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.