, sewing, rehearsing. Not sure if I am missing the busyness or what. I know I would prefer to be busy beyond sleep with a play than sit in a hospital room.

Any suggestions on how to find the Christmas Spirit? As a Christian and a pastor's / Chaplain's wife I feel guilty to not feeling the holiday spirit. For us Christmas and Easter are our "Superbowl's" our "World Series" and I don't even feel like tailgating.

I am sure God is teaching me something here....I just don't see it yet.

Blessings to those with the CHRISTmas Spirit, (could you pass it along)


Thursday, December 18, 2008

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Seasons Greetings,

As Christians, this holiday season is centered on the birth of our Savior.

Christ's birth in Bethlehem.

Several summers ago...we had the opportunity to visit the Holy Land. Without a pre-canned itinerary.... we kind of winged it. We found a driver we enjoyed and trusted (very important when traveling in Israel without a tour group). We relied on Abraham to guide us around his country.

We were centrally located in Jerusalem. Abraham toured us in and out of the various alleyways to see the sights of the Holy City. On several occasions we were fortunate to traveled outside the city. We traveled north to the Sea of Galilee... over to the Dead Sea to float around a while...then down to the South. All with the geographical knowledge and Mercedes comfort of Abraham .

So when Abraham suggests to us, "Would you like to go to Bethlehem to see where Jesus was born?" Of course we said, "YES!" We trusted Abraham. For days now he had not led us astray. "Yes, we would love to go to the birth sight. The Nativity Grotto. The place in which it all started in divine human form. YES!"

So the next day we began our journey... the journey to see the beginning....

Abraham picked us up from our hotel and we headed out of Jerusalem and towards Bethlehem. Not a far journey, but wow we just had no clue.

Security check point

We pass through the security check point leading in and out of Jerusalem. A little different from the times before. This direction seemed to have more security than other sides of the city. We were accustomed (somewhat) to the daily life in Israel. Everyone carries a gun. A rifle. Everyone. Everywhere. When you walk into a restuarant there are security guards to wand you down. Little kids pass you by on the street with a rifle casually swung over thier shoulder. It took me about 3 days for this to normalize in my mind. People everywhere with guns. Okay. That is normal.

But through this check point I begin to feel a little unease.... I turn to Trish....and I see the concern on her face as well.

And that's when Abraham tells us of the journey we are about it embark upon.

"My friend Johnny.... he is going to meet us and take you on into Bethlehem."


"I cannot take my car into Bethlehem. I have Hebrew writing on the car and it's best you take Johnny's car."

"Um, Okay?"

"And I am not allowed to travel into the West Bank. So it's best you go with him. You will like him. He has a souvenir shop. Johnny's Souvenir Shop on Manger Street. So you will stop by and rest before you go to the sight. "

"Um, oh, um ... what??"

West Bank? Not sure that is allowed. May have to leave that off the immigration form when entering back into the States.

We were all quiet in the car. Not sure what to say. Not wanting to be the first one to chicken out. Then when we arrive at the West Bank border. And it just kind of happened.
Several Palestinian guys are sitting at these make shift barriers with heavy artillery. Harry would probably not say heavy, but they had guns. A lot of guns. And big guns. Rifles. And they did not look like the Israelis we were accustomed to in Jerusalem. These guys were kind-of rouge looking. Like in the movies. The guys with the Palestinian head dress. That's what was at the concrete barriers staring at us.

I turn to Harry...

"Take a look and remember what I am wearing. So if you make it out of can tell the media what I was last wearing."

To Trish and Jerry... I express my heartfelt longings to see them after this journey. We have survived a "mugging" in Rome. We can do this. Maybe? And Jerry I still feel bad you lost your wallet. Normally it's Harry that is picked pocketed.

I am not sure why we even continued on the journey to Johnny's Souvenir Shop on Manger Street, but we did.
Quite an interesting ride. Our senses were on high alert. We were winding down unfamiliar streets. All of us taking in the scenery. It was different than Israel. These people lived poorer. The West Bank had a different feel.
And I was trying to remember the route in case I had to backtrack on foot.

Fortunately, I did not have to use my "Spidy senses". However, when we arrived at Johnny's Souvenir Shop on Manger Street.... the excitement had not ended.
We did rest a bit. They gave us something to drink....and I needed headache medicine. Which they readily gave. We perused the store. Several marvelous pieces of carved olive wood figurines lined the shelves. They were beautiful. Artistically detailed. When I passed Trish she asked, "Are you going to buy something?"
"Yes", I replied, "I think our life depends on it."
"Me too", she fires back.

When looking at the hand carved manger scenes I settled on my favorite. When the Johnny asks, "Is this the one?"

"Yes", I explain.

"Just one?" he inquires.

"Nope, I'll take three!"
(Merry Christmas momma and life depended on it)

We eventually left Johnny's Souvenir Shop on Manger Street and went to the sight which is believed to be the birthplace of Jesus. Not sure if it is the actual spot...I think it would be hard to really know, but Constantine's mother built a Basilica over the alleged birth sight. Basilica of the Nativity. The Church is one of the oldest continually operating churches in the world.

Quite an interesting place.

The church is maintained by Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Priests. Each have their respective areas within the Basilica.

Basilica of Nativity

Door of Humility

Inside the Basilica

Armenian Chants

Nativity Grotto

My favorite spot was the Armenian sector. The mysteriously hooded men chanted in the most harmonious of sounds. I would just stand there and close my eyes and breath in the incense. Spirituality 101. Standing in the birthplace of Christ. A placed filled with those worshipping His very birth. Amazing.
We enjoyed our experience in Bethlehem. It is one of those never forget moments in your lifetime. One you look back on and laugh. Although it was not very funny at the time.

O little town of Bethlehem,

How still we see thee lie!

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by;

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting Light;

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee to-night.

Hopes and fears. Fear for our life.... and hope we make it out of here alive. And every Christmas we are reminded of the town in which Jesus was born and the town in which we almost died .... The Little Town of Bethlehem.



Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I have arrived...


I arrived safe and sound yesterday.... 39 hour journey. No passenger problems... just delays with the weather. A lot of waiting in the various airports..... Athens had a 2 hour wait. JFK had a 2+ weather delay.... for those of you not familiar with New York's JFK airport.....the airport does not have a USO. So with your military i.d. card we are allowed in the Delta Crown room. Quite a treat when you are jet lagged, delayed, only have a Greek mobile phone, hungry, and need a place to just sit and catch your breath.

On the JFK runway for 2+ hours... arriving in Atlanta 2 hours past the last departure to anywhere in north Florida. Looks like I will be staying overnight in Atlanta, but so will thousands others. I forgot what Atlanta was like during weather complications.

Up early... to sit and wait for a few more hours. Late arriving aircraft equals late departure for passenger. But none-the-less I arrived. Only to sit a little while longer....

My parents retrieved me from the airport.... in their newly purchased RV. We are so country. And Southern. Most people do not buy a RV the week after being life flighted to the nearest hospital for mini strokes. But that's my dad.

From the airport we head off to the hospital for my dads pacemaker surgery. Where...yelp you guessed it....we sat and sat and sat for what seemed like forever.

More sitting and waiting. I've done this a few times for the past 2 days.... Yet this time I was uncomfortable.... and not because my backside had become accustomed to the position, but because my dad WAS having a pacemaker put in.

Seems his heart beats at about 50 beats per minute and that is well below the average. So I guess he needs a little stimulation. A little jump start. the way I have been dragging I think I may inquire into one.

But many hours later..... and a new pacemaker with the scars to prove it...he was sent to his own room for overnight meds and recovery. He had a little bit of concern etched into the lines of his face as the pacemaker was "adjusting" itself. Seems my dad's heart has a hard time getting used to a normal rhythm of 80 beats per minute. Kind of takes his breath away.

My dad is the most energetic 54 year-old I know. It's going to be interesting to see him with a normal functioning heart. Kind of like daddy on speed. Watch out honey-do list daddy will be back soon. His co-workers were teasing him at the hospital last night.... wondering if he will come out of the hospital resembling the Energizer Bunny.

Man I hope so....anything is better than what we have seen these past 2 months. It's hard to imagine your parents aging. Even hard to witness it.

Blessings to those with amazing parents like mine,


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Here I go Again...

Greetings as I am headed out the door....

Going home....back to the States for Christmas. Hopefully, this will be a good trip. No Suave Guy in my space. No Drunk Guy getting sick in my lap. So my are prayers as I am leaving the island to return next month...


May this journey be safe and uneventful.

May you keep Harry, Kayne, and the animals safe and in perfect peace.

May Kayne and Harry have a blessed Christmas without family.

Thank you Lord for providing such great friends here in Souda to love and take care of them.

May the house still be in one piece when I return.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Good as it Gets..


This is as Christmas as it gets at the Hansen household. The Charlie Brown tree is saturated from head to toe with Euro store ornaments. Lights encumber the plastic monstrosity with makeshift star on top.

"Does the tree lean a little to the right? Yes. Can I keep the animals out of the tree so it can remain upright? No. Will the tree end up on it's backside while I am gone to the States? Probably."

But this is the best we can do with the limited supplies here on the island.

this roll of blue wicker is actually a fragrant potpourri...
unfortunately not pine or Christmas tree, but ocean freshness

I even tried a festive table setting. Every little bit helps ... I guess. With Christmas music playing in the background and soon a fire ablaze in the hearth... Christmas from across the pond may feel a little more like Christmas with friends and family.

I am soon to depart this celebratory atmosphere and travel across the pond on my 30+ hour trek. A long haul, but the reward awaiting my return: family including the new nephew, my fathers pacemaker surgery, Christmas shopping in the greatest commercialized country in the world, dentist, oral surgeon for incoming wisdom teeth, new glasses since Peabody has chewed my only pair, and hair cut. Sounds like fun? I forgot I was working on the sarcasm...

Blessings to those with the true Christmas spirit,


Friday, December 12, 2008

Bad dog


Miss Peabody has a boyfriend. I will have to take a picture for you guys....but he keeps running off when I come outside. Harry is still in denial.

Just like earlier today.... when 30 minutes after her Friday bath.... beautiful white gleaming coat... he lets her outside...

"She was scratching at the door."

"Yes, but it has rained all night... she needs her leash."

"No... she's fine, she knows she just got a bath. She won't get dirty! Hers daddy's pretty girl!"

Then todah.... he looks out the door to find her....abruptly closes the door and gives me the don't ask look. The eyes that say, "yelp I should have listened."

She knew she was in so much trouble. I have no clue what she was doing to have that much clay on her. She must have rolled over and over throughout the entire length of the vineyard.

So while Harry was bathing her for her second bath of the day. I was cleaning up the drenched dinning room. You see the rain was not only detrimental to Peabody's coat, but also my dinning room rug. The rain blew in from the kitchen door and flooded the dinning room and thus soaking my rug. Love Greece. Nothing like sour rain smell.

Bring the rain Lord!

Blessings for those drenched in His cleansing rain,


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Greek Christmas

Holiday Greetings,

My mom sent me an article relating to Christmas in Greece....I was intrigued and started my own search. So here is a compilation with my own comments...

Christmas in Greece is beginning to resemble the holidays in Western Europe and North America. It was once a quiet, spiritual time with very little commercialization, but now, it has become more frenzied and flashy.

St. Nicholas is important to Greeks as the patron saint of sailors. “Go Navy!” According to Greek tradition, his clothes are drenched with brine, his beard drips with seawater, and his face is covered with perspiration because he has been working hard against the waves to reach sinking ships and rescue them from the angry sea.

To members of the Eastern Orthodox Church, as are most Greek Christians, Christmas ranks second to Easter in the roster of important holidays. Yet there are a number of unique customs associated with Christmas that are uniquely Greek.

On Christmas Eve, village children travel from house to house offering good wishes and singing kalanda, the equivalent of our Christmas Carols. Often the songs are accompanied by small metal triangles and little clay drums. The children are frequently rewarded with sweets and dried fruits. “Yummy!” After 40 days of fasting, ..."they just lost Harry from their religious order"... the Christmas feast is looked forward to with great anticipation by adults and children alike. Pig and lamb are slaughtered and on almost every table are loaves of christopsomo ("Christ Bread"). This bread is made in large sweet loaves of various shapes and the crusts are engraved and frosted with symbols that in some way that reflects the family's profession. It is served with dried figs, nuts, and honey.

Christmas morning begins with an early Mass at the Greek Orthodox Church. After the service, Greeks feast on roast turkey stuffed with chestnuts, rice, pine nuts, and a nut cookie called kourambiethes. Baklava, another sweet dessert, is made from layers of phyllo pastry, filled with almonds and cinnamon, and then soaked in lemon syrup. “Baklava, you may know from the Greek restaurants back in the states. Yummy, yummy sugar high and you may need to call the dentist ASAP.”

In almost every home it is traditional to have a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire is suspended across the rim; from that hangs a sprig of basil wrapped around a wooden cross. A small amount of water keeps the basil alive and fresh. Once a day, a family member, usually the mother, dips the cross and basil into some holy water and uses it to sprinkle water in each room of the house. This ritual is believed to keep the Kallikantzaroi away from the house. “Will it keep the rain out or Peabody from marking her territory?”

There are a number of beliefs connected with the Kallikantzaroi, which are goblins or spirits who appear only during the 12-day period from Christmas to the Epiphany (January 6). These creatures are believed to emerge from the center of the earth and to slip into people's house through the chimney. More mischievous than actually evil, “oh good I was starting to worry” , the Kallikantzaroi do things like extinguish fires, ride astride people's backs, braid horses' tails, and sour the milk. To further repel the undesirable spirits, the hearth is kept burning day and night throughout the twelve days. “That or Greece is freezing in the winter months.”

Gifts are exchanged on St. Basil's Day (January 1). “I can utilize the after Christmas shopping discount.” St. Basil is the Greek version of Santa Claus and some families leave a log in the fireplace for him to step on as he slips down the chimney with a bag of toys. “There is no way he will fit down our chimney!” See photos below…

On this day the "renewal of waters" also takes place, a ritual in which all water jugs in the house are emptied and refilled with new "St. Basil's Water." The ceremony is often accompanied by offerings to the spirits of springs and fountains.

Christmas trees which were once rare in Greece are becoming more popular. They are usually artificial and are placed in the home in mid-December, decorated with tinsel and topped off with a star. The large light tree pictured here at Syntagma Square in Athens is 125 ft. tall. It has 60,000 light bulbs on it.

Here is the Christmas Tree after the rioting that took place this past week.

Christmas celebrations end on Epiphany, January 6. On this day, the priests dip crucifixes in the sea and give them the Blessing of the Waters.

So yes.... Christmas is a little different from ours. And I think I prefer the traditional US Christmas. And I desire our Protestant Christmas where the focus is around Christ and His miraculous entry to earth... and not a Saint.... no offense, but little baby Jesus.... born of a virgin....lying in a manger.... with a star burning brightly as opposed to all that sprig and log stuff.

Blessings to those with Christmas traditions,


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Paul and Silence

The kids and I had an interesting Sunday school lesson… Paul and Silas. The Chapel has the Veggie Tales Connection Sunday school curriculum, Harry consistently calls it Sponge Bob. No clue why, he just does. He has never even seen a Sponge Bob episode, nor a Veggie Tales for that matter, but for some odd reason Sponge Bob has stuck. I should show him an episode of each…maybe then he will see the difference from the adult humored under water creature and talking vegetables with no arms. I don't see the problem.

Anyway, the lesson …Paul and Silas….for those of you not familiar….

Paul and Silas are seized, stripped, beaten, bound, and tossed into prison. Around midnight while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God a great earthquake occurred. So great that the foundations of the prison were shaken, door flew open, and their bonds came loose.

Once the jailer realized what had happened and the ramifications of losing the prisoners…he drew his sword to kill himself. Paul replies, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”

The story goes on to describe how Paul shared the word of the Lord to the jailer and his family. Later baptizing the jailer and his entire household. You can find the story in Acts 16:16-36.

The kids lesson was on worshipping God. Learning to worship God even when you are bound. Worshipping when you do not feel like worshipping. Praising and worshipping are pleasing to God. The kids got it.

We even made a little fort / prison with Priority mail boxes. We would sing and worship followed by the earthquake. I would ask the prisoner questions, “Paul, do you run away?” “Paul, what did you say to the jailer and his family?” “Paul, what happened at the jailer’s house?” They would answer and we would start the process over again with the next kid. I think the earthquake was their favorite part. I had a little apprehension for the poor child in prison as the walls / boxes came flying down on them....some with great force. But they enjoyed every minute of it and so did I actually.

However, something stirred in me the next few days. I felt a spirit of conviction…. I felt like the story was speaking to me differently. Something I had overlooked then and all the times before. Something I had asked the kids and they had answered. Something I felt like God was asking me and I did not have a good answer for.

I had asked the kids during the earthquake,

“Do you run away?”

“No”…they would shout.

“Why?”… I would shout.

“Because we do not want to get the jailer in trouble.”

I felt … like God showing me a different side to the story.

Paul and Silas did a completely unselfish act. They stayed. Me…. I would have seen the earthquake as a sign from God to get the heck out of there. Hey, He sent a earthquake …released my bonds… and I am out of here. See Ya. God is so good …He can shake down the prison walls and set me free. I would have praised and glorified Him, but I still would have left. Out. Gone. Nothing but dust. Outy 5000, or whatever it is that the kids say now. I probably would not have even looked backed to see the jailer with his sword drawn ready to kill himself. I would have high tailed it to the next town where people liked me. Where I was safe.

But not Paul and Silas…. And I think this point caused such conviction in my soul last week and has continued until today.

The question keeps going on and on in my head. God was asking me,

“How many times have your selfish desires been to the determent of others?”

“How many times have your actions caused others harm?”

“How many ways have you hurt others when you could have turned around … saw their pain and helped?”

and more poignantly…

“How many times have your words caused pain to others?”

Wow, that one hit below the belt. Or square in the face. Right in the kisser (so to speak)…and all the other cliques. You see… for those of you who do not know me that well… and for those who do know me very well… I have a uncanny way with words. And not always in a positive light. You see they just come flying out my mouth. Thoughts into my head and out my mouth they come. And many times without passing through my “Jesus filter”.

Sarcasm is a coping mechanism I use quite frequently. Not all the time, but fairly regularly. I make comments about things I should really think about first. Comments that on the surface are not damaging, but further investigation reveals discomfort for another. I say things without thinking of the ramifications to others. And in this... I have allowed my actions to cause harm to others. Most of the time unknowingly. Certainly not intentionally. I have dishonored His name with my actions... with my words. I have not glorified His kingdom with my selfish desires to make a silly witty comment. When just a little silence would have made all the difference.

Aurgh… the number of times I have wished I could take something back. What a humbling experience when you realize you have hurt someones feelings. I am not saying I try to do this...and I am not saying I do it all the time. It's just something I am becoming aware of here recently.

Yet, the greatest conviction was the feeling of when I have said things that hurt and did not want to take them back. I wanted my words to sting the other person. I wanted the sharpness of my tongue to be a sword that slices. Then even though I feel guilty... my pride keeps me from saying, "I'm sorry." My foolish pride has been a hard thing to relinquish. My stubbornness an exterior as tough as a tortuous shell. And this is what I felt God was speaking to me the other night.

For the past week now….I have not been able to sleep fully through the night. That’s how God speaks to me. I the stillness of night. When I was working with the kids in Ukraine…God would give me fundraising ideas, networking capabilities, and supply runs in the middle of the night. When I had the youth ministry for 2 years….my ideas came in the middle of the night. Or at least the most interesting ones. When I have written plays….yelp, you guest it…..they came in the middle of the night. So much so that I keep a pad of paper on the bedside table. So I guess it is fitting…Paul and Silas’s earthquake came in the middle of the night and so to… did mine. The earthquake that caused such a conviction within me … and has me expressing my desire for forgiveness to you guys now.

So my desire in the next coming weeks….to suppress my tongue. To silence the sarcasm. To let my tongue glorify and not destroy. To magnify the Most High. And not have one of my many flaws magnified.

One of my favorite songs….I Bless Your Name by Selah

In prisoners' chains

With bleeding stripes

Paul and Silas prayed that night

And in their pain

Began to sing

Their chains were loosed

And they were free

I bless Your Name

I bless Your Name

I give You honor

Give You praise

You are the Life The Truth, the Way

I bless Your Name

I bless Your Name

Some midnight hour

If you should find

You're in a prison

In your mind

Sing out in praise

Defy the chains

And they will fall

In Jesus' Name

So these coming weeks Lord…. I want to Bless Your Name… in my midnight hour I want to defy the chains of my selfish desires and in Jesus name I want to Bless Your name.

Blessings to those with a wholesome tongue,


**It may be hard to do…especially since I will be traveling back to the states for the holidays…..but maybe I can get some sleep now!**

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Auntie K Again

Auntie K times two. We have a new baby boy in the family. My sister Kasey has given birth to...

Karter Lawson Treadwell

The pictures is straight from an iphone 20 minutes after he arrived. So hopefully, I will post some cutesty pictures of him later!!

Blessings to new beginnings,
Auntie K

Monday, December 8, 2008

Riots in Greece

Late on Saturday

A teenage boy is shot dead by police in Exarchia, a district of central Athens long associated with lawlessness and drug abuse. Two police officers have been charged - one with murder and the other as an accomplice.

A police statement later said one officer fired three shots after their car was attacked by 30 youths. A police official said the officer described firing warning shots, but witnesses told TV he aimed at the boy, identified as Alexandros Andreas Grigoropoulos, the son of a bank manager and a student at a school in Athens.

The interior minister, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, tenders his resignation, promising that "exemplary punishment" will be taken against the police officers involved.

The shooting taps into widespread anger at the Conservative government's economic policies and a widening gap between rich and poor. Protests erupt and quickly spread to Greece’s northern capital, Thessaloniki, the western port city of Patras, and Chania on Crete.

Rioters destroy scores of businesses, injuring dozens and putting further pressure on the government.


Protesters chanting "cops, pigs, murderers" hurl petrol bombs at Athens riot police. Helicopters hover over the demonstrators and clouds of teargas erupt in the streets.

Rioters seek sanctuary in the grounds of the Polytechnic and Athens universities, which traditionally have been off-limits to security forces since the collapse of military rule in 1974.

Scores of shops and more than a dozen banks are torched in the capital's busiest commercial districts ahead of Christmas. The mayor of Athens postpones the launch of holiday festivities.

In Thessaloniki, more than 1,000 protesters clash with police, set fire to a bank and smash stores. Rioters clash with police in the western city of Patras.

About 200 protesters riot outside police headquarters in Chania. On Corfu, protesters attack four cars and two shops, and an 18-year-old woman is injured.

Officials report 30 people injured, including police, firefighters and bystanders. Looting is rife.


The Greek Communist party announces a mass rally in central Athens for tonight and the socialist Pasok opposition calls for peaceful mass demonstrations. University professors start a three-day walkout and many school students stay away from class in protest.

Cars and pedestrians return to the streets of Athens as Greeks go back to work, but with a 24-hour general strike scheduled for Wednesday against pension reforms and the government's economic policies, many Greeks fear the demonstrations could last for days.

The violence – the worst Greece has seen in years - erupted late on Saturday and spread within hours to Thessaloniki, Greece's northern capital, its western port city of Patras and Chania on Crete. Helmeted and hooded demonstrators went on the rampage, venting anger and disaffection exacerbated by the economic crisis.

By last night, several areas including Athens's main commercial strip and the streets around its fabled polytechnic resembled a battle zone, with glass, rubble and broken mannequins on the footpaths.

Smoke filled the capital's skyline and shopkeepers rushed to clear up debris. Officials said more than 30 people were injured including police, firefighters and bystanders. Looting was rife.
Television stations showed stone-throwing youths erecting barricades in Athens. Police responded by firing teargas.

The rioters sought sanctuary in the grounds of the Polytechnic and Athens University, which traditionally have been off-limits to security forces since the collapse of military rule in 1974.

The rioting has certainly spread to Crete. A few actual facts. Saturday night in Chania 200 yards from the centre there was widespread rioting that lasted all night, with constant police sirens, halted traffic, large crowds. In the morning the dawning light revealed the damage to the city center. The Bank of Greece and The Bank of Piraes building has every one of its huge plate glass windows smashed – looks like bullet holes but is actually damage from clubs. Vandalized ATM’s, smashed windows, streets littered with glass, and damage to commercial buildings.
It’s after midnight here and we are awaiting what tomorrow's news will show.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Olive Harvest


Winter is the time for olive picking. Due to its mild climate, Crete is an ideal place for olive trees. Thousands of families make a living from cultivating olive oil. The climate and the composition of the Cretan soil guarantee the fine aroma and superb flavour of the Cretan olive oil, which is internationally acknowledged for its high quality.

The olive harvest period starts in November and lasts till March. The olives are ready to be picked when the fruit is 3/4 ripe…. that is the olive should be purple or close to black. If it is allowed to ripe fully the quality of the olive oil deteriorates as the acidity increases. This results in a fast harvest when the weather conditions allow it. The weather should NOT be windy or rainy, which is the season we are entering.

Years ago the harvest was done by the traditional way with long wooden sticks that the farmers used to hit the olives. Another form of olive harvesting is with small handheld plastic "combs" that comb the olives off the branches. The men of the household would literally beat or comb the olives out of the tree. The women and children would then gather the dropped olives from nets on the ground. The olives were placed in a sack and ready for the milling process.

Today, in Crete the olive harvest is mechanical. Special nets or big pieces of synthetic fabric are placed under the trees. Still the men operate the harvesters. It is very common for relatives and friends to help each other for the olive harvest. Everything is done efficiently and fast because the whole procedure is weather dependant and weather in the winter is rarely good.

The harvesters consist of a portable generator and a T-shape rod with elastic sticks attached to it. The rod is 2-3 meters long and it is connected to the generator. The head of the rod rotates fast and the elastic sticks hit the olives and throw them on the nets under the tree. When almost all olives have been harvested from a tree, then they proceed to the next tree.

Harvesting starts early in the morning and lasts till late afternoon with a noon break for lunch. With 70% of all production in Greece being Extra Virgin Olive Oil, it is not a quantity but a quality. Cretans take pride in the harvesting of olives. Their oil has to come out perfect.

It has been an educational experience for us to observe an aspect of Greeks pride in family traditions. Nearly every family has a vineyard and an olive orchard.

Last year my experience of the olive harvesting consisted of the oily roads. Recently arriving we did not understand the harvesting significance. All we knew was to be careful on the roads. Olive harvesting makes the already treacherous roads even more dangerous. The oil saturates the roads and is a deadly mixture with the winter rains.

But this year I have a different appreciation for the harvesting process. Since we have been here a year now….my newly acquired palette and an appetite for olive oil love the process. Like the Greeks…we use it for everything. There is nothing like the scrumptious taste of freshly pressed olive oil. So when some of you receive Christmas gifts of local olive oil.....know there is a family cultural tradition inside each bottle.

Blessings for the harvest,



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