Saturday, January 30, 2010

Smashing Success




Yesterday was a no school day. Originally I had considered taking the kids on a hike since the weather has been so amazing (for you Chicagoans - it's been 50's with some rain, but fair amounts of sunshine too. I haven't worn a coat really all winter, although I have a new cute one that I wear on occasion just to pretend like it's winter). However, I woke up feeling slightly cruddy and of all the dumb things, I injured my toe last Saturday. It has been zapping me with pain every few steps for the past week and in theory, it will be better after another week of rest. SIGH. So I eliminated a hike before it ever really materialized. I wanted to make the day special, so I found chunks of time to spend individually with each kid while we were at home. I started with Grant.

I am not a science lover. In fact, I'd be so bold as to say I hate science. It was the one class in high school that I specifically started with the most basic level class so that I could avoid Chemistry as a pre-requisite for graduation. I attempted Chemistry as an elective, but dropped out after two weeks because it was as if the teacher was speaking a foreign language. I even chose my college major based on how I could avoid science classes.

Of course, my son will most likely be a scientific engineer. He loves EVERYTHING about science. The facts. The experiments. What makes thing work. What makes them not work. He checks out factual books at the library and pours over them, memorizing every detail. He's like a walking encyclopedia of facts that never once peaked my interest. His idea of fun is a certifiable form of torture for me. Can you guess what he wanted to do for his alone time with Mommy? That's right folks. Break out the Crystal Growing science kit he got for Christmas and do an experiment. Whew.

He painstakingly laid out the plastic table cloth. Read the directions and gathered ever last item that he needed. We periodically kicked the girls out of the kitchen as we read the fine print and got creative finding jars from the recycling bin and rocks from the back yard. His excitement was intoxicating and before I knew it, I was following his lead, gung-ho over science. Who knew?

I think Grant's favorite part was bossing me around and educating me on the benefits of growing crystals (a little feigned ignorance on my part was helpful to boost his ego). My favorite part was smashing the base rocks. Grant is all about following the rules, so he made sure I knew that smashing the base rocks "required adult supervision." He even rounded up a pair of safety goggles for me to wear while I was observing his physical prowess in smashing them with the hammer, "just in case some chips flew at me." He carefully set up Daddy's workbench with a 2x4 to place the rocks on so we wouldn't smash holes in the work bench, got down the hammer and checked for the "weak spot" in the rock. In all his preparation, he forgot to put his goggles on which I found to be utterly hilarious. Those were some tough rocks. He smashed and smashed to no avail. I took several turns and they wouldn't budge. Finally, we decided to trade the hammer in for the sledge hammer. Even with the sledge hammer, it took several well placed blows "in the weak spot" to finally get those rocks to break. We hooped and hollered when we finally had success and danced around the garage.

We came upstairs and finished the project. We even had to wing it in one spot which thrilled me and might have given Grant the start of an ulcer. But by the end of the day, we had crystals growing and the memory of a great time together with each of us stepping out of our comfort zones. Our science experiment was a smashing success.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Solution for Babies Who Won't Breastfeed?


Paige, who is 3 1/2 years old and hasn't shown much interest in babies (fake or real), has started highjacking Alli's Bitty Twin dolls that she got for Christmas. The dolls came along for a ride in the car yesterday and when we got to our destination, they came inside too. Paige explained to me, "Mom, my baby was hungry. I didn't have a bottle, so I was nursing her." Practical solution, but difficult when you're strapped in your car seat. She went on to explain, "I couldn't reach my boob, so I just put-ted her on neck." So there you have it. When your baby won't nurse, try your neck but good luck explaining the hickeys!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 14 Updates


I don't have to time to write a nice piece right now. House church in an hour and a half and I still have to mop the floors and feed my family etc. But for all of you faithful prayer warriors, here is the update as of Day 14.

Yesterday search efforts picked up. Melanie must have posted 7 or 8 status updates, the most encouraging update being that the search and rescue crews found a tripod in the area where David was last seen. It was confirmed today by the State Department that it was THE tripod David was carrying. It is in perfect condition, just dusty. My prayer is that David too, is in perfect condition, just dusty. Wouldn't that be just like the Lord?

Rescue efforts yesterday included heavy equipment and search teams. As the excavators moved debris, voids and pockets where victims could survive were revealed. Each time one of these was uncovered, the search teams went in looking for survivors. The excavators and search teams are in the back of the lobby, by the elevator shafts where David was last seen. I can't imagine it can be too much longer before they have news of David's fate, but there is so much rubble... It could still be days. I'll attach a picture that Melanie posted on her facebook page of the Hotel Montana lobby where David was last seen.

Last night search dogs picked up a scent at an apartment on the Hotel Montana grounds where a little boy (I think 4 years) and his Dad were last seen. As of today, they still haven't been found, but we are all praying for a miracle on that front. There is a facebook page dedicated to the families who have missing loved ones from the Hotel Montana and I've been checking it occasionally. I'm amazed at the community of faith that surrounded these families. People posting Scripture verses and prayers and encouragement. It's the body of Christ the way He intended it to be.

A man was rescued today from a different building in Port au Prince though. At the time I read the article, the rescuers were unsure if he'd been buried the entire 14 days or trapped in one of the after shocks. Regardless, it is a miracle and we're rejoicing for him as it appears he'll recover.

I'll close with the information Melanie just posted a few minutes ago. Please keep praying. There are so many desperate families who have breaking hearts and just want their loved one found. Here's what Melanie had to say: "We did not receive new information from the State Department, but Congressman Lamborn’s office has been working nonstop on David and Renee’s behalf today to get information. His staff has reassured us that they are “not giving up.” The Congressman spoke with the Chief Liaison for Search and Rescue tonight, and this is what we learned. The efforts at Hotel Montana have not officially transitioned into recovery, but they are “moving to the next phase” which means that they will be extremely careful as they dig further into the rubble, removing debris and continuing to look for survivors. The Kenyon Company—who is one of the best companies in the world for disaster relief—will be overseeing this phase, and a rescue team will remain onsite to help survivors. We continue to maintain hope tonight though our hearts hurt for Renee and the Hames family as they move toward recovery. Please pray that they will find our friend soon!"

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Nearing the End

Today is the 11th day since the fateful earthquake in Haiti. Eleven days that David Hames has been buried in darkness, entombed in the hell that once was Hotel Montana. And yet, those who love him cling to a glimmer of hope. Earlier today, what's left of the Haitian government declared an end to the search and rescue phase and ushered in the start of recovery and rebuilding phase. But a 24-year-old Haitian had something to say about ending the search and rescue. A few hours ago, I watched him be pulled from the rubble of a hotel in Port au Prince, alive and in good condition! The fact that he could live for 11 days buried alive is completely miraculous and his rescue offers hope to hundreds of families united in a strange mix of desperation, faith and hope as they wait for news of their loved ones' fate.

Those who love David Hames and those who have never met him (like me) but have had the privilege of joining his family and friends on their incredible journey are clinging to this last glimmer of hope. His "Friends of David" facebook page is alive with prayer, Bible verses of hope, and lyrics of song that minister to the deepest recesses of our tattered emotions.

As I grapple with the truth I know intellectually and the emotions I feel, I've been compelled to write down what I know to be true. I know:
  • The God I serve, worship and gave my life to is mighty to save.
  • He can move that rubble with one exhale of His breath.
  • He IS love.
  • I am His prized creation, formed in His image, created for relationship with Him and chosen by Him to fulfill a purpose that He calls me to.
  • God is moved by the prayers of His people.
  • His heart breaks alongside ours.
  • He doesn't have to answer my prayer in the way I want Him to. While I am begging for Him to preserve David's life and have great faith and hope that He can do just that, I also know He can choose to lovingly say, "I'm sorry Jodi. I have greater plans that you know nothing of." And that possibility leaves me heartbroken. It would be a hard reality to swallow.
Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." No matter what the outcome, I can trust that God's plan is greater than mine and that He will bring good from this tragedy. And for now, I place my up and down, roller coaster emotions on that truth.

As I read my Bible today, God spoke to me through His word. First in Genesis 45 (verses 5 and 8) when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers who years earlier had plotted to kill him, but instead opted to sell him into slavery and fake his death. He tells them through sobs, "And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God." And it made me wonder aloud, "I wonder if we will be saying something similar in a few years?" When God's greater plan begins to unfold, when He begins to bring good from what Satan intended for evil, will we marvel at how He stitched together the rubble, the broken lives, the hurt and the pain into something beautiful?

The Psalm of the day is Psalm 23. After having spent eight weeks breaking this Psalm down this fall, the familiarity of re-reading it felt like a cozy pair of sweat pants. And as I read "I will fear no evil for You are with me," I prayed that for David. As I finished this Psalm, a beautiful song came across the iPod. Written by Josh White and recorded by Telecast, it beautifully captured all the thoughts and emotions swirling around inside me.

No matter what this day will bring,
I will lift my hands and sing, "Be my everything."
I'll make my life an offering. In you alone, I believe.
Be my everything. My everything.

When the world comes crashing down around my feet
And I can't see ten feet in front of me.
Jesus, I know that You are strong when I am weak
So please help me allow You to be, my everything.

There are times when it seems as though You're far away.
But I will hope in You for this is the day that You have made.
And thank you Jesus for this blessed gift of Your grace,
For helping me to see my need for You to be, My everything.

The Hotel Montana site is buzzing right now. The US Air Force is there, the US Ambassador, a Congresswoman, and teams of rescue workers. They are putting up lights and generators right now and appear to be preparing to work all night to find survivors. The rescue teams are in the lobby and getting close to the area where David was last seen. It appears that we're nearing the end of this heart-wrenching wait and will hopefully have news soon. So Jesus, no matter what this day may bring, I will lift my hands and sing, "Be my everything. My everything."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Indulgences






This weekend our family took a little overnight trip to the coast. As we were pulling out of the driveway Curt dubbed it the weekend of indulgences - little treats that won't put us in the poor house, but things we don't do on a daily basis. Here's a list of some of our indulgences

  • Fancy coffee. We stopped at Coffee Cottage on our way out of town and indulged in fancy coffee. Curt - a white chocolate mocha with whipped cream. Me - a traditional cappuccino with the feather in the thick foam. Talk about a little glimpse of heaven.
  • Laughter. Curt is the KING of quoting movies. He busts out lines at precisely the right moment in the exact way they were presented in the movie and it always makes me laugh. As we were approaching McMinnville, he burst out into song Adam Sandler style, and I almost wet my pants laughing. The luxury of laughter continued to be something we indulged in all weekend.
  • Night at a Motel. Yes, I said motel, not hotel. In July, Curt and I stumbled upon a diamond in the rough, Whistling Winds Motel in Lincoln City, a restored 1930's motor coach motel. Each unit has been painstakingly remodeled with exquisite touches like oil-rubbed bronze door knobs, stained glass in the doors, and wood floors, walls and ceilings. I couldn't wait to see Unit #2, The Gathering Place, which promised a separate bedroom, a living area, fridge, and two additional queen sized beds. I was a little disappointed (okay - a LOT disappointed) when we opened the door with our old-fashioned key to find that Unit 2 is one of the few remaining units that has yet to be fully remodeled. As we pushed open the door, we were greeted by a musty smell, bubbled up 1970's paneling and navy blue well-worn carpet. Not exactly the indulgence I was expecting, but I think I was the only who cared about the decor. The kids were thrilled to be sleeping in a motel so I consoled myself with the fact that at least the bathroom had been remodeled beautifully.
  • Playing. When you're holed up at home living the daily grind of life it's easy to forget to stop and play. Even though it was drizzling steadily and a high wind advisory was in effect until morning, we bundled up in our rain gear and headed to the beach. It was surprisingly enjoyable and the rain lighted up so we didn't get drenched. The kids found "treasures" in the sand, chased the waves which were being whipped into monstrous crashing beauty from the high winds further out at sea, and ran around. Curt brought the football and we played catch on the beach. I didn't grow up chucking a football - we played baseball or softball. But with a little instruction, I was soon throwing spirals to my man and chasing down his bullets. I could see his eyes light up as we played together and it made me feel pretty darn good that a simple thing like playing catch upped my value in my husband's eyes.
  • Going Out to Eat as a Family. We rarely go out to eat as a couple and almost never go out to eat as a family. When our kids were younger, it simply wasn't fun to try to wrangle four kids to stay in a booth for a sustained period of time and hope they wouldn't fight, cry, yell or spill something. Now that they're older, it's actually enjoyable but it's so far out of our realm of normal so we were all excited to indulge in dinner as a family at a restaurant. We drove from one end of Highway 101 to the other through Lincoln City searching for the perfect spot and finally settled on greasy burgers from the 60's Cafe. We told the kids they could order anything they wanted and Grant ordered a fully loaded bacon cheeseburger from the adult menu. He had an ear to ear smile when his huge burger arrived and he systematically dismantled it and took down EVERY bite. His excitement and smile may have been the highlight of the trip for me.
  • Sleeping terribly. So it's not an indulgence, but it's part of an adventure. The bed in our motel was hard as a rock. And since our unit hasn't been remodeled, the walls and windows seemed paper thin. The winds were whipping and it was howling in our room. It seriously sounded like a fire truck was about to plow through the wall. Combine that with a good old fashioned thunder storm that rolled through around bedtime complete with lightening and grand thunder crashes and we knew a good night sleep was out of the question. Curt was mumbling under his breath about the impossibility of sleep in these conditions, so I jokingly suggested that we pack it up and head home. He broke into Clark W. Griswold and bellowed, "Oh no. Nobody's going anywhere. This is going to be the hap-hap-happiest Stilp family coast vacation ever," which put everything in perspective as we died laughing on the nasty blue carpet. We certainly felt indulged when we slept soundly in our own comfy bed the next night.
  • Family time. All six of us snuggled on the futon and settled in to watch a movie. But the fascination of being in a motel won the kids over and 3/4 of the way through the movie, they baled and started frogging around. An hour after the kids had been officially put to bed, we peaked out our bedroom door to see them wide awake, giggling, building pillow towers and screwing around. We only half-heartedly scolded them because when you're on vacation you have to indulge in family time and staying up late.
  • Sunshine. Sunshine at the coast is a rare commodity and for our morning beach time, the sun broke through the clouds. I actually had to dig out my sunglasses that have been hiding in my purse for at least two weeks. Grant built a wall of defense with drift wood and the girls made sand pies. I found it particularly interesting to watch a flock of tiny birds that run along the sand after a wave comes in, pecking at the ground. Curt and I both were mesmerized by the huge surf and the relaxing sound of the waves crashing against the shore.
  • Treats. We stopped at the outlet mall and everyone got a treat. The boys spent a good hour in the Christian book store and emerged with new man music, a couple movies and a new Bible for Curt. The girls and I spent our time in Claire's Boutique and finally settled on hats and rings for Katie and Alli, a hair party for me, and a backpack and lunch box for Paige.
  • Hiking in the Oregon Rain Forest. We finished our trip with a beautiful hike through Oregon's rain forest to Drift Creek Falls. To get there, we took a (surprise, surprise) single lane, windy, mostly paved road with no guard rails and steep drop offs on one side and mountain cliffs on the other side. We wound our way 10 miles up Cougar Mountain before a parking lot with an outhouse emerged and we were at the trailhead. It was 3 miles round trip with a clearly marked and easy to hike trail. We took our time meandering through the rain forest and took pictures at little bridges, babbling brooks and huge fallen trees. We heard the falls before we saw it. As the sound of roaring water filled our ears, we turned a corner and saw a huge suspension bridge (or extension bridge as the kids called it). It hung at least 20 or 30 feet above Drift Creek and had spectacular views of the rushing creek below and the falls to one side. Curt made the mistake of saying yes to Paige's plea for him to hold her and ended up carrying her for the last half-mile. Though he pretended to complain, it was obvious he enjoyed some time with our baby girl who is growing up way too fast.
  • Quiet. With four kids, a dog, and two adults who aren't known for their docile mannerisms, quiet moments can be tough to come by in our house. But the drive home was blissfully quiet. The girls conked out immediately, thoroughly exhausted from staying up late, playing hard and hiking. Grant was content to veg in the back and listen to his new Switchfoot CD. Curt and I just sat, enjoying the silence and reveling in our many blessings.
It was a weekend of indulgences and lived up to Curt's prediction of it being the hap-hap-happiest Stilp Family coast trip ever. At least until we do it again next year.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Psalm 20

I am just getting to my Bible reading for today. The scheduled Psalm is Psalm 20. I hope these verses minister to your soul as they did mine.

Psalm 20:1 – May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob (personal God – the God of David Hames – the God of Jodi Stilp) protect you.

vs. 5 We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests.

vs. 6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.

vs. 7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

vs. 8 – They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.

SIgns of Life

Today is day eight that David has been buried under the rubble of what once was Hotel Montana in Haiti. God is leading people praying for David to verses of HOPE, not comfort. And remember the definition of hope? "Confident expectation." As crazy as it sounds, we all believe that God is sheltering David in the shadow of His wing and bringing him comfort as he awaits his rescue.

And our hope is not completely ridiculous. There are still signs of life in the rubble. Rescue workers report today that they heard tapping in the exact location that David was last seen! Thanks to Dan Woolley's help, the rescue teams know what David was wearing when the hotel collapsed. They know where he was standing when the walls fell. They know he had his infamous backpack on. And in it? Water bottles and snacks.

On Saturday, my hope was all but gone. And in my despair, I felt the Lord bring this song to my mind. It's been playing on repeat every since. "Savior, He can move the mountain. Our God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save. Forever. Author of Salvation. He rose and conquered the grave. Jesus conquered the grave. Shine your light and let the whole word see. We're singing for the glory of the Risen King." If God can move a mountain, He can move the rubble.

People around the world are praying for David's safe return home, and that his rescue will bring great fame to our God, who is mighty to save. Stand with us in confident expectation as we wait for God to move. Lord, shine Your light on David's hiding place of protection and let the whole world see that You are might to save. You are the Risen King and You are worthy of praise.



Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Of First Ladies, Separation and Jerry Springer

Last week, Katie (7 years) came home from school and was excited to tell me about what she learned in history. She confidently started out, "Mom, Eleanor Roosevelt was the first lady to..." Enter long pause followed by confused and quizzical expression before she continued, "to live after Eve?" I could tell she knew it wasn't right, so I said, "Well, that isn't right but I'm sure she was first at something. Should we google it and see what we find?" Up we go to the computer, click on a Wikpedia a link that starts off, "Eleanor Roosevelt was the First Lady..." at which point the light bulb goes off in my head. DUH! And thus began a little lesson on titles like Queen, Princess, and First Lady.

We asked Grant if he found anything interesting in his Bible study for the day. He thought about it for a while and then said, "Well, we studied Martin Luther King Junior at school today and how he didn't like that the white kids and the black kids were being separated into separate groups. Then I read in Genesis that Jacob separated his flocks into groups of white, black and spotted." Curt and I kind of giggled quietly. Not the most profound discovery, but definitely a parallel we never would have pulled.

Reading through the Old Testament is a bit like watching Jerry Springer. There's polygamy. Sibling rivalry. Blatant lies. Murder plots. Dysfunctional families. Escape attempts. Inbreeding. Intense jealousy. Mass slaughtering of human beings and much more exciting things too. I almost wonder why I'm letting my kid read this stuff. It blows my mind that God looked on this group of crazy, evil people and hand picked them to be His prize possession. That He loved them, in spite of their filth, baggage and fickleness. That He saw potential and value in them. That He created them in His image with a specific purpose in mind for each one. And I can't help but think that when He looks at my world and more specifically me, He says the same thing. Who loves like that?!?!

Updates for Those Following David Hames

Friends - thank you for praying for David Hames. As of this morning, it's been one week and we are all still waiting for him to be found. Miraculously, the rescue workers are still hearing signs of life from the rubble so the efforts continue to be search and rescue.

Renee', David's wife, released this statement on Sunday. "For all the people who know and love David with me, we need to remember that God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” He is our God who will provide beauty and joy even in the midst of devastation. I have been blessed with friends who have tucked me under their wings and have prayed with me, encouraged me, supported me, and cried with me. Because of the support structure they have built around me, I have felt a great peace. Please continue to pray for David’s rescue and well-being."

The local news channel did a story on David. And here's an article. We are still praying for a miracle. Thank you for sharing the weight of this burden. I'm updating my Facebook status as Melanie (my friend leading the public relations) updates hers.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Emotionally Invested


When I saw the front page of the paper Wednesday morning splashed with horrific pictures of the earthquake in Haiti, I made an intentional decision to not get emotionally invested. Yes, it was selfish. And maybe a little heartless. The tragedy in Haiti was so all-encompassing, so devastating, so impossible to wrap my mind around that I chose to just gloss over it and hurry to the mindless "Ask Amy" column. I spent the morning diverting my thoughts until I got a call from my good friend Melanie. Her voice shaky, she asked me to start praying for her old and dear friends, Renee and David Hames. David was in Haiti working on a project for Compassion International when the earthquake hit. He and his co-worker, Dan Wooley, were unaccounted for. Their wives and small children were being surrounded by their church family. Their friends were rallying the troops to pray for a miracle for these two men. With that phone call, I became emotionally invested.

Melanie, a former public relations guru, is in her element coordinating communication and distributing it to those who are praying and waiting. Over the last three days, we have prayed and waited. Wept and celebrated. Been deflated by discouragement and filled with hope. Prayed without ceasing and felt a peace that surpasses all understanding and can only come from God.

The story has slowly unfolded and as the pieces come together, one can only marvel at God's great mercy and love for His precious children. The weekend before the men flew to Haiti, the leadership of David's church felt called to pray Psalm 91. They didn't know why, but they knew God was impressing this Psalm on their hearts. I wept as I read, "He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 'Because he loves me,' says the Lord, 'I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.'" (vs. 4, 7, 11-12, 14)

The last week David was in Colorado, he and his wife taught the 3 year olds about Paul and Silas (Acts 16) who were unjustly thrown in prison. They were sitting in jail singing hymns (who does that?!?!) when "suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken." It's not a coincidence David and Renee would choose to teach that lesson just days before David himself would be involved in a violent earthquake.

David and Dan's story has been pieced together as information slowly trickles in. They had been out filming all day. Their driver dropped them off at Hotel Montana one minute before the earthquake hit which puts them walking through the lobby when the walls fell. Dan jumped into an elevator shaft and couldn't see David after that. Miraculously, 65 hours after the hotel crumbled on top of them, Dan Woolley and a hotel bellhop named Mondesir Luckson were rescued alive from the rubble. There are three teams working right now, 72 rescuers with 450 tons of equipment, and they know where to specifically look for David. As of this morning, they are still pulling out survivors. There is tapping and whistling, which according to Melanie, would be SO like David.

This morning has been tough for me. I'm feeling a bit like David - buried under a dark cloud of discouragement and grief. My heart is broken for a man I don't know, buried in utter darkness with no food or water for four days. For his wife who waits expectantly to find out if his life has been spared. For his children who don't even know his life is hanging in the balance. But as I write this, God reminded me of the sermon I listened to on Sunday. It's an Old Testament story from I Samuel 14. The Israelites are outnumbered hundreds of thousands to three hundred and have TWO swords for their entire army. TWO! Seems like insurmountable odds. But Prince Jonathan recognized that the God he served is bigger than insurmountable odds and confidently declared, (vs. 6) "Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few."

And so Lord Jesus, I ask that you would spare David's life. That you would cover him with your feathers and no harm would befall him. May Your name be praised for You are mighty to save, whether by many or by few.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Muddle Puddles and Such

My family makes me laugh EVERY day. Here are some cute things they've said lately.

Grant (8 years) to me while we were discussing the day's Bible reading, "Mom, Stop. Don't ruin it. I've only read to chapter 25."

Alli (5 years) is learning to read. One of her books has the word "chipmunk" and it was like an America's Funniest Video episode to watch her try to pronounce it. The closest we got was "chickpunk." Her pronunciation of swimming ("schwimming") always gets me too. We watch our friend's baby every Wednesday afternoon so she can volunteer at school. Alli has been BEGGING for Baby Sammy days to start up again and on Monday I told her this was the week. She counted backward to Wednesday and the first thing she said yesterday morning was, "Today's a Baby Sammy day." When he had been here about an hour, she looked up at me with the biggest smile and said, "This is the best Wednesday. EVER" and gave Sammy a big squeeze.

Paige (3 years) was looking at the muddy lot next door. They are finally building on it and there has been a lot of mud moving going on. Since it's been raining non-stop for days, the trenches are filling with water. She said, "Oh look. There's a muddle puddle." Then laughed and said to me, "I call it a muddle puddle" as if she knew it was funny and was trying to make me laugh. I obliged.

And then there's sweet Katie (7 years). She waltzes through life with a smile on her face and giggle at the ready. She's very much a rule follower and a people pleaser and I seldom catch her saying something "funny" because she rarely thinks outside the box. She's been so responsible lately and has been competing with Grant to see who can get their morning school routine done first. I'm so thrilled she has her own room now. She's been thriving in having privacy and the responsibility of being grown up.

Curt (34 years) who I think is one of the funniest people on the face of the earth, methodically trains for two triathlons from January 1 until October 1 every year. Not because he likes exercise, but because he knows that it keeps him healthy, trim and staves off hereditary diseases. He revels in taking October, November, and December completely off from any form of exercise. He had me doubled over in the kitchen the other day when he stretched, patted his belly and said, "The calf is sufficiently fattened. Time to kill it slowly."

Have a great day and splash in a muddle puddle if you see one!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Portland Marathon Here I Come!

Sorry about three posts in one day, but I just got off the phone with my surgeon's PA and have GREAT news!

Fears and apprehension I'm having? NORMAL
Discomfort and pain in my knee with increased activity? NORMAL
Marathon goal for May? Not impossible, but not very realistic
Marathon goal for October? REALISTIC
Olympic-distance Tri goal for August? REALISTIC
Chance of blowing the repair? SLIM

I ran down my laundry lists of fears and questions and the big takeaway I got was MY KNEE IS HEALED. The repair was good and I don't need to walk in fear that I blew it out if I experience new knee pain. It's all part of the process of a normal recovery. He stressed that I can choose my training regimen, but the more aggressive it is, the more painful it will be. I think in this case, choosing slow and steady will be more effective for me to reach my goal.

So thanks for praying with me through this and for all the thoughtful emails and checkups. I feel like a weight has been lifted. Portland Marathon, here I come!



Daily Discoveries

I'm finding out the benefits of, as one of our house church guys said last night, "Going cover to cover in the Word." These Old Testaments stories are so full of good guys, bad guys, murderous plots, adulterous affairs, lies, great sin, reconciliation, covenants with God, blessing, patience, mercy and love from God and supernatural power. Each one would probably make an R-rated movie, but I love that when God wrote the Bible, He didn't leave out the unpleasant parts of man. He wrote it just as we are -flawed and evil and in need of a Savior and didn't gloss over all the junk. I love that these stories highlight God's mercy, grace and willingness to forgive, but also His justice and hatred of evil.

I'm reading old favorites, like the story of Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 24). Talk about a love story to make a movie from... The way God supernaturally brought them together through Abraham's obedient servant is mind blowing and my heart always starts beating quickly when she sees Isaac for the first time in the distance. Ooh la la!

I'm reading stories that I have NO recollection of ever reading before, even though theoretically I've read them multiple times over the course of my life. For instance, why did it never dawn on me that Abraham would remarry after Sarah died? But he did and I bet you can't tell me his second wife's name! (I can barely remember it and I read about her just a few hours ago. If you need to cheat, go to Genesis 25). Or the fact that she bore him MULTIPLE children, none of which he included in his will. He left everything to Isaac and sent the rest of his sons away with "gifts" and an order to move east. Wouldn't you feel gipped if you were Abraham's second wife or slew of children from his second family?

One thing that leapt off the pages today was the fact that we pass a legacy to our children. Good or bad, like it or not, our kids model what we teach them and the behavior we don't want them to imitate too. They watch how we live out our lives and often even as adults, make choices that reflect the way they were raised. TWICE in Abraham's life, because he feared for his life, he lied to kings and told them that Sarah was his sister and not his wife. Instead of trusting God to protect them, he let fear get the best of him and chose to rely on his own plan for protection. Is it any wonder that his son, Isaac, did the EXACT same thing? Moved to a foreign land and told the king Rebekah was his sister not his wife! I almost fell off the bike when I read this and was convicted to the core to examine the legacy I am leaving to my kids. Am I modeling honesty in every decision, big or small? Am I daily trusting God to protect me and my family or am I taking matters into my own hands and relying on my human plan? Do my instructions match the way I live my life?

I haven't even touched on all the amazing nuggets I'm unearthing each day in Proverbs (13:3 - "He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.") or how David's raw honesty ministers to me each day in Psalms (13:5 - But I will trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation."). And then there's Jesus, blowing my mind each day in Matthew, with his teaching that's never watered down and often hard to wrap my mind around. Each day I'm making new discoveries and I find myself looking forward to my daily treasure hunt. What discoveries can you make today?

Great Way to Wake Up

I'm not a morning person. And I love sleep. No matter how many hours of sleep I get, when I wake up, I stretch, roll around and inwardly grumble about crawling out from cocoon of warm blankets and entering the big bad world of morning time.

On Wednesday mornings, Newberg school district has "late start" and all the schools start one hour later than normal to allow the teachers an hour of training/continuing ed per week. I have grown to LOVE late start. It's a nice oasis in the busyness of a school week to sleep in on Wednesday's. The kids love it too. They either sleep in or wake up at the same time and indulge in a full hour of PBS cartoons before starting their morning routine.

This morning I emerged from my cocoon and stumbled out to hug and kiss each of the kids. Each of the girls was curled up in a ball on a piece of furniture, wrapped in blankets and vegging to Syd the Science Kid. Grant, who normally NEVER sleeps in, was missing. I went upstairs to check on him and saw light sneaking out of the crack under his door, so I knocked. When I got permission to come it, I saw my son in his stained tank top that he wears as a night shirt and his hole-y jammie pants, laying on the floor of his room reading his Bible. He glanced up and said, "I missed yesterday Mom so I have a lot to catch up on," and he went back to his reading.

I don't want this to turn into a legalistic, rule-following ritual for Grant, but I also know that it takes 21 days to form a habit and only 7 to break one. God honors obedience and I know He will bless Grant for sticking to his commitment to read the Word. It warmed my heart so much to see my son, on his own, spending time with God and as I stumbled downstairs to pour my cup of coffee, I had a huge smile on my face. What a great way to wake up!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bump in the Road

After weeks of exponential growth forward in my recovery process, I experienced my first bump in the road. Since I've been soaring ahead with cardio and strength training activity with no protest from my knee, I set a goal to run my ever-elusive second marathon on May 2nd. To hit this goal, I need to start building up mileage on my weekend runs. I thought a 6 mile run would be a good gauge for my knee's tolerance, so two weeks ago and I took off for a run that I estimated was about six miles with some good hills. Problem is I underestimated the distance (it was actually 9 miles) and the extent of the climbing and rapid descents and my knee didn't respond well. I had to walk the last half-mile because my knee had gone from feeling great to tightness to uncomfortable to full on pain. Talk about discouraging.

I took the week off from running and scaled back my work outs at the gym. When I attempted to run again on Monday, the four miles on the treadmill didn't go well. And ten minutes later, I got up from a routine strength training exercise and my leg gave out on me. I left the gym limping, frustrated and a little freaked out. A talk with the doc confirmed that I had overdone it on my nine mile run and that rest should theoretically eliminate the pain and get me back on track. However, he did warn that there is a ten percent failure rate with this surgery and told me I still have pain on Monday (in two days), to come back in.

I went for a test run today, only 4.6 miles and on a fairly flat course. And my knee deteriorated from feeling great to tightness pretty rapidly. I stopped and walked for some of the route and now that I'm significantly cooled off, the old familiar tightness and discomfort is setting in. Will you pray with me that this is just a bump in the road and that I didn't blow out the repair? I would hate to start from scratch all over again and am trusting God, the Great Healer, to lead us on the right path toward healing, whether that's scaling back on exercise or having it surgically repaired again.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Who Says the Bible is Boring?

So we're one week into our Read Through the Bible in a Year and so far we're still on track. Yesterday's reading had quite a bit of genealogies in it, which I skipped through, with the exception of laughing at the name "Nimrod." Good thing he was a "mighty hunter," cause with a name like that, he'd have to be mighty. Kind of like a boy named Sue, but I digress. I was curious to see if Grant (our 8 year old) thought it was as boring as I did, so I asked him what he thought about the reading. Here's how our conversation went:

G: "Well, I thought it was kind of boring."
Me: "Me too. All those list of family names. I always skip through those."
G: "Oh, I thought that was cool. I was talking about all the adultery stuff. That's all it talked about."
Me: (trying not to laugh), "Oh. That's right. We read Proverbs 6 where it talks a lot about avoiding adultery."
G: "Not just Proverbs. Jesus talked about it too in Matthew 6. It was on everything I read and it's SOOOOO boring. I hope tomorrow will be better."

Well, today he'll have to read Proverbs 7 which is all about avoiding adultery, but it also has some cool battle stories in Genesis. I've been following Jesus for most of my life and have read the Bible through many times, but today I read a Bible story that I have no recollection of ever hearing before. Did you know that Abraham, along with 318 of his family members, singlehandedly routed five evil kings that had just taken over four cities, including the one Lot (Abraham's nephew) lived in? What a stud. And why didn't I know that story? Read Genesis 14 for the full story.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Taking the Challenge



We attend an awesome church called Solid Rock (www.ajesuschurch.org). The pastors challenged our church body to read through the entire Bible this year and provided a sheet listing what to read on each day. The reading is broken down into a few chapters from the Old Testament, a chapter from the New Testament, a Psalm and a Proverb each day, so we'll have the opportunity to read Proverbs 12 times and Psalms at least twice. My preference for quiet time is to pick a book of the Bible and read through it slowly, digesting each verse and journaling about what God is teaching me. I take my time, lingering on parts for as long as I feel I need to and plodding along at a very slow pace. It's been several years since I read the entire Bible in a year, so I decided to step outside the familiar and take the challenge. And I'm putting my decision out here for the world to know so that I won't get lazy and back out!

Over the past year, Curt and I have been trying (with limited success) to teach Grant and Katie how to implement daily time with God into their routine, but it's been really hit or miss in our consistency. To be completely honest, most of the time when I remember to remind them to read their Bible is when I'm simultaneously sending them to their room for bad behavior... "and while you're serving time, why don't you get out your Bible and see what God has to say about that behavior." Nice motivation, eh?

Yesterday, I told Grant (8 years old) that I was reading through the Bible this year and on a whim asked him if he wanted to join me. To my surprise, he said yes with no hesitation and asked for his first assignment which was a whopping 15 chapters to get caught up. He didn't even bat an eyelash. Just took the list, grabbed his Bible and locked himself in his room for an hour or so. One time he emerged, eyes lit up, face full of excitement and said to me, "Mom! Remember that verse we were learning yesterday about not giving in when people want us to do something that's wrong? Well I just found it in my Bible!" We high fived, he went back to his reading, and with eyes that were a bit moist, I praised God for revealing Himself to our kids in spite of my oh-so-many failures as a mom.

We decided that WHEN (not if) we make it to the end of the Bible in December, Grant can choose any restaurant he wants and we'll go out for a celebratory dinner. It sounded like so much fun that Curt switched up his quiet time plan for the year and is going to join us on our journey too. Katie (7 years) was intrigued, but decided to work through her devotional book from Aunt Kathy first and try "the whole Bible next year when I'm a better reader." Alli (5 years) said she wanted to participate by us reading out loud to her, but we ditched that within the first 30 seconds of her getting bored in Genesis 1. Anyone else want to take the challenge?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Leave It To Alli


Our five-year-old daughter Alli, the one with angelic face and big, pouty, Botox lips, has been known to engage in shoving matches and verbal altercations with kids twice her size and age and come out on the other end victorious. She even somehow manages to transform the "enemy" into a friend within a matter of minutes. In Alli's mind, the world is hers for the taking and she's conquering it one little bit at a time.

On Saturday, Grandma Ru and Grandpa Terry invited her for a special Alli-only date. The plan was to share an early meal and then head to Albany to watch Terry's 15-year-old granddaughter, also named Alyssa, play a high school basketball game. Alli was excited to spend the dollar I gave her at the snack bar, hang out with her Hadlock cousins and get some one-on-one time with Grandma Ru and Grandpa Terry.

When they arrived at the gym, they chose seats on the top bleacher. Alli spent her dollar on Reese's peanut butter cups ("TWO big ones all to myself, Mom!") and jostled and joked with her cousins. Apparently the game didn't interest her that much so she kept coming up with reasons to walk up and down the bleacher aisles. She asked Grandma and Grandpa if she could get a drink. Since they could see the drinking fountains from their seat, they said, "Yes" and down she went. To the bottom of the bleachers. Onto the gym floor. Past the drinking fountains and around the corner. To the visiting team's bench. Where she grabbed a paper cup and helped herself to a full cup of water from the team's Gatorade water cooler before she turned around and waltzed back to her seat to gulp down her drink. Leave it to Alli...

Christmas Expectations




Three weeks ago I ran into our senior pastor’s wife, someone I respect both as a woman of God and a mother who raised four amazing children to become God-fearing, successful adults. When she asked me, “Are you looking forward to two weeks with your kids?” I hesitated before I answered. In all honesty, I was looking forward to Christmas break with more apprehension than excitement. In the past, I’ve been known to be a bit like Clark Griswold from the movie Christmas Vacation, building up expectations that “no family can meet” and finding myself disappointed when my pie in the sky dream of presents, gratitude, and family unity on Christmas morning disintegrates to arguing, time outs, and lots of tears. This year I was trying to be more realistic, so I answered, “Well, I love Christmas and all the celebration surrounding it. And I love my kids, who don’t handle schedule transitions super well, so I’m expecting there to be some grumpy times mixed in with the fun. And probably just the time we’re all used to a new schedule, it will be time to switch it up and go back to school.”

My evaluation was fairly accurate, but this year, my expectations were surprisingly exceeded. The past two weeks have had their share of grumpy moments, a few time outs (both for kids and for Mommy), and since our house is loaded with women, a fair amount of tears. But the past two weeks have also been crammed to overflowing with family, friends, laughter, relaxation, gratitude, sleeping in, good food, and bonding time together. For the first time EVER, all four Stilp kids figured out how to “sleep in” and being a non-morning person, this was a highlight for me. Each morning we all slept later and later and this morning it was 8:30 before we were all up and functioning. (Given the fact that the bus picks them up at 8 a.m. every morning, it will be a rude awakening tomorrow when we’re all yawning and dragging our hinders to the bus stop!) We laid around in our jammies, watched movies, colored, and went to the gym. The kids helped me this year with present wrapping and Christmas baking, and we all argued (mostly good-naturedly) over who got to open the piles of Christmas cards that came daily in the mail. We ooohed and aahed over all the new pictures and since our paint seems to be tape-resistant, have spent a good part of Christmas break re-taping the pictures that fell off the wall during the night.

Christmas Eve with extended family was a wonderful mix of chaos and calm, and this Christmas morning was the first one in nine years of having children that played out even better than my pie-in-the-sky picture. I’ve had the chance to spend individual time with each of my four precious treasures and in the process have fallen head over heels in love with them all over again. My kids bring such joy, depth, laughter and growth to my life and I love how God continually brings me back to the place of awe and wonder that He chose me to be their Mommy! We’ve played games and haven’t lost any pieces, snuggled, eaten more junk food than should be legally allowed, and read chapter books out loud. Even though we need to get back to a normal schedule, I am really sad that the kids have to go back to school tomorrow and completely stoked about a Christmas break that exceeded expectations.