Friday, January 27, 2012

"I Am Giving You Courageness In Your Heart"

the first of what I'm sure will be many medical teams
And he's off to Haiti again...  My husband Curt just texted me from a plane bound for Port au Prince, Haiti, via JFK airport in New York.  He's leading Solid Rock and Forward Edge's first medical team to Haiti.  It's so exciting.

When he came back from Haiti in June 2010, Curt told me, "I really wish I could use my medical skills to serve the people in Haiti.  A little over a year later, he's doing just that.  It's so cool how God breathed life into this vision.

On Tuesday night the team had their packing party.  When Curt dropped his 50-pound bag on the garage floor, I was surprised at the amount of emotion and memories it stirred in me.  When I went to Haiti, we stuffed those big red bags full of dresses and shoes for the Haitian women.  This time, they're filled with medical supplies.  
look who's going back to Haiti!

Tonight we crammed around our kitchen table and ate dinner as a family - all seven of us.  After dinner, we dropped Katie off at a birthday party and headed to the airport.  We arrived way too early - but that's how Curt likes it - and the kids ran around while we waited for Curt's team to arrive.  One by one, they trickled through the airport doors armed with expectant smiles and lugging huge red duffle bags.  Alli and Paige made friends with all the girls.  Grant did man stuff, schlepped bags and bonded with a young guy on Curt's team.  When all twenty-five team members had arrived and checked in, we gathered in a huge circle, held hands and prayed.
quick family picture in the scenic garage before we left for the airport

Alli wept when she said goodbye to her Daddy.  He's off to change the world and she's gonna miss him.  We all will.  But we know God has called Curt to this mission.  We know He has great plans in store.  It's oh-so-exciting.
it was a tough goodbye this time

I asked the kids to write cards for Curt and then we made packets for him to open each day while he's away.  I read Alli's (7 1/2 years) note through tears - it's so precious.  She wrote:

"Dear Dad,

I have a prayer for you.  - Dear God - I hope your son Curt will have a good time in Haiti.  God, I know you can help Curt in Haiti because you have mighty hands.  God, I put your blessing on Curt in Haiti.  God, I give Curt braveness in Haiti.  I love you soooo much.  Amen.  

Dad - I will miss you a lot.  You are a very loving, kind, funny man.  I love you sooooo much.  I am giving you courageness in your heart.  Always remember that God is with you and is on your side.  Love- Alli"
one last squeeze before we left

Jesus - will you bless this team and give them all "courageness in their hearts" to do the work You have prepared for them?  And bring them home safely we pray.  Amen.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Jeanne Modesda - Guest Post by Grant Stilp

one of my favorite picts of G and I
Our son Grant (10 years) is in 5th grade this year.  Each week he has a creative writing assignment called a PAW (it stands for something but I can't remember what).  He needs to have it drafted by Wednesday to present to his parents for editing purposes.  Once we edit the PAW, we sign off on the bottom and he has one day to make the revisions and present a final copy to his teacher.

Grant hates it when I edit his PAW because I "always tear it apart and make too many edits."  He's a gifted writer with a knack for procrastinating and throwing things together at the last minute.  I love writing, editing and seeing my kids give their best effort.  What else can I say?  Last night he snuck his PAW to Curt and said, "Whew.  I'm glad Mom's busy.  She rips my PAW apart every time but you never make any edits."  Curt replied, "That's cause she's a writer and I don't know how to spell."  But I digress...

Last week's PAW was to choose someone you viewed as heroic and write a letter to the Postmaster General making an argument for why that person should be featured on a postage stamp.  Grant's original effort was lack luster, but his second attempt was stellar.  He gave me permission to share it on the blog (as they get older you have to ask permission).
Grant with aforementioned rug burn

I would love to post a picture of him holding his report, but three things prevent that.

  1. There's no way he would pose for me holding a picture of his report.  He's much too cool for that.  
  2. He has a huge rug burn on his chin from practicing The Worm (a breakdancing move) at church. (Don't ask.  I don't even understand).  
  3. He refuses to stop picking at the rug burn so what could have been gone two weeks ago is becoming a permanent fixture on his adorable little face.  I've repeated more than once, "This is one of those cases where I will be REALLY mad if you continue to pick at that and end up with a huge scar on your chin for the rest of your life because you can't practice self control."  

I do have to state the obvious here - I love my boy!  He's about the goofiest, most-fun, adorable, loving boy on the planet.  He brought this picture of Jeanne to school with him to show his class and was genuinely moved by her story.

Jeanne (middle) was in the small group that Beth and I led
Without further ado, here's Grant's post.  Nice work Sweet Boy!

Jeanne Modesda
 By Grant Stilp
5th Grade
Mabel Rush Elementary School

"Dear Postmaster General,

I believe that Jeanne Modesda should have her face on a postage stamp.  She has persevered through many things.  When the earthquake hit Haiti two years ago she lost her house - every last possession.  She said, "There was not even a cup left for us to take."  Her daughter died at the university.  Yet, Jeanne still goes into the mountains to schedule weddings for the women that live in the brush.

Jeanne was standing on the roof of the second story of her house.  She was planning the construction of the third story when the earth started to shake.  Then her house collapsed, with 13 of her 14 children in it.  There was nothing left!  She knew her kids couldn't have survived.  But then she heard her 21-year-old son speak, and within an hour all her kids were out!  Her house was gone, but all her kids were alive.

Next she rushed to the university to find her daughter, Aelbellona, who was a teacher there.  What she found was devastating.  Aelbellona had died in her classroom.  She dug Aelbellona out of the rubble.  It was a long walk back to Carrefour to bury her. 

Even though Jeanne has nothing, she is still giving.  She goes with her daughters into the mountains to marry the women that live there.  She provides everything needed for a wedding because these women have nothing.  Jeanne spends her days rebuilding her house and collecting the dresses and rings for the weddings.

Jeanne Modesda should have her face on a postage stamp because she persevered through many things and yet she still gives."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Little by Little

A rare snow storm before it switched to non-stop rain
December in Oregon was full of at least three weeks of beautiful winter-like weather.  Crisp, clear and cold days were filled with blue skies and bright sunshine.  January roared in with a vengance though, bringing with it all the rain we didn't get in December and some extra just for good measure.  My training runs the past two weeks have been mostly wet and rainy, but I don't mind running in the rain as long as my visor keeps it out of my eyes.

I want to encourage all my friends tackling fitness goals in the new year to keep pushing forward.  This is about the time the excitement wears off and it's oh-so-tempting to look for excuses not to exercise.  The gray and the rain alone can suck the life out us, but don't quit.  I know it's tough.  But you can do it.  Here are a few things I've found helpful while I train.

GO ON A TREASURE HUNT.  When possible, run outside.  Make your run a treasure hunt for beauty. You don't have to look far to find beauty in the ordinary.  I've already experienced several miserable training runs.  They felt never-ending and horrendously difficult.  I decided to switch into treasure hunt mode just to survive the run.  When I saw something beautiful, I stopped (it gave me time to catch my breath) and took a picture.  Something about stopping to refocus improved my mood and my stamina.

rain can even be beautiful

FIND A TRAINING SCHEDULE.  As of today, I have successfully completed three weeks and four days of marathon training, but who's counting?  I never knew I could follow the rules so well AND be consistent.  There is definitely validity in following a training schedule.  I'm glad to finally be practicing what I preach.  
checking off those boxes...

FIND A RUNNING PARTNER.  I've loved having a running partner following the same training plan.  Knowing Carissa is crazy enough to make time to run each day or do speed drills is motivation for me to make sure I keep up with her stride for stride.  Since we live forty minutes away from each other, we started meeting in the middle to run together every Monday morning.  It's worth the effort and the drive time to start the week off with some encouragement, girlfriend time, and the extra push to tackle that dreaded Monday morning run.  
after the Eugene half-marathon last year.

STICK TO THE SCHEDULE.  I've been running for five years, but I've never followed a training schedule.  I've been tempted to skip or modify the scheduled workouts that are unfamiliar, but I decided I'm going to try them all.  The speed work provides diversity and has even been fun.  I surprised myself on today's tempo run by logging two miles in a row with the exact same pace - something I don't think I've ever done before.   Following the plan has also made the long, weekend runs less daunting and more doable. So far I've felt equipped to tackle each long run, but I may change my tune after Carissa runs me through 14 miles of hilly Forest Park this weekend.  

first time doing speed work on the track - so fun!
CHECK YOUR GEAR.  When I started this training plan, both my trail shoes and my street shoes still had some life in them.  But I've been running so much that now they're miled out.  I can feel the effects of shoes that are breaking down in my muscle soreness.  Good gear is crucial to not getting injured while you train.  A trip to the running store is on the agenda for me tomorrow.

LITTLE BY LITTLE - Carissa texted me this week and said, "Three weeks down.  Only 14 more to go."  Conquering three weeks of intense training felt great.  Seeing 14 more on the chart feels overwhelming.  I was tempted to be discouraged.  But I was reminded to tackle it little by little.  One box at a time on the chart.  One foot in front of the other.  Won't it feel great when that text reads, "14 weeks down.  Only three to go!"  Even better, when we have a finish time (hopefully Boston qualifying) after the marathon?

You can do it.  Put one foot in front of the other and watch yourself achieve that goal - little by little.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hanukkah - Guest Post by Alli Stilp

putting the finishing touches on the poster
Alli's monthly project for December/January was to pick a holiday she doesn't celebrate, research it, and write a report.  She also has to give an oral presentation to her class on what she studied.  She chose to study Hanukkah and I was excited to study with her. 

We checked out books from the library and read them together.  We exclaimed over the incredible historical story of how the holiday got it's start and laughed as we tried to pronounce long and unfamiliar Hebrew words.  I emailed my friend and former colleague who is Jewish and she gave us a wealth of information about Hanukkah, including adorable pictures of her children and family members lighting the Hannukiah and playing dreidel.  If only she lived closer I'd bribe her to make me some latkes and sufganiyots.

After Alli gathered her research, she wrote her report then dictated it to me for typing.  She also created a poster to use a visual aid when she gives her presentation to her class.  I hope you enjoying learning about Hanukkah (did you know there are three different, correct ways to spell it?) as much as we did.

Without further ado, here's Alli's report.

"History of Hanukkah

There once was a person named Antiochus the Fourth who ruled over Israel.  He made it a crime to practice Judaism.  Antiochus the Fourth grew angry because the Jews kept worshipping their god instead of Antiochus’s god. Antiochus sent out his army to destroy the Jewish temple. The Syrian Greek soldiers took over the Jewish temple. The soldiers knocked over the menorah and the temple light went out.

The Maccabees which were Mattathias and his son Judah and the little army that Judah owned fought back.  After seven long years of fighting, the Maccabees won.  But the point of why the Maccabees won was because the real God was on their side. 

When the Jewish people got their temple back, they cleaned it up.  Judah got some olive oil to light the menorah.  They thought it was going to light for only one night, but God provided it to burn for eight nights.  It was a miracle that God provided the extra olive oil.

Celebrating Hanukkah

Hanukkah is a time when Jewish families get together and remember their past.  They also exchange gifts and eat food, like potato pancakes (latkes) and jelly-filled doughnuts (sufganiyots).  They eat this food because jelly-filled doughnuts and potato pancakes are fried in olive oil, just like Judah used olive oil to light the menorah.

Some of the gifts the children receive are pieces of chocolate wrapped in gold foil and other toys.  Families get together and play a game with a dreidel.  A dreidel has four Hebrew symbols on it.  It is a wooden top.  The symbols make a sentence that says, “A great miracle happened there.”

Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew.  It is a once a year holiday.  It is also called the Festival of Lights.

The reason Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah is to remember the miracle which was the olive oil burned for eight nights instead of one.  The lights burn on a Menorah, which is a candle holder that has eight candle spots with an extra helper spot.  As they light the candles, they pray.


Families tell a story from long, long ago like about one thousand years ago.  All Jewish people have a hanukkiah that they light for eight days.  They light one candle for each night.  By the eighth night, all nine candles are lit.  They put the hanukkiah in the window sill so people can see and remember the miracle of the light."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Warm Chocolatey Memories

Curt and BJ
This post is WAY over-due.  In early October, Curt's BFF (best friend forever) - BJ Burns - came to visit us.  It was his first trip to Oregon and we were all giddy with excitement that he was coming.  The only thing that would have made his visit more fun is if his wife and four awesome kids could have come too.

BJ used to be the high school youth pastor at the church we attended in Illinois.  Newly married to Pattie, we could tell even from a distance that the two of them were tons of fun.  We made a point to run into them in the church lobby, say hi, and try to act cool and fun even though we were sleep deprived and schlepping around multiple toddlers and babies.  Apparently our farce worked enough that Curt and BJ started talking a bit.

One winter night after mid-week small groups, we pulled into the driveway and Curt flipped out.  "My Bible!" he cried.  "I left it on the roof of the car."  He quickly retraced his steps while I put crabby babies to bed.  An hour later he came home dejected.  He found Bible "barf" along the side of road by the church - notes from me, sermon notes, and bookmarks - but no Bible.  With a huge snow storm moving in, he was terrified that his well-worn Bible of 15 years would be lost forever.

I took a turn searching - driving slowly down the country roads in the pitch black looking for a black Bible in the middle of the road.  I saw a police man killing time at the nature preserve so I flagged him down and said, "You don't look too busy.  Can I borrow your mega spotlight to search for my husband's Bible?"  He gave me a "you-want-me-to-do-what?" look, but agreed to one pass-through.  We came up empty-handed.

The next morning, with snow dumping inches and hope dead that we'd ever recover Curt's Bible, the doorbell rang.  I opened it to BJ, standing on my front step holding Curt's Bible.  I forgot that we barely knew him and practically tackled him.  The kids and I started jumping up and down, screaming and celebrating.  Poor BJ just stood in the doorway, mystified and slightly scared of us.  Once we stopped shouting, he told us that he was locking up the church the night before.  As he was driving away, he saw Curt's Bible in the parking lot.  Knowing that Curt doesn't go a day without reading it, he rescued it and hand-delivered it that morning.  And with that Bible rescue, Curt and BJ became BFF's.

fire, TV, playoff baseball, kids, friends
BJ and Pattie started having babies - one right after the other like we did.  We realized we lived within a few miles of each other and started having Friday night pizza dinners.  Pattie made the best pizza dough and we'd put the kids to bed early, eat pizza, and laugh.  Then laugh some more.  We joined the same small group at church.  Curt and BJ started meeting at the forest preserve half-way between their jobs to eat lunch together and throw the football around.  (We all made fun of them.)  During playoff baseball, BJ and Curt would drag the TV and antenna from the house into the backyard, build a bonfire, and watch baseball by the fire.  They both idolized the David Crowder Band and twice went to concerts even though neither could really afford the tickets or the midnight Taco Bell run on the way home.  Our kids thought we were their aunts and uncles.  We just did life together.  It was a really special friendship.

making memories running chains
In the winter of 2008, things changed.  BJ took a job in Appleton, Wisconsin.  With great sadness, we packed up our best friends and waved goodbye as they started a new life three hours away.  A few months later we packed up our stuff and with great sadness, waved goodbye to all our friends as we started a new life in Oregon 2,000 miles away.  The fact that BJ and Pattie were already in Appleton eased the pain of leaving Illinois.

In spite of the distance, BJ and Curt have remained BFF's.  They talk on the phone.  They text and email.  When Curt travels to the mid-west, they grab face time together.  When they're together, they act like junior high boys, laughing about potty humor and stalking their favorite band's every move.  They pray together for each other and for their marriages.  Their friendship is unique - one of those once-in-a-lifetime friendships.

Needless to say, it was a BIG deal when BJ came out to visit in early October.  The four days he was here were filled with laughter, laughter, immaturity, and more laughter.  All he wanted was to make it into a blog post and it's embarrassing that it's taken me so long to write this.  Please forgive me BJ?
"warm Chocolatey memories"

While BJ was here, our son Grant had an away football game in a stadium with real turf.  Curt volunteered to run the chains and managed to finagle a spot for BJ to run chains with him.  The two of them joked and screwed around on the football field the entire game, having way too much fun and making everyone smile.  At one point, they hollered up to me, "We're making memories."

Later that night the kids wanted hot chocolate.  We got down the basket of hot chocolate packs and almost fell over when we saw the slogan on the packet.  It said, "Making Warm Chocolatey Memories."  It became the theme for BJ's time at our house and a mantra that got repeated multiple times throughout each day.

We took BJ for a hike in the Columbia River Gorge.  The skies opened the second we stepped out of the car and it poured the entire five miles that we hiked.  It was an all day soaking rain with no sign of letting up and Curt was miserable.  He whined and complained (some of it serious - some of it to get us to laugh).   The few hikers we passed on the trail looked as miserable as we felt so we made it our standard operating procedure for me to say, "Great day for a hike, eh?"  When they wouldn't answer or laugh Curt would deadpan, "It looks like it's going to blow over."  No one thought it was funny except the three of us and we'd die laughing EVERY time.  It never got old.
this was our miserable face

We brought hot chocolate with us in a thermos and drank it in the pouring rain at the top of Larch Mountain.  Our fingers were so numb that we spilled it all over while we took pictures and noted aloud that we were "making warm chocolatey memories."

drinking hot chocolate in the rain
The boys ran the cable line down the side of the house, drug the TV outside, built a bonfire, and watched playoff baseball in the backyard.  They wrestled with the kids.  Watched football and threw the football around in the backyard.  We made Friday night pizza only my dough isn't as good as Pattie's.  It was just like old times.

ready for the big concert
Their favorite band was in town on their final tour.  Of course the boys had tickets to the 9 p.m. show.  They started getting ready right after breakfast, and then left at noon to head downtown.  As they drove, they asked themselves, "If I was David Crowder visiting Portland, where would I spend an afternoon before a concert?"  Curt's guess was (and I quote) - "He'll be at Powell's book store and he'll be in disguise with a hat on to cover his crazy hair."

BJ and his new BFF - David Crowder
They went to Powell's first, walked in the front door, and ran right into David Crowder wearing a hat to disguise his crazy hair.  While BJ got his picture with Crowder, Curt texted me blow-by-blow details.  I texted back, "Don't embarrass yourselves."  They were more excited than 11-year-old girls running into Justin Beiber.
concert vantage point

Curt and BJ stood in line for hours to get front-row "seats" (only it was a standing-room only venue) and BJ texted me pictures of the concert from their up-close vantage point.  They stayed out late and stopped at Taco Bell on the way home.

Across the board, BJ's visit was memory making (warm chocolatey ones) and oh-so-fun.  I only wish I'd written about it sooner.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What I'm Learning About Forgiveness

Much of my Bible reading today was about forgiveness.  Jesus spends the last part of Matthew chapter 18 teaching on forgiveness.  He tells a story of a man (lets call him Fred) who owed billions to a king.  His debt was so great that in a lifetime, he could never pay back what he owed.  The king calls Fred in and asks him to pay up.  Of course Fred can't pay so he falls on his knees and begs for mercy.  Miraculously, the king has a change of heart and decides to not kill Fred but to instead forgive his entire debt.  Fred leaves the palace completely forgiven and debt free!

You'd think Fred would go home and write the king a thank you note.  Maybe even send him a Starbucks gift card or a box of chocolates.  But no.  On his way home, Fred runs into a buddy (lets call him Tom) who owes him a pittance - maybe ten bucks.  He asks Tom for the money, but Tom doesn't have his wallet.  He tells Fred, "Sorry man.  I don't have it today, but I'll catch you the next time I see you."  In that moment, Fred does the unthinkable.  He grabs Tom, starts choking him, and demands payment on the spot.  Tom falls to his knees and begs for mercy, but heartless Fred refuses and instead has Tom thrown into prison until he can pay the debt.

Word gets back to the king who is livid.  He brings Fred back to the palace, rakes him over the coals verbally, and in his anger throws into prison to be tortured until he can pay back the debt (which is never).  Jesus concludes the story by saying, "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

It's easy to read this story and think, "What an idiot.  Who behaves like that?"  But it doesn't take much reflection to realize that we all behave like this. The parallel Jesus makes to real life is the debt we owe for our sin.  There is no way to ever repay the billions of ways we sin against a holy and just God. Without Jesus, we are destined for death.  But Jesus takes on human flesh and willingly dies in our place - paying our debt with his blood.  If we choose to receive the salvation Jesus offers, we walk out of God's court room completely forgiven and debt free.

You'd think we'd go home, write Jesus a thank you note and spend the rest of our lives serving Him.  But in our humanness, we so quickly forget.  We run into our nemesis on our way home to write that thank-you.  We forget all we've been redeemed from and instead, remember only what they owe us.  An apology.  Money.  Another chance.  The pain blurs our ability to think clearly and we find ourselves refusing to extend forgiveness.  Forgiveness is a choice.  We either choose to forgive.  Or we refuse.  There is no "I'm going to think about it."  We forgive.  Or we don't.

Forgiveness is also a command.  Jesus makes it clear as he concludes his story that if we want to call ourselves Followers of Jesus, forgiving others is part of the game plan.  Jesus empowers you to forgive the person who is supposed to love you unconditionally, but all they give is pain.  Jesus empowers you to forgive the person who cheated you.  To forgive the person who owes you money.  To forgive the person who betrayed you.  To forgive the person who abandoned you.  Choosing to forgive is one of those "deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow" moments.  Obeying is painful, but it's part of following Jesus.

My assigned reading in Genesis continued the theme of forgiveness.  It just happened to be the end of the story of Jacob and Esau, two brothers who spent their entire lives fighting and deceiving one another.  Their rivalry and bitterness got so bad that Jacob ended up running for his life.  Years later (and where I picked up the story today), the two brothers cross paths.  Jacob is terrified for his life so he sends his servants ahead of him with loads of gifts to pacify Esau.  With his family divided into groups, Jacob fearfully and timidly approaches Esau.  But Esau "ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him.  And they wept."  What a beautiful story.

Esau chose to forgive Jacob and his warm reception thawed Jacob's fearful heart.  The brothers shared an intimate afternoon reconnecting, but then they went their separate ways.  They opted not to travel together or live by each other.  The pain from years of dysfunction was too great to allow for frequent interaction.  Sometimes forgiving requires distance.  Jacob and Esau chose boundaries and put physical distance between them to enable their relationship to function well.  They were smart about the way they reconstructed their relationship and they didn't allow a history of pain to be an excuse not to extend forgiveness.

I'm going to bed mulling this over and asking God to examine my heart. I want to proudly bear the name "Follower of Jesus" even if it means taking the hard road.  What about you?  Is there anyone you need to forgive?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Treasures From the Word Stilp-Kid Style

It's been so fun for our family to be reading through the Bible together.  We get bragging rights for being the first ones done reading that day, hold each other accountable, and talk about what we're learning.  Here are some of my favorites so far.
Katie Joy

Katie (9 years old) is tackling the entire Bible this year.  She's reading five chapters a day on top of going to school, doing homework, and playing.  It's a big time commitment.  She has been frustrated a few times already about the necessity of fulfilling the reading assignment each day so it doesn't pile up and become a hopeless task.  (This is actually something we're all struggling with - it's hard to find a new rhythm.)

Last Friday we had a pizza and movie night.  All the kids invited a friend and it was a full-on party at the Stilp house.  Shortly after we started the movie, Katie singled Curt out to talk to him.  "Dad I feel torn.  I want to watch the movie but I haven't read my Bible yet.  I really don't want to have to read ten chapters tomorrow and I know if I watch the movie, it will be time for bed when it's done.  I don't want to be rude to my friend, but can I go read my Bible instead?"  Seriously?  We were blown away.

She came back downstairs 30 minutes later with a huge smile on her face to tell me about her "good choice."  Putting God first filled her with obvious joy, left her feeling capable of tackling the challenge the following day, and enabled her to enjoy the rest of the movie night with her friend.  Way to go Katie!  She's also been highlighting verses she likes and sharing them with me.  I'm always surprised at how much the kids actually grasp from what they're reading.
 Grant Andrew

Grant (10 1/2 years) is tackling the Bible for a second go-round this year.  Last year he jumped around a bit and the lack of structure wasn't very fulfilling.  Always the logical one, Grant looked at me last year and said, "Mom.  I just don't get it.  I already read the entire Bible.  Every word.  Why do I have to read it again?"  It prompted good discussion about how the Word of God is living and active and never returns void.  He could read it a million times and learn something new every time.  Now that Grant is starting to understand this concept, he's committed to the Bible reading plan for this year.  He's been getting up 30 minutes early every school day to read, but hasn't had a lot to say yet about what he's learning.  I know he looks forward to the battle scenes and all the detailed architectural plans.
Paige Elizabeth

Paige (5 years) is begging off this year since she only learned to read a few months ago.  At the rate her reading is progressing, she'll be joining us next year in the New Testament though.  She brings her Bible to church every week though and tries to follow along.  She loves memorizing the Bible verses and is starting read her picture Bible more and more.  It's pretty cute how even as a five-year-old, she still follows Jesus.

Alli (7 1/2 years) is reading the New Testament.  She refused to start reading until she had a paper chart to cross off the chapters on each day.  The only problem with this idea was that she didn't get a chart until January 7th, meaning she started the year with a seven chapter deficit.  She sat down on Sunday afternoon with her Bible and an audience of baby dolls and read out-loud the first seven chapters of Matthew using drama and character voices.  It was the full shabang and it was really cute.
Alli Claire

The next day, Sarah overhead Alli and Grant talking.  He was about to ask me what was for dinner.  Alli, armed with her new knowledge of the sermon on the mount - particularly the part where Jesus reminds his followers to not worry about what to eat or wear - confidently instructed Grant.  "We are not supposed to worry about what to eat or drink, so don't ask mom what we're having for dinner."

How about you?  What is God teaching you through His Word?  Happy reading.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Psalm 10:14

My friend and former across-the-street-neighbor, Pete, lost his battle with cancer yesterday.  He left behind a wife, two sons in late elementary school/early junior high, and nephews and nieces that he played a big part in raising.  His absence leaves a huge hole.

Shortly after I found out about Pete I sat down to read my Bible.  Numb emotionally, I pushed through the assigned reading even though I was comprehending little.  When I got to Psalm 10 I started paying attention.

David was clearly in a bad mood when he wrote it.  My heart resonated with him as he complained about how tough his life was and how it always seems like the good guys lose and the bad guys win.  It's how I felt about losing Pete and Krista within two months of each other.  NOT FAIR.  It would be easy to make the assumption that God doesn't care.

But verse 14 says, "But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand.  The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless."  And with that promise, my mood lightened if only a little bit.  I can't think of a better helper for Mason and Kyle, now fatherless, than God Himself.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Is Fear Stealing From You?

I had to weight my gloves down to keep them from
blowing off the track...
Today's required marathon training said "4 x 800."  I added "whatever that means" to my calendar when I entered it in.  A little research revealed I was supposed to find a track and run four 800's, alternating a lap of walking to cool down in between.  I'm supposed to run each 800 in 3 minutes and 30 seconds if I want a chance at achieving my marathon time goal.

The idea of trying something new both fascinated and terrified me.  Can I really just walk onto the high school track and start running?  What if the school administration kicks me off?  What if my kids see me out their school window (it borders the track) and get embarrassed?  What if some of the parents see me huffing and puffing and I get embarrassed?  What if I'm really slow?  What if, what if, what if...

Before I took my first sip of coffee I'd talked myself out of trying.  I texted Carissa, "Thinking about subbing out speed work for the bike at the gym.  Do you really just go to a school track and start running?  Don't they kick you off?"  Smart girl that she is, she called me back and gave me a pep talk.  She offered the option of doing the speed work on the treadmill  - an option she KNEW I wouldn't take since I abhor the treadmill - and then told me she really wanted me to at least try it to see how it felt.  

After we talked I decided I would indeed try this thing called speed work.  I want to cross off all those little boxes on the marathon training chart and I don't want to cheat.  Every mile counts, right?

This morning was uncharacteristically cold and sunny.  Vibrant blue skies, bright sunshine, and blow-you-over wind gusts greeted me as I got out of my van.  I had full on butterflies-in-my-stomach as I tried to saunter onto the track and act like I knew what I was doing.  Timidly, I ran a 1/2 mile warm up then set myself up at an imaginary starting line.

Memories of competing on the 7th grade track team washed over me.  I could almost hear my Dad yelling, "Run Tweedle Dee.  They're closing on you!" Just like that, I was reminded all over again of why I love running.  The cold air turning your nose and cheeks red.  The wind blowing you sideways (okay - that part I didn't like but it sounds good).  The mental and physical challenge to beat yourself at your own game.  The adrenaline that surges as you wait for the gun to go off.  The explosive push for the finish that defies explanation but just happens.  I could live off that rush all day.  It was awesome!

This morning I almost let fear of the unknown rob me of a special treat.  What a waste that would have been.  Is fear stealing something special from you?  Why not get out there and try something new today.  You can do it.  Happy adventuring!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Headed for the Eugene Marathon

I just signed up to run the Eugene marathon on April 29th.  I've only run two marathons and both times, after I finished, I swore I would never run another one again.  A marathon is too far.  Too draining.  Too challenging.

Last summer my running partner-in-crime, Carissa, asked me if I wanted to train with her to run the Portland marathon in the fall.  My quick response was, "No way."  On race day I showed up at the 20 mile marker and screamed my head off as Carissa ran past.
waiting at the 20 mile marker for Carissa to appear

I screamed my head off again at mile 26.1.  By that point, she looked totally and completely miserable but she was on pace to reach her goal of qualifying to run the Boston marathon.  I could hardly stand the suspense and the excitement.  As she ran past on sheer determination alone, I found myself thinking, "Why am I standing on the sidelines?  I want to be running this with her."
Carissa and I after the finish

I gave Carissa a few weeks to recover from her epically fast race and then I broached the subject of running the Eugene marathon together.  We schemed up some grand plans and then left to ask our husbands to endorse them since they both know how to ground us in reality.  Curt and I ran through the list of spring events and what my training schedule would look like, and then he wholeheartedly gave me his blessing.  Tass and Carissa did the same and we high-fived each other when we knew it was definite yes.

Carissa followed a horrid training program for Portland.  She was so successful following this plan that she is strongly recommending we follow this program together.  It requires running six days a week with the mileage building each week.  The runs are broken down into speed work, hill work, tempo runs, long runs, and pace runs.  It also has three training weeks where 50 miles of running is required!  If I actually stick to this program, I'll be in the best shape of my life by the time all is said and done.

I have never followed a training program for a race.  The closest I've come is researching the suggested distances for the long runs on the weekends, putting those on the calendar as a non-negotiable and making sure I run two more times at some point during the week.  I kind of like being a running rebel.

Keeping track of pace, running hills, doing speed work, and "tempo runs" give me a headache.  It took me an hour just to enter the schedule into my calendar. I wrote on many occasions "whatever that means" as I copied in the training program, but Carissa assures me that if I just read the directions, I'll understand what to do.

Call me crazy but I am stoked to train for this race.  I figure if Carissa can run six days a week, so can I.  And maybe if I match her stride for stride in training, I'll actually be able to keep up with her on race day.  Maybe that's why I'm saying it out loud - so you guys can hold me accountable to not quit in two weeks when I'm sick of running so much.

sun breaking through the morning fog

My first long run was today.  I couldn't help but think as I begrudgingly shoved off to run for an hour and a half, "It's only going to get worse."  Surprisingly I felt completely equipped for the required mileage.  There just might be value in following the coach's instructions...

country road on my run today

Newberg is so beautiful, especially as seen from the side of the road on a run.  I got a new phone for Christmas and have thoroughly enjoyed taking pictures of the beauty that God sends my way when I run.  I decided to post these photos on my blog so you can see a huge part of the reason why I run.  It will be like bringing you with me on a run.  I know I'll need the company.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Big Day

Paige on Christmas morning
My daughter Paige has long, golden-blonde hair.  Shiny, thick, fast-growing, and tangle resistant, she gets frequent compliments on how beautiful it is.  A few months ago when my friend paid Paige a compliment about her hair, she flipped it over her shoulder and confidently declared, "I know.  Dunna never tut it."  Her hair has become one of the things that defines who Paige is.  I truly thought she'd be one of those little girls who just always had long hair.

Krista and her family
But something changed when my friend Krista lost her battle with cancer two months ago.  Our entire family was impacted by her death.  Concern for Krista's little girls and her husband has laced bedtime prayers.  Multiple questions about cancer, treatment, and death have been addressed.  Somewhere in the middle of all this, I mentioned Locks of Love to Paige. A non--profit organization, Locks of Love makes wigs for children suffering from cancer and other diseases that cause hair loss.  Donations start at a minimum of ten inches of hair.

Paige's hair was flirting with the waist of her jeans, but she's only five years old.  Ten inches on a five-year-old body is pretty much her entire back.  To cut it would be a huge sacrifice.  Her initial response was no way.  I think she even repeated, "Dunna never tut it."
that's some long hair

But over time Paige's heart changed.  What better way to share than to give your most valued possession?  Paige told me a few weeks ago that she wanted to cut her hair - at least ten inches - and give it to Locks of Love.  "I know it will make some little girl really happy," she said.

I made the appointment two weeks ago.  It gave me time to silently grieve the loss of her beautiful hair and Paige time to make sure she really wanted to go through with it.  Yesterday she told several people, "Today is my last day with long hair.  I'm donating it tomorrow to give to a child with cancer who needs a wig."  This morning at breakfast she said, "I have three big things today: library, donating my hair, and a play date with Paige O."  Her enthusiasm enabled me to join in her excitement.

Paige got off the kindergarten bus and we headed out to see Miss Gabby at Down to Details.  She pranced into the salon so excited that she could barely stand still.  I took a video of her before she got it cut.  Her voice is barely audible, but she makes it known just exactly why she's cutting her hair.  Gabby measured out Paige's hair and put a ponytail holder at the ten inch mark.  I took a video as Gabby chopped and chopped and chopped with her sharp scissors to get through the mass of thick hair.  I thought I might cry when Paigey turned around, short hair all choppy, and held up the ponytail of what used to be her long hair with a huge smile on her face.
What a sweet girl

Gabby shaped what was left of Paigey's hair into the most adorable A-line bob.  We left the salon and walked down the street to the post office where Paige helped me carefully package up her hair and ship it off to Locks of Love.  The library was on the next block so we walked there and Paige picked out five books.  We ended our afternoon of fun at Jem 100 - a 1960's ice cream shop.  Paige chose a cotton candy ice cream cone to celebrate her generosity.
finished product - pretty cute!

We sat in the red plastic booths and chatted.  Paige did another video interview for me (this one you can hear her a little better) and flipped her new hair around proudly.  She beamed at me across the table and said, "This has been a big day for me.  I shared my hair, I got to go to the library, and I got ice cream as a special treat!"
so proud of you Paigey!

I couldn't help but agree.  It was a big day.  I'm so proud of you Paigey!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Thoughts on Proverbs 2 - Guest Post by Curt Stilp

celebrating fourteen years of marriage

My very studly, funny and Godly husband, Curt, is the guest author for today's post.  We decided to read the Bible through again this year using Solid Rock's Bible reading plan.  This plan is set up to read two chapters from the Old Testament, one chapter from the New Testament, a Psalm and a Proverb each day.  By the end of the year, we'll have read the book of Proverbs 12 times, but it's so rich - it never gets old.  Wanna join us?

Grant (10 years) and Katie (9 years) are joining us on the journey.  Alli (7 years) is tackling the New Testament.  It's so fun to read as a family because we can hold each other accountable.  An added benefit is the table talk reading together produces.  Since we're all reading the same stuff, we dialog about what God is teaching us.  Today's post came from Curt's quiet time this morning.  It totally blessed me.  I know it will bless you too.  Happy reading!

Thoughts on Proverbs 2 From Curt Stilp

Honestly, I think Proverbs chapter 2 is my favorite chapter in all the Bible.  Serious statement, I know but I just love how it clearly lays out the results of not striving after God and the benefits of a life that searches, looks for and seeks out the God who made us.  Below is a little break-down of what this chapter says:

Results of not striving after God: (notice this does not say the results of those who don’t know God or haven’t professed faith in him, it just means that your walk is in-active.  Look at the action words in v2-4)
·         Lack of understanding and knowledge of who God is and what He is up to in your life
·         Lack of wisdom in making decisions
·         Lack of protection and guidance
·         Confusion
·         Perverse ways, crooked paths, dark ways, evil and devious ways
·         Easily falling into traps and giving into temptation
·         Breaking of your covenants (your word means nothing)
·         Death
·         Cut off from God’s blessing, gift, provision and promise (The land represents God’s promise to Israel, his gift, provision and blessing to them)

Benefits or by-products of following God whole-heartedly, looking, searching and seeking him out: (this requires daily action)
·         Understanding and knowledge of who God is, knowing his heart for you and your life
·         Wisdom, success, protection and safety
·         Guidance away from decisions that will harm you
·         Understanding of the right path to take
·         Protection from friendships with people who will lead you in the wrong direction (so important for our kids)
·         Protection from an immoral life that leads to death
·         The continual gift of God’s promise, provision and blessing in your life (remain in the land)

I just love that chapter.  It is so clear that we have a daily choice to be active in our faith or apathetic.