Monday, April 28, 2008

Romantic, Enchantic, Atlantic City ...

We took a day trip to Atlantic City this Saturday to check it out. It's only a 2 hour bus ride from the city and with greyhound, you pay $33 for your roundtrip ticket and the casino gives $20 in cash when you arrive. Not too shabby!

The Jersey Shore ...

Unfortunately, it was a little COLD, so we didn't get to enjoy the beautiful boardwalk as much as we would have liked, but we did have a tastey lunch and quite a bit of fun "throwing away" a few dollars on slot/poker machines.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Homeless Ministry

When Jason & I moved to NYC, one of the things we very much wanted to be part of was some way of assisting the very large homeless population here that we encounter on a daily basis. I think we envisioned providing hands-on assistance at a soup kitchen or shelter -- a somewhat controlled environment. What we envision vs. what actually happens are always comic relief.

We are blessed to be part of a church that has a monthly homeless ministry. We became involved last October with a small band who meet up one Saturday a month to make 36 nice brown bag lunches and care packages that contain a variety of items like socks, toothe paste, a sweatshirt (in the winter) and an invite to our church. After packaging these things together, we put them into a cart and walk down to Penn Station to hunt for the homeless that live in and around the station.

Jason & I usually stick together - we grab 5 - 6 bags each and start wandering through the station. Eyeing people and trying to decide --- "are they homeless or do they just look homeless??" If we decide "yes!" then one of us approaches and attempts to pawn our bag of goodies off on them.

For both of us, the approach is one of the most difficult things - it's a complete wildcard on how the person might respond...some people curse you, others bless you and chat with you for a while about their situation and we might even have the opportunity to pray with them, others ignore you or look through the bag and ask for $$ instead ... this weekend I had yet another response to my offering ... I noticed the man I was speaking to was digging around in the front of his pants and before I had a chance to act, I felt urine splashing onto my leg as he relieved himself on the trash can that we were standing next to!

You just never know, do you?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spring NYC Photos

I have been so so so happy to be able to see life returning to the city. Having never lived in a place where everything is brown and dead for 4 months of the year, the arrival of Spring ( a month late) has had me tickled! Here are a few of my favorite photos from this past week.

This white tree has been blooming outside our front window and this gorgeous tulip tree (or saucer magnolia) has been blooming outside our back window.

God is such an amazing artist! I found another one of these trees when I was wandering in Central Park on my lunch break...They are SO beautiful!

These trees look as if the have sea urchins crawling all over them!

Tulips are some of my most favorite flowers - they are scattered all over the city, making my walk to work delightful in the morning!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Jason's New Mohawk

In honor of our 11 month anniversary and the beginning of his Spring Break ... Jason decided to sport a new hair-do. What do you think??
This style lasted all of about two minutes :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

By Faith...

My daily devotional (Streams in the Desert) often has a very good and very pointed view of our lives as Christians and the things that God sends our way in this life...

Today's verse was from Hebrews 11:8

" By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going"

It goes on to later say in verse 13

"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth."

I remember these verses catching me the last time I came across them and they catch me even now...

Something I had underlined in the devotional portion when I read this date last year was this:

"In no way is it enough to set out cheerfully with God on any venture of faith. You must also be willing to take your ideas of what the journey will be like and tear them into tiny pieces, for nothing on the itinerary will happen as you expect."

A beautiful word picture about our expectations and God's design for our lives ... Jason and I still don't know where we will be located after we leave New York in July and I have many friends who are in similar situations right now, so of course these words and these verses ring loudly in my mind.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Brooklyn Cupcakes

This weekend, we left Manhattan (gasp!) for our cupcake run. Jason had been researching the next stop on our cupcake road and had read some good reviews about a place in Brooklyn called Ladybird. It was a charming little shop for some tiny tables in the front windows and too many delicious options to choose from -- we went with our usual Red Velvet and then opted for a Black & White. They were scrumptious and we were glad to have ventured out of Manhattan.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Puerto Rican Sunshine

After four days of being warm, returning to NYC was a little difficult, BUT Spring does finally seem to be arriving here, so that takes a bit of the sting out of it. Julie & I had a simply perfect time!! It was so good just to be able to spend some uninterrupted time together...something I don't we'd had more than a few hours of since I left for Tonga. Here are a few memories and photos from our time in Puerto Rico.

Day One

View of San Juan as we flew in ... after landing we drove 2 - 3 hours to the Western (and less commercialized) side of the island. On our way, we stopped at "Taco Maker," sort of a Puerto Rican Taco Bell. It wasn't too bad...we were also very hungry!

We arrived at our guest house to find this awesome lamp waiting for us in our room!!

After our long travel day we weren't up for much more than dinner and relaxing in the tropical warmth ... and it was wonderful!

Day Two

After breakfast at our guest house, I chased a few of the very large lizards around - I was glad that they were outside and not inside our room! I couldn't believe this one with a whole moth in its mouth!

We started our day by heading to the El Faro lighthouse which was just a 1/2 mile from our guest house, then headed to a small beach to get in some serious relaxing!

We stopped for lunch in the town of Boqueron for a late lunch and our first taste of Puerto Rican beer - Medalla light. We were completely surprised to see these cars and many others like them parked around the town.
After our lunch in Boqueron, we headed to the large public beach ... although there were quite a few people, we really enjoyed all of the trees (and bathroom facilities!)

When we arrived in San German, we came again to the realization how bad our guide book was. It listed the street that this old church was on, but did not provide even a basic map of the town...we assumed it must be a very small place with the church being right off the main drag...we were VERY surprised to see what a large city San German was when we arrived. We have no idea how we actually found the church, but we did and we were SO excited!
Our last stop of the day was a trip into a Mangrove swamp to watch glowing micro-organisms glow in the water as a young Puerto Rican boy swam around stirring it up...who could turn that down? It was actually pretty cool to take a small boat through a Mangrove labyrinth until we arrived in a very calm still area, then to see the black water turn glowing green just by being stirred up!

Day Three

We had decided that today, we would go for a hike and to see a waterfall in PR's "central corridor" region. On the map it appeared that it would be a 1 - 2 hour drive to our destination...appearances can be decieving, can't they??

This is the first of many stops we took to gawk at the beautiful area we were driving through.
We stopped for lunch in a little town up in the hills ... this whole plate of food for $4.50 ... and it was delicious! This church was in the center of town - something I love about Latin American countries...every town, no matter what the size has a center square with at least one church.
We drove through some beautiful, LUSH countryside...I love the tropics!
After 3 - 4 hours of driving on extremely windy roads which were barely a single lane wide (for 2 way traffic!), we finally found this beautiful waterfall.
Sunset as we drove back to our guest house...