Jun 12, 2011

Afternoon Snacks

Eli regularly rolls with his two buddies John and Jere. Everyday after school and after homework the boys mount up on their bikes and take to the streets...First, Second and Third...to engage in games of cops and robbers, tag, hide-n-seek and a variety of other made-up games. They play on the trampoline, at the park, in the sprinkler, with water guns and occasionally in one of their homes. They are generally respectful, fun, sweaty and stinky boys...who are always hungry and thirsty.
The moms of these kiddos typically feed all the boys when they come calling. Sometimes I make them drink water and eat cheese sticks, other times they get Root Beer and candy....it depends on my mood.
So today the door bell rang and John and his dad were standing on my front step. John's dad explained that John was here to return some money. At first I was horrified at the idea that this sweet child could steal money from us, but the shock was relieved whe he explained that it was money Eli willingly gave to John in exchange for an afternoon snack!
It took everything I had in me not to laugh out loud. I guess when Eli was playing over at John's house this afternoon he had a hankering for a snack. John, a gracious host, offered Eli an ice cream sandwich... for a dollar. After dinner this evening John confessed to the family that he was selling snacks out of their freezer and the long walk of shame to our house followed.
Eli and his buddies crack me up. They fight and make up, they can't wait to play with each other then can't decide what to play, they sell books and snacks to each other, and they have no idea how much they are going to miss each other when they all go their separate ways in a few weeks.

Jun 7, 2011

From the Panda's Mouth

I took the boys to see Kung Fu Panda 2 the other day. Boys, Kung Fu, popcorn....a big hit.
I'm not a big fan of kids movies, so I usually walk away from the latest Disney flic with sticky feet from the grossly dirty floor, a stomach ache from consuming too much popcorn and the desire for a nap. However, not too far into this movie I got a little life lesson.
Panda is chatting with two Kung Fu masters who are in prison. Panda breaks down the prison bars in an attempt to rescue the guys, but they guys keep going back into their cell. As it turns out they had the skills to break out of prison and fight off the evil peacock but they decided not to use them. They were too afraid of what would happen if they stirred the pot a little. It seamed easier to let the peacock continue to wage war on the people than to try and stop him.
So, Panda says to the guys "Fine, you stay in your prison of fear with these bars of hopelessness; and enjoy your three square meals a day of shame and have despair for dessert."
Prison of fear and bars of hopelessness. Ooooh that's a good one.
Panda makes a good point. Sometimes it is easier to stay in our own fear than to step out, take a risk, and do something big. We allow circumstances to create doubt and cloud our vision of hope. And in doing this, we should be filled with shame. That while we have been set free, we choose to stay where things are safe. Living in fear of what would happen if you step out is easier than risking a little something.
Isaiah 61 professes that God sent His son to "bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."
God has broken the chains, opened the prison gates now all we have to do is step out.

Questions for God

1. Equipping little boys with their own personal 'water' gun. Where is the logic in that? If you turn on a hose and don't hang on to it water sprays everywhere. Is this the kind of power a child should have?
2. Poop. Is this really the best way?
3. Salt water. Why can't all water be "fresh" then the world would have plenty of drinking water? What benefit does salt water have for us?
4. Do you ever wish you could reach down an give me a hug? Not like a spiritual warm wind kind of hug but an actual embrace? Because sometimes I really wish you could give me a hug.
5. How is it that you never give up on me?

Jun 5, 2011

Tambourine to Tears

Matt and I have really relaxed standards when it comes to finding a church to settle into. We have been to Four Square, Assembly of God, Baptist, Church of God, Non-denominational, Calvary Chapel, Vineyard, Gospel, and German evangelical. We've been to churches where people dance and shout with streamers, we've been to churches that have a full band, those that have taped background music, organs, choirs, choirs that do the back up "amens" during the sermon, and German translated. As long as they are preaching and teaching the Bible, we can look beyond a lot of the things that are different about each church but there is one thing we just cannot get past and that is tambourines.
Today at the chapel someone smuggled in a tambourine and used it during at least one worship song. I was contemplating leaving, really. I feel that strongly about the tambourine. As far as I am concerned the tambourine and the triangle only have a place in a Kindergarten music room.
I resisted the urge to leave due to the chaos caused by the clanging cymbals and was rewarded greatly by the message from a guest speaker. It was not a biblical teaching per se, but a woman's testimony of God's providence and words of encouragement for American service members.
Hansi Hirschmann was a 12 year old girl living in poverty in Czechoslovakia when Nazi Germans brought food, hope and work to her community in 1938. Hansi was sent to a German leadership camp where she bought into Nazi ideals and became fully committed to Hitler and his ideology. When the war was over, Germany lost, and Hitler died, Hansi was angry and frustrated that her god, Hitler, had failed. For her roles as a Nazi in the war, Hansi was sentenced to a communist labor camp under Russian leadership. One day, she had enough and decided to make a run for it. She escaped the camp and then made her way into the American sector of German. She and a friend who escaped with her travelled through fields until they came upon what they thought was a German farmhouse. Desperate for help, she banged on the door and none other than American soldiers were on the other side. Her enemy. She was taught to hate the allies and here she found herself at their mercy. She was helped by those soldiers and her path changed trajectory. In that moment, she realized that if the things Hitler said about Americans was not true there was a possibility that he lied about other things too. Today, as a Christian and American citizen she believes that God allowed her to live through her escape and live to be 84 years old so that she can be an "eye witness to a time that you only read about in history".
As I sat listening to Hansi's story, I felt tears rolling down my cheeks. Her gratitude for her freedom and American military members who are defenders of freedom was overwhelming. She served as a reminder to me, and I'm sure many others, that the fighting is not in vain. Lives are changed by the sacrifices that soldiers are making in order to bring at least some freedoms to others around the world.
When Hansi came to America and for the first time was living a life of freedom, she struggled to understand what freedom meant. She would ask neighbors about this thing called freedom and "they got it, used it, and took it for granted, but they could not explain it". When you don't really know tyranny, it is harder to appreciate freedom but Hansi knew tyranny and now, by God's grace she knows freedom.
Hansi's story is an amazing account of how God can turn a devout Nazi into a passionate follower of Christ, an angry, confused young woman into an compassionate minister of the Gospel, and how He paid the ransom for all sinners so that each of us can be truly free.

Jun 1, 2011

Running to First.

Eli is in coach-pitch baseball this year.
It is so fun to watch him and his team as they learn the mechanics of the game. They are starting to actually make plays that get someone out instead of just playing in the dirt while the other team is at bat. At 8 and 9 years old, the kids are trying harder to play the whole game instead of just focusing on hitting the ball or who brought the post-game snack. When the kids were in t-ball and first years of coach-pitch nobody really had to worry about getting out. If you were lucky enough to hit the ball, nobody was skilled enough to actually catch it or do anything with it once they got it in their glove. Now, the game has changed. Catching, throwing, and running are just as important as hitting. Watching Eli's baseball games is getting more and more exciting!
I sat near first base yesterday at Eli's game the other day which provided the perfect opportunity to hear the first base coach. He repeated the same few phrases over and over:
"run as fast as you can"
"run run run"
"run it out, don't stop"
He often took a minute to chat with the kids once they safely made it to the bag. He praised them for running and explained some tidbits about first base. He talked about how you can over-run first base - so stopping never needs to enter their mind. He also told them to run their hardest and never to give up, even if it looks like they are going to be out.

In baseball, once you hit the ball, your only job is to run to first. Everyone is yelling at you to run. You don't have to think about anything else but running as if your life depended on it. You don't need to worry about how you will get from third base to home or if the next person at bat will hit it far enough for you to make it to second. You just have to run to first base. Once you get there, you can plot your path to second, but you have to get on the bag at first.

First base lessons are so applicable to life.
Run even when it looks like you won't make it.
Run like a rabid dog is chasing you.
Run with no plans of stopping.
Just run.
So often we are faced with challenges in life that are too overwhelming to view in its entirety. But if we focus on just running to first base, with everything we have inside of us, then we can wait there for a moment, collect ourselves and one by one eventually make it safely home.

Missing Blogger Found in Western Germany

If my waitress takes more than 20 minutes to bring my menu or take my drink order, I leave.
If my doctor keeps me waiting 45 minutes past my appointment time, I leave.
If I have been on hold with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles for more than 40 songs, I hang up.
If a blogger has not updated their blog in more than a few weeks, I stop checking back.
If you have been waiting ever so patiently for me to fill your mind with my useless chatter, please accept my apologies and a free drink and appetizer next time you visit!

May:
Free weekend in Garmisch, Germany for a company sponsored marriage retreat. Free food, free lodging, free childcare and an entertaining 4 hours of workshops (split in two sessions) using the "Active Military Life and Resiliency Skills" curriculum. I'm surprised the Army doesn't use an acronym for that - AMLRS. Matt and I dropped the kids off at the childcare room on Friday night, went to our workshop for a few hours, picked the kids up and then had all day Saturday to jaunt around Garmisch. We walked around a gorge, ate, I napped while the boys swam, and then the kids went to childcare that night while Matt and I enjoyed a quiet dinner without them and attempted a romantic walk around the Eibsee lake. It was raining, thunder, lightening. We got wet. We laughed and made the best of it, and a duck tried to bite my foot. We also hung out a little with some people from Matt's battalion that we don't usually see, and had a great time.
Beach Weekend in Alicante, Spain. Oh Alicante. The city itself was nothing too special and not really worth spending a ton of time there, however, Gran Alacant was a little suburb that we stayed in and it had the most beautiful beach. Our apartment was on a hill over looking the beach which was great for the view but returning up the hill from the beach was a little taxing. We didn't do anything other than sleep in, eat, and enjoy the beach. That was enough. It was a really great family beach trip. The last time my family was at the beach? Nearly TWO years ago before we moved to Germany. Too long.

And now it is June. Time is flying by so fast I can barely catch my breath. The boys have two more weeks of school, followed by one week off and then four weeks of summer school. Summer school is from 9-12 each day, mainly just something for the kids to do. This coming weekend Matt will embark on his first big cycling venture. He is taking part in the Liberty Trail Ride, a course set to commemorate the Battle of Bastogne. He will spend three days riding around the Bastogne area with about 300 other riders. I'm really excited for him to do this ride and pray that he does well and is encouraged to keep on peddling! Later this month we'll head to Salzburg and Vienna, Austria with the Mlacks for a 4 day getaway and get our groove on with Elton John at his concert here in Mannheim.

That's what's up. Hopefully, I can keep up!