Sunday, August 31, 2008

Labor Day

The name of this day always confuses me, since most people spend the day laying around on the beach or picnicking! Back when we first were married, T and I used to spend this holiday weekend with my parents. We would meet half way between here and there, ended up in Ocean City, NJ, Atlantic City, Lancaster, PA... I was such a fun tradition. I am pretty sure that I honestly thought we'd all do that for the rest of our lives. And I think we did that until my dad got sick.

Last year we had a four day weekend so we went to my mom's... and sat on the beach. =) This year, I really wanted to pull the girls out of school and head up to CT. We also thought about going to the beach, but that was too expensive. So, we stayed home. Boring. I know. T is "laboring" on Kt's room, painting it, taking off the baseboard and now pulling up the carpet. It's now a funky green color and T is going to attempt to put down a laminate floor for our asthma suffering 10 year old. We did take some time to go to the pool, and tomorrow a couple of picnics. It's the beach I long for, though. Just in case you didn't know that already!

Message From New Orleans

This is a message from our friend, Pastor Mike Sprague of Trinity Evangelical Free Church in Mandeville, LA. We knew Mike and his wife, Donna, from our years at our former church. They have one son who was one of my first graders! He's now in college. (I feel old, yes I do!)

Please pray for them and that the three years they have invested in preparing for such a time as this will pay off. They were in a position after Katrina to pull together resources to assist in a way only churches have been able to effectively do long-term with short-term teams in the New Orleans area. When we send teams, we send them to him.

This church has organized a Disaster Response team that will come in very handy over the next few weeks... It is a huge undertaking. Pray for safety, resources and workers. Resources most importantly as this area is just now finally recovering another hit like this may cause many to turn away.

Our prayers with them!

August 31, 2008

Gustav Sunday Night

Here we go again! I'll try to keep you posted as long as we have communication ability. Donna, Fluffy (our dog) and I rolled into Birmingham dead tired - not much sleep last night. We had just gotten to sleep around midnight when we received an emergency call from the Mandeville Mayor saying that a mandatory evacuation of our town of Mandeville had been ordered. Finally, after getting back to sleep we got another emergency call, this time from our Parish President Kevin Davis (county executive to all those not from Louisiana) at 2:30 am saying that a mandatory evacuation had been ordered, beginning at 7:00 am. Great emergency system - except for the sleep interruption. Anyway, Donna got up at 3:00 am and I got up at 4:00 am and we were on the road by 5:00, along with 1.8 million people. With all of the mandatory evacuation we decided to cancel our Trinity services to encourage cooperation with Parish officials and to promote safety.

We will be staying with EFCA District Director, Ed Kaylor. We are very appreciative for the hospitality. John Gerhardt's entire church (73 people) from Castlerock/Urban Impact is evacuating today to the Birmingham area as well. The city of Birmingham is expecting 4,000 refugees from the Gulf Coast. Mark Lewis and our disaster relief staff have evacuated to Pensacola, Florida.

At this time, we hope to be back early Wednesday. Donna and I, as well as a few key disaster responders at Trinity, have the Homeland Security clearance required to get back into the Parish anytime as first responders. My heart is to be back as soon as possible in order to be ready to serve.

We just saw the latest Fox/CNN report that Gustav could be bigger than Katrina. We watched reporters showing the 9th Ward, Business District, and referring to Lake Ponchartrain and New Orleans East. We heard Senator McCain commit to making a significant portion of the Republic Convention focused on service and resource raising for New Orleans. We got here, shaking our heads at how much attention our little neck of the woods receives. It is nice to know so many people care.

Right now, the need of the hour is prayer.

1. Pray now for our new Governor, Bobby Jindal and all the emergency personnel - National Guard, Fire, Police, Red Cross, Military, etc. They are heroic folks.

2. Pray for God's Kingdom Soldiers from churches across the country to come in droves to New Orleans and serve with our disaster response ministry. We need cooks, counselors, evangelists, skilled tradesmen, encouragers and lots of plain old servants. Pray for an abundance of financial resources to lead the ministry into the fall. Please pass the word to your friends and church leaders.

3. Pray for the ministry of the gospel. This, I believe - "The hope of this world is a blood-stained cross and an empty tomb." One man's death 2,000 years ago on an old tree, in an obscure part of the world impacts the destiny of every person who has ever lived. Some call this foolishness, but I am confident it is the power of God to salvation to every person who believes in Jesus Christ as Savior. This we believe - this we live - this we share - this is what it is all about.

Betting the Farm on God,


P. S. - You can sign up teams, or get additional information at and (this one may not work for a couple of days).


For real, Michael Moore? You would celebrate a Cat 4 hurricane on an already devastated region just to celebrate the potential impact on the Republican National Convention? Really? And this proves to you that there's a God in heaven? I think that's a rather flawed and sick sense of reason you're portraying here. And what if there had been the very same during the Democratic National Convention? What would that have proved?? (Oh, wait... Faye hit Florida during the Democratic Convention... 5 times... and they kept on partying!)

Fortunately, for your sake, there is a God in heaven and he, miraculously, loves you. He loves me, too. And He offers forgiveness and redemption for those of us who sometimes lack reasonable judgment and say really stupid, regretful things. Yup, we all do it, some of us more than others! Of course, in order to receive that forgiveness you would have to practice humility and admit you were wrong and admit that you actually need forgiveness.

So, if you can take a break from your celebratory mood while the rest of the United States of America is praying to a God in heaven for restoration, healing and that He spare New Orleans from again being devastated by nature and the imperfection of human effort, I'd do what's right here. Set your mind straight and join with the rest of us in hoping for the right thing, being remorseful in our selfishness. I'm certain there isn't a soul in New Orleans who shares your heart during this fateful time.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Heart Thing.... Again

So, last spring a heart condition sprung up in my life. After being tested by a cardiologist, the conclusion was that it was something that is not treated, not life-threatening, just really annoying. The cause? Probably anxiety/stress.... and it was surely annoying.

Oddly, the day we left for Europe the heart thing disappeared. And until today, I haven't had it at all. It was so odd that my doctor and I began to suspect a possible link to medication. I get a generic brand of my blood pressure meds and the incidence of this heart thing began and ended with an odd three month supply. We really didn't know, but I was quite happy not to have that irritating extra heartbeat.

Well, it's now back. Just today. And I'm annoyed! I can't believe it's stress/anxiety related due to the fact that it went away during one of the most stressful and anxiety filled times of my life. Now I am completely perplexed and thoroughly annoyed. Did I mention how annoyed I am? It's one of those things that I can't ignore, nobody else knows but I have to live with all the time. UGH! Maybe I'm just allergic to this house!

Katrina to Gustav

Today is really a very sad day for the people of New Orleans. I'm praying that all their preparation will be unnecessary, that people won't lose their homes a second time, that the levees won't fail again, that Gustav will spare that region another three, four, five years of devastation. I was pleasantly surprised to read how Baltimore is supporting this effort to evacuate and maintain order in NO by sending out teams from the city fire department. Hopefully this time around, help won't be more than a phone call away. In fact, wouldn't it be amazing if a phone call wasn't even necessary? If the country just rallied to send support now?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Summer Missions

Last week was our summer missions wrap up at church. In truth, the mission continues because over 150 church members came home with life changes that will hopefully impact everything they do from this point on. That is part of why we go, that is one of our goals... change.

Our trips this summer church-wide included:

1. Trip to New Orleans - two of them, in fact. And adult team went and one of our SPACE teams went, both working with Trinity Evangelical Free Church in Louisiana. We prayerfully watch as Gustav threatens an area of the country where many of our church members have left a piece of their hearts!

2. A trip to Baltimore - while close by, there are many things for us to learn in urban centers. A trip to Baltimore, or any city near you, is highly recommended, eye-opening and challenging.

3. Peru - three people from our church joined a medical missions team to Peru. Half the team worked in an orphanage that provides medical treatment for Indians served in the jungle by a missionary couple, the other half visited a thriving Indian village that just 7 years ago was deteriorating.

4. Uganda - our church has a partnership with AOET in Uganda and we had a team visit there and work with AIDS orphans.

5. Hungary - the team our family served on was serving a group of church planters living in Europe. What we brought home was a desire to serve beyond ourselves, to be a light where none exists and the realization of what families give up to do this. It was a such a pleasure to work with the children of these missionaries, to bring a little fun into the daunting (yet amazingly fruitful and satisfying) lives of believers forging the way in spiritually bleak cities in Europe.

6. Jamaica - this team from Grace served a couple orphanages with a VBS program as well as providing needed services God revealed upon arrival!

7. Tecate, Mexico - this team from Grace met up with a larger team from Illinois to serve an orphanage in this bordertown. They came home truly blessed!

8. England - one of our SPACE teams joined up with a church planter in Manchester to talk up and perform at a Outreach Music Festival. Many wonderful conversations, many decisions made for Christ and a great experience that will hopefully bring some liveliness back to our teens at home!

9. Cameroon - our last SPACE team to return. This team provided, for the first time ever in Navigator Cameroon history, childcare for the women of this ministry. Many Nav families traveled very far to join together in worship, reporting and planning for a country-wide ministry. Most of these Cameroonian women have never met even though their husbands work together within this organization. It was an amazing opportunity for them and their children to come together. Historic, and quite an experience for our team!

Here's a video the church put together you might enjoy with pictures from each of these trips. We have more trips scheduled for this fall and currently have a Grace family in Uganda for the year while the director of AOET and his family is here in MD, attending AU classes on international leadership. It's an amazing partnership!

For this first time ever, our teams were not fully funded. We're working out some of the reasons why this may have happened. We covet your prayers on this matter and the impact it will have on future life-changing trips. Thanks!

Sarah Palin

She's not Condi, but she'll do! =) She's a mom, former FCA president at her high school, mother of a Down's Syndrome child (could there be hope in the future for the glaring inadequacies of NCLB for special ed students?) and I think she's a great choice for McCain. I'm feeling a little more hopeful with this pick, for sure. My daughter will be thrilled about the dog-sledding! LOL Her 19-year-old son leaves for Iraq on September 11th. Wow.

UPDATE: I have to admit to the three people who read this blog. I'm actually giddy about this VP candidate. I haven't been giddy in a very long time, but today John McCain made me a very happy person, even if it's only for a couple months. So worth it! hehe I'm going to go sign up for that absentee ballot right now!!

Storm Preparations

Most of our friends, close ones anyway, know that my husband is a major preparedness freak. We've had our Y2K stash, our bird-flu stash, our dirty bomb plastic sheeting and duct tape stash and we always stock up for storms of any variety. My "storm" preparedness focuses on other things rather than just canned food, toilet paper and bottled water. I'm looking ahead, to the possible Obama tax storm, and wondering how and when to prepare for the takeover of my money!

I'm so thoroughly confused by all the opinion out there it's just getting really overwhelming. I've heard that 401K's are not safe, or that they're super safe. I've heard RothIRA's are better, but you better move everything fast. I've read that anyone making over $75,000 better protect their income in 401K's, that tax margins are the same or different, that percentage increases won't make a difference because tax cuts disappear..... yadda, yadda, yadda. I'm completely stumped. I need "Obamanomics For Dummies" at this point!! The plan sounds super confusing. I just want to know... should I not get a job? because that will make our double income just over the crazy taxable income bracket? Do we need to protect our 401K, because even with Obama I'm still not betting there will ever be Social Security benefits for me someday, let alone Medicare? Nobody agrees, and nobody can give me a straight answer.

I'm realizing there is no way to prepare for this storm of events that may or may not happen. I'm reminded that sometimes we overprepare, which is why I still have tuna and baked beans in bulk in my basement without a sign of the bird flu anywhere in the world. If you need a bandaid, chances are there's one hiding in our basement, along with all the Neosporin you couldn't find at CVS when you needed it! While it may seem silly, and we joke about it now, the day may come when, as my neighbors say, "We're heading for YOUR basement!" I guess we just need to be wise and try to make the best informed decision we can. Meanwhile, if you know the answers to any of my questions, I'd love to know!!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Daily Politics

OK - I'm going to throw in my little political rambling for the day... I have been really enjoying Glenn Beck on CNN. Not only do my thoughts/ideas resonate with him (I'm conservative, not really a Republican), but I think he's hysterical and a great writer. I'm not a radioshow fan - can't listen to anything - so I just read his pieces on the web. I think I've linked to him before, but I've read this one a few times. Interesting and chuckle worthy. Enjoy... if you like that kind of stuff!


My mom sent me this email yesterday entitled "Why Middle Aged Women Should Stay Home" and it was hilarious. The scary thing was that I kept thinking to myself there are so many times when I think I'm really half my size and age... and could see myself doing some of these very same things with disastrous outcomes! (Well, OK, not the first one!!) Anyway, enjoy!

Vote Now!

If you feel so inclined.... we are debating two crazy ideas in this house, neither of which are political. So don't get all wound up. I'm not asking you who you're voting for in November... just where you think we should go for election day! LOL (I think we'll be voting absentee!)

We are throwing around two ideas, and I forgot to check Wednesday airfares deals. Probably because of that stinkin' virus I had on here yesterday. Totally threw me off. Anyway, the girls have Monday, Nov. 3 off as well as Tuesday, Nov. 4. By that time, it's conceivable that T will have 2 vacation days saved up after earning back the three he was down when we got home from Europe. Our two options we are throwing around, which are, interestingly enough, almost equal in cost:

1. Flying to Ft. Myers, staying at a somewhat primitive "hotel" on Sanibel Island for a few days, beaching and shelling.

2. Driving up to NYC, staying in a swanky downtown hotel (the Super 8 in Times Square - doesn't get much swankier for this family! LOL) and going to see an overpriced Broadway show and some sites downtown, including but not limited to the American Girl store (def. not T's idea, but he loves NYC). Of course, one night is about all we could afford, so we'd be staying in CT and taking the train in and out.

So, what's your vote? Because I'm having a difficult time choosing. I personally love the beach, but flying these days is a pain. NYC could be fun, but the last time we were there in November it was FAR from beach like. In fact, we were FREEZING!!! So, two very different options.

Of course, we could just stay home. So vote!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's Viral

There are many viruses going around our house right now, including one on my computer!! In fact, I have a feeling my computer was infected by more than one virus... we've seen VirtuMonde, Trojan, BackdoorTrojan, etc..... It's quite creepy. I'm not sure my old laptop will survive. Thankfully, we have an even more ancient computer that might have bitten the dust the last time it contracted a virus other than the fact that it happily runs on an external hard drive now. You'd think if a computer guru lives in your house you'd be immune. I'm here to sadly admit that that just isn't the case. We're now quarantined!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I read this very witty, very interesting article today. It seriously had me in stitches while I was scratching my head.

"He had dropped me off in front of a restaurant, prior to finding a parking spot. As I crossed in front of the car, he pulled forward, happily smiling back over his left shoulder at some random fascinating bit (a sign with an interesting font, a new scaffolding, a diner that he may or may not have eaten at the week after he graduated from college), and plowed into me. The impact, while not wondrous enough to break bodies 12 ways, was sufficient to bounce me sidewise onto the hood, legs waving in the air like antennae, skirt flung somewhere up around my ears.

For one whole second, New York City stood stock-still and looked at my underwear.

As I pounded the windshield with my fist and shouted -- "Will, Will, stop the car!" -- he finally faced forward, blink, blink, blink, trying, yes, truly trying to take it all in. And I heard him ask with mild astonishment, very faintly because windshield glass is surprisingly thick, "What are you doing here?"" (Ellen Tien)

Very well-written, but a sad rendering of mid-life marriage. I sure hope we can do better than this! I definitely have days like some (not all) of hers, but I didn't get married in the first place so that I could wonder what life would be like unmarried. Marriage is not easy, it takes a lot of work and I hope it never becomes obsolete!


I am a total skeptic when it comes to Barack Obama. I'll admit it! I cannot see him being an "agent of change", so to speak. I agree, America is ready for a change, for bipartisan cooperation that will hopefully lead to a better America. I just don't think that is what Obama is setting out to do. Call it a gut feeling, but I don't trust the message.

A friend of mine posted this link on his Facebook. It's interesting, and I'll admit that I know little about the source. Here's a quote, though, that I find bothersome:

Obama's record of reaching across party lines is, as his own answer to Rick Warren's recent Saddleback Civil Forum showed, pretty thin. His paper trail is surprisingly thin, too. He has left no papers from his Illinois senate days; he hasn't listed his law firm clients or provided more than one page of medical records; the papers of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which he chaired and in which the unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers was heavily involved, were suddenly closed to National Review's Stanley Kurtz by the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois.

Mainstream media, with the conspicuous exception of ABC News's George Stephanopoulos, have shown little curiosity about Obama's connection with Ayers. It will also be interesting to see if there is much coverage of Obama's 2003 vote in Illinois against protecting infants born alive in attempted abortions, now that his campaign has conceded the bill was virtually identical to one that passed the U.S. Senate 98-0 in 2001. (Michael Barone, AEI)

So, why is he not releasing any of these papers? That's the kind of thing that makes me wonder if this guy is being truthful or not. Is he trying to hide something? What is he hoping people won't find out before November 4?? The shroud of mystery he tries to create is an issue for me. I wish I could reconcile his message of "hope and change" with the person he seems to be, but I'm just not able to do that. I want more for a president than someone who can make a good speech. I want someone who demonstrates what they are speaking about in deed. Maybe it's the inexperience? I'm not sure. Something just doesn't add up for me here.

OK - enough on politics. I need to go do some laundry!! ;-)

8/26 - This just popped up on Foxnews. Funny.

Caterpillar Pace

We are moving along this year at the pace of an insect. Not quite as bad as a tortoise, but not nearly as fast as a hare! I don't really know what the girls will be doing, and the activities range from our church's girls club, to tennis, ballet, swimming.... piano lessons. On my docket - a new job as a resource teacher (6 hours divided between 3 days a week), organizing a parent volunteer program at the girls' school and subbing? I really don't know. I had considered taking a graduate class, but again, without knowing who is doing what on what day, I just can't seem to bring myself to commit to one more thing!

Why the slow start? Well, it's a long story, and I'm not getting into it, but it caused us to make few important decisions and now I'm feeling kind of suspended. I have kind of a hard time with this amount of uncertainty. It's weird! And while I'd like to take a nice, long vacation, I'm seeing how that would delay the inevitable task of making these commitments. I wonder what a year without any extracurricular activities would look like?? Probably much like my childhood - come home, watch TV, play outside, do a little homework while watching TV, talk on the phone, eat dinner, talk on the phone, go to bed. =) Not so bad. LOL

Monday, August 25, 2008

First Day of School

Someday, when my summer pics get loaded onto the computer, I'll post a pic for this post!

The girls both went off to school this morning. Kt is on azithromycin for an ear infection, Em is now at the clinic tonight for what we are guessing is the same. Poor things!!

Just as we suspected from the wildly different bus number, we had a new bus driver. That's seriously about all I know from today. Here were the highlights of their days:

1. There's a new bus driver.
2. His name is Kevin.
3. He lets them ride in the back of the bus. All 9 of them!
4. The back of the (nearly empty) bus is very, very bumpy and FUN!
5. They both liked school and their classes.

There you have it. Kevin is a rock star bus driver and for the rest of their year will provide the necessary stress relief on the ride home to alleviate any and all drama that occurs while in the confines of my daughters' educational institution. I'm thinking of reserving all teacher gifts for Kevin this year - he'll certainly earn them! ;-)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Air Quality

I'm catching the end of the closing ceremonies. I'm also going take a stab in the dark and suggest that the people in the bird's nest can't breath!

Kt has an ear infection. T's off to the only 24 hour pharmacy that has the meds she needs - she's allergic to penicillin - we think. It's quite a hike out to the pharmacy. I hope they really have it!

So, this should make for an interesting first day of school!

A Weak Moment

I don't usually advertise for Democrats... LOL... but one of our summer leaders has been given the opportunity to be a runner for a CNN cameraman (father of one of our SPACE students) and he's at the Democratic Convention in Denver. He's keeping a blog of his fun times, so if you're a fan and want some inside scoop stuff from an intern's perspective, here it is!

Closing Ceremonies

I'm sure I'll miss them, but the pictures I've seen already look amazing! I am going to admit that I have watched almost none of the Olympics since Michael Phelps won his 8th gold medal. I'm such an Olympic slacker!! It truly bothered me that it's likely the Chinese women's gymnastics team used underaged gymnasts and won't fess up. Even T's parents (who are Chinese) think they are underaged. What a total shame! I won't get into some of the cultural conclusions one might come to over this only than to say that for a country with so much national honor, I'm shocked.

Tomorrow is the girls' first day of school. They have both been miserably sick for over a week. I'm debating taking them to the doctor for fear they may have sinus infections or something!! I'm hoping they make it through the whole day tomorrow and am not looking forward to our first week being a full 5 days. It's kind of sad - end of the Olympics = end of summer. =( Of course, lots more free time for me I hope!

Thursday, August 21, 2008


here's an eschoolnewsletter i just received:

school bus routes for the 2008-09 school year

in previous years patuxent publishing company provided a comprehensive list of hoco public school system bus routes in each of their five publications. this year, the howard county times continues to have a complete list but the other four papers the laurel leader, the columbia flier, the view of western hoco and the view of ellicott city, only include the schools within their region. information for every address in hoco, visit the school system website *** under quick links.

posted by the hcpss public information office

i guess our school system doesn't know where the shift key is. and these are the folks i'm entrusting my kids' education to??? (changes to the county name made by me)

On Stewardship

My entire life, I'd had this dream. It's about something I've always wanted, and it has shaped some big decisions in my life. Not a lot of them, just a few key ones. As a kid, I had actual dreams very consistently and apparently vividly (because I remember them to this day!) about this particular dream. I still have dreams about it.

Recently, we were made an extremely generous offer by some good friends and it's something that would have actualized this very vivid dream. In reality, though, it's probably something we have to say no to for various reasons. One glaring reason is that we have been terrible stewards of something God gave us. If we were better stewards, I think we could pull this off, but the truth is, we haven't been.

It's really heartbreaking for me. Fortunately, I'm the only one with the dream so nobody else is really heartbroken. Maybe the girls a bit, but not for the same reasons. It is tough to swallow and there's no easy or cheap fix to this one. If we can't be good stewards of all the Lord has given us, then we won't be ready for more!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Define Rich

This is a question from the night with Rick Warren that could have been answered in any number of ways. For Obama, the magic number seems to fall somewhere in the $250,000/year salary area, a far stretch for most Americans is my guess. I was listening carefully to his answer, though, because he often talks about two numbers, the aforementioned one and another somewhere in the "below $100,000" range. The haunting question in my mind.... what about the in between? It has been this vacuous area that he fails to talk about.

McCain answered this question in an odd sort of way, not so much defining "rich" but talking about his philosophy of taxing. Basically, if you earn it, it's yours and the less of it you give to the government, the better! He then threw out a number, $5 million/year, and quipped about that comment being blown out of proportion. It was an interesting answer, to say the least.

In relation to the discussion of riches and taxes, I'm recalling a conversation with some folks we met at the beach as well as my sister-in-law, who is a social worker. I'm really starting to see that the solution to many of the social issues today is not higher taxes and more programs, but a complete social welfare reform. If we keep pouring money into the existing system, we're just creating a larger problem than joblessness (often caused by a cap on earning to receive aid), housing (which many time involves a lower income to qualify) and extreme poverty (which is cyclical based on above mentioned issues). That's way oversimplified, but the issue at hand cannot in any way, shape or form be solved by raising taxes and paying more into broken systems.

So, the vacuous salary range?? I found this article yesterday that might answer my question, if only I understood it! YIKES!!! Some scary stuff, if I'm reading it correctly. I'm not the best person to be talking economics, which is so not my forte. But reading this article really made me nervous for many reasons. I call for "no taxation without reformation"!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Teachers

The girls got their teacher assignments today. I have no idea who Kt's teacher is, but she seems OK about it. Em is not happy at all. Personally, out of the four teachers in second grade I had one I really loved and we didn't get her. I'm pretty bummed. I guess I'll have to start researching all those homeschooling options. Ick.


Describes many things right now - the shirt I'm wearing, the color of the sky this morning, the color of the pool the girls are going to beg me to take them to today and the mood I'm in. I am really missing my dad right now. 5 1/2 years doesn't erase a need to hear some sound advice, to be able to call on someone you trust, to have someone who will take care of the list of things you need done now and provide one more wise male role model for your children. In many ways I'm OK with my dad being in heaven, but in so many ways it's just not OK.

13 years ago, after a year in our townhouse, my mom and dad came down and helped me strip the most hideous wallpaper off the walls in my kitchen, then my father meticulously cut and put up a chair rail for me and helped me paint the room. After we moved into this house, he was too sick to do anything really handy other than hang everything on the walls for me. Instead, he came down and entertained my 4 and 1 year olds while I painted and decorated. Then he walked around and admired my work as if we now lived in a palace fit for a king!

I'm pretty sure there isn't anyone who could take the place of my dad. Nobody has even offered! =) I think losing him was the biggest roadblock to any momentum in my life. There are so many things I want to do, so many big decisions I've bypassed, just because I have nobody really urging me to do anything. I can remember one summer during college, after arriving home from working my two jobs, that my dad was sitting in his chair with the newspaper open to the "Help Wanted" section of the paper. Not before long, I had three jobs that summer!

My dad wasn't a go-getter, he wasn't very authoritative (although he was a disciplinarian), and he was never dripping with encouragement. In other words, he reserved his praise for things that were praiseworthy in his eyes, and for me, losing that left a huge hole in my self-esteem, I guess. There are many things I don't do today because I know they won't matter to a soul. They would have mattered to him, but now they would only remind me that he's not here.

The most difficult thing about this problem is that I don't know how to fix it. I'm pretty sure I've spent about 5.5 years trying to find a band-aid, but there isn't one. I love Jesus, but He doesn't paint walls, hang post lights or change out bathroom faucets. He might be calling me to do something big, but I might have been silently grieving to the point I just didn't hear Him. And I've done a really good job keeping busy enough that I don't often feel this kind of pain anymore. Just when I really need my dad!

Monday, August 18, 2008

What's that smell?

I say this often, especially around my house. But just now, I swear someone must have used my vacuum to clean up something rancid. Pretty much the moment I flicked the on switch I could smell it. Gross! That means the entire inside of my vacuum must be, well, fumigated. Hmmm... Lysol? Any ideas out there? (We're talking the thing smells like poop - EWWW!)

Last Week

We are now 7 days from the beginning of the school year. Friday is the oh so chaotic Open House. I just reread my report of that day from last year and it has created a bit of dread in my heart! It's about 87 degrees outside and sunny, and while we should be enjoying our last week at the pool, I just spent part of the afternoon cleaning up the swing set in our backyard and doing laundry. Life doesn't stand still for the pool - and right now, it's just too much of a hassle to pack up everything and go only to have to clean it all up again AND lose a productive afternoon.

Things I hope to see happen this school year... I would love for Em to learn how to ride a bike, write neatly and to be excited about school. I would love for Kt to be more independent with(from) friends, to be confident about going to middle school and to not feel so overwhelmed with extracurricular activities. I would really like to establish something on a regular basis for Bible teaching - it's a huge failing of mine that I'm feeling like I need to address.

Things I'm looking forward to: we have a huge Christmas break this year, and while I'd love to go away somewhere warm, I've decided to stop hoping for that. For one, prices during those two weeks are outrageous, and two, I'm pretty much the only one in my family who wants to go away. I guess it'll be Christmas at home, for an extended period of time! I'm also looking forward to starting a very part time teaching job at the school I formerly taught at. I just attended a breakfast today with them and saw many familiar faces. I think finally having a job of my own will be good for me. Granted, it'll be equivalent to one day a week, at least it's something that I'm trained to do!

Things I'm not looking forward to: second grade. It was our least favorite year for Kt, so I'm really leary. Winter... I'm already missing summer! My mom working again. I was secretly hoping she'd retire so I'd have at least one year of fun with her before I make any big decision about the rest of my life. I thought that would be fun, but she's back to school again, and if things go the way they are talking I might have more responsibilities next year at this job. Maybe we'll both be teachers again together! We'll see.

Well, I'm off to vacuum and straighten up AGAIN. It's an endless job, and for as much as I've been plugging away at trying to make a dent, as soon as I turn around everything is a mess again. It's hopeless! But this is it... the last week of having two hurricanes living 24/7 in my house! =)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Downside to Family Short-term Missions

We have been blessed as a family to serve together for the past two summers. We also enjoy opportunities to serve all year long together, and we know we're creating a lifestyle and experience for our daughters that not many children even imagine. Someday I'll try to list all the benefits of doing this sort of ministry as a family, but right now I'm realizing the one (and really, I can't think of many others!) downside to doing what we do. We don't really get a break.

Really, this has been a challenge of T's since we embarked on this crazy thing we call SPACE. T spends hours of time investing in students, planning events throughout the year, networking with missionaries/organizations about training, trips and purpose and all this while he's working a full time computer job and raising a family. It's a big deal, and there are a few things we've tried to institute to help with the stress level for him.

Some of those things include allowing him a budget and time for reading. He could literally open his own library at this point. He enjoys reading, takes notes, shares all he learns with me and anyone else who will listen and we can honestly say that much of what he's read has shaped his philosophies of missions, leadership development and church models. We've also tried to build in some down time each week for us. We're not always so great at doing this, but I need it, the girls love babysitters and if we didn't do this, T would be setting up meetings nightly with students. Gotta make him take a break!!

While we haven't intentionally chosen to do this, another way we've allowed for T to do what he does is for me to work very part time jobs as opposed to going back full-time to work. I've been really hesitant to go back to work for several reasons, but it has really given him the flexibility to do many things he enjoys doing. He loves to attend different conferences, loves to travel with at least one or two teams over the summer, he puts in just enough hours at work to free up more time with students. All those things are made easier by me being home most of the time for our girls. I can also say him changing jobs 18 months ago freed up a huge amount of his time - another choice we made so that our lives could include SPACE.

All this being said, our past two summers have left me feeling a bit of grief over not having a family vacation. Some of the reason for this is the fact that T has no vacation time left. Last year he had just started his job, so we had decided that we would just forgo our family time. This year I don't really know what happened, but there's negative vacation time left. It's a bit depressing.

To put our trip into perspective from a family point of view, the reality is that although we travel together on these trips, I would hardly call it a family vacation. I saw very little of T on our trip and even less of Kt. Out of 23 meals we were served in Hungary, I ate 3 of them with Kt and I believe just two of those were with our entire family. Most of the time, I had no idea where my kids were or what they were doing! And while that may sound glorious to many moms, while they were all off having fun, I was fulfilling my end of serving by watching the babies, which was fun and exhausting. The time spent with my family was spent with little energy.

For our little stint in Paris I actually asked T for some family time, and it was fun. It consisted of us running through Paris, taking as many pictures as we could, T on the phone every 10-15 minutes with various other team members, checking on a van for our luggage, trying to figure out what we could do for our sick team members and us rushing to meet up with the team from Cameroon that never showed up! Having a world phone is nice, but it definitely ate up our family time!!

So, in processing all this I was remembering past summers minus the family missions trip. Most of them involved me and the girls doing something on our own for about 10 days, sometimes having no contact with T, sometimes getting to talk to him once or twice, almost always having some kind of major disaster while he was away and being relieved and excited when he came home. The one thing each of those summers had in common, though, was T's great desire to spend a week or two with just his family, no students, no SPACE. And I have to admit, we needed that. These past two summers I haven't felt we've had that same break for various reasons. It almost feels like we've just hit the ground running when our plane landed.

I think next summer will look really different for us. I'm not sure how, but I'm really hoping for something that affords us all a break from ministry. I think we might have forgotten how to be a family in the past two years, and maybe that's a good thing? but I doubt it. We have not built in anything for just our family this year. Even the few things we're talking about for the end of this year all revolve around something ministry related. I'm so glad we took the girls to Europe because they have had an amazing experience, they've seen things many kids their age only dream of and they had an opportunity to serve other families like us. I think it's time for a furlough, though!

Florida Keys

I'm kind of sad about Hurricane Fay hitting the keys. I'm glad we went last April to Key West and I seriously can't imagine such a tiny island surviving a hurricane!! I'll be watching this closely. =(

Saturday, August 16, 2008

McCain, Obama and the Great Equalizer....

Well, OK, not really. I feel like I'm being bombarded by Rick Warren. Friday, while waiting an unbelievable amount of time for my doctor's appointment, I read an article in Time about RW - very interesting, intriguing... I then came home to an email invitation to hear RW speak in NYC. Then later I heard about this interview! YIKES!

I thought it said something in that article about him wanting to focus on more unifying topics, not "sin" oriented ones. I'm pretty sure that's not so much what happened tonight, but I can still appreciate the questions.

I missed the first 15 minutes of Obama - bummer - and I wasn't really surprised by anything after that he said. Several months ago I watched the same type of forum at Wheaton College, and his answers are basically the same. The question running through my mind, however, was, "Is this what he really believes? thinks? or is he trying to figure out how to answer this question for this audience?" I guess in some way, I wasn't really feeling much authenticity. Just a little more wishy-washy than I prefer. Some of his answers seemed a bit contradictory (states should be left to define what marriage is but government can define who is "rich") and others he hit right on the nose (can't think of an example!).

McCain sort of surprised me, and while many of his answers resonate with me, I wish he had let RW finish asking the questions! There were definitely a few in there that he didn't answer, and I would love to know what he thinks about teacher salaries based on merit. I have to admit, I felt a little more secure following someone who thinks like my dad, older, wiser, more experienced. I think McCain is fascinating, he's comfortable in his skin, he's willing to make tough decisions even when they don't benefit him. He seems to have a story to tell for everything to illustrate a point, and when all is said and done, you know more about him, the way he thinks, the way his heart leads...

As for the Christian aspect, Obama felt a need to express the way he sees his Christianity and what it means to him but not to express his views on other religions, their legitimacy or force in the world. This could be a purposeful elimination so as not to allow any of his remarks to be used against him - understandable. McCain didn't feel that same need to keep reiterating what he believes. Maybe it was clear to the audience? Who knows, but I did pick up on that difference, still processing it.

Up to this point, I have not really been interested in voting, although I feel like it's an exercise of freedom, so I'm sure I'll vote. More events like this will help, but I sort of expected more from RW. I'm not sure what, but I guess more futuristic, more about a vision these men have and not so much what they believe. We kind of already know what they believe. I'm glad they both agreed to do this and I hope they are each happy with the ideas they were able to express.

My one question. Most of the media reported that the audience was mostly evangelical Christian, but I'm wondering if that is really so. Did you need tickets for this event? Was there some kind of selection to be chosen to be in the audience? Were most of the audience, in fact, from Saddleback?? I'll have to check into that. It almost appeared to me to be pretty split.

Finally, if I were choosing a president who I thought would really work bipartisanly, across the aisle, for the good of all Americans, I'd have to choose McCain. I don't believe for one second that Obama is interested in doing anything "republican" at all. The whole "everything in the past 8 years is wrong" just doesn't sit with me - I just don't see that at all. For real, that guy scares me. Personally, I'd rather not live in a country that is run by Obama, his wife, his grandmother and a Kennedy. It's a bit too dictatorial for me! I mean, isn't that what the Clintons did? (I'm just way too conservative, and I should stop right now!) What I really want for president is someone who is truly different. I'm thinking not republican or democrat at this point. I just wish that person would show their face sometime before Nov. 4! And no, I wouldn't vote for Rick Warren! LOL

Here's my "wordle"

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Lull

I'm pretty sure that's where I am today. I think a storm is brewing, one of much activity. Next week I will be "oriented" for my new job - VERY part time special ed. person. I'm not sure I'd call it teacher, but I'll be working a 7 hour a week job. Fun.

The girls have "orientation" for school next week. Moving.... we have this unbelievable opportunity to move closeby, we're just in the process of weighing the options - pros and cons - and trying to get some info about selling a house that is in no shape to be sold. More on that if it actually comes to fruition. Just pray for us - I'm feeling really anxious about not know what we're doing and whether or not I should be working my butt off to be ready for something or not. It's a bit crazy.

I wish we had a couple more weeks of summer because I'm not nearly ready enough for it to be over. Especially with this crazy decision we have to make. It's times like these when I really miss my dad - he always had some wise words of advice for me.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


I have to admit, I love watching the medal ceremonies when the USA wins a gold, but I keep wondering to myself. Is there a single male swimmer who even knows any of the words to their national anthem?? Just wondering...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Would you give up everything, your family, your home, your culture and your religion, all for Jesus? I could not stop reading about this man who did - a very informative interview. I'm completely inspired by him, but saddened by the realization that for hundreds of thousands of believers, there is great sacrifice in believing.

Friday, August 08, 2008

That Little Thing Called Vacation

This is probably the most difficult time of year for me, wife of the short term missions maniac. We have come home to a very quiet neighborhood, many of our favorite pools closing for the summer, and many of our friends at the beach on vacation. T arrived home Monday with -3 vacation days. Yes, you read that correctly. He has NEGATIVE three days. Even though he tries to tell me he has just the same vacation time as he had at Verizon, I don't believe him. He's never had negative days.

Growing up with two teachers for parents, we always had summer vacation in August. In fact, we pretty much had the entire month of August for family vacations. I never imagined life with no family vacation time!! I think this might be the first year that happens. Every other year I've been able to squeeze out at least a long weekend for our family to go somewhere fun, but I don't see that as a viable option this year. It's kind of beat because after the last two weeks of traveling in a such a large group, it would be so nice to go away and be a family for a little bit.

Where would we go? I have a list of places I'd love to vacation with my family, beach destinations topping the list, but at this point I'd go pretty much anywhere! So, I'm off to Connecticut. It's really the one place in the world I feel relaxed. The epitome of relaxation for me is putting on some comfy shorts, an oversized sweatshirt, picking up Duchess and heading down to Penfield Beach to do nothing but walk by the water and nap. It's the place I feel most at home.

I'm off to pack. My mom just called to let me know Em has the stomach flu. I guess no beach for us this time... again. Oh, I give up!


It shouldn't surprise me at all, but today I kind of snickered when I was erasing all my spam and read one subject: "Wanna be a psychologist?" No, I don't "wanna" be a psychologist, nor do I ever want to see one that "wannas" to be one!

Thursday, August 07, 2008


I was ruminating on the idea of freedom today. I was prompted by thoughts of what it's like to travel outside the US, to feel like a foreigner and have "natives" stare at you strangely, or balk at you in disgust that you don't even know how to say "hello" in their language. It's quite uncomfortable, lonely and slightly depressing for those who choose to relocate to a foreign land.

I was thinking how the United States of America was founded upon the idea of freedom and welcoming those from foreign lands, but how that ideal seems lost these days. Are we really that welcoming? Do we go out of our way to offer freedom to those who can no longer live freely in their native countries? Or do we mutter things like "why don't you learn English!" and "go back to where you came from" under our breathes, like we're entitled to more than the next human being?

My home right now is in the middle of a very diverse, very multi-ethnic area. There are many opportunities for me to be welcoming to those from far away lands. Am I doing that? and what does it mean to others when I do?? I know what it means for our friends we met last week when they finally feel like France or Belgium or Spain is really home for them. It's a feeling of belonging and connection. They are no longer just foreigners, they are members of a community. And I think that many times they are proud to be accepted.

As I was pondering all these things, a story popped up on CNN about the flag bearer for the US in Beijing. I LOVE this story and was really moved that it flowed with my thought for today. Imagine being referred to as a "Lost Boy" only to be accepted in this way by a country that could offer you freedom. I'm sure there is much more to his story, his struggle, and I'm sure it wasn't as easy or as wonderful all the time as he makes it sound. I was just moved that his teammates accepted him in this meaningful way. It makes me proud to be an American and know that we are a country that still offers open arms.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
with conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
a mighty woman with a torch
whose flame is imprisoned lightning,
and her name Mother of Exiles.

From her beacon-hand glows
world-wide welcome;
her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor
that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands your storied pomp!"
cries she with silent lips.

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus (1849-1887)
(inscription inside the Statue of Liberty)

Call to Adopt

This is a great piece on CNN from Steven Curtis Chapman, the Christian musician whose youngest daughter from China died a few months ago, about the call to adopt orphans. It's great and truly from his heart. In response to this, a friend of mine posts:

Diana and I were actively discussing adoption before our recent pregnancy and we still intend to adopt in the near future. But as we’ve explored the options, a glaring impediment to adoption has become very real: prohibitive costs created by bureaucratic inefficiencies, non-profiteers and (especially overseas) political corruption. Just last week in Denver, a newly adoptive father told me it cost him and his wife nearly $15,000 to complete the adoption process for a US-born child. As the process dragged on, the more it felt like he was “buying” a son. I’ve heard horror stories of international adoptions that require bribes from beginning to end, to secure a child that would otherwise be relegated to a garbage dump, labor camp, the streets, an understaffed institution, or worse.

Read more here.

I've never actually thought of adoption as a response to a social injustice, but I can see that more clearly now. I've had several friends who have adopted - each of them has been blessed in so many ways. While the process can be grueling and expensive, I think the benefits are priceless. I think it's an honorable response to heartbreaking hopelessness so many orphaned children face daily.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Post trip mishmash

So, here I am, in a very quiet house. I sent the girls off to Connecticut with my mom, so it's just me and my house for now. Everyone else is off at work. Did I mention how quiet it is? I thought about going shopping, but I think our credit cards are maxed out by the trip. When you are charging meals and transport for 26 things can get a bit crazy!!

My house is suffering right now from post-traumatic trip packing syndrome. In other words, there is stuff in every corner that is likely of no use to us right now because it was meant to be packed but left behind... in my messy house. While I enjoy solitude, I prefer it to be a bit more organized. I kind of want someone to come here and clean it all up for me. Or at least tell me what to do with the 150 T-shirts, half used rolls of masking and duct tape, empty/used tie dye bottles, thousands of ziploc bags that are floating around in odd places (found one on top of my 3 wick candle...?) and the 15 or so duffel bags that don't belong to us. It's all very messy. That's the best word I can think of for us.

The mess here resembles the mess in my head right now. I'm facing all those things I put off until we get back. Which we are. Make doctor appointments, dentist appointments, take care of school stuff, decide if we're going to move (long story, but the prospect of getting my house ready to sell isn't making onto my mental radar right now!) and the myriads of other thoughts from our trip are racing through the superhighway that is my brain. I'm really not sure where to start, although the trip to the grocery store yesterday was a good starting block! Must eat.

Things in Europe are so different yet so the same. We don't live next to or even close to Communism, so we don't understand the mistrust in people's eyes, or the hopelessness they feel. Homelessness isn't our neighbor so much in this county, so watching homeless men take over a children's playground in Paris while parents let their children play around the blankets, shoes and mattresses was eye-opening. Urban life, where everything you need is within arms reach, but grass is difficult to come by is a stretch for this suburban chick. Going to sleep to screeching train brakes as opposed to the rhythmic whistle of crickets also leaves an indelible mark on the mind. The personal touch of flowering window boxes, multiple ornate fountains and narrow, cobblestoned streets bustling with shoppers adds life to sometimes cold history surrounding European city blocks. It all makes me wonder how suburban America emerged from that! All very strange. Even our cities are no match in agelessness to what we find in Europe.

For all the differences, the smiles are the same. The laugh of a child, the discipline of an elder, the protectiveness of a mom, the adventurous mindset of a dad... it's all there. In a different world, far away. I'm sure some 38 year old European woman is sitting alone in her quiet home wondering how it will ever get tidy. She's wondering what teacher her child will have next school year, wondering how her life might change in the next year and wanting to savor the last days of summer. In a different language, in the same mindset. In a different setting, in the same wonderment. It's a lot to grasp but it's a beautiful reality. So much in common, yet worlds apart.

OK... back to life, back to reality. Better go fold the last of my post trip laundry and unpack the last of the team junk that we brought home. The world is much bigger than even I know. I think I just need to keep opening the doors to see it.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Creating Creative Creation

Main Entry:
1cre·ate Listen to the pronunciation of 1create
\krē-ˈāt, ˈkrē-ˌ\
Inflected Form(s):
cre·at·ed; cre·at·ing
Middle English, from Latin creatus, past participle of creare; akin to Latin crescere to grow
14th century
transitive verb1: to bring into existence created the heaven and the earth — Genesis 1:1(Authorized Version)>
2 a: to invest with a new form, office, or rank created a lieutenant> b: to produce or bring about by a course of action or behavior created a terrible fuss> <create new jobs>
3: cause, occasion creates high food prices>
4 a
: to produce through imaginative skill <create a painting> b: design<creates dresses>
~Merriam Webster

I'm totally convinced that our students will do ANYTHING if it's their idea! That's really the driving force behind the children's programs they created this summer. Sure, we did a LOT of filling in the blanks, helping generate thinking and ideas... but the drive behind the program lay in the hands of the students. As I'm looking through the pictures what these creative individuals created, I'm really amazed by the creation! Sounds silly, I know, but I know that as a leader team, we could not have come close to providing what they did unless they were fully invested!

Here's how it happened. We did not use a curriculum, we did not recycle something we'd already used, we did not tell the students what they should do. We did provide them with some brainstorming session, we did give them an idea of what children need and how to scale their ideas to fill up 3 hour time frames, we did ask them to produce. We also divided them (actually, they chose) into teams: teaching, games, crafts, skit and music. We also tried to keep tabs on what was (or was not) getting accomplished. We started with a theme for the week (they chose the Olympics) and a teaching theme (inspired by Pilgrim's Progress, one of our seniors from last year came up with a teaching model for obstacles in a Christian's life) and tweaked it as leaders to fit into 5 days.

After all agreeing on our themes and our 5 days, we started filling in some blanks: crafts, schedules, activities, small group discussions/activites, skit (amazing - all on video and edited by the students) and music. There were many last minute things we all had to pitch in to do, but the week before we left we went over all of it as a group - every last detail - and they did a great job filling in the missing pieces. I think they were proud of what they accomplished, and they should be!!

Finally, we divided our team up into smaller groups for the evening programs, which we really centered around fun. Last year, we had grueling 3 session days and were doing a program in the morning and a different one at night. The kids were BEAT!! This time, we made our evening adventures - pirate and princess party, campfire/pajama party night, wacky/tacky superhero night and our opening and closing ceremonies. I really think it was a great program - and we also sent out an email to all the families with a little invitation so the kids could come prepared to dress up. I was AMAZED at how creative these kids are - I'm not sure why! They really came prepared and obviously the parents joined in the fun.

If you want a team to participate, commit, and enthusiastically serve, you have to give them the controls. It may not be easy, but I can assure you that with a little guidance and wisdom, it will pay off in the end. When we let our creator be our guide, it's even more impressive!

Hungary 08 - The Reinvasion of CA!

Hehe... what a silly blog title! Anyway, it is sort of what we did. We don't typically repeat a trip with SPACE, but this year we gave it a try. The added responsibility of being solely responsible for the kid's program this year as opposed to having "directors" over us made it entirely different. Not to mention having to navigate our group of 26 through Europe as opposed to 16 - big difference!!

Now that we're home, it's a bit easier to look back at this trip and see that we really accomplished everything we set out to do. We had some bumps in the road - as we always do - but nothing that wasn't divinely ordained for the purpose of our growth and amusement. Yes, we are confirmed in our belief that God has a sense of humor and he chooses to lavishly bless us with it!

Low points of this year's trip:

~I spent all two of our Vienna days in the lime green hostel.... miserable! I had a combination of stomach issues and the likely probability that I overdid it on my blood pressure meds due to our very late departure, 6 hour loss of time and early to bed.... very dizzy, very nauseous! Anyway, it was fortunately a very nice, very clean hostel and the weather was chilly, so my room was quite comfy!

~Miscommunication among our scattered team was very frustrating for me, T and the rest of our group. It's always a challenge, but with 26 of us it was just really an issue we could not find a decent solution to. Add to that the loss of electricity on our team's hotel floor, seemingly being blamed on our iPods, appliances, etc., walkie talkie's that only worked out front and we had difficulty coordinating and other various "issues" that came up - hiding out in the baby room was a good distraction for me!

~Lugging all our baggage through the Paris subway to our hotel was a totally anticlimactic event for me! We had originally intended to check our large bags through to Washington, DC, but were unable to do that. While I sort of begged T to at the very least contact United about storing our bags at the airport, I was quickly outvoted for the alternative of taking them all by train and subway. It was pretty wacked. 26 of us, our arms full, dragging very large suitcases and team duffel bags behind us and me with two children to keep track of - not my idea of fun! I'm totally against this kind of activity, which is an interruption in the daily lives of regular subway users!!!

We first stepped off our express train to find our subway and were greeted by a line of 6 armed guards in full military dress. I won't tell you what went running through my head as my girls looked at them wide-eyed! We proceeded, very slowly, through the maze of tunnels and stairs (lots of them!) with our bags, stopping every 100 feet or so to count everyone, to try to navigate to our correct subway trains. At one of our exchanges, I watch Em get shut in a subway door yet hop on the train (alone), then Kt got shut in the door yet also managed to hop on with Em. T then had his turn while asking if we should get on... at this point it was clear we would not all fit on the standing room only cars... he also got shut in the door, then our luggage.... and I watched them all ride off, wondering if he'd be able to get everything and my children off at the next stop!

At our final stop, we had to lug our luggage up what seemed like an endless number of steps and fortunately found our hotel right above the station - I've never felt such relief!! Of course, listening to the trains all night and day was a bit of a reminder for our two nights in Paris of that crazy evening!!


~ We all made it and the few bags that didn't were delivered within a day.

~ Meeting up with friends from last year's conference. Amazing people, creative, innovative, family-oriented, missionally minded and this year I feel like they made an effort to really connect with our team. We were completely blessed by them in many ways.

~ One of my goals this year was to provide a baby room that parents actually felt comfortable leaving their babies in. We had 13 children aged 0-2 registered in our room and we saw 11 of them!! In fact, our room was well used and while it was crazy, I was really excited that we could serve the parents we did and the conference as well. And the babies we had? For real, folks, they are the future of missions for sure. Watching them and the children at this conference made me really excited for the future of the kingdom. It's amazing that all these families are committed to not only serving the way they do, but introducing and raising their kids to living a life fully for God. It's very humbling!

~ Em finally connected with some girls on this trip! Kt met up with all her girlfriends from last year and had a BLAST! Em actually spent some time with a couple of super sweet girls and we learned quite a bit about how to be a good friend. It was such an answer to prayer for me!!

~ We had the honor of meeting one of T's missions mentors (of course, it's someone who has no idea the impact he's had on T's missional beliefs), Alan Hirsch. Alan and his amazing wife, Deb, came to talk to our team one evening. Along with their ridiculously sweet Australian accent, I could have listened to them all night talking about missions, church, the future of the kingdom and just about anything they wanted to share with us. T told our kids before they came along that people pay $300-400 to hear this guy talk - funny how much impact a pricetag has on teenagers. From that point on, our kids nearly monopolized any free time these poor people had, and they were truly good sports about it, even finding our kids on the playground to chat with them. I'm pretty sure they have no clue what their time meant to us - we were awed, blessed and pretty much floored by their investment throughout the week in our team through their encouragement, advice and love. Amazing folks!

~ We spent some time with our friends, the Rapps, while at Connect. Not as much as I would have loved to. Not even a meal together... but our kids hung out, they came to share very openly and honestly about their first grueling year on the field and how God has continually blessed them in their obedience. Nice to know such authentic people!! Wish we could spend more time with them!

~ Paris!! One Sunday in Paris was just not enough for me. I SO want to go back there!! At least now I have a list of places to go, things to do and pictures to take on my next visit to that beautiful and complex city. We climbed the Arc de Triumph - the four Shengs, visited the Eiffel Tower, saw the Louvre (it was closed =(), and saw Notre Dame. We ate at a french cafe, walked down the Champs Elleysee ? and walked along the river Seine. For real, it was almost dreamy! I had wanted to cap off our one day with a nighttime taxi ride, but T had a bunch of things to do, like find us a way to transport our luggage to the airport the next morning!!

For those of you who prayed for us, supported us and have followed us on this journey, we can't really thank you enough. I'm amazed we're all home in 26 pieces, that God moved in many hearts and that many seeds were planted in our own team to extend what we experienced and apply what we learned to our everyday lives. As a final note, we had one team member ask to be baptized on our trip - it was amazing. It was more than a highlight because in many ways it represented the change we only sometimes witness to in the lives of the kids we serve. It was an honor to be there and for T to be the one who baptized him. Neat, life-changing, forward thinking. Thank you for coming along on our journey of transformation!

Friday, August 01, 2008

New Favorite Snack

I knew when I came here I'd have to get a Milka bar (to go with my Fanta Citrom =)), but I found one in particular that is SO AMAZING!! You see, this incredible chocolate comes in many "flavors", so being a huge fan of Cadbury Carmellos, I got the Milka Caramel and it's just, well, THE BEST EVER. No other way to describe it! It's a good thing I only bought a small one or I'd just skip dinner tonight. ;-)

Of course, I had to get myself a 2 liter bottle of Fanta Citrom. I'd been having the ones here at the hotel and spending a bit too many forints on them.... quite the bottle collection (I'll add that pic later). Apparently, I bought the big bottle just in time. One of our teammates told me she tried to buy one from the bar because she's tired of hearing me talk about them and, well, they ran out. Hmmm.... I wonder if she took note of the 7 empty bottles sitting in my room. Yup, I'm embarrassed, but I can assure you it was worth every drop (and my rosy red cheeks!).

So, tomorrow we're off to Paris and I'm really excited, hoping I don't get sick! Everyone here is getting the fever, sore throat, runny nose thing. More importantly, I'm hoping my kids will last a few more days. It's always miserable when I'm feeling great but have to stay behind with a sick kid. Should be fun!!