Saturday, February 28, 2009

Visitors and lighter side

First of all, we were thrilled to have Jerry and Kathy with us for the evening. The kids were so excited to be able to see them again. Jerry and Kathy had been in Texas building houses for an organization similar to "Habitat for Humanity" (and spent a couple of days working for Habitat, too). They were returning home and stopped in with us. Thanks so much for stopping in!

It rained the whole time they were here, so we took the picture in the truck :)

Now, on the lighter side...

Here is my attempt ... can you see it?

Here is John's attempt - better.

This morning, it was really cool - a large group (I counted 38) of what looked like grey herons or egrets or some type of bird with long necks flew overhead. Mercy was the one who spotted them and barked at them (don't ask). I ran in for the binoculars and told John and we tried to snap a picture or two, but it was just so bright that is was hard to get a shot. You'll have to take my word for it that it was really cool :)

Also - it is supposed to SNOW tonight! I hope it does.

Wanna see it again?

It just occurred to me that I could have told you that this was the snow...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Just some thoughts out loud

Luke 8:22-25 One day Jesus said to his disciples, "Let's go over to the other side of the lake." So they got into a boat and set out.
This was one of the verses of focus for my Bible study on Wednesday night. We are studying Beth Moore's "Jesus the One and Only". In the video on Wednesday, she brought out a point that has stayed with me.

She made an observation between Jesus' ministry and current Christian ministry and the differences that seem to be there. Jesus ministered to the down and outs, those truly in need, those desperate - those that don't have it all together. He "went to the other side" to meet those that were truly in need of ministry.

I agree with her wholeheartedly - however, I am not intending to criticize or judge the current church. You see, I have to ask myself that tough question - how I am reaching those "on the other side"? Am I willing to be inconvenienced? Am I able to meet them on their level - where they are?

I have been asking the Lord for opportunities to minister ... and when He sends people ... I struggle with being inconvenienced by the needs that are there. I have jokingly said "ok, Lord, how about sending the easy 'got-it-all-together' group of women to minister to and we can just have our little coffee party and talk about you?" Wouldn't that be nice? :)

But you see, that is not how He works - if we "have it all together", we aren't always focused on our need for Him. He has a heart for those who are hurting - He is full of compassion for those who are desperate. I love the verses from Isaiah 61 describing Jesus' ministry.
Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,

I have met a few people that are in need of a touch from Him. I am praying that the Lord will give me opportunities to serve them in His name and bring Him glory. I am praying that I will be given His words to touch them - words of healing and forgiveness. Being careful to not condemn or correct with my words. In other words, just to allow Him to shine through me.

Being willing to "go to the other side" to meet people where they are.

Thanks for letting me think out loud.

Monday, February 23, 2009


We were able to go to Gatlinburg, TN with our home group last weekend. We had a wonderful time!

Here is the cabin that we stayed in. A friend from our church owns it and allows us to use it - isn't that amazing?

The kids had a BLAST! Here they are in their room.

A river runs through the charming little town.

I love the little old bridges - would love to be able to walk on them, but this one needs some work first.

This intrigues me - exactly what are these stairs for?

We took a hike in to Abram's Falls on Saturday morning. The kiddos wanted to feel the water.

Abram's Falls

The family photo in front of Abram's Falls.

John and Hadden scaling the log bridge. Thankfully, they weren't too high off the ground - as a Mommy, they make me nervous.

This is special to us - Mr. Al is our home group leader. He lost his precious wife, Sherry, last year to cancer. We were all together in Gatlinburg last February and Hadden held Miss Sherry's hand the entire way back from the falls. We all miss her.

We saw many, many deer. Hadden was counting and I think he counted around 60 or so. Some may have moved around while we were hiking and got counted more than once - we don't know for sure.

This is really hard to see, but there is a black bear in the middle of this photo!

HA! Three guys, three laptops, big screen tv and leather couches. Does it get any better than that, fellas?

It snowed!!! Just enough to play in - not enough to get snowed in (bummer!)

Sunday, Mr. Al and our family took another hike into Laurel Falls. It was cold!

But worth it - the falls there are beautiful, too.

Picture of Laurel Falls.

We had a great time - we decided to stay until Monday morning as John didn't have to be into the prison until around 1:00 pm. Now, I have a lot of catching up to do ... laundry, Bible study homework ... but it was worth it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

As random as it gets

Currently, things are a little busy. Each day, we are working on the house a little bit - pouring a thin layer of concrete at the top of the walls to make it completely level. After that, while John goes to work in the prison, we try to do our homeschooling and errands. Fitting in time for meals, chores (the never-ending laundry pile), games and planning for the house makes for full days. Oh - and not to forget computer time :)Top that off with my Beth Moore Bible study and reading time. Now, baseball and softball are going to compete for time, too.

So, here are a few random shots and thoughts from the last few days...

Monopoly has been a favorite game to play. This particular game, John WIPED OUT me and then Savannah and was in the process of trying to take out Hadden when the time ran out. We also play Rummikub and an occasional card game.

This one just struck me so funny! Hadden was having chicken strips for supper and this was the shape of one of his pieces. Chicken shaped like a chicken! This was not intentional (i.e. - it wasn't dino shapes or chicken shapes - it just happened to be that way).

Last week, John surprised me with this!!! If you know me well, I don't really like cut flowers because they don't last long enough. I have always told John that if he is going to get me flowers, I would prefer the potted kind. So, he bought me an orchid - they are my favorite! For our first few anniversaries, he bought me orchids, but they have since not survived.

Orchids are amazing because each bloom with last for months - yes, months! (Given the proper care and environment - not sure exactly how well they will do in the camper). They also bloom again the next year. Very cool! This one has 7 buds on it - 5 are either open or nearly open. They are beautiful.

Here's a closer shot of the flowers.

John's Blog:
I also wanted to let you know that my husband has updated his blog twice in the last week :) If you are interested in details of the construction of our basement walls, go say hi to him here.

Training meeting
We have a training meeting tonight for volunteers that want to go into the prison. Currently, I am planning on attending and might possibly have opportunity to go in about once a month with our church. I am very excited for this possibility for a number of reasons - the main one being able to put some names to faces. Another is that so I feel more a part of the ministry that John is doing - I will see a little bit of what he experiences and hopefully be better aware of what to pray for and how to pray.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Getting in the game ... and practicing...

Yesterday was the beginning of baseball and softball season for our area. Savannah and Hadden had "try-outs" for teams. At this level, the kids do not get cut, but the league runs the try-outs to assess the skills of each child and attempt to make the teams even.

Savannah and Hadden have never played official baseball. We have a cheap bat and ball that we play with, they both have gloves, but we have just not had the chance to play "real" ball.

I wanted our kids to do well, to have fun, and to be confident to do their best. I knew they would not be the best players, but I didn't want them to be confused or lost during the try-outs. So a couple of nights before, while John had to be in the prison, I was trying to help them understand the rules of baseball, at least to the best of my ability. I diagrammed on paper for them, gave them tips, tried to explain different scenarios, etc.

Then, on Saturday, we spent a couple of hours practicing - throwing, hitting and catching.

Hadden was first to try-out. He did ok. Savannah was next. She did ok.

As I sat there watching them, I realized that we didn't put enough amount of time in practicing. We talked about the game, had gone to a game in PA, played parts of the game, but just haven't practiced enough from day to day to build the skills necessary for them to really be effective.

I know this analogy has been used before, but it struck me yesterday as I sat there watching our children that our Christian walk is the same way. First of all, you have got to be in the game to be effective. We can know all about the game, we can even go and watch games, we can talk to others about the game, but if individually we aren't in the game, we are merely spectators.

Knowing Christ is the first step, but unless we know Him for ourselves, we are simply just spectators. We may go to church, know all about Christ, know all the "rules" and even believe He exists, and still be a spectator.

The next step is to put it into practice. Knowing Him, praying, reading His word - practice.

So, now I'm going to go practice and do my Bible study homework :)

James 5:16b The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Matthew 7:24-25 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Pictures o'plenty

Let's begin with the sunrise from the other morning.

Full-height walls with forms off - yippee!

John enjoying the view from the "deck"

Another view showing the deck. John made our scaffolding - isn't he amazing?

The thinking chair.

I like this one. The sky looks pretty crazy.

"The Lills" - she is so funny. When we are working around the window area, she jumps into the window box and then takes advantage of being able to lick us :) She has many nicknames and Licky is one of them.

What a dog.

This is my favorite - I am already thinking I need a wall hanging of it. This is just after Hadden's hair cut and just before John's today, so I may have to recreate it so that John will enjoy it being on the wall.

Well, this is my favorite, too. I couldn't choose between them.

Lilly, you have outgrown being a lap puppy!!!

Do you think she cares right about now?

Psalm 24:1-2 The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Warning ... this may get a little sweet -n- sappy

At about this time, 10 years ago today, I was preparing to head to the Portland airport to meet someone special for the very first time. We "knew" each other pretty well, but had never met in person ... yet. I was nervous. That good, anticipation kind of nervous. How would I make it through those first possibly awkward moments? Do I hug him? Should I take something for him? What should I wear - we had decided to both wear denim shirts (the one that he had sent me for my birthday), but what should I wear with it?

I arrived at the airport early, parked the car, went in and found the gate. I brought a book along (I'm not exactly sure why - I read it, but didn't get a single thing out of it :). The plane was late! That made me even more nervous because then the unknown kicked in, too. How much longer is it? If I know, then I can handle it. If I don't know, I don't know how long I have to be patient and that made me nervous. Turns out, the waiting on the plane thing was nothing compared to the endless amount of time between the plane landing and him actually getting off the plane! (I have never figured out!)

I stood up and tried to look casual by leaning against a pillar. (I know. What was I thinking?) The first passengers got off, found their friends and loved ones and moved on. What seemed like hours later, I saw him. He had a spring in his step and a huge smile on his face...

Oh, I'm sorry, let's back up a little bit. Let me tell you a little bit of the background. I was single, living in Portland, OR. My very best friend had gotten married a couple of years earlier and I was still searching for the perfect guy. Most everyone that I knew told me I was too picky. I needed to "lower my standards" because no one would be able to fill my list. I refused and had thought that maybe marriage was just not God's plan for me.

On Sept. 20, 1998 I sent out an email that changed my life. I had stumbled across a website that was designed to connect Christian singles and long story short found John's profile. Hmmm... Christian (check), tall (check), CUTE (check), volleyball player (BONUS). So I wrote. He wrote back (after 3 days!). After that, our emails became more frequent and it got so bad that I ran home on my lunch hour to check :) (we didn't have internet service at that time at the place I worked). I have to admit that from his emails he just seemed too good to be true. But still I hoped.

Fast forward a couple of months to early December. He called! He was so easy to talk to on the phone and over the next couple of months, we talked many times. He had surprised me with a very special present for my birthday. Still too good to be true.

Remember he played volleyball? Well, I was playing a tournament and with an unexpected turn of events, we needed a male player. So, casually on the phone one evening I said "wanna come play"? And to my surprise, he said yes! Did I ever tell you that I have a weakness for saying things without fully thinking them through? Now, I had a dilemma.
1. It's VALENTINE'S Day weekend!
2. I have never seen him play volleyball and he was replacing an excellent player from CA. What were my teammates going to do to me? What if he couldn't play well at all? (If you play volleyball - *real* volleyball, you will understand this. If not, stick with me anyway).
3. It's VALENTINE'S Day weekend!

Now what do I do? Thankfully, I decided to just roll with it and worst-case scenario, he would stink at volleyball and I would have to apologize to my team (and offer to pay their part of the entry fees :).

Are you still with me? This was the weekend we would meet - the trip to the airport was to officially "meet" him for the volleyball playing, Valentine's "first time meeting" weekend. The nerves at the airport were an incredible combination of thoughts, but mostly "would he really be too good to be true?" Or would he be ... all that I had dreamed he would be?

In an instant, I knew. He wrapped me in a "just-right" hug that just fit. As we walked the long corridor towards baggage claim, somehow just walking side by side was awkward so I slipped my hand through his arm. He then reached his hand up and grabbed my hand so that we could hold hands instead. And his hand just fit.

I knew that night he was the man that I was going to marry. He was and is the real deal. Far exceeds the list I had for the person that I would marry. The list that was "too long" according to most (to whom I say "neener, neener, neener" - just kidding! I know that they were really just trying to help).

Ten years ago today. We've had ten fabulous years together and I am so very grateful that the Lord brought us together. Neither of us are perfect, but I do think we are a perfect fit.

So I don't leave you hanging, the weekend was a blast. We walked the waterfront park in Portland on Friday night before I dropped him off at his hotel. Early the next morning after coffee at Coffee People, we drove to the Oregon coast and spent the day there topped off with a late dinner with my best friend and her husband. This time when I dropped him off at his hotel, he gave me a sweet kiss goodnight (which turned out to be a really good thing, but that's for another time). Then another early morning (and coffee at Coffee People) we were off to the tournament. HE WAS AN AWESOME PLAYER and I loved showing him off sharing him with my volleyball friends! We ended up in 2nd place for the tournament - maybe it would have been 1st if we had slept more than 5 hours in two nights! :)

Eight more trips later, a move to PA, an engagement on top of the Empire State Building, a wedding in OR, a honeymoon in Tahiti, a reception in PA, 2 kids later, a house, 2 dogs, no house, a camper, a move to AL, and another dog - whew, here we are! And, as they say, the rest is history...

I love you, honey! Thanks for ten incredible years and for leading our family so well. Looking forward to whatever the Lord has for us and thrilled to be by your side in the journey and adventure.

Monday, February 9, 2009

That truly is something...

It's been a busy week - enjoyable, but busy week.

We were blessed with some visitors over the weekend.

James and John from PA stopped on their way to Florida and John showed them all of the high spots in the area. I'm telling you - those Northerners know hospitality, too. They brought us all kinds of goodies and treats so that we can enjoy some of the treasures from PA.

Then, Sunday, John's Dad and wife, Beulah, stopped on their way home from Florida for a visit. They also brought all kinds of goodies and treats, so we are stocked for a while :) The kids loved seeing Grandpa and Beulah (as we all did) and John got lots of pointers for the house.

And, contrary to my last post, I do LOVE visitors. You don't even have to bring us anything!!!

Just for fun - John snapped a picture of the kiddos from his tower spot.

Just for funny - Buddy sleeping. Doesn't he look relaxed?

Finally, here is a current picture of the house. However, the final pour is DONE!!!! Last Friday, the overnight temperatures were finally above freezing, so we felt it was safe to pour. Because we had to wait until the last minute to make a decision to pour (the weather forecast kept juggling around freezing), we had a difficult time finding helpers. We ended up managing the pour all by ourselves. The back wall required that we bucket the concrete into the forms from scaffolding. We used 5-gallon buckets, but they were only about 1/4 or 1/3 full. Let's just say that I was exhausted. That really good kind of tired.

We have also been scrambling to get our plans on paper. We have the general idea in our heads as to what we want to do and further defining the pieces that we need when we need them. That works fine if it is just the two of us working together. However, that is likely to change in March. Some friends (huge understatement) are putting a team together to come and frame up our house. Yes - you read that correctly ...!!! Well, obviously, if that is to happen, we need house plans written down. So we have been working to put it all together. It has been a fun exercise, somehow bittersweet in trying to imagine what it will be like and at the same time knowing how long it will be away (hmmm - probably the reason that it has been difficult to get it down on paper before now :).

Kind of funny set of emotions to deal with. John and I normally don't like to ask for anything - call it pride, call it whatever, but we don't want to be "needy". It was hard enough for us to do the whole faith-based fund raising thing (which the Lord made exceptionally easy by providing a tremendous amount of supporters - praise to Him and thanks to all who are a part of that).

Now this? A team of guys are going to come down and work on our house for us? Brings me to tears - truly. There's a huge part of me that screams "No - that's too much" and another part that says "THANKS a million (or two, or twenty :)"

Interesting enough, it seems that the Lord put it on the hearts of more than one of the men. So, somehow, saying "No - that's too much" is for us to deny them a blessing. Humbling. Truly. That God of ours is truly amazing, isn't he?

"We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.”- 2 Thessalonians 1:3

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Entertaining ... or not ...

When living in PA, I enjoyed entertaining - having friends over, hosting an Alpha group at our home, etc. I don't enjoy cooking, but I do love having people over. We had a house designed well for entertaining and the dogs had crates to go in when people were over. We were a civilized family in a civilized neighborhood (whatever that truly means :). I had expectations - house clean, dog hair removed, kids well-behaved, dogs in crate (with treats, of course), etc.

Fast forward to now ... living in a camper (this is not a camper complaint!) - definitely not "entertaining friends" material. I only consider having people actually IN the camper who I know very well and will actually believe me when I say that "I am normally a decent housekeeper", "It's really not that bad", and other such ramblings. The stupid pride in me wants to scream "this is NOT how I normally live!!!! This is NOT how I normally live!!!"

So imagine my horror surprise when John offered that I entertain someone's wife during the day today while her husband went in the prison with him.

Someone I hadn't met. Another woman, no less. Someone who was sure to be critical the minute she walked through the door. I was pretty sure that this might be the longest hours of her week ... maybe even month. I didn't even know her, had never met her and somehow decided this about her. In other words, it had nothing to do with her, it was just anybody here that was the problem.

All the while he was on the phone, I was frantically waving my arms with the "no, No, NO - absolutely NO!" motions - guessing what he was going to offer for me to do. He got off the phone with a smile and suggested that I could take her for a hike (he had asked her husband if she did, but I never heard that side of the answer). "Oh, and we can quick clean the camper in the morning" - in.the.morning ... before 8 am. Ah, yes.

Needless to say, this morning, I was less than endearing and lovable :) I had automatically stereotyped this woman into someone that would not accept me as I currently am. I had made alternate plans - I was going to take her to the nearest mall - indoor mall - so that we could do our "hiking" there. Then, I wouldn't have to be embarrassed bringing her here.

Oh - it gets worse. Much worse. Not only is the camper next to impossible to keep clean (think 2 adults, 2 kids, 3 dogs and lots of sand, mud and dust), but the vehicles are also next to impossible to keep clean (think dirt road - think 2.5 miles each way of dirt and dusty road). The thought did cross my mind yesterday to clean the inside of the car, but it was FRIGID outside and I was pretty sure we would be driving the truck that John had with him. So. The car didn't get cleaned. Neither did the truck.

So, this morning while we were driving down the (dirt) road to meet them, I was using Clorox Fresh Wipes on the dashboard of the truck to try to make it look presentable. At that very moment, I had the thought that if I were reading someone else telling this story, that I would find it all very funny. I shared that thought with John (who by the way wasn't sure what to do with me at that point. I had already spat out at him with tears of frustration and the words "it's just a big deal for women"). Silence. "John, not all women even like hiking." Silence. "It's REALLY cold outside". I'm not quite sure where I was trying to go with this, but I wasn't getting anywhere.

See, the silly thing is, I knew he was right again and I didn't really want to admit it. I was being silly over stupid girl things that we torture each other with. Oh, let's not forget the really important things like the clothes we wear, the decorating we do, the parents we are, whether the hair is the right length or the right color, how well we cook/clean/bake, whether our "stuff" appears perfect and in order, etc. etc. All in the name of fitting in and being "normal".

I am still not quite sure we do this to ourselves. John always says "don't, you don't have to be that way". Simple. Don't.

The rest of the day went much better. We met them at the prison and she was VERY sweet, kind, flexible and friendly. One of the first things she said was that she loves being outdoors and going for walks. With that, I decided to brave it and bring her to the camper instead of to the mall. We had a wonderful time chatting, going for a walk (after the weather got above freezing!), later confessing that neither of us was looking forward to getting together :), finding similarities even though we are a few years apart and cultures different. I apologized to my husband for being so difficult and he as always quickly forgave me.

I thoroughly enjoyed my day and am looking forward to the opportunity to get together with her again next year.

Oh, and honey, about the "don't" ... I'm going to try, but I'm going to need a lot of the Lord's help.

“For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.”- Psalm 33:4-5