Thursday, 20 December 2012

Hope Abounding

Merry!  Merry! 

We write to you with warm Christmas greetings and holiday cheer!  It’s hard to believe Christmas is just a few short days away!  Fall morphed into winter with such anonymity, and now here we are, packing our bags for holiday travel.  We are thrilled to be traveling home and look forward to spending time with our friends and family.  My mom told me this morning that Omaha is a Winter Wonderland.  We’re eagerly anticipating the soft falling snow, a crackling fire, steaming hot cocoa and festive celebration!

The next few days will be filled with welcomed chaos—crowded airports, last minute shopping, reunions with family and friends.  In the midst of the hustle and bustle, our prayer is that the true gift of the season will be ever present on our hearts.  This year has taught us so many things.  Living in Kingston has opened our eyes to pain, poverty and struggle like never before.  We’re seeing firsthand how hard life is for so many, and how broken this world seems.  (Sadly, you don’t even have to live in Kingston to experience this sort of paradigm shift.  Our eyes have been glued to the coverage in Newtown this week, and the pain is too great to begin to understand.) 

The amazing thing about Christmas is for one brief moment, our eyes turn from the pain and look to the hope of Jesus Christ.  It should be like this year round, but our vision gets muddled—by life, by loss and by evil we don’t understand.  This week, we’ve been thanking God for the gift of His Son.  This gift brings hope to weary souls, comfort to broken hearts and good out of even the worst atrocities. 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Romans 15:13

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas, full of hope abounding!

With Love,
Kevin & Cass

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Simply Bliss

This blog is for Kevin, the love of my life.  I can’t believe it’s been four years since we said “I DO.”  It feels like it was yesterday…such a cliché thing to say, but still so true.  I remember waking up that morning on a flat air mattress between my sisters, praying it was real and not just a dream.  I remember the pre-wedding flurry, arriving at the church in a frenzy of bridesmaids and hairspray and waterproof mascara.  I remember walking down the aisle to your tear-stained face, never surer of anything in my life.  I was so blissfully happy, so certain that no one in world had a love like ours.  I’m still certain of that today.

They say the wedding is only the beginning—that your love grows stronger with every passing year.  Four years ago, I didn’t think that was possible.  Now I totally get it.  What we had then was just the tip of the iceberg.  I had no idea how wide and long and high and deep and rich and safe and fun and exciting our love would be.  Simply put, you are the best thing that’s ever happened to me. 

I’m just so thankful for you, so abundantly grateful that I get to be your wife.  You still put a smile on my face every time you come in the front door.  I still go to bed every night feeling like the luckiest girl in the world, to be lying next to you.  I just can’t believe I get to do life with you.  I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again and again:  You are the funniest person I know and you make everyday a hilarious adventure.  Even the mundane and difficult days are better by your side—still mundane and still difficult, but so much more bearable together. 

You have the most gracious heart of anyone I know.  You forgive so quickly, almost effortlessly (as it should be, but so often isn’t).  When I morph into the rotten & selfish me (the me that would be if Christ hadn’t come to my rescue) you have a way of loving me back, of smothering me with mercy and patience and kisses until I can’t see anything but God’s love and your love.  Your heart is a bottomless cup of forgiveness.  You’re such a tangible expression of Jesus in that way.

The past four years have been the best years of my life.  Not only are you my Carmex holder, kitchen dance partner, cockroach killer and coffee maker, you are my favorite companion, biggest advocate, and greatest treasure.  

I am eternally grateful to the Great Matchmaker for giving me you. 

Happy Anniversary!  I love you!


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Little House in the Jungle

Sweet dreams sans mosquitoes! 

Nel & Kevin

Hi Family and Friends!

Kevin and I had a weekend adventure on the north coast of Jamaica.  A good friend of ours, whom we met shortly after arriving in Kingston, operates a kids’ camp and retreat center in the hills of St. Ann—a lush mountainous parish on the ocean.  We spent the weekend at camp, enjoying the beauty and helping with some work projects around the property.

It was a throwback to the Good Old Days for sure.  We sat on the porch and listened to an orchestra of tropical insects, their chirping and buzzing creating a masterpiece we’d never before noticed or appreciated.  We snuggled under our mosquito net and listened to the rhythm of the pouring rain, rarely silent or still enough to enjoy its soothing presence.  We ate fresh guava, ackee, and avocado pear and picked lemongrass straight from the garden for afternoon tea.  I felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s cousin, with less farmland and more lizards—Little House in the Jungle, maybe?

One of the most encouraging parts of the weekend was our friend, Nel.  Nel is a nurse from the Netherlands, who has lived in Jamaica for close to forty years.  She came in her twenties and has devoted her life to serving the people and the country of Jamaica, which she now considers home.  I've never met another person with the purity of heart as Nel.  She lives simply.  She has few earthly possessions.  Whatever she has she shares willingly.  She doesn't want for much and she doesn't envy others who have more.  She trusts fully in God’s provision. 

One of Nel’s greatest qualities (which I’m striving for in my own life):  Nel believes that whatever she collects on earth won’t go with her when she dies, and she lives her life accordingly.  We all believe this conceptually—we realize we can’t pack a suitcase for heaven.  Unfortunately, most of us (me included) live as though we’ll be able to call the movers on our deathbed and give them the forwarding address.  We focus on obtaining more; on collecting earthly treasures because we think they’ll make us happier.  We scurry to keep up with the Joneses, thinking a bigger house or newer car will fill the void in our souls…only to find we’re just as unfulfilled in the bigger house, but with more rooms to clean. 

Nel doesn’t have many earthly treasures, but when she gets to heaven, she’ll be one of the richest ones there.  Our time in Jamaica is teaching me so much:  That more stuff does not produce more joy.  That less can be more.  That a simple life is a refreshingly satisfying one.  That a generous heart produces a fulfilled spirit.  And that treasures in heaven are the ones worth collecting.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."
Matthew 5: 8

With Love,
Kevin & Cass

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

To Emma With Love

Dear Emma,

Happy Birthday Mi Amor!  Do you remember what that means?  I taught it to you a few weeks ago, when we were together for Labor Day.  It means “My Love.”  This is a fitting nickname for you, Mi Amor.  You are my love, and the love of so many more.

Today is your Sweet Sixteen.  Can you believe it?  I met you when you were eleven.  You welcomed me with open arms.  I was so nervous to meet Kevin’s family and so worried I wouldn’t impress.  But you accepted me from the start.  Before you even met me, you loved me…I think maybe because Kevin loved me, and somehow you seemed to get that.

This is one of your most endearing qualities, Mi Amor.  The way you love from the heart.  You love people for who they are, not what they do, or what they wear or how they look.  These things of the world don’t matter to you.  I wish we could all be more like you in that regard:  We place so much value on passing worldly whims, which are here today and gone tomorrow.  I wish we savored the important things, as you do.  I wish we loved more freely, without expectation or judgment or fear, as you do.

You are a beauty, Mi Amor, in the truest sense of the word.  Your childlike faith and purity of heart radiate a loveliness that few contain.  All the money in the world couldn’t buy these qualities.  I hope you know how beautiful you are, such a rare and precious jewel.

Thank you for teaching me so much about life, about priorities, about eternal perspective.  We don’t know what the future holds for you, but then again, we don’t know what the future holds for any of us.  God knit you together in your mother’s womb, did you know that?  He knows every hair on your head.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and God has a great plan for your life.  I’m just so thankful that a part of His plan for you included me.  I can’t imagine my life without you.

I love you, Mi Amor.  Have a Happy Birthday!


Thursday, 23 August 2012

Ruffled Feathers and whatnot

Hi Family and Friends!

It’s hard to believe we’re approaching our first-year anniversary of our move to Jamaica.  Time has certainly flown by!  Here’s a peek into some of our morning coffee conversation, as we reflect on the ways the past year has changed us: 

Life in a third world country has grown us into more adaptable people.  We’re reevaluating our wants and needs, and understanding what a difference a culture makes between the two.   For example, I want a second vehicle.  When I lived in Houston, it was a need.  I needed a car…to get to work, to run errands, to be independent of my dear husband and not have to worry about coordinating his schedule with my own.  Now, I realize that a second vehicle does not qualify as a need in most of the world.  Kevin and I share a car.  And we are surviving (gasp!)   We could have survived in Houston.  We would have adapted and figured out how to make it work.  I venture to say that most Americans—particularly our generation – aren’t keen on adapting.  Especially if it means any sort of inconvenience or personal sacrifice.

If anything, the past year has taught us to adapt—to make the most of whatever situation comes our way, even if it’s less than optimal.  We’re realizing how most of our problems are “first world problems.”  We grew up in a high functioning, progressive, first world country where all our needs (and most of our wants) were abundantly met.  Most Jamaicans are not so lucky.  The country is poor, the government corrupt, the economy tanked, and the future bleak.  Yet the people adapt.  They find ways to survive.  They make the most with what they’ve got.  And they take care of each other along the way. 

We have learned a lot from them.  When we count our blessings, the list is twice as long.  So many things we used to need are now merely wants.  So when they appear, we’re so much more aware and so much more grateful.  And when they disappear, for a brief moment or an indefinite period, we adapt and forge ahead.  The list ranges from big to small:  Equal opportunity without regard to race, law-abiding citizens, honest policemen, punctual airport transportation, hot water, air conditioning, fat free creamer, a good steak…all things we’re thankful for, but no longer expect.  Perhaps it’s a matter of reevaluating expectation.  We hope the process is making us more grateful, more patient, more flexible people.

Not that it’s always easy!  But, it’s easier than it was nine months ago.  And I happily pour an ample amount of fat-filled creamer into my coffee each morning, knowing fat free creamer is a first world problem.  All in all, my feathers aren’t as ruffled as they used to be.  I suppose that’s progress, because ruffled feathers do nothing for the body, mind or soul.

With love,
Kevin and Cass

Sunday, 12 August 2012

His Heart Goes Out to Us

August announced itself with gusto in the Murphy household.  We returned from Alaska and settled into a semi-normal routine, only to pack our bags and head out again for another week’s travel.  Kevin had business in St. Thomas and San Juan, and thanks to an airline voucher I received a month prior, I joined him for the trip.  We arrived home Thursday with enough time to do a load of laundry and catch a few hours of sleep before Kevin flew out again to Texas, to serve as a groomsman in his best friend’s wedding.  I’m starting to accept the fact that “normal routine” may not be part of this season for us.  An exciting realization on one hand, as there aren’t many times in life you have the opportunities we have here.  On the other hand, the flexibility required to navigate a season like this has been a character builder for a girl who loves the simplicity and predictability of routine! 

Because international flights aren’t exactly budget-friendly, Kevin attended the wedding alone and I stayed in Kingston.  I’ve been home alone all weekend, thoroughly enjoying the silence and lack of agenda.  Silence breeds reflection, and I’ve spent the last two days doing a lot of reading, journaling, thinking and praying.  To be honest, there have been several bumps in our personal lives the past few months that I wanted to hash out with God—grief that’s hit too close to home, ailing loved ones, trying relationships that we never anticipated would be trying.  The simple reality of living in a fallen world and doing life as an imperfect person with other imperfect people can be exhausting.

I was reading my Bible yesterday morning, seeking solace for an overwhelmed heart, when I came across a story that brought great encouragement.  The story is short—just a few paragraphs long told only once in the Bible.  Jesus and his disciples are entering a town called Nain.  As Jesus approaches the town gates, a funeral procession is going out.  The only son of a widow had died, which is basically a death sentence for the widow herself.  Her son was her last means of support, and with him gone, the widow is penniless and alone—a bleak and hopeless future.  The commentary says she would likely be reduced to begging for food.

Luke tells us that when Jesus saw the widow, “His heart went out to her.”  He saw her pain, was filled with compassion and responded.  He touched the coffin, commanded the dead son to get up, and the man sat up and began talking!  (Can you imagine the widow?  In my mind she surely faints.  I’d want to be the one with the smelling salts and witness the look on her face as she realized her son was alive.  Unspeakable joy no doubt.)

I love that Luke tells us nothing of the widow’s spiritual condition.  We don’t know if she was a spiritually devout woman.  We don’t know if she spent hours in prayer, or gave lots of time and money to serving God.  We don’t even know if she believed in Jesus.  For all we know, she was a mean, selfish woman who deserved a hopeless future.  It wasn’t any merits earned by the widow that caused Jesus to respond.  It was the compassion in His heart.    

“His heart went out to her.”  This statement is so beautiful to me.  I picture Jesus taking His heart—full of endless mercy, compassion and love—and handing it the widow.  He turns her tragedy into triumph and her tears of sorrow into tears of joy.  As I read the story, I realized that Jesus does the same for us.  Whatever our circumstances, whatever our pain, His heart goes out to us.  He doesn’t respond with apathy or harsh judgment.  He doesn’t leave us to figure it out on our own.  He responds with compassion and the power to rescue.

God’s heart goes out to us.  Even if our lives our amuck and we’ve played a part in the mess we’re in (as we likely have).  Even if our pain is great and our faith is small. Even if we haven’t prayed for months or more.  Even if we’re not even sure what we think about God.  His heart goes out to us.  What great encouragement for whatever your story and wherever you are.

With love,

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Jamaica to Juneau

Glacier Bay
Home of 1,375 square miles of glaciers!

Hi Family and Friends!

July has been a crazy month in the Murphy household!  We were blessed to go on a Bucket List adventure: An Alaskan cruise!  Earlier in the year we sat at our kitchen counter and started our Bucket List — something we often talked about but never actually put on paper.  Under “Run a marathon” and “Become fluent in another language” was “Alaskan cruise”.  We had no idea this dream would be fulfilled so soon!

We went with my family the first week of July.  Although cliché, we truly created memories that will last a lifetime.  Never before had Kevin or I experienced beauty in such pure form.  The mountains, glaciers and glassy waters of Alaska made me wonder if heaven might be similar (although hopefully a few degrees warmer!)  The Bible tells us that God’s creation reveals His greatness, and it seemed as though all of Alaska was celebrating God.  The exploding sunsets, jumping whales, curious sea lions and unconquered mountains all seemed to be shouting, “God is magnificent!”  It’s like they were bursting to tell the world of God’s glory.

The trip was the first time in a long time Kevin and I were totally disconnected.  No phone service, no internet, no text messages, no conference calls.  It made me long for simpler days, before e-mail synced with cell phones, when cell phones themselves were a foreign idea, reserved only for the rich and famous.  It was good therapy, and something I think everyone should do at least yearly: Disconnect entirely.  Eat meals and actually converse with the people you’re with, without texting or playing Words with Friends under the table.  Surround yourself with nature—without your iPhone, without Facebook, without ESPN or the Bachelorette or whatever it may be for you.  Reflect on your life and the things you’re grateful for.  Enjoy the moment.  Sit in silence.  Stop planning the next thing.  I think we’ve forgotten how to do this.  And unfortunately, it’s our relationships and our own personal sanity that are suffering.

We’re back in Kingston.  Life picked up where it left off, in such a flourish it’s hard to even think straight.  But our souls are refreshed.  And we’re awestruck by God’s creation and declare along with it the glory of our Father.

With Love,
Kevin & Cass

P.S.  I've included a few pictures from the trip below.  Please enjoy!

Cruising through Glacier Bay

Juneau to Kingston: 4000 miles.  Can't believe we made the sign!

Whale watching
(With patience and perseverance we saw over 30 whales!)

Victoria, BC