Dec 31, 2012

The Year in Review

As I sat waiting for the oven to heat up so I can throw in the breakfast casserole, my mind started heading on a little trip down memory lane.  2012 was such a busy, full, year!  I tried, and cannot think of a year that has been loaded up more than this past year has been for our family.
We took two long weekend trips skiing the first two months of the year, the boys and I headed to Dublin, Matt went to the States for an Army school followed by his brother's wedding,  and then in May our family started a jam packed final tour of Europe!  We squeezed in Cyprus, Budapest, The Normandy Beaches, an Eastern Mediterranean cruise, and finally a long weekend at Bodensee (the lake bordered by Germany, Austria, and Switzerland).  Days after returning from the lake the boys and I began our journey back to the US in mid-July.
Our first leg took us to Baltimore where we were greeted by a team of 30+ USO volunteers who cheered on the Soldiers and family members returning to the US after deployments and serving at European duty stations.  When the customs officer reviewed our paperwork he said "welcome home".  I was overwhelmed with emotion.  I wasn't sure if it was joy or panic.
We spent the next few weeks in California visiting family and friends whom we hadn't seen in years.  Matt and I made our way to our first baseball game in 3 years and all four of us spent a few days camping near Mendocino.  Eli went fishing on the ocean for the first time and we all enjoyed the dirty, lazy camping lifestyle.
By mid-August it was time to get down to business.  The boys stayed in California for 2+ weeks with my family while Matt and I loaded up the little Pretty Pretty Princess and headed to Washington.  We checked in to our hotel that would be our home for the next 30 days, and immediately started our home search.  Two days later we put an offer on the house, a week later the kids joined us in Washington and we spend the next few weeks waiting.
Matt was getting settled in his new job, we got the kids enrolled in school and we started looking for a church.
We moved in the first week of September and are still settling in.  Over the coarse of the past few months we have been blessed with some visitors to our new home, we spent a few weekends here and there with family up in the Blaine area, we found a church home, got plugged in to a few different activities and things are starting to feel a wee bit like we belong here.
I know that 2013 will have much, much less travel going on and I don't foresee a transcontinental move, new job, new house, and new schools in the near future so I think it is safe to say, next year should be pretty quiet by comparison!

Dec 26, 2012

My Favorite Things

I'm all wrapped up in enjoying Christmas but I wanted to take a few moments to be thankful for a few of my very favorite gifts this season.

A few weeks ago I asked an Italian friend of mine if she could email me her Tiramisu recipe.  Matt is not a big dessert fan but loves Tiramisu.  She asked when I needed it, I told her for Christmas, and she said she would get back to me.  A few days later I received an email telling me to check out a video on my Facebook page.
My friend's husband filmed her making Tiramisu.  She explained each step and even gave me a few Italian lessons and her grandmother's secret cooking techniques as well.  My heart was so full as I watched her video.  I probably could have logged on to one of a million cooking websites and found a recipe, but I knew Monica's would be authentic and I figured passing on a recipe wasn't too much to ask.  What I got in return was the sweetest gift and far more than I hoped for.  She showed me the exact consistency I needed to achieve with each of the different mixtures and offered some optional ideas for flavor and adjustments to the recipe for serving sizes.
As a bonus, the Tiramisu she was making was then passed on to another friend of mine as a gift.  Truly a sweet (pun intended) blessing!  Don't bother checking out my Facebook page for the video.  She set it as private so that only I could see it and made me promise never to show anyone!
This is my Tiramisu.  Monica assessed my photo and agreed that my lady fingers needed more soaking and I needed more of the Marscapone mixture.  However it was tasty and we were so blessed!


The second awesome gift I received was actually a birthday gift intended to be worn for Christmas.  Another friend of mine whipped up an awesome up-cycled sweater skirt for me.  She took old sweaters in Christmas colors and finery and surged them to make the most adorable Christmas skirt ever in the history of all time.  I wore it a few times this season and fully intend to get one more wear in before the clock strikes 2013! For some reason this is the only picture of myself in my adorable skirt.  Its all blurry and lame, so I have to wear it again in order to properly document the cute factor.
What I love about the skirt is: it is soft, warm, and it has a story.  The grey and cream sweater that you see on my left quarter shank there is a sweater my friend Darlene gave to my friend Angela a few years ago at one of our bible study breakfasts.  Not only do I have an adorable, warm, comfortable skirt made by a dear friend, but I carry with me memories of times past.  It is totally funky and I LOVE that about it.  And I love that my friend knew I was balsy enough to wear it!

A few other noteworthy gifts were a simple Christmas decoration that said "Joy" on it from Gabe.  He said he bought it for me because I was joyful.  
Eli's blessed me with such a sweet heart this year.  He wanted an iPod Touch so bad.  He is saving for one and at the costly rate that the iPod Touches run these days, it was going to be a long road!  We decided to give him my old iPhone without the sim card, so it is essentially an ipod touch.  He opened the box and saw the iPhone and we told him what it was.  There was not an ounce of disappointment in him.  He didn't care that it was an old, used, out of date, knock-off of what he really wanted.  He saw that it was essentially what he wanted and loved the case!  Within seconds of receiving the gift he looked at us and said "does that mean I can give Gabe my old iPod?" Yes!  Happiness all around.  
The last one I want to mention was a family gift from my cousins to us.  They gave us a fun-filled weekend this past weekend that was really just a plain old good time!  We went to Vancouver to a German-esque Christmas Market, looked at lights at the Botanical garden in the pouring rain, Gabe got to sit on Santa's lap after singing carols and listing to him read a Christmas Story, and a special bonus was Spencer's convincing conversation with Gabe that he also believed that Santa was real!  There was lots of laughter, great memories, and truly a fabulous weekend!  The gift of this little excursion was priceless.  
Here is a photo of the whole gang of us at the end of the night.

Here is Matt and the boys as elves.  Oh and "Jeves" Matt's English Butler protecting Matt from the rain by holding his umbrella. Jeves stayed in character the entire night and despite puddles, low branches and awkward moments where Matt and I were kissing....he never broke character nor let a drop of rain fall on Matt.  Good times!

Dec 25, 2012

The Christmas Story Revelation Style

Revelation 12:1-12

1And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

2And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

3And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

4And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

5And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

6And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

7And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

8And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

10And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

11And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

12Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

Dec 24, 2012

The Last Lesson of Advent

Christmas Eve.
I started off the day in the kitchen.  Matt is slaving over dinner on Christmas, so I slave over dinner on Christmas Eve.  By "slave over dinner" I actually mean prepare a whole bunch of appetizers.  That is our Christmas Eve tradition.  Well for now anyway.
I finished preparing all the appetizers and we headed off  to the 3pm Christmas Eve service at our church.  It wasn't a quiet "Silent Night" candle light service like we are used to.  It was a loud rowdy celebration....and we liked it!  We should be loud and rowdy.  Jesus was born!  400 years of silence forgotten, the Messiah came! If there is ever a day to celebrate it is today!
After service we came back home, stuffed ourselves with mini-wellingtons, southwestern egg rolls, baked brie, and a whole bunch of other stuff.  We made a quick video/Christmas greeting for my parents and sister's family and then settled in for reading the Christmas story.
This year Gabe read it.  He did so well.  He got really excited at "Don't be afraid for I bring you good news of great joy that will be for ALL people".  He memorized that and the following verse for AWANA last week so Gabe was ready to roll through that part with confidence.
After the story I started to speak on the last topic for Advent.  I loved this lesson.  I was so excited to talk about gifts.  Not the gifts the wise men brought, but the gifts the Drummer Boy brought.  A few months back I secretly listened to the Little Drummer Boy and felt moved by the words of the lad "I have no gift to bring thats fit to give a King".  It is so beautiful.
I decided to sing the song tonight before rolling out my lesson.
A few lines in and Gabe had already complained about being required to sing "a million songs tonight" and Eli was rolling all over the couch and protesting.  Gabe started being the class clown, Eli was laughing hysterically and everyone missed the best line of the song "come they told me".
I turned off the music, picked up the lyrics and marched upstairs.
This was the lesson I wanted the boys to hear this year.  Of all the lessons, of all the truths, this one was the one I wanted to be louder than any other.  Come.  Worship.  Play your best for him.
Gabe met me upstairs and apologized.  I said "thank you" and closed the door.
As I sat in the bathroom I felt my eyes filling with tears.  The message was lost in the sugar high, excitement of Christmas.
A quiet voice in my head said "I gave my best for him".  I did give my best.  Not just for my Children, but for my God and King.  My little listeners were not interested but I came and I played my best for Him.  
I came downstairs a bit later and gave my boys a lesson I had not planned for, studied for, and surely didn't have a coordinating song for.  It went something like this:

"Jesus humbled himself to become human, he died on the cross, rose on the third day and ascended into heaven with plans to return in the future so that people can be saved, sanctified, filled and spend eternity with Him.  Right now there are millions of people out there who are too busy to worship God, too busy to be bothered with obeying him, too busy to know Him better, and live for him.  They are too busy worrying about their own lives to even acknowledge that Jesus is their savior.
Tonight in here, you are too busy worrying about your presents, your movie, and your dessert to worship Him, to celebrate His birth, and listen to me share with you about what God desires of you.  
Tonight, you are no different than the others.  No different than Bethlehem.  No different than the people who had no room for Jesus to be born in their home."

The boys both looked to the floor.  Neither ventured to look into my face.  Neither attempted to offer some excuse.  They had just received their last Advent lesson of this year.  And it hurt a little.

I guess they get the Little Drummer Boy lesson another day.  

Dec 13, 2012

Basketball Practice

This is week three of the kids' basketball practice.  I signed them up to play with an organization called Upward Sports.  If you haven't heard of the organization and know a youngster...check them out, spread the word.
Upward Sports is a national organization managed on the local level by churches.  In my town, over a dozen local churches participate in the organization.  We use at least 6 church gyms for practices during the week and one gym is used for all the weekend games.  I found advertising for Upward at three or four churches that we were trying out.

Upward uses a different approach to youth sports.  Yes, the kids learn technique, game rules, and improve their skills but they learn much more.  A major focus is sportsmanship and teamwork.

Prior to the team assignments, the kids were required to attend an assessment.  They didn't need to prove how good they were to join, they just needed to show their skills so the managers could create the teams.  The goal was for each team to be equally matched.

Each practice is an opportunity to teach kids lessons on and off the court. This is a picture of Gabe's team on their break tonight.  Halfway through practice the team gathers around their coach for a little team meeting.  Today, the coach talked about each of the kids having different strengths on the court, and how that is what will make their team strong.  Not everyone needs to be good at the same thing!  In fact, if everyone is trying to be the same thing, that leaves places of weakness.  He also talked about how to act when a team member or person on the opposing team falls or is discouraged.

After they had their little meeting, the kids went on to get some water and then they were back on the court learning passing strategies and other things I know nothing about.

They won't always be on a Christian team but the lessons they are learning now will hopefully stick with them throughout any sports they do play and in life.

Dec 12, 2012

Schooled

It seems the politically correct way for public schools to deal with the issue of Christmas is to introduce a "holidays around the world"  curriculum for the days or weeks leading up to the Winter Break.  The lessons highlight different ways people of a variety of cultures celebrate a holiday.  Over the years the boys have learned about Christmas celebrations in many different countries as well as Kwanza, Hanukkah, and who knows what other holidays.
Today, Gabriel's teacher was showing pictures of holiday celebrations in Laos. I'm not really sure what the holiday was but the teacher showed the class a picture of a big idol.  She then asked a kid in the class, from Laos, to explain a little about the holiday and the idol.  Apparently, the kid explained how this idol is their god and they worship it.
After the explanation, Gabriel marched on up to his teacher and said "excuse me... the Bible says you are not supposed to worship any idols!"  
I have no idea if his teacher has had to deal with this before, but I can only imagine how tricky this situation could be.
She told Gabe that the other kid believed differently and sent him back to his desk.
He returned to his desk and asked the kids at his table "does anyone here know what John 3:16 says?"  One girl did, and they proceeded to quote the verse...
"For God so loved the world that He send his one and only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life".

The school, friends .... the world can try all they want to teach something different, but I try harder!  When the minds and hearts of children are filled with Truth, it doesn't matter what their friends believe, the Truth remains in them and will guide them and direct them through life as long as they continue to trust in the Lord and lean not on the world's understanding!



Dec 10, 2012

Peace

This year I worked pretty hard to prepare our home for Christmas.
I brought out all the boxes of Christmas decorations two days after Thanksgiving, I used every last decoration in those 10 boxes, and we put up the absolute tallest and widest tree in the family room to fill the room with the beauty and magic of Christmas.
I knew I wanted the season of Advent to be memorable this year as well, so I work hard every few days researching and preparing the lessons for our family.  I balanced the lessons with deep theological stuff like fulfillment of thousand year old prophesies about a "root" and "tender shoot" with fun exciting ones like learning the history and hidden Christian meaning behind "The 12 Days of Christmas".
I made my Christmas list back in October, planning how much I wanted to spend and ideas of what I could purchase for each person on my list.
It would seem I've got it all together.
But then December 10 flashes up on the calendar and I realize I have missed overseas shipping deadlines. I still have 5 packages to mail, two of which are waiting on something to get to me in order for me to send it on, I had to go buy boxes to ship items and as I was getting the last box ready to go, the tape ran out.
I move from shipper extraordinair to home-made treat creator.  Bad call.  Pecans taste wrong, I burn 3, yes 3 batches of chocolate that I was simply trying to melt.  Who knew that stuff was so flammable? The party mix went awry and I haven't even started on cookies.
As I feverishly worked in the kitchen to make some sense of this madness I swing by the island, knock over an OPEN box of cereal I left on the counter from breakfast and cereal went flying across the floor.  I dodged the rice chex all the way to the sink when that last one got underfoot and "crunch".  Now I have cereal powder on the floor.
I made a cup of coffee, retrieved the broom and a trash bag to dispose of all my messes and found myself on the floor thinking "this Christmas is going ALL WRONG!"
I just wanted to make some homemade treats for friends, send packages, buy gifts and now I'm in a pile of cereal on the floor.
Before the thoughts could go any further I was quickly and I mean quickly directed to a scene that played out last night in my family room under that giant, magical, tree.
The lesson of the second Sunday of Advent is peace.
One of the definitions of peace is "freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions."  We talked about God's promise that the world will have trouble, but not to worry because He has overcome the world.
My peace doesn't rest on the day going well, or everything lining up just right for my Christmas plans.  My peace comes from the Prince of Peace himself, especially when things go wrong.

Maybe some of my hopes for this season are not going as planned but my hopes, and the desire of my heart to learn from Advent lessons is going completely right!


Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:10



Dec 9, 2012

Praying through Advent


A few nights ago our Advent focus was on prayer.  We talked about how God desires us to pray in all times and for all reasons.  I told the boys that one thing they could do this Advent season is give the one gift to the people they love that is guaranteed to be a perfect fit...pray for them.  The boys each wrote out a list of people they wanted to "shop" for.  Then they wrote down what they would "buy".  We took the lists and made little prayer garlands.  On one side of the paper is a name and the other side is a reminder of what they are praying for.  This is Eli's prayer garland.


Our song for the night was Harry Connick Jr's funky tune called "I Pray on Christmas"

I pray on christmas
That the lord will see me through
I pray on christmas
He'll show me what to do

I pray on christmas
He'll help me understand
And I pray on christmas
He'll take me by the hand

I pray on christmas
That the sick will soon be strong
I pray on christmas
The lord will hear my song

I pray on christmas
That God will lead the way
And I pray on christmas
He'll get me through another day

I pray on christmas
I pray on christmas
I pray on christmas
He'll get me through another day

I pray on christmas
All our problems gonna be worked out
I pray on christmas
God'll show us what love's about

I pray on christmas
To do your will each day
And I pray on christmas
That I'll be with you in heaven some day

I pray on christmas
Oh, the sick will soon be strong
I pray on christmas
The lord will hear my song

I pray on christmas
That God will lead the way
And I pray I really pray on christmas
He'll get me through another day

Dec 5, 2012

I don't make this stuff up.

Eli:  Mom, what is masseuse?
Mom: Someone who gives you a massage.
Eli: So....then what does this mean "don't masseuse the Lord's name"?
Mom: misuse.  Don't misuse the Lord's name.
Eli: ooooh.

Dec 4, 2012


There are three major why we wanted to move to Washington.
1. It was the very best duty stations of all the choices we had before us.
2. After 14 years of being across the country (or world) we would finally be near family….I'm counting the ones in the state and the ones just down south.
3. We would have the opportunity to end our military career in a place that we actually would like to live for the long haul.

Although I desperately wanted Fort Lewis to be our last duty station, I have struggled with the thought that this may just be our permanent home.  
As I consider where I will hang pictures or what furniture I want in what room of the house, I'm tormented by the pressure of permanence.  I feel like I'm hanging that picture on the wall it will stay on forever, and ever, until I die.
I do realize that even if I stay in this house forever I am allowed to take down a picture and relocate it to another room or replace it.   However, I have never hung a picture before without thinking it would only be there for three years max.  I'm treading on new ground here.  And it is scary as hell.

I don't know what it is like to live in a house longer than 3 years.  I have never budgeted for healthcare insurance.  I don't know what it is like to worry about downsizing and job cuts.  I absolutely do not know what it is like not to be an Army wife.

I love the military and I truly, deeply, love the lifestyle God has allowed us to have while serving this country and I am scared, worried, and flat out dragging my feet and making trenches in the sand when it comes to moving on.  I don't want to leave.
Perhaps, I don't want to leave because it is simply all I've known.  Maybe it is because I'm afraid of what life is like on the outside.  Or it could really be because I like it so much.  It doesn't matter why, it just is.  And I have to let it all go.  I need to lift up my feet, surrender my will, and follow my husband to wherever he will lead our family.

Tonight I had a heart to heart with Matt.  On the surface I was just sharing how I feel, but deep inside I think I was trying to convince him that he too should love the Army and vow to stay forever.  But after I gave my compelling speech, Matt delivered his.  I must say, his was much shorter.  His was also far more compelling.  He said this
 "I have served my Country, I did my time, I don't own them any more and I am done risking my life".

I'm not 100% sure, but I think there is no rebuttal to that argument.  I truly feel ashamed to ask him to continue to do something that causes him discomfort so that I can live in plenty.

I've committed today to stop hoping that he'll change his mind and start dreaming about what our future holds.

I know it will be a tough transition for me, so I'm thankful that we are in a home we really wouldn't mind staying in, close to family, and we have three years to work on the details of separating from the Army.

I know that God will provide for us, that He has a plan for us, and that it will be a new blessed chapter of our lives.  But I also know that it is a dramatic change for us and it may be tough.  God has been so faithful in the past 17 years of Matt's career, I really should have no doubt that He will continue to lead us and provide for us in the next career.

Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”

Dec 3, 2012

Not So Martha.

For the record.
You cannot just add orange zest and cranberries to a box scone mix and hope that they taste just like the ones you slave over from scratch.
I'm going out on a limb here and calling them inedible.
The box scone mix in itself may have been tasty but I didn't try them plain so I can't say for certain.
The error in judgement was less about the box mix and more about the additives.
Not that I will ever try this again, but I suppose the issue was ratio of sweetness to sour.  Perhaps I added too much sour, or maybe there just isn't any sweet in the "just add water" mix.
I don't know specifically what went wrong, but I know that the issue was me trying to cut corners. I have a tried and true cranberry orange scone recipe that is delicious and yet I decided at the last minute that rather than follow the recipe I would try to skip all the steps involved in actually making the recipe and just throw in some flare at the end.
This scene is repeated in other areas of my life.
I like to buy a gift that I truly think the recipient is going to love or will find amusing.  I like to think through gifts.  When I do, the gift turns out lovely.  The recipient knows my heart and receives my gift as specifically chosen for her or him for some reason.  When I don't take the time to really think about what I want to give someone, it is like those darn scones, they look pretty, but there was no effort involved and they were not made with love.  As Christmas shipping deadlines quickly approach I am faced with the challenge to actually take the time to shop for gifts, not cut corners and just grab the first thing I see on the shelf, wrap it pretty and call it good.
Last night I was racing through my bible study.  I didn't want to do it.  I'm fed up with the author, I don't like the study, but I was muddling through anyway.  As I was closing my book I noticed that I did indeed fill in all the answer blanks, but I didn't get a darn thing out of it.  I went through the motions but didn't really do the study.  I took a box mix and threw in some cranberries.  In the end, what do I have?

Some challenges are new and the way to go about them is learned through trial and error, but for others....there is a recipe that works and all I need to do is take the time to follow it.  My challenge for this season is to avoid cutting corners!  If I prioritize my tasks and use my time wisely, I will successfully accomplish the tasks I have chosen to take on.

Nov 30, 2012

Advent 2012!

This year for Advent rather than stuffing my Advent pocket calendar with candy, I stuffed it with strips of paper with the words of a Christmas carol.
I decided to lead the family through the Advent season through Christmas carols.  Each day we will talk about a different topic and sing a corresponding carol.
The Sunday topics are Hope, Love, Peace and Joy and we will light the Advent candles accordingly.  The weekly topics cover the long awaited Messiah, the significance of Bethlehem, the Shepherds, Mary, Gifts, Angels, Kings, and much more.
We'll read scripture about each person, place, or thing, I'll teach a little lesson on said topic and then we'll sing and eat some candy!
At least 2 of the Saturday nights we have fun Christmas activities planned (watching Scrooge the musical and going to Leavenworth to the Christmas Markets) on those nights we'll skip the carols and the Biblical lessons and focus on the events that we are sharing as a family.  On a few other nights we will learn the history of current Christmas traditions and sing a modern fun carol.
I'm so excited to put my own personal spin on this Advent season!

Nov 29, 2012

Cheating

I've been hiding a secret for the past two weeks.  But now I feel compelled to be open and honest.  I've been cheating on my breakfast ladies.
A few weeks ago I was invited to join a book club with a few ladies I met at a newcomer dessert a month earlier.  I was happy to give the book club a try and have a chance to connect with some ladies in a smaller, more personal venue.
I arrived at the first meeting at 10am.  We had coffee, ate some breakfast concoctions and chatted the day away.  Literally.  I left at 2:15 only because the kids get out of school at 2:40!
I had a good time and it was so nice to chat about a book, about kids, about life and just really start to connect with some people here.  All of the ladies were very friendly and inclusive, even though they have all known each other for about a year and just met me.
As I left I felt a little twinge of pain in my heart.  This was the same type of environment that "my ladies" and I enjoyed for about 2.5 years in Germany.  Oh how I miss those mornings, the ladies.
Tomorrow I am hosting the book club / chat session at my house.  As I flipped through some recipes deciding what to make, I flashed back to the faces of the ladies in my home in Germany.  I was reminded of the studies we did, the opinions shared, the prayers lifted up, joys celebrated and tears that fell.  Oh how I miss them so.
I feel a little like I'm cheating on them.   I should be preparing a Christmasy gathering for them!
I hope that they are all moving on and making new connections in each of their homes but a little part of me still longs for us, for our quirky mix of lovely ladies to be gathered around sipping coffee and sharing life.
Moving on feels equally good and sad.
Looking back has such sweet memories and lasting relationships but looking ahead is a great glimmer of life and joy.  I'll always cherish the ladies of Mannheim but I am so thankful that God has seen fit to ensure that I continue in the tradition of getting a nice sugar high, caffein boost, and friends to share life with a few times a month.

So on to the big question of my day.... Scones?  Casserole?  Christmas Blend or Pike's Place?

Nov 28, 2012

It Came to me in a Dream

Last night just as I lay my head down for a nice cozy slumber a thought flashed through my head like a bolt of lightning.
It was the topic for my blog today.
I was so excited about it I started my "pre-write" in my head.  It was relevant, it was important, it was the perfect topic for today.
Then I fell asleep and now I have no idea what the topic was, at all.
I spent the better part of an hour this morning doing laundry and cleaning up the house while thinking about what it was I was going to write about.  I thought over each moment of my day yesterday hoping to shake something loose in my head, but I had no luck.
So, I gave up on the blog post and sat down to my other writing task of this day: Advent.
I have used a variety of methods and materials each year to make each day of Advent important for our family, but nothing really quite fit.  It worked, but I always felt like something was just a little off.  This year I decided I was going to write my own Advent series tailored to fit my family, this year.
It is a difficult undertaking and each time I have sat down over the past week to write something I find myself distracted by one thing or another and I haven't written down a single word.
Advent Sunday is THIS Sunday so today is the day I have to get rolling on this!
I poured a cup of coffee and sat down with my Bible and some other materials and started to think and read.  I have a great book that would work...perhaps I should throw another load of laundry in the dryer and just use the book?
But then it came to me.  Not in a flash like my blog post idea last night, but a puzzle worked together with the story I want my kids to hear and the passion I want to ignite in them over the next four weeks!
I feverishly worked to get all my ideas down before they disappear into the great abyss and then my brain started multi-tasking and I realized why I can't recall what in the world I was planning to write about today: today I need to write this awesome Advent plan for my family.
Sometimes the things we want to do are not the things we should do, even if they are generally good things.  I hope I'll eventually remember what I wanted to write about, but for now, I was taught my first lesson of Advent.
The first candle lit for Advent is hope.  Hope, not as in "I hope I win the lottery" but as in "because He has proven himself faithful and true, I have hope in Christ Jesus".  The Messiah was the only hope left for the people of Israel.  They had seen Kings and Judges fail them, they had been free and been enslaved, there was nothing on earth left for them until Jesus Christ entered the picture.  Advent is about the anticipation of the arrival of our only true hope.  In the parable of the Ten Virgins, 5 ladies were prepared for the bridegroom and 5 were not.
Am I prepared for the return of Christ?  I am.  But am I prepared for my calling to teach my children this Advent season?  No I am not.  Am I the only one seeing irony in this?  I was not prepared for Advent which is an aspect of the topic of the first week of Advent.  Lame.
Thankfully, I haven't missed my opportunity!  I'm really excited about what I have brewing and can't wait to share it with you.


Nov 26, 2012

Bittersweet.

Today I received my first Christmas card of 2012!
I was so excited.
I have a card tree that I hang on the wall and it always looks so pathetic until the cards start rolling in.  I particularly love cards with a little update from the sender and a photo or two.  Sure, there is facebook to keep me posted throughout the year....but I love a good Christmas card including a synopsis of the year passed and plans for the future.
My first card this year is special for a few reasons.  It is my first, so that in itself makes is special, the card is printed on heavy card stock and I love the simple elegance of nice paper, the little girl is so darn adorable I can't get over it and most importantly it serves as a reminder of what this season will bring for a handful of my friends, deployment.
The front of the card was an image capture of the family using FaceTime.  The larger image is the woman and daughter at their home in the US and the smaller inset image is the man, dressed in his uniform, streaming from Afghanistan.  All were smiling, looking full of joy and love.  The message at the top said "Happy Holidays".
This is how some of my friends will spend their Christmas "together" this year.
This year our friends Matt, Marty, Aaron, Julie and Nick will all be celebrating Christmas in Afghanistan along with about 65,000 other Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.  
My heart goes out to them and their families.
Please join me this year in praying specifically for our friends.  Our prayer is that they experience the joy and beauty of Christmas wherever they are, that they will feel love and encouragement from friends, family, and strangers, and that God will continue to keep them safe and return them home soon.



Nov 20, 2012

What's In a Name?

So Abraham was Abram and Paul was Saul until God grabbed ahold of their lives and set them on a new course.
Sometimes I think it would be so cool to have your name changed at some point when your life becomes something new.
Then again, I've moved 7 times in 15 years.  My life has changed direction each time.  I suppose I would get confused if I changed my name each time.
Eli was named Eli because 1: it is a Hebrew name and I thought a Hebrew name would be cool 2: it was the only name Matt and I agreed on.
He was supposed to be Jonah Matthew.  From the time Matt and I started talking about kids, even years before we wanted them, we loved the name Jonah Matthew, but when I got pregnant we discarded the name and started our search for something else. We obviously settled on Eli Matthew.
Eli means "high" or "ascended".  In the Bible, Eli was the High Priest, the last judge of Israel and the one charged with raising up Samuel.  He was a very important man in his day.  But, Eli had some trouble with his sons and he and his family ended up with a harsh judgement from the Lord.  When I read the story of Eli, I was thrilled that the namesake was a judge and mentor to the great King Samuel, but also a little saddened he was named after a guy that ended up with a family curse.

Yesterday Eli came downstairs and sat next to me very quiet, attempting to hide that he wanted to talk to me.  I asked him what was going on and he said he just finished reading two chapters in The Story (a story version of the Bible) and it made him cry.
I asked what he was reading and why it made him sad.
He said he was reading about Eli.
(Here we go.  I have to explain that not ALL Elis will have dreadful sons and be cursed.)
Eli was struggling to explain how he felt.  He finally said he wasn't sad, he just needed to cry.
Talking to a 10 year old boy can be so difficult.
I decided to drop the subject and revisit it later.

At bedtime I asked him to show me what he read.  He did and then he pointed out what made him cry.
He located these words "The person who took care of God's house was named Eli".
I was a little confused, but decided to go with it.
If I say "huh?" he will get frustrated.
If I say "oh ok" but I really don't have a clue, then I am no closer to understanding what in the world he is so emotionally moved about.
I opt for Dr. Phil 101 "and how does that make you feel Eli?"

He explained that God named Eli and put him in charge of his people.
God named him Eli, because he chose to follow God.

On some level Eli saw an importance of his name.
Eli, of the Old Testiment, was charged with taking care of God's house. He taught Samuel and others.
My Eli seems to have felt some sense of responsibility of his name.
Something I cannot explain nor understand moved him as he read those words.

Perhaps it is not the actual name "Eli" that compels and calls him, but the name "follower, disciple, Christian, servant, son" that moved him so.




Nov 19, 2012

Online Support

The following photograph is a screenshot of my online support with Barnes and Noble.


Really Max?  It isn't supported on my Nook Simple touch...like I said in my introduction?  Go figure.

After this Max said "are we still connected?"
To which I replied "yes, just waiting for my refund"
Then Max said "would you like a refund?"

I am fully aware that these are preprogramed responses with the purpose to help speed along the chat, but I do find it a little irritating.  I feel I clearly stated what I wanted in the first line.  All Max needed to ask for was my order number and then let me know when my refund was issued!
So lame.
The only thing that saved me from shaking my screen to death was (you may notice in the above picture) I had pinterest open in another tab so I was doing some online shopping while I was waiting for Max to get his act together.
Max asked to be excused for 3 minutes while he refunded my order, he then was in absentia forever.  

He finally returned to ask "are we done here?" 
No more Mrs. Nicey Nice, I replied "you tell me.  I want a refund.  Did you give it to me?!!!"

Sometimes I do miss the customer service counter.








Nov 17, 2012

Saved

A few months ago someone asked me if I remember the day I was saved.
I was embarrassed to say "uh, no, I can't recall".
(I went to an A/G church after all.  I think I was "saved" every summer!)
He proceeded to tell me the day and the hour that he was saved.
I'm not sure if he looked down on me for not knowing, or if I was judging myself but what ever it was, I felt uneasy.
I thought long and hard.  When was I saved?  I couldn't pick a month or even a year.  I can't even remember when I was baptized.   I know I was wearing denim overalls, so it had to have been the late '80s.  But a date?  No way.  A salvation date?  Absolutely not.
Matt's friend Jeff shared Christ and a Ding Dong with him during his Sophomore year of high school.  Right there in the lunch room, Jeff shared his Ding Dong like Jesus multiplied the fish and loaves and then proceeded to introduce Matt to his Lord and Savior.  I'm so thankful for Jeff and that Ding Dong.
What is my story?
I was a little bummed.  I don't have a tent meeting or ding dong story.  I don't have a salvation story to tell.
This past weekend I was talking with one of my cousins who brought up a very good point regarding salvation.  If you are raised in a Christian home and living as God has called us to live is your "norm", then what is your "decision"?  If you have always followed, when do you "decide" to follow?  Or at that point does it become the opposite?  When you are raised in a Christian home and believe what is  taught and lived out, then doesn't it follow that your only decision would be to not follow Christ?  The norm is Christ, there is nothing to turn away from, only to continue to live out.
As a raised-in-a-Christian-home type, faith is all I ever knew.  It didn't even strike me as an option to believe in anything other than Christ.  I had nothing to turn away from.  I do know that there was a time when my faith really became my own.  At some point I really started to trust that following God would be the best option for me but I can't pin down a date for that either.
It's like the rhetorical question old people always ask "how'd you get to be so tall?"  Uh... I grew a little each day until magically I am now 5'10".
I find myself frustrated with this concept of "being saved" and hammering out that story.  Some people totally have that story.  Not me.
When was I saved?
I remember it like it was yesterday.  It was on a hill called Golgotha, I don't know the date, but it was some time after 3 in the afternoon.
"Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:4-5
It turns out, my salvation story is not about the day I was saved about the One who saved me.

Nov 16, 2012

Four Generations Baking

For at least a decade my grandma, mom, sister and her girls have gathered together sometime after Thanksgiving to bake Christmas cookies together.  I don't know how the idea came about but it did and, one way or another, each year the Four Generations carved out a day in their schedule to bake.
The only time the boys and I had the opportunity to participate was in 2005.  Both Eli and Gabe were so little they were a lot less help than harm!
When I decided to go to California for the no-morial, I asked my sister if she thought it would be possible to bake considerably early this year so that the boys and I could join them.  Though it would be a very tight squeeze, we managed to find one afternoon where everyone could come together to bake cookies!  It would be different than their usual baking day.  They were baking a few weeks earlier than usual with half the time available to bake and the baking took place at my sister's instead of my mom's.  Since time was shorter and so much was going on with family coming into town for the no-morial, we only baked half the cookies that they usually do and we ended up eating about half of  them we made at the no-morial.
The boys and I had a great time and we were so thankful to have had this baking day.  Gabe actually appreciates baking while I think Eli just likes the mess.  At one point I was sure my Grandma was going to pull her hair out while supervising Eli with a recipe.  He was such a disaster, and I think she was completely baffled by his unsanctioned measuring techniques. Clearly, I need to train him up a little better before next time!  
It wasn't Four Generations baking day as usual, but we were all there I and truly appreciate the ladies' flexibility to include us.  
So here is a photo of the kids in my mom's kitchen in Dec 2005 and in my sister's last weekend.  They did their best to recreate the original.

After we were done with all the official baked goods for the night, we embarked on a new challenge.  Something the baking day hadn't seen before.... I had a wild idea at about 7pm for Cookie Wars!  We made chocolate chip cookie dough, minus the choco chips and then everyone created their own masterpiece with items found in the kitchen.  We had a huge variety of "mixins".  Gabe had a mint and peanut butter situation going on, Grandma used coconut and Mr. Goodbar, and mom made a very moist carrot cake cookie.  My favorite was Makenna's caramel apple pie concoction.  It needed some help in the overall design (melting caramel chunks inside the cookie instead of on top, and cookie form) but the taste was really good!  I was also quite pleased with my creation.  I called them Morning Glories and they had dark chocolate granola bars and chocolate covered blueberries inside.  It was very breakfasty and I actually liked them. My brother in law liked them too, he came back for seconds!  The winner was Kaia's skittle cookie.  It was very sweet but the judges have a refined pallet and the skittles were winners.
My sister's kitchen was destroyed after all this baking but our hearts were full after spending such a great time together.  
Next year?

Nov 15, 2012

Talk Story

Shoot the breeze, shoot the bull, chew the fat, chit-chat, catch up...call it what you want but basically I'm talking about talking.
My family gathered together this past weekend to informally honor my grandfather's life and celebrate/mourn his death.  I had not seen most of the members of my family in 7-8 years, so this proved to be an excellent time to catch up with everyone and reconnect.  It was really great to spend a few moments with cousins, aunts, uncles and first cousins once removed or second cousins - however that works - throughout the day.  A few of the people there I met for the first time, others I've known all my life and simply lost contact with.  Since there was no formal activities planned for the day, we all sat around eating and talking.  Most of that talking was a chance to get to know who my cousins are now.  I found that even though we are all in different places in our lives now, inside we are still the same people and it was so easy to be together again.
There was one thing was missing from the no-morial, as my brother-in-law dubbed it, and that was my grandpa.  Of coarse he wasn't there, after-all if he were there then we wouldn't have all been there.  What I mean is there was little mention of him at all.  My nieces sang one of his favorite songs and my sister put together a short slide show of photos of my grandpa and the family, but aside from that he was gone.
No one in my family felt the desire to share stories about my grandfather that day.  Maybe they were unsure if this was the time and place for it, after-all there was so much tension leading up to this people may have been afraid to do something not previously agreed upon.  Maybe they just didn't want to, it would bring up sadness and they didn't want to do that.  Maybe people are just private and want to keep their stories to themselves.  As I left my mom's house that night I was saddened by the fact that nobody wanted to talk about my grandpa.
In Hawaii they say "talk story".  I love the simplicity of the word picture.  People sitting around, telling stories about whatever.  There is something about oral accounts of the past that simply grip me and make me hungry for more.  I love to hear stories of things people did and said.  I may not have been there to partake in the event, but the retelling can be just as exciting.
For whatever reason people chose not to talk story about grandpa, the ones who are truly hurt by this choice are the younger generations.  My children didn't know my grandpa the way I did, and I didn't know my grandpa the way my aunts and uncles did, and they didn't know him the way my grandma did.  Not sharing stories of my grandfather's life excludes the future generations of knowing him.
As the slide show of family photos played on the TV,  people in the room saw photos that reminded them of things they used to do with grandpa.  Quiet tears, giggles, and an occasional comment would be thrown out as pictures passed by. When that last picture of my grandpa faded out on the screen, he dissappeared from the gathering.
I looked over at Gabe and noticed he was crying uncontrollably.  Tears had stained his shirt and he was barely able to sit.  I called him to me, and he snuggled on my lap for the next moments.  He said he was sad because he missed grandpa.  I asked him what his favorite memory was of grandpa and he didn't have a single one.  Gabe really only knew his great-grand father as a man in a hospital.  He never went to the beach with him, heard his crazy stories, or saw him savor the moments when he was surrounded by family.  Gabe really didn't know grandpa at all, not the grandpa I knew.
It is the responsibility of the generations ahead to teach the following about life and people in their time.  I do wish my boys could have sat around listening to stories from their aunts, uncles, first and second cousins, and anyone else who could give them an oral history, a picture of who Mel Selby was.  I'm challenged to do my best to tell my kids stories about my grandparents, and parents, and about myself and Matt when we were young.  I am challenged to ensure that when my kids are asked who someone is, they have a story to tell.

Nov 6, 2012


Today I woke up and snuggled with Matt for a few minutes before I got out of bed.  Because I can.  My loving, adoring husband is right there next to me to say "good morning" and help me start my day.  Not every wife has that luxury.
Today I dropped the kids off at school.  A school they feel safe in, they enjoy, and where they are learning new and exciting things.  A school where their teachers genuinely care about them and are lighting fires of interest in academia, music and leadership.
Today I put on my running shoes and ran 4 miles.  Because I can.  I'm afforded the time in my day and the health to go for a morning run.  A luxury I may not always have.
Today I planned my running route so that I could swing by my local ballot drop box to cast my ballot.  Because I can.  Because my forefathers saw it fit to risk everything to establish a "more perfect union" in which people are afforded rights and freedoms and the power to be represented on local, state, and national levels.  Because women who went before me, fought for our right to be counted.
Today I prayed for my family, my friends and my Nation.  Because I can. "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" Heb 4:16.

Nov 4, 2012

You have reached your destination.

A few days ago I had the awesome opportunity to attend a Huskies game in Seattle with my Washingtonian family.  I'm totally not ashamed to admit that I am a hometown fan. Wherever my current hometown is, there my team is also.  I'm currently a die-hard UW Husky fan and I will remain one forever or until we move.
The plan was for me to meet up with everyone at my cousin's dorm and then carpool down to the game.  I told my GPS where I wanted to go and set off for the college.  I had no clue where I was going so I really had to just trust the GPS.  After a quick jaunt through the city I pulled up to a "t" intersection and my GPS declared "You have reached your destination.  Your destination is on the right".
I looked out the window up and to the right to find: the Space Needle.  Last I checked, Seattle Pacific University was not located inside or directly below the Space Needle. Time to pull over and reassess.

Thankfully there was a parking lot nearby and I was able to work some magic and get back on track.  I met up with the family and had a blast at the game.  The end.

Meanwhile back at the ranch...

I celebrated my 36th birthday this week.  I have been happily married for nearly 16 years, I have two healthy and wildly entertaining, mostly obedient boys, I have some amazing friends and supportive family, I have had the benefit of living in Hawaii, outside DC and in Germany, and I've travelled all over the place.  My husband has a secure job with good healthcare, there is always food on the table with some to spare, we "own" a pretty big shiny new home. I'm afforded the opportunity to stay home with my kids, work out while they are in school and have random coffee dates. We have an older but decent van and the Pretty Pretty Princess tucked away in the 3 car garage and right now I'm typing on my Mac in the office, while Matt and the boys are watching a movie in the media room.  We are living in a place we always hoped to return to, we are living our dream.
The GPS just said "you have arrived at your destination".
But I feel a little like I did while sitting under the Space Needle.  I was really happy that I was there, however it really wasn't my destination.

We have come to a place in our life where we have attained more than we really ever thought we would.  We feel blessed beyond measure and humbled by the bounty before us.  But, this is just another plot on the map.  Our true destination is still ahead.

I am not ungrateful, but ready.  I'm ready for the bigger things to come.  Not a bigger house or car.  I'm ready for relationships to be built, for roots to bury into the ground, for traditions to be set.  I'm here and I'm happy but I'm ready to get to the real destination.  The place where I'll be challenged, where I become stronger, better, wiser.  I'm ready to embrace the Pacific Northwest, the people, the culture, and figure out what our family will look like here.

(Many apologies for the numerous running stories and analogies but Paul saw fit, so I feel like I have a Biblical license to as well!)  In the morning I get my running gear on.  It is chilly, so I pile on the gloves, arm warmers, ear warmer/headband thing and a light rain jacket - just in case.  I have my ipod charged and tuned to my music or podcast for the day, my headphones are in, shoes tied tight, and on a good morning I have spent at least a moment or two stretching.  It doesn't do me any good to show up at the race ready, if I don't actually run.
So that's all I'm saying.  I'm ready.  Fire the gun.  Let's get it started!



Nov 1, 2012

Cards

I spent a few hours last week in the garage sorting through boxes and boxes of stuff we had in our storage unit in Virginia for the past three years.  A bunch of the boxes were filled with cards and letters.  As I was sorting I would stop and read some.  I was so touched by the words of encouragement and love that filled the thousands of pages in those boxes.  Sometimes I would read a "thank you" note or card and recall exactly when the person sent it to me.  It made for a long process of sorting but it was a very sweet walk down memory lane.
I have to admit that there are a few things that didn't make the cut. The kids school work.  I did save some projects that detailed what the kids were interested in or pictures that depicted themselves at the time, but all those math sheets and random scribble scrabble....gone.  Another thing I don't typically save are cards that were just signed, unless the card itself was insanely funny or particularly special for some reason.  Sorry but if all you do is sign your name, I enjoy it for the week or so and then toss it.
The cards I keep are ones that are filled with words that I don't ever want to forget.  Today, I received one of those cards.  I read the words inscribed and it nearly brought me to my knees.

Just in case you are not skilled in Gabe's 8 year old handwriting and spelling, I'll translate for you.


"I hope you have a good birthday.  We have lots of fun together. I will be with you for ever and ever.  I am some trouble some times but I am a good boy.  Love Gabe"

Oh my sweet Gabriel.

I love what he decided to include in his note: we have fun, he'll be with me forever, and he is a good boy.  I'm not sure if he was reminding me or reminding himself of this fact.  Either way, it was that last line that caused a huge knot to well up in my throat.  He knows he causes me to shake my head and wonder how in the world this child manages to do some of the things he does!  But he also knows that his mistakes, his failings, his struggles and his trouble, do not define him.

Oh the things that we can learn from this little guy.

Gabe wasn't there when I opened my card and gifts tonight.  He was actually in trouble for his behavior at dinner and was in his room.  When I went upstairs and thanked him for my gift I said "I love my bracelet but do you know what I love even more?"  I was going to tell him how much I loved his card and that he spent time writing sweet words to me, but before I could say anything he whispered his answer "me?" Yes Gabe.  You.


Oct 31, 2012

Stuck in My Teeth

I have an aversion to Oreos and Cheetos because they get stuck in my teeth.
Sure I can just brush my teeth and prevent plaque built up and cavities, but that isn't the issue.
The issue is the lingering flavor.
When I'm still tasting the cookie ten minutes after I consumed it....it makes me hungry for more.  That hint of whatever I just ate creates a craving in me that is so hard to resist and often causes me to go back for more, and more.
I'm currently suffering from a wicked addiction to candied pecans.  They are my favorite little sweet snack and my dear friend Darlene whipped up a batch and sent them to me for my birthday.  AWESOME!
But the problem is, like Oreos and Cheetos, the pecans and all their sugary goodness are crammed down in my crevices of my molars and as I work feverishly to get them out, it just spreads the flavor around and makes me want more.
I consumed a large quantity in the past two days.  I won't say how much but it is so much that even Gabe had something to say about my level of consumption.
The moral of the story is
1: definitely surround yourself with friends who love you enough to send you home-made candied pecans.  Since these are made by a Georgia girl, you pronounce them peee-can not the West Coast way puh-kahn. And they are delicious.
2: Open your tasty packages alone so nobody can see your goodies, request them to be shared or comment on your over-consumption of them.
3: If you are going to eat something, do something, or hang around someone that is going to stick to you like Cheetos in your teeth, make sure that something or someone is one that you want to stick with you.  Carrots get stuck in your teeth but its ok to keep going back for more.

Oct 30, 2012

"If you can't do it right, don't do it at all!"

I think that is the worse advice ever.  Horrible.

Recently I have had conversations with three different people who said the afore mentioned phrase or something really close.  Each time I thought to myself "that doesn't seem right".

Rather than tattle on my friends, I'll speak hypothedically about general topics.  You'll get the picture. 

Doctors recommend working out at least 3 days a week. If you operate under the "do it right" principle and you can't go to the gym or run three days a week, then you should just skip it and wait to exercise until you can commit to all three days.
But what if you can go one day a week and work hard?  Is that not worth anything?  Is your body not getting a little something?  The correct training schedule for a 1/2 marathon is between 8-12 weeks, depending on your fitness level.  I didn't have time to follow the schedule so I just winged it.  I did what I could, I made it up as I went,  and I figured out a way to get my body ready in just one month.  If I had let this "do it right" stuff get in my way, I would have missed out on the great opportunity I had to train and run a 1/2 marathon.  It wasn't "right" but it worked.

I started going to a women's bible study, I have great intentions of doing my study each day and attending regularly but due to one thing or another I have only made it to the meetings every other week.  A friend of mine was in a similar situation and decided rather than continue to come when she can, she wanted to stop coming until life settles down and she can get in there and do it right.  
Maybe you can't watch every video and maybe you are slightly lost on the lessons, but when you are there you get something out of the lessons you are doing right?  God can speak to your heart, and reveal to you just what you need to hear if you show up once a year or once a week.  He has something for you every single time you come ready and willing to listen.  To claim that you can't take part in a study because you can't show up every time or do every lesson is really just cheating yourself.  Give Him one hour and he will show up.

I was baking with my Aunt, well she was baking and I was watching and learning, and she asked me if I had a kitchen scale.  No I do not.  She was not surprised because throughout the baking experience I lacked about half of the things she needed.  When she realized she was going to have to estimate the weight of the ingredients she commented that she liked to do it right or not at all!  She was a little flustered for a minute by my inept kitchen, but she estimated just fine everything turned out perfectly!  What if she took inventory before the adventure and decided not to bake because we couldn't do it right?  Ahhh I would have been out some super delicious pie.
How many delicious recipes have been created because an ingredient was missing?  One time I didn't have milk for scrambled eggs but I had cream.  Yum.  Methods of cooking, ingredients, tools can be improved by that one time that you don't have what you need and you find something else to fill the void.  

If we wait to take on new challenges until we can do it right, until we are ready or until life slows down, we may never have the opportunity to succeed....or to try and fail.

Sometimes trying and failing provides just as much growth, entertainment, or pleasure than succeeding as planned.  When I only run one or two days a week, I can't run as far or as strong because I'm out of shape but I'm working so much harder for that 3 miles than I used to work at mile 6.  You absolutely cannot just omit the oatmeal from chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.  It doesn't work, but now I know you can edit things like nuts and raisins but not hearty ingredients like oatmeal and flour!  You probably cannot lead a small group if you don't show up regularly, but if you listen intently when you are there you can passionately spread that same message to a friend who also needs to hear it.  And you cannot just drill four spindly legs on a hollow door and expect it to turn into a desk.  But, you can consult your dad on ways to make it work and come up with a new plan.
There is some truth to the do it right idea, but it is not a rule to live by.

A very wise mentor once advised me to do my best for today.  My best today may not be as good as my best was yesterday or will be tomorrow but it will be my best.

I know it is still October but...I accidentally sang Drummer Boy today and now it seems so fitting.  I'll spare you the pa rum pums.
"I have no gift to bring, that's fit to give a King, shall I play for you on my drum?....
I played my drum for him, I played my best for him, then he smiled at me...pa rum pum pum pum"

Give the best you have in all you do and your reward will be encouragement to give your best again, and again, and again.

Oct 16, 2012

Thoughts on Running

I am constantly amazed by fact that runners come in all shapes, sizes and ages.
Today I was chatting with a lady about the morning sunshine we were blessed with.  I mentioned that I am hopeful to squeeze in some runs in the moments that it is not raining this fall.  She laughed at me and told me to live in Western Washington is to get rained on and I will either embrace running in the rain or only run a few days out of the year.
She then went on to explain that while she was training for her marathon last year she ran all winter and just got used to running soaking wet.
What? SHE ran a marathon recently?
I know, I know, it was a judgmental thought and I confess my lameness and request forgiveness.  Enough about my faults...
What surprised me about her recent running of the marathon is that looking at her, I wouldn't classify her as "fit".  I actually would say a little overweight and I wouldn't even guess she worked out regularly let alone runs marathons, if I were forced to utter my inner opinion out-loud.

If you haven't had the opportunity to watch a marathon, I encourage you to find the time to swing by and watch these amazing athletes.  We watched the Honolulu marathon years ago and saw the most incredible finishes.  There was a man who ran in a full kimono to include those wooden platform shoes, someone ran barefoot, someone looked like he was 150 years old, there were short people, tall people, ridiculously skinny people, strong people, chubby people and every other type of body represented at the finish line.  Some ran as teams, some alone or with another person, some were strong, others struggled in their finish but they did it, all 26.2 miles.

After my race, I met up with friends and family and then we all walked over to a restaurant for dinner.  We ate dinner and were walking back toward the train to head home when I saw a lone woman running in the dark.  The support booths were gone, the street blockades were being torn down, it was dark and nobody was cheering on the sides of the road, yet one runner remained on the path.  She was older, a little larger, and she looked like she was struggling. My guess is that it must have taken her about 4 hours to run the half marathon.  She had on a head-lamp so I suspect that she knew she would be running in the dark, perhaps she knew she would be running alone.  I was overwhelmed with emotion when I saw her.  Despite the fact that she was running a long slow race, alone and in the dark she was finishing her race! That is more impressive to me than the guy who finished first.

When it comes to running, it doesn't matter what type of body we have.  Its just one of those things that any body can do and can do well.  It is about putting one foot in front of the other and going for it.  It is about endurance, determination, drive, and perhaps sheer will.  It may be harder for some than others but with training and commitment it can be done.  Not just to run, but run far, run hard, run fast, and run with great success.  

The beauty of running is that it doesn't matter who you are, where you have come from or what you look like, when you put on the running shoes you run your own race with the strengths and weaknesses that you have been given.  Each person's race and prize might be as different as the bodies they are running in, but that is what makes it exciting.  I can see why Paul used running a race as a metaphor for our lives, it fits so perfectly.  We show up at the start and finish line at different times, we look different, we have different strengths and we have different methods of running but we are each called to run our own race and do it in a way to reach the prize.

Oct 15, 2012

Perfect Fall

The sun was shining this morning but the day's rain had not yet begun to fall.  The evergreens stood tall in the sunny sky, while the leaves of their neighboring trees slowly drifted to the ground.
The tree-line behind my house is a mix of orange, yellow, green and gold.
It is indeed fall in Western Washington, however, that has nothing to do with my title.
I'm talking about the action that took place today on my run.

I headed out for my run right after dropping the kids off for school this morning.  Sometimes I do some stuff around the house and then run so that the temperature outside has time to warm up a little before I hit the street, but today rain was in the forecast so I needed to get out there and log a few miles before a downpour.

I grabbed my ipod, mapped my route, and took off.  Things were going so well.  I've decided I'm too much of a chicken to run on the paved path that runs behind my house so I have to take to the street.  The path is pretty, tree lined, and goes for about 30 miles from the Sound down to Chehalis.  But, this path is totally abandoned during the day when I'm out for a run, which is creepy.  It is so secluded I fear that some disgruntled citizen might see this specimen of middle aged mess running by and decide he wants to freak me out by simply showing his face or yelling "boo".  So, in the interest of not peeing my pants in public, I'm trying to keep to the sidewalks until I find a running buddy.

My first 2.5 miles were smooth sailing.  Well, at mile .001 my neighbor tried to run me over by opting to only look to the right, and didn't see me until his truck was nearly running over my foot.  But aside from that, things were going well.  I was feeling good, running strong, and getting it done.  I turned the corner onto the main street that leads back to my house and prepared for the hill climb that was in store.
Suddenly, to the right I noticed a building that my mom had asked about the day before.  I decided since I was running right by it, it was my duty to check it out. I quickly decided it wasn't an old school, but the building was distinct and I started to peruse the photos of stores and office buildings in my mind to see if something rang a bell.

Ring Ring.
Pot hole.

I let out a super loud, scared myself it was so loud, yelp type sound and next thing I know I was in mid-air. My arms were spinning in some attempt to grab some extra large particle of air that may save this trip from turning into a fall.
For one brief moment I was filled with excitement - I was safe.  I got this.
But that moment passed and my flailing turned into my body contorting into a perfect flat belly flop into a pile of leaves on the grass median of that empty building I had been looking at.
I should have taken advantage of that moment and looked on over to see what that building was, but I was worried that the people in the cars who were passing by would think I was dead.  In order to avoid the conversation between me and a potential good samaritan, I thought it would be best to hop right up and keep running.

Fall #2 of my little running career was not very painful at all.  Grass and leaves made for a cushy landing spot.  I hurt my shoulder a little, probably not when I fell but when I was tripping or rushing to get up quickly to try and save my pride.

The rest of the run home was fine, but I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that in all my miles of driving I have never witnessed anyone fall while running on a seemingly flat surface and yet I have now fallen twice.  And although most of my running seems to be on mostly empty paths or quiet streets the only times I have fallen have been in the presence of strangers, no doubt entertained by that woman who levitated off the path and slid to a grinding halt on her face.

So I guess the silver lining to this fall is that it was fall and those leaves and damp grass protected my hands and knees from road rash.



Oct 9, 2012

God is Not Here


Wait a minute.  Before you start penning your rebuttal, read on.

A group of adult children lost their dad.  Well, they didn't actually lose him.  He died.
In the days that followed his death, the children and their mother began discussing how they wanted to memorialize him.  Some assumed there would be a memorial in the church that he and his wife attended.  Others assumed there would be a family gathering at someone's house.  Another assumed there would be ticker-tape parade in New York City.  One thought there should be a circus with elephants and flying trapeze artists.  A few thought it would be a good idea to go to the beach, or HomeTown Buffet or maybe a family climb of Kilimanjaro.  One person was simply adamant that the family walk across America hand in hand in his honor.
Or maybe that wasn't how the story went at all.
When it really came down to it, there were people who didn't want a memorial in a church and people who did.
The people who did want it in the church thought it fit the bill quite nicely for a few reasons: it would be free (super important factor) and it seemed like a fitting place.  The man attended church regularly as long as his health allowed it, his church was a source of support and encouragement to his wife throughout the years, and this specific church was the place he was baptized in 10 years earlier.

The people who didn't want a memorial at the church said their dad always said he didn't want a memorial at all and a memorial at a church would become a social event, they wanted something just for family.

I have a hard time understanding how a short memorial service at a church would be offensive to someone.  The location itself seems so insignificant to me.  Nobody ever told me why they didn't want a service in a church so, I can only guess.  I think that some people simply feel uncomfortable in a church.

Churches are pretty unique.  The buildings house pews, hymnals, religious art on the walls, and the carpet is usually bad.  Sometimes there are little troughs of water by the doors for dipping your fingers, offering baskets piled in the back, and that feeling that you have to be on your very best behavior.  Then there is that one thing, that really big thing that no matter how hard you try you just can't avoid seeing . . . the cross.  Usually there is a big cross at the front of the church symbolizing that place where Jesus died for our sins.
Oh that cross.  It reminds me of my shame, it reminds me of the price that Jesus paid for me.  It is not comfortable to look upon that cross.

I get it, a church can be uncomfortable.

While you can escape the discomfort of being in that church building, you can't escape the discomfort of the whisper of God.

See, God is not in that church, he is here.
Moses was hanging out in a desert and God said "take off your sandals, for the place you are standing is holy ground".  A desert. Not a church.
God has arrived in a mighty wind, a furious earthquake, a fire, and he hung out on a mountain top.  He has shown up in the most common places.  He showed up as a baby in a manger, he hung on the cross and he shows up every day in a still small voice.
You can run out of a church but no matter how hard you try, you cannot out run God.
God will be there when we face trials, like it or not.  He will be that whisper that you can't get out of your head.  He will be peace whether you accept it or not.  He will be comfort when you don't want it. He is wherever you are.

Perhaps it would be an understatement to claim that October didn't start off so well.
October 1st I woke up with a nasty cold and Nyquil hangover.  I always try Nyquil one time per cold season and then remember that I actually cannot take the drug without being comatose the entire following day.  I pulled through Monday and managed to get up and head to bible study on Tuesday.  I  was highly medicated and overly snotty.  
I got home around 1pm and within the next 12 hours all hell broke loose.
The first blow was a call from my mechanic with a huge estimate for a whole bunch of maintenance on the van.  I was prepared for $1500-$2000.  Not that I wanted to spend that much money but I was trying to be realistic.  However, I was off by about $1000 and I pretty much had to cry when he told me the grand total.  So the van is still in the shop getting overhauled.  Not only is the van costing a small fortune but with the van gone I'm extremely limited to what I can get accomplished during my day.  Our food supply is dwindling, and all projects are at a standstill since I do not have a car to get out and about.  While I'm not really excited to pay for the van upon pick up, I need my vehicle!
The second call that got me all high pitched and whiney was to my transportation agent who is allegedly ensuring that my stuff that has been in storage for 3 years eventually gets to me.  I've already had a delay of 3 weeks on the Army side of the transaction but this phone call revealed some problems on the shipping side of the transaction.  The woman told me that my stuff was picked up on 20 Sept and should arrive sometime between 28 Sept and 10 Oct.  She said that it was somewhere between VA and WA and the driver would call me when he has a correct estimate of arrival.  I spent the last week assuming that my stuff was on an overland tour of the USA.  Yesterday I called to find out a more specific time that I would be getting my stuff this week....at such point I was told it was in fact not even picked up yet.  I won't reveal the explosion that took place after she told me what was going on.  It wasn't pretty.  So on August 22 I started this process and here I am on 9 October and my stuff is still in storage and there is not currently anyone assigned to come pick up my stuff.  I'm on hold on the phone with the Army side of the house now, going on 45 mins. (correction 1 hour 10 mins)  Not pretty.
Lastly and most importantly the news of the death of my grandfather is still heavy on my heart.  I went to California to spend the weekend with my family.  It was good for me to see my grandma and the rest of my family.  I thought the most difficult part of this grieving process would be dealing with my own issues of not seeing my grandfather.  I was wrong.  It seems my grandpa's children and wife all have their own ideas of how arrangements following his death should be dealt with and all the ideas probably couldn't be more different from each other.  It is so frustrating to see people's feelings getting hurt and family making statements like "I'm not coming if ........." when dealing with something that seemed so simple - saying goodbye to my grandpa.
I can't help but shake my head and think how ridiculously petty and selfish people are being.  I admit, I was frustrated when I initially heard that the plans for a memorial time were not what I had expected, but it never crossed my mind to declare if it wasn't my way I wasn't going to participate.  It didn't really cross my mind that non-compromise was an option.
Instead of celebrating the fact that my grandfather is no longer in a care facility suffering in pain, the family is bickering over how to say goodbye to him, where to do it, and who should or should not have done this, that, or the other.  I'm so disappointed in this reaction and sad to call this my family.
It's only October 9th and it already feels like the longest, worst month ever!  At this point all I can cling to is the hope that there is pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.  I hope morning comes soon.