Saturday, August 31, 2013

Remember Him

I'm sitting in my front yard with my dog.  There is a cool breeze blowing.  The sun is low in the sky, hiding behind the clouds that sit on the mountains.  I hear the sound of traffic passing and the birds returning to their trees.  It's lovely.

Oh, there are plenty of things that need to be done.  The laundry isn't finished.  There is a pile of dishes in the sink.  I haven't started thinking about dinner yet.  I could go on... But for now I will just sit and be still.

There is a time for everything - and it will all get done eventually.  But this time of evening is too sweet to work through.

Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.”  Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes, and rain clouds continually darken your sky.  Remember him before your legs—the guards of your house—start to tremble; and before your shoulders—the strong men—stoop. Remember him before your teeth—your few remaining servants—stop grinding; and before your eyes—the women looking through the windows—see dimly. Remember him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades. Now you rise at the first chirping of the birds, but then all their sounds will grow faint.Remember him before you become fearful of falling and worry about danger in the streets; before your hair turns white like an almond tree in bloom, and you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper, and the caperberry no longer inspires sexual desire. Remember him before you near the grave, your everlasting home, when the mourners will weep at your funeral. Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well.  For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.
                                                                                       ~ King Solomon, Ecclesiastes 12:1-7

Close your eyes and know that God made this day for you to find Him, even in this day.

Enjoy this weekend with the ones you love.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

This little blog has been neglected of late.  Just two days after my last post, my father-in-law passed away. Both Mark's parents gone, just a bit over 3 months apart.  Now the flurry of activity to close up and sell a house that has been a home for so many for so long.

But it hasn't been all sadness, these last few months - there were two weddings in the family!  In addition to Steph and Kyle's wedding last March, a nephew and niece were married.  The next generation takes shape and life's promised hope comes.  All are occasions for family to gather and support each other.  That's truly what life is all about.

Typical... family and friends!

Tomorrow, our homeschooling year will begin.  It will be my 16th year teaching.  (Two have graduated, and two are still with me!)  What a journey this has been.  I'm so excited to get started.  There is something about the smell of new books and sharp pencils!  I've been longing to return to the comfort of schedule.   I've loved the freedom of summer, but every season is just long enough...

We are also arriving at the first anniversary of our community house.  God has taught us so many lessons on living and loving as a family.  I am so grateful!  I know God has a plan to use this house for His glory.  Lord, help me not be in the way!

So, what are the lessons I've learned during this season?  The "what ifs" of life are not the worst thing in the world.  I've lived through a lot of what ifs this year:  "'What if my daughter settles down on the mainland?", "What if Jean passes before Bob?", "What if there is conflict among those in our community?"  God is big enough for the "what ifs".  They don't take Him by surprise.  In every "what if" situation, God has shown us a new part of His character and provision.

There's the feeling in the air that we are turning a page. Only God knows what is ahead for us.  I take comfort in knowing He is there and will take care of the details.

Shooting in Paauilo - red-neck moments...

Family is expanding - Mr. & Mrs. Kauhane

New beach adventure on the Island of Hawaii

Cousins at the stables - cowgirls at heart!

Rock jumping at Kealakekua - not far from that "little grass shack"

Kealakekua sunset - perfect camping spot!

Cousins fishing off the rocks.

More sunset views at Kealakekua

Rigging the poles on Uncle Kevin's boat off of Kawaihae

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Sunrise at Pohale beach, Kauai

Last night, our young adult small group watched Rob Bell's Nooma video called "Today".  It's a great series that we've been going through each week.  Very thought provoking and great for starting conversation. You can watch it here.

So many good points to ponder.  The basic message was that things in life change.  The nature of living is that things can't stay the same.  Children grow up, parents die, babies are born, and friends move on with new ones to take their place.  The pages on the calendar turn.  We don't live in a static world.  What do we do with that change?

In John 20, we are told what happened on the morning of the resurrection.  Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb before sunrise to bring anointing spices for Jesus' body (Lk. 24:1).  You know the story.  The grave was open and empty.  Mary saw a man she thought was the gardener and asked where Jesus had been taken.  Jesus got Mary's attention by calling her name, "Mary!"  When the realization hit, Mary presumably lunged for Jesus in an attempt to hug him.  But Jesus' response was, "Don't cling to me..."  This is something I've always wondered about.  Why can't she embrace the One she loves?  But Rob points out that it was not the hug that was the problem, it was her intent.  It seems she was not only embracing Jesus for that moment, but embracing the thought that everything was going to be just as it was before.  Things where going to get back to "normal".  Jesus told her that it wasn't to be.  Things had changed, and there was a new mission ahead.

Change has always been a challenge for me.  I think I am getting better, but only a little.  Perhaps it's a God-given desire for things to finally be at peace, an inner longing for Heaven.  Whatever the root, it is a constant reminder that we are not yet living in the Peaceable Kingdom, and as followers of Jesus, we have a mission to accomplish here on earth.  We're not going to get it done sitting on our blessed assurance.

My take-away from this video was this quote, "When we're still holding on to how things were, we aren't free to embrace today."  Talk about a kick in the pants...  Yes.  When it comes down to a choice of yesterday or today, I definitely want today.

Later that evening in Jerusalem, Jesus appeared to the disciples (Jn. 20:19-22).  He walked through their locked doors and stood among them in the midst of their fear and said, "Peace be with you."  He proved His identity by showing the scars of His death.  Fear must have gripped them again.  He had to repeat, "Peace be with you."  Then He told them the new mission, "As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you."  Jesus breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit."  It was as if He was saying, let go of the past and its scars, get ready for the future - but most importantly - the I AM is with you and will be in you.  You and I will be one.  That will take care of your "now".  Live in My presence.

But what does that look like?  Rob says we do this by "being fully present here and now that you don't miss a thing in this day."  That sounds a lot like simplicity.  Something I have been striving for for a long time.  It means that I slow down and recognize that God is in this moment.  That I must focus on those in front of me, right now.   Being present means I can't harbor regrets of the past, or worry over the future.  I must lean into the great I AM of God.  Now. When I do that, I am instantly awash in His peace.  Ahhh!  Maybe the Peaceable Kingdom has come, right now, in this moment. Today.

Here are some ways we've been enjoying the view lately:

Bonfire at Pohala Beach, Kauai

Waimea Canyon, Kauai

Sunset at Pohala beach, Kauai

More Pohala beach

Great friends, and wonderful Kauai hosts!

Lookout over Kalalau beach, Kauai

Fishing with my grand-nephew in Kailua
Fishing with Andrew in Kailua

Love this kid - will still fish with his mom!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

The young adult small group considered this question, "What are the mountains in your life right now?"  I sat and listened, trying to remember what it was like to be 21 and in the middle of school papers and tests.  It all seemed so far back, almost as if I was another person back then.  But what about today?  What are the mountains that Mark and I face in this season of our lives?  The first thing that came to my mind was the care of our parents.  Although living on her own, my step mother has limitations and needs help maintaining her home.  Mark's mom had been diagnosed with cancer and his father requires around the clock care.  We aren't just their kids anymore.  We've had to take on the role of over-seer in varying degrees.  Life has taken an inevitable transition.

Another inevitable transition we face is the marriage of our children.  We've been planning Steph's wedding since before Christmas.  With the wedding in Portland, we've had to leave a lot of the planning in the hands of the busy bride.  But it's been fun to dream and create for this very special day.

We closed the small group with prayer, committing those mountains to His care.  Little did I know that these mountains would require crossing sooner than I ever thought possible.

Just two days before I was to leave for Portland, I got a call from Mark.  They had taken his mom to the emergency room.  Hours went by and I didn't hear from him, so I called him back.  It was bad.  I rushed to the hospital.  Mark's mom had suffered a severe stroke.  She was conscious but barely responsive, communicating only by squeezing our hand.  This was the worst scenario we could imagine.  So the journey up a very steep trail began.  We called the family and everyone who could began to arrive.  By the Lord's mercy, she didn't suffer and in 36 hours, surrounded by her children and grandchildren, she made her transition to Heaven.  It was heart-wrenching, beautiful.

But now, I had 12 hours before I had to get on the plane to Portland.  I also had to get the house ready for guests.  The house had just been re-roofed and there was dust all over from the open-beam ceilings.  On top of that, Andrew had been throwing up for the past 24 hours!  It all felt like some weird dream.  I had to put my emotions on hold and just keep moving.  I would have never gotten things done without our dear community coming to my rescue.  They helped whip the house into shape while I packed.  Andrew was just strong enough to fly, so by faith we got on board.

God is faithful and He led us beside still waters to restore our souls.  Mark was able to join us after five days and the family was together before the wedding.  Those two weeks in Oregon were an amazing gift.  My sisters and niece flew out and were a tremendous help.  All the details came together and it was a beautiful wedding.  Wonderful family memories were made.

With renewed strength, we returned to Hawaii to plan the memorial service for Jean.  All the family, except for the newlyweds, where there.  We celebrated Jean's life in grand style.  Her service was filled with music, dance, and wonderful remembrances.

What a comfort it is to know that nothing catches our heavenly Father off guard.  He knew the mountains that we would face, and even prepared us for it by giving us time to ponder the hills ahead.  Oh, how He loves us!

Jean's bright smile is dearly missed!


On the way up to Mt. Hood to see some snow!

Decorations go up for the reception.


Our newlyweds!

The family celebrates the life of Grandma Jean.

P.S.  Remember that flu bug that Andrew was getting over when we left?  Kyle and Steph caught it on their honeymoon... Sorry, kids!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

January in the Branch House

“And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us,
 new, untouched, full of things that have never been.” 

January was filled with many special blessings.
Becca, Jake (honorary member), Rachael, Mark, Karelin, Steph, and Andrew

My first-born daughter, Steph, came home for a short visit.  We spent some precious family time together for nine days.  We were able to squeeze in a bridal shower, beach days, and take some family pictures.  The next time we see her, we'll be in Portland for her wedding.  The March wedding day is fast approaching and my to-do list is long, but God has paved the way and His hand is on every detail.

The girls, back together before the bridal shower!

Beautiful morning at the beach before heading to the airport. *sniff*

The house continues to be a gathering place for young adults.  Our small group is growing every week and the beds and couches are always full of guests!

"Mama T" and "Mama J" - as we've been named

One of our guests was Danielle Teeter, a sweet woman from Kauai.  She is involved in a new retreat center that plans to run amazing camps and other events through the summer for teens.  She invited us to come over in May for a worship retreat.  So excited!  I know God has big plans for this special place, and is doing an amazing work through her ministry.  It is such a blessing to meet other like-minded people who love Jesus and are living all-out for Him. I loved hearing about her family. We have a lot in common.  It was great to meet a new friend.  She was just here overnight, but in the morning we took a fun hike up to the Lanikai Pillboxes.  We both think each other's island is the prettiest...
new sleeping loft

The community is growing closer every day.  We were able to build a sleeping loft in the studio to give Morgan and Tasha more private space.  We spent Superbowl Sunday (which was Morgan's birthday) together, projecting he game on the wall.  So much fun!

Building crew after a day's work

Football! (Note: people in photo are more excited than they appear.)

Training has begun for our fundraising half marathon and relay run.  The Kailua Nazarene Church will be going on a mission trip to Peru in July.  It's an expensive trip, so funds must be raised.  Mark and a few others will be running the 13.1 miles, and we are putting together several relay teams to share the miles.  Community racing!  I will share more about the trip as the details are available.

Yesterday, the gang took a quick hike up to the Pali lookout.  Up the ridge, there is a spot we call the Pali Puka (hole) where you can see through the mountain face.  It's a pretty scary hike (so I stayed home...) but they say the view is worth it.  Maybe I'll get the nerve to go the next time.

The girls on the way up!

Yeah, this is why I stayed home!

View from the top - that's the Pali Highway. See the dirt path on the edge?

The peak of the Pali

The Puka!

The famous Pali hair shot!

As I start this new year, I think a word that has been planted in my heart is hope.  Hope is the expectation of good.  I don't now exactly what will happen, but I know that my God is good, and His plan is good.  I heard a message by Kris Vallotton of Bethel Church recently say, "Faith sees, hope feels, and love never fails."  I love that.  Faith sees what will be before it is.  Hope feels expectation for good before it is known.  Love never fails even when it is not deserved.  He went on to say, "Hope gets you off the couch and onto the porch..."  That is so true.  We must live with an expectation of good in order to move on to a life of faith.  I can't see what God is doing yet, I just know He is always working for my good.  That is hope.  I've just begun to explore what this will mean for our year, but I know I wont be disappointed.

View from the Lanikai Pillboxes -  Yes, I did take this one!

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully 
look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our 
confident hope of salvation.  
And this hope will not lead to disappointment. 
For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:1-5 NLT

My prayer for you is that you be filled with hope in 2013!  You wont be disappointed when your hope is in Jesus!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Unforced Rhythms of Grace

The holidays are usually a time of hustle and bustle. Too much to do and no time to do it.  Every year I tell myself that I will not spend my favorite time of the year stressing.  This year, I got closer to my goal than ever before.  Simplification!  The key to a peaceful Christmas!

December was spent with family and friends, doing things that make Christmas special.  We decorated cookies, went caroling, enjoyed a children's program and church dinner.  We shared Christmas morning with our church family, serving breakfast to the homeless of our community.

Rebecca, Andy and Jake making cookies!

Rachael, Andrew and Mark making cookies!

Young Adult home group

Mark making toast at the Kailua Nazarene Christmas Breakfast (Photo Credit: Di Berrien)
Mark and his leg lamp - gift from Mike and Morgan
(Photo Credit: Di Berrien)
Back to the house for cookies after caroling!
(Photo Credit: Di Berrien)
About a week before Christmas, our community thinned out.  Several of our young adults went home for Christmas, so our gatherings were smaller and quieter...  It took a bit of getting used to.   But it gave our family a chance to be together, just us.

Just about the time I began to wonder if I could sustain our pace of activity, the pace slowed and we rested. Ahhhhh!   It's just like Jesus to know exactly what we need and then provide.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. 
Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. 
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
~ Jesus, Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

Coming home from my run this week, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the changes that 2012 has brought to my life.  So many dreams have been realized. This new life is good.  God is good, and I am loved.  This house, these people, this community is what I've always wanted.  This is home...

Now the new year has begun and we're ready to pick up the pace again.  The young adults are returning and the calendar is filling.  My prayer is to keep company with Jesus and learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I want to live 2013 freely and lightly.  There is no better way to enjoy the view!