Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Peter and George....our steps are designed by God

I promised you in the last post to tell you the story of Craig's new friends, Peter and George.  Here it is.....

On Saturday, the day of the Blue Mountain tour, we were assigned to a small busload of 11 people who were all friends from New York City.  They were hilarious and adopted us "southerners" for the day.  On our way back to Sydney, our new friends asked the bus driver to make a small detour into a village area to purchase some additional snacks and refreshments.  As they were wandering through this village area trying to locate an appropriate shop, Craig began to wander the street, sort of window-shopping.  He stepped into a shop that resembled a general store.  As he meandered through the store, the music playing caught his attention....it was Christian!  He approached the counter and asked the proprietor "what radio station is playing?" The two guys behind the counter replied "102.8".  Craig said, "It is Christian?"  they said "yes".  He said "You are believers?"  to which they replied with a hearty "yes, yes," and with very big smiles!  Craig greeted them on behalf of the brothers and sisters in the faith from the United States.  He began to share Scripture and stories to encourage them.  Peter shared that God had been so good to he and his wife in that he had had a very bad job and they were trusting God about a better job so he quit the bad job.  Then God provided not just a job but a business for him to own to support his family !  Wow!  Craig prayed for them, exchanged emails, and agreed to keep in touch after we return to the States.   

Coincidence ?  Not hardly.  Was it an accident that we were on that bus that would pull over in Springwood, New South Wales, Australia that would just happen to stop on the street  that this shop was on?  No way.  

Did God orchestrate that meeting of fellow believers from different continents that afternoon?  Absolutely!  

It was another awesome moment in the journey that has taken some pretty cool turns.

Wait until I share with you about what happened next.............

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Blue Mountains

Saturday was spent traveling up to the Blue Mountains.  They are called Blue because of the way the mist rises and the sun reflects off the peaks and valleys, making the area appear "blue" in color.  It was beautiful and I wish we could give you some pictures right now.  But, again, internet is limited so "pickies" will have to wait.  We did see kangaroos in the wild as we traveled to the mountains as well as some of the largest cockatils/toos I have ever seen.  MaCaws were in the wild as well.  Amazing to see the animals in the wild that we are used to seeing in the zoo.  It is definitely more pleasing to see in the wild.  

Craig has a very interesting story to share about some new friends named Peter and George.  I would have him post that now but he is in a meeting while I am on the internet.  He will have to post later so do return to read this story.  It will warm your heart and hopefully encourage your walk with the Lord as you realize He controls every step you make and every encounter you have - whether in New Zealand, Australia, or North America.  Our God is huge and Sovereign and there are no coincidences.  Hopefully, he will be able to get back online this afternoon so it will be posted when you get up on Sunday morning.  

We are off to go sailing in Sydney Harbor this afternoon....I hope the sun is out so we can get some pics for you........enjoy your evening.......

A Few Australian Observations

Tonight, it is Saturday night for us (that means it is in the wee morning hours of Saturday for you).  We have had two very packed days here in Sydney.  

Yesterday, they put us on buses to tour the city and to learn some of the history of this town. For those of you who are history buffs, this city began as a penal colony a little over 200 years ago.  Seems Great Britain has a pattern of exporting all their criminals to their colonies to get them off their mainland.  It is what they did to Bermuda as well.  Anyway, what the motherland thought would be a penal colony and a way to rid themselves of "lower society" has now become a major city in the Commonwealth.  

This tour of the city included the famous Sydney Opera House.  I have to admit that this icon has been something I have wanted to see in person but never thought I would see it.  It was fascinating and not anything like I would have expected it to be. Yes, it is a venue for theater and concerts (among other performances) but it is smaller than the pictures make it look.  Don't get me wrong, it is a huge building with five performing venues.  For those of you who are into architecture, the design story is fascinating.  The designer used the concept of the sphere in his creation; however, it took numerous mistakes to get the design just right and the building completed.  If you are into design and math, it would be worth your time to read about it.  Interestingly, as we stood in the main concert hall and listened to some musicians warm-up/rehearse, I began to ponder how secular man has influenced the arts since the fall of man.  My thoughts wandered to how God created music......have you really thought about this?  Music is very complex - it is a language all of its own and very mathematical.  The tones are unique and the way they relate are either pleasing to the ear or not. Additionally, music speaks to the soul of man.  It also allows for expression in a form that combines the lyrical voice with the written word.  Deep thoughts, I know, that occurred in a matter of moments.  But I was struck by the awareness that many are wandering in the dark in the arts, looking for something/someone to fill the void in their soul that was made to be filled only by the Creator.  

We finished the day by having dinner on the wharf overlooking the Harbor and the Opera House.  Both are beautiful at night.  I wish we could post pics but we are using macs and cannot download our pics to this computer to be able to put them on the blog.  I guess we will have to do that when we return.  

Saturday (today) was spent up in the Blue Mountains.  I will do a separate post about it later.

Thanks to all of you who are standing in the gap for us and helping with our children and being on standby for Mrs. Hoosier. We have been able to enjoy this trip knowing that they are in good hands!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

We are now in Australia!

This morning we woke up in a very cold New Zealand, made a quick trip to the Panel Beaters (a picture to follow later when we get better internet), and then drove a few hours to Auckland to catch our flight to Sydney. We had lunch in the Auckland airport where Craig met yet another friend, Andrew (again, pic to follow later) and we had a wonderful conversation over lunch. Turns out that Andrew is somewhat of a world traveler but more than that, he tests land for gold mining. Sounds kinda interesting. Our flight to Sydney was about 4 hours in length and was rather uneventful.

We hope to post some pics of Sydney tomorrow night but our internet access may be limited here at the hotel. So just keep checking to see if we have posted yet.

Just for those of you who are curious, we are 15 hours ahead of you....so right now, it is 6:45 pm on Thursday and I believe that would mean it is 3:45 am for you. We have already finished the day that you have not even started! We hope you enjoy your Thursday !

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Catechism, Statements of Faith, and the Hoosier Family

Many of the protestant catechisms and Statements of Faith start with this question:

What is man's primary purpose?

The answer is “Man's primary purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

The Hoosier family has to add this question to our family's tenets:

What is our family's secondary purpose?

The answer is “The Hoosiers secondary purpose is to provide comic relief for their friends and family by sharing their various life trials and events so that those around them can experience a high level of entertainment and experience a reduction in their own life stress.”

By now, you are probably wondering “What in the world have the Hoosiers done now in New Zealand?”

On Monday, in the sporty rental car, Craig backed into a small wooden post causing a small dent in the bumper. Oops. No big deal, because we're thinking, American Express has an extra layer of car insurance for its card holders when they reserve and pay using your AMEX card. Or at least we thought they did, until this morning. Craig called American Express International Services to see what we would have to do before we returned the car only to discover that there are six countries that AMEX does not cover. Do I have to tell you any more? Yes, New Zealand is one of the six. After having the discussion of “why didn't AMEX alert me to this when I rented the car”, we embarked on a mission to get the dent out of the bumper. So instead of touring Taupo as a tourist, we went to the car wash (so we can truly assess the extent of the damage), the hardware store (so we could obtain the necessary tools to suction and/or beat the dent out of the bumper) and then to the local paint and body shop because the car wash showed us that the damage was noticeable and the tools at the hardware shop didn't work. The guy at the paint and body shop did inform us of how to take care of the problem and what would be a fair price to pay. However, he couldn't take care of it and we wouldn't be able to either without a source of heat with an extension card, a rubber mallet and a suction cup apparatus. Hmmmm...the conclusion was that there was no easy fix to this problem! UGH. AMEX did tell us that we could file a letter of reconsideration (I guess that is like filing a request for them to reconsider paying the claim?). Do you think this would really work? Well by this time it is after lunch now and we decide to continue to enjoy our day in Taupo as we ponder exactly what to do about this ummm little blip in our vacation. All we really have done all day is shake our head about it, not really believing this has happened! We will take pictures in the morning and run by the "panel beater" shop (aka body shop) for a written estimate prior to turning in the car in the morning and flying to Sydney. Surely, the week will get better? or is Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good very bad day a true book?

Not all is lost though as we enter Taupo as true tourists and wander the streets that line the lake and take in some shopping. We walked into a hunting and fishing store only to discover the lady working there is a LSU fan!! What are the odds of that happening? And you know we do not believe in coincidences so we took that meeting and the time of fellowship as a gift from the Lord to encourage us to enjoy the day. Her kindness and warmth renewed our spirits. Here is a picture of her and Craig in the store....

By the way, did I mention that when we got up this morning it was -4 C? That is very cold. I didn't even do the conversion because here was my thought....if 0 C is our 32F then -4C is below freezing and who really cares exactly how far below freezing it is?......Its COLD!!

Lake Taupo is probably the most well-known and frequented tourist site on the north island of NZ. It is beautiful and to try to capture it by camera and/or video is next to impossible. However, we did try. Here are a few pickies......that's Kiwi for pictures:

Near Taupo is a beautiful site called Huka (pronounced Hooka) Falls.Then we traveled a few kilometers north to the Aratiatia Dam and Falls. Here are a few photos from some of the viewpoints.....

Obviously, you get the idea that the scenery in NZ is beautiful. New Zealand has lush green landscapes and the sky is a brilliant blue. The water is clear and blue except in the thermal areas (see previous post and pics). The air is fresh and clean to breathe. Couple this scenery with some of the nicest people you will meet and you have a wonderful place to visit. Craig would like to become the travel ambassador for NZ – he thinks he could easily encourage people to visit New Zealand and bring their families!

Tomorrow, Thursday, we depart New Zealand and fly to Sydney, Australia for a new adventure. We are sad to leave NZ.....we haven't had enough time to see what we want to see nor to visit with enough Kiwis. We do want to put in a plug, though.....IF you ever have the opportunity to come this way, please do. You won't regret it, we promise!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Homeschooling is a Lifestyle....even in New Zealand

As we completed today's activities and prepared to travel to our next destination, we started to recount all the lessons we had learned today. By the time we finished, we discovered that we had put in a full day's worth of school!

We covered math first....we had to covert the outside temperature from Celsius to Fahrenheit because it was -1 C this morning !! Then we discovered we were doing math all day as we were converting metric measurements (kilometers to miles; kilometers per hour to miles per hour, etc.) By the end of the day, we were getting faster at this conversion process.

Next, we covered economics as we discussed the issues of cattle and sheep farming as we would pass miles and miles of pasture land full of herds of cows or sheep. I often thought about our Almighty and the phrase “He owns the cattle on a thousand hills”.

Then we visited a Maori village, where we toured a “live” thermal village. You can see their website at www.whakarewarewa.com. Our tour was fascinating to say the least and it covered such topics as cultural studies, history, language, science, home economics, and religion. How did we cove so much in one stop? The Maori people and their history enthralled us for almost two hours as we walked this village and listened to Anita, our tour guide who was a 4th generation Maori guide. Very personal, warm, kind, and friendly is how we would describe Anita. She shared the history of her people, their current cultural practices and some of their language as she escorted us through the village. This is a picture of a Maori sleeping house used in previous times (not currently).....

We covered science principles and home economics as she explained the active geothermal activity of bubbling mud pools, boiling mineral springs, silica terraces, and erupting geysers. This is Anita, explaining the thermal springs to us...

Here is a picture of a mud pool...they used to sell their mud for medicinal purposes but could not keep up with the demand so they stopped. They only use it for their people.

When she opened the hangi, she taught us how they cook their meals using this thermal activity to steam whatever they are cooking. Here is someone's dinner in a hangi.....

She also taught us how they use the thermal pools to blanch vegetables and cook puddings. Finally, Anita took us to one of the churches in the village. It happened to be an Anglican church and there is also a Catholic church. It surprised us that they had churches in their village. It surprised us more when she said “It doesn't matter what church you go to, at the end of the day there is only one supreme being.” Sad, isn't it ? She didn't see the need for revering God as we know Him. Unfortunately she feels it is okay to have any god and every god as long as you recognize that there is only one.

From the Maori village, we traveled a few miles down the road to Wai-o-Tapu, Thermal Wonderland. Off to a major science adventure, especially if you are into geothermal formations and physical science. “This is New Zealand's most colorful and diverse volcanic area.” The pools were varying colors from yellow to orange to lime green to just mud color. You can see their website at www.waiotapu.co.nz Here are some of our pictures of the colored pools.....

Thanks for joining us at school today.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Greetings from Down Under

We are here....we arrived after a very long day of travel. It felt strange because we boarded the plane in Los Angeles around 10 pm on Saturday night, flew about 13 hours in the air, and landed in New Zealand at 5:25 am on Monday morning. We missed Sunday! The flight was good and we slept well. When we arrived in New Zealand, it was quiet and customs was smooth. Everyone was friendly and pretty laid back.

We have had some good laughs, though. After getting our luggage and going through customs, we had to pick up our car rental. Easy enough, except for a minor detail. They drive on the opposite side of the road! Which means that the steering wheel and all the controls are on the right side of the vehicle. If you could have seen us in the Hertz rent-a-car parking lot! First, Craig tried to enter the vehicle from the left side (which is normal for us in the US); then, after we loaded and he got in on the correct side, he discovered all the controls were on the opposite side. He said it felt like driving while looking in a mirror. He only had to drive around the parking lot 2 times to “test” it out and then we were off. Thankfully, the sun wasn't up and we discovered that New Zealanders don't start their days very early. Rush hour was not until 8:30-9:00 am so he had plenty of time to practice before the roads got busy. The only thing that kept giving him fits was the blinker control and the gear shift. The gift shift for his vehicle at home is on his right; in this vehicle, it is on his left. He has parked the car twice only to discover later that it was never put in park prior to turning the ignition to off! Then, he discovered that every time he wanted to use the turn signals, the windshield wipers would come on. The funny part was that we were driving in beautiful sunny weather with the wipers going!!

Then check out these road signs.....do you know what they mean?

Then, true to Hoosier form, we were in the country less than 12 hours and he has met, befriended, and exchanged emails with a true Kiwi (that is what native New Zealanders call themselves). His name is Greg and here is a pic of he and Craig. (Nicky...I thought of your comment about watching Craig in Venezuela making friends with Venezuelans even though he couldn't speak the language well. We now have pictures of Craig with his various friends from all over the world. He is gathering quite an international crew!)

This pic is for our kids.....it is to redeem their father and his history with rental cars. Only they will understand the reason for including this pic. One of our family stories has to do with Dad and renting a car on a trip to San Diego a few years back. It provided great laughs and life lessons, but it is one story Dad will never live down. Here is a pic of this trip's car....kinda sporty and cute, don't you think? Is he redeemed ?

Finally, here are a few scenic shots from today's adventures. The beach shots are from the beaches around Raglan which are famous for surfers and the falls are called Bridal Veil Falls. They were breathtaking!

Thanks for following our trip and stay tuned, there is more to come. Take Care and God Bless.

Friday, June 19, 2009

THE day or The DAY or D-Day....

Tomorrow, June 20, is THE day or the DAY or D-Day (Departure Day) for us as we fly to New Zealand and later in the week, Sydney, Australia. We have been working up to this day for weeks now and finally things have come together, sort of. It has been a week of comedic errors and I have wondered if Candid Camera was a tv show that still existed ! (Have you had one of those kind of weeks ?) Nonetheless, we are off to see if indeed "terrible, no good, very bad days" exist in Australia (see previous post on Captain Kangaroo) or if we can rewrite the ending to that book !

Hopefully our next post will be from Down Under....

Saturday, June 6, 2009

22 years and counting.....

Today is our 22nd wedding anniversary!

Many of you are wondering how that could be...."why, we are way too young to have been married that long." LOL!

You see, I was just 12 when I got married :0!!

I told that to someone today and she replied with "Well, you are from Alabama." (Imagine the drawl in that sentence.)

I laughed....you see, I am not from Alabama but from a close cousin (Louisiana) where marrying at a young age probably would have been acceptable.....that is if you could have convinced MY parents!

So as to not reveal our exact ages at marriage (I was over 12), the family "rule" I lived with was you had to finish your degree BEFORE you were eligible for matrimony. And that meant your undergraduate degree, not just a high school degree. I graduated from college in May, married Craig two weeks later, and then moved 350 miles away from family to start our journey. And what a journey it has been !

At times, marriage has been an arduous trek. And at other times, it has been a a slow, peaceful stroll. But, at ALL times, always with the Lord. He has never left us, nor forsaken us as we have traveled the path He has laid before us.

As Craig said from day one -

"Marriage is an enhancement to life!"

Our lives have been enhanced and enriched because the Lord gave us the blessing of marriage. He has taught us to rely on Him and to trust Him with all things and in all things. He has been faithful to two young adults who started out on this path 22 years ago who had little of nothing but each other, some huge hopes and dreams, and the Lord as our guide. We walked pathways we never dreamed we would walk and we have experienced struggles we never dreamed we would have to go through. We have experienced great highs and very low lows. All while we were learning not just about each other but, more importantly, about the Almighty God we love and serve. Love does grow deeper as the years go longer.....both for your spouse and for the Lord. What a wonderful God we serve!

We pray our marriage testimony, in some small way, encourages you in your walk with the Lord!

Many smiles to you........debra