Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fantasy Islands--Day #6

Wednesday--June 23

We woke up on "hump day" on the island of Kona. We had a similar breakfast to what we had been having and then it was off to our next excursion.

This was the one island that we had to take a tender to shore, so we left early in order to make sure that we arrived by 9:00. We got there at 8:30, so we had to wait, but it was worth every moment.

We finally boarded the boat about 9:20 feeling like we may have missed 20 minutes of our trip. This would turn out to not be true. It was one of those boats where you sit around the perimeter of the boat. We went out about 16-17 miles down the coast. We saw many dolphins on the way right next to our boat. When we got to the spot our guides were looking for, it was time to snorkel. There were about 20 of us and Patti and I were the only ones who did not snorkel at that point. The others were in the water a good 45 minutes.

Then to make up for our late departure, they took us down the coast a little further to a beautiful cove where we anchored. They put small air vests on Patti and I and over the side I went. I felt a state of panic at the outset, but as soon as I began to float, the panic left me. Then I put my face into the water and the whole world opened up to me. The fish were beautiful and the coral was magnificent. I guess we were there about 45 minutes also, but I lost all track of time. I really did not want to leave when it was over. Patti experienced it as well.

We conquered our fear. It was almost a spiritual experience. I can't quite put it into words. Our two guides showed us so much kindness, patience, and caring concern. I thought that this must have been what it was like to be on an adventure with Jesus. We got back about an hour later than it was scheduled for, so we really got our money's worth and we all knew it.

That evening we ate in the more formal dining room. That really meant long pants and a polo shirt or Hawaiian shirt, as opposed to shorts. I had swordfish and lobster on this night. We just had a great two-hour, multi-course dinner together and the food was secondary to the great family fellowship.

Then it was another show or maybe shows and off to bed.

Fantasy Islands--Day #5

Tuesday--June 22

We woke up to Hilo this morning. Had a great breakfast outside on the aft of the ship. I could handle the breakfast outside every day. The difference between Hawaii and Texas was about 10-15 degrees and much lower humidity. Maybe that is why I enjoyed the outside breakfast.

We left for another excursion about 9:00. This day we were headed to the Volcano National Park. We stopped at a Macadamia Nut Factory along the way. It was interesting. When we reached the park we really saw a lot. Walking on an old lava flow was great and seeing where it emptied into was pretty neat.

The highway has been closed to the active volcano because the acid content is so high, but we did see a lot of steam from a distance. Then we traveled to another crater that exploded, creating a crater within a crater. The steam was still pouring out of it. Then we walked through a lava tube, like a tall tunnel the lava made as it fell to the ocean. We ended up at what I think was called The Candy Store, where we sampled Kona Coffee that sells for about $40 a pound. It really is the smoothest coffee I've ever tasted.

That evening we ate in the dining room and then Patti wanted to attend a 50's Sock Hop. I wasn't wild about going, but I knew Patti was really looking forward to it. When we got there couples starting dancing. Patti leaned over to me and said, "If they play the Twist, will you dance with me?" What could I say?

Moments later the music came on and we went out to dance with many other couples. At the end of the music, one of the employees tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Can you help us?" I said, "It depends on what you want me to do." He said, "We want you to be in our finals." I thought, "What has she got me into?"

There were three couples in the finals and they introduced us to the audience. Then we were the first couple to dance. I just had to let it all hang out. I could tell that Patti was really enjoying herself. Then the other two couples danced and I think we both thought that we had won. They then did the applause thing and the crowd went crazy. I was embarrassed. They presented Patti with an NCL shopping bag and she was happily ready to leave. She had done her thing and was satisfied. Then we saw another show and went to bed.

I was excited to be a part of Patti's adventure on this night. She beamed from ear to ear!

Fantasy Islands--Day #4

Monday--June 21

June 21 was our 35th wedding anniversary. We had a leisure breakfast and then went on our first planned excursion. We used a local company through They picked us up at the ship and we went to one of the beautiful beaches of Maui. They dropped us off about 10:30 and picked us up at 3:00.

There were actually three beaches that butted up against each other. One seemed to be for families, children's groups, and youth groups. Another one seemed to be mostly adults of all ages and the third was a mixture.

My son-in-law, Steve, is a natural explorer. Steve never sits still and is not the type to lay on the beach. Jared and I went with him exploring the three beaches. Steve found a large lava rock formation about 75 yards off the beach. We made our way out to the formation and then Steve jumped off of it into the Pacific. On the way back to the beach I reached out for some lava rock to steady my balance and yup, it "bit" me! Talk about sharp!! I now know what lava rock can do.

That evening we celebrated our anniversary by going to one of the speciality restaurants. It was a "Texas Steak House". The food was great and the service was impeccable. They presented us with an anniversary cake and sang to us at the end of the evening. It was nice. Then there were more shows and off to bed.

We learn a lot about Jesus in the gospels, but not everything is covered. With what we learn about Jesus in every day life, I would be surprised if He did not celebrate big days with His disciples. We just don't read about most of them in the gospels.

Life has changed a lot in the last 35 years. In June of 1975 it was just Patti and me. Today, our family includes two grown children, their spouses, and four grandchildren. The "two" has turned into 10. We lived and were married in Alabama. Now we have lived in Texas for 34.5 years. I was in management, but now have been in the ministry since 1976. The only thing that has not changed is that Patti remains a teacher. Thank God for these 35 years.

Fantasy Islands--Day #3

Sunday--June 20

This was the first of two days in Maui. So, this was a golf day for Jared and me, plus a day of exploration for Patti, Tiffany, Miranda, and Steve.

We played at the most beautiful golf course that I have ever had the opportunity to play. It was almost completely surrounded by the Pacific and where there wasn't water, there was mountains. It was hard to concentrate on playing. Every hole was unique and awesome. When I made an easy par on the first hole, I knew that it was going to be an enjoyable day( I never par the first hole).

Then name of this course was the Wailea Golf Club, the Emerald Course. This was not the course where The Skins Game was played for so many years. That was the Gold Course, but we were looking for something even more picturesque and the Emerald Course was it.

The Pro from our ship played nine holes with one group and the other nine holes with us. He joined us on hole #8 and I triple bogeyed the next three holes. By hole #11 I began to settle down again, with a birdie on a par 5. I ended the round with a sand shot into the cup on 18. I should have shot a 95-96, but ended up with a 102. Probably not too bad for not touching a golf club in a year. The teaching Pro taught us something on every hole, so it was very profitable. It was a great day of memories. I would recommend it to any golfer.

That evening we ate in one of the Dining Rooms again. This dining room was more casual. You could wear shorts, rather than long pants and a polo shirt. It served the same menu as the other one. In addition to the dining rooms, there were speciality restaurants at one extreme and buffet dining at others. It was all good!

We took in some shows and went to bed.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fantasy Islands--Day #2

Saturday--June 19

I did not think I would have any more time today, but here is a pocket of unexpected time, so I'll use it to continue with the journey.

We got up on Saturday morning and went to the restaurant in the hotel. We had vouchers for a free breakfast and the hotel is known for its pancakes. Three of us ordered the pancakes and it was enough for an army. They serve three 14 inch pancakes! That is like a box of pancake mix!! I hardly put a dent in mine and the others did not fare any better.

Then it was a trip to the beach until about noon. The water was beautiful, very similar to the gulf of Mexico along the northwest corridor of Florida. The beaches were pretty, but did not compare with the white sand beaches from Gulf Shores, Alabama to Panama City, Florida.

Our limo picked us up at the hotel around 2:00 and we boarded the ship about three o'clock. We walked around the ship and made dining reservations and golfing reservations. We went to dinner about 6:00 and met our waiter, a young man by the name of Christian from El Paso, Texas. We got to know him better as each day went by.

I think we went to a couple of shows that night and got to bed at a decent hour. We were finally on the ship and it was on its way to Maui. All we needed was a good night's sleep.

This must have been how Jesus felt when He had traveled all the way to Bethany and finally settled in with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. He was relaxed to be with friends, but glad to be at this point in the journey.

Another installment tonight or tomorrow.

Fantasy Islands--Day #1

Friday--June 18

On June 18 the Mathews clan took off for Hawaii. The purpose was to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary, but the hidden agenda was to just be together for an extended period of time. We accomplished both. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I was able to get a non-stop flight from Houston-Honolulu last August(before the Continental merger with United). My choice was Continental because of my satisfaction with them over the years. The cabin crew was the worst I've seen in all of my years. They seemed to not be engaged with the passengers, seemingly unhappy, and "flying" down the aisles as if no one was on the plane. The rest of our family picked up on the same thing. It was not a bad start, but the whole plane was happy and looking forward to their vacation in Hawaii. The crew could not have failed, you would have thought.

It was a long flight. It felt like a trip to Amsterdam, but we arrived in late afternoon Hawaii time. We transferred to our hotel. We took a shuttle from the airport. After about 20 stops at other hotels and two hours later, we finally arrived at our hotel. That trip was worse than the flight over. NOTE: The shuttle cost was $9 each, or $54 in total. The next day we rented a limo to go to the pier for $25. Skip the shuttles!!!

We checked into the hotel and then went out to dinner. There are many restaurants to choose from, all within walking distance of the main hotels. It was nice, the food was really good, and we had a great time together. We went back to the hotel for some hot tub time before turning in for the evening. It has been a long day, but a good one.

We read in the gospels that Jesus often wanted to get alone with his disciples. They needed to get away from the crowds and just relax. They needed to be together. The Mathews family needed some of this "away" time as well. We needed some extended time together without so many interruptions and every day life getting in the way. It was happening.

Tomorrow, I will go on to day #2. The best was yet to come.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Home Alone 4????

No, there is not a Home Alone remake on the horizon, at least as far as I know. I am reminded of this series of movies on the eve of our 2010 vacation. What I liked most about the first two movies was the family excitement leading up to their departure.

Don't you remember how family members arrived from out of town and spent the night? The house was full of relatives, everybody was running all over the house and then pizza was delivered. Then the star of the movies was sent to his room because he would not apologize to his brother. The next morning the entire house oversleeps and they have to make a mad dash to the airport.

Patti and I both get excited the night before we go somewhere. I enjoy the last few days as you pack and live off of a To Do list. It is about 10:30 and we are both packed. We are waiting on Steve and Miranda to arrive from Fort Worth. Patti has spent some time in the kitchen tonight preparing Monkey Bread and Baked French Toast for breakfast. The kitchen/den smells like cinnamon.

Our kids and their spouses will be leaving for Hawaii in the morning. It is our 35th wedding anniversary, so I thought we would just all go over there together. We will spend the night in Honolulu tomorrow night and then board a cruise ship for seven days to island hop. It should be great for us to all be together!

I would not trade anything for my precious family. We enjoy being together and we are all looking forward to the week ahead. There will be hiking in Volcano National Park, a Zip Line experience, and a Rafting experience, just to name a few of our family events. It sounds like fun, but the best part of it will be just being together. It will give us memories for years to come.

Now, all we have to do is not over-sleep in the morning and take everybody with us!