Apr 28, 2015

Travel Tuesday: Seattle Day Trip

Seattle Day Trip 
In early April, Greg was visiting the Northwest and we wanted to visit my home away from home, Seattle. We spent the day exploring downtown in true tourist fashion, hitting up all the beloved spots.

We started the day with ample fuel for our busy day of exploring at my favorite breakfast spot in Seattle, Portage Bay Cafe. I usually go to either the Ballard or Roosevelt (U-Village) locations, but the South Union restaurant was closest to downtown. Greg loved the (GF) Buckwheat pancakes with all the fixings and I ordered the usual (the delicious dungeness crab cake benedict). 
Once we filled ourselves with the amazing food and were ready to start exploring, we headed for the Space Needle. We relaxed with tea inside the observation area and then braved the strong winds once it was dry enough. We even got to try out the new Selfie Cam to snap a photo of us, which was included in the entrance fee.

We then drove a few miles down to Pike Place Market and explored the booths while enjoying the sun that decided to peak out.

You can't be walking through Pike Place and neglect the Gum Wall or the obligatory photos in front of  market signs.  My favorite part of the shops and booths are the flower booths. So many gorgeous bouquets to choose from. Greg bought me this beautiful one ... nothing beats Pike Place's fresh flowers!
 To end the day, we strolled through Pier 57 and rode the Seattle Great Wheel, which has been on my bucket list since it was built several years ago. The sun was shining brightly and the view was outstanding! 

We had an awesome time in the Emerald City and were so thankful the weather cooperated for the majority of the day. 

Apr 26, 2015

April book reviews

April's Reading List

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
C.S. Lewis
I have been well-acquanted with this first step into the  much-loved Narnia world. I saw a play in elementary school, watched the Disney version, and read an abridged children's picture book years ago. But none of these come close to the original! And since I started the Narnia journey last month with the audiobook version of The Magician's Nephew, I wanted to follow suit with the rest of the series in chronological order. The HarperCollins Narnia audiobooks (or atleast the three I've listened to thus far) are expertly narrated by actors who are creative in the various characters presented in these books. I've thoroughly enjoyed listening on my commutes to work, gym time, and  cooking in my apartment.

For those who do not know the plot, here is a quick synopsis: Four siblings are sent to live with a professor in the English countryside during WWII. Out of sheer boredom, they go exploring in the house and eventually, the youngest, Lucy, discovers a magical wardrobe that leads her to the world of Narnia. Eventually, all four end up in Narnia and embark on a dangerous adventure to combat the White Witch. Along the way, they meet Narnia's true king, Aslan, who gives them a glimpse of sacrificial love that is an echo of Jesus. 

There are a lot of Biblical parallels that Lewis interweaves into the story in a way only Lewis can! This is definitely not an exhaustive study, but my favorite parallels were the following:
1. Aslan's humiliation and death on the Stone Table to cover Edmund's (a "son of Adam") treason to the White Witch and Aslan's subsequent resurrection as a picture of Jesus' substitutionary atonement. There are a few other smaller, but beautiful allusions to Jesus' death and resurrection as well, including Aslan's discovery on the Stone Table by Lucy and Susan (similar to the women that came to the grave to see Jesus after He died), Aslan breathing life into his warriors (the Holy Spirit being descending on the disciples), and the snowy wasteland turning into a lusch woodland full of life (new heavens and earth). 
2. Upon hearing of Aslan, Lucy asks the Beaver if Aslan is safe. The Beaver replies, "Safe? Of course he isn't safe! But he's good. He's the king, I tell you!" Following God does not guarantee us an easy, safe life. But God is a good and sovereign God, and that is better than 'safe' and 'easy'.
3. When Lucy's siblings chat with the professor about Lucy's idea of Narnia (before they discover Narnia themselves), the professor uses C.S. Lewis' well-quoted trilemma, explaining that Lucy is either lying, insane, or telling the truth --- similar to Lewis writing in Mere Christianity that Jesus' claims that He is God is either showing Him to be a liar, lunatic or Lord.
Feel free to comment on more of the parallels that I did not mention! 
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy
C.S. Lewis
I'll be more vague with this review than the latter, since it's possible others have not read it yet. The third book to the series, The Horse and His Boy, is an adventurous tale of a boy named Shasta and  a talking war-horse named Bree who escape slavery in the land of Colormen on a trek towards the free land of Narnia. The road gets dangerous as they encounter other travelers along the way as well as treacherous plans of an evil prince who wants one of the Narnian queens as his wife. Three of the four siblings (Susan, Edmund, and Lucy) make cameo appearances in this tale, which was definitely fun since I had just finished The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe!

I was constantly amazed at the brilliant creativity of C.S. Lewis that he has created other lands that are in communication with Narnia. The diverse characters and plot twists were as engaging as ever! 
Biblical references were pretty easy to catch. I do not want to explain too much as it will give away some of the best parts, but the doctrine of God's sovereignty was illustrated (it caught me by surprise and I got teary-eyed at that part. It was incredibly beautiful!) as well as the folly of the prideful (exhibited in several characters of varying degrees). 

If you haven't read this installment of the Narnia series, it is a sure winner and gives a glimpse into the "Golden Age" of the four siblings' reign in Narnia. 
The Great Divorce
C.S. Lewis
My third Lewis book this month, and it did not disappoint! Lewis' remarkable allegorical storytelling is at its peak in this  journey through Hell and Heaven. A variety of characters travel on a bus from the outskirts of Hell to the edge of Heaven and they are confronted with old friends, family members, and acquaintances in Heaven who are telling them of the beauty in store for them if they let go of their other loves and grab on to the greatest Love. These lesser, distorted loves include (but are not limited to) self-pity, fame and recognition, vanity, and self-righteousness.

I cannot say it enough: Lewis is a genius, I tell ya! The Great Divorce has hints of Dante's Divine Comedy, Lewis Caroll's  Alice in Wonderland, and Milton's Paradise Lost.  Lewis also includes one of his greatest influences in both his imaginative allegorical writing and his Christian theological writing, George MacDonald. It is said that Lewis has not written a book that does not have some quote or whisper of MacDonald. Unspoken Sermons, one of MacDonald's less-known books, paved a way to Lewis' decision to become a Christian and MacDonald's imaginative writing style was pivotal to Lewis development into the genius that he became, especially with the Narnia series. Together with his "guide" through Heaven (though the real Lewis and MacDonald never met since MacDonald was long gone by the time Lewis was born) they discuss weighty topics such as purgatory, predestination, and free-will.

I had the privilege of watching a theatrical production of The Great Divorce (check it out!) in March and it helped to better picture some of the book's imaginative scenes. And, truth be told, without my smart boyfriend (who loves Lewis himself and understands him a lot more than I do) as well as this resource I found on youtube (a series of videos that goes through every single chapter of the book), there were a few chapters where I felt pretty lost. But that does not deter me from definitely recommending it to anyone looking for a challenging but enlightening read!
Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire
Jim Cymbala
Pastor Jim Cymbala of The Brooklyn Tabernacle is a humble man of prayer. He saw a small, broken-down church of eight members in the early 1970s blossom to thousands of souls that are freed from bondages of addictions, fears, and sin. In this book, he interweaves the story of the church's growth when they began to make prayer a priority, awe-inspiring testimonies of specific people who were deemed lost and hopeless for others, and a challenge for the reader to make the Holy Spirit and prayer a priority in the church and individual.

Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire is an inspiring book that helped me examine if I was truly inviting the Holy Spirit to be active in every area of my life. I was encouraged by the street-hardened men and women portrayed in the book and how, through the prayers of many, God brought redemption and healing.

I visited The Brooklyn Tabernacle several years ago during a trip to NYC and I was in (happy) tears most of the service. Pastor Jim's humility was clearly evident even after countless books were written by him as well as albums of choral music composed and directed by his wife. Speaking of, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir was a blessing to see as well. Their music was anointed and Spirit-filled, but what really moved me was how every single choir member came down from their seats during the altar call and prayed for those who came to the front for prayer. Not only are they gifted singers, but they are prayer warriors as well. It helped cement for me that what the church preaches about prayer is walked out daily within the church.

Click here for a video from the Bible Study video that accompanies the book (I read it alone this time around but read it with a girls Bible study group many years ago). It gives more background to the church's early days and how prayer changed everything.
The Magic of Ordinary Days
Ann Howard Creel
This story is set in the backdrop of World War II from the perspective of a Denver native, Olivia Dunne.  She is an independent, smart, and adventure-seeking twenty-something year old who is the daughter of a stern minister. She dreams of becoming an archaeologist and is set to start her master's program when a set of circumstances occur that change everything. She quickly finds herself married to a quiet and simple farmer in a rural Colorado town, miles away from any neighbors or city life. Her days are filled with quietness that is a new and uncomfortable change for Olivia as she lives in a house with a man she hardly knows.

Olivia soon befriends two Japanese American sisters who live at a nearby internment camp. She learns more about the heart-breaking experiences these girls and other Japanese American families endured and begins to learn more about trust and love as the story unfolds.

I really enjoyed this book. I had first learned about the Japanese American internment camps that were in America during World War II while reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet last year. It helped me better understand some of the sad history of America during a time of much fear and war. The story of Olivia stuck in a farm life she never imagined was also captivating as different layers fell off of her and she began to trust others.


Currently Reading:
Mama Maggie by Marty McKary and Ellen Vaughn

Savor by Shauna Niequist 

I Tried Until I Almost Died by Sandra McCollom

Apr 22, 2015

portland's waterfront on a spring day

P o r t l a n d ' s  W a t e r f r o n t

Tom McCall Waterfront Park is a 36.5 acre park in downtown Portland that hugs the Willamette River and is a perfect spot for jogging, talking a relaxing walk, playing in the fountain, or watching the boats float by. It is a local favorite in the summer and can get especially crowded during many of Portland's festivals (notably the Rose Festival in early June). 

After an adventurous  hike at Forest Park (see it here!) and a delicious birthday lunch and dessert, Greg and I continued his birthday celebration by making our way to the waterfront to enjoy the sunshine. We strolled down the path and eventually hung out at the docks were we played the "Which Bridge is Which?" game, because so many bridges are visible from the waterfront (we used this cheat sheet, compliments of Pinterest, and no, it's not a real game, haha).

We headed towards the Waterfront Docks an relaxed beside the sleepy boats that looked like they were aching to float down the Willamette on such a bright day.
Marquam Bridge behind us
Hawthorne Bridge 

What a beautiful day! Spring time in Portland has brought some gorgeous days!

Apr 20, 2015

Praising Through Pain // Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

During a sermon last Sunday, I learned about hymn writer, Robert Robinson, and the power of his well known hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I researched the story the pastor shared because I was curious to its validity and it made such an impression on me. Grab a cup of tea and sit with me as I share about God's redemptive love for a man who was in the depths of wayward despair.

A rebellious adolescent, Robert Robinson got himself in plenty of trouble growing up. Financially destitute after his father's death while Robert was a young child, he worked to earn his living from an early age. He got into the wrong crowd and was quite the delinquent until, at age seventeen, he attended a revival meeting (some records say he was there to make fun of the Christians) and the well-known traveling minister, George Whitefield, preached on repentance. He was convicted of his sinful living and eventually found peace and redemption after diving into Scriptures to know God for himself. His life was transformed in the next few years and he soon became a preacher, a theologian, and a hymn writer. In 1757, in his early twenties,  he wrote Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, which was largely an autobiographical hymn, especially with this verse:

Prone to wanter, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love . . .

Robinson did eventually wander and leave the God he loved in a downward spiral leading him to despair. On a lonely stage coach excursion during this dark season of his older life, a woman beside him noticed his disheveled and distressed appearance. Wanting to encourage the man, but not knowing who he was, she started a conversation with him about God. Eventually she asked if she could sing him a few verses of a hymn that had been a great encouragement to her. Robinson agreed and she started the hymn. Much to Robinson's surprise, it was the very hymn he had composed many years earlier, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing! One version of the story recounts that the woman asked before every verse if she could sing yet another verse of the song and Robinson quietly agreed until she sang the whole hymn. Hearing those soul-searching words that he had himself penned led Robinson to repent and renew his relationship with God. Another version states that once the woman ended reciting the verses of the hymn, Robinson told her, "Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then." To this, the bold and faith-filled woman replied,  “Sir, the ‘streams of mercy’ are still flowing.” 

Whatever version of the story is closest to the truth, it still leaves me amazed that God in His sovereignty can use whatever He wants to make Himself known to us. He can even use lessons that we have learned in earlier years and allow us to re-teach ourselves of His goodness and mercy as he did with Robert Robinson. 

I can attest to this personally. I love journaling whether during mountain-top experiences when I am full of joy and hope in what God is doing -- or in the dark valleys where the shadows cause fear and anxiety to creep up like a cold wind. Anywhere along this spectrum, God is at work, teaching our heart through both the bitter and the sweet. There are lessons in each of though seasons, though the dark seasons are still understandably painful. But looking back at old journals from previous years, I have often been encouraged by a quote or personal story that I shared in my journals, and through them, my "younger self" encouraged my current self in certain things my heart and mind needed to hear. Whether it was a reminder to trust in God's faithfulness as I read through praise reports of ways that God has taken care of all my needs, or whether tear-stained pages where my raw emotions were spilled out and I was asking God why I was going through that specific season. Through it all, God is able to teach us and remind us of who He is and who we are in Him. 

Do you journal, write songs, or have any other ways that help you remember lessons God is teaching you? Have you had a similar experience where something you've written in the past comes up and teaches you in a fresh and much-needed way?

While God was miraculously delivering the wandering Israelites, God instructed Joshua (the new leader after Moses' death) to set up a memorial near the banks of the Jordan River so that generation after generation of Israelites would be able to remember the God who saved them and was leading them to their much-awaited Promise Land. Twelve men waded back into the Jordan River they had just traversed and each picked up a stone and set up a memorial with twelve stones to commemorate God's victory and providence (see Joshua 4:1-13). In this way, the future generations would remember this day and draw near to God. 

Robinson's hymn was a memorial stone that God in His sovereignty knew would serve to remind Robinson of his initial devotion to God. It helped draw him back to God. Likewise, our journal letters, blog posts, or photography diary can be memorial stones that lead us back to God's grace, faithfulness, forgiveness, and redemption. I challenge you (and will join in on this challenge!) to take some time this week to look back any "memorial stones" that remind you of God's character and promises. And if you're willing, share below in the comments so that others may be encouraged as well!

"Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, 
and the rulings he has given . . ." (Psalm 105:5)


Sources: WorldWise Hymn, Revive Our Hearts, ShareFaith.

Apr 15, 2015

Portland Day-Trip // Forest Park

F o r e s t  P a r k 

As the largest wooded urban park in the U.S., you could spend a whole day exploring the winding trails of Forest Park, whether on a leisurely stroll or a challenging jog. With 70 miles of trails at varying altitudes, you're sure to constantly see new vegetation, babbling streams, and  scurrying animals along the way… and did I mention you're only a few minutes from downtown Portland?!

Greg spent his birthday in Portland and I wanted to show off a bit of our Northwest glory, especially since there was a break in the rainy skies. I decided on a short hike from Lower Macleay Park Trailhead to the Stone House (roughly a mile, one way), though we hiked a bit further since we were so enamored with the lush backdrop to our enjoyable hike. And though we were five minutes away from the busy streets of downtown, all we heard around us was the serene chirps of birds above us and the rushing waters beside us. 

For more info on Forest Park, visit the official website, as well as Portland Monthly's article of on the best hikes at Forest Park. 
 After an easy stroll beside the rushing stream, we arrived at the Stone House (aka the Ivy House and the Witches Castle). Built in the 1930s as a ranger station and public restroom, it was abandoned after storm damage and vandalism. 
 If you're in Portland on a dry day (or really, even on a rainy day, if you want the real NW experience!), head towards the west side of the city to Forest Park and escape to this tree-hugger getaway. Then head over to NW 23rd Avenue (less than five minute drive) for an after-hike meal at any of the myriad of restaurants! We had delicious lunch at Thai Bloom and an amazing gluten-free birthday cake at Papa Haydn's! 

Apr 11, 2015

a saturday at the tulip farm

Spring is here & so are the my favorite spring blooms!
An spontaneous trip with a friend to a tulip festival near our apartment turned out to be a sweet escape from a morning full of organizing and cleaning my desk space. It rained on our drives to and fro, but was sunny (with some wind) while we walked through the farm's garden and tulip fields.

Get ready for a whole bunch (floral pun intended) of tulip photos! I was amazed at how many different types of tulips there were! Such variety in the vibrant hues!

First, there was a small garden next to a farmer's market area.


We then headed for the tulip "show-fields", where we were allowed to look at, but not pick, the tulips.




We eventually made it to the u-pick area and I picked a bouquet for myself and my mom.

have a joyful and restful weekend!