It’s The Clouds That Make It Magnificent

I marveled at the beautiful sunrises during our week in Bali.  Rising early and walking down to the water became my morning ritual and gave me time to sit and bask in God’s creation and glory.  Sun rays peered through the clouds, deepening the colors and changing the masterpiece moment by moment.  Then it hit me – it’s the clouds that make it magnificent.  If the clouds were not there, the appearance of the sun would be similar day after day and may not draw special attention.  It may then be taken for granted and never really appreciated for what it is.

Similarly, isn’t it so that the trials (clouds) in our lives keep us seeking?  Wanting something more…longing for clear skies.  Much as we don’t like disruptions, unexpected changes, illness, opposition, fear and pain, we are assured this is a condition of our life here on earth.

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”   -John 16:33

Life will never be cloudless here on earth.  We live in a sinful and painful world.  But there is incredible joy to be had in the journey.  Our hope is in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Please don’t fail to recognize those cloudy skies as an opportunity to draw close to Him.  The Son will always be there for you…clear skies or otherwise.

In the beauty and calm of the island, God allowed us to really relax and enjoy some much needed rest.   I am beyond thankful for an amazing time away.

Prior to our September vacation, I must admit I had a wonderful summer.  Naomi and I did a road trip from Jonae’s to Ohio and visited with several friends.

We returned to celebrate Juliet’s birthday – which marks a historical time for Brian & I – we’ve been living on this adventure for a full two years now!   Juliet is an absolute joy  and her presence overwhelms my heart with such love.  Just something about being a grandma, I guess.  What an honor.

Quick stop in Arizona and California allowed me to hug more friends & family before returning to the Philippines.  I am so grateful for the doors God continues to open (and close) during this season of my life.

May you live encouraged today.   Be aware of the clouds in your life and don’t miss the opportunity to draw closer to Him.  He loves you unconditionally now and forevermore.

Thanks for sharing in my life.   May God bless you abundantly as we head into the last quarter of 2017!

The Filipinos know how to kick off the weekend

Every Friday evening at 7pm (7am ET in the US – the start of my workday), they shoot off fireworks over the water by the Mall of Asia to commence the beginning of the weekend.  They only last about 4 minutes and I try and step away to get some pictures off our balcony.  Last week I walked to the corner and watched them with a different perspective.  Lots of people out on a Friday night!  Brian said they refer to the weekend as “SatSun” at his work.  Needless to say, I’m always happy to see the fireworks when they appear.

I’m nearing the end of my third trip here to Manila and am more familiar with our apartment and the local surroundings.  For those of you that know I love to do dishes, it has taken a bit getting used to doing dishes in lukewarm water (only hot water is in the shower…for which I’m thankful.)  We also have this washer/dryer combo….sounds like a great idea – other than a “normal” cycle is 3 ½ hours and the clothes come out pretty wrinkled!  That being said we started taking Brian’s dress shirts to the “Suds Laundry & Dry Cleaning”  in our building (very affordable) and only doing a quick wash for 30 minutes for the other items (and hanging them all over the house to let them dry.)  Security called immediately when I tried hanging clothes on the balcony to let me know that was not permitted.  Oh there’s no oven – guess they figured it’s too hot there (which it is) to heat up a big appliance.  Now one thing that is great where we live is the air conditioning – they have room only units that do cool the place nicely.  With temps in the 90’s and 100’s with humidity almost as high it is a must-have.

We are in a great location (Shell Residences) – Mall of Asia is a quick walk and they have just about everything (food store, department stores, restaurants, currency exchange, etc.)  Traffic in general in Manila is pretty insane…I am thankful we have access to a driver and that Brian’s office is within walking distance (he walks home on occasion in the morning.)  The airport is only 15-20 minutes away now that they’ve built a new “skyway” that lifts the airport traffic above the normally congested roads.

Life is very quiet for us here – truly no responsibilities outside of work.  I am learning to appreciate the down time…reading, working out, watching Netflix and HGTV, even playing solitaire with a deck of cards Erica gave me.  I don’t mind traveling back and forth to the U.S. – typically a 24 hour commute – but Brian is not quite as fond and has been here since the beginning of March.   He works long days Monday thru Friday, and weekends are spent catching up on sleep and sitting by the pool.

While Brian has had some interesting challenges at work, God is definitely at work.  The office has small clubs of all kinds for the employees…sports, travel , drama, Christian life, among other groups.  Brian has had the opportunity to preach on several Saturday mornings at the Life Group.  They have a large gathering the beginning of every month and July 1 there was over a hundred people there!   We are confident that God has a much bigger plan for our scheduled time here.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my trips back to the U.S. to see friends & family in California, Ohio, and Mississippi.   Jonae and Jus were able to get away a few times which left me as grandma on call – Juliet and I had lots of fun.  She’s a true joy and is a pleasure to be with.  I learned all her favorite movies and foods, her daily routine and fun ways to keep us both entertained.  Naomi the pup was happy to see me, but she clearly has settled into a nice routine with Juliet.

The area where we live is near the water, but it meets the land by way of a sea wall and docks.  I felt the ocean calling and when I arrived back here in June we took a flight to Cebu here in the Philippines.  It was so nice to put our feet in the sand for the weekend.  We were up early Sunday and caught a beautiful sunrise while my son Mitch caught the sunset on the other side of the world.  Stunning!

Now that Tokyo to Manila is my new commute, I’m finding that this is all pretty surreal.   My eyes are open and my breath prayer remains “Almighty God, show me.”  I want to be found faithful and not miss an opportunity to share God’s love with those I know and those I’ve yet to meet.   Thanks for reading ~ have a blessed summer!

A Lot Can Change In Six Months

I’m sure you’re not too surprised…but with me and my family, that’s an understatement.  When I wrote my last blog over six months ago, we were enjoying the sights and sounds of Hollywood.  It’s the middle of the night here in Metro Manila and we’re watching old movies on HBO.  Brian accepted a job that is based here in the Philippines and we’ve started our next adventure!  We’re in a nice (but small) two bedroom, furnished condo near the Mall of Asia.  People here are very friendly and we’re growing accustomed to working overnight (US east coast hours.)

September and October included fun Hollywood themes and lazy days.  Mitch and I made a quick trip to Mom & Dad’s in Tucson before he moved back to Ohio.  I had the opportunity to watch Kathy Bates get her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Jonae, Justice & Juliet returned to California for DeeDee’s wedding and we took a day to enjoy Universal Studios together.  Kennen started college in Riverside.  The middle of October we had a family trip to Laughlin to celebrate my sister-in-law’s 40th birthday.  A great time was had by all!

In November, heaven welcomed my sweet mother-in-law Mary, when she lost her fight to cancer.  Brian was able to spend a few weeks with the family in Ohio.  She loved Jesus and shared His love and compassion with everyone lucky enough to spend time with her.  I was able to travel to Honduras for our annual Revive conference.  I go with the intention of blessing others, but God expresses His ultimate love for me every time I’m in the presence of these ladies.  Words can’t express how much I needed this trip and it didn’t disappoint.  Thanksgiving was one of my favorite yet – we did pot luck at my friend Katie’s.  She invited her friends and people from her apartment building and we dined with a bunch of “kids” looking to get into the motion picture industry.   Very non-traditional Hollywood Thanksgiving; loved it.

By December we knew we were getting ready for the big move (Brian’s first trip to the Philippines was scheduled for January 2), and our weekends were full.  I met Pam and Michelle the beginning of the month in Irvine and introduced them to Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  They are now hooked and I suspect it will become a tradition for us moving forward!  We all traveled to Cleveland the second weekend in December to celebrate Whitney & Elliott’s wedding.  It was an amazing, whirlwind couple of days and it was wonderful to have the family together.  (The honeymooners have since relocated to Virginia Beach and are enjoying the winter away from Cleveland!)  Brian and I attended a Christmas show at the Pantages Theater and saw an A cappella group at the Dolby Theater.  We also took a Christmas light boat tour in Newport Beach and attended Christmas Eve services at Saddleback Church.  Christmas Day was at my sister’s and New Year’s Eve was quiet at home.

While Brian was away in January, I spent the month sorting, packing, shipping and selling the apartment full of possessions we gathered during our time in California.  I had several visitors during the month and got to go see the Dr Phil show, Griffith Observatory and Santa Monica Pier.   I used my season pass at Universal Studios a few more times and watched Amy Adams get her star on the Walk of Fame.  A few days before I left, I received a call from the Pantages Theater asking if I was still interested in a part-time usher job.  Good to know I had options!

The first week of February, Jonae, Juliet, Naomi and I drove from California to Jonae’s home in Southaven, Mississippi.  God protected us the entire trip!  The only car trouble was before I had anyone else with me (needed a new battery) and the only rain on the very last day (no ice or snow at all!)  We spent two nights with my parents in Tucson and two nights traveling across Texas.  We enjoyed a fun Saturday morning at Magnolia Market in Waco, TX (HGTV’s Fixer Upper town.)   I was blessed to spend almost two weeks in Southaven before traveling to Myrtle Beach to meet up with Erica and the girls for our annual beach trip.  Spent a few days in Ohio (saw Erica’s beautiful new house!) before Brian arrived and we flew to Manila together.  (Naomi my pup is adjusting well to her new home with Jonae and her family!)

Now you’re all caught up.  First two weeks here in the Philippines have been good to me.  I’m falling into a routine and found new workout videos I like.  We attended a church service here today and I was overwhelmed with God’s grace and goodness.  It’s so beautiful that you can find people like us that love Jesus across the world.  I will be in the US for the month of April.  Thanks for reading – Lord willing, next update will be shorter & sooner!  Happy Spring!!!  God Bless You!




Juliet’s First Birthday, Disneyland, and Family

The middle of summer was all about family time.  Adam came out from Ohio for a week and was able to see Jonae and Juliet before he headed back.   On August 2nd we had a little mini party to celebrate Juliet’s first birthday.  She is such a sweet, sweet baby!  Jonae and I took her to Disneyland the day after to celebrate.  Even though it was crowded and a little warm, we had a truly magical time!

Jonae left on Thursday to spend some time with her cousin and my parents arrived that evening.  We had so much fun babysitting – although, it’s easy to forget how much work is involved!  Between Juliet and the dog, there was always something to do!  There is definitely a reason God planned it that way…childbearing is definitely for the young (and not just young at heart!)

On Saturday, we ventured up the hill to my sister’s house and enjoyed a fun lunch with her family and Michelle.  We had a great visit and Juliet napped on the way there and the way back.  I really miss living close to them.

Jonae returned on Sunday and we enjoyed some pool time and a nice dinner.  My folks headed back to Tucson on Monday, and the girls stayed a couple of more days (compliments of the power outage that Delta experienced.)  Overall we had a wonderful time and our apartment worked out great for visitors!

The remaining days of August have been pretty calm.  The weather has been beautiful (80’s on average) and it still hasn’t rained since we’ve lived in Hollywood!  The terrible “blue cut” fire ravaged for days up near my sister’s – fortunately none of their family or friends were directly impacted, but almost a hundred people lost their homes.

We had a special treat last week when a sponsor provided Hollywood Bowl tickets to the people in Brian’s office.  We saw a tribute to Ray Charles and the orchestra was very good.  We had a really nice time and we got to check off yet another thing off our “what we want to do while living in Hollywood” list.

Jonae and her family are returning to California the end of September and we’ve scheduled a trip to Universal Studios.  Adam started a part-time job and is back in school.  Whitney is looking forward to her bachelorette weekend over Labor Day.  Mitch is contemplating a move back east.  It’s been a great summer and I’m anticipating all the blessings God will provide in the fall.  Check back soon for updates.  Much love to you and yours!

No Dumping…Drains to Ocean

“Did you ever think you would live in Hollywood?  Or somewhere the storm drain contains a warning about the ocean?”  No.  I honestly didn’t think it was a possibility.  Even when Brian first started entertaining (no pun intended…well maybe a little) the thought of applying for the job at Paramount Studios, I didn’t want to get my hopes up.  My mind was spinning with just the thought – and now we are here!  In our fourth week already!  Simply amazing what God can do when we don’t try to limit Him.

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The first weekend in July, Brian made a quick trip to Ohio to surprise his parents and attend the Cleland family reunion.  He had a great time and was happy to see several cousins that he hadn’t seen in years.  He saw a bunch of my friends at Erica’s annual pig roast and met up with Adam on his last night.  While he was away, I went back “up the hill” to my sister’s house where I visited with her family, Michelle and my parents.  We attended our first (and unfortunately) my last Drum Corp show for the season in Riverside on Sunday night.  Even Naomi had a great time as she met some friends at a new dog sitter’s home.

The goal of my first official weekend home (with no unpacking or planned events) was to get my toes in the sand.  Brian and I ventured down to Santa Monica pier and had a lovely lunch at the Mexican food restaurant.  We both enjoyed people watching and took off our shoes long enough to take get a picture.  Next time we will bring the beach towels and sunscreen – the rest of the weekend was spent lounging by the rooftop pool.

I love exploring Hollywood and Los Angeles on foot and via public transportation.  I try to take 2-3 excursions per week (I’m off work at 2p local time), even if it’s just to the food store and back.  Once I realized I could be to the front gate in about 30 minutes, I splurged and bought a season pass to Universal Studios Hollywood.  I love the atmosphere and truly enjoy the old “Studio Tour” tram ride that takes you around the sound stages and movie sets.  Although the pass is restricted most of the summer, I look forward to spending time there once the busy season is over.  Some of the rides there are pretty cool, but I love watching the people.  Evidently the people also get a kick out of watching me, too, as I made eye contact with a couple on a tour bus outside my home office the other day – you just can’t make this stuff up!

My sister and nephew Zander visited us for the first time this past weekend.  We had so much fun!  I met them at Union Station and was excited to show them our new home.  We enjoyed time at the pool (they met our new friends Carlos & Norma) and later we met Mitch and his friend for dinner near all the action (Hollywood & Highland area.)  Our 2 mile walk home seemed effortless as we took in all the sites on Hollywood Blvd.  Can’t wait for them (and you) to visit soon!

Not to neglect the rest of the family – Jonae & Justice sold their townhouse in Atlanta and have relocated to Southaven, Mississippi (just south of Memphis) where they purchased a new home.   They have several trips planned the rest of the year (one out here in a few weeks) but are anxious to get settled.  Whitney and Elliott moved to a larger place closer to her work and they are starting to engage in pre-wedding festivities.  Adam is scheduled to visit soon and both boys are looking for gainful employment.  We all look forward to being together in December for the wedding in Cleveland.

Lots going on the next few weeks – I will be back soon with pictures and updates.  Watch for God’s blessings in both the big and the small things…He won’t cease to amaze you.  Love to all!

On the Move

The last six weeks have been nothing short of amazing!  As we prepared to move, I spent as much waking time as possible with my sister and my friend Michelle.  We ate out, made it to the movies a few times and took lots of long walks (before it got too warm!)  My parents were out for a visit and I was able to see my brother & sister-in-law.   Brian enjoyed time in our swimming pool and was sad to leave it.  We even put the dog in once and found out that Naomi can dog paddle!

The last two weeks of May were extremely busy for my sister as she wrapped up her school year and attended the boys programs.   In addition to graduating two years early, my nephew Kennen was valedictorian of his class.  His speech at the ceremony lifted the spirits of everyone and he is enjoying the summer before heading off to college in September.  My nephew Zander completed sixth grade on the superintendent’s honor roll as well.  So proud of both of them!

After graduation festivities wrapped up, Michelle and I went to Laughlin where we met some friends from Ohio (including Erica!!)  We had such a great visit!  My parents delivered Pam for a night – just long enough for her to hit two progressives on nickel poker.  Woohoo!  We also had the opportunity to recreate some photos from the first time us four girls went to Laughlin twenty years ago – what a blast!

God has truly blessed every bit of our relocation from Victorville to Hollywood.  We secured a nice two bedroom apartment that exceeded our wish list:  reserved covered parking, air-conditioning, pet-friendly and rooftop pool!  We are located in a (busy) residential area between Hollywood & Sunset Boulevards just east of the 101 freeway.   From the roof you can see the Hollywood sign, the Griffith Observatory, Capitol Records, downtown Los Angeles and beautiful sunsets.  Our new home is within walking distance of the metro, bus lines, yummy restaurants, our bank, food store and many other amenities.  I’m expecting lots of visitors – please send me your dates so I can add you to the calendar!

Our granddaughter Juliet is nearing 11 months old….on the move physically (walking!) and her daddy has accepted a promotion that is moving them just outside of Memphis.  Stay tuned for more details as the entire Cleland/Powers clan changes addresses this year (with the exception of Adam at school!)  Until next time – enjoy the warm summer breezes, colorful sunrises and sunsets, balmy evenings and lots of time with loved ones.  May God Bless You abundantly.

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March, April, and now May!

The last few months have completely flown by and this month already feels like its half over.  Well not completely – but going fast nonetheless.  Happy Mother’s Day 2016!  I praise God for all the women in my life that have children and for those that share their awesome mother-like qualities.   It’s no accident that we are born into the family that God has chosen for us.   Celebrate what He has done and what He is going to do!

I have enjoyed every minute of the last nine weeks!  March included my nephew Zander’s 12th birthday, a 6k walk for Worldvision, and a weekend trip to Tucson to see my folks.

I had a visit from my WV/Ohio friends Julie, Janie & Cheri – the girls in my very first prayer group (1997!)  Our southern California blitz included visits to Santa Monica, Griffith Observatory, Victorville, Temecula, San Diego, and the beaches of Orange County.  We laughed, cried, prayed and shared all the amazing things God has done (and is doing) in our lives.

A work trip to Atlanta the end of the month allowed me to spend a few days with Jonae, Justice and Juliet.  Being a grandma is the best!  Juliet is an exceptional baby and Jonae is a wonderful, caring mother.   Their family abounds with the love of Christ and I couldn’t be more proud.

Mitch and I took a quick trip to Ohio in early April.   I was able to see my doctor, my hairdresser, and a host of friends and family in both the Westerville and Marietta areas.  Deena and I were able to participate in the baptism of our dear friend Kandi on Thursday evening.  (Yet another amazing Bible Study group God has blessed me with!)

During my visit, I had from 5 minutes to 3 hours with these amazing people:   MaryK, Deena, Pat & Don, Julie & her sister Tina, Carol at Family Christian Store, Sally, Erica, Mel, Aaron, Erica’s Dad, Janie, Cheri, Julie, Mark, Brian’s Dad & Mary, the Harmar Saturday lunch bunch, Terry, Val, Jen (Honduras), Sarah, Dan, Jen (bookstore), April, Tina, Sherrill, Kandi, Heidi, Kristina, Karen, Gretchen, Stephanie, Annette, Diana, Terrie, and Becky.   I tried to get pictures with everyone – memories I will cherish forever!

The fun continued when I returned to CA.  Nephew Kennen turned 16 and received his driver’s license, spring soccer started and Drumline wrapped up on the 23rd.  Pam and I spent a day in Orange County where we met Sue for lunch and stopped by to see my brother Ed and his family.  My parents were in for a short visit before they left for Laughlin to celebrate their 57th wedding anniversary.

While in Ohio, Mitch was able to reconnect with friends and share his exciting news:  he enrolled at the Los Angeles Film & Recording School to study music production!   We moved him into his studio apartment in Hollywood last Sunday, May first (making us OFFICIAL empty nesters!)   Class went well this week and he is excited for the opportunity to study something he loves.

Speaking of HOLLYWOOD….Brian has accepted a position within his company at Paramount Studios – we will be moving there early in the summer!  Stay tuned as we begin year two of our adventure….until next time…God bless you!   (And yes, Juliet is 9 months old already!!!)