Monday, August 31, 2009

Hallo the Vanschoonevelds!

You know what's easier than writing a post? Pasting people's private emails to me here! Jimmy Wambua, our house guest who moved on to grad school at Moody sent me a message today. Those Africans have a way with words, so you'll get more out of his words than mine anyway. (And he's bragging on my husband, so I must share.)

I am so filled with guilt that I didn't write sooner! I did not forget, besides having to take in so much here at Moody, I didn't want to write in a hurry. Today is the day for me to write. 

I must say, your story and life has been on my lips to everyone I meet. I tell people of this amazing couple I met on my maiden entry into the States! Your love life inspired me. My girlfriend has immensely been impacted by the lessons I learned from you. 

In my African perspective, Mike is a submitted King, a gentleman. With a measure of caution, if he came to Africa, every woman would love him. He is so neat. His conversations with me are still fresh in my heart. Amber, you are so blessed to have this man as a life companion! Every night give thanks to God! 

Isn't Jimmy insightful? Mike is a gentleman that any African woman would love. :)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My New Coworker

One of these things is not like the other...

This is my team at work. Our new teammate, Patrick, Photoshopped himself into our lives.

He has a very unique cube, featuring such treasures as a statue of Gollum with an interchangeable Smeagol head that sings the fishy song and a Black Rider bank that screams everytime you put money into it and a photo of him with Sam Gamgee himself.
This morning when I got to my cubicle, he had placed life-size Frodo in my cube, which made me scream, even though he is only 4 foot.

So, in honor of my new coworker, a song from my favorite Kiwis. And if that's not enough for you, don't forget Spock and Bilbo.


P.S. Did I tell you that he used to be head cow at Chick Fil-A? And what's more, when he received this post on his iPhone, it cut off the last several letters, so the title appeared, "My New Cow." That's right. Patrick is our new cow.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Costume Crisis

This week, my friend Becky is off galavanting in Greece on her honeymoon.

I sit next to her at work, and she is our Crisis Woman. Whenever a crisis happens in one of our field countries that has affected sponsored children, she's the woman who reports on this to our partner countries. (Hopefully she is not being affected herself this week by the Athens fires!)

In her absence, the crisis reporting has fallen to me. Completely selfishly, I've been praying for no crises to hit the world.

So right now I'm breezing through CNN just to make sure all is calm. Luckily, this seems to be the most serious crisis going on. The Peruvian Miss Universe contestant wore a cultural dance costume that the Bolivian state-run news agency says is theirs and theirs only.

"We ask that urgent, adequate, opportune and pertinent measures be taken to protect Bolivian cultural patrimony," they said.
Thank God, no sponsored children were affected by this urgent crisis.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Work and Kids

This weekend, we had two major occurences: We did a ton of work (12 hours worth) on Saturday, and Sunday the Salt Lake City Whitneys (Mike's sister's family) visited us. In our house, we finished up some niggling little tasks that were hanging over our heads, such as painting our pantry door (which would not have matched as soon as we replace our countertops), and replacing the handle.

We also replaced all the old doggy, cruddy, gross brown baseboards and doorframes with clean new white (as seen below). Isn't that so much better? It makes everything look cleaner. And, in fact, it is. I did all the demo, of course, so I got down and dirty with the baseboards. Besides being stuffed with dog hair wads, there was a small ant colony with what looks like 20 years of ant poop. (Mike, naively, theorized it was dirt. Whatever.) (Note: Though I cleaned most everything, I made Mike clean out the ant poop "dirt".)

Then today, the Whitneys visited us. Odd how in 3 seconds three children can turn a home that took hours to clean upside down. We're used to such a crotchety and cloistered existence. (But those of you with vested interests will be glad to know that at the end of this visit, I didn't think, "I never want children.")

We took pics of the Whits. Here's Baby Four. Or Elias, as Josh likes to call him.

Here's Aiden. Aiden liked to have his picture taken, and this time he didn't seem to fear and loathe me. In Moab in April, if I looked at him he would start crying. (He even told me he didn't like me. But don't worry, we made up.)
Here is him looking angelic.
And him doing his angry face.
Here is Kael making the particular face he makes when he is explaining something to you.
Hayley eating a cookie. I have to say that Hayley is very likable. She said to Mike, "I like butterflies. I really like butterflies."
And, here is a rare photo of Josh Whitney showing emotion. I wonder how he'll feel about this being on the web.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Food Room

Today, I did my second TV interview. I'm not the biggest fan of interviewing, as I've mentioned before. And TV is far scarier than radio, on which I talk sans pants and no one will know. But, minus the preceeding week of a grumbly nervous tummy, this interview was actually kind of fun.

When I first got there I was a bit nervous because the people were...different from me. One woman had a big fur purse. That kind of says it all. Now, there's nothing wrong with being different, but it makes me nervous and I tend to clam up.

But then they took me to "the green room," and that made it all better. They should really call it the food room. It was awesome. If only I hadn't just eaten 1 1/2 Arby's Classics and there weren't large-haired women in the hall who would have seen, I would have dived into the cookies and chips and chocolates and rolled in it on the large plushy couches.

Not necessarily because the food was so incredible. But because it was free. Ah, free food,. Is there anything like it? What I wouldn't go through for some free food. It can make almost anything better, such as a stinky auto mechanic shop with just a plate of Chips A'Hoy.

My interviewer, Linda Shepherd Evans, was a really kind woman whom I liked, and the nice thing about interviewers is that they know how to talk, even when I don't. So with my free pomegranate Izze in hand, I was confident to face the light Christian music.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Bear Came Over the Mountain

To see what she could see.

What she saw was us us on the porch of our cabin, yelling and grabbing for the camera, at which she and her two cubs went back over the mountain.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The OT

We started the Old Testmant on June 1st, and we finished this weekend. I've got to tell you, I highly recommend this uber-paced Bible read through. There's no in-depth study involved, of course, but it is making us consider everything differently. Here are some more random Bible ramblings based on our experience thus far. (Not sure how quickly we'll finish the NT, we only have 2 weeks left for our 90-day quest, but we'll see what happens.)
  • Jonah suddenly makes sense. He always seemed like such a curmudgeonly old racist, what with hoping the Assyrians would not be saved but would rather be crushed. But now I can understand it somewhat better from a Jewish perspective. (You've been promising us for generations that you'll save us from the oppressive Assyrians, God, and now you want to save them?!)
  • God really cares about justice. And mercy. And the poor, the widow, the alien. I know that's super hip to say in the current spiritual climate, but hey, it's in there. (A bunch.)

New Testament Ramblings

Reading Matthew is having such a different effect on us now in the context of hundreds of years of Jewish history and ancient culture.

  • Suddenly what Jesus says seems so radical. He says of the Centurion, a Roman that he hasn't seen any in Israel with such faith as his. Many will come from east and west--other nations--to be in the Kingdom of heaven like Jonah's Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba, whereas many Israelites will be thrown out. That seems so much more extreme considering all the promises to the Israelites we just read. But God shows again and again that what he cares about is the heart, not who your daddy is.
  • Jesus' teachings are so in depth, compared to the fairly basic commands of the Old Testament. He raises the bar to a much more difficult level.
  • Jesus' teachings are so beautiful and radical. One small example Mike and I were talking about tonight is how Jesus said the only valid reason to give a divorce certificate to a wife was unfaithfulness. The Jews had developed rules, such as a man could divorce his wife for burning the food. Today some cultures have similar rules. For example, in some parts of India during a trial period at the beginning of the marriage, the husband evaluates his wife. If he's not pleased with her, for whatever reason, he can chuck her. This leaves the woman with virtually no options; she's no longer a virgin and is dishonored. In making these strict laws of divorce, Jesus protects a woman from unfair desertion and ostracizing.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Miscellanea

We've been busy little baboons, so I haven't had time to post. But I will at least tell you what fascinating things have been dominating my attention.

We just went to Estes Park for a weekend minibreak. On Saturday, we were just leaving our cabin at the Y for an afternoon stroll, when we saw a mama bear with two cubs. That was really neat-o, but also kind of scary. Mike grabbed a camera to take pictures, but it was his mom's, so now all you get to see is this picture of Mike looking dramatic at Moraine Park.

On our weekend away, we had lots of time to read, so guess what...I finished the Old Testament! It was a good feeling. It took 75 days. Now, I know everything.

Last night, we went to two of my coworkers' wedding, Chris and Becky. I helped her pick her dress, and I am taking full credit for its awesomeness. (She's in Greece, so she can't protest.) The wedding was at the Fine Arts Center, so between the ceremony and reception we got to look at the Botero exhibit at the gallery. I love me some fat naked Latinos.
Here's a pic I stole from Facebook of the wedding.

And that is why I haven't posted.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Jealous of Julie and Jon

I get worried when I see other people who have good ideas or good books or good movies or good blogs that maybe all the good ideas are taken and I'll never get my chance and life is slipping away from me and I was never that good to start. Like that Julie chick who got a frickin' movie. Or that Stuff Christians Like guy who is far funnier than I am. Stupidhead.

At present, I feel like I have no strong direction, other than to wait, and so it brings me back to the solid truth that if I were doing those other people's things it would be their things, not my things, and that's not good for anybody. Still learning.

While reading Jon's blog and feeling quite under-skilled myself, I happened upon this post about jealousy. How ironic. (By the way, don't you hate it when people misuse the word ironic? It's coincidental, not ironic.)

So here's my advice to me: Focus on God and what he is calling me to. Forget the rest as irrelevant.

I keep forgetting I have to wear a bikini in two months.

I'll call it bikini amnesia. So when faced with a cookie or brownie or pastrami on rye, I keep forgetting the correct response. That's all.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A New Perspective

Here is a post I wrote for Compassion about Jimmy's stay with us. ("Jimmy" is Wambua's English name.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Not Just Like the Israelites

In reading through the Old Testament, most Christians come to the inevitable conclusion, "The Israelites were dumb." They constantly seem to be making bad decisions, forgetting what happened just weeks earlier, and worshipping cows.

In any Bible study across the country, this statement ("The Israelites were dumb") almost inevitably then leads to another statement, "Wow, it makes me realize just how like the Israelites I am." Meaning, we too are fallible and stray too often from God. This is true; we as Christians make all kinds of bad decisions and our faith seems much smaller than a mustard seed at times.

But this idea that we're just like the Israelites is kind of making me mad--on God's behalf. For it diminishes the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Israelites were under the old covenant--God set out rules and said, "Obey these." They were very bad at it. But we are under the new covenant that Jeremiah prophesies:

"The time is coming, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah...This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts...No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me...For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

Hebrews 8 and 9 reveal that this is the very covenant that we as followers of Christ are part of.

Why does it matter? Because we are fundamentally different from the Israelites. We are not just fallible humans trying hard and failing to "be good." As Christians who have the Holy Spirit of God, he has put his law in our minds. He has written it on our hearts. We can know him in a way that the Israelites never could because our sins have been forgiven.

If we only think of the Israelites metaphorically, it's easy to say, "oh yeah, we're just like them." But we're not. Do you know any Christians burning babies? Do you know any offering their young daughters as sex mates to appease gods? We can say we're idolatrous (which we are at times), but don't diminish the work God has done!

God has redeemed us and written his law on our hearts in such a way that we are enabled to live radically different lives.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

My Ebenezers

Or "Deliverance." Or "Three Things God Has Saved Me From."

In the Old Testament (yes, we're still slogging through our 90-day reading which is likely to become a 100-day reading), they are always reminding themselves of God's great acts of old. Constantly reminding themselves when things aren't so hot that God has been faithful in the past. (If I'm honest with you, sometimes I read it and go, "Do we really need to be told about the parting of the Red Sea one more time?" (Forgive me, Lord.))

But in my own life, it is so good and so important to remember God's past faithfulness. Because I'm dumb. And I forget. A bit like a goldfish am I. I need to set up Ebenezer's to remember how God has been gracious to me. 

It dawned on me today that in the past 5 years, God has delivered me in 3 big situations. Thus far has the Lord helped me. (Now come the embarrassing parts. Yay!)
  1. I went a little crazy several years ago. I won't go into too much detail here (if you want to know more, feel free to ask me), but basically I became obsessed with food. I first became obsessive about working out and being thin, which led to obsession with food. I forgot how to eat like a normal person and became a bit of a neurotic monster. If you doubt me, my husband could tell you stories of me throwing things. (But you wouldn't do that, would you, honey?) At the time, I thought I would never be normal again. Each day was a struggle. I was like a baby, relearning how to do the most basic things in life. It was kind of awful. But now I can say, five years later, that God has delivered me. it no longer is a daily struggle. It no longer consumes my mind. It took a long time, and it wasn't easy, but thus far has the Lord helped me. 
  2. Second, in the past five years, God has delivered my from a very real danger, that I will leave unspoken. Don't you hate it when people do that? But really, if you ask, I won't tell you. Suffice it to say, I was in danger and God delivered me; he kept me safe, not out of my righteousness, but out of his graciousness. Thus far has the Lord helped me. 
  3. And lastly, in the past five years, God has delivered me from bitterness and anger and expectations in my life situation. In short, my life has not ended up where I thought it was supposed to, and that has been my very real struggle for the past many years. I'm kind of slow on the uptake, and it's sad to look back and see how much time I've wasted on things inside my own head. This one is still in process, and perhaps always will be, but I can say that God has awoken me from my anger and replaced it with an acceptance, and sometime even embracing, of his will. Thus far has the Lord helped me. 
So, in your own life, what are your Red Seas and Ebenezer stones? In this time, that might be fraught with fears and difficulties, how far has the Lord helped you? 

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fat Ammy

How appropriate.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Brain Space

Lately, I feel like my brain hasn't had space to breathe. Being a person with no kids, no pets, and only dead plants in a neglected yard means that I usually have lots of brain space. Which I like. My brain wants the vastness of the Wyoming plains to wander along.

But what with house guests and interns and parties and summits and aggressive reading plans, my brain has felt contained in a fenced backyard. So creative blogs I can offer you not. Just cop out videos and photos of our busy days.

Today I will appease you with pictures of our recent experiences. We saw about 9 male bighorn sheep at Garden of the Gods. We saw their ladies earlier that day at Glen Eyrie--about 30 of them.
Jimmy came to Colorado from Kenya to see giraffes.
Mike and I pet a baby wallaby.
That pretty much sums up our days.