Sunday, October 30, 2011

Vicksburg MS- 2010

As some of you may know, our home church is in Vicksburg, MS. Pastor Tipton is our pastor. Right now, I would just like to say that I have a great amount of sympathy for the rest of you who do not have Pastor Tipton as your pastor. I met pastor Tipton when I was a student at JCM. He was Chris' pastor prior to us getting married and became my pastor while we were dating. One of our favorite things to do is to just ask him a question and get him started talking. I always feel a hundred times smarter after wards. We also have some great friends in his son, Dathan, and his family. They have three lovely kids. Well, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

HEHE... Actually, we had all gone to a place called Gattytown (Maybe?) and convinced our kids to trade in their tickets for fake redneck teeth. The irony of this is that they all used the rest of their tickets to get suckers! I had some pictures of all of the kids, but they came out blurry! My kids adore these three kids of the younger Tiptons. My favorite part is that Ethan nor Abbey have ever referred to the twins as anything other than "Katelyn and Kaylee, the girls that look alike". Can you tell that these were the first twins they had ever seen? Here is a picture of all of them together.

We always have a lot of fun in Vicksburg, but we are still waiting for all of them to come over to Taiwan so we can play host. (*not so thinly veiled hint)

Next up: My dad's house

Time Travel... kinda

Do you all remember that last year about this time, we went back to the USA? And I was going to blog about every place we covered in three weeks and then, well, after Idaho, Lodi, and Fresno, I never covered the other stops? Guess what?! I too, remember all of that! And I am going to cover those last stops now. I know some people might be wondering why I would cover something that happened almost a year ago and this is the reason why. Those last stops were the pleasure, not business, stops of the trip. Actually, Lodi was pleasure also. In those last stops, we visited our home church in the States, went to see my dad and had an early Thanksgiving meal with my mom and step-dad and brothers and grandmas. Since this blog is also a way for me to keep memories and even keep a time line of our lives, I am going to blog old content. But it is totally new to you!! So, here we go!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Long Awaited Rome Post

As many of you already know from a previous post, Chris and I were blessed with a trip to Rome for our 10th wedding anniversary. Dad and Mom Bracken gave us tickets and a hotel room using their frequent flier and hotel points. Another pastor blessed us with an offering that covered all the land cost. Like I said, it was a total blessing! I have been trying to get this post together for about 3 months now and I apologize to you that have been waiting. So, let's just dive right in, shall we?

Day 1: We slept in after an exhausting Sunday night flight and full day in Paris on Monday. When we did get up, we just grabbed a map and went walking. The map was to get back home with more than anything else. After first locating a sidewalk cafe and eating pizza and ravioli to our hearts content, we wandered down one street and up another. Somewhere we found this building that had been converted into a government building. We tried out a little artistic photography.

We stumbled upon an afternoon market and I got an the coolest watch. It is smooth and black and made from a coconut shell. Not exactly quality, but every time I wear it, I feel like I am back in Rome. There many have also been an awesome leather purse that came home with me. Then we crossed these bridges that were quite beautiful. Chris convinced me to pose and we also brought home this somewhat lame picture of me posing. Please focus on the bridge behind me.

Thinking that this was a pretty scenic street, we tried out a bit more artistic photography. It turns out that the building in the background is St. Peter's Basilica. We did not actually visit the Vatican City since with was already closed.

After a few more turns, we discovered a Piazza that was in full swing for the night. We watched a artist paint some beautiful paintings (a few which we bought for gifts because we could not believe how cheap they were) and met a Chinese man that was surprised that we could speak Chinese. He was kind enough to tell me that my husband's Chinese is better than mine. Just give me 20 more years! We then left the piazza heading south, but thinking that we were headed north. Our hotel was north. When we once again reached the river, we discovered our mistake. Since walking back would have been an hour trek and we were worn out from having already been walking for about 7 hours, we decided to figure out the bus system. Fortunately, it is very tourist friendly and since we were the only ones on the bus, the driver ask where we wanted to go and took us straight there! Awesome. I have to say that the Italian people were so friendly and eager to please.

Day 2: Today we have goals! We started with the Colosseum, then moved on the the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Circus Maximus. On a map, these areas look relatively small. They are not. Do not be fooled. But first, the Colosseum. It was so much bigger than what I had envisioned. Look, the sun is in our faces!

In this picture, you can see where they have reconstructed a portion of flooring over the ruins. This is what the original would have looked like. To the spectators, the floor looked solid, but was actually constructed of moving parts. This way, things, people or animals could "magically" appear in the middle of the arena during performances. The Colosseum was mainly used for festivals and outrageous performances. And by Outrageous, I mean 50 bears at one time.

You can see here that under the floor was actually a network of rooms and hallways. They used pulleys to lift things up onto the arena floor. I have to tell you a little funny. Chris and I were listening to their audio guide and Chris nudged me and said, "Look! There is still a wild animal down in the ruins!" When I looked, there was a very calm, very domesticated cat strolling around like it owned the place!

Just a little view of the different ruins outside of the Colosseum. I was on the second floor when I took these pictures. Before the ruins crumbled, there was actually a third floor to the Colosseum. As I mentioned, it was quite large.

This is the Arch of Constantine. It is located just outside the Colosseum and was erected to declare Constantine's triumph in a certain battle. This was the purpose of Arches.

Just a little view of Palatine Hill. It was so lush and beautiful that it was easy to see why the Caesars chose this location. If you are unfamiliar with Roman history, Palatine Hill is the center most hill of the seven hills of Rome. It has the Roman Forum on one side and Circus Maximus on the other side. It was also the location of the residence of Caesars and affluent Romans. The Roman Forum was of course where all the government buildings were located.

In the Roman Forum, there was an arch that caught my eye. Actually, it was the menorah depicted that caught my eye. This arch was to commemorate a victory in the Parthian wars in 203 AD. It is call the Arch of Septimius Severus. I know that the battle was at Mesapotamia, but does anyone know more than wikipedia about this?

While resting at the arch, I took this picture to remind myself not to buy new shoes before a trip. Does anyone want these shoes? I can't even think about them without my feet hurting.

Circus Maximus was under some construction, so we only got to peek at it from the road. On the way back to our hotel, I captured a great street view. We were staying at the top of the Spanish steps.

Day 3: We started the day by once again navigating the bus system to go visit a catacomb. There are dozens of catacombs in Rome and we chose what is believed to be the oldest and largest, which is called "Catacomb of Priscilla". How it got this name is a little conflicting. The tour guide told us that it was named for a wealthy lady that donated the land to Christians for burial. Most accounts I have read in other placed say that it was named for this lady because she was probably the wife of the Consul Acilius who became a Christian and was killed on the orders of Domitian. It does have some of the oldest paintings of Mary with the baby Jesus. Interesting enough, there was no paintings or symbols of the cross in the catacombs because the early Christians did not focus on the death of Christ, but instead on his resurrection! They did not allow pictures down in the catacombs, but you see some online hereAfter leaving the Catacombs, we wandered around until we found a little restaurant. We were pretty far out of the tourist-y areas and enjoyed some down home cooking. No one spoke English, so we had lots of fun pointing and figuring it out. From there, we caught a bus and just rode until we saw something interesting. If we saw something out the window we liked, we just hopped off at the next stop and explored. And really, that is what we like best about going to another country. Just jumping into the culture and figuring it out.

That night, we went out to a special place to eat for our actual anniversary dinner. The restaurant had an incredible view of the city. After wards, we tried to take a picture, but it was a little too dark. I tried to lighten it, but it just came out looking photo-shopped!! Oh well, enjoy!

It was a short but wonderful trip that I would be again in a heartbeat. Chris would go back for the food alone!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Uh, say what?

A few months ago, I saw a teenager here in Taiwan wearing a rather interesting T-shirt. I only wish I had gotten a picture for you all. He was obviously Taiwanese and his shirt read, "I am the Black American dream". At first I thought, "Uh, perhaps he needs a few more English classes." But you know what? That T-shirt has secretly thrilled me for months. Every time I think about it, I giggle! I never knew that the black American dream is to be Chinese!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Oh the Logic! It's hurting my head...

See this kid? This one right here:

I may have mentioned before that he is logical. He is the kid that ask me if Jesus wears clothes. He is also the kid that went through a terrifically long stage of asking "why" about everything. A stage that I almost didn't survive. Well, I can think of no other way to tell you just how logical his is than to tell you a joke that he made up on Sunday. It goes like this:

"Why did the cloud go to the doctor?"

and the answer?

"He didn't because clouds are in the sky and they don't need doctors."

The end.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Pentecostal Purse

Do you all want to know a secret? One of the reasons that this blog got neglected was because we were back in the USA for about two weeks at the beginning of August. Probably about ten or so of you already know that little secret. We went back for an ADMIT conference in Tulsa and Arkansas Campmeeting in North Little Rock. Both conferences were an absolute blessing to attend. But, that is not what I am here to talk about today. If you have already heard the story, (Mom Bracken told it when she was speaking at the Ladies Meeting in North Little Rock.) just come back tomorrow.

The first day that we got to the US, Abbey told me very emphatically that she needed a "Pentecostal Purse". "A what??", I replied. "What is a Pentecostal Purse?" After she gave me the come-on-Mom look, she said, "It is BIG, black and shiny." Much like this:

Except not a Prada, obviously. Well, before we left Tulsa, a dear friend of ours gave Abbey money for her to buy a "Pentecostal Purse". So, in Little Rock, we headed to TJ Maxx (seriously, I love that place!) to find the perfect purse. And that was when I knew for sure that she was really my daughter in heart, not just in blood. She had forty dollars and she searched until she found a purse on sale. And what did she do with the extra cash? Well, bought a new wallet and a new notepad, of course!

And if don't think she has her finger on the pulse of Pentecostal Ladies, next time you are in a Pentecostal church, look around and count all the big, black, shiny purses!

I should also mention this story as a side note. After Mom Bracken spoke in Little Rock, we were chatting with a lady we met in the bathroom (Honestly, I think that is a such a girl thing, you know, to make friends in the bathroom!) and she told us that she was in the car with her husband headed back to the hotel and she said, "I think I might have to get me one of those Pentecostal Purses!" To which he replied, "A say what??" Now I know how trends get spread!

Friday, August 19, 2011


Dear Readers,
I apologise that this blog has been, how shall I put it, stale? slacking? overlooked? neglected? Dead.

I am going to remedy this today. Today, I am getting back on schedule. I have a ton of blogs coming up about Taiwan, our trip to Rome, and some pretty funny things that have been happening around the Bracken Zoo.

For now, I am going to leave you with some awesome pictures created by a Chinese artist. He aptly calls his art "Blending In". Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Taking the Effort to be Green Too Far...

Sorry about the text being a little too small to see! Let me quote the most important sentence from above:

"Please throw other wasters in the trash bin outside."

In other words, don't be a waster or we will waste you! Perhaps being green has gone too far?

I'm telling you, I don't even go around looking for these kinds of things! They just find me. (Note to self: Find a way to take that click-I'm-taking-a-picture sound off of iphone. It is awkward when taking pictures of Chinglish in a bathroom stall.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Does it make sense?

A local store is selling this T-shirts. I'm guessing that it might be a good idea to ask a native English speaker to check your English before you print 10,000 of these babies. I think that they were wanting of instead of or. At least, I hope they were. Chinglish is alive and well!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Super-Duper Supermarket!

A new Wong's Supermarket recently opened here in Kaohsiung. It has some really awesome features that most other grocery stores around here don't have. Actually, it's been called the "Superstar of Supermarkets."

Top notch quality!

For instance,
It has an automatic water mister to keep the produce fresh. Just before it goes on, you hear the distant sound of thunder and the smell of fresh rain in the air.

When you pass the milk cases, you hear cows mooing and you experience the scent of fresh cut hay.

In the meat department there is the aroma of charcoal grilled steaks and smoked ribs.

In the seafood department, the fresh, clean, crisp smell of the ocean and the sound of waves slapping the shoreline greets you.

When you approach the egg case, you hear hens cluck and cackle and the air is filled with the pleasing aroma of bacon and eggs frying.

The bread department features the tantalizing smell of fresh baked bread & cookies.

However, I've stopped buying toilet paper there...

(HaHaHa... Okay, I feel that I should confess that I ripped this off of another blog! Don't worry, I ask permission first and he then confessed that he actually ripped it off of an e-mail. However, if you would like to check out the blog of an AIMer with a pretty great sense of humor, just click right here.)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Quick Funny

The other day Chris and I were chatting and I discovered a totally nice way to say something not so nice! It was so amazing that I really must share. What was the sentence?

"Pardon me, it appears that you have lost your clue."

In other words,

"You ain't gotta clue!"

That's me, just trying to make the world a nicer place! (Just for the record, we were bantering and equally thought this sentence to be hilarious!)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


As most of you know from an older post, Chris and I got the chance to go to Rome for a week. However, at the last minute, we ended up with a full day in Paris between flights. How much can you do in Paris in one day? Well, actually a lot of you don't mind running and you don't get caught up in the details!

Our first excursion was through Gard du Nord. This is a huge train/subway/High Speed Rail station in Paris. Because we didn't really want to drag our suitcases all over Paris and we needed to take a train from Gard du Nord to our exit airport, we decided to store our luggage here. Easier said than done. I should mention that the station is about 5 or so levels, 3 below ground and two above. Or maybe that was two underground and three above, I forget right now. Anyways, after a nice 2 hour excursion inside the station, we found where to store the luggage and headed out. By the way, if you need a tour guide for this station, I am willing to offer my services. After 2 and a half hours, I have a pretty good handle on the layout. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture.

First thing, we headed out to the Eiffel tower. It was cool and rainy, but that didn't slow us down at all.

Here is the base of the tower. I was amazed at how large it actually was. I'm not sure what I had in mind, but since it was originally build for an exposition and meant to be temporary, I was expecting it to be smaller. I think Chris was also because before we left, he ask me if I wanted to walk to the top. He was pretty gung-ho until he read online that it has 1631 steps to the top. We took the elevator.

Parisians initially hated the Eiffel Tower. They wanted it removed because it messed up the skyline. However, when they realized how popular it was and how much tourism it could generate, they embraced it wholeheartedly. It is the most visited paid monument in the world.

It was also a great way to see the city and I imagine that the view would have been even better at night. However, we didn't have a night in Paris. When our flight left at 9:30 p.m., the sun had not fully set and it was still light out. Here's Chris and I. If you know how much he hates pictures, you will be amazed at the amount I got of him on this trip!

From the Tower, we caught a boat ride down the Seine River.

I absolutely love French Architecture! I kept taking pictures of buildings and when we got home, some friends ask, "What's this building?". The only answer I had was, "I don't know, but doesn't it look cool?". It was something about all the windows. I'm sure that window washers make a fortune in that city!

Our next stop was Notre Dame. Actually, before we headed inside, we were starved and wondered around until we found this cafe whose specialty was tarts. (I had a savory one of spinach and goat cheese and a sweet one of dark and white chocolate. Yum!) Imagine our surprise when we discovered that the owners were Chinese! They were equally surprised when we spoke Chinese.

This is a side view of the church taken from across the river.

This is the entryway. I secretly wish that all churches today were still built like this.

I mean, who wouldn't want to worship under stain glass windows?

After this, we headed to the Louvre. Our sole intent was to see the Mona Lisa and then head back out to the city. However, we got lost in the museum. We were on the ground floor and could not find an exit that was not sealed off! After about 30 minutes of wondering and following endless signs that said, "Sortie!" (Exit), we found ourselves in the underground mall. There I found an awesome tea shop called "Mariage Freres". I have had their tea at a French restaurant here in Taiwan and absolutely love it. I left with some French Breakfast Tea.

From the mall, we hopped the subway back to Gard du Nord, picked up our luggage and rode a train an hour north to a little city of Beauvais. There we caught our plane to Rome. It was really nice to be able to see the countryside somewhat from the train. Each town the train stopped in seemed to be small hamlets or villages. If we would have had time, it would have been great to just jump off the train at one of the stops and just explore.

Our next stop: Roma Italia!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Help me, what's the secret here?

See this cute girl? This really, really cute girl? She is mine. At eight, she doesn't really have any secrets to keep, but I have a feeling that she isn't going to be good at keeping them. My Grandma Eckles (my dad's mom) is horrible at keeping secrets. If you start to tell her a secret, she will tell you right up front that she can't keep secrets and if you truly don't want it to told, then don't tell her. At least she is honest about it! But, back to Abbey.

The other day she had this little piece of paper. The conversation when down like this:

A: "Me and Eimi and Karin have a secret written on this paper."

M: "Oh really?"

A: "Do you want me to read it to you?"

M: "Sure"

A: "It says, 'In ten years, I will be 18 and in ten years, Eimi will be 17 and in ten years, Karin will be 19." (At this point she just stopped reading and looked at me.

M: "Is that your secret?"

A: "Yep"

End of Convo.

Hummmmm.... so what was the secret? Chris surmised that the secret was that they could count. I personally think that the secret might be a few vocabulary lessons this summer.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I'm back!

Hello, hello, hello! Let me start by saying that I am so sorry for the two month break. It was unplanned. I was busy, then sick, then tired, then gone, then rinse and repeat. BUT... I have so many things to tell you all and I am going to be back on schedule this week. Plus, all the news from our Paris/Rome trip!

And for all of you that still read this blog... THANK YOU!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Smells I Like to Smell...

I was tagged by Mary, so here's a post to the smells that I love. There seems to be a theme...

I LOVE the smell of clean laundry. I have been known to stick my head in the washer after a nice clean load and hang out for awhile.

Chocolate! Sometimes I like smelling it more than I like eating it.

My husband would say that I am addicted to the smell of these. He is probably right...

Ahh, the smell of clean kids right after their bath! I just want to squeeze them and sniff their clean hair. Most of the time they let me.

And who doesn't love the smell of clean cats? Probably the cats.

One of my new favorite smells is this Hawaii Coconut from Bath and Body Works.

And my favorite standby? Island Cotton. It smells like clean clothes!

But the smell that is me is this perfume. I have been wearing Curve for over 12 years now. Once a lady at church was in the elevator after me and she said that she knew I had just been there because she could smell my perfume. It has a nice, fresh, clean smell.

Did you get the theme? I never realized I was so obsessed with things smelling clean! Thanks Mary, this was great fun!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What I Learned at Bible College

Another blogger, Classic Mary Moments (see her in the blog roll at right), did a post called just this. Her's was 95% serious. It made me think of the things I learned in Bible College. So here is my list. Warning! It is 95% unserious.

10. A good roommate is important. A bad one will yell at you. A good one will still yell at you, but you can yell back.

9. She will probably yell if you turn on the radio early in the morning.

8. It is possible to live on ramen noodles, mac and cheese and Spagetti-os. But only if you work for a good restaurant where you get a nice discount.

7. Some teachers do not read every essay. You can test this theory by slipping a paragraph about Little Red Riding Hood into the middle of your Bible Survey paper. If you get a 99%, they didn't read all of your paper.

6. Some teachers will read every word that every student writes. It will be a joy to write papers for them.

5. If the switch to the bathroom is on the outside of the bathroom, store a flashlight in the bathroom.

4. If you blow a candle out 10 seconds before room check, the dorm mom will still guess that you had a candle burning.

3. If you climb on top of the closet and lift the ceiling tiles to spy on you suitemate, you might get hung on a nail trying to get down.

2. A good roommate will help you down. Your roommate will laugh and take your picture. You will have to tape her singing in the shower to recover said picture.

1. You CAN be a totally different person in three years! (In a good way!)

In all honesty, Bible College changed my life. I had a lot of fun, but a lot of serious moments also. It was there that God took all of the bitterness I had in my heart out, there that I knew I was going to be in Asia one day, and there that I had a vision about the revival that is beginning here now. I made great friends that I am still in contact with 11 years later and still think of as some of my greatest friends. Rest in Peace JCM!

I'm going on Va-cay-shun!

This year, Chris and I will celebrate 10 years of marriage. Mama and Dad Bracken came up to us about a month ago and said something like this, "Hey, we have enough flier miles for two free tickets and enough points with a hotel company to get four or five nights free and we want to give these to you for your anniversary, so where do you want to go?" (Yes, I did hit the in-law jackpot! UH, I mean blessingpot!) After convincing Chris and debating about where to go, we decided on this place. Can you guess it? here is clue number 1:

Still not sure? Here is another hint:

Okay, the final hint. You should get it for sure now:

YES! We are going to Rome in June! I am so excited! Of course with Rome being built on seven hills and expecting tons of walking, I am seriously visiting the exercise room in our building about 5 times a week. Counting last week, I have 9 weeks to train. Last week, I lost 3 pounds and will try to keep you all updated.

Rome! Man, I can't believe it!

***In case you are wondering, the first picture is the Colosseum, the second is the Pantheon and the third, well, it's a map!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Oh My Hallelujah, Guess What!

One of the people in the above picture got the HOLY GHOST last Sunday night. Can you guess who?

Here is another hint. He wanted to get baptized right after church. Am I one happy momma? Oh yeah, you better believe it!

I recently told Chris, "If you do not want the Holy Ghost, you had better not show up at our church, because everyone showing up without it is leaving with it!" Hallelujah!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Conference Reporting...

Okay, let me explain the title. It is not incorrect English. I have learned from teaching English (certainly never from studying English!) that when we use -ing, it is called Present Continues es and indicates that something started in the past and is still continuing at this present time. (Aren't I smart? See, Alabama girls can be smart!) Soooo, this is my report of our National Conference and its continuing effects!

We had an awesome conference! This year we had a Nationalization Service conducted by Bro. Howell and Bro. Shalm. Taiwan is now an official nationalized work and that means that we are totally self-governing. What an awesome step for the work and ministry here in Taiwan.

We had incredible services with Bro. Stoneking and about 10 people received the Holy Ghost. I am not sure if I really believe this number because my husband and I have had this exact conversation at least 5 times.

Chris: "You know that _____________ got the Holy Ghost at national conference, right?"

Me: "Really? I didn't know! I am so excited!"

Chris: "Yeah, I thought you knew."

And repeat 4 more times.

Now for the best part! We have had 6 people to be baptized at our church since the conference and 6 people to receive the Holy Ghost. I have also heard reports from the other churches of people receiving the Holy Ghost and being baptized. There hasn't been a Sunday since conference that there hasn't been someone receive the Holy Ghost or get baptized at at least one, if not more, of our churches in Taiwan! Last Sunday, we had a man from Mainland China to get the Holy Ghost!! He is an exchange student that some people from our HsinChu (a city just south of Taipei. Refer to map above.) bible class met and invited to church. He travel south for about 5 hours to get to our church and God filled him! He will soon return to China.

The Sunday after conference, the new church in Chia-I(a city about two hours north of Kaohsiung. Refer to map above.) had their church dedication. I believe I counted about 70 people at the dedication. It was hard to count with all of the people standing in the back and around the sides because of the lack of chairs! (or I should say, the lack of room for more chairs!) Also, the first Sunday in April, our Taipei church will have its dedication! In less than four years, we have gone from 2 churches to 6 churches with another one in the works! I can't tell you thrill of excitement that I feel just typing that sentence! How many will it be next year?