Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Break 2011: Port Townsend

THREE YEARS OF SPRING BREAK ROAD TRIPS



  • Spring Break 2009: Los Angeles, CA (visiting Aunt Dee and Disneyland)


  • Spring Break 2010: Lynden, WA (visiting Hansons, Quines and Meiers, and Trinity)


  • Spring Break 2011: Port Townsend, WA (relaxing w/ Papa & Gran)


Here are some fun memories we made this year:


Hung out on the Dungeness Spit,the longest natural sand spit in the United States.



Visited Victoria, B.C. on a gorgeous day.




Hung out in the condo.




Marveled at Lou's abilities on the magic tablet.


Swam in the bathtub (did not let the 'no kids' rule

deter us from getting our 'hot tub' fix). Found lots of agates on the beach and made use of our front pockets.
Enjoyed a first ferry ride to Victoria, B.C. Taught Gran some new games. Did what we could to help each other out. Satisfied our sweet tooth (thanks to Papa).
Walked and talked (I LOVE this picture!!).

Wiped someone's nose over and over again.


Managed to get a so-so picture of

just me and Andrew... (I'll take it!!)

Threw pieces of wood in the waves and watched what happens to them.
Overall, this was a really fun trip!



Wondering where next Spring Break will take us?


If the trend continues (notice how the distance we travel keeps getting shorter and shorter year by year), we might end up doing like the Chupps did this year and just rent a room at a hotel down the road.

Down the road. Hhmmmm....

That still makes it a road trip, right? Haha. Just kidding, Andrew.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Volcanoes and Rainbows

Brielle's teacher Mrs. A sent the parents an email last weekend to let us know that on Wednesday morning, the kindergarteners were going to 'erupt' the volcanoes they'd been working on. The parents were invited to come and watch, and so I planned to be there and videotape the event since Andrew and Isaiah would be sad to miss it.


When I walked in the kindergarten classroom on Wednesday morning, Mrs. A had changed the room around so that the tables were facing the entrance, neatly displaying the volcanoes that had been labeled with the names the students had given them. Brielle hadn't told me what she had named her volcano...but it only took me a few seconds to spot hers . "Mt. Rainbow, of course!" I said to no one in particular. Mrs. A heard me and was impressed. How did I know?


Are you kidding me? We're talking about the little girl who asked for a rainbow for her 6th birthday!! I had smiled at the time and had told Brielle that I wasn't God and that only He could make the rainbow appear in the sky.



I didn't suggest we should pray for a rainbow, either...thinking it might be too risky.


What if He didn't have time to listen to the whims of a child? What then? What would she think of God then?





Thankfully, God is bigger than the box I mentally put Him in sometimes. We didn't pray for a rainbow, but He provided one a couple of days after her birthday party anyway. My neighbor Belinda and I were outside in our driveways chatting with each other when Belinda spotted it behind me. I turned around and was astounded by its proximity and clarity! It had to be a gift! I ran in to announce its coming to my sweet Brielle. We ran back out with camera in hand and took this picture of it so we wouldn't forget.




This rainbow taught me something so simple yet so profound...that is, that God loves to shower us with gifts that bring Him glory. Even if it was without knowing it, Brielle had asked for a gift only He could give. She'd announced to her loved ones that she delighted in His design of the rainbow. I can't help but think that He was honored by that request...and responded with the gift.

In her asking He was glorified... and in the giving He was also glorified.

Now everytime I hear Brielle sing the rainbow song she learned in Kindergarten, I remember to thank Him for intervening in the affairs of a 6 year old. In her mind's eye, God has proven Himself to be the Lord of Creation and the loving Shepherd of her heart.




"Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet.

These are the colors of the rainbow, pouf pouf!"



I also find myself singing the following song straight out of James that we used to sing in college (Trinity Western University up in Langley, B.C.):



Father of Lights,

You delight in your children

Father of Lights,

You never change, You have no turning.


And every good and perfect gift comes from You (2x)

Father of Lights.



As for Mt. Rainbow, Brielle successfully 'erupted it' that Wednesday morning.


Here's the video:


video

Just by coincidence? I think not.

A few weeks ago, my friend Becky posted on her blog some really fun pictures of her family enjoying this huge pillow some church friends had given them. I loved the pictures because the little kids (and the-not-so-little ones) were clearly enjoying themselves on this monster of a pillow. There were some pretty hilarious shots...and the possibilities seemed endless as to what one could do with such a thing (Becky had a pretty good list going on her post).




It wasn't until after I got to sit on the pillow myself that I became sold on it. Becky and her family invited us over for dinner and a movie a week or so after the pillow post. For ampler seating, her husband Cliff (a.k.a. Buster) pulled out the pillow from somewhere (who knows where they manage to store it =). After a few moments of enjoying its cushyness, I let my imagination run wild with all the ways we could use it at home. Andrew seemed to be thinking the same thing because he asked our friends where they think he could find a pillow like it. They told us they'd researched and had found out that they were pretty spendy.

Oh, I thought. Well, forget that.

That was Friday.

Then came Sunday.


I had had to leave church in the middle of the service 30 minutes earlier that morning to help a friend in need. I had barely made it back to the church foyer to hear the last few minutes of the sermon...and so decided to stay in the foyer with my charge (my friend's 8 year old son) and listen in from there.

It so happened that Peter Hamilton was sitting at the table next to mine. Peter was the friend of ours who had gifted our friends with the monster pillow. He owns a furniture warehouse and had received the pillow in the mail as a promotional freebie. He had no use for it. That's why he'd gifted our friends.

Clearly, I hadn't forgotten about the pillow...because I decided to ask him if he knew how much a pillow like the one he'd given Becks and Buster would cost...and where I'd be able to find one. He didn't know, but he generously agreed to look into it for me.

I didn't even tell him to 'not worry about it' as would have been the right thing to do. I felt embarrassed about it later when I realized it.


At dinnertime on Monday, the phone rang and Andrew picked it up.


It was Peter and he had pretty awesome news: another promotional pillow had just come in the mail that day...and he was pretty sure he had found a home for it. =)


No way!! Really?? Andrew and Peter exchanged some what-are-the-chances words.


Apparently, my inquiry couldn't have been more timely. Just by coincidence? I think not.

Peter told Andrew he'd drop off the pillow at church for us to pick up later. The pillow would be in its compacted form in a box 1/4 its size. I thought it sounded manageable enough so I headed over to the church a couple of days later to pick it up. As I headed to where it would be, I ran into none other than Peter, who knew exactly why I was there. Just by coincidence? I think not.


And it's a really good thing he was there because I had not expected the box to be so heavy and...well, so boxy. Peter kindly went over the instructions with me and then carried the box to my car.


I drove home in marvel at how God had worked out all the details. My friend's call for help, my prompt return, Peter sitting at the foyer table next to mine, my timely inquiry, the package arriving in the mail the very next day, the helping hands to load the box in the car several days later, everything. It couldn't have been all just by coincidence?

I know. I get it. It's just a pillow.


But by choosing to see it this way...by believing God wanted us to get this pillow, I've become more watchful for the ways He might use it to bring glory to Himself. I'm beyond thinking up of the practical and silly uses this pillow might have to imagining the spiritual and relational possibilities. Will it be instrumental in providing a cool connection with neighborhood kids? Will it be the comfortable spot for mother and child to have an impromptu yet meaningful conversation?


I don't know. God knows. Maybe He just wanted to provide a safe landing for any mishaps on the garage rings. And I'm thankful for that if that's all it is. And even that gives Him glory. Maybe He wanted to gives us a glimpse of His love. And He's accomplished that already..and I glorify His name.


And I'm thankful...


And I'm watchful for any other opportunities to glorify Him through this...this...monster of a pillow.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Our New Game Cabinet

A few weeks ago, Andrew gave me an idea.

He opened our pantry door, and as he did, he shared outloud what he probably thought could only be wishful thinking. He told me that it would be so cool if the pantry was actually our game cabinet. I knew he'd been wishing for such a cabinet near our dinner table for a while...but like me, wasn't willing to crowd our kitchen nook with yet another piece of furniture. So, one recent Monday, when I clearly had better things to do, I decided to reorganize my kitchen and see if I couldn't somehow make his insane idea come true. With a few minor changes, I was able to fit most everything (tight but manageable) in my kitchen cabinets.

I also changed the living room around so we could keep our card table out more permanently...and so that we essentially can have a gaming area whenever we want (or a computer lab).


So now that we've got the games so accessible and a great spot to play them, it's time to have us some company for game night! Spring Break, maybe?

Pokemon Surprise



For whatever reason, Isaiah has found a new interest: Pokemon cards. Again I'm not sure why....but he's recently been reading up on Pokemon and basically studying that whole phenomenon (if I can call it that). Instead of the classics I'd love for him to get from the library, he's been meeting me at the check out with a bunch of Pokemon books under his arm. I've tried to hide my disappointment, thinking this phase will soon pass.


Nope.

Wrong!

He's only gotten more interested over the last several weeks...

Thanks to his buddy Weston, he's moved on from wanting to read about Pokemon to wanting to play the game..or at least own some cards to eventually be able to play the game. Weston told him how his parents got him a bunch of cards off of Craigslist and how they are slowly giving them to him as payment for chores he's been doing around the house. Andrew got wind of that and liked the idea (at least the part about paying for chores with cards. ;) He found a good deal on 40+ Pokemon cards off of Ebay. He and Isaiah watched closely the last few seconds of the auction to ensure they'd get the winning bid. They did. Of course.



Excited and feeling rather impatient, Isaiah decided to put some of his own money down so that he could get a portion of the 40+ cards without having to work for them. Andrew let him...but not without turning the handing over of cards into a game...what I lovingly call...


The Pokemon Surprise!

Anticipating Isaiah's every move over the last few weeks, Andrew has found great pleasure in planting Pokemon cards here and there for Isaiah to discover. So far, Isaiah has found a card in a Ziploc bag in the yogurt container (because he always has yogurt and granola after AWANA), under his alarm clock the night of Daylight Savings, in his church notebook, under the remote control, in his Bible...etc. Andrew's good at keeping Isaiah guessing where his next plant will be. It's been fun to watch Isaiah's reaction. I've also been impressed with some of Andrew's ideas. Clever man.




As had been agreed earlier, Isaiah has also been receiving cards as payment for doing extra chores. He's cleaned the bathrooms, watered the plants, and cleaned the garage for cards. He vacuumed the garage floor for the first time today and LOVED it! He thought it was such a great deal to get a card for doing something he actually likes! He went as far as suggesting he'd be willing to vacuum later on without getting payment of any sort. Wow!!






















So, I've really come around. I've actually been able to see the positives of this "phase":


  1. Andrew has been able to make this phase more about their relationship than about Pokemon.

  2. Isaiah is more eager than ever to be on top things with his belongings and responsibilities... per chance he might stumble on a card...just maybe...

  3. It's been SSSWEEET to have Isaiah ask me regularly if there's anything he could do to help me around the house.

  4. Every time I see a Pokemon card around here, I use it as a reminder to pray for Japan (Pokemon was created by a Japanese man named Satoshi Tajiri in 1996). Since Isaiah tends to carry them around a lot, I've been getting plenty of reminders!

  5. Isaiah has yet to see a Pokemon episode. He's more interested in reading up on the different Pokemon and their 'stats' than anything else...and maybe eventually play the game (whatever that means). At least, that's the case for now...and I'll take it!

Honestly...who knew I'd be so positive about Pokemon cards?















Friday, March 4, 2011

Thankfulness

Like many other readers, I am digesting Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts these days ( currently #9 on New York Times Bestsellers' list). My friend Kara first told me about it last week--that's how much I keep current with the NYT's list. Haha! She tried to summarize the main thrust of the book for me (and I think she did a pretty good job at that)..and then decided to lend it to me.

I am thoroughly enjoying it so far (thank you , Kara)!

I'm not at all saying that it has been an easy read (I'm on chapter 5)...or that I haven't had to wrestle with some of the stuff Voskamp suggests. I can totally understand how this book has become so controversial in Christian circles. And I am fairly certain that some of the people I respect greatly would feel uneasy about it. And about me reading it and enjoying it.

But, besides the fact that Voskamp writes so beautifully and vulnerably--which I absolutely love, I have enjoyed this book because it elevates thankfulness to its proper place in our lives as believers. Some might say she overemphasizes its importance...or isn't clear enough about Whom we should thank, but I beg to differ. I think she's giving us a vivid example of what it means to 'put off' discontentment by 'putting on' thankfulness (Colossians 3:5-17). And she does so in a very poetic way. In the likeness of her Maker, who happens to be the Author of the Psalms, Proverbs, Songs of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes...and all the major and minor prophets' writings.

What's more, Paul's writings are peppered with admonitions to 'be thankful'. He concludes his passage on 'putting off the old self" and 'putting on the new' with these verses:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

Colossians 3: 15-17

It seems to me that thankfulness can help drive away a lot more than just discontentment....for why would Paul hone in on it after giving us the admonition to put off all sorts of evil practices? The list that Paul gives of evil practices in verse 8 of the same chapter isn't pretty: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech.

No. I don't think Voskamp overemphasizes thanksgiving, or Eucharisteo as she describes it. I think it's just so against our nature to be thankful...and so we need to really practice it. Over and over again...until it becomes second nature. Until we can see God's goodness in every little thing and be able to honestly... give thanks.

As for the Recipient of our thanks, I feel she states it plainly enough throughout her book. She clearly points to the cross early on in the book..and has mentioned the work of Christ several times already and I'm only on chapter 5. I'll keep looking for those. Hopefully, I'll feel the same way about her book after I'm done reading the last page.

Side note: My 6-year-old daughter apparently does not need to read this book. She's got thankfulness down pat. She starts every prayer with 'Thank you, God, for....' with no distinction whatsoever between what we would call a hardship and what we would appreciate as a blessing. We have had the tendency to want to correct her and tell her she needs to change her thanksgiving to a prayer request...when clearly it is a prayer request.

I've tried to back off lately...and let her do her thing.

Just this last week, she had a stomach bug that left her little bottom raw because of all the visits to the restroom. After a therapeutic soak and the usual bedtime routine, it was time to pray. She asked to pray first. Her very first line? "Thank you, God, for my bottom." I smiled right away..and then, as I thought about it some more, I started giggling. She opened her eyes and we exchanged a knowing look. She had done it again. And it was silly.

But it wasn't silly. It was perfect. Without knowing it, she was thanking God for a trial (James 1:2-4). And if her bottom hadn't been raw, to say such a thanks would have been just as much a blessing to me. She would essentially be saying, "Thank you God for the way You made me." Oh, I pray she will continue to pray the way she does...and that she'd really mean it too. That she'd really 'get it'. That I'd 'get it'.

Here's where I begin my thankful list, the 1,000 gifts:
1. I thank God for my sweet little girl who has taught me so much in more ways than one.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A New Skill

I've been wanting to acquire a new skill lately.



I haven't been able to narrow down what exactly I'm talking about except that I want to be purposeful in setting time aside to learn something within a community of learners. It could be sewing lessons. Pottery-making classes. A computer class. A writing class (been seeing the need for that ever since I started this blog). Anything that sounds invigorating to me, that fits my person and builds on my current abilities. Something perhaps that gives me a creative or physical outlet.



2 things need to be addressed before I go on.



First of all, I'm not purporting that I'm in need of 'me time'. Although I agree with, even embrace God's idea of sabbath, I don't agree with today's notion that we need to look out for ourselves first. And I'm not trying to sound cavalier about it, as though I'm some kind of Energizer Bunny. I just know how selfish I am as a human being and how quickly something that might start off as a well-needed break from my duties as a mother and wife can become the focus of my life, the thing that defines me. The thing I look forward to every week. As though the rest should be merely tolerated. 'Me time' can be a dangerous phrase for me...



Secondly, I've been made aware of the fact that I can be a learner day in and day out... and never have to step into a classroom. God is continually offering us opportunities for learning through the life experiences He brings our way. Even the mundane and the ordinary have a place in the 'classroom' of life, if we're purposeful at looking for the lessons He's trying to teach us. I get that...and I don't want to minimize how much I've learned over the years just by serving... and faithfully continuing to serve....my family, my church, my friends. And I want to continue making that a priority and focus in my life...to learn and acquire wisdom through the gifts God gives me daily.

Gordon T Smith says, "When we ask what will enable us to 'fan to flame the gift of God (2 Tim 1:6 NIV), there is no doubt that a critical means by which this happens is through intentional, mindful, continuous learning."



Still, I feel the need to learn a new skill. To engage body, soul, and mind in a new activity...in a new setting. I want to feel better equipped to serve my family and others.


The question is, "What skill?"

Clearly, this is...

To be continued...

Accepting My Limitations

Here are some quotes from Gordon T. Smith's book Courage and Calling that helped me think through why it's often hard for me to say 'no'.


The freedom to accept our limitations is evidenced in the ability to say 'no'. Many people experience life as one continual burden simply because they are trying to do too much. We accept more than we can possibly do well; we respond to the requests or needs of others, knowing that we are being driven not by 'a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline' (2 Tim 1:7), but by some other propensity.



It it helpful to discern what prevents us from saying no. Some of us fear rejection, and our longing for acceptance drives us to do more than we should attempt to do. Others among us long for a sense of importance. If we are busy, if we are doing many things for many people, we feel worthwhile, important, and in control; we feel needed. Still others simply do not know what they are being called to do, and they seem to think that if they do as much as possible they will hit upon what it is that they should be doing!



The inability to say no inevitably leads to frustration. We can never do enough to feel that we have done what is necessary to gain acceptance or feel important. It is hopeless. Our only hope is to come back to a clarity of purpose and call, a sense of who we are and of what we are being called to do in this place at this time. We need to come back to clarity about what is important. And there will be many days when regaining clarity is all that we do. But at least we did what was important.


On a different...but similar topic...


God often calls people to the obscure, the ordinary and the mundane. He accomplishes some of his most important work in the world through ordinary people doing ordinary things. We should not merely tolerate this ordinariness; rather we must embrace and even celebrate it. Some of us miss our vocation because we are looking for the heroic. We fail to accept the limitations of life and the fact that God's work through us is often in the small and the ordinary. We also fail to realize that the work we are called to do will often be very difficult and that things we accomplish will happen slowly and incrementally. We are not heroes; we are merely people who are doing our best in our day-to-day work.