Saturday, April 30, 2011

Three's a Charm

Playing point guard.

Popular wisdom contends that good things come in threes. Although I don't usually adhere to such wisdom, I feel like Brielle's basketball experience this morning offered a strong case for it.

Getting back in defense.

Showing off her toughness.
 It was Brielle's third game and she got three rebounds (which earned her three Pokemon cards), attempted three baskets, and got three ouchies (on a knee, an elbow, and chin). For her, all those were very good things. She played well for the little sprite that she is..and never cried when she fell headlong as she sprinted back to play defense. The coach kept her in the whole entire game and she got to bring up the ball several times. Not bad for the little girl who couldn't wait to play basketball so she could wear a jersey, drink from her heart-speckled water bottle, and eat snacks after the game. Her focus has finally shifted to the actual game itself and she's putting up a good fight for the smallest player on the court! We're proud of you, Miss Sunshine!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Beautiful Things

One of the things that helped me get back into exercise this spring was buying a new album titled Beautiful Things by Gungor. I stumbled upon it while reading Justin Taylor's blog. Although I may not agree with every single thought put forward in the lyrics, I am absolutely in love with Gungor's music. Since I am merely a music appreciator, I couldn't do this album justice if I tried to describe its musical elements, but you can read Zach Nielsen's live blog about it here. I have honestly been so moved by this album that I want to listen to it not only while I exercise, but while I clean, while I shower, while I play with the kids, while I blog, and especially while I worship during my personal devotions.  I'm aware that I'll probably tire of it soon if I keep this up...but I don't care. It was only $5 for the mp3 version at Amazon (and is if you feel like you need something new to listen to...) and I know Michael Gungor has put out other albums.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I Got the Job!

Don't you love it when God gently drops the most timely, the most perfect gift in your lap? And don't you feel like kicking yourself when you fail to see it as such at first?

That's what I felt like doing last night (kicking myself) as I headed home after my interview with the school board at Cor Deo Christian Academy. I hadn't realized until then just how much I wanted to work with these kind and godly people, just how exciting it would be to get back in the classroom, just how much I really wanted to brush up on my Spanish, just how perfect this part-time job would be for me and my family at this particular stage of life. Of course, I had thought and prayed about it before applying in the first place. But I just didn't see it fully for what it was....a wonderful gift of love from the One who's taken me this far in my journey...this far in my family's journey.

So, as you can imagine, it didn't take me very long to say 'yes' when the principal called me an hour or so later to offer me the position. First though, I had to apologize for my husband's antics.  Andrew, thinking it was Mrs. Chupp calling, had answered with a feigned raspy voice and then had handed me the phone without waiting to hear who was on the other end. I was mortified to hear Mr. Hanson's voice on the line, apologizing for calling so late. Clearly, Mr. Hanson had just met the it-is-evening-and-the-Chupps-are-calling Andrew. Yup, that's my man.  And my man wasn't even close to being sleepy because it-is-evening-and-my-team-is-playing-well Andrew was fully energized by the Blazers' performance in game 3. We were all feeling rather light-hearted and chatty actually so that when Mr. Hanson called, he was not interrupting but only adding to the excitement. As he and I briefly discussed what's to happen next in the hiring process, I could hear Isaiah calling out for a detention slip for his dad who'd tried to dupe the principal. I could barely hold myself together and sound somewhat professional before hanging up and bursting into laughter from all the pent up energy.

So, yes. I got the job! I'm teaching Spanish at my kids' school next year. And I know it'll be a blessing. Oh I know there'll be some hard things that'll come up...but those are also gifts, aren't they?

Today, on this sunny Good Friday morning, as I think of my Savior being condemned to death on a cross, beaten to a pulp, and forced to carry his burden to Golgotha, I am overwhelmed by his love for me, his love for this broken world.

He got the job and became the most timely, the most perfect gift to us all.
He got the job and could say at the end of the day, "It is finished".
He got the job and set the ultimate example of what it means to be a good and faithful Servant.
He got the job so that when I get the job, He can use it to grow me and conform me to His image.
He got the job....and I'm forever thankful.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

In Collector Mode

For a while now, Andrew, Isaiah, and Brielle have shared a love for collecting things. Currently, somewhere in our house (mostly in Isaiah's closet) one can stumble upon an acorn collection, feather collection, coin collections, world currency collection, rock collections, sports card collection, pokemon card collections, sticker collection, elephant toy figure collection, world doll collection, silly banz collection, map collection and many others.

I'v recently tried to get in collector mode for my family's sake. I'm usually too eager to rid our house of any doubles and triples, and generally have a low tolerance for clutter. I could blame our limited space for these purging tendencies or say I tend to think 'less is more', but I think there's more to it than that. If I'm honest, the real hangup for me is that I want our home to look nice and collections don't always fit the decor. I've come to realize recently that that's pretty selfish...when clearly the rest of the family would love to have their collections displayed. Wouldn't that make this house feel more like home to them?

So, here's what I've purposed in my heart. I have decided to not only look for ways to better display their collections, but also start up a family collection we can all help grow. Yes, that's right. I've officially joined their ranks. We now have a bottle collection in plain sight above the kitchen cabinet and I'm the main contributor. It's not impressive and doesn't fit the kitchen decor...but that's how I want it.

I know it's a pretty minor concession, but it feels good to die to self like this. In lieu of seeking the praise of outsiders I am making a better home for the people who actually live here. It doesn't have to be about me anymore and that's how it should be. a way, it still is about me. Or at least, it's about God slowly teaching me to be a better homemaker by exposing my selfish motives in the day to day stuff. It's God sanctifying me....little by little. It's God helping me to follow His example as the Servant.

It's learning to be in collector mode because that's what we do here, and not because others will think it's so cool or because it's fashionable.

Andrew's Meditations on the Book of Ruth

Ruth and I

We came from a people far from Your blessing,
From idolatrous Moab born of incest.

She left her father her mother her gods her land, to come to a people she did not know.
Your purpose for me was the same.

We met You and You brought us under Your wings,
You placed us among Your maids.

Who am I that You have taken thought of me, that You care for me?
Your kindness and comfort extended to her—foreign as she was.

We were loved by You, and were chosen by You,
Undeserving as we were.

She came to Your feet seeking redemption, You accepted her with joy.
You spread Your covering over me.

We are Your bride,
Brightly bejeweled adorned in white.

I am now of You, You have called me an heir.
Her inheritance was graciously restored.

She and I were not a people, But now we are the people of God.
She and I had not received mercy, But now You have shown mercy to us.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Filling April with Easter Celebrations

A couple of weeks ago, a friend in our Bible study asked me what Easter traditions we do with the kiddos...and I realized as I went through the list of activities that it was time to spruce up and bolster our traditions because the meaning of Easter is even more central to our faith than that of Christmas. So...although I'm sure our kiddos will still enjoy...

our Resurrection eggs,

dyeing eggs, 

 going to Super Saturday at Uncle Jim's church,

 participating in Easter egg hunts,

and going to Good Friday and Easter Sunday services...

...we are now also...

 going through an Easter Devotional, using Ann Voskamp's Easter Tree template
and devotional that you can get for free here.

cooking Easter Tomb Cookies the day before Easter (recipe here).

going through the Stations of the Cross at Southwest Hills Baptist Church on Good Friday.

I love filling April with Easter activities.
 I love making the Love of our Savior a daily focus.
 I love making Easter a bigger deal than Christmas.
I'm thankful for all the resources out there to help me do that.

Our Real-But-Fake Anniversary

Tomorrow is our real-but-fake anniversary. 

I know it's not exactly catchy, but it's a true statement all the same.We had been engaged only a month or so and we had heard it was much easier for Andrew to bring me into the States as an alien wife than as an alien fiancee. We also knew we needed to speed up the paperwork so that I'd be able to go back to school in September, when I'd have to cross the Cdn-US border on a daily basis.

So, we stood in a living room before a Justice of Peace in Vancouver B.C. on April 16th, 1997, and said our 'I do's'. It was all a bit surreal. We didn't consider it our real wedding, but in a way it was. We knew that we would have to dissolve a marriage if things 'didn't work out' in the next couple of months as we readied ourselves for the July 10th wedding day. Before God, we weren't married...but legally, we were. It was rather odd.

To try to make this civil ceremony somewhat meaningful, I read from Scripture and Melody, Andrew's sister, and her friend Chris Cochrane, our two witnesses, sang a song. I don't think those additions were very memorable because I can't remember either the passage or the song. Oh was worth the try.

We did seal it with a kiss...and hoped for the best.
My, we look so young and hopeful!

I wonder if the Justice of Peace thought it wouldn't last.
If so, little did she know.
Actually, little did we know.

We really did not know how much of God's grace we would need to see us through. But He knew. And He was there every step of the way. He's been faithful all these 14 faithful that we can honestly say we love each other now more than ever.

Both our real-but-fake and our fake-but-real wedding days have come and gone so that yes, we are officially husband and wife before God and man. Yet, it's not those big moments that have made our marriage the real deal. It's the day-by-day stuff. As Paul Tripp puts it in his book What Did You Expect?, "The Character of a marriage is not formed in one grand moment. Things in a marriage go bad progressively. Things become sweet and beautiful progressively. The development and deepening of the love in a marriage happens by things that are done daily; this is also true with the sad deterioration of a marriage."

I'm so thankful for God's daily intervention in our lives as He convicts us of sin and opens our eyes to His work of grace in our own heart and that of our spouse's. I'm so thankful for Andrew's willingness to confess and to forgive. I'm thankful for the many years we have enjoyed together, seeing each other through many growth spurts in our faith. I'm thankful for the many years to come and the opportunities we will have to point each other to the cross. I'm thankful that it only keeps getting better!!

Happy 14th Real-But-Fake Anniversary, Andrew!! I love you so much!!


Monday, April 11, 2011

My Testimony

I've spent a good chunk of this morning writing  a brief summary of my Christian testimony for the application I'm filling out for next year's Spanish teacher position at my kids' school, Cor Deo Christian Academy.

The reason that it's taking me so long to write this brief summary is that I just keep having to pause and 'cry it out' for a while. I am completely overwhelmed by God's love, goodness, compassion, grace towards me, underserving that I was..underserving that I am. 

I want to post it here for His glory and His alone.

Personal Christian Testimony

I was about 8 years old when I first responded to an altar call to pray the sinner’s prayer. The preacher, who had started the church my parents attended, had made me aware of my guilt and my desperate need for Christ. I knew I was a liar and a cheat who had the outward look of a saint, but whose insides were rotting with sin. I wanted to start all over, confess it all, and start fresh… so I went forward.

The problem is, I never really grasped the fullness of God’s grace until much later. I continued to live in guilt as I tried to follow God in my own strength. In a way, I was becoming a Pharisee, because for all appearances, I was a model student of God’s word and a good Christian. Only I knew I wasn’t holy and worried I really wasn’t saved. How could a child of God be so inclined to lie to make herself look better to others? How could I claim to be spiritual when I had such awful thoughts sometimes? Deep down, it was troubling that I couldn’t measure up to God’s standards, however hard I tried. Although it’s disheartening to look back and know that I hadn’t really been taught the full Gospel, I do see God’s hand on my life even at that young age. He clearly had given me a desire to serve and please Him, which kept me out of so much trouble. For this grace, I am so ever thankful.  

My love for the Lord waned in my mid-teens when things at church started to spiral out of control.  It seemed to me that my parents and the church leadership were being too easily swept away by waves of spiritual movements, often focusing on things that really had nothing to do with the Christian walk. Instead of fixing my eyes on Christ, the perfector of my faith (Hebrews 12:2), I looked to my leaders, saw the distractions and the hypocrisy, and became disillusioned.  It all felt so out of control and yet, I was supposed to honor them?  It was a dark time for me in my walk.

Although it wasn’t a conscious decision, I did start letting myself slip. I first turned to food for comfort, but quickly rejected that, did a 180 degrees so that by the time I went to a Christian college at almost 17, I was anorexic.  I got a lot more attention from boys, yet I wasn’t really happy. Deep down I knew I wasn’t pleasing the Lord with this obsession with food and weight loss…so it was hard to spend time in God’s word or to pray. Eventually, with the help of a Christian counselor at Trinity Western University where I studied, I did turn back to Him...but now there was a mar on my record and there was no more pretending.  I was sick and sinful, and everyone knew.  Although I didn’t like it at the time, God used it for good to teach me that it is “‘by grace that we have been saved, through faith; that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8.  I had always known deep down that I couldn’t measure up…but at least I could pretend. Now I couldn’t.  It was God’s grace that pulled me out of the mire and it was His grace that had let others see me in the mire. Now He could finally start conforming me to the image of His son because the image I had projected all these years was broken.

Over the next several years, through the study of His Word, solid teaching and life experiences that brought me to my knees, God slowly nudged me deeper into the beauty of the Gospel so that today I can say assuredly that I’m no longer the Pharisee that I once was, but the sinner beating my breast. I know I’m forgiven not based on my works.  I know I don’t deserve His grace, but He freely gives it because He loves me. I shudder when I think of where I could be if He had left me to my own demise!  He rescued me from so much. How can my response be other than wholehearted gratitude and obedience?

The thing is, I know I will continue to fail Him this side of heaven, but He will never fail me nor forsake me. I want so desperately to honor Him with my life and to bring Him glory, but it’s utterly impossible without His help. That’s why I am so grateful for the Holy Spirit at work in me and for a Savior whose mercies are new every morning.   Great is His faithfulness!!


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Man

My man took a sick day today.
He hesitated, even if there were plenty of reasons why he shouldn't go to work.
That's because he's that kind of man: reliable, hard-working, and persevering.
It was his first sick day of the school year and he honestly might not have taken it if I hadn't pressured him a bit.
Why did I pressure him?
Because he's sick, that's why.
Because his beater of a pickup broke down last Friday and he has been biking to school and back the last two days in the pouring rain for almost an hour one way...and all that, without being in biking shape (who knows the last time he went biking!!).  
Because he is going to be observed tomorrow for his high school endorsement and he needs to be well and alert for that. My thought is 'Rest up today and be back on tomorrow'.
Because he's already done what he set out to do at the beginning of this week, which was to show his kids that he's not going to let a broken down car keep him from making it to work.
Because he can't let his hardest classes (I really mean rough classes) keep him from wanting to use a sub out of pity for her.
Because the forecast said it would possibly hail today. It can't be safe for him to bike in hail, right?!
Because he's an awesome teacher and taking a sick day won't lessen that somehow.
Because I love him and can't bear to think he's having to endure all that while being under the weather.

But I get him. I know why he's not quick to take a sick day.
And I love him for that.
And that makes me all the more thankful for my hard-working man.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Little Nicknamer (Updated)

Upon meeting our family, I don't think it takes anyone very long to realize that Brielle is very special to us.
Of course, right?
We're like most parents:
we LOVE, love, love our kiddos so much it hurts.
But Brielle has a way of drawing us in....of working her magic so that we just can't help but find her delightful. It's really crazy. She doesn't have to say or do much to impress us, It's like... we're under some kind of spell.
Maybe it's because we almost lost her to seizures a couple of times.
The fact that she is still with us is such a gift.
Maybe it's because we've poured so much time and energy into her to get her 'caught up'.
The fact that she's coming along slowly but surely is so rewarding to us.
Maybe it's because she's such a happy little girl who loves life.
The fact that she exclaims with delight over just about anything is so endearing to us.

BUT, what's really cool is that we're not the only ones under the spell. Her big brother Isaiah is also spellbound and has been since she was a toddler. He doesn't seem to hold it against her that Mom and Dad go gaga over her either. I might be wrong, but I think he gets it (this would be the kind of thing that makes my brother refer to Isaiah as The Old Soul).
I'm sure my friend Becky remembers the days when Isaiah would gently pull Brielle's hair ringlets and press his cheek against hers as they sat side by side during our preschool co-op.
When he was about four, we started calling him The Sniffer because we would often catch him leaning over Brielle while sniffing her hair. He took a liking to the nickname and started chasing her around the house, threatening to Sniff-Her.
He still does that kind of thing. Not as often...but I still catch him loving on his sister like that once in a while. What he does do very regularly still is come up with little nicknames for her. He's given her so many nicknames over her lifetime, I'm actually having a hard time remembering them all. But I do remember my favorite ones, so here they are:
  1. Sino (As in, "Jesus loves me, thi s-I- know"...He nicknamed her that when he realized early on that 'sino' was not a word...but rather a term he had he figured he might as well use it! =)
  2. Feathers (Because he loved her 'feathery' hair)
  3. Baby-Crocket-Drop-It (Birthed out of her annoying tendency as a baby to grab things from his hand)
  4. Touchy-uchy-wuchy (Recent one...because she still has a tendency to want to touch/grab things out of his hand, especially his Pokemon cards =)
  5. Sarscophagus or Scarscophagus (Because it's close to sarcophagus???? He hasn't yet been able to explain himself on that one...but he's got a special way of singing this nickname...and she often joins in. Don't ask me. I don't know. It's their 'thing'. )
  6. Sacky (Because she 'sacks' him when they play football)
  7. Sackidoodle (He added 'doodle' to Sacky one time and it stuck. Now he sings, "Sackidoodle went to town, riding on a pony..." or sometimes "Spankidoodle" gets slipped in instead)
  8. Mouss (He says this when he squeezes her cheeks in). 
  9. Moossatoossa (He likes to sing jibberish to the tune "Mickey Mouse". He says he honestly thought it said "Moossatoossa la mi fi petit petit petit, M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E". Right.....)
  10. Mrs. Pants (Because she started losing her pants after she grew out of diapers)
  11. Miss Whiny Pants (I think that one's self-explanatory) 
  12. Yawny (He says he started saying that because she tires easily)
  13. Wabugilla (Instead of "Cinderella")
  14. Flopsy (Because her hair flops when she walks)

The little nicknamer is not so little anymore...but he still loves to shower his sister with his own unique 'terms of endearment'.

So yes, Brielle is special to us....but so is her little nicknamer.