Friday, May 28, 2010

Extravagant Love

Our oldest daughter Kaitlin has either outgrown or worn through the majority of the clothes in her closet. While the rest of the country is enjoying warm spring weather, Newberg has been cloaked in rainy, gray and somewhat chilly weather for almost the entire month of May. I keep thinking the kids can make their winter clothes last until we pull the summer stuff out, but so far it hasn't happened.

When Kaitlin got on the bus this week with holes in both knees of her jeans, a T-shirt that Paige (her 4-year-old sister) has taken to borrowing because it actually fits Paige, and shoes with holes in each toe, I figured it was time to move "shop for clothes for Kaitlin" up the priority list a bit. I didn't have a huge budget nor did I think I'd be able to find jeans and long-sleeved t-shirts when every store is selling shorts and tank tops, but on a whim I stopped at Old Navy while I was grocery shopping.

Wouldn't you know, they had an additional 50% off all their clearance items and can you guess what they were clearancing out? Everything Kaitlin needed. I couldn't believe it. I took my pile of treasures and my $10 off coupon to the register with a huge smile on my face. The cashier scanned seven long-sleeved shirts, two pairs of Converse knock-off tennis shoes, a pair of jeans, and my coupon then asked me for $27! I was so certain the amount was wrong that I pulled over and double-checked the receipt to make sure she charged me for everything, but the receipt was correct.

I raced home unloaded the van and pulled Kaitlin aside to show her the treasure trove. Her face lit up as I pulled one thing after another out of the bag and told her it was all for her. It gave me a tremendous amount of joy to shower her with things she needs and has waited patiently for without complaining.

Now that she's asleep (in one of her new shirts), I'm reveling in the extravagant love of my Father God. I mean really, it's just humbling and absurd that the God who made the universe cares enough about me and my precious daughter to lead me to the one store in Portland still selling winter clothes and bless Kaitlin with just what she needs for a price that completely blessed me. I have always appreciated the big things God does in my life, but it's the little details like tonight that I often feel most loved. Thanks God for your extravagant and intimate love!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cycling 101

My first triathlon is scheduled for August 1st. Whenever I think of getting in the open water with hundreds of athletes, my palms start sweating and my heart starts racing. I'm looking forward to kicking my fear of being underwater to the curb but petrified I might panic in the water and either quit or drown before I walk through the Red Bull finish line waiting at the water's edge. And that's just the swim portion.

Theoretically, I've been training for the bike portion of the tri at the gym. Every other day I sit on the incumbent bike (the one with a comfy back rest) and I mildly pedal for 30 minutes while I read my Bible. I often break a sweat some time in the last ten minutes and while the bike says I pedal 11 miles with little effort, I know it's lying. I figure the organizers of my tri most likely will NOT have an incumbent bike in the transition area for me to sit, read and ride, so buying a bike was in the cards. The when and where was undecided.

A month ago, Curt and I went to Performance Bike and got a crash course in cycling. He's been doing triathlons for three years on a very basic bike and was looking to upgrade to a race bike. I nearly choked at how much road bikes costs but once I pounded my heart into beating regularly again, my job for that scouting trip was to wrangle the kids. We prayed about to buy or not buy for the past month and this weekend went back to Performance Bike without the kids to potentially buy these bikes.

The sales associate pulled out bike after bike after bike for me to "try." I'd get on and very timidly wobble out the front door of the store and pedal up and down the sidewalk in the rain. After the sixth bike I "tried," he asked me for my thoughts. I just looked at him with a blank stare and said, "I wish I knew what to say. I like the color of this one and the squishy seat on that one. What are all these cables and brakes and handle bars for and how do I shift gears?" We are talking bottom of the barrel in cycling knowledge here. I definitely need a Cycling 101 crash course... Finally, when I was good and soaked from numerous trips up the sidewalk in the rain we decided on a bike. Apparently the one I thought was the cutest was also the best fit. They even swapped out the non-squishy seat for the super squishy seat from Reject #1.

Did you know there is a whole section in the bike store for pedals? If you're a serious cyclist, you buy special cycling shoes that clip into your fancy pedals. You have to know how to clip them in and out quickly though or you crash when you try to stop. (Curt forewarned me on this one due to personal experience.) Since I bought my "current" bike 13 years ago when no one knew what a bike helmet was, I have never owned a bike helmet. The selection was staggering. I picked the cheapest one from the clearance table and then got another lesson in helmet safety and proper fit. There's a dial in the back to tighten and loosen the fit, straps to adjust up and down. Oy! My head was about to explode. We left the bike store much poorer but owners of two new bikes, a bike helmet, cycling shoes and fancy pedals. And just like that I have all the gear I need to do my tri.

I took my bike on her inaugural ride today. I did not use my fancy cycling shoes, which I regretted right around the tenth time my "campus pedal" flipped back over to the clip-in side and the huge bump on the pedal cut into the bottom of my running shoes. I don't have cycling pants, so Curt taped my yoga pants tight to my leg with masking tape so they wouldn't get stuck in the chain. I bailed off within the first half-mile because the pedal flipped over, threw me off balance, and I couldn't figure out how to downshift to get up a hill. I kept looking over my shoulder hoping no one I knew passed me because it was obvious this was my first time in a LONG time on a bike. I did eventually get the hang of it though and while I'm sure I looked like the novice I am, I actually enjoyed my little loop through wine country on a blustery, rainy day in Newberg. Next time I think I'll even try the clip-in shoes so watch for me in a pile on the side of the road.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Firsts



When Alli started Kindergarten this fall she had all her baby teeth, an adorable A-line bob, and a pair of new tennis shoes. She didn't know how to read, could only write her first name legibly, and didn't know she was a natural at math.

Today I sent her on her first all-day field trip missing two teeth, bangs in her face cause she's re-growing out her hair, and that same pair of tennis shoes (now snug) with the hot pink fabric frayed in so many places it's almost embarrassing that she's still wearing them. She knows how to read, has amazingly beautiful penmanship, has recently taken to writing "books" where she sounds out the words, and can add and subtract like no one's business. Amazing what transpires in just a few short months.

From the minute Alli rolled out of bed this morning she chattered non-stop about all the fun they were going to have. She was ridiculously excited about bringing a sack lunch and gave me explicit instructions on what she could and couldn't bring. When she was convinced I was capable of following her lunch-making instructions, she dashed upstairs to get ready. As I stacked her lunch in a Starbucks paper bag (don't all kindergartner's take Starbucks bags for lunch sacks?) and placed a carefully written napkin note (words facing up so she wouldn't miss it) on top, I marveled at the growth in my daughter's life.

She can read the napkin note, something she couldn't do two months ago. She's gone all day today at school, a precursor to the grueling transition she'll experience when she starts first grade. She's toeing the line and behaving beautifully at school. She's working hard at home to be self-controlled and multiple times this week I've witnessed her teter on the brink of losing her mind, then consciously choose to take a deep breath and pull it together instead. I NEVER thought that day would come and it's been so rewarding to praise her for making a good choice instead of being the one who's taking a deep breath and praying for wisdom.

I was supposed to chaperone this field trip but forgot to turn in my volunteer form. Paige is already off to her fun pre-arranged day of child care so here I sit. 8:20 a.m. and the house is empty and quiet. A glimpse into the not-so-distant future that lies ahead. When I was knee-deep in diapers, naps, story time, sleepless nights and trips to the park, I never thought this day would come. Now that it's here and it's a bit unnerving and exciting wrapped up in one giant unknown package. But what's life if not a great big adventure? Alli and I will both have "firsts" today and I can't wait to tell her all about it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Janis' Jewelry and Gifts According to Kaitlin


Kaitlin (7 1/2 years) liked Grant's synopsis of The Sweetest Thing so much that on her own she decided to write up a description of her favorite place in Newberg. Here's what she wrote, as she wrote it. I think we need to focus a bit on spelling and how to use the many versions of "there."

"I love Janis Jelwery and Gift. It has bags and birthday gifts and their are all sorts of jelwery. The best part of it is the really nice lady who will fix your necklace if it broke. It is sooo!!!! cool. I think all the necklaces are super cool. They have all sorts of diffrent kinds of necklaces their are peace, love, animals, little desinged balls and little things that say sassy, grumpy, tickled and sad. I think it is one of the best places in Newberg. The End."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sweetest Thing from Grant's Perspective


Grant (now 9 years old) gave me a pile of homework papers to look at this morning. Crammed in the middle of math and spelling sheets was a creative writing sample. It made me laugh out loud so I thought I'd share it. To set the stage, he has been to the Sweetest Thing one time although he has overheard conversations between me and my friend about how much we love this new gem in Newberg. I'm not sure where he got ages of the kids. I think that's a guess. I will type it exactly as he wrote it and not correct for spelling.

"My favorite place in Newberg is the Sweetest thing cupcakes store.
Right when you walk in there is a small counter with cupcakes on it. It is so warm and cozy there. The paint color there is so cool, the walls are a choclate brown and the chairs are a strange (but cool) blue.
The menu there is on the counter. Every day there is some specail that is not a cupcake like a scone or muffin. Usaully the cupcakes flavors are differnt everyday except these small cupcakes that are always there.
The frosting on the cupcakes is about 3 inches tall. Eating them is so fun because you can use your finger like a knife to spread the frosting on the bottom part of the cupcake. The taste is very sweet and the cupcakes are very filling.
Two families run this very nice company. They all have kids 4-15 years old. The 10 year old boy usaully runs the counter.
As you can see sweetest thing cupcakes is a wonderful place to visit."

Now don't you want to go there?!?!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Meal Plan

I'm only writing this post because enough people have asked me questions about meal planning, that I decided to answer on-line so I have it written down for future use. For those who don't care (the other 90%), please hit delete with no guilt.

Q: Why do I meal plan?
A: Because over the course of two weeks it saves me boatloads of time and it cuts down on our grocery bill.

Q: Is it easy?
A: No. It's a huge pain in my rear and I dread it each week.

Q: Is it worth it?
A: Yes. Every two weeks when I sit down with my calendar, cookbook, list that's been growing over two weeks and a cup of coffee, I chant to myself, "You do this because it allows you to go to the gym instead of run errands." For those of you who don't like exercising, insert your favorite time waster in that space and chant away.

Q: What's the process?
A: It's a multi-step process. I'll bullet point it for easy reference. I'll start with necessary supplies:
  • Blank Menu Grid. I made a table in Word that says "Day, Date and Menu." Every time I make a meal plan, I print out a blank menu grid and fill it in.
  • Running list - I keep a running list on a note pad in my junk drawer of stuff I either run out of or will run out of in the next two weeks.
  • Cookbooks - I made myself an electronic cookbook of all my favorite recipes from friends, cookbooks, on-line, etc. so I only have to grab one book for referencing purposes.
  • Calendar - I use my calendar to check to see what nights we have commitments and need to have a quick supper, if we're having people over, birthday parties that I need to buy gifts for, or if we'll need to eat out (something we almost NEVER do - primarily because we always have meals planned so I don't need to dash to a restaurant). I mark special days on my menu grid.
  • Old Meal Plan - I turn my old meal plan over and use it to make my new grocery list. (Applause please for being a recycler.)
Once I've gathered my supplies, I thumb through my cookbook, poll the kids, poll my friends on Facebook, etc. for dinner ideas. I only fill in DINNER/SUPPER on my menu grid and at the bottom of the grid I make a list of lunch options that I know I'll have available. When the grid is full, I tackle the grocery list.

Q: How do you make a grocery list?
A: The only way a ridiculously organized person does: Categorized by store and subcategorized within each store by the layout in which I shop the store. I take my piece of copy paper and write "Costco" at the top, then make sub-headings of all the different areas in Costco. I do this for Target, Trader Joes, Starbucks and Fred Meyer too. (SIGH - can you see why I dread this?)

I then take my running list and fill it in the appropriate blanks, crossing the item off the running list to ensure it actually makes it on the list that goes to the store. When the running list is crossed off, I move to the menu grid. I look up the ingredients I need for each recipe, compare it to what I have in my pantry, and add the items as needed. Once I've done all the recipes, I move to staple items like cereal, milk, bread, produce, eggs, dairy, etc. I look over both my fridges/freezers and add items to my list that I'm lacking and use on a regular basis. When I'm done, I'm ready to shop.

Q: How do you shop?
A: At night, without the kids. Every other Friday night I scarf down dinner and start my grocery run. I map my course out ahead of time and usually base it on right hand turns to save time commuting. Since I have my detailed list and it's in order of how I shop the store, I can run through a store pretty quickly without having to back track much. I hit all the stores and then come home to unload and unpack it all. Start to finish including commuting time, this usually takes me 4 to 6 hours depending on how much produce and meat have to be washed and divided out, etc. It's exhausting, but I come home to the kids already in bed, reward myself with a favorite drink as I'm unpacking and enlist Curt's help as needed.

BENEFITS: Saves money because we rarely eat out and if we do, it's pre-budgeted. Saves time because I'm not running an errand every morning. For me, I use that saved time to exercise which has a plethora of benefits in and of itself.

DISADVANTAGE: It takes me about an hour (sometimes more) to make the meal plan and the grocery list. Then I have to shop for it all and put it away. It's EXHAUSTING. And it takes intentionality to schedule the time needed to make it work. And by the end of two weeks, we're out of fresh produce and eating frozen veggies and canned fruit unless I make a special trip for produce.

I am not a coupon clipper. I shop the cheapest stores that have the products I need which is why I buy the bulk of our food at Costco, Target and Trader Joes. I know tons of ladies who love the thrill of the coupon hunting, but I am not one of them.

Now, to those of you who asked what my menu looks like, here's what we'll be eating for the next two weeks. Please note: I would classify our eating habits as fairly healthy. We definitely are not health nuts nor do we eat total junk.

DAY

DATE

MENU

Friday

May 14

Leftovers

Saturday

May 15

Pizza

Sunday

May 16

Burgers on grill, tator tots, pickles, fruit salad

Monday

May 17

Dinner at Kelly’s

Tuesday

May 18

Grilled chicken salad, bread and fruit

Wednesday

May 19

Pork chops with sautéed peppers, rice and steamed veggies

Thursday

May 20

(fast) meatball heros, pickles, melon, chips, veggies and dip

Friday

May 21

Cucumber and totmato salad, sautéed shrimp with pasta in olive oil with parm

Saturday

May 22

Brats/hot dogs, chips, pickles, melon

Sunday

May 23

Chick salad croissant sandwiches, pickles, fruit and chips

Monday

May 24

Spaghetti pie, Ann’s salad and bread

Tuesday

May 25

(fast) chicken tacos, beans and rice

Wednesday

May 26

Turkey meatloaf, mashed potatos and salad

Thursday

May 27

Chicken noodle soup, salad and bread

Friday

May 28

(Curt gone) pizza


Lunch Options:
nuggets
Mac and cheese
sandwiches: PB&J, deli, chicken salad
Salads
ramen noodles
corn dogs

Run B4 The Crabby Fest





This morning our family participated in the 2nd annual Run B4 the Fun, a non-timed, 5K, fun run to raise money for Relay for Life. We participated last year and found it to be a really fun experience so it was with great excitement that I registered our entire family (plus Caleb who is staying with us for the weekend) for this year's event. Since the boys are 9, we gave them the privilege of running the race sans a chaperone provided they stay together at all costs. Alli and Katie were designated to me, with Curt taking Paige, who at the ripe age of 4 years old was adamant that she was going to run the entire way. No stroller for her.

The Run B4 The Fun, at least for our family, would be more aptly titled Run B4 The Crabby Fest. We left later than we should have and arrived at Joan Austin Elementary (the start and finish line) about 60 seconds before the race started. Paige didn't even have her shoes on. We dashed to the starting line as the countdown began.

All four of our kids got their new summer sneakers this week - part water shoe, part sneaker. They wear them all summer long to hike, ride bikes, play in the water and everything in between. Problem is, they weren't broken in yet and we forgot to bring band aids. We couldn't have been further than 1/3 of the mile into the run when Kaitlin and Alli started in with the drama. The wailing and gnashing of teeth over newly formed blisters was so over the top, it was funny. They both collapsed on the lawn of the closest church and while they cried and adjusted and readjusted their shoes, I prayed for empathy, patience and the ability to encourage my very capable daughters. They got up, settled into a nice rhythm and the next two miles flew by with very little drama.

The second water table had band aids and we threw a little party. While we were slapping band aids any place they could show raw skin, Daddy and Paige caught up. Paige, who is normally a ray of sunshine, woke up on the wrong side of the bed. From the minute she opened her eyes she was the Crab Master General. Curt made the mistake of telling Paige he would carry her if she got tired, so after the first water station (about a mile in), she took him up on his offer. Bless his heart, I look up and see all six-feet-three-inches of him lumbering down the street with Paige, smiling for the first time all morning, perched on his shoulders. She got down and ran across the George Fox campus and then resumed her place on Daddy's shoulders for the remainder of the race.

Alli fell off the pace and decided to finish with Curt and Paige while Kaitlin and I bonded until her finish line meltdown. We could see the balloons and she went from gleeful to tears in .2 seconds. Her side hurt, her back hurt, her feet hurt, and she did NOT under any circumstances want Grant and Caleb (who made sure to tell us they finished ten minutes ahead of us) to cheer her on to the finish. I mean who doesn't scream at their adoring fans as they shout encouragement?

Caleb, who is very athletic and competitive, wanted to be the first kid to finish the race. Grant, who was sulking because we made him change out of his church clothes into workout clothes for the race, didn't care where he finished. Given the fact that we made them promise to stick together, I'd say their experience was a lesson in compromise. Caleb never wanted to stop running. Grant would have preferred more breaks. They finished within 20 seconds of each other and are still friends so I'd consider it successful!

Alli came across the finish line about ten minutes after Katie. She proudly displayed even more band aids that she'd collected along the route and said with a deep breath, "Whew! That was a big 5K." She also made sure to tell us in the car coming home that "it wasn't fun and she was NOT doing that again next year." Paige and Curt eventually came into view and Paige ran across the finish line to hoops and hollers and she was oh-so-proud of herself.

After the race, they drew names for prizes and to our surprise, Paige's name was the first one called. Her excitement over being a winner quickly turned to confusion when they handed her an an Incredible Hulk action figure and a Superman action figure. Caleb was also a lucky winner and he won a hand-made pillow case from the craft fair, just what he always wanted.

I took pictures after the race which of course incited a riot among the kids. They didn't want to stand by so-and-so, they didn't want to put their shoes back on over blistered feet, and Paige who wanted no part in putting her new T-shirt over her fancy outfit pouted heartily for every photo. I'm telling you folks, it was a good time. Want to join us next year?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Refuge on Crescent Hill


My friend Melanie Dobson is an amazing author. I just read and reviewed her most current book and thought I'd post my review and a link to where to buy this book on my blog.

Refuge on Crescent Hill was full of surprises. Unlike Melanie Dobson’s other novels, Crescent Hill took two chapters of laying groundwork before I was fully sucked into the story. As the story progressed and the plot began to unfold, I found myself flipping back and forth between chapters, checking last names of characters trying to figure out how the dots connected. When my hunches were wrong, I gave up and immersed myself in the story. Much to my delight, Dobson connected the dots in suspenseful, unpredictable ways that kept me wondering and guessing with every turn of the page.

Refuge on Crescent Hill opens with Dobson’s modern day heroin, Camden Bristow, at the end of herself. Desperate and lonely, Camden turns to the only place that has ever seemed like home: her Grandma’s arms. But when she arrives in Etherton, Ohio, she discovers her Grandma has passed away leaving Camden her 150 year old, rundown mansion. The historical and eerie mansion is shrouded in mystery with rampant rumors of ghosts haunting the grounds and unexplainable lights and shadows dancing from the windows of the third floor. As Camden wrestles with how to handle her unexpected gift, she finds herself unraveling a complicated and dangerous story much bigger than herself.

Goosebump-inducing suspense, intrigue, romance, history, and an underlying theme of redemption and God making all things new… Refuge on Crescent Hill has it all. Once you start reading, you won’t want to put this wonderful story down.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Best Mother's Day Ever






Yesterday as I stretched, tried to wipe the cobwebs from my brain and get out of bed, I got that strange excitement that comes over you on a special day like your birthday or the first day of vacation. It finally dawned on me as I was crawling out of bed that it was Mother's Day. I had barely cracked the bedroom door open when I heard the thundering of four sets of not-so-tiny feet tearing across the wood floor. Within seconds four blonde bed-heads in jammies came tearing around the corner and I braced myself for the attack. A huge hug from Grant. Then Kaitlin, and Alli and Paige. They assaulted me with love and as I struggled to wrap my arms around them all, I realized just how much my cup overflows with abundant joy. Am I really blessed enough to mother these four precious treasures, each unique in their giftings, talents, emotions and approach to life? Did God seriously entrust them to me? I was blown away.

Curt was at the stove preparing sausage, egg and cheese croissant sandwiches (per the kids' suggestion) and he quickly poured me a huge cup of coffee. Each child proudly presented me with a hand-made card or craft. Grant's was a fill-in-the-blank template that he made at school. In his newly perfected cursive writing he wrote, "I love you because... of all you do and how much you care for me. The funniest thing I remember about my mom is... she would not do legos no matter how hard I tried. (In my defense, I will play Legos, but I get laughed out of the house because nothing I build resembles anything recognizable.) The most special gift I could give my Mom would be... a massage at The Allison. My mom loves me best when... my room isn't a pig sty. (This made me laugh out loud because he totally pegged me. Unlike his clutter-resistant Mom, Grant is the King of Clutter Land.) My Mom looks prettiest when....she wears her black sweater, skinny jeans and black boots. Dear Mom, Thank you for all you do. You wash my dishes, you do my laundry, and feed me. You are the mom of all moms. I love you so much mom. You are the best. Love Grant." Can you say melt my heart?!?!

Katie's card was a poster board beautifully drawn and colored. On the reverse side, the word "MOTHER" was written with a line for each letter. Kaitlin filled it in as follows (spelling intentionally not corrected): "Maneging the house. Only one you. Tickling torcher. Happy hugs. Everything I've ever wanted. Responsible for kids. Love, Kaitlin." Tickling "torcher" made me laugh and "everything I've ever wanted" brought tears of joy.

Alli, who is much like me in so many ways, got off the bus on Friday and instantly started digging in her back pack. Before I even gave her a welcome home hug, she was presenting me with a wrapped Mother's Day gift from school. She insisted I open it before we even made it home. It was a cute little poster with her handprints painted on it. She had also meticulously colored a picture of a dog and then perfectly cut it out. For someone who likes to do things fast and sloppy, this was a true act of love on her part. Apparently she felt she needed something to give me on Mother's Day too, so she gave me a picture with the cutest and happiest mom face on it. The face was labeled "You" (which made me die laughing) and she wrote: "I love you. Happ Mom day love Alli."

Paige, who is a ridiculously excellent color-er, has just entered the world of drawing. She presented me with a piece of copy paper with lots of pictures on it. I mistakenly identified the flower with a face as "me?" but she quickly corrected me. It reminded me to ask, "Will you tell me about it?" so as to avoid incorrectly identifying the remaining drawings. On the back she dictated to Curt: "Dear Mommy. I hope you have a fun Mom Day. You are a great Mommy. And that's all."

We dashed off to church and enjoyed an amazing time of worship and teaching. Came home to meet my Mom and her husband Terry for an afternoon at the ocean. They gave me a pot of daisies and my Mom, through tears, told me of a tradition she had with her mom. They gave each other daisies on special occasions and it started when my mom got sick in high school. Now that my Grandma graduated to heaven, my Mom gave me a pot of daisies instead. It was such a tender moment and when I look at my happy yellow daisies I think of both my amazing mom and my grandma.

We took them to Pacific City and instead of going to the state park we typically go to, we hit a more populated section of the beach. It was at the base of the cape and a huge sand mountain. We all took turns climbing slowly to the top of the huge sand pile and soaking in the view from the top. Even Paigey made it to the top. We say often, "Slow and steady wins the race" and she tackled that hill one little footstep at a time. Grant ran up and down it several times, often taking Dusty our dog with him. I think they both thought they were in paradise.

The tide was out opening up some beautiful tide pools for our exploration. We saw star fish, crab, a fish, two hermit crabs, and tons of sea anemones. The kids thought it was hilarious to push on the anemones and watch them squirt sea water and then close up. The weather was beautiful and none of us wanted to leave. We got home late and ate marinated steak (Curt's speciality) hot off the grill at 8:00 p.m. on a school night. The kids kept asking, "Is this the best mother's day ever, Mom?" and I had to agree that it was.

Finding Strength in God

If you have never read the story of Saul, David, and Saul's son Jonathan in the Bible, you should. It is a fascinating study of human personalities, mental disorders, friendship, loyalty, betrayal and all kinds of cool stuff. It starts in I Samuel 8 and goes through the end of chapter 15.

Saul is David's father-in-law and vacillates between showering David with love, affection and gifts and trying to kill him by chucking spears at him and hunting him down with large armies. And you thought your in-law situation was bad... Jonathan is Saul's son and also David's best friend. Jonathan tries to walk the fine line between loving and supporting his father and loving and supporting his brother-in-law and best friend. Today I read the part in the story where David and his band of outcast soldiers have spent an extended period of time cave jumping to stay ahead of Saul and his huge, trained army who are coming after David. I Samuel 23:14 says "Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands."

I'm sure David appreciated God's protection over his life, but fleeing from cave to cave starts to take its toll on David. Worn out and discouraged physically, mentally, and spiritually, he gets a pleasant surprise. Jonathan sneaks away from his father's army and comes to the place David is hiding. Verse 16 says, "And Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God."

I'm not sure why this jumped off the page at me, but the first thing I thought was, "Wow! Do I do that for my friends and family? When they are discouraged, weak, and vulnerable do I help them find strength in God?" And the second question I asked myself was, "Who in my life has been a Jonathan to me?" I loved going back in time and praising God for the family and friends in my life who have helped me find strength in God.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Oh The Irony...

Remember Perfect Mom from this fall? I thought about going back to the park to try to run into her and tell her how her gentle spirit and soft words both blessed and challenged me that day, but life took over and I never followed through. Today I was in the locker room at the pool and who should walk in but Perfect Mom and her three little ducklings. I recognized her immediately and of all the dumb things, got instantly nervous and started arguing with myself in my head.

Self: "You should go talk to her."
Me: "No way. That's weird. What on earth would I say?"
Self: "You need to encourage her. We all need encouragement. Go talk to her." and so on and so forth.

The whole time I was getting dressed I was arguing with myself and just the time I was ready to wimp out and leave, she came out of her dressing room. I took a deep breath, walked over and said, "Hi. I met you this fall at the park. I'm sure you don't remember but I wanted to tell you that I was so blessed by your gentle spirit and kind words with your kids. It's not something that comes naturally for me and is something I have to really work on, so it both blessed and encouraged me." There. I did it. Now I'm waiting through what I KNEW would be an awkward pause, but wasn't.

When she opened her mouth, she said and I quote, "Well, I'm anything but perfect..." Oh the irony!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Promises

Promises, promises. How many times has someone promised you something only to fail to keep their word? How many times have you promised someone something only to fail to keep your word? I remember when Grant was a baby and I was just learning to discipline him, I got a piece of advice from a seasoned mom that has remained fresh in my mind all these years. She said, "Be careful what comes out of your mouth because if you say it, you HAVE to follow through." When I'm tempted to spew, "If you don't pick up your room, you'll skip that play date," I pause. Do I really mean that? Is it a worthy consequence and am I willing to follow through? If the kids are pestering me, do I have the time to actually take them to the park or read them a book if I promise to do that when I finish my project? Broken promises break hearts and crush spirits.

Today I was reading Hebrews chapter 11, the Faith Hall of Fame. It starts out being defining faith as "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." It then goes on to list heros of the Bible, what they believed God for, and why their faith was credited to them as righteous. I was moved by Abraham who "when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went (emphasis mine) even though he did not know where he was going." I remember clearly the internal turmoil two years ago when Curt and I very clearly heard God calling us to move west and how frightening it was to obey and go. And we knew our final destination! God promised Abraham He would make his descendants innumerable, yet here Abraham is - living as a foreigner in the land God promised to give him (that now at least has a name) with ZERO children. He's approaching 100 years old and his wife is 90 when God tells him, "Okay, Sarah's going to get pregnant." Can we say guaranteed spot on Oprah when that actually happens? When Abraham dies he can count the number of his children on one hand. Not exactly innumerable. This is how God fulfills His promises? Seems like a broken promise to me.

Then I stumbled on verse 13. It says, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance." They got glimpses of the promise, but didn't get to see the big picture, and STILL they believed God. They had faith He would keep His promise to them and He did. Amazing!

God's plan is almost always more intricate, complicated, and tougher than a plan I would design. But His plan is also more beautiful, creative and faith-building than any I would concoct which is why I am content to be a Follower of Jesus. Each day I am learning to walk by faith like the great heros in the Bible. The next time I get irritated that God hasn't answered my prayer and I've prayed about it for two days, I'll remember that Sarah and Abraham were infertile for 80 years before God said "Yes" to their prayer. When it feels like God has left me high and dry and has abandoned His promises for my life, I can know that He will finish what He started, even if the conclusion comes long after I die. That's a promise I can trust.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Capturing Beauty



I've lived in Newberg, Oregon, now for just under two years. I keep waiting for my eyes to grow complacent to the beauty surrounding me, but to my delight I find myself falling more and more in love with the Creator who designed such a heavenly place and allows me to live in paradise. Everywhere I walk, run, bike or drive beauty abounds. I've taken to keeping my camera in the car so I can capture the amazing sights that accompany me to the grocery store, to the gym, and on my way to church. It seems the more I search for beauty, the more open my eyes are to see it all around me.

Yesterday as I was pulling out of our subdivision for the thousandth time, I was admiring the fury of the weather. The sun was shining through huge gray storm clouds illuminating the field across the street. The grass, wet from being drenched in rain, was vibrantly green. Sitting in the field of green, a dilapidated old barn that I have never once noticed. There it sat, weathered, grayish brown with sunlight streaming through the slats missing from the roof. How did I never notice this treasure before? I grabbed my camera and snapped away while the girls complained in the back seat about me stopping to take more pictures.

Today, as I drove Alli to a birthday party I was amazed by the transformation in the mountains. Just a few short months ago, they were a mixture of scarce patches of white, dead-looking browns and dark evergreens. Now, as they clothe themselves in spring's splendor, they are layered with shades and shades of green, vibrant and alive with flowering trees and vineyards sporting new life on once barren vines. I found myself pulling over, digging out my camera, and trying to find the perfect angle to capture just how fresh and new the mountains are.

As I praised God for beauty everywhere, it occurred to me that life is kind of like living in Newberg. No matter the season there is beauty to behold, and sometimes it come from the most unexpected places. Sometimes I just forget to look for it and so I auto-pilot through life, nose to the grindstone fulfilling the daily obligations, missing the beauty surrounding me. I grabbed my mental camera and started capturing snapshots of the beauty in my life. Restored health to run again without pain. Four crazy, amazing, talented kids who bring out both the best and worst in me, developing my character and blessing me more than I would have ever imagined. A life-giving husband who values me, loves me, thinks I'm hot, loves the Lord, and makes me laugh EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. Friends who know me intimately enough to know my foibles and oddities and faults and yet they still love me. Extended family that offers support, love and friendships. A Savior who give my life purpose, covers me with peace, and fills me with joy even when my heart is breaking. Psalm 139:5 says, "You hem me in - behind and before; You have laid Your hand upon me." Today as I stood at the top of Corral Creek Road feebly trying to capture the beauty unfolding around me, I felt my Savior place His hand on my shoulder and stand with me as we breathed deeply of His miraculous creation. I plan to keep my camera at the ready, capturing beauty as I live my life.