Redemption in Paradise

I have been given the opportunity to live in Hawaii twice in my life. I grew up telling my mom that I would one day live with mountains on one side of my home and the ocean on the other. God knew that this dream of mine would one day nurture a relationship between Him and me, so he not only placed me in my little paradise once, He blessed me twice.

There are many reasons to love Hawaii. People are welcoming and you become ohana very quickly when you accept the invitation into their lives.  You become someone’s aunty or cousin. You become family.

Romans 12:13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Our Hawaiian Church Ohana set the bar forever on day one.  Being greeted by warm hugs and kisses was something I thought only happened in one’s mind. This was a reality most days on our island home. This was love.  They took care of each other by attending to the sick, teaching the gospel to the children, and they always made sure that everyone’s needs were taken care of.

Weather. It doesn’t rain a lot except for trade showers, and the winds keep the temperatures quite mild. Because of the uniqueness of these trade showers and the placement of the islands, rainbows are quite frequent.  I once chased a rainbow on a bored evening. I tried so hard to pass under, but we all understand that this is just not possible. I did think I came close to it because the colors changed. I swear I saw the color brown in that rainbow. I think in my boredom I was just trying too hard.

The next rainbow that I saw I stood and watched it change. It got brighter as the sky got darker. It then went to a new level. You often see double rainbows, but this one was just for me and for my efforts in trying to chase it’s brother down. It became a triple rainbow.

The day the triple rainbow was shown to me, God took a hold of something and started the redemption process.

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace

For months after seeing this display in the sky, God would grip my mind every time I turned the corner and the mountains stood before me. I would be wonderstruck and I would praise God for his creation.

Micah 7:18,19 Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?  You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.  You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

God would soothe my aching soul every time the tradewinds would blow through the palm trees. I would hear the wind come through the nearby valley before it hit the palms. I knew it was coming and would wait for it to rustle the branches and caress my face. I waited knowing that God would calm my anxieties and remind me of who created the wind.

Psalm 62:8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. 

God would catch my doubts in each passing scent. Walking past flowers, I would stop and see their design and inhale their sweetness. God would remind me to look at those flowers and how much care He put into them, and that He put that much more care into me. God would remind me that I am His.

Matthew 10: 29-31 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

I often liked to think about how Hawaii was truly a paradise despite it’s occasional droughts and attitudes. To have such beauty at hand  and available to enjoy was a blessing that was taken for granted. I told myself that as I stepped out the door everyday into its beauty, to just imagine how much more grand Heaven was. God took such care in creating life for us here, the life and home that we have for eternity is beyond what our imagination can hold.

Of all the things God was reminding me of, they were so little compared to what God revealed next. I struggled with forgiveness for a long time. Forgiving others was difficult enough, but I was at most odds with the reflection in the mirror. How can I ever be truly worthy of all these graces when I cannot even get past my own transgressions. I blasted myself every day, berating the girl looking back at me for all the hurt she caused others in the past, the hurt that she caused herself, and the hurt she caused her Lord. She was not worthy of the love the Lord wanted to pour down upon her, she was not worthy of the redemption that her Bible proclaimed. She was condemned.

I had a friend from church who admitted her struggles one night in my home. Our kids stomped around the upstairs and dogs barked in between the noises, but it didn’t interrupt conversations about life, marriage, children, neighbors, the price of milk, and you know the rest. Our conversation changed to our internal struggles, admitting to a sin that kept her down and from honoring her husband. She talked through how she overcame it by reading one simple verse in the Bible and how immediate conviction from the Holy Spirit that followed.

Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

She asked me to journal about this verse, to draw pictures, to cut out photos of flowers, to be active in response to this truth. I sat on it. I said nothing, wrote nothing, and didn’t even think about flowers. I stewed on it. Then the Lord’s grace poured down and I moved forward to find how this applied to me. All of this time I knew He created wonder inside of me. All of this time I knew He was soothing me. All of this time I knew that I was worth more than I led myself to believe. What I did not understand was this mercy.

This verse sent me on a journey as I moved away from my paradise home, and to the bitter midwest. There I found forgiveness and the meaning of the next verse in Romans.

vs. 2 For in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 

As I spent a couple of years reflecting on the Lord’s grace, I wondered how He could use me and where He would send me to grow His kingdom by relating my story to others. I didn’t think He would take me back to my island home. I didn’t think I would be relating my somewhat mundane experience online or to my neighbors. I do know that this experience has been able to teach my children that God uses all parts of His creation to reach us and teach us His truths. I do know that the simple version of my story can be a big story to someone out there who needs to hear that condemnation is not an option for followers of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

I believe that the Lord’s plans are so much greater than ours. He places us right where He needs us to be in order to go forward with His will. Writing about my experiences may seem like a waste of time and energy, but these words might also bring to light some things to others who need them right now. I don’t know, and I may never know. What I do know is that the Lord started a great work in me here on my little island, and He has sent me back here to fulfill something that has not yet been revealed to me. Learning to trust Him and to keep working toward growing his kingdom is the place I am at right now.  So here I am, telling you that you may start off simple by acknowledging creation as His, and then stepping forward to look for more of His truths. It will lead you to see that there is freedom waiting for you, or a loved one. You are one step away.


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