Sunday, November 29, 2009

Little Car on the Prairie

This week, we drove our way across the great American plains to see Mike's brother's family, who live in Omaha.

On the way there, I read Little House in the Big Woods to Mike out loud. It was quaint. We hung out with Trevor and Dynell and their brood for several days. We ate a delicious Thanksgiving meal with them, went to the Omaha Zoo, and did some Black Friday and Saturday shopping.

We got to hang out with Liz and play with her crazy cat, even if we didn't get to see Micah. Here are some pics of our time. On Saturday night, we went to look at the Christmas lights downtown and eat ice cream.
Here is their sweet daughter, Bethany, who reminds me of myself.
And Abbey who is the cutest little hoot.
And sweet Kara, who plotted to attack Mike for a month before we arrived and ambushed me with a nerf gun.
And the youngest, Seth. I bought him this reindeer outfit, which Mike thought was silly, but was obviously an excellent purchase. Look at those huge eyes and chubby cheeks!
Then on Sunday we drove the 8 hours from Omaha to Fort Collins. We read Little House on the Prairie on this leg of the trip. It was quaint too.

Then I got to see Sarah for her shower, who is presently Prego Sarah. Look at that belly, it's huge! It's like an orange on a toothpick. It's got its own satellite system, like Sputnik. Belly, paper, now! (Actually, she looked very beautiful. And not like an orange or a satellite.)
And I got to hang out with Jen, who let us spend the night with her. I used to share a bed with her the month before I got married, and now she's having another slumber party with us. A nerdy slumber party, in which Mike, Jen and I sit in a line on her bed doing work on Sunday night on our laptops.
And I got to see Robin, who is always hip and fun and doing impressive, crafty things like making beautiful mama bags for people.
And now, after a number of days of blissful disconnectedness from the world, but connectedness to wonderful people, I must return to everyday life.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thankfulness Around the World

Hear are just a couple of the stories I have received at work this month, which remind me of all I have to be thankful for.

Nivas is thankful his family now has access to clean water, after losing his 1st wife, his son, and his own hand to arsenic poisoning from well water.
Antonia in the Dominican Republic is thankful her twin sons are getting medical care.
Eyerusalem is thankful for these street children in Addis, whom she was able to give a home to.
Muthumari is thankful to be back in school, after being rescued from bonded labor.
Richard is thankful for one eye to be able to read with at university in Kenya, having had the other one removed as a child when his parents couldn't afford cataract surgery.
Sri is thankful for the $10 she earns rummaging through garbage each week. That's $10 after she willingly gives 40% to her church, which is undergoing persecution in their mostly Muslim neighborhood.
Makes you think, doesn't it?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Toes and Weird Al

The funnest thing about having a blog is getting to check back and see what I was thinking about last holiday. Well, last Thanksgiving, I was thinking of toes and Weird Al.

And because right now I'm about as creative as a moldy grapefruit, I'm going to continue my unconventional Thanksgiving list, even though it's utterly conventional to do "unconventional" things at Thanksgiving.

Things I'm thankful for:
  1. Cheetos. It's genetic. Me, my mom, and my grandma (whose nickname is, incidentally, Chester Cheetah) are genetically predisposed to crave the faux cheesy goodness fortnightly.
  2. Hulu. My parents actually gave us a TV antannae, so now we can watch real TV and stop claiming to be TV-less Christian hipsters. But I'm so used to watching "my shows" with the laptop on my belly and no commercials with troublesome women flaunting large endowments to make me feel bad about myself, I can't turn back.
  3. Butt warmers.
  4. The Rock Obama. Or anything else Duane Johnson does, even if it's bad, which it mostly is.
  5. And most of all, blondes, especially of the American-Dutch male variety.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Outside of Circumstance

I finished the manuscript I've been working on, so now I can have my Saturdays back. My brain is not abuzz with blogs, so I'll just write out some of the things I was struck by in writing the Bible study on joy. They aren't anything new, but then it would be quite disturbing if I had found some new "secret" to joy.

Joy has nothing to do with circumstances. It stands outside of circumstances because God stands outside of circumstances. In the Bible, continually when the word "joy" is used, it is in a phrase such as "the joy of the Lord," or "the joy of the Spirit," indicating God as the source of or reason for joy. And, more specifically, it is found in relationship with God. David found joy in the "unfailing love" of God.

It makes sense, that so many of our fairy tales and movies center around our "happily ever after" being found in true love (relationship). We are hard-wired to believe that our happiness comes from true love. And it does. But true love, perfect love doesn't exist on this planet, as none of us are perfect. Not that we don't experience joy in human relationships, but it is still within circumstances. That person might have a bad day or a bad year, or they might leave this world altogether. The only perfect love is God's love. And the only ultimately lasting, transcendent, and perfect source for unfailing joy is God.

But, though the fount of joy is always available for us, we so rarely drink from it. (I've been reading British novels, can you tell? Who says "fount"?) The concept of finding daily and true joy in relationship with God seems too esoteric or ethereal, not real. But the things we drink from instead that are seemingly solid and real--human relationships, material possessions, physical comfort, human ambition--leave us still ultimately thirsty. They might leave us feeling good, but they don't leave us lastingly joyful.

So for Thanksgiving, I want to be thankful for the things that have driven me to God as the source of joy. Not just the good things, though I do love my new car and pecan pie and warm sweaters. None particularly make me thirst for God. I want to be thankful also for the seemingly bad things, which so often are far more effective in getting my attention. If I were less stupid and ox-like perhaps God wouldn't have to use the sharp goad to get me to move. But the ox-goad in my side is often God's greatest mercy. It forces me to get my nose out of my oats (or whatever it is that ox eat) and look up to him, the true source of joy.

"Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water [from a well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.' " John 4:13-14

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The History of Cars

First there was Sammy. Sammy was a nondescript blue car, so nondescript that I have no idea what kind of car he was. My parents and sister Tara kicked in some money, along with the couple hundred dollars I earned bussing tables at the Denver Salad Company, where I learned from copious amounts of half-masticated cottage cheese that people are gross and I am prissy.

We velcroed Elmo's butt to Sammy's front dashboard and littered the back seat with McDonald's Happy Meal toys earned on high school lunch runs. We drove Sammy to band practice and bowling and even got chased once by some creepy teenage guys, which became of course a favorite teenage memory.

Then there was Joey, a nondescript white car, so nondescript that I have no idea what kind of car he was either. My parents kindly gave him to me in college, where he drove me to innumerable trips to Rocky Mountain Coffee Company or whatever coffee house was in vogue that season.

It died on my parent's front drive while I was in Amsterdam, never to be driven again. Upon returning from Amsterdam, my parents once again generously bestowed upon me their old car, which officially makes me a spoiled brat, I believe. It was a Chevy Lumina I never named but will now name Adelaide, and whose exact color (officially "Aubergine" to Chevrolet) was always a mystery. Adelaide was a chameleon whose low profile and murky color could blend into any parking lot, ensuring you would wander for at least 10 minutes seeking her out.

Adelaide led me on many adventures, such as getting stranded here and getting stranded there and getting stranded everywhere. Luckily, in her old age Adelaide decided to simply get me stranded at home and died a peaceful death in our garage.

And so, at the age of 31, I had to buy my first car (unless you count the several hundred cottage cheese dollars I chipped in on Sammy). And here she is:
She's a 2002 Chrysler Concord, which is rated as reliable as a Honda Accord. She has a sunroof and power windows and air conditioning and, get this, butt warmers! I don't even know what to do with myself and my toasty buns. I never actually even saw her or sat in her before signing the papers, so far does my trust of my husband and my lack of car-i-ness extend. But now that I have sat in her pleasantly warmed seats, I think I'm in love.

So what should I name my toasty new carriage?

P.S. You can see here how much snow we still have from Saturday's storm! Quite a lot more than any other place in the city!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Telephone Ministry Worker

I love personality tests. I think that makes me a narcissist. This morning, instead of getting to work on time, I decided to take a spiritual gifts test. And guess what I found out? I should be a telephone ministry worker. Yay! Actually, this is very in keeping with who I am (in most ways). Right now, I express this mainly in my writing, but I look forward to how it may be used in the future.

The results of your Spiritual Gifts Inventory indicate that your number one dominant gift is EXHORTATION! The Greek word "parakaleo" means to admonish, to encourage, to beseech. You are a "how to" person. You have the Spirit-given capacity and desire to serve God by motivating others to action by urging them to pursue a course of conduct. In a teaching position, you are able to explain how to apply God's Word. Your goal is to present material that enables the Holy Spirit to promote change in the student's life. You reach out and help Christians become more mature.

As an exhorter you are a very practical person, a good counselor, tolerant of others, serious-minded, orderly, and usually impulsive. You are expressive in a group setting; the group listens when you speak. You are comfortable working one-on-one or in groups. You are enthusiastic and talkative and enjoy encouraging others.

You are burdened to show how Scripture relates to conduct and have a desire to unify people by using practical rather than doctrinal issues. You likely place great importance on God's will and believe that His Word has the answer for every problem. You tend to make decisions logically rather than on feelings and are very orderly.

HOW CAN YOU USE YOUR DOMINANT GIFT? You may use your special gift in many areas. You may want to be a leadership trainer. You could certainly serve as a counselor in church or in a counseling center. You could teach in church training or seminars or even small groups. You would make a good telephone ministry worker and would be a tremendous volunteer to follow up with new converts. You would work well as an encourager with those who are discouraged and as a counselor in a drug or alcohol program, rescue mission, poverty program, half-way house or runaway ministry or in a shelter for abused women and children. You could also use your gift in organizing or serving in a Men's or Women's Ministry.

So what is your spiritual gift?

Monday, November 16, 2009

What I'm Writing About Right Now

Philippians 2:17-18

But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.

I have just one more chapter to write. So far, it's been easy to just flow right through 5 chapters. Now is the hard part: choosing what to end with. As it turns out, there is a lot in the Bible about joy. Which is a good thing. But hard to put into 6 weeks. How do you choose between essentials of joy? :)

What has stood out to me so far is Psalm 31. David says he rejoices in God's unfailing love because God sees his troubles and cares about the anguish of his soul. How beautiful. Even in anguish (David said tears blurred his eyes and his soul withered), David rejoiced because he knew God could see him and he knew God cared.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Snowy Sunday

This morning, we woke up to a winter wonderland. I was supposed to sing at church, so we woke up early to cart me to practice. But alas, the wonderland overcame our SUV, which got stuck smack in front of our house. We got about 6 to 8 inches at our house, while the rest of the Springs seemed to get about 3.

So, unable to get to church, we did the next best thing and snowshoed to Starbucks. Mike and I think it's pretty dang cool to live in a place where we can snowshoe from our doorstep. And how modern of us to snowshoe to Starbucks, rather than the post office or Jed's General Store.
Now that it's getting cold, all the deersies in our neighborhood are developing thick coats, and looking so majestic. Here a a couple of adolescents Mike stumbled onto this week.
After we were able to dig our car out, we went to a Chocolate Festival at the Broadmoor. (We couldn't get out for church, but we could get out for chocolate? Seems suspect.) We made a beeline to all the chocolate samples and stuffed our little faces like Veruca Salt and TV Mike. It didn't take long to stuff our greedy bellies to the point of exhaustion, and then we had nothing left to do at the festival.
So we partook in our favorite pasttime, crashing fancy hotels. We read magazines in comfy couches.
And warmed our tuckus' by the fire.
Tonight we had a worship night at church, so I did get to sing after all. Now we lay in bed reading Jane Eyre. A good day, on all accounts.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Being a Mom in El Salvador

Occasionally, Compassion sends a couple of bloggers on trips to the developing world so they can write about their experiences and share with others. This week, a group of bloggers has been in El Salvador.
I've been loving reading their posts, to hear their fresh perspective. Here's a post I read today that really communicated what I so wish I could sometimes communicate--how much we have and how blessed we are in the little things we take for granted every day like a shower.

(Oh and speaking of how we have so much, here's a video of Jimmy speaking about some people who live in this huge nice house, and yes that would be Mike and I. It's at around minute 4, I think. (For clarity's sake, I feel I should inform you that we live in a house that isn't quite 2000 square feet; somewhat modest by American standards.))

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I'll have the Truffle Taglioni for $585

A receipt from a restaurant in New York for dinner for 6.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What I'm Writing About Tonight

Psalm 31:7-9
I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,
for you have seen my troubles,
and you care about the anguish of my soul.
Have mercy on me, Lord, or I am in distress.

Habakkuk 3:17-19
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bring on the Pig

It's our week to serve our dinner small group, so we're getting our luau on.

I baked a big fluffy coconut cake! I very rarely bake cakes because we prefer cupcakes, but they're so pretty when you do. And I found that shredded coconut covers a multitude of frosting sins. The cake is made with coconut milk and a coconut buttercream frosting.

Then we made kalua pig, which shouldn't be confused with Kahlua liqueur pig, which would be gross. But it's not true luau kalua pig, because I didn't dig a pit in my backyard and stick a whole pig in it. But I did plop 6 pounds of pork shoulder into my pretty Le Creuset and bake it at 200 degrees for 20 hours. Yes, 20.

Then we have some tasty Hawaiian accoutrements, such as Sweet Hawaiian bread rolls, luau macaroni salad, fresh pineapple, passion-orange-guava juice, and pineapple-passion-orange juice.

It's almost like we're back in Kauai!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Little Micah Delving

I am faithfully writing away, which means that I am not blogging. I have written my introduction and two chapters.

So in my absence, I'm posting a link to Liz's sweet blog, at which you can see pictures of her sweet little Micah who I'm going to nickname Micah Delving, just because. If we can get my car working (which went kaputt for it's tri-annual breakdown), we'll get to see her in person in three weeks at Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I Heart Gene Kelly

I grew up on Brigadoon and Singin' in the Rain. So I love Mr. Kelly. I even wrote an essay on him for my college dance class. Anyway, here's a video in his honor, which also happens to bear the title of the book I'm writing (which I am faithfully writing right now instead of blogging).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Out Writing

Considering that my deadline is in a month and considering that I've already spent my writing fee, I better get writing.

I just ordered several relevant books online, read every chapter on joy in the books I have about the home, and polished up my outline. Now for the writing! So if I'm posting here, it means that I'm shirking elsewhere. So please scold me if I write on my blog.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Saturday in Kauai

Our last day in Kauai! Our plane didn't actually leave until 9, so we had plenty of time to play. In the morning, we went to the Kalaheo Bakery for some tropical French toast: Hawaiian sweet bread with pineapple and mac nuts.

Then because it was such an incredibly clear day with vivid colors, we decided to give the Kalalau Lookout a second try. The day was so clear that we could see details on the cliffs of Nihau, the island off the shore of Kauai that usually just looks like a vague blob. The views into the canyon itself were so vivid.
I just liked this sign. :)
When we got to the top, Kalalau was just visible, but clouds were descending on it quickly. Unfortunately, Mike only got up to the lookout with the camera when the clouds had advanced.
We waited around for a long time, watching the view drift in and out.
It was such a clear and colorful day that it would have been such a perfect photo had it not been for the clouds! But we enjoyed what we got.
We decided to hike the Pihea trail again, just in case the clouds cleared up, so we ended up being up there for about 3 hours! See, I'm so tough, I hike in a dress.
After the clouds finally settled in for good, we headed back to Poipu where we had a late lunch at Puka Dog. We'd seen Anthony Bourdain on the Travel Channel visit this place, and thought we'd give it a try. It's a hot dog in a circular bun with tropical relishes squirted in. I got mango, Mike got banana. It was good, but not something we need to eat too often, as you can see from Mike's look here.
Still killing time for our late flight, we went to Macy's in Lihue and did some shopping. Then we went to the Marriot to read, overlooking Kalapaki Bay.
For dinner, we went to Duke's off of the Marriot. We were so stuffed from our week of Shave Ice and such, that we ordered a salad.
Finally it was time to go. We left Lihue at 9 pm and arrived home to Colorado Springs about 2 hours ago, very worn out from not sleeping Saturday night, but having had a very wonderful vacation!