Tag Archives: Bahamas

Merry Christmas from the Van Hooks!

21 Dec

Our beautiful children!

Once again, we are in awe of God’s blessings, His great mercy, and His precious gift of His son Jesus as we celebrate this Christmas season and enter into the New Year.  As the song writer penned … “Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand, but I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know Who holds my hand.”


Bahama Cruise

This year has been eventful!  Our grandson, Cole Michael, celebrated his first birthday in March.  How quickly that year seemed to fly by, and how quickly this little guy is growing and changing!  Following our trip out to PA for his birthday party, we headed on down to Florida for our vacation.  In celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary (July 11th) we enjoyed a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas, then soaked up some Florida sunshine for several more days before heading back to reality.  Reality consisted of the normal things of life, like home and work, but it also suddenly included helping to take care of my mother who fell and shattered her elbow while we were away on vacation.  After surgery, months of physical therapy, doctor visits, and lots of help from us kids and her church family, Mom is continuing to gain use and strength of her right arm and hand. We are so grateful for the Lord’s touch on her as she has slowly healed!

Our son-in-law, Troy, graduated from Penn State University this past May.  With his degree in Security and Risk Analysis, his new career as a consultant relocated this little family to Glen Burnie, MD, located on the south side of Baltimore.  Up until their move, Kim worked at the Courtyard by Marriott where she was the Assistant General Manager.  Now she is blessed by being able to stay home with Cole full time, employed by the cutest little toddler around!   Kim enjoys working out at their local gym where she takes Zumba and other exercise classes.  She is also involved in the Mom’s group at Grace Pointe Church of the Nazarene.

As the busy days of spring collided into the even busier days of summer, Tim was offered and he accepted a new job in the state of Pennsylvania.   September 1, just two weeks short of beginning our 5th year at Higher Ground Conference and Retreat Center, we relocated to Red Lion, PA.  He is now employed by K/S Remodeling Systems, where his talent for detail and craftsmanship is utilized on a daily basis to refurbish and remodel kitchens.   This is very similar to what Tim did when we lived in PA back in the 90s.   We are renting a very nice home that is very roomy and spacious for when our family gathers in, which happens quite frequently since we moved.  Kim and her family only live an hour away, so we are overwhelmed with the blessing of being able to watch Cole grow and become his own little person.  His favorite things in the whole world are tractors, and Dora the Explorer, fire trucks, cars, animal crackers, puzzles, and his dog all coming in tied for second place!   He is so much fun and has brought such joy to Grami and Grampi’s life!

Not wanting to miss out on the excitement of our move, Ryan flew in for a visit and spent a week with us.  Since it was his first time out to see his sister’s new home as well, we all took the time to relax and enjoy some of the favorite sites of Baltimore for a few days.  The highlight was our trip to the beach and to play in the sand and ocean with Cole.  Once we got back to our house, there were boxes to unpack, and furniture to arrange, all the while we had lots of fun and cooked lots of yummy food in our big kitchen!  Family time is such a blessing!!

Regis Philbin, Mom, myself, and Kim

Christmas began early in December at our house this year.  Kim and I surprised my mom with a trip to New York City and tickets to be on LIVE with Regis and Kelly!  What a fun time we had!!  The following day, Ryan and his girlfriend Brittany flew in from Seattle to join the festivities that had already started a few days prior.  We enjoyed lots of family fun playing Wii, going bowling, watching movies, and enjoying a houseful of good cooks.  “Fake Christmas” was celebrated as gifts were exchanged, stuffed stockings were emptied, and Cole rode around on his new tractor. 

Cole and his new TRACTOR!

As many of you already know, I love to write and started a blog back in February.  Morsels of Mercy is just that ~ short stories inspired by God’s mercies through my journey of life!   https://morselsofmercy.wordpress.com     Many of the details of this past year that I skipped over here in my Christmas letter you can read about in my blog.  Enjoy reading!!

Christmas week is now upon us, and we will be back in Indiana for the holiday.  As we travel the many miles and gather with our families, my heart and thoughts will be turning toward many of you who are hurting this Christmas season.  I will be praying that you will find Jesus to be so much more than a baby in the manger, but that He will be your Healer, your Comforter, your Strength, your Everything. 

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great mercies
we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning:
great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
Lamentations 3:21-26

Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!!
The Van Hooks


Tim & Debbie
Troy, Kim, Cole & Tadpole
Ryan & Brittany
My mom, Wilma

Our family


3 Apr

When I think over the past two weeks, each of the days together creates a big huge colorful blur. This blog entry will be more for my personal sanity probably than for your enjoyment, for as the miles click away and we get closer to home, work, and responsibilities, it will be nice to remember the morsels of mercy that God gifted Tim and I with these past several days.

Cole Michael

Cole ~ 1st bday

Our vacation started so many days ago in the home of our precious grandchild, Cole Michael.  Late night snuggles, walks to Dairy Queen and to the city park, scrambled eggs for breakfast, and bedtime routines were some of the highlights leading up to the day of celebration … Cole’s 1st birthday party.  The day was full of excitement as friends and family gathered in to give all attention to this cutie little man who stole our hearts a year ago.   Accessorized in the appropriate bib for the day “Birthday Boy”, Cole’s face glowed with delight as his own personal cake was set before him.  As his gifts were opened, anything and everything with wheels immediately became his favorite toy, and he genuinely seemed excited to unwrap clothing decked out in monkeys!  Grami and Gramps were the official photographers of the day ~ yielding snapshots and video that documented another special day of family history.  Once the crowds subsided and all was quiet, I escaped to the solitude of our futon where much-needed rest enveloped my aching body and churning tummy.  The stomach flu had attacked me early that morning.  While others were enjoying the novelty items such as ants on a log, pigs in a blanket, and other tasty treats, I was feasting on Pepto Bismol.  Our vacation itinerary was picking up great speed the following day and we had 1300 miles to travel before boarding a cruise ship on Monday.  I had to feel better.

And I did.  Leaving behind the sweetest little boy who wonders why these silly people come and then go, we headed south.  A full day of travel on Sunday, followed by an early start the next morning, ended at the Port of Miami around 1:00 Monday afternoon.  Lots of excited travelers and rain greeted us as we gathered our belongings and set sail for the beautiful isles of the Bahamas.  Being the first time cruisers that we were, we felt like little kids at an Easter egg hunt … going here and there, seeing what we could see, eating a little of this and a little of that … hoping to get the golden egg, which for us, was our luggage delivered to our stateroom.  Tim forgot to put his anti sea-sick patch on earlier in the day and it was in our suitcases that had not been brought to our room yet.  By the time the magical little circle was attached behind his ear, we both were feeling a big queasy.  Before we left for our first true experience of cruise dining, I also peeled the sticky off of a patch and walked away confident of having a grand evening of scrumptious food and entertainment.  It seemed like with every passing moment, however, my stomach felt worse, my appetite left me, and the musical drama lasted for hours … or at least it felt like it.  At evening’s end, I was so disoriented and shaky, that I had to firmly hold on to Tim in order to not fall down while walking to our room.  At some point during the wee hours of the morning, I realized that my distress had to be caused by that magical little patch I thought would cure all … so I yanked it off and prayed for quick healing.  Needless to say, what became Tim’s best friend and allowed him to enjoy his vacation had the adverse effect on me. 

March 24, 2010

Tim & I on our cruise

Tuesday morning found us docked in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island where we followed the masses off the ship and into the coastal town of Lucayan Beach.  Having our blue/white cruise ship beach towels along, we spread out underneath overcast skies and enjoyed the sites and sounds of the surf. After our 3 hour shore excursion ended, we made our way back to the ship where we spent the remainder of the afternoon poolside…so grateful when the sun would shine through the clouds and warm the air.  Hours later, we were once again reminded that the sun still shines and scorches fine white skin through cool breezes and clouds.  Tim’s new best friend was now the green Aloe Vera gel. 

Nassau and New Providence Island was our port of call on Wednesday.  Not spending the extra dollars for a cruise ship sponsored excursion, we opted to find a local guide and take his 4-hour tour of the island.  We visited a small inlet row of hometown eateries where conch was the main menu item.  We received a personal demonstration of how the meat is taken out of the shell and cut up to serve fresh and raw in salads.  Lennix, our guide, also treated us to conch fritters, much like hushpuppies, but with conch meat inside.  He then drove us to various areas of the island, showing us great poverty and great wealth, including Paradise Island and the Atlantis Resort.  Several different stops gave us opportunity to shop, to drink fresh coconut milk and take lots of pictures.  It was a fun day … except for the ever-increasing bloat to my tummy.  Oh my … in my quest to cleanse my system from the effects of the patch, I had been drinking a lot of water.  Bottled water on the ship was expensive, so I splurged and bought one, then continued to re-fill it as needed.  Mistake!  Somewhere, I got a hold of bad water and its little gremlins wrecked havoc on my stomach.  Despite the uncomfortable state in which I found myself in for the next few days, I kept up with all the fun and frolic. 

March 25, 2010

Me ... snorkeling

Tim and I set our alarm for early Thursday morning so we could enjoy the sunrise from the deck of the ship.  We were also there to watch as it settled into a ‘spot’ off the coast of the Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island, where we would spend part of our day snorkeling in the warm ocean waters. With rented mask, life vest, breathing tube, and flippers, we set out for the reefs and fish.  What an amazing experience to be right there with the fish and sea creatures, trusting the floatation device and air tube to keep me alive as I oohed and ahhed while capturing each Kodak moment with my underwater camera.  Our day in the sun was brought to an end back on board and poolside where we treated ourselves to ice cream cones and Pepsi. 

There are details in between the lines of activities that made our cruise special to us … the cruise director was quite unforgettable with his quirky one-liners, there was food everywhere, all the time, and we enjoyed trying different items on the menus … and we had a favorite quiet spot on one of the outside decks that not many people knew about.  We have also made notes that we will take fewer clothes, a case of bottled water AND Pepto Bismol with us next time.

Friday morning brought us back to the Port of Miami.  Tim and I gathered our belongings and our memories … good and not so good, and headed to our awaiting parked car.  For us, our vacation continued for several more days.  The sunshine of Florida shone bright and gifted us with hours of enjoyment, while an occasional rain brought quiet time and rest. 

The first evening of the cruise my heart took notice of a particular scripture.  I took this verse personally and claimed it throughout the remainder of our vacation as an embrace from Jesus Himself …

You must not defile the land where you live, for I live there myself.
I am the Lord, who lives among the people of Israel. 
Numbers 35:34

“He lives!  He lives!  Christ Jesus lives today!  He walks with me and He talks with me, along life’s narrow way. 
He lives!  He lives!  Salvation to impart.  You ask me how I know He lives … He lives!!  Within my heart!”

We are home now.  My heart is full and overflowing as I reflect on the blessings that are mine … and yours, too!!

Happy Easter!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you.
1 Peter 1:3-4

Till next time,


March 30, 2010

Hollywood Beach, Florida

Sassy Water

15 Mar

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,
but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.
Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a
spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
John 4:13-14


Just one week before we board and set sail for the Bahamas, I thought I would attempt a last-minute ditch effort at thinning, trimming, toning and stretching this body of mine.  My borrowed time with Denise Austin ran out all too quickly, so while she is already back on that bottom shelf at the library, I have been doing my own assortment of exercises.  To accompany my activities, I am also drinking Sassy Water. 

For those of you up on the latest and greatest of diet books, you might have heard of the Flat Belly Diet.  I do not own this fine piece of literature, full of healthy and helpful routines and recipes, but I know someone who does.  She has become quite the fan, celebrating success of lost inches and pounds.  One intriguing portion of her regime is to drink what the book refers to as Sassy Water … water that is the result of several ingredients soaking or marinating in water over night.  Drinking 2 liters daily of this blended brew for 4 days is suppose to de-bloat (such an odd word!) and give a jump start toward a leaner and flatter belly.

12 fresh mint leaves
1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced very thinly
1 medium lemon, sliced very thinly
1 tsp grated fresh ginger root
2 liters of water  

Just in case more means better, I bought enough supplies for the next 7 days.  Not having the book or the recipes inside that have given success to many, I am simply hoping that the Sassy Water by itself will make a difference for me.  I will continue to stretch and exercise, watch the portions of food that I eat, and drink this tasty brew.  I understand that there will be food and lots of it on this trip … therefore, the next step after the jump start toward a leaner and flatter belly will be lost somewhere between the buffet lines and the late night snacks, compliments of Norwegian Cruise Lines. 

In the midst of the busyness of the next few days, I intend to prepare and drink the Sassy Water, but once Tim and I walk on board that great ship a week from today, there will be no more of the blended beverage to enjoy.  However, …

As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.
I thirst for God, the living God.
Psalm 42:1-2

Whether I am working or at home in my daily routine, anticipating an upcoming vacation, or basking in the warm sunshine on an island beach, my soul will forever long for the One who gives a spring of water welling up to eternal life.  Please join me in my quest to thirst only for Him.

Till next time,