Friday, December 26, 2008

Frankincence and Myrrh

Perhaps I have a long to-do list that I'm ignoring, and perhaps there are better ways to spend my time at the moment... But that's just the way I roll today.

My mother-in-law (lovingly referred to as Mamasan) is the queen of all things Christmas. She plays Santa better than anyone I know, primarily because her generosity is through the roof. She cracks us up with the way she must make everything perfectly even. If one person has 15 gifts, everyone must have 15 gifts. If one has more, she starts feeling guilty like the other person didn't get enough. Thus, the vicious cycle of Christmas shopping begins.

I feel like a kid again on Christmas. I remember last year (Christmas 2007) when Jeff (Scott's brother and Jeffrey's uncle and namesake) and Adriane (Jeff's wife) were able to join us for a late Christmas celebration. We all wandered out into the livingroom on Christmas morning to presents piled 3 feet high, 5 feet from the base of the tree. Pure craziness. You'd think that most of those presents would have been for Jeffrey - after all, it makes sense to spoil a child. But, no... They were all equally and fairly distributed amongst all of us. When we were done opening everything, it literally looked like a tornado whiffed through the house. Boxes, wrapping, bows, socks, toys, books, gift cards, candy EVERYWHERE! Poor J&A had to pack it all up and ship it back to Illinois.

So... that was the beginning of the Christmas Conservation Conversation. We decided that, since we're all adults, and we all pretty much have the means to buy what we want when we want it (within the working budget, of course), it makes more sense to just put a limit on the gift-giving. Mamasan was the first to say, "We should just give each other, like, one big gift... and stockings... Or maybe we shouldn't do stockings..." We all agreed. We would put the discussion off until next year when the shopping begins again.

Fast forward to 2008. Around September we started getting hounded for our Christmas lists. Ya know, "Dear Santa, I want a radio flyer and a Major Award for Christmas, Love, Johnnie" letter. This cracks us up every year. Four items won't suffice. We're talking about a list... a 2-page, 8 1/2 x 11 single spaced list of all the things we want or need. And if one person doesn't get their list in on time, the spouse of said person starts getting hounded with the email that reads something like this, "so-and-so won't respond to my emails, and you're always good about getting back to me, so what else does so-and-so want or need? What size shoe, pants, sock, shirt, and underwear is so-and-so? What brand deodorant does so-and-so use?" and out come the 20 questions worded just perfectly that you can't avoid answering specifically.

So, we gently reminded Mamasan of our brief Christmas Conservation Conversation from 2007, and that we were going to discuss in greater detail the rules of said Christmas Conservation Act. "I'm ready when you are..." So... weeks later, I finally gathered us together and said, "Ok, let's talk about the rules this year..." which was met with a "well, we have to have stockings... and why do we have to put a limit on everything... and that won't be any fun..." So... CCA is out the window for 2008.

Fast forward to Christmas morning. My family had plans for various things, J&A couldn't make it to see us this year, and Mamasan was working until about noon, so Scott, Jeffrey and I decided to meet Mamasan at her house in the afternoon with all the gifts and do Christmas at her house this year. (Keep in mind that she hasn't had a Christmas tree since she moved to Oregon, so when we helped her pick out her tree this year, she just about wiggled out of her skin from excitement. It only stood to follow that jolly-making would take place at her house, around her beloved tree.) We walked in and already (not even including the gifts we brought) were presents piled 3 feet high, 4 feet from the base of the tree. Seriously? How does this happen every year??? And like little kids in footy pajamas, we skipped and danced from the prospects of what-could-it-be and couldn't wait to tear into our 3 foot long stockings. Yes, you heard me correctly. HUGE stockings, taller than my son... plus another large gift bag full of the items that couldn't fit into stuffed stocking.

This is where we get our year supply of dental floss, toothpaste, body soap, shaving cream, socks, underwear, nail files, fingernail polish, hand sanitizer, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, hand lotion, and razors, in addition to various gift cards and other stuff. Hilarious!

I kid you not, we had to take two trips back home because all the gifts couldn't fit in one. And we drive a CR-V which has plenty of room. Unbelievable.

So... needless to say, I didn't bring up the CCA for 2009. Why bother? There's no stopping her.

But... let me just say this. The biggest blessing of this year was cuddling on the couch with my beloved husband and darling little boy before any gift-giving started. I just recall last year when Jeffrey was so sick, and we all caught the flu, and we didn't even get our tree up until Christmas Eve... We're deeply blessed. I was overwhelmed by joy - to think that we've been given a home, secure jobs that we love, a family, a strong and happy marriage, health and life - not because we deserve it or even earned it. But just because God chose to bless us in that way. It's a beautiful thing. I'm very, very grateful and don't take it for granted. In a second, it could vanish.

So, yeah, Christmas was fun.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Elfed-Up Version of the Matkovich Family

video

We like to get elfed -up every year for Christmas. Welcome to the Christmas 2008 version.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Yule Log

The word "log" cracks me up. I love the theme for Ren & Stimpy - "It's Log":



What rolls down stairsand over the chairs
and into your neighbor's dog?
It fits on your back,
It's good for a snack,
Everyone knows it's log.
It's log, it's log,
It's big, it's heavy, it's wood.
It's log, it's log,
it's better than bad, it's good.

And this time of year, there's all this talk about the yule log, which, according to Wikipedia (you know, the resource for all things you want to know, and since it's listed in Wikipedia, it must be true) is a large log (haha) that's burned at the hearth as part of a Christmas or winter celebration... perhaps pagan... Hmmmm... That's just what I want burning in my living room on Christmas morning. I would like to celebrate the birth of our Lord by burning pagan wood.

And apparently, this log is SO popular, there is even a channel dedicated to it from now until January 2, 2009: "Yule Log". Wow. It is so real. I'm certain that if I turned to that channel and left it there, when we have company they will totally think our television has miraculously turned into a fireplace. Awesome.
There are even cakes you can make to look like a yule log. Check it:




This one looks especially delicious:


Yeah. I'd like a chunk of that on my plate, please.

Gross.


No one will believe your TV is a fireplace. No one wants to watch 5 hours of looped video of someone else's gas fireplace on Christmas morning. And no one wants to slice into a cake that looks like a massive turd with fungus growing on it. Yummy.


People, seriously. Go without the yule log.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving

I just tripped over the baby gate. I'm such a klutz. I could trip on air. And isn't it just like that when you're trying to be all quiet so that others in the house can sleep? I got the first leg over, but the second didn't quite make it, so my foot caught, which made me sort of fall over the top. I got my leg over just in time to catch me from falling on my face, but, of course, it made a huge thump, and then I couldn't catch my balance quickly enough, so into the wall I went, another thump. I started to giggle, so I ran down the hall really quick so my laughter wouldn't trail into the bedroom and wake Scott (as if the two thumps weren't enough). Ahhh. This is the way to start off a day.

I love lox. I just had two mini-bagels with lite cream cheese and lox for beefist. (That's "breakfast" to the layperson.) Along with my Emergen-C and prenatal. All is good. (Chill out. I've been taking prenatals for 2 years. No, I'm not preggers... I don't think.)

It's raining. Again. Shocker. I miss the sunshine in Colorado.

I am so freakin' swamped at work right now. I don't know what I was thinking taking almost 2 weeks off this time of year.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. This holiday has been weird the last few years. It used to be a big deal for me. It was always a huge celebration with family and friends - long tables with people all around, and gigantic buffets with all the traditional fixin's. Basically since living in Salem, it's become this tiny, pathetic afterthought. We are usually gone the week before to celebrate our anniversary, so by the time we get back, it's too late to invite a bunch of people over (because most people already have plans). I just found out yesterday that my sister is cooking a nice meal and my mom is headed over to her place... She said we could "stop by" if we wanted to. I'd by lying if I said I wasn't a little bummed about the fact that they didn't invite us over from the get go. I'm sure it doesn't mean anything, because I know we're welcome any time. My sinister and I are pretty close, and she adores my little guy. Scott and John (my sis's hubby) are pretty close, too. My mom, on the other hand, well... you know where we stand on that one from previous posts.

At any rate... Thanksgiving is kind of boring lately. I miss the big gatherings of friends and family with the massive spread of good eats. Scott's mom typically works on Thanksgiving (better pay). Two years ago, she came over for a late dinner (which we prepared - big spread - which is also where we shared the news that we were having a baby - Habeebee). Last year, we just cooked at her house - just the four of us - with a mini-spread waiting for her when she got home from work. This year, we're doing the same, only we're completely deviating from the American traditional to a traditional German - having literally nothing to do with Thanksgiving. Cuz, see, they don't have Thanksgiving in Germany; at least not the same holiday we have here. This should be interesting. Sour meat, sour potatoes, German salad.... I'm just hoping for a delicious German beer. Scott even bought cow tongue the other day. Apparently, Germans eat that. Gross. I pulled this gigantic tongue from the shopping bag and just thought, "Um... whatcha plan on doing with this?" I don't eat anything that can taste me in return. I just got the shiver-me-timbers.

Whine whine....

However, in the spirit of Thanksgiving - that is, in all things, giving thanks to our Creator, the one and only God - I have much to be grateful for. A few months ago, as you may remember, we were planning on putting our home up for sale. We're certainly ready for more space. However... together and separately when we prayed about it, we got this overwhelming sense that God wasn't leading us to sell. He wants us to stay put. Since we discussed it, we've discovered not only the potential in this tiny little home, but the warmth and joy that resides here. God has blessed us tremendously with a roof over our heads, gorgeous sunrises that we have the honor of witnessing every day (there is nothing but farm land behind us - facing east...), a huge kitchen where we can entertain comfortably... We're grateful for our health this year. (If you remember, last year, we were all terribly sick for over a month with flus, ear infections, colds, you name it. We didn't even get our Christmas tree up until Christmas Eve.) Jeffrey got his flu shot yesterday and handled it like the champ he is. We're so very, very happy as a family.

And, even while I whine about the lack of community (simply in comparison to what we're accustomed to), we really do have some wonderful friends here in Salem. I think about our old Bible Study (B.S.) where it all began - our dear friends Bob and Tiff (and little Josiah), Becky, and Lindsey and Ryan (with their three lovelies: Josephine, Georgia and Bjorn). We have such fond memories of our weekly potlucks, the uproarious laughter, the seriousness, and even a few tears that we all shared together as we all watched our lives unfold and families grow. We're grateful for our new friends, Dale & Susan. We can't express our gratitude for who they are, and the roles they play in our lives. They are kindred spirits and we love them deeply. We're grateful for Jeff & Kara, little Caleb (Jeffrey's BFF) and Sam (the newest Brown) - they're such kind people. We hit it off with them from day one! We're grateful for Annie & Bruce - for their friendship and humor. (Annie is seriously one of the most generous people I know. She is SO giving of her time and resources. She is like super-volunteer. I remember last year when Jeffrey was so, so ill, and I was trying to find Scott at work so we could take him to the doc, but we couldn't find him. Of course, as a new mom, I was freaking out, bawling my eyes out. Annie literally dropped everything she was doing and said, "Let's go." She went with me to the doc's office and basically held my hand through the whole ordeal. That's a good friend.) Then there are our other co-workers and friends - so many - that we just adore: Jennie, Steve, Rebecca, Bex, Laura, Logan, Greg, Kathy, Lynn, Michelle, Cindy, Lori, Paula, Susan, Jim, Barb, Robb, Tammy, Tim, Jon, Melissa, Diane and on and on and on.... We maybe don't have those super-deep friendships that we long for with everyone, but we have a handful. God has been so faithful to us. He has put people in our lives when we prayed for those friendships. God answered my prayer for an accountability partner (just a couple of weeks ago), and over time, we're building life-long friendships. Maybe they aren't coming as easily as we'd like, but we have them just the same. Perhaps Salem only sucks a little bit. :-)

I've mentioned nothing of all the friends from all over the US, far too many to list, but you all know who you are. The ones that come to the front of my mind today are my friend Sara, who makes me giggle uncontrollably and who is such a pillar of strength and tenderness (even though she tries to hide it!), my dear friend Kim, who is expecting her first baby in a couple of months, our old pastor Jim Andrews at Lake Bible (he plays an incredibly important role in Scott's life - I'm so very grateful for that), my old accountability partner in Montana, Melodie (and all her funny stories), my BF from Montana, Melissa (matron of honor at my wedding), and my BF from childhood, Heather (bridesmaid at my wedding - we've known each other for 34 years!!!), and of course all the friends from Chicago and Talbot - Brad, Dave & Christine (and Bennett), Kyle, Tim & Jamie (who are also expecting their first), Brian and IChing (also expecting their first), Shawn & Gretchen (Ransom, and expecting their first baby girl).... And Michelle from high school who is not only a trusted prayer warrior, but the queen of all things social! She has managed to gather all of us from Chaminade, and continues to be on the search for those who are perpetually MIA. She's amazing.

I'm grateful for those times that God wakes me in the middle of the night to remind me to pray for people - for expectant mommies, for jobs, for our dear pastor who is still at OHSU. Speaking of which, remember to read the updates at www.salemalliance.org. PRAISE that John is doing so much better, but please, I implore you, continue to pray for a diagnosis, for rest for both John and his dedicated wife Joanna (and their three kids), for the medical team, and for the God of Peace and Healing to do His miraculous work.

Today, I'm counting my blessings. I'm grateful for the friendships here and around the world. So many of you are serving across the world; thousands of miles apart, but so very very close to our hearts. I'm grateful for the family we have - for my mother-in-law (who truly is a mother to me, an incredible grandma to my darling boy, and who has us in stitches from all the funny crap she says and does).

Life is pretty darn good.

Except for the cats. They gotta go. Fidget barfed in our bedroom at 5:30 this morning. Lovely.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fall Family Portraits

Hey friends & family!

Hard to believe we're only a couple of days away from Thanksgiving. Funny how the holidays always sneak up on us every year. I think it's cuz we head off for a week (or more) of vacation for our anniversary every year, and return just in time to think about big meals, shopping, decorating and gaining another 5 pounds.

We had our fall pictures taken at the end of October with our beautiful and talented photographer. (You can visit her website at
www.soulprintsphotography.com.) Once you click the link below, just enter the password: matkovich1118. You will then see the slideshow page. Simply click to play. You will have to wait for the slideshow to load, but that shouldn't take long. It depends on the speed of your internet connection. The slideshow will stay online for only 2 days so you'll need to visit it quick! Be sure to turn up your speakers and enjoy the show! Click here to view Slideshow

As mentioned, we just returned from our annual anniversary vacation. This year, we spent a week and a half in Colorado Springs. Scott and a couple of his coworkers were going for a class/convention thing put on by the national C&MA (headquartered there). So... since he was going anyway, I thought I'd tag along, and then just stay another week for vacation.

First, let me mention that traveling with a wildly independent toddler isn't as much fun as you might think! For the 4 days Scott was doing work stuff, I was chasing Jeffrey up and down the stairs at the resort. Up and down... up and down... There was this huge statue of a bear standing on his hind legs. Jeffrey liked to point on him, say "uh-oh" and give him a high five. Apparently, he's in good with the bears. Awesome.

He was also teething (again) during our stay. His eye teeth finally broke through. So now he has even more chompers all spread out across his slobbery mouth. I love his gappy little teeth!

Colorado Springs is insanely sunny. All the time. Literally. It's the perfect weather for us folks who like to be outside. We've determined that 8 months of rain isn't our favorite. So, we took full advantage of the sunny days in CO. Played tennis, took the little guy to a few parks, fed the geese (Jeffrey squealed when they plucked bread out of his hand), drove around to a few sites (which were not only a bit over-rated, but way overpriced for admission. $24 bucks PER PERSON to just go across the Royal Gorge Bridge. $19 per person to drive up to Pikes Peak. $9 per person to visit Seven Falls... Like any of those things are more spectacular than Multnomah Falls, Silver Falls or Mt. Hood, all of which you can visit for free in Oregon. Hmmm....) Probably the most active we've been on vacation in quite some time. (And probaby the first time we came home with less weight than we left with! We need to be in CO more often!)

Anyway, good times.

Two major dampers on the vacation, though. One, we learned that Jeffrey cannot be trusted in restaurants at this age. No more eating out as a family for a while. Two, as you know, our pastor's health went to the pooper for a few days. I'm happy to report that John is doing much much better, and while he certainly isn't in perfect health, we're so very grateful that he's alert and alive! Much to praise!

We returned home on Saturday evening, and were grateful to be back with our church family Sunday morning. It's hard to be away when trajedies happen at home.

All is well with us, however! We're still plugging along, grateful for dependable jobs, for our cozey little home, and for all of you.

Hopefully, we'll enjoy good health this holiday season and will be able to share a more joyous seasons this year! (Jeffrey is getting his flu shot tomorrow morning.)

Love to all of you! Hope you enjoy the fall pics!

Blessings,
Kyra, Scott and Jeffrey

Sunday, November 23, 2008

He gives and takes away

Back from "vacation".... It's a bit of a stretch to call it vacation since traveling with a toddler really adds a whole new dimension to the experience. Needless to say, not so relaxing....

What's more, however, is that in our absence, our senior pastor, whose health has been more down than up the two weeks prior to our departure, took a turn for the worse a few days into our trip. He was sent back to the hospital (trip #2), but thankfully they sent him up to OHSU where he would be in the hands of the specialists.... (You can read about his progress on our church website at http://www.salemalliance.org/.) I won't go into his condition, but what I do want to say is that it was very difficult to be away during that time. We received phone calls from our co-workers and friends, literally in tears.... It's awful when your loved ones are hurting and you can't be there to help ease the burden. There wasn't anything we could do, aside from praying (and praying and praying), but the longing to just be there, to be present, with our church family was overwhelming. We were so blessed to have people give us the minute-by-minute details; information we coveted while we were so far away. It was difficult to enjoy our time when everyone we know is suffering so greatly.

We prayed. We prayed. We prayed. We continue to pray.

Scary times. Just a breath away from life or death.

But... I remember my dear friend, Todd Anderson, who lost his battle with melanoma a few years back. Just 36 years old, with a young wife and 6 month old baby who will never know her daddy, he was a pillar. Isn't it just like us silly Christians that, as his decrepit body lay, skin bulging from the numerous tumors that were eating him from the inside out, his family stood over him singing praises to God as he took his last breath. That's insane. That's a testimony to the hope that we have in Jesus! Who else welcomes a fleshly death? And not only welcomes it, but sings praises, worshiping the Creator! It's a delicate balance between mourning (because we won't see a smiling face every day) and rejoicing because he is now with his King.

When I pray for John, I can't help but plead with God for a miracle - for a complete, supernatural healing to take place and return him to us with a new zest and understanding of who God is that his ministry expands exponentially! But... I must also pray for God's will... I don't know what that is. How do you pray for God's will to be done, but in the very next breath that God's will is for life in the here and now? Which would glorify God more? I can't answer that.

We worshipped this morning with our church family:

Blessed be your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where the streams of abundance flow
Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out,
I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say…
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name

Blessed be your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s all as it should be
Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out,
I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say…
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, Blessed be your name
It's tough to sing "you give and take away..." What if He takes away? I choose not to think of that right now - maybe refuse is a better word. I just have an overwhelming sense that when I pray, God's response is "I'm not through with him yet..."
I pray that through this intense suffering, the Spirit of God moves. And that even in the midst of an unconscious state John will feel the presence of the Lord in profound ways. I pray for precious moments of clarity while his wife looks after him so tenderly and selflessly.
And I pray that people realize what a blessing it is that we have John among us. It's such BS that it takes a tragedy for that realization to settle in.
All this to say, I'm grateful to be home with our church family. I gave a lot of hugs today... I received a lot of hugs today. The Body of Christ is an amazing thing. I pray that I never take that for granted.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Accountability and Unconditional Love

So here goes another one of those middle-of-the-night-why-can't-I-sleep-mind-is-racing-cat-is-staring-at-me posts. These are my favorite. Not because I can't sleep, cuz that part pretty much sucks. But I like the random thought process. While it seems muddled, it's actually nights like these that I have more clarity of thought, and I'm amused at what I actually think about in the stillness of the night. It isn't nearly as profound as you might think. Although sometimes I'm quite amazed at my brilliance. Don't lie. You are, too.

I enjoyed a long lunch with a friend today. God is funny. Sometimes He's funny in a belly-laugh-wipe-the-tears-from-your-eyes sort of way. Other times He's funny in a what my husband refers to as "sad-clown" sort of way... In other words, peculiar. (Great... see? My 20 pound cat just HAS to be where I am. His butt is right in my line of sight to my screen. That's awesome. Why do I have cats? Please remind me.) I digress. For months now I've been contemplating why on earth God led us to Salem, Oregon, of all places. What this pit has in store for us seriously escapes me. Friendships are few and relatively shallow. (You've heard my rants on that one, but I won't get into that again for now.) My accountability partner and I sort of parted ways after a series of life events on both of our parts. There is still friendship there, but more on her side than mine, life just got in the way. (She actually is now feeling the tug of God again to draw her back to a more formal, disciplined engagement with Him. I don't really see that as a calling back to our relationship the way it was. Kind of sad, but I also know that God had (has) me on my own journey, which is the next thing I'll mention.) Since we parted company as accountability partners, I've prayed like mad that God would put someone in my life who could be that trusted truth-speaker. As the weeks turned into months, it was slightly discouraging, but I felt like sometimes a season of silence is good and it just reminds me of the sovereignty of God. Sure enough, I had the opportunity to hang out one Saturday with two friends (a couple) who we (Scott and I) admire and love so much. Scott was working that day... So it was just me and my little guy. You know how conversations just evolve from the not-so-serious to the serious, and back again? We were having one of those conversations. I just felt like, in the moment, with the topic we were on, that it was ok to share a few inner thoughts. It was kind of like sticking my toe in the water - not to see if they could be trusted because I already knew that. I talked about how I missed being accountable to someone (or someones) for a variety of reasons, but mostly because having a trusted Godly someone speak truth is one of the most spiritually fulfilling relationships I have. The growth is incredible. There are some tough things to talk through, and I don't always love what I hear, but it stretches me in fantastic ways. I've learned that it is incredibly vital to be a teachable person, and I love to learn what God would have me learn through the discerning eyes and ears of another person.

So, back to lunch, my friend approached me about entering into an accountability relationship with her. While we aren't in the same life situation (her kids are now grown and married with kids of their own), she felt that I would have wisdom to impart on her in other areas (outside of the family, for example professionally). That was flattering, first of all, to hear that someone 10+ years older than me would think that I might have wisdom to share about any life situation. I guess I always felt like my elders (meaning, pretty much anyone older than me) were the wise ones whose job is to lead us younguns along, and that our job, in turn, is to lead the younger younguns along. I let her know that I didn't necessarily expect a two-way street. I've heard of accountability being one-way (meaning that while one person is accountable in that relationship, the other person may have a different person that they are accountable to, and, thus, in this situation they act more as a mentor). She basically said that, no, she'd like a two-way accountability relationship. Ever since that Saturday, that same idea had popped into my head on more than one occasion. So it's neat that God would have spoken the same thing to my friend. I accepted her invitation, and we got to talking about when we'd meet, and when we'd start, etc. Prayer answered. Yea for me! Boy, right in the nick of time, too, because she jumped straight into speaking a little truth on a particular situation. Haha. She was (is) right about that, too. See how God uses people?

So today (yipes, it's 2:11 am) we're starting our 11 day vacation. We don't actually leave until tomorrow (Weds), but we're staying the night in Portland because it's just easier to grab a shuttle to the airport from a hotel in the morning than trying to rise and shine at the crack of dawn with a toddler in tow all while trying to lock up the house, pack the car, drive, contend with the crappy Oregon drivers, park in long-term parking at the airport, and hoof it with 300 pounds of luggage to check-in. I hate airports. Love to travel. Hate the getting there. Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting away from work for a while. I need time to contemplate. I can't contemplate when I'm constantly interrupted by emails, phone calls and drop-ins. I love my job, but it certainly doesn't lend itself to creative strategizing very often. I have so many balls in the air right now, any one of them could drop at a moment's notice. So... I need some re-energizing to keep them balls in motion.

Man, stocks bite right now. We have lost about 65-70% of our portfolio. Bummer. It's interesting to watch people respond to the economy. If that doesn't show where people store their treasures, I don't know what does. It just so doesn't matter to me. I mean, yes, it sucks that we've taken a huge hit. BUT that is so not where I find my hope. My hope is in Jesus. Not the economy, or the next president, or whether or not Measure 64 passed... Market trends are always up, so sooner or later it'll turn. Might we lose everything? I suppose it's a possibility. But, what have we really lost? It's just money. It's just a home. It's just a car. It's not our eternity. That's just junk we can't take with us anyway. I just don't get excited about these things. The market it was it is. It's awful that so many people are going through lean times right now - unemployment, lack of healthcare, credit card debt, foreclosures, stress about where the next meal might come. I pray that it turns for their sake soon. But if it gets worse before it gets better, I rest in the knowledge that God is moving. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes times like these to remind people of God's provision. (Of course, there are always those who blame God.) I'm so grateful for Jesus. Who or what else is steadfast?

My little boy is beautiful. I don't mean just his good looks (although, objectively, he is a lady-killer). I'm talking about his tender soul. The other evening we were wrestling around, and I was chasing him all over the house (a nightly ritual). I was sitting on the floor kind of watching him run around the couch when out of the blue, he ran over to me with his arms out just falling into my lap. He took my face in his hands and held my face to his, looking deeply into my eyes. Then, just so tenderly, he wrapped his arms around my neck and laid his head on my shoulder. I was dumbfounded. It was so sweet. And, that quickly, he was up again, running around the couch and giggling to his heart's content. He just stole a little moment out of his simple world to tell me in his own way that he loves and trusts me. It literally brought tears to my eyes. He's made in God's image. All that love, hope, joy and compassion all wrapped up in a tiny little package.

Jeffrey inspires me in a way that I've never experienced. I just don't care about chaos, drama and complexity anymore. I used to thrive on noise. I loved drama. I loved a good messy situation. I reject it all now. Having Jeffrey just wiped it all away - almost that quickly. I've experienced a childlike, raw need for simplicity and wonder. Do you still wonder?

As soon as Jeffrey was born, laying so tiny and quietly in my arms, I finally realized what God meant by unconditional love. We all throw the notion around pretty loosely and I wonder if people really know what it means. I thought I did, too. We walk down the aisle and we take the hands of our life-mate and vow to love unconditionally, in sickness and in health. But... do we really love unconditionally? Think about it. I'll bet the answer is a resounding no. Sure, you want to say yes. And your first reaction is to say yes. But... now... think about your expectations and your disappointments. Think about all the stupid fights you've had with your spouse - about how things weren't the way you wanted them. All those fights are over selfishness, you know. That's not unconditional. We have to choose every day, with every moment, to love to our spouse. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes it's not. I've found after 5 years of marriage (7 years together, and another 2+ years as pretty darn good friends) that it gets easier. Scott and I share an incredible marriage. But I know that we have to work really hard at it. It takes dedication to love unconditionally, and many times we fail. Yep, we dust ourselves off and try, try again, but it's still work. Contrast that with the love we feel towards Jeffrey. He's done nothing to deserve our love. He pisses us off every day. He pleases and he disappoints, and yet we absolutely love him unconditionally. Truly unconditionally. It's easy to love him that way. It literally requires no effort on our part. We just love him. This is the way that Jesus love us. We're his children. His creation. I "knew" that cognitively. And what a great feeling it is to know that God loves that way. But... I never "knew" it experientially. That's a completely different way to know something. And now I know. It has completely transformed my relationship with Christ - the way I pray, the way I listen, the way I respond.

And speaking of love, can I just say that I am absolutely head over heels for my man? He is such an extraordinary person. I love the way his crazy mind works - the depth of thought and the utmost desire and passion to seek after and understand the Kingdom of God. He has a ferocious wit. He can make just about anyone belly laugh and say, "Hmmm" at the same time. He's actually quite complex, and so very very tender. He's affectionate and loyal, wise and clever, considerate and generous. He's strong - mentally, emotionally and spiritually. He's trustworthy and reliable. He's incredibly courageous. He's protective and determined. He's attentive and patient. He's a phenomenal cook. He's an amazing father and husband. He is passionate for Jesus and is one of the most Godly men I have ever had the privilege to know. He's a gift. He's my beloved, my best friend, my mate, my lover, my cheerleader, my supporter, my better half. I'm so grateful for every moment that I have with him.
I think I'll go give him a snuggle.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

All ye repent

Yesterday, 13 women gathered at one of our pastor's homes for a little young female leader retreat. It was an interesting day on a number of levels. I was the first to arrive, so I had the privilege of watching others as they arrived and settled in. It's fun to people watch... To see how people interact and respond to one another; who greets whom with a hug or a smile, where people sit, who they sit next to... The first thing I thought of while observing the hub-bub was what I've been pondering for the last several months - community. I'll refrain from elaborating on that subject for a while.

We spent the day discussing leadership (which is always the over-arching subject of this particular group). What really got me pumped up (or riled in some cases) was the dissertation that Nancy Hedberg (our guest) presented on women and men in ministry (specifically, the role of women in general), and how she related it to the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (There actually wasn't any mention of the Spirit. The focus was more specifically on the equality of the Father and Son in both essence and function, and the similar relationship between men and women, and whether or not that perspective is biblical. That perspective being that women and men are equal in both essence and function.) I was pleasantly surprised to "get it" and that not only did I "get it" but I was able to flip right to passages in Scripture (and cross-references) as Nancy was talking. I guess being married to a philosopher is paying off...

So... while that was our day, there were other things that struck me, made me think, made me pray, made me repent... First and foremost, over the last couple of months I've had to contend with an increasing unsettled soul. Not just about community (although that is a piece of it), but about my attitude and trying to figure out why I feel so resentful about certain things. Many of these things are left undiscussed mainly because they pertain to my job and I can't openly discuss them here because that would violate the confidence of my position in HR... Unfortunately (and fortunately) I have a unique perspective in the organization and my ability to either vent or process in a verbal way is very limited for that reason. Back to the point... I've had to repent of my attitude. I know that life and death is in the power of the tongue, and I know (I KNOW) I have failed in my calling to speak in a way that would edify and bring glory to God's kingdom. That's a bitter pill to swallow. First, it's hard to just admit where I fail. (I think that's hard for anyone, but particularly for someone as stubborn as I.) Second, it means that I have to admit where I may have hurt someone because of the lashing of my tongue. Ouch.

It's easy to get caught up in a moment. It's difficult in that moment to stop and think very carefully about how my words may be construed (or misconstrued)... And, further, how those words may affect the listener (or reader), and then even further, how they may be passed on to others. Gossip. Hearsay. Email forwarding. Whatever. (By the way, this all relates back to character... On the subject of leadership, character can make or break your success. I think that's what struck me the most.) I have to question my motives... I don't think that my character, as it were, is questionable. But when I think back to moments of extreme stress, distress, anger and disappointment, my gut reaction (and sinful reaction) is to lash out with my tongue. I've learned over time that in most cases I can check it, but in many other cases it has gone unchecked... And as a result, it leaves destruction in its pathway. Sometimes apologies aren't enough. I can't unsay things I've said. I can't unsend things I've sent. I can't undo things I've done. All so very unfortunate because in the moment I'm not thinking of "others" - which is what I should be thinking about. I'm thinking very selfishly about myself and making ME feel better, letting ME vent my frustrations... Sometimes to the wrong people. Sometimes to the right people. But how do I know the right people are really the right people? I can't. And this just comes back to the point that words shouldn't be spoken (or written) if they aren't life-giving.

Sometimes it isn't even about what I really think or feel. I can easily recollect moments when I get swept into gossip by others and I add to the fire just be agreeing, or restating something they have said (call it peer pressure, or even self-pressure to "fit it"). When I hear this of others, I question, "Really? How old are they? Are we still in high school?" But... how slowly I am to think that of myself.

Sin. Selfishness. Arrogance. Bitterness. Rage. Hatred. God, take it from me! I don't ever, EVER want to be that kind of person, and yet I know that is me - even if just once in a while. It doesn't matter how infrequent that is me, if it happens just once since the last time I repented of it, it's still me.

I'm a total klutz. Everyone knows it. I do stupid crap all the time. Scott asks me, "Don't you have that little voice in your head that tells you not to do something?" My answer is always, "Well, yeah, but I don't listen to it." The same goes for my words. Don't I have that little voice (God) in my head telling me not to say something? Yeah... but I don't listen to it. Isn't that awful??? I listen once in a while, when I (I in bold) think I should. Not when God thinks I should. Or when another person might think I should. Again, selfishness.

I've hurt people with my words. That's a horrible feeling. I want to breathe life into relationships. My desire is that when people know me, they can count on the fact that I am a woman of noble character; that I am transforming into Christ's image and that I display His heart in all I say and do. My desire is for Christ, and yet I'm not certain that is how I present myself. Certainly, that is not the case always... But under pressure (whatever pressure that may be), when it really counts, who am I? Most of the time, my actions or words hurt inadvertently. And I'm so so grateful to those who are courageous enough to come to me when that happens. Sometimes it's a misunderstanding. Sometimes I just wasn't thinking clearly about how the other would interpret my actions (selfishness on my part). Sometimes I've purposefully been cruel.

I repent of all of that. I repent of life-sucking words, attitudes and actions. I repent of selfishness and arrogance. Move it far, far away from heart! Let me speak love and joy, truth and kindness!

If you're reading this and you're someone I've hurt, I'm so so sorry. Whether it was outright to you, or in a round about way, I'm sorry. I have no excuse. For those who love me anyway, in spite of my fallenness, thank you for allowing me the room to grow. (And for my husband who has to live with me daily, thanks for supporting me as I grow. I know it isn't always easy.)

So to you, repent repent! If God is speaking to you - whether a still small voice, or a slap in the head - listen! These are learning moments and opportunities to grow closer to our Creator.

2 Peter 2:10-11

Back to the foot of the cross.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Happy dance


I love being a mom. I so enjoy watching my little guy grow and change every day. He'll be 15 months on October 4th. Hard to believe. I look back at some old ("old") pictures from when he was newborn, 4 months, 6 months, a year... My, my how he has changed! We just see traces of him in those pictures; through all the chubba on his cheeks and arms. He still has kankles - that hasn't changed. He's at such a fun age, too. He says "dah-TEE" (daddy), "ka" (kitty), "na-na" (bottle), and he once said "happy" quite clearly, but not since. He can almost say "quack" and "duck".


He has such happy feet. A few weeks ago, he started this little happy dance where he kind of tries to march, but instead of marching, he stamps his feet back and forth really fast. He does that to music (and then spins a few times before falling on his tushy), and when he's excited for something... And sometimes just because.


It makes me wonder what he's so happy about. Think about it. How great would it be to just break out in a spontaneous happy dance. I think about him throughout the day, and I've started to share the happy dance with my co-workers. Sometimes it's in response to a little success they experienced. Sometimes it's just to put a smile on their face.


Last holiday season (maybe the day after Thanksgiving), we dressed Jeffrey in his Santa suit and took him to Marion Estates (a nursing home where my mother-in-law works) for a visit. Really, we were there to visit the mom in law... but we discovered that Jeffrey's presence - merely being there - brought such joy to the hearts of the residents. There was one woman who just clapped and smiled, almost coming out of her skin, at the sight of him. We've noticed how he has that affect on people everywhere he goes. There is just something about him that evokes happiness in people. What a ministry! We pray all the time that God builds that in him, and that he never loses that "thing" that makes people smile.


I love my little man. I love his happy feet. I love the way he comes running into the kitchen when he hears the "ding" of the microwave (because he knows his bottle is ready). I love the way he babbles to himself in the morning when he's waking up. I love the way he splashes his bath water all over the floor, and giggles when he gets mommy wet.


What a joy. There's nothing like it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Intervention Update

So, yeah, that worked like a charm. My mom has lost it. Seriously, lost it. Got an email from my sis letting me know that John (sis's hubby) went for a visit and discovered that she hasn't done a thing (in 3 weeks) AND she spent over an hour complaining about us and the work we've done. (She actually told him that the work we did in the front yard was "crappy." Um, yeah. Four people spent 5 hours (for a told of 20 man hours) working in her yard, pulling weeds, pruning and mowing, and she says we did a crappy job. That's hilarious.) That's 2 out of 3 rules broken. You guessed it, we're out. She was told what the consequences would be if she acted like that. I wonder if she thinks we were just blowing smoke? I don't know.

Good grief.

She apparently went for a counseling session. "A" counseling session. Yeah, like that'll get to the heart of her issues. She then told my sister that she wants us all to go to counseling together. HAHAHAHAHAAHAAhahahahaa.... Wow. TJ said, "You need to take care of your issues first." My mother actually said that she doesn't have any issues. TJ responded, "So, you're threatening suicide isn't an issue?" She just humphed.

I don't know what kind of counselor she's seeing, but either my mom is THAT good to be able to dupe a professional into thinking that her problems are actually "family" problems, or that counselor needs to find a new profession. That is just laughable. And so so sad.

My sister wrote a scathing letter... She hasn't sent it. I think it needs to be softened. The idea isn't to criticize her or make her feel horrible (the very things we are trying to prevent), but rather to be matter-of-fact about the consequences she now faces for talking behind our backs and criticizing our service to her.

I'm so glad that I dealt with this some time ago. I'm grateful for the ability to set strong boundaries and to see my mother in the light of the truth. This is who she is. I can't change her. I can only expect her to be who she is. Her words have no power over me. I no longer need her approval. It's very freeing to be able to keep a cool head in that way. Sure, her words can still hurt me (in the same way that any criticism would), but it doesn't affect who I am or make me feel worse about myself. In fact, it just makes me believe all the more in who God says I am.

I pray for my mother often. I pray that she would accept the love and forgiveness that Jesus offers her and that she would allow Him to heal the deep, gaping wounds that were left by the words and actions of her own mother. She is very pained and sad. I know that her anger and bitterness come from a place of intense pain. I wish she could experience joy and hope.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Intervention

We did it. We intervened. "My name is Marilyn. M-A-R-I-L-Y-N."

Went to mom's yesterday to confront her on the house situation and her lack of participation in getting her out of the financial hole she's dug herself into. The four of us (sis, bro-in-law, hubby and I) had a talk with her about our boundaries and the ground rules for us helping her sort her stuff, all the paintings (over 200) and get the house ready to sell quickly. Every time we go it's a huge fight... The last two times were awful. (The last time was the worst. I went off on her... She bawled and through the tears said, "I just have one question. Do you want me alive, or do you want me dead? Because I can make either happen easily." Give me a fricken break. I just told her that I won't even honor that question with an answer. She said, "That's your answer." I said, "No, I won't answer that because it's a ridiculous question." At the end of our time there helping her sort all the paintings to get them ready to sell (to a gallery that I contacted) she told me "screw you" as I left. That's nice.) So, we're pretty much over it. We had basically three conditions: 1) She must own the process and participate. If she doesn't do anything, we don't do anything. 2) She needs to be respectful of us, and truly be grateful with us for what we're willing to do to serve her. As soon as we even hint that she is ungrateful, we're out. 3) There will be no arguments. We don't have time to sit and argue and listen to her complain about everything. We won't engage with her in that manner, and if she chooses to engage in argument, we'll just leave. She, in turn, had a couple of ground rules of her own. 1) She wants input into the work we're doing. And 2) she wants to be able to say what is kept, thrown out or sold. We all agreed to the terms. We made it very clear to her that the process is in her hands and that she has control of the outcome. (She can be nice to us through the process, and we'll be happy to labor for her. Or... she can blame and criticize, and talk about us behind our backs, and we'll be happy to let her handle it all herself - in which case she can't ever say that she "couldn't get anyone to help." See, I'm not willing to sacrifice my time with my family and the limited amount of time I already have with my precious boy to deal with a bitter, resentful, vicitimized person.)

She seems to have heard us, but we'll see how the next few weeks go! She (mother) actually had the nerve to argue with me about paint colors, etc. Right... so... the paint is free... Our labor is free. Everything we're doing is volunteer. Plus, she won't be living in that house for much longer anyway. Scott just told her, "Pretty much any paint color looks better than what's there." She agreed. Scott was awesome. He backed her into a corner on every point she tried to make. It was hilarious. She also said, "I've been trying for years to get people here to help me." Scott asked, "Who have you asked?" She said, "You guys." He said, "Hmmm, that's funny. Seems to me we've been down here helping you and every time you request that we do yard work. So, that's what we do, and now you're saying that you couldn't get anyone to help you sort through your stuff. So, how are we to blame when we did what you asked?" She said, "Yeah... that's true."

HAHAHA Oh, geez. This is such a joke.

Lord, help me if I ever become my mother.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

POed

Ok, I just need a moment to vent. I've been up all night because just as I was dozing off, a little thought popped into my head and I've been pissed about it ever since.

Those of you who know me well, know the drama between my mother and I. I've done a LOT of work over the last 5 years or so to fix my end and I finally got to the point where I could forgive, and mourn. I had to mourn the loss of my mom. Let me 'splain. There was always this hope that my mom could just be a mom to me. It dawned on me - a little revelation, if you will - that my mom is who she is and will likely never change, and I needed to get to a place where I expected nothing less than that from her. In other words, I could not expect her to be anything other than what she is. So, for me, that meant I couldn't expect her to be my friend, say kind words, accept me for who I am without all the digs and criticisms about my life and character, and so forth. I had to let go of what I thought she should be and just allow her to be.

I've realized that since then, I've been able to look at her through the same lense that Jesus looks at her. She is a child of God. She is loved. She is broken. And I needed to love her despite all of the crud that mucks us all up, inside and out. It has completely changed the way I relate to her. I don't engage in the digs because her words mean nothing to me. I'm solid in who I am, so when she criticizes me, I know it isn't me she criticizes. It's her. She can't stand who she is. She hates being in her own skin. So, of course, what does she do? She lashes out at the easiest target. I just happen to be the one that she became accustomed to targeting over the years. I'm not sure she knows what to do now that I don't engage in that way. (It's kind of funny, really.)

So.. that brings me to yesterday. My beloved sinister (scab) sends me an email loaded with the news that my mom has now received her second notice of foreclosure. On September 20th, they will start charging her 9% per day on the $13K she owes on the the failure to pay her property taxes for the last 4 or 5 years. My initial response was, well... that's no shock. We saw that coming 5 years ago.

But then I got alone and quiet and the thought popped into my head that I've been praying about ever since and that is, true to form, I wouldn't have expected anything less, but now that she got herself into this pickle, which she knew would happen, she will expect that her kids bail her out. Let me make this clear, in a couple of months, my mother will be homeless. She's going through chemo for the probably last time (I honestly don't know how she will make it through this one, but I've seen God perform miracles in her before). She is absolutely broke. She refuses to sell the paintings. So, instead of being responsible EVER, she will likely lose everything. Everything. That means, whatever is in her home at the time will be seized. Including the paintings that she has hoarded for all these years.

I'm pissed because once again it is somehow our fault that this has happened. "She can't get anyone to help", "I call and no one calls me back", "I'm just going to burn the paintings"... blah blah blah. All bullshit.

That's my rant for the morning.

Jesus, change my heart and help me to see this situation the way that you see it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Weirdness of the PacNW

Since I wrote my last blog, I've had some interesting conversations. Most of them started because the few who know me fairly well could tell something was different when we returned from Chicago. Usually I would answer "I'm doing great" when someone would ask how I was doing. (And it isn't a lie. I really AM doing great... Just extremely homesick and friendsick... if that is even a word.) But.. there was one who wouldn't take that as the "real" answer and kept pressing. Then the tears started. That was enough. She sat in my office and just listened as I unloaded.

Then she said that she felt exactly the same way. She has lived in Oregon for 26 years and STILL doesn't have any close friends.

Disclaimer: My last entry and this isn't meant to be hurtful to anyone. It is just me trying to put words to my sadness.

It's kinda funny (not in a haha way, but a peculiar, "sad clown" sort of way) living back in the Pacific NW. I couldn't put my finger on it for such a long time... What is it about this place that doesn't make it feel like home? Well... after numerous conversations with those who have moved here from other places, we all came to the same conclusion. Hospitality. Very few people here are hospitable. Sure, people have you over for a BBQ and a few laughs, but it isn't the same. In the midwest, people welcome you into their home as if you are just part of the family. They look into your eyes when you speak as if hanging on your every word. They intently listen, not to just the words you speak, but to your breath, your posture, all the stuff that happens in between words. It's hard to explain unless you've felt it, too. I grew up here and wouldn't have felt this way if it weren't for the last 15 years spent in other states. And then coming back isn't the "homecoming" I thought it would be. I'm not sure what I expected... I don't think I really expected anything other than to just do life with other people - whether in a similar life place or not. I've never had such a hard time trying to make friends! I've had to work REALLY hard. It's exhausting. Truly exhausting. And I don't understand why it has to be such a chore to walk alongside people.

The people that I've spoke to on this subject have all had the exact same experience. God created us to be in fellowship and community with other people, so it's no wonder we all have that desire to know and be known.
Scott and I have wrestled with our attitudes this last week. My fallen side says to hell with trying. We'll see who our real friends are when we stop being the first to make contact... We'll see who comes around... Isn't that awful??? I refuse to submit to the enemy that way. That is seriously a lie from the pit of hell, literally. So, we'll keep plugging away. We'll be hospitable in an unhospitable city. We praised God and dedicated our home to Him when we first moved in almost 4 years ago. We prayed that this would be a place where ministry and friendships would happen; that this would be a place that would be peaceful, kind and accepting. A lot of people have come through our doors. We praise God for that. We are commited to keeping this ministry alive for as long as we're here - however long that may be. And while we are desperately lonely for deep friendships, we will be engaging. A light in the world. Something other than status quo. God has called us to be nothing less.

Since June 18th (the day we left for Chicago), Jeffrey took his first steps. He ate his first filet mignon. He took his first boat ride. He took his first plane ride. He saw lightening bugs for the first time. His lungs and sinuses cleared up. (No green boogies for the first time since November!) A lot has happened in 3 weeks. Hardly anyone knows it. It breaks my heart to think that he might not know what having deep friendships looks like.

I just don't know what to think about it all. It's depressing to say the least. It might sound like I'm having a pity party, but really I'm not. I know we're here for a reason. I kind of like being in this place of unfamiliar because this is when God moves. I like hanging on His perfect word knowing that nothing is in vain. We may never see how God has used us to touch the lives of others. I have my guesses as to why we were brought back here - I won't be sharing those today... or maybe ever. But I know that God has more in store for us. Whether it's here in Salem (yipes) or elsewhere will remain to be seen. I'll go (or stay) wherever He wants us. I'm just grateful that I am beginning to understand what I couldn't put words to. That emptiness just leaves more room for Jesus. I can't think of anything I'd rather be filled with.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Unsettled...

I think God has us here for a season, but I think he'll be leading us away from here at some point. (Who knows when?) We just don't fit in…. Some people love it here and call it home. For us, it's just a place we've stopped on the way to "home". Ever since we've moved to Oregon (6 years ago) we haven't had any truly, deep friendships or a committed community of "family". I don't know why… It isn't for a lack of commitment, investment or effort on our part. The only way we know how to love is deeply. But for some reason, most of what we've encountered here are people who go to a certain level, and then they back off (as if it goes too deep for them); or people who just are very busy with other things and don't have time. Maybe it's us… maybe it's them. I don't know. (This isn't true in all cases. We've made a few pretty close friends, but nothing like we had in California, Montana or Illinois.) I long to know the heart of people, and I long for them to really know me. We're not interested in surface-level chit chats.

I've been really struggling for the last couple of years… Same thing – new friends, new community, new everything…. It finally dawned on me about a week before we left for Chicago. Scott and I stayed up into the wee hours of the night just talking, crying, sharing, listening…. Then everything I realized was confirmed while we were there. We connected with our family and friends, and BOOM – there was our community. We've forgotten what it was like…. And then in God's perfect timing, my old accountability partner from Montana called out of the blue last week – she said just to hear my voice. (God did that, I'm sure of it.) It just confirmed in my heart what I've been dealing with these last couple of years. It's been a lonely road.

Why we're in Oregon, I don't know. For a season... For a reason... Oregon isn't home to me. Never has been. I doubt it ever will be. We lean into God's leading. Perhaps we'll find our way home one of these days.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Photo Op

Our photographer came down from Portland today to take Jeffrey’s pictures. Murphy’s Law.... My sweet, giggly, incessantly happy boy was cranky and fussy almost the whole time! Sheesh! We got some great shots, but he just pooped out right when we were taking the last family photos, so we didn’t get any of those. Kind of a bummer. Cindy is so patient...

We got some fun pics of his little bottom and him peeking over his shoulder. Oh my gosh, his chubby little tushy is so cute!!!! She’ll send us the slide show in about 2 1/2 weeks. I’m looking forward to seeing how they turned out.
He just tuckered out when Cindy left. I think he slept for over an hour. We should have called Gramma over. He always gets giggly when she’s around. (We’re actually at Gramma’s as I type this. And, true to form, they are all playing in the other room. Music to my ears!)

My friend ate catfood by accident the other day. (You know who you are!) She wrote, "p.s. can i just tell you that i accidentally ate cat food this morning? well, you know how when you’re pregnant, food starts to catch on your belly a lot? Well, this morning, I was eating oatmeal, and it was kinda dark, and I thought oatmeal fell on my belly. So, not really thinking twice about it, I picked it up with my finger and put it right back in my mouth (i can’t let food go to waste!) and as it was on my tongue I realized, this is CAT FOOD!!! I ran to the sink and started spitting, rinsing my mouth, hoping it wouldn’t reach my taste buds. Well, that pretty much ruined my appetite for food and I got instant gag reflex. Then, I couldn’t stop smelling cat food. I rinsed my shirt, that didn’t work. I used the tide pen, and I thought that helped. But as I’m driving to work, I start to smell it again, and lo and behold, my shirt STILL smells like cat food. So, I’ve pretty much tried to wash my entire shirt without taking it off, but the smell is forever in my nose now. And that’s how my morning has begun. In Jesus name, Amen."

Friggen hilarious. I wrote her back, "I completely sympathize. That’s like that time I was sneaking into the bedroom on my hands and knees in the hopes of scaring Scott, but he saw me, so I was trying to act like I was doing something else. There was a little rock (pebble size) on the carpet, so I got real close and smelled it. It wasn’t a rock. It was poo. It must have fallen off the cat’s paw as one of them jumped out of the cat box. Gross!!!!! I just looked up at Scott, who was amused at the fact that I would even smell something on the carpet, and said, ’I think that’s poo.’ Which then got huge laughter. And I’ve been made fun of ever since. God said it was good. And it was so."

And so goes my life. Funny stuff happens to me all the time.

I’m so full I’m about to ass-plode. (Gotta love Outback.) After Cindy left, we were watching Throwndown with Bobby Flay. That was the wrong thing to watch after you haven’t eaten since breakfast. BBQ ribs and Jerk Steak. Mmmmm. So... you can see the natural progression. Thus, Outback. ("Mum, mum, mum.... Mum’s the word and so the word is mum, mum. She will forever be your mum, mum...")

Everything’s great... everything’s groovy. It’s a great day....

I think I have steak coming out of my ears.

Hyacinth smells awesome. I have two plants on my dining table, along with a cute hurricane (candle holder) filled with Easter candy.

And can I just say that I LOVE my new dining table? It’s huge. I have to keep both leaves out in order to fit nicely in my current dining room, but it extends (2 leaves) to 8 feet. It can easily seat 10. Perfect! My dream table, really. It’s just beautiful, too. It took us over 2 years to find it. I feel all grown up now. (Especially after having toted around a hand-me-down table from my old boss in Billings, MT. That table was older than me. We gave it to Scott’s mom. A lot of Speed Uno rounds will be remembered.)

It would be great to move.... We tried selling the house a year ago, but after the lending fell through for the folks that wanted to buy our home, we pulled it from the market. I was 8 1/2 months pregnant. I didn’t want to move when I was 9 months... or with a brand new baby. We’re getting ready to put it back on the market - hopefully this summer. It’d be nice to have more room. Our cozy home seems awfully small with a baby, and hopefully one on the way (soon, not yet).

The picklebean calls me. He loves his mama.

Peace out.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Father to the Fatherless...

Yesterday my heart broke a little. Logan (one of my coworkers) came to our staff meeting with the news that a friend of his (Dan) was diagnosed with a heart aneurysm. This is bad. This means that any amount of stress could kill him. What do you do with that?? He’s about 22, maybe 23, years old, with an 8-month old baby at home. Dan is a big, burly biker dude and tattoos all over, driven to tears by fear of what might come. Logan prayed for him over the phone that morning. We prayed for him at our prayer tables after staff coffee.

I was so touched. I couldn’t help but think of that sweet little baby and the possibility of not ever knowing her daddy. My heart just broke for her. I started to pray, and I was overwhelmed by tears - out of nowhere. I could hardly speak. I prayed for God to intervene. I prayed that God wouldn’t take her daddy from her. Coming from experience, I know how hard it is to go through life without a father. (I lost mine to cancer when I was 8 years old.)

And I got to thinking about Jeffrey. He’s 8 months old. The same age. What would it be like if something happened to Scott? How would I teach Jeffrey who his father is? How would I explain just how much his daddy loved him? Would he ever really know?

After staff coffee, I went to visit the PickleBean. I just hugged him and told him I loved him. I needed that moment. And it was as if he knew I needed it. Scott took him to give him a hug and Jeffrey just reached for me. He hardly ever does that. (He loves to be in his daddy’s arms.)

I’m so grateful for my life and for my family. I’m grateful for our health. I’m grateful for the time that we’ve been given to enjoy each other. But most of all, I’m grateful for a God who is our Father when we don’t have a father. What an amazing gift.

Life is so fleeting. You never know when something might pop up, or when your time here is over. I never take this for granted. I hope you don’t either.

If you think about it, please pray for Dan, his family, and for his little baby.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Cat is Stalking Me

You would think that for someone who rarely gets more than 5 hours of sleep at night (see, God created nursing babies for working moms) that I would covet those nights when the baby is sleeping like a ... well... baby. I’ve been awake for over an hour. It’s three in the morning. God isn’t even awake at this time of day... night... morning... whatever...

I move and my cat watches me. It’s a little nerve wracking. I’m typing in the dark and I can hear her licking herself in the corner.

The Post Office came out with Disney stamps. Super cute. I’m planning a baby shower for a friend (2 girls already, but a boy on the way - finally some testosterone in that family!). I dragged Scott on some errands yesterday, one of which was standing in the longest line ever at the Post Office just to get the Disney stamps. He said, "They have a machine...." Yes, they do have a machine, but they were only selling the "Forever" stamps with the Liberty Bell on them. So not cute. So I chose to stand in line. Scott said, "Really? Just for stamps?" I replied, "Yes, because that is the kind of friend I am." He asked, "What kind of friend is that?" I answered, "A dedicated, loyal, serving, willing-to-stand-in-super-long-lines-at-the-Post-Office kind of friend." He just smiled and said, "Oh." The line went pretty quick. There was a guy from our church who came in about 12 people behind us. Apparently, he’s a video game addict. It’s causing all kinds of domestic problems. I think there is a STEPs group for that.

I taught Jeffrey how to clap. It was a little slow going, but he loves the sound, so I made up a little song for him, which I would love to sing for you right now. It just goes, "We clap when we’re happy..." (It isn’t nearly as melodic as Scott’s song "A wiggle bean does what a wiggle bean does".) Back to clapping. Jeffrey claps ALL the time now. It is SO cute. His little chubby hands coming together makes the cutest little sound. It doesn’t sound quite like a clap yet, but it brings joy to my heart and I’m quite certain that Heaven’s angels rejoice when they hear it, too.

I chopped all my hair off. Jeffrey likes to pull it...so it just keeps getting shorter until there is nothing left to pull. I LOVE it. Shaved about 20 minutes off morning prep (primp) time. It’s sassy and a bit sexy. Scott says, "See? This is how it starts..." He’s afraid that I will never grow it long again. We’ll see.

All I see is the silhouette of my cat staring at me in the corner. Not even her eyes are glowing. Seriously. It’s freaking me out.

Cindy (
www.soulprintsphotography.com) is coming to photograph Jeffrey on Saturday. Can I just say that, objectively, he is a damn cute baby? He looks just like Scott, but I think he inherited the "cute factor" from me. He had to. Have you see Scott??? (haha, just jokes Love. You’re pretty cute, too, when you’re not too busy being a poophead.)

"A Nameless Person" told me she might have a new man in her life. She is being very strategic. It’s cracking me up. "Oh... I really don’t have a clue about the [something that must remain nameless]. Could you come over and pre-inspect for me?" Damsel in distress. Good tactic. (Kudos and high five to "Nameless Person"!)

"One word, five letters" I was told. B-O-O-N-S. I was thinking, gee... shouldn’t that be one word, six letters? B-O-O-N-E-S. I was wrong. And why? Because I have P-T-S-D. I spent way too much time in Portland. (Lower Boones Ferry Road. Not Boons as in Friday night beers.) Damn my psychological disorder! I love beer. I hate Portland. There ya go.

I’m going to Chicago for an HR conference in June. We’re making a vacation out of it. And dragging my mother in law with us. There was a snafu with the hotel reservations. She has been waffling, so I just reserved my own hotel room (for Scott and the baby and me). She waited too long to tell us, and the hotel rooms that were booked for the event have ALL been filled. That’s like over 3000 rooms. No joke. So... we decided that we’d just change our reservation for a room with two beds. Done. No big deal. I don’t mind sharing my room for 6 nights. Well.... I went to the hotel’s website (Chicago City Center) and their doubles are literally that; two doubles. As in two double beds. As in not much bigger than a twin. As in Santa Fe flashback. (Suddenly, I smell burning poo....) So, I guess we’ll have to venture out and find a room outside of the blocked rooms. Which means we’ll be paying about twice as much. Damn. Oh well. The church was paying for my room (since my time there is work related), so we’ll just pay the difference. It’s all good.

Speaking of which, it will be nice to be in Chicago again. This time, it will be summer and perhaps, maybe just maybe, I’ll actually get to see Chicago without being plummeted by rain. And perhaps we will visit our homeless friend who falls asleep in his riblets. That would be a treat.

I’m looking forward to visiting Scott’s dad - Richard, aka Dick. (There’s a really funny story about who knows Dick, but... it’s a family thing and I just don’t have the time to explain.) It will be the first time the PickleBean gets to meet his one and only grandpa! We’re thrilled!

So it sucks that the dollar is worth less than the Canadian dollar. So much for cheap trips to Whistler. Silly Americans.

I love jelly beans.

Anyone want a cat? (She finally left... I hear her in the kitchen crunching on her food...)

My nostril is whistling. That’s hilarious.

I’m a little nervous about this week’s weigh-in. (Damn... The cat is back. Now she wants attention. She is sitting at my feet meowing and purring.) The good news is that 2 weeks ago (when I weighed in for the first time since August) I was 10 pounds lighter than before I got pregnant with the PickleBean. I didn’t try much that week.... Change is difficult right now. But somehow by the grace of God, I lost 3.2 pounds the first week. Weird. (I chalk it up to loss of water, and/or serious fiber intake. I pooed a LOT that week.) We’ll see how this week goes. (Whoa! The cat just jumped in my lap.) Speaking of poo... I’ll be right back.

Ah. Clarity of thought.

Ya know, it’s never good when a sentence starts, "I’m no proctologist, but...."

Do you watch The Soup on E? I love the segment "Oprah’s vajay-jay." "Vajay-jay" has crept into our daily lives. I can’t even go to Jamba Juice without cracking a smile. (We actually call that Va-jamba Juice.) Oh, the humanity!
Great. Now the other cat is in here, too. Can I not have some peace in this place?

St. Patty’s Day is Monday. I love that day. All people everywhere should celebrate by getting schnockered. Yea, beer!
I was praying tonight (last night... this morning)... It’s hard to explain what all that entailed, but I’ve been pondering where something came from. What does it mean when you pray that you want to be a different kind of person - other than what you are? The oddity to me is that I work in a church. I’m not built for ministry the way, say, a pastor is built for ministry. My ministry is the health of the staff - the people doing the ministry. I think recently I’ve been comparing myself to the calling of others, and how that plays out for them in their prayer life - their reading, their contemplation of the things of God, etc. It’s weird because I’m totally content with my gifts and the way God has formed me (and continues to form me... I don’t want to sound as though I’m stagnant). But I think coming from a corporate environment, I’ve been slightly tainted by secular things. I wish I were more prayerful and disciplined. I can tell that many things have already been changing. (I’m much more introspective, slow to anger, slow to speak.... Stop laughing, it’s true.) But I think I compare myself to others who get to abide in God’s word all day, every day. I mean, 75% of our staff are preparing sermons and biblical lessons, so they are spending a great deal of time in Scripture. Much more time that I could possibly spend. So I really don’t know what I wish for that, other than to say that I long to know God more. I love being with Him. I love listening to Him. I love to imagine being next to Jesus as I go through my day.

The weekend that Jeffrey got dedicated, Steve delivered a powerful sermon. (It was about "Talking Taxi".) My mom (who is so totally not saved) cried through the whole thing (I’m told - she was sitting behind me, so I didn’t see her). Something got her. My prayer for her since long ago has been that God would not allow her to die until she accepted Jesus into her heart. Well... I cannot even count the ways that God has revealed Himself to her, or how many times He has intervened. I know the Holy Spirit is working on her. She may very well be the most callused person I know. (Honestly, I think fear is driving her. I think in her heart of hearts she knows that she is going to hell, but she is so afraid of trusting (i.e., faith) that she is willing to wager eternity.) I would have loved to have been in her head that night while she was alone in bed. I can only imagine the thoughts she was wrestling with. I continue to pray for her salvation (and everyone in my family) and hope that she falls before the throne of God on this world before it’s too late.
I planted hyacinth by the door. That smells loverly every day when I get home from work.

I’m so grateful for my life. I have an amazing, devoted husband, a gorgeous baby boy, and a peaceful home to live in. I’ve been given a wonderful job, working with such spectacular, Godly people. I have a "Willage" of friends (yes, that’s a "w", folks - think Asian accent), who really are an extension of family. And Jesus loves me for no other reason than just because. I don’t get it, but I’m humbled and grateful.

And I’ll end with this.... I really am grateful for my friends. I was thinking about how different and similar life has been here in Salem compared to Billings. I have some wonderful friends back in Montana. The only bummer is that few were Christians (and I can tell that over time, those friendships are fading because we find little in common. They live for the world. I live for Jesus.). Here, we have a growing web of comrades - people willing to battle with us. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s beautiful to share in the joys and suffering of life together. (We had a game night the night Jeffrey was dedicated, and pretty much all of our willage came... Imagine that! The Willage all squeezed into our tiny little home that just 3 years ago we dedicated to God’s work. We were missing Jeff and Kara (new Willage family), but the Willage was in full force that night.) I was nursing Jeffrey in his room, listening to our friends chatting and playing Cranium in the other room. It was music to my soul. Except for the part where Trina and Logan had adverse reactions to cat hair. Logan broke out in hives. So their spouses had to rescue them.

See??? It all comes back to the cats.

Thank you and good morning.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Lord's Table

I attended the Leadership Forum yesterday. (It's an annual Salem Alliance thing where the leaders in the church (that is, key volunteers and staff) get together to worship and hear updates on the last year in different ministries, both locally and globally.) All new staff get introduced... so there I was with 8 other staff members, and 1 "by satellite" (which was actually a taped interview, but it was pulled off like she connected via satellite - hilarious). There were some funnies that came out of my interview, but that isn't the point of my writing today, so maybe I'll save that for another time. Or maybe I won't.

While the group was only about 300 or so, maybe more, the worship and fellowship was indescribable. (Tangent: This is a church with more than 2500 adults that attend on an given weekend. The fact that only 300 people are serving is just really sad, and personally, I think that those that call SAC their home should be convicted for not serving their God who has so graciously given to them. More about that another time.) Laura and Logan led us in some amazing worship time. The entire PMT updated us on their areas of ministry and some beautiful stories of healing and salvation that have happened over the last year.

We heard an update on the Broadway project. The Governing Board, the day they made their final vote on whether or not to move ahead, voted unanimously, with one heart in only a way that the Holy Spirit could lead. They stood in agreement together in a circle.... and apparently was very moving. What's so cool about this is that I am certain that this project is going to touch lives. God is moving, people. Hearts will be changed for Jesus. There will be a place for ministries to happen, where the answer will be "Yes! We have a space for you to meet" rather than that "No, I'm sorry, we're all out of space" that so many are accustomed to hearing. Truly, I say to you, God is moving. Praise the Lord!
There were a few volunteers who were asked to come to the front to talk about why they serve, and continue to serve. Their stories were amazing - their hearts are so tender for the Lord.

Towards the end, we worshipped, and were called to communion. All the new staff had been asked to serve, so we filed towards the front and took our glass and our plate, and stood in our designated spot. I held the cup. For a moment as the music began, the vantage point of standing at the front of the congregation and looking out over this field of soldiers as they bowed their heads and prepared their hearts to receive the Lord's supper, I thought, "Wow..." But as people began to file forward to partake of the body and blood of Jesus, I cannot even begin to describe the flood of emotions that overtook me. It was truly a sacred moment. I've never served communion before. To see God's people coming humbly and prayerfully to receive this incredible gift is like nothing I've experienced before. One by one they came. One by one they bowed their heads and took the bread and dipped it in the cup. One by one they ate. One by one they worshipped. Many said a prayer just before eating. Many just said, "Thank you, Jesus." What else can you say?

I was was blessed to serve.

The Governing Board gathered around the PMT and laid hands on them to pray, as they knelt before the throne of God. All staff come to the front where the PMT and Governing Board laid hands on us and prayed. And then we all stood along the perimeter of the room and prayed for our leaders; our volunteers, God's devoted followers who, in an act of worship and obedience, serve joyfully and gratefully. So cool.

A woman (my Bible Study 'encourager') came to me after we were all dismissed to give me a hug. She said many kind words, most of which I prefer to just keep to myself, but she told me a story that is so telling of how God works. She said that around Christmas time, she was feeling very sad and alone. Family wasn't right... her extended family doesn't know the Lord and other circumstances in her life just had her carrying a heavy burden. She came to the Christmas Eve service and sat towards the back. Feeling depleated, she prayed and asked God to reveal Himself to her and to lift her spirit so that she could rejoice in the season. She said that she lifted her head, and just one or two rows down she saw a family - a mother, a father and a little baby. She said they looked so happy and that Jesus just emanated from them. She said that family was mine, and that I just radiated "mother". In that moment, she felt the presence of God.

You just never know who is watching or how God is going to use circumstances to speak to someone else. I was so touched. So few times do I get the chance to share my faith, or to talk about my life when I know that the other person is getting some benefit. Only once in the last year have I had that opportunity (that I know of), and apparently.... well... let's just say that it wasn't received in the heart that was given. But to know that God DOES use me... It's very confirming. So, I thank you, Jesus, for giving me that insight yesterday.