Monday, October 27, 2008

The Real Focus...

I am going to step into a sticky topic here because I simply want to share it......
That topic is ... my church.
Why is that a sticky topic?
Well, because as sure as people are people, everyone has an opinion, a feeling, and an experience.

It has now been a little over 7 years since we helped to start this church and I continue to be amazed and ever so grateful for the blessings involved, the people, the presence, the relationships.

The relationships.....The older I get, the more I learn that relationship is completely what God is all about. The more I learn, the more I see that the symbolism of "church" has gotten so wrapped up in rules, guidelines, steps, classes, structure, and format.....that the heart core and reasoning for church has been side stepped and forgotten. I often find myself picturing God shaking His head and saying, 'No that is not how it should be. Please just listen.'

My Disclaimers:
No my church is not perfect. None are because people are people....completely fail able.
Other churches are great too. Different churches fit different kinds of people.
There is a time and place for long as people listen to God's guidance.

With that being said, I LOVE my church. As we seek God's truth from the bible, we also seek His character, grace, and mercy. Continually we strive to have relationship as the main foundation and for people to find comfort and healing in a non-condemning environment.

Why am I bringing all of this up? Simply because last week I learned fresh that the ripple effects of that sort of environment effects the children too.

I have always encouraged my teachers to focus on relationship. I have always said that there is comfort in having a lesson plan and great things can be accomplished and learned with the structure of a lesson plan....but never be so focused on a check list that the children are forgotten. If things turn upside down in class and nothing gets "taught" but the children go home feeling more secure and confident...then GREAT things happened in class.

Ah...but fighting the security of a check list can be difficult at times. In my last post I talked about being empty for a long time and losing focus. After coming back from that retreat, I felt all of that fall away and when I taught the next day at church I felt a renewed sense of purpose in relationship instead of check lists. Boy am I grateful.

I had 2 new students in class, a brother and sister, ages 6 and 8. The little girl was scared to come into class and hugged her daddy for a long time before relenting to step into the unknown. Instead of opening the class time with the usual structure, I chose to break the class into small groups, I took one group and my teaching partner took the other. We discussed the happenings of the week, favorite foods, and how best to eat chocolate (yes I had the girls group). Then the subject of good things and bad things rolled around and the girls began to share with one another what was on their mind. You know what? Even a 1st grader can offer deep compassion in a relationship. They prayed and hugged each other ......without my prompting.

It was at this point that the little 6 year old really opened up. In words that were much too old for her years she took a deep breath and shared this, "Ok I want to share something with you all and it is bad. I mean really bad and sad. Okay, my parents are getting a divorce and....."
And on she went explaining what was on her heart. When she was finished sharing, the others in the group offered their young encouragement, hugs, and prayers. She looked happier and lighter when it was all said and done.

I was so touched and amazed. Over and over it hit me that if I had kept with my check list, she never would have had opportunity to share her heart and find relationships in new surroundings. The other children would have not had opportunity to reach out from themselves and have compassion in action for another.

By the time we pulled the groups back together, there wasn't much time for a lesson, but I think the real lesson had truly already been taught.

Yesterday in church they were visiting again. I saw that little girl smiling and talking with her new friends. She ran up to me and shared what a great day she was having and how glad she was to be back.

Again I felt in awe at the importance of relationship.........the real focus.

(David at Authorblog honored this post with a mention on his post of the day column.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Light As A Feather...

I am spending the day doing all the laundry in the house and catching up on things after having so many activities on our plates.

The retreat was amazing. We were in the high desert region of Oregon staying at a home filled with gracious hospitality. There were 19 of us all together enjoying food, fellowship, teaching, and fond memories.

One of the dear ladies in our church, who happens to be Romanian, came and played chef for us during the 3 day event. Wow! I have never been so spoiled by food before. When I prepare to cook for a large number of people, I think of things like spaghetti, burgers on the grill, instant oatmeal, and deli sandwiches. But not dear Ileana. Before we could barely begin to be hungry from the previous extravagant meal, we could smell the aromas of Chicken Marsala, BBQ Ribs, and Baklava coming up the stairs to our meeting room.

Here is a "quick" dessert she threw together for us. She was so amazing. Even as she was unpacking the kitchen the first night, she whipped up a plum pie from scratch from plums she grabbed out of the yard.

The retreat was a good soul searching time for me. It was a time for me to sort through, label and get rid of things that I have been carrying around in my mind and heart. I feel so much lighter now in perspective and have a renewed focal point for being motivated in the things that I do.

That may make no sense at all and I am sorry for that. I just wanted to be able to make note of it here for my own personal well being.

Blessings to you today.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

19 Years Today....

Today is our 19th wedding anniversay.
Tonight we are going out to dinner at one of my favorites and then tomorrow we pack for a few days of relaxation with a church retreat.
"See" you when I get back. Until then, be blessed and enjoy God's creative hugs.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

God is so Good and Amazing....

God is so good and amazing!

I never tire of saying that and as long as I have known Him, I still get amazed fresh and new each time He does something.

Some of you have asked for updates on the progress of our preparations for "Pippin's" mission trip to Uganda. Here is how things stand.....

-We have secured round trip tickets for $1599 and that includes the fare and all applicable taxes.
-We are working with a travel clinic that will be dispersing the vaccine medications for a fraction of the regular cost.
-It only took a week and a half to receive her passport in the mail.
-As of today, she has received sponsorships from family and friends for $1400. A couple of those people were even blogger friends! My goodness how overwhelming it was to receive emails from you asking for us to send a sponsor letter to your snail mail. There is so much love, generosity, and compassion in that giving.

Do you see it? Do you see how and why God is so good and amazing?

He is bringing this all together.
Hiccups? way. Have you ever heard of someone getting their passport in 10 days?
The excellent ticket price, the sponsor is all happening because God is whispering and people are listening. We are so humbled at watching it all unfold and we are anxious to see how He will handle the rest of it.

What is left to be done?

The pastors have asked that though pants are more acceptable than they used to be, the girls should wear long skirts or dresses. Since winter is setting in here and current clothing styles can hard to wade through, I will be making 4-5 skirts for her to take on the trip.

Gather the list of items for packing that aren't always thought of. You know things like: bug repellent, sun screen (it is their summer in December and will be 90 degrees in Kampala), extra vitamin boosts, and protein bars. I am sure we will be adding much more to the list before it is all over with. Those are just things on the top of my mind.

Secure funds and reservations for appropriate lodging and daily expenses. We are told that living conditions even in the city are not quite optimal and an appropriate hotel with security will run a little over $100 per night. Pippin and one other girl are going so they will be able to room together and share the cost.

pray for us as we go through all of this preparation. This is all such a big step and we are doing every ounce of it with smiles. But at times the days seem to run into each other. A normal day has school running a majority of the day and Pippin being on the drama tech crew every evening. Then the night has music lessons, worship practice, youth gatherings, and Uganda team meetings. She does much of her homework during her first period class and so far seems to be handling it all well.

I am so excited for her. This trip will affect and shape the rest of her life.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

2nd Weekend in October....

I took my dad to the airport on Wednesday morning, dropped the girls off at school, went on my 3 mile walk, and then came home to closed windows and ignored the world.
It was such a good time for my dad to be here. We did talk about things. We cried, hugged, and healed. It was so hard to take him to the airport and to talk to him on the phone now brings more tears to my heart. But that is good.


Praise! My mom had her first cataract surgery on Thursday and she is doing wonderful. It was funny to visit with her yesterday and explore a newly uncovered world with her. It reminded me of so many of those same feelings that I had with my eye surgeries......"wow everything is crisp" and "oh my gosh how did the bathroom get so dirty". Now we are all looking forward to the next surgery, which I hope they schedule soon, so that she can see clearly with no struggling.


In the midst of everything I have been sporting around continual waves of major headaches. It is really getting on my nerves. They hang around for a week at a time slowly building to a non-functioning climax that sends me to bed with the world spinning. I have an appointment on Monday but things have calmed back down and I can do most things without noticing the irritation. Don't know that an appointment would solve anything now.


On to other things......
Last night our oldest daughter came into town from Spokane for the weekend with her boyfriend. We decided that we needed to go downtown to the hockey game because our Portland Winterhawks were playing the Spokane Chiefs. Those who know me well may or may not be surprised to find that mind mannered me absolutely LOVES hockey.

Do I understand it all? Do I know any of the players?....nope.
Do I even follow the game at any time during the season?...definitely no.
But it is the only sport that I get excited about and have a desire to watch. Maybe it is the combination of speed and the thrill of the ice. OR maybe it is the almost guaranteed assurance that there will be a fight during the game. Just being honest here.

I haven't been to a game in years. As a matter of fact the last time I went to a game, we took some dear friends of ours and they had their little baby girl with them (who now is in 2nd or 3rd grade). Sometime during the evening I slipped out of the suite box and rocked her to sleep on my chest while the sporting crowd chanted on for plays that I couldn't see. I was happy though because there is nothing like holding a baby in my arms.

So, last night was fun. Somehow we ended up in the section where I think all the hockey parents sat. I would guess they were so because of their participation /anger level. What was really humorous to me was the lack of people everywhere else. The picture below will show you all the empty seats around the stadium.

But we had a ton of fun. Since our daughter and her boyfriend are from Spokane, we had our own team rivalry banter going back and forth amongst ourselves. Here is a picture of hubby and I with his classic "goofy face pose".

This is our girl with her boyfriend. See their happy faces? That is because Spokane won 6 - 2. And yes there were 3 fights all in the 3rd period of the game.
(see how bad I am at sports. I had to sit here and think of what to call it...a inning....nope it is a period.)

And those enthusiastic hockey parents were embarrassing by the end of the evening. They were so sore about losing that they yelled out names and directions to the referees. Then one proclaimed loudly as we walked by that "Spokane Sucks!"
Our daughter looked him in the eyes with a smile and said, "Oh that is not nice to say. We are from Spokane."
He stumbled ever so slightly in speech and followed back just as loudly as before with, "But we LOVE that they spend their money in Portland!"

Sunday, October 5, 2008


My dad is spending the weekend with my brother so I thought I would grab a minute and sit with you. I know you have wondered every now and again about our time together. I really had no idea just how emotionally drained I would be with this visit. It has all been very good. We are slowly learning one another and getting more comfortable as each day passes. We talk about small things and every day things. We haven't talked at all about the past and I don't know right now just how important that is. Maybe we will one day be able to talk about the past once we have a present together.....or maybe it will never be talked about. Right now I am just trying to soak in every moment I have with him.

I take Dad to the airport early on Wednesday morning. I can't believe that 2 weeks has gone by so quickly. A part of me knows that I will need to give myself room to adjust to him NOT being here and growing from that. But then schedules mercilessly do not stop for our household and more company will be here within a 36 hour window.

Of all the adventures, here are a few quick pictures of the past two weeks that I would like to share with you.

This is Dad with my 2 girls at the end of the Lewis and Clark Trail in Seaside, Oregon.
He loves coffee and knows how much they both love a good white chocolate mocha
so he is sure to buy them each one whenever he sees opportunity to do so.
Around here in the know that means quite often.

Here is my (little) brother and I posing for a quick hug in Seaside, Oregon.

He always spoils me with his lavish hugs of attention.

When family gets is always involved.
Dad graciously took us all out to Red Lobster one night for every one's favorite yummies.

Here is Dad and I at Bridal Veil Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.
It is one of my favorite places to sit.

Hubby and I were able to load up and take everyone to Long Beach, Washington
for a few days of rest and splendor. Here is the sunrise that greeted me on my
early morning walk before cooking up pancakes and bacon for everyone.

I can't decide which sunrise picture I like more.
I was out walking and thinking about all of the new emotions and thoughts
in my head when the sun rose and bathed everything in glory.
I couldn't help but think how appropriate and symbolic a view it was
considering all of the newness I am experiencing.

The glow, the patterns of tide in the sand...silly me I didn't even think
of taking my camera on the beach at 6:30 in the morning....
but I had my phone so I clicked away while the scene changed minute by minute.