Aug 26, 2014

travel tuesday // carmel to monterey

We loved exploring the Redwoods, San Francisco's waterfront {123} and Napa Valley's Castello di Amorosa, but we were super eager to get some fresh air and hear the relaxing tide. Two hours south of Oakland, we started in Point Lobos in Carmel and heading north through the scenic "17 Mile Drive" and up to Monterey. Although it wasn't yet warm enough to take a swim, we found some rest and relaxation that was much needed. 

 Point Lobos and a little store in Carmel
 Lone Cypress (above left), one of Pebble Beach's main attractions, is one of the most photographed trees ever. It is one of the most frequented stops on the 17 Mile Drive
 Another stop along the 17 Mile Drive is Cypress Point Lookout. So many beautiful colors!
I can't remember the names of all these look-out points along the 17-Mile Drive, but they were all drop-dead gorgeous! I wish we had all day to sit around and enjoy them all, but we were soon off a bit more north to check out Monterey's Fisherman's Wharf
This was such a fun trip with some of my siblings! Lots of driving, but also lots and lots of laughs! 

Aug 20, 2014

ALL OF NATURE DECLARES // snippets



I was looking back to posts from Spring 2011, when I was in a season of learning. I was in grad school in Seattle, but I was also in a metaphorical school of learning about God's faithfulness and love. I was gleaning many lessons from nature and wrote this post, that I have re-read and updated, to summarize why I believed this to be a beautiful way that God shows us more of Himself. Grab a cup of tea and sit with me as I stroll down memory lane and share snippets of why it is important we look to nature to show us a whisper of the Creator. 
_____________________________

I spent almost an hour walking along a beautiful trail in Kent, Washington area, which is filled with rustic barns and green pastures -- my kinda place! I wondered as I wandered about the beauty of the Creator's masterpiece and verses filled my mind as I passed blooming flowers, quiet ponds, lusch grass fields, melodious sonnets of birds high in the green trees, and lazy horses basking in the sunlight. There is just so much peace and joy in these sounds and sights. Jane Austen writes in Mansfield Park"To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment."  

The Creator provides for His beloved creation.
In the book of Matthew, the flowers of the fields are regarded as being adorned more majestically than all of King Solomon's splendor. Remember Solomon? Visitors to his glorious palace could not even remark on half of all the beauty within his kindgdom. Yet, the best-dressed characters in his kingdom had to be the brilliantly colored flowers in the fields, untouched my man, but cared for by the ultimate Gardener.   

"The richness of [the flower's] crimson petals outshone anything in Solomon's closet. It's velvety feel smoother than Solomon's silk, and the splash of gold in its center was purer than his crown. The intricate design of the flower surpassed the abilities of the royal tailors 
... the lily's fragrance sweeter than Solomon's perfume.

The same God who dresses the flowers and feeds the birds knows our needs too. He knows when we're money-short and bone-tired. He knows when we need food and rainment  The billions of flowers blooming around the globe are preachers with a single message: "Don't worry! God cares for our needs."
[Robert J. Morgan in My All in All devotional]

Creation may wither away, but the Creator will never fade away or fail us.

"The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever."
[Isaiah 40:8]. 
Those 'glorious flowers' I just mentioned? In the dead of a dry autumn, they eventually wither away. Does this mean that the Creator was unfaithful in keeping them alive? Does it give less value to the flowers of the fields? It means that creation was not made to last forever. But one thing will remain: the Truth of God's Word; His love demonstrated on a wooden cross that would forever remind us that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And when we accept this Truth, we will not wither or fade because of His life in us. We can hold onto the words of the Bible with a firm grip, knowing that the words will bring life in any season.


"God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars."[Martin Luther]


Creation glorifies and worships the Creator by fulfilling its individual purpose He's assigned to it.
Rick Warren wrote in A Purpose Driven Life: "The way a person can bring glory to God is to fulfill his God-ordained purpose on earth, just as nature does the same by fulfilling its purpose." We often categorize worship as singing songs to God, but this is just a small portion of the meaning of worship. Fulfilling His purposes for your life is worship; joyfully and humbly answering His call upon your life is a lifesong that is sweeter than any musical note can produce.
Creation sings a worship song of God's goodness. It is shouting out a proclamation of praise to the Creator God:

The flowers of the field adorned in beauty teach us not to worry
The rushing waterfalls going lower and lower teach us humility and surrender.

The birds of the air teach us that there is always a reason to sing.

The brilliant hues of a rainbow remind us of God's faithfulness in His promises.
The yellow daffodils bring hope after winter that spring will surely follow.

"How many stanzas in the springtime breeze?
How plenty the raindrops? As He doth please.

There is no meter and there is no rhyme,

Yet God's poems always read in perfect time."
[Astrid Alauda, "Poems on Nature"]


What have you learned from nature recently? What parts of creation echo God's love, goodness, faithfulness, sovereignty, or anything else that has encouraged you?


 my beloved trail in Kent that I would visit frequently

Aug 16, 2014

ALL OF NATURE DECLARES // lesson of the English daisy


"The God said, "Let the east sprout vegetation:
 plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing 
fruit after their kind with seed in them", and it was so"
== Genesis 1:11 NASB ==

The English daisy is the baby sister of the more known daisy flowers. The button-size flower rests close to the ground and flourishes in open fields. It seems to also live domestic lawns. But rather than staying fenced in the constrains of a garden area, the English daisy is a wild child. She goes where she wants and in the early spring, you can see her pop up in random large patches amidst a sea of green grass. The cheerful bloom, with her delicate petals and tiny frame, looks beautiful in a field, but homeowners often get annoyed seeing the English daisy appearance on their expensively-manicured lawns. "Why can't they grow in that little corner, or that one over there by my other flowers?".  Instead, the petite wild child seems to bloom without order and without boundaries (1).

I personally can delight in seeing English daisies in fields of parks or trails while walking. Their lack of order do not bother me then. I see the larger picture -- a field bursting with life -- and enjoy their colorful contrast with the oft monotonous green grass. But if they were to be spread seemingly haphazardly across a lawn that I painstakingly dug and planted to portray some semblance of order and structure, well, then if I am being honest, I would not be so delighted in these tiny little flowers.

Order is needed and important in our world. We see order in nature when the tide of the ocean draws nearer to the shore at night and then draws back in the morning, over and over. Order is seen in fruit trees --- if I plant an apple tree, I can trust apples (rather than pears, carrots, or snow peas) will grow eventually. Mountain ranges such as the Rockies of North America and the Pyrénées of southern France, stretch across thousands of miles in linear patterns that boast magnificent views. And heading much further back to the creation story of the first chapter in the Bible, there was order in creation. Every day, God created something new. He had order in creating the night and day before He spoke the animals into being; the sun, mood, and brilliant stars before the wildflowers and trees. 

"Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. The do not work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you . . ."
== Matthew 6:28-30 ==

Solomon is well-known for his wisdom, but also for his extravagant wealth, which was not always used wisely. He pleased his 700 wives and 300 concubines with their own places of worship within Israel, bringing foreign gods and temples into a land dedicated to the land of Jehovah. He built a palace, had large forces of chariots, and lavished extraordinarily expensive gifts to visitors such as the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10-11). For a man of such magnitude and splendor, you have to imagine he was dressed in style. Prada and Gucci's got nothin' on him. I can only imagine his royal robes. And yet, the wildflowers are dressed more beautifully because they were fashioned with the Word of a Creator who knows where each belong. Each delicate petal is designed with purpose though we may discard them as weeds in our square patch of lawn that we desperately want to keep in our own sense of order.

While order is needed and clearly shown in nature, there is still so much that our own eyes may declare as dis-order within creation, one of which may be wildflowers such as the English daisy that run loose in areas we want to show order. But while we may see it as random and unsightly, God sees purpose and beauty --- both with the wildflowers of the field and the wildflowers in our lives. Illnesses that seem to "sprout" out of nowhere. A new, unexpected expense such as a flat tire, leaky roof, or broken window. Life events that shift you from one city to the next. Life happens while we try to micromanage and put order and structure to it's wild ways. Life throws us proverbial curve-balls and we have the choice to go with the flow or cower in fear and worry. 

This lesson hits close to home. I like order. No, no -- I LOVE order. My apartment is usually kept in meticulous order, I am punctual to most events, I plan out intricate itineraries on vacations, and I relax by organizing files in my computer and washing dishes. If you're looking for the Order Queen, I am definitely in the running for the crown. And while a clean apartment, a fun vacation, and an organized computer home screen are not bad, when my need for order supersedes my need to trust that God's plan and order are higher and better than my own, I am in trouble. 

What I may see as chaos and confusing lack of order, God sees a plan. I see a small corner of the grander picture He is painting, and while I often think I understand this mental picture, I do not live it out. Yes, I believe God is sovereign and good, but does my life show it? When my heart quakes in fear and my mind is wrestling with all of the worst possible scenarios because something happened that did not go according to my planned schedule, am I trusting that He cares for me more than the wildflowers? Do I rest in His capable arms that comfort in these times when I cannot make heads or tails of anything around me, or do I try to loosen His comforting, fatherly grip and try to make it on my own? Do I frown and fret when my "expertly manicured" lawn is littered with English daisies that grow in the most inconvenient areas? 

Far too many times, I choose to worry rather than trust. I miss the beauty of the small surprises of life just as a meticulous homeowner may miss the beauty of the English daisy that has shot up on his front lawn. He wants those meddling little blooms gone so the lawn looks orderly and clean. And I often want the meddling little disturbances of life that do not match up with what I think looks orderly to disappear. He may use fertilizer in attempt to get rid of his and I will use worry, fear, and an overbearing attempt at restructuring and fixing things into my definition of order. But we will both come back unsuccessful because these little surprises will not cease to sprout again eventually. 

What I need is a fresh pair of lenses. I need eyes to see beauty amidst the seemingly haphazard changes of life and trust that nothing is haphazard in the hands of God. I need to remind myself of the many times in Scripture as well as testimonies, songs, poems, and books that show He expertly takes care of His beloved children. Nothing is beyond His ability and power. Though this does not  negate the fact that tough,trying times will come and times that seem disorderly and littered with questions and confusion. Yet, as a child of God, I am called to trust in His hand at work. He can make beauty from ashes and order from disorder. And while it may look exactly opposite to what my mind may conjure up as "order", I am still called to trust. 

In pastures green? Not always!
Sometimes He who knowest best in kindness
Leadeth me in weary ways where heavy shadows be;
Out of the sunshine into the darkest night,
I oft would faint with sorrow and of fright

Only for this – I know He holds my hand.
So whether in the green or desert land,
I trust, although I may not understand.
And by still waters? Not always so!
Oft times the heavy tempests round me blow.

But when the storm beats loudest, I cry aloud for help.
The Master standeth by and whispers to my soul,
“Lo, it is I.”
Above the tempest wild I hear him say,
“Beyond this darkness lies the perfect day.
In every path I lead the way.”

So whether on the hilltops high and fair I dwell,
Or in the sunless valleys where the shadows lie,
What matters? He is there.
So where He leads me I can safely go,
And in the blessed hereafter I shall know
Why in His wisdom He hath led me so.

 === John F. Chaplain ===


English daisies during in early spring at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wa
1) Hedstrom-Page, Deborah. Meet Me in the Meadow: Finding God in the Wildflowers (2005).

Aug 12, 2014

Travel Tuesday // Castello di Amorosa

The day after our biking adventure through San Francisco's bay area, we took a day trip over to the Napa Valley and visited Castello di Amorosa, translated as the Castle of Love. I had to continuously remind myself that I was not in a real castle and opened to the public less than ten years ago. Complete with a moat, defensive towers, a drawbridge, interior courtyard, chapel, knights's chamber, and a great hall, Castello di Amorosa is a sight to see. Old world crafting techniques and authentic antiques as well as replicas that would match the 12th to 13th century architecture (1). 

Functioning as a tourist site as well as winery within Napa Valley, the price to enter is pretty reasonable: $20 for a self-guided tour (does not include a few part of the castle) and five wine tastings, $35 for the guided tour and 5 wine tastings, and $10 for the underage self-guided tour with the grape juice (which funny enough, was my favorite tasting!). Check out the site for more info. If you are in Napa Valley, do not miss this masterpiece! You'll feel like you've stepped into through a looking glass into a medieval land in a foreign land. 
 
 My souvenir from the trip, the deliciously sweet muscato grape juice

Missed the first part of our California adventure?

Biking through San Fran bay area [ part one, two, three ]