How This Mama Found Herself in Hawaii

This Mama Went to Hawaii for a Week and It Changed Her Life

I wanted a getaway, but found myself in the trip back home.

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Growing up, my family never went on lavish vacations. We live about five miles inland of Myrtle Beach, so every few summers, we'd pack up the old red minivan and head that way, staying with family along the Crystal Coast on the trip back up. The first time I flew was to travel to New York City to celebrate my high school graduation.

The first time I traveled outside of the country was on my honeymoon. Twenty-one and evergreen, we booked a stay at an all-inclusive resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It took us about four days to adjust to the idea that we had absolutely nothing to do. That first half of the week passed in a haze and it wasn't from the frozen margaritas we kept ordering (all-inclusive, remember?) Rather, it was because we were both terribly unseasoned adventurers. After eating our fill of jerk chicken and walking along the strip of shoreline that turned out to be much more narrow than they advertise on television, we finally ventured away from the hotel grounds and went on a few excursions. We rafted down a river, hiked up a waterfall and visited a local street fair at two in the afternoon.

We came home invigorated, and ready to see what else was out there. In the five years that passed after that trip, we went on six road trips. We saw the Pacific Northwest twice, New England, the Grand Canyon, West Coast Highway 1 and Las Vegas. Every October, when the busy season ended at my work, we'd hit the road, staying at mom-and-pop hotels everywhere, eschewing major chains like we were too good for them when the reality was we just couldn't afford them. For the most part, the experiences were charming, save that one time we stayed in a cabin in the Catskills and every pillow was covered in strands of hair and the shower didn't work and the thermostat was broken and we shivered until we fell asleep.

Then, life happened. Babies came. Two in less than two years. And we didn't go on a solo vacation for five years.

This past August marked our 10-year wedding anniversary. So, we decided to go big. We have a few major changes coming up in 2019, mainly a big move into a new property, so we knew we had to take this chance to get away while we had it.

We left the babies in the care of their grandparents and booked 10 days in Maui. The flights to and from there were a beast, but once we arrived, it was glorious. We spent way too much money on an entire day at the spa, indulging in hours-long massages and soaks in mineral baths. We hiked to find hidden waterfalls, jumped from makeshift rope swings and spent nights in hot tubs overlooking flower gardens. It was everything I'd hoped it would be and more.

On our last day there, we drove around the north side of the island. The roads were narrow and the guardrails were minimal. I was clutching my side of the car with every turn. Then, we stumbled upon a little banana bread shop set up at the side of the road. It was rustic and tiny and perched on the edge of a cliff, but we managed to find a place to stop. It was heaven in one bite, the only thing that's come close to replicating my favorite banana bread recipe that I love to make at home. It also reminded me of the people back on the mainland who were waiting for me, namely our two toddlers who would have loved to nibble a piece of that treat as we kept chugging onward toward our hotel.

We returned home that next day, and I've never been more relieved and happy to walk through my front door. Turns out, while traveling can be the most exciting thing in the world and is absolutely necessary at certain junctures in our lives, there's nothing better than sleeping in your own sheets, with the people you love the most in this world tucked in soundly around you.

We likely won't take another vacation like that for another decade. When we jet-set off to somewhere fabulous to ring in our 20-year anniversary, I hope we have the same sense of wanderlust. I hope I'm calling my children in college to tell them all about the adventures their dad and I just went on. I hope we still climb banyan trees and drink coffee at midnight and stand beside active oceanic geysers amazed, our sunglasses salty with sea brine.

Then, I hope we return back to our little country hideaway, the new one we're designing as we speak, and thank the heavens above for a place called "home." I thought I'd find myself in the bamboo forests of Hawaii, or the big city lights of Vegas. Maybe in the vineyards of San Jose or the ranches of New Mexico. Turns out, I found it when I circled back around to where I came from, my purpose renewed and my spirit refreshed.

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Bethel Church's Gay Conversion Program Is A Huge Problem And We're Not Talking Enough About It

Religion doesn't give us a right to purposefully abuse a community.

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About a year ago, in May of 2018, Bethel Church in Redding, California came out publicly against a set of proposed laws which would make it illegal for a licensed mental health professional to perform 'conversion therapy' in order to change the sexual orientation or same-sex attractions of a person. The head pastor of the church asked for members of Bethel Church to act against the three bills (California AB 1779, AB 2943 and AB 2119), urging them to contact their congressmen and ask for them to prevent the laws from passing, all in order for them to continue their harmful ex-gay ministry.

Today, Bethel Church is under scrutiny for the role out of their ex-gay conversion initiative, CHANGED. The website of the initiative movement claims that any change is possible through Jesus, and encourages those who identify as LGBTQ+ to abandon the "pain, rejection, and despair," of being LGBTQ+. (CHANGED website). This movement is not the first, but just the next in a long line of organizations claiming to provide change for those who identify as LGBTQ+, despite this being an impossibility. Ex-gay programs, in actuality, only serve to push those who go through them farther away from the love of God.

Conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ people has been proven not only to be completely ineffective but has also been found to cause intense mental issues and in many cases, a strong correlation to suicide. Those who have gone through ex-gay therapy programs such as Exodus International or Focus on the Family's Love Won Out have admitted that even after successfully completing the program they had not experienced a change in their same-sex attraction. The founder of Exodus International even claimed that by his estimation, 99.9% of those who had gone through his organization's therapy had not experienced any change in their orientation. Exodus International was considered intensely controversial, and their methods considered by most, if not all, mental health professionals to be incredibly damaging. Those who come out of conversion therapy experience intense feelings of depression and often experience a lack of self-worth.

As a Christian, I grieve every single time someone claiming to believe what I do comes out and condemns the LGBT community. It hurts to see one community I am a member of being hateful towards another community I am just as proud to be a part of. This news stung a little harder because I for a long time have loved Bethel Church's worship band. Their songs have spoken to me in ways I cannot fully describe, helping to bring me closer to the God I believe in. A God who I can say for certain would never advocate for something as damaging and destructive as conversion therapy. The same Jesus who Bethel's songs worship is the same Jesus who calls us to love everyone. Bethel Church is not following this call, and it is important that we speak out against conversion therapy, and not allow our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to carry out such a harmful program.

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Different But The Same: Navigating My Life as One of Three Siblings

I couldn't be more different than my two siblings, but on some levels we're more alike than I thought.

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I am the oldest of three lively, loving and faithful siblings. My sister is seven years younger than me and my brother is nine. Two of us shared a room growing up, and the other lived just down the hall. In a lineup, we're unmistakably related. We share the same nose from our grandfather, the thin hair of our great-grandmother and the thick Italian eyebrows of our mother.

Deep down, we're all cut from the same cloth. Our moral compass, foundation and background are the same. We'd answer alike if you were to ask us our favorite childhood memory, how an elder should be treated, what to say and do at the dinner table and what is essentially right and wrong. All three of us are driven academically, hunger professionally and seek to mine the most good out of every day. Yet, on paper, we couldn't be more different.

Take my sister, for instance. She's the librarian at our local elementary school. We can't go to the local diner, the swimming pool or even walking down the road without scores of children recognizing her, running up to her and giving her a bear hug. There are entire circles of people who only know me for who I am in relation to her. I'll admit, when she first got that position, I went the entire summer long feeling as though I were walking in her shadow, though I eclipse her by half a decade of experience. There's a reason she's so well-known and loved, though. My sister is unfailingly kind, generous with her time and attention and genuinely invested in the young people she serves. She devours books, classic television shows and the family homeplace she shares with her high school sweetheart turned husband.

Then, there's my brother. He was in middle school when I got married, so our time together as adolescents was shorter, but we're more alike than it may seem. It's from him that I got my love of folk music, thrifting and antiques. He's an avid environmentalist and programs coordinator for our local arts council. In a world obsessed with smartphones and tiny screens, he takes walks with his fiance with a dictionary in hand, discovering new words and worlds as they travel. They hike every weekend, hole up and work on crosswords at their tiny cottage in the woods and spend all the time they can in their favorite mountains. In fact, they will likely relocate there or to the west coast when they tie the knot this September. He's outdoorsy, worldly and hyper-aware of how every decision he makes affects the world.

That bring us to me. Though I'm older than both of them in age, I feel as though I fall right in the middle of my brother and sister in terms of our interests and ideals. Like my brother, I love being outside and spend as much time in nature as possible. Yet, as the mother of two, I depend on disposable diapers and eat off paper plates to save time and money. Like my sister, I love nothing more than curling up with a great book, but as a technical writer and proposal manager, my life has me behind a screen more often than not. I read on my laptop into the wee hours of the morning, though like her, I spend many hours reading board books to children myself, though it's in the comfort of my home and not the local library.

At our core, we're wildly unique but I love the common thread woven between all of us. I love that our parents treated us all the same and made sure that what they did for one, they did for another. We all grew up feeling cherished, protected and loved beyond measure and for that, I'm eternally grateful. As we grow older together, we're learning from each other, exploring each other's interests and cultivating our own personalities in the process. It's a beautiful thing, doing life with these two. Thankfully, we all live within three miles of each other, so we get to unfold daily mysteries together on a regular basis. I couldn't imagine a better way or place to live.

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