Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Anniversary Surprise

Jen here. The summer was difficult. In Hong Kong we still had work, and then were a bit sad to leave new friends. Returning to the US, we spent brief time with family and then headed to Seattle to live in a new area, attend a new church and (for me) to work a new job. In all the adjustments and change, we were not without trials. Yes, we had sweet times and rejoiced in seeing friends and family again! But we were also stressed, worried, anxious and grumbly (especially me). One of my dearest friends kept telling me (as I poured out my heart to her) Roy and I are going through major life changes...of course things will be hard!

Our 3rd Anniversary is one of those heavenly sweet times between the trials. As mentioned earlier, Roy and I stayed with friends for about one month while we found and moved into our home for this year. Roy had already begun working and every so often I would go to work with him, just to be with him and get some fresh air. Roy invited me to go to work with him one August 17th and I thought nothing of it. "Sure" I said. Courtney made us pancakes to celebrate Judson's 1st birthday and then we headed to work. As we drove, Roy missed the exit to go to Chess4Life. Hmm... he must be distracted, I thought. But he didn't turn around, he just kept driving down 405 South. Something's funny. He began talking of taking the morning off...or maybe the day off. We could go to Mt. Rainier, he suggested. I love mountains, especially Mt. Rainier and I hadn't been there before. I've only seen the colossal mountain from 3 hours driving distance away...and it still looks huge.
As it turns out, Roy planned a surprise anniversary get-away, and expertly, I must say. I had no idea. We kept driving and headed into Mt. Rainier National Park. We went toward Sunrise, an area of the park with a visitor center and spectacular views and hiking trails. We chose a trail and hiked. BEAUTIFUL. AWESOME. Wildflowers everywhere (check the photo!) and God's awesome creation of mountains. Mmm... As the day went by, the depth of Roy's plans began to show. He packed some things in the trunk and every once in a while he would grab something out--maybe my tennis shoes, or hiking pants or my camera. This is more than just a day trip, I thought...but I'm going to soak it in no matter what it is. :)
Roy spoke of returning to civilization in time for Community Group and asked what I wanted to do. I made up my mind: let's spend time together instead of rushing back. We slowly drove around the park, stopping at overlooks and shooting many pictures. When we exited the park, Roy was following secret driving directions to somewhere, and it turned out to be a cabin he rented! Ah! :) How precious! He carried me in and set me on the couch while he brought in the rest of our stuff. Aww....
I could go on forever. :) The whole plan unfolded was two nights and three days in the cabin just a few miles from Mt. Rainier National Park, followed a day and night in the city. We made meals for one another, sang to the John Denver CDs, played Scrabble, built a fire, ate s'mores, soaked in the hot tub and just relaxed together. It was a wonderful time!! I cannot describe how sweet our time together was. :) Praise Jesus for that huge grace! And thanks to Roy for planning it!

"Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever." -Psalm 125:1-2

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hospitality of Friends :)

Jen here. God is so gracious and generous. I am continually blown away by His provision, protection and blessing. We arrived in Seattle in the end of July and began searching for housing. Two friends from Mars Hill Church graciously offered their guest bedroom and opened their home to us. It was a huge blessing to be in a home with familiar faces and loving hearts. We treasured time getting to know Mike and Courtney more and LOVED seeing their 11-month old Judson crawl, cruise and learn to walk. Here's Courtney, but this darling baby isn't hers(you'll see a photo of Judson later). This is Eowyn, my niece!! Courtney and Mike are date night babysitters for Dan and Christie, so we got to see our little niece more than planned. She is adorable...and I love spending time with her.Roy and I looked for housing, met up with old friends and continued going to our old church Mars Hill Church | Shoreline. It was a blast to be back and to see our church family again. Oh how we missed them! When we walked into Schirmer Auditorium for the first time, we felt so loved, so cherished. Hugs and tears abounded. :) After leaving the service, Roy and I looked at each other and said, "Can't we just live up here, go to church here and commute to work?Do we really want to do church in the same city where we work?" :)
MHC | Shoreline had their annual BBQ Beach Baptism in the beginning of August and we attended. Pastor Steve preached a great message and several people decided to be baptized. It was a great time of rejoicing! I LOVE Washington's beaches, water and mountains all in one. It is good to be back in Seattle. For a while we double-dipped in regard to church. We attended our old Community Group from Shoreline during the week and on Sundays attended the MH campus near our work (and house to-be) in the morning and our old MHC | Shoreline campus in the evenings. We began searching for a community group at our new church in Bellevue.

Our housing search was long. Long before we left Hong Kong, we were told of a house for rent owned by a former Chess4Life employee who just recently found a job in Washington DC. He and his family were preparing to move there and wanted to rent their house to fellow Christians...they wanted their house to be used for God. We were in contact with them and planned to check out the house. We did and it was awesome. It is a rambler (whatever that means...) 3 bedroom 2 bathroom. The living room, dining room and kitchen are open and spacious. Beautiful. Clean. Spacious. Perfect for entertaining.

To be wise, we continued looking at other places, but none of them compared. Our hearts were set on this house. We prayed for God to provide housemates to share the cost and live in community. Roy began working in the beginning of August and we decided to rent the house.
Courtney did an amazing job taking care of Judson; I was blessed to talk with her and see her interact with Judson. He is so adorable. Roy and I laughed with him, crawled with him, played peek-a-boo with him. He was a true joy to see every morning, so smiley. :) BTW, he was born about a week before we moved to Hong Kong...and he celebrated his first birthday while we were staying with Mike and Courtney. :)

What a blessing our friends and church family are to us. Mike and Courtney's gift of hospitality was vital in a peaceful transition to life in Seattle once again. Thank you!! And praise Jesus for His people!

Driving to Seattle: Leg 3 | More Yellowstone and Idaho!

Jen here. Our 3rd leg consisted of packing up, sight seeing in Yellowstone and driving to my birthplace. Yay! After freezing during the night, we packed up our things and prepared to leave the campground. I was hoping we would see some wildlife--especially for Roy's sake. It was his first time to Yellowstone! A buffalo wandered into our campground grazing the grass. The other campers watched at a distance but weren't surprised. They said he came there every morning. Hm. I got out my camera and shot some photos at a distance (with Dad's voice in my head warning me about all the people who have been gored by buffalo) and Roy headed to the bathroom to brush his teeth. Several minutes later I wondered why Roy was taking so long. I wandered toward the bathroom and BUFFALO and Roy! Apparently he was thirsty so he decided to drink the puddle of water outside the men's bathroom door. Roy noticed and was very careful not to make any sudden movements. The buffalo slurped the water up like a dog and looked at Roy a few times, then went back to drinking. I went back and grabbed my camera and shot some pics of Roy's encounter with a buffalo. Yay! :) Disclaimer: Buffalo (or, okay this may be a Bison...really, does it matter?) are very dangerous and I praised God that Roy and everyone else were safe. The buffalo eventually walked away and Roy snuck out the door and we were off.
We drove around most of the main road loop in Yellowstone looking at the GORGEOUS scenery and some wildlife along the way. We saw a few bears (in the distance), many buffalo and a fox. We stopped and hiked near the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone--AMAZING! I could have stared at the scenery all day and still wanted more. At lunchtime we stopped at Tower Fall and planned to go for a short hike, but I was hungry and Roy was hot. He headed into the gift shop while I grabbed some food from the cooler. I shuffled back and forth between the front door and back door and one time the door shut before I caught it and I pulled on the handle and...NOOOO! It was locked! Oh no!! The keys were on the seat by the cooler...and next to my sandwich I just made. NO!! I prayed and tried to open every door. No luck. :( Shaking I went in to find Roy to tell him what I did. He was very calm and told one of the rangers he locked the keys in the car(What a husband! He claimed my mess up!). The ranger gave him a phone and number for a mechanic. Roy called and then told me to pick out a prize from the gift shop. Needless to say, I had TONS of time to browse. I know every piece of merchandise that shop carried. Most of the shirts, mugs, cups, glasses and bowls had buffalo, but some had deer, elk or moose. If you gave me a piece of paper and had me draw up the floor plan for the shop, I could do it. The mechanic had to drive from Cody, WY through Yellowstone up in the mountains on the 35mph road to us. Yikes. About two hours later he came and it was no big deal to get in our car, though it was a big cost. :( I picked out a mug, though reluctantly because I thought it would remind me of my awful mess up and our miserable time waiting two hours to get into our car. Now I smile looking back at it. It was no fun. I was hungry, Roy was feeling sick, it was hot outside and we just used up the last bit of our time in Yellowstone browsing in a gift shop! Anyone who has seen my drawings of mountains may recognize these. The mountains of my birthplace!! This was my second time returning since my family moved to Ohio in 1998. We stayed with my God-parents and got to catch up with them and two of their sons whom I haven't seen for years! It was a GREAT time...I love going there. We need to spend a little more time there sometimes. Both visits were less than 24 hours... :)My God-parent's oldest son was looking for a ride to Missoula, MT to pick up a truck so we condensed our things to create a spot in the back seat for him and off we went. Over the three-hour drive we got to know Crispin a lot. He's at least 10 years older than me, so when I was a kid I never knew him; I only heard stories about him. He was a kind of mysterious older brother of my friends. I enjoyed catching up with him and hearing his take on life, which seems to be very common to the west coast. I took it as a cultural learning experience and time getting to know him. We were able to share some about our life as well and had a great time. We dropped him off in Missoula, stopped at a McDonald's for the free WiFi and a bite to eat and continued on. (Hong Kong totally took away my bias against McD's.)

Seattle is about 9 hours from Missoula; we arrived just after dinner.'s nice to be back to Seattle. I wonder what it will be like to live here again. :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Driving to Seattle: Leg 2 | Yellowstone!

Jen here. After sleeping decently well in our tent, Roy cooked us eggs for breakfast over his little cook stove. It looked like rain and sprinkled off and on as we had breakfast, packed up and took showers. Speaking of the showers, how interesting. They were pay as you go showers, except we had no idea how long the water ran per 25 cents. So Roy went with $1.00 and had to dry off with conditioner in his hair. I went second, so Roy sent me with $1.50, which was great, but it felt like a car wash where you have just a tiny bit of money. Rush! :)

All squeaky clean, we headed off, destination: Yellowstone NP. Gorgeous views on the way--fields, valleys, farms, mountains, hills, badlands--God's creation is awesome! The drive with Roy was so much fun. We got to chat with one another and call family. We got to soak in our Maker's greatness. Wonderful.

We stopped at Buffalo Bill Dam and at the crest of a hill to shoot some photos of Lake Yellowstone (I think).

I'll let the pictures do most of the talking; there are so many I want to post!

Our lodging for the night was a campground in Yellowstone (Bridge Bay I believe). Yay! I LOVE camping with Roy. My family camped a few times in Yellowstone when I was a kid and a few times elsewhere, and I always had a blast. While we were setting up our site I kept looking around, waiting for a buffalo to graze into our campsite...I must admit, I was a little scared a bear would walk out of the woods and try to eat our food. Upon entry into the park and again when we entered our camp ground, we received MANY warnings and rules. No food outside or in your tent. No perfume in your tent. No anything that a bear might possibly want in your tent. Last time I went to Yellowstone, I never read these papers; my parents did! I kept thinking back to old trips there. I remember stories of buffalo goring people, and I vividly remember Dad warning us to stay away from wildlife. One day when my family returned to our campsite, there was a HUGE buffalo grazing in the grass. Needless to say, we turned around and went to a gift shop for a while. When we returned the buffalo was gone. Would that happen on this trip with Roy?
Roy and I gathered enough wood for that evening and the next morning. Mom Almasy told us it was supposed to get down to 25 degrees. Yikes! She was right. It was SO cold. Neither of us slept much that night, though Roy slept more than I did. Yes, I was afraid some bear would come and claw into our tent (though we had NO food or even deodorant with us!)...but more than that, I was shivering! I couldn't get warm. We had a tarp down, our tent (of course) a wool blanket, two single air mattresses, and a double sleeping bag. We had to cuddle for warmth! Roy got up at 4:30am and built a fire to warm himself by...and I soon followed him. Isn't fire great?
Check out these old-school tents in a neighboring site. Sweet! The campground atmosphere was fun. An extended family seemed to be having a reunion/vacation of sorts. They had three sites and were in RVs. There were grandparents, kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. It was cute to watch them. What a great idea to do a family vacation camping trip! I'd like to do that someday. :) More later!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Driving to Seattle: Leg 1

Jen here. Our time with family in the mid-west drew to a close and we loaded up our car and began our journey to Seattle, round 2. You may remember we drove to Seattle in August 2008. This time around (or across, ha) we planned 5 days driving and four nights stopping before arriving in Seattle. After camping together, we compiled Roy's camping gear from olden days and gifted gear from Roy's fam and prepared for a few days of camping during our travels. :)

We left early in the morning on July 21st from the Almasy home. Destination: St. Paul, Minnesota. Roy's best friend from childhood, Russel, and his wife live there. We arrived around 5pm and were able to take a small tour of the town and eat at a local restaurant. After dinner we strolled around Raspberry Island and over a bridge over the river and just chatted. We played games and had a great time together. The next morning we went to a Mom and Pop place for breakfast and said our goodbyes. :) This has become a sort of a tradition. I like it.

On day two our destination was Little Missouri National Grasslands on the western side of North Dakota. The directions for this day: Merge onto I-94 West. Drive 567 miles. Exit at Little Missouri National Grasslands. Roy was amazing and generous in time. He told me many times if there was anything we wanted to stop and see, or take photos of, we could make a stop. We wanted our trip to be a vacation...and it was!

We were blessed to see so much beautiful scenery. Unending plains, bluffs and random hills in the middle of nowhere--I LOVED it, especially after living in the city for a year. breath fresh air and see tons of God's creation. :) The farms always catch my attention, whether it's the hundreds of round hay bales that freckle the landscape or the irrigation patterns in the more dry regions of the US. I love the farms. :) (Can you tell I really enjoyed it?)

I drove the last leg of the day while Roy napped. Every so often I got a sneak peak at the beautiful badlands near Teddy Roosevelt National Park. Gorgeous, but no photos because I was driving! We had our pick of campsites and the cost was wonderful--$6. Working together, we set up camp, made some dinner over the fire and headed for bed. It was a nice evening, but Roy's Mom told us the weather forecast was rain over night and in the morning. The weather would get cooler as we headed west--in Yellowstone the predicted low was about 30 degrees. Yikes!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Few Things I Missed

Jen Here. In my summary blogs I missed a few events of which I have photos. More sweet memories of time with family and friends in the Midwest.Being back in the States is wonderful. I couldn't soak up the beauty of God's creation enough as I felt the amazing summer weather (wasn't very humid compared to HK) and saw gorgeous sunsets each evening. My little sister and I laid out on the trampoline at night watching the stars a few times. Ahh...beautiful. There were so many people I'd like to visit but so little time. One morning I was able to visit some dear friends on the way to Athens. Yay!
Speaking of Athens, my sister and I made a trip to Athens. I love that place. :) The place of my Alma Mater and many fond memories. It's changing but still familiar. I so want one of these bricks. :)
Did I mention we spent quality time together? This picture is not posed. They're both texting! We did get to spend some time at Brenan's for lunch and the Donkey for a quick smoothie. Oh, Athens. :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Jen here. And after a week of waiting and hanging with the Ellis family, Roy arrived in the good ol' USA. Yay! We spent a few days with the Ellis' and then were picked up by Roy's dad and our good friend Elliot and we headed up to Michigan. Roy and I had been planning for a few months what we might do with family during our short visit to the Midwest. it had been over a year since we had seen any of them (except Roy's Mom)! (Isn't Roy so handsome? I had to post this pic.)
We decided we wanted to go camping. We planned and Dad Almasy generously gave us and bought us equipment, and we set out. Wilson State Park near Harrison, Michigan was our destination. It was a few hours from Flint, but not too far, and it was close to Mom Almasy's family. Dale, Roy and I set out one evening and Mom and Dad met us there the next day where we camped for an additional night.
This was our first time camping together! Had to get a photo for the scrapbook (or blog)!Here's the tent Dad Almasy bought for us. Our first tent. We have many plans for this tent. It will be well-used.

Dad Almasy had some "hobo pie" irons which we used to make, um, hobo pies. At Girl Scout camp we called them pie irons but I like the fun name. We ate many a hobo pie. Pizza, breakfast, dessert. Mmm... I forgot how much I missed smelling the smoke of an open fire and cooking over it.

We learned how to play Chinese chess and brought the game back with us. Roy taught Dad how to play and beat him (Roy always wins!). Then I played Dad and thought, ha, I'll probably win. After all, I do play against Roy and sometimes I even give Roy a hard time to win. We played and Dad beat me in about four moves. WHAT? Time for some humility, Jenny.

Good photo of Dale, eh? I believe he's enjoying a rice meal of sorts. All parties (Dad, Dale and Roy) got to break out and use camping items they haven't used in years. Even though we only camped for two nights and two days, we went all out. If you saw our camp, you would have thought we were going to camp until the fair (which was two weeks away and right across the street). Everytime we visit the Almasy's in the summer, it's blueberry season. And it was again this time. We got up early one morning and picked away...picking some 36 pounds of blueberries, or was it 50? Either way, it was a lot!
The conclusion of our trip was the retirement party of Roy's high school chess coach and good friend, Mike Skidmore. Roy wanted to make it to the party, but we weren't sure if he could because of work. Once we found out he was able, we didn't let Skid know because we wanted it to be a surprise. Boy, was he surprised and so happy that Roy was able to make it. Throughout the day there were tons of people who dropped by. Skid worked for Kearsley for 37 years before retiring. Wow! At the party, I was asked to be the impromptu photographer of all guests so Mike could see who all came. Roy played lots of Chess and caught up with all the Chess alum that were able to make it. It was a fun time; we were so glad we made it. :)


Jen here. I have many photos to post to summarize our past few months being back in the states. I'll try not to skip too much, or to talk too much. Enjoy. :)
I flew back from Hong Kong earlier than Roy for one reason--PARTY! My family sneakily organized a surprise 60th anniversary party for my grandparents. When I say family, I mean FAMILY. All of them. My parents, aunts and uncles came up with the idea several months ago when they were all brought together for a funeral. The story is that Dad volunteered the farm and the planning began. It was super secret and super amazing. I cry just thinking about it (Yes, even now).
Grandma and grandpa were brought to tears by all the people who came (even some of their siblings whom they hadn't seen for decades) and all the effort given for a wonderful weekend-long open-house celebration. The M&M's were perfect and delicious. Check out grandpa and grandma's wedding photo etched onto the M&M's! It was a blast.
All of our cousins came and people flew in from all over the states (and me from HK!) and we just sat outside in lawn chairs, chatted, ate hotdogs and burgers and had a great time. One of my favorite parts about it was seeing my nieces and nephew. Oh how I've missed seeing these little ones growing up--and now I get to see them all at once(all the Ellis ones, not the Almasy ones)! In this photo, little JoJo is experimenting with (his great-)great Aunt Laura's hairbrush as she laughs. I took every chance I could to walk Jo Jo around the farm, going to see the "baa" or the "cok cok" (sheep and chickens).
And here's the newest niece in the family--little Eowyn Lynn! Dan and Christie had Eowyn in April, so this was the first time I got to meet her. I delightedly volunteered to bounce her and hold her while she napped. She's an adorable cowgirl! As mentioned earlier, we had lots of good cook-out food, and got to spend lots of time with cousins. Here's Corrie and her boyfriend.
My cousin Brian spotted Dad's tractor in the shop and asked a few people if they thought Dad would teach him how to drive it. Uh yeah, actually I bet Dad would love to! And thus began the first of many tractor driving lessons. First Brian, then anyone else who wanted to learn! It was quite comical. The tractor has A/C but lest you think it's new, look for the CD player and you'll find an 8-track player. Wow. I saw some 8-tracks in the house and was really confused. What in the world are these giant cassette tapes? I thought. Weird. Oh, they're for the tractor. Ha.
You can't have a two-day open house party without having a few country games--hillbilly golf and of course corn hole. Oh yeah! Cousin Stephanie played hillbilly golf with Noelle. :)Saturday was the day when everyone was present who was going to be present, therefore we took family photos. The same couple who shot Mom and Dad's wedding (and various other weddings of my family members) shot family/group photos of everyone and anyone for free. Hooray! If only Roy was there... :( He still had one more week of work to complete before he could leave HK. BTW, isn't Dad and Mom's house looking sweet? They blasted the white paint off the bricks, Uncle Mike made and panted new shutters and it was a wonderful background for the family photos. Lookin sharp!
Here's the Ellis family photo (except for my Ishi Roy!). 3 grandkids so far...I hope there will be many more! :) Noelle was so cute, she would say "Cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeese" until she knew the picture had been taken, which was hilarious and caused everyone to laugh and smile, hence our smiles. Ha. :)Hmm...looks familiar...except I think I like this version better (they're smiling)!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Jen here. Moving is bittersweet. I could feel the end of our time in HK coming to a close...and I was excited and sad. The lasts began happening in June: last Chess classes, last Chess tournament, last youth group meeting...

At our last "Encounter" (youth group meeting) Marcus asked students to share testimonies of God's grace and work in their lives. Students got up and shared for the next 90 minutes! Wow! God is at work in these kids' hearts; they are learning from their leader's, friends and on their own. Praise God! After testimonies, we had a fun dance party. Those who didn't want to dance could play video games, foosball, ping pong, Chess or just chill and chat. Dancing was a blast, everyone having a great time. Another leader and I brought our cameras and let students shoot photos. Enjoy.

During my last week in Hong Kong I hung out with a few of my small group girls from youth. We met in Times Square (not NYC...Hong Kong has a smaller Times Square) where there were tons on Toy Story aliens, and of course we had to take some photos with them! Next we went to get some Bubble Tea, which I've only had a few times. I wanted to have it one last time before moving back to the US. One of my girls taught me how to order my own, so I did and we walked around Causeway Bay, talking and drinking our bubble tea(see photo at top). We found a place to sit down and thought about what was ahead. I was sad to be leaving and the girls were sad to see me leave. One of them kept offering to help me unpack (in HK). :) We cried and prayed together and it was time to head home.