Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ringing in the New Year with Sun, Sand, and Swimming

Life for the Lopinas seems to be busier than ever.  Between Holiday parties for church & Hope for Tomorrow, family coming to visit, and getting things ready for our big adventure to the US we can't seem to catch a moment just for the two of us.

Since getting married, Gepher and I have always carved out time just for the two of us.  Time to get away from the hustle and bustle of ministry life while we focus just on our relationship.  New Year's Eve was the perfect opportunity for us to do just that (especially before Jeremiah arrives in April)!

Living in Cebu one of the many perks is having gorgeous beaches within a short drive.  The beach is the one place Gepher and I can totally relax and enjoy the beauty of nature and one another.  We love exploring new places and this getaway was no different.  We packed our bags and headed for a two day getaway to Imperial Palace. 

Imperial Palace sits on the beaches of Mactan Island and is the home to Cebu's only water park.  When we arrived in our room we were immediately greeted with a gorgeous view of the resort and sea.  The balcony quickly became one of our favorite places to enjoy the sounds of the sea while diving into a good book.  It was exactly the peace and tranquility we'd both been looking for.

The resort was not only a place for us to enjoy some peace and relaxation it was also a place to enjoy some fun!  The water slides were definitely a highlight for Gepher.  (I must admit I was a little jealous I couldn't enjoy the slides.)  Riding the Amazon River floating on a raft was definitely my highlight.  I so enjoyed the two of us floating down the river hand in hand on a raft.  It was a great time to share some laughs and enjoy reconnecting!

New Year's Eve would not be complete without a grand Firework Show.  Cebu definitely knows how to shoot some Fireworks.  We stood on our balcony watching fireworks from as far away as the small islands in the sea to as close as the ones the resort shot off right in front of our balcony.  It was a great way to ring in the New Year!  I cannot think of a better way to spend New Year's than enjoying some fun and relaxation with the man I love!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Christmas Adventures in Hong Kong

I shed many tears after Gepher was denied by the US Embassy for his tourist visa.  I just knew he would be approved and didn't understand why he was denied (and still don't).  All of these plans I had made for our first Christmas in the US, meeting my family, and a post wedding celebration were ruined.  I just couldn't understand why this was happening and why our first Christmas was going to be "ruined".

After a personal pity party and crying fest, I pulled up my big girl drawers and decided the US Embassy might have denied us a visa, but they were NOT going to deny us a wonderful, memorable first Christmas together.  After all, Christmas was my favorite time of the year.

So since we couldn't go to the States for Christmas, we decided on the next best place (that didn't require a visa, of course)...HONG KONG!!

Hong Kong has always been one of my favorite places in Asia.  The lights, the harbor, the outdoor markets, the Peak are just a few of the reasons why I love Hong Kong.  I couldn't wait for Gepher to get to experience it.  This would be the first time he ever traveled to Hong Kong and I was sure it would be a wonderful adventure to take together. 

Our Christmas day started with a Skype video call to my parents.  It was so neat for Gepher to "meet" Ma Ruth for the first time.  (It was all she talked about for days!)  We also got to see "Santa" make an appearance and visit Aubrey and all the other "good boys and girls" in the family.  It wasn't the same as being at Christmas Eve dinner in person, but it was definitely one of my favorite Christmas memories.

After a wonderful Christmas service with our church and Hope for Tomorrow family, we went home to exchange gifts and Christmas dinner.  Both of us were surprised by the gifts we received as they were things we'd seen on our trip to Manila and liked.  On Christmas night we boarded the red eye flight and headed to Hong Kong.  We were both so excited as we boarded the plane.  We were like two kids on Christmas morning.  We got into Hong Kong late and stayed at the Marriott out by the airport the first night.  The next day we got up and headed for the train to the city.  The adventure of Hong Kong was about to begin!!

When we got to the city and checked into the hotel, we dropped our bags and grabbed the camera and headed out on a walking adventure.  We stayed in the heart of Kowloon so we headed down Nathan street in search for some lunch and some fun!  We enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Outback (a little taste of home) and introduced Gepher to the bloomin' onion.  Afterwards we headed to the harbor.


In Hong Kong it is winter.  I was so excited to enjoy some cooler weather!!  Looking at the natives walking up and down the street in their wool coats and gloves you would have thought it was thirty degrees...but reality was it was closer to sixty.  Gepher got his first taste of cold weather!  I don't think he hated it (until we got to The Peak) but he is definitely my island man!

We enjoyed the other sights of Hong Kong both during the day and at night.  The night market is always a fun experience and this trip didn't disappoint.  Its amazing to see such a large market that is set up everyday at 4pm and torn down every morning.

We enjoyed a delicious Japanese dinner up at The Peak one night.  The Peak sits up in the hills of Hong Kong.  You can see the entire city and harbor from there.  At night the view is absolutely gorgeous with all the lights of the buildings.  This night was no different; however, it was VERY COLD!!  (Even I was I knew that meant that Gepher was FREEZING!!)  As we were outside at the lookout point, I turned to Gepher and told him this is how cold it is in the US right now.  His eyes got real big and all he could say was WOW!  It was a memorable night with a gorgeous view!


This trip was filled with many firsts for us...first holiday without our family (as we didn't go to Mindano to visit Gepher's family), first time for Gepher to travel to Hong Kong, first major vacation as a couple (other than our honeymoon, which Gepher said wasn't a vacation but a honeymoon), first time to go to Disney (more on that in an upcoming post), and the most important...FIRST CHRISTMAS TOGETHER!!

This wasn't the Christmas I'd been planning and looking so forward to, but it turned out to be a perfect Christmas!!  I now know why God put us here for the holidays!  Sometimes things don't go the way we expect; however, if we focus on the positive experiences He IS allowing us to have (and not the ones we are missing) "He will turn our mourning into dancing"!  I'm so glad I allowed him to let me "dance" with Gepher on our first Christmas in Hong Kong. 

Of course I'm still looking forward to taking Gepher to the US...whenever that day comes.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Naga 2011 Memories

God has been at work in Naga over the past year.  He is weaving a beautiful tapestry!

We started Hope for Tomorrow and a youth group.  The youth group has enjoyed many Recharges (including a Scavenger Hunt), Movie Marathons, and Wii parties.  We have wittnessed new sisters and a brother being baptized into Christ.  We have been active in the community holding outreach ministries such as a Clothing Day & Carnival in Tinago.  Gepher's parent's threw a wonderful wedding party where we celebrated our marriage with the church family.  We were blessed by having JR & Daisha Sheets come and spend a couple weeks with us.  Our members are participating in Evangelism with the ministry team throughout the community.  We have added two interns to the ministry team:  Benjamin and Benjosphe Blen.  We had our first church Christmas party where everyone enjoyed "Secret Santa".  Our kid's Sunday School program has grown and now has more kids than the classroom can hold.  We have also seen average Sunday attendance double over the last year!! 

WOW...God is doing mighty things in Naga!!  We cannot wait to see what He has in store for 2012!!

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

PreWedding Festivities Memories

We made such wonderful memories as a family while celebrating our big day.  These are memories that will last us a lifetime!!

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Wedding Festivities Continue - Bridesmaid Luncheon

Just because we got married in Cebu didn't stop us from enjoying some American wedding traditions.  Karen Nelson and Kathy Williams planned a very special Bridesmaid luncheon at Dove Street Cafe.

Even though two of my bridesmaids were not in Cebu, we had a wonderful lunch with Meredith, Phebe, Dolly, Mom, Kathy, and Karen.  Katherine and GeeElle were definitely missed.  The afternoon was filled with great food and lots of laughs. 

A bridesmaid luncheon would not be complete without some special gifts (or lingerie).  Luckily it was nothing too revealing or outrageous since Mom was there!!  The gitfts did bring some blushing and laughing as each gift was opened.

What special friends to not only travel half way around the world to celebrate our wedding but to also plan such a wonderful luncheon.  It was an afternoon filled with love, laughter, and memories.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Wedding Festivities Continue - Island Hopping

Gepher and I had been counting down the days for the wedding and the festivities leading up to the big day.  Once Meredith, David, Aubrey, and John arrived we knew what we had been dreaming about and hoping for was almost here.  We wanted to spend as much time before the big day together as a family making memories and letting the family get to know its newest member!

David and Dad share the same birthday (three days before the wedding).  Island hopping was the perfect way to celebrate a double birthday.  The family along with some good family friends from the US and members of the wedding party loaded up on a banca boat to spend the day on the water!!


The excitement for the day began before the anchor was even raised on the banca boat.  Because the water was too shallow close to the shore for the boat to dock, we were "ferried" out in small banca boats.  Dad wanted to make sure everyone along with the stuff made it to the boat safely; therefore, he along with Melcho (our driver) decided to take the last boat.  Just about the time they reached the boat, Dad and Melchor were sitting just enough off balance to make the little boat flip!!  We heard a huge splash and saw Dad with his arm above the water holding the camera.  He may have gone under, but he saved the camera and his glasses from getting wet or lost.  We all teased Dad that he was so anxious to "swim withe fish" that he had to take a dive before getting on the boat!


The first stop on the day's adventure was to a marine sactuary for snorkeling.  The current was strong, but that didn't stop us from enjoying the fishes.  We swam with Nemo, Parrot fish, Tuna, and other georgous fish.  You definitely felt as if you were swimming in God's big aquarium with His beautiful creation.  Because the current was so strong, it took a lot more swimming to get back to the boat.  There were a few in the group that were definitely thankful for life jackets and the boat crew.  After a hard swim back to the boat, everyone was ready to sail on down the sea to the next stop...sandy beach and lunch!


Nothing will erase the diffcult swim back to the boat at the marine sanctuary than a beautiful sandy beach and a delicious lunch.  The water was calm and just the perfect temperature for floating, swiming, and just enjoying the beauty of the beach.  Everyone enjoyed the fun as we soaked in the sun and splashed in the crystal blue waters.


As all good things must come to an end, so did our day of Island Hopping.  The waves were rough coming back to Cebu.  It was as if we were riding the "White Water Canyon" at King's Island.  As we went up and down with every wave, the laughter and squeals could be heard all over the boat.  It was a perfect day to celebrate two birthdays and an upcoming big day!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Let the Wedding Festvities Begin

When we set the date of August 6th for the wedding, it seemed so far away.  But what was once so far away is now so close!! 

The arrival of Meredith, David, Aubrey, and John marked the official beginning of the pre-wedding festivities!  The excitement was too high to wait and see them in Cebu so we all flew to Manila to meet them on Friday night.  I'm not sure who was more excited to see us...Meredith & David (so they had someone to play with jet-lagged Aubrey while they slept) or us!!

Before flying back to Cebu, we spent Saturday morning at the Mall of Asia.  The laughter and the conversation didn't stop as we explored and helped make some "firsts" memories with Aubrey.  Aubrey is definitely Papa's girl!!  Like all good Papa's she had her very own ice cream cone and enjoyed a ride on the carosel.  I'm not sure who had more fun...Aubrey or Papa!


The mission of the week before the wedding was to make as many memories as possible. Because Gepher has not had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with my family (other than my parents), it was important he get to know them as his "soon to be" new family!  We could not think of a better first "memory" to make than a day at the beach!!

Monday, everyone piled in the van and headed on a road trip bound Alegre.  Alegre is a beach resort on the north end of Cebu island.  It has beautiful sandy beaches lined with lounge chairs covered by the trees.  There are lots of corals and fishes to snorkel and see.  It is a perfect place to spend together as a family.


Dad and Gepher enjoyed some quality time with the fish while Aubrey experienced sand between her toes for the first time!!  There was lots of splashing, laughing, napping, and relaxing.  It was the perfect start to a week that is sure to be filled with celebration, laughter, and memories.