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Prayer Journal: Day 88

Day 88

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. – Psalm 100:4 NIV

The Lord allows us to bond, even when we are at a distance. We can give thanks for the opportunity to fellowship with family members virtually from the safety of our homes. It may be different from sharing a meal together, but our love is still there.

We can be grateful for the family and friends we have. The Lord knows that we need each other. He knows we don’t like to be isolated.

He blesses us with good food, a roof over our heads, and the security of His love. We can find comfort in an uncertain world because He is there. He fills our lives with goodness and mercy. We can be thankful for that. Amen.

Prayer Journal: Day 60

The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. – Proverbs 15:3 (NIV)

The Lord notices when someone mistreats us. And He also sees when we burn with resentment over their trespasses.

Forgiveness isn’t easy, but Jesus did it, and so must we. Even if someone makes us angry because they overstepped our boundaries, we still have to forgive, if for no other reason than for our own peace.

Forgiveness begins with acknowledging our part in whatever happened. Not everyone understands our values and shares them. Not everyone is respectful of our time and limitations. Not everyone is good for our health.

God asks us to refrain from complaining and disputing. This is hard to do when someone wrongs us because it is natural to want that person to either apologize and make amends or be punished for what he or she did to us.

Luckily God sees everything and His judgment is fair. There is no disputing it. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is our Lord. The nice thing is that we always have a choice.

We can decide to be good or to give in to evil. And for those who choose to be evil, we don’t’ have to spend time with them! God will show us who in our lives needs to be replaced. Not everyone in our lives belongs there. It’s important to set boundaries with those who wrong us so that they don’t do it again, because they will.

It’s okay to part ways with someone who repeatedly disrespects us, because they are not friends. God wants good people in our lives, and when we let go of the bad, we make room for other good people to enter into our lives.

And some people are capable of turning to Christ and changing. It is not our responsibility to change them or make them into better people. That is God’s job. He can set things right.

It is challenging to pray for people who wrong us. But if Jesus could do it, so can we. Amen.

Today Would Have Been My Dad’s 83rd Birthday

Today would have been my dad’s 83rd birthday. It seems like a long time since Alzheimer’s disease claimed his life, but really, it hasn’t been. Grief never goes away, no matter how many cute baby photos of Jacob Henry I post. Jacob Henry is a year and 5 months old now, and my dad never got to meet him, but I’m sure if he did, he would have loved him.

I was showing Jacob letters the other day and spelled out his name and was tickled when Jacob was able to identify and say the letter “A” without prompting.

I studied the word “Henry” and considered its meaning to me.

Henry T. Akao was my dad.

Henry H. Akao was Grandpa Henry.

My husband and I didn’t want to make Henry Jacob’s first name, because that would make him Henry III, and that would be confusing.

But I’m happy I gave Jacob the middle name, Henry, because after all, he is a Henry. He’s stubborn, like my dad. He’s really smart, like my dad. He as Asian eyes, like my dad’s.

He even has allergies, like my dad and I have. The Akao genes are strong.

Sometimes when I miss my dad, I read this Bible verse and it provides a bit of comfort:

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Some day I believe I will see my dad again.

And Jacob will get to meet him.

Day 19: Assisi and Farewell Dinner in Rome

Sunday was our last day of our Cosmos tour. Our bus driver, Ferdi, took us to the peaceful hillside town of Assisi.

We visited Saint Francis Basilica, where several people prayed with reverence inside. 

We explored the crypt of Saint Francis downstairs but no photos or videos were allowed. We ascended the stairs to the upper church and admired the view.

We only had an hour but had just enough time to walk up the hills and down the passageways. I could almost feel the spirit of my dad shining down on me.

We even passed a poster advertising an upcoming comicon. 

We made it to the bus on time and Ferdi drove us several hours back to Rome. We arrived around 4pm with enough for one more stop at the Navona Fountain in Rome. On the second day of our tour, one of the men in our group had proposed to his girlfriend of eight years at the Navona Fountain. 

At ambasciata di Capri Restaurant we savored our last dinner in Rome with our tour group. The appetizer included mixed veggies, eggplant, fresh tomato, and a ball of pizza pasta fried.

A musician performed several songs in Italian and a few in English. I recognized several songs the Three Tenors used to perform. The owner even serenaded us with a special ballad at the end.

Homemade pasta with meat sauce,  tomato and mozzarella cheese and pasta with zucchini, smoked cheese, parmesan and basil was our first course.

I ordered a vegetarian option for the main course, which included Zucchini Parmigiana with mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and parmesan cheese served with salad and roasted potatoes. I tasted some red wine with our meal.

Ursula made sure Steve and I received a lemon and cream dessert with a candle to celebrate our honeymoon. We have had many wishes come true already! 

After a good night’s sleep, Steve and I returned to the airport on Monday, March 27th. We couldn’t have dreamed of a better honeymoon! We got to do everything we had possibly wished for in Italy and can’t wait to return! 

Day 18: Venice and Gondola Serenade 

We headed back to Venice by motor boat this morning. 

Ursula lead us back past Saint Mark’s square to see a glass blowing demonstration. 

It takes at least 15 to 20 years to perfect glass blowing and we were impressed how quickly the the maestro created a glass horse.

At last at 11am Steve and I enjoyed a 30 minute gondola ride.

A talented troubadour and accordion player serenaded us as we took pictures.

The oars man navigated from behind past the other gondolas. 

The weather was warm an sunny. This was the first gondola ride for both me and Steve, a wonderful way to celebrate the day he proposed two years ago on March 25th. 

We stood in line for free admission to see the inside of San Marco Basilica, which has gilded ceilings but where we were not allowed to take pictures or video. The story goes that Saint Mark’s corpse was transported to Venice in a barrel of pork fat to avoid Muslim inspection at customs.

We finished our souvenir shopping and met our tour group at 5pm to head back to the hotel for a complimentary three course dinner that began with salad. 

Spaghetti pomodoro.

Chicken, peas and mashed potatoes. 

And pane cotta with chocolate sauce for dessert for me as a nut free alternative to the cake others ate.

Day 17: Pisa and Venice 

We left Montecatini and headed to Pisa. On the way there Ursula pointed out the Roman aqua ducts.

We only had a few hours to spend in Pisa, but the souvenirs are affordable so we finished getting the gifts to bring home to family and friends. 

I was surprised to see that the Leaning Tower of Pisa was much shorter than I imagined. 

Steve and I took turns taking pictures of each other pretending to hold up the tower or tilt it down.

After Pisa we traveled to Venice and checked into our hotel. Ursula surprised Steve and I by giving us the honeymoon suite! I was particularly impressed with how ornate the bathroom was.

At 6pm we met the tour group to enjoy a dinner in town. We took a motor boat to the water city.

Ursula guided us to Saint Mark’s Square, where we took a few pictures. 

At the restaurant we enjoyed a three course meal starting with Caprese salad.

Spaghetti and vegetables. 

Beef and potatoes. 

And tiramisu to top it off, with one candle for the Australian couple celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary and for us celebrating our honeymoon. 

Day 16: Florence

Today Steve visited Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance. Wakup was at 6:30am and I enjoyed a quick complimentary breakfast of a fruit tart, croissant, cheese, ham, and eggs our hotel in Montecatini. 

The view from the only bridge that had survived WWII was stunning. 

Our tour group visited a leather shop and saw a brief demo of gold being applied to a piece of leather. Steve and I both treated ourselves to leather jacket and the attendee fussed over us until we found the perfect size. 

We caught a guided tour of the Church of Saint Mary of the Flowers, the Duomo.

We didn’t go inside but followed the guided tour past the door of Paradise. 

We didn’t get to see the original because it is housed at an academy for safe keeping but we did behold a replica of Michaelangelo’s David. 

We closed the day at the hotel restaurant and enjoyed a three course meal starting with pasta e fagioli.

Pasta with pomodoro sauce and sardines. 


And a creamy dessert topped with a chocolate glaise. 

After dinner Ursula asked permission from the hotel staff if I could play the grand piano, so I played Clair de Lune, Fur Elise, and Chopin’s Nocturne in E flat. The people on our tour group clapped and thanked me.

Day 15: San Gimignano, Greve, and Montecatini

We had a 6:30am wake-up call to leave Siena and go to San Gimignano, a rural town whose hills are featured in the background of the Mona Lisa. I hadn’t slept because of the cold I had managed to catch. I stayed away from the cookies and opted for eggs, ham, cheese, pears, peaches, and a fruit filled croissant. 

We boarded the bus and our driver, Ferdi, took us to the Tuscany region where we tried two types of red wine. Before the wine tasting we enjoyed the garden and area where you can rent castle rooms and have weddings. 

Steve and I are not big on wine but tasted the Chanti Classico wines.

We had some free time to explore the shops and take in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. 

We enjoyed lunch at a cafe where I ordered rice with saffron and parmigiano cheese. 

After lunch we boarded the bus and headed to our hotel in Montecatini.

Because of my cold we opted out of the Tuscan dinner with the tour group and happened upon a small five star restaurant that served hand made fresh pasta with vegetables. 

I was too full to finis my second course but took my meatballs to go.

Day 14: Orvieto and Siena

Steve and I departed from Rome on our tour bus and headed for Orvieto, where we visited a beautiful limestone cathedral. 

We paid four euros to see inside, where it was very cold.

After the cathedral we grabbed lunch. I had a pizza with tomorrow sauce and lots of garlic, hoping that the garlic would scare away my cold.

We did some shopping and met a store owner who proudly showed us that his antique store is listed in Rick Steve’s guide book and that Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick had visited. We bought a gift and wandered to the next attraction, a church dedicated to Saint Catherine, whose scull was kept inside the church as a relic after she was martyred. Our tour guide explained that Catherine had taken a vow of silence for 5 years and dedicated her life to helping the poor.

We were not allowed to take pictures of the alter where the skull was displayed behind a golden mask of Catherine’s head.

We traveled to Siena and visited the square where horse races take place twice a year.

Dinner was included with our Cosmos tour, so at 6:30pm we headed to the restaurant and enjoyed a meal that started with bread and olive oil and beef and cheese. Next was a delicious spaghetti with cream sauce and carrots.

The main course was beef with cauliflower, carrots and onions. 

I enjoyed my ricotta and chocolate chip cake for dessert and got to know three ladies from Houston who sat across from us at the dinner table. Two worked in HR and one was a cousin along for the trip.

Day 13: The Colosseum and Roman Forum 

Today’s Cosmos tour began with a 6am wake up call and a complimentary breakfast of spinach quiche, scrambled eggs, a custard croissant, ham, cheese, and an assortment of fruit pastries. 

Our tour director, Ursula, guided us onto the bus and to our destination, the Castel Sant’ Angelo, where we paid the admission. Diana, a widow from Connecticut, accompanied Steve and I since she was on the Cosmos tour but elected not to go back to the Vatican, which all three of us had seen before in great detail. 

This time we got to see the inside of the castle, which had an impressive view of the bridge below from one of its towers.

I especially liked the room with the harpsichord, since I play classical piano.

In the adjoining room housed an unusual painting of a maiden with a unicorn.

Ursula later told us the castle was where the popes could escape to if Rome was under invasion. 

We had lunch at a rather touristy place and I was disappointed to taste the most bland red sauce I have had during our trip. However Steve ordered a Hawaiian pizza and said it was some of the best pizza he has had in Italy. 

After lunch we finally got to see the destination that Steve and I have both deemed absolutely necessary to visit in Rome–the Colosseum. Our local tour guide greeted us and shuffled us in past the Arco di Tito.

Once inside, I imagined I could feel the fear of those slated for execution at inside the Colosseum walls.
Our tour guide mentioned that lions, tigers, panthers, and other exhiotic animals from Africa and Asia were  brought by traders and sold to the Romans for the entertainment of the crowds. The pulleys hoisted the animals into the arena and the entrances were staged with fake props such as a cave entry way for a lion.

We proceeded to visit the Roman Forum.
Vestal virgins were condemned to be buried alive if they broke their vows of celibacy. 

It was the hottest day we have experienced so far in Rome and I was getting tired because I caught Steve’s cold last night so I was grateful we had a chance to go back to the hotel to rest before our night excursion.

We visited the Spanish Steps, which is where fashion shows used to take place until the fashion shows were discontinued because the models kept falling down the slippery steps. I carefully made my way down.

Ursula led us back to Trevi Fountain, where Ursula gave us the full story of the wishes. The first wish is to return to Rome. The second wish is a personal one. The third wish is optional…but you can wish to be married or divorced. 

Dinner included a five course meal starting with bruschette al pomodoro. A flute player and guitar player entertained our tour group with several American love songs and a handful of Italian ones.
The guitar player who sang reminded me of my brother David because of his artsy black attire. 

We enjoyed melon and ham.

Pasta with ham, cream sauce and peas.


Chicken and potatoes with rosemary. 

Gelato with berry sauce. 

And as a special surprise, Ursula asked the waiter to bring us three roses and a piece of cream cake drizzled in chocolate to celebrate the honeymoon Steve and I were finally able to enjoy! 

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