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Prayer Journal: Day 307

Day 307

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. – 1 Chronicles 16:11 NIV

My husband has a big family, so when we spend time visiting, I keep a close eye on my son, because there are lots of people around, and I don’t want him to get into trouble.

We can seek the Lord’s face in the same way that we seek our children’s. His face clams and centers us. It is difficult to be angry when we are looking at Jesus.

It helps to have a friend who is strong who can lift heavy things for us. The Lord is the strongest friend we have, but we sometimes forget to ask Him to do the heavy-lifting of our problem solving. He can solve our problems better than we can; all we have to do is ask. Amen.

Prayer Journal: Day 303

Day 303

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. – Psalm 126:5 NKJV

The Lord doesn’t prevent illness and hardship from falling upon us, because He teaches us lessons through our trials. Jesus experienced much suffering during His lifetime, but He also felt joy and peace, probably when He spent time praying and meditating alone in the early mornings.

Before we react to things that come our way, we can pause and decide not to respond. In reacting, we sometimes sap ourselves of joy and cause unnecessary grief. Other people don’t always understand how their words can impact us in a negative way. For that reason, we need to focus on the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, kindness, tenderness, and self control. It is a meditative practice to focus back on our God-given breath and allow ourselves to mute the dissonant outside world. Amen.

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. 

Mackerel. 

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.

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