Sunday, December 25, 2011

Where the Lambs are Kept

Merry Christmas to you!  This year's efforts for a simpler, more Jesus-focused Christmas have in some ways been successful although the living room was still full of boxes, wrapping paper and new things by 10 a.m. We found great joy in Levi unwrapping things and he found greater joy in wandering around the house exploring.


To start the morning right we read a new reflection on all that happened so long ago.  Hope it can be deep encouragement that the celebration is not over today.  That it is indeed the happ, happiest season of all because of this baby who sacrificed so we could belong to God.
     Down through the ages and around the globe, groups of people joined together by their poverty of reputation have formed communities within their communities in order to work and live out the days appointed for them by their Maker.
      Such were the shepherds of Bethlehem.
     The shepherd's life was ironic.  Their job was to care for the animals that would be sacrificed to atone the sins of the people.  Yet because of their handling of these dirty creatures, they themselves were unclean and thus prevented from keeping the ceremonial law...  The shepherds' lives were, in effect, sacrifices.
     On one particular night, in the pastureland skirting Bethlehem's northeast side, some shepherds sat like sentinels at their posts, keeping watch over their flocks, unaware of the angel regarding them from the skies overhead...  A sudden, glorious light shone in the darkness as the angel of the Lord appeared among them.  The shepherds were terrified.  Of course they were.  So wide was the gap between God and man that whatever information an angelic messenger was dispatched to deliver seemed more likely to be bad news than good.  They were afraid because they knew they had reason to be afraid.  But the angel said, "Don't be afraid.  Listen, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people!"
     The angel's words painted a picture of the glorious presence of the promised Redeemer.  He used names to describe the coming Messiah to these shepherds -- names that spoke to the Messiah's purpose.  He called him the Savior, meaning that he would atone for the sins of the people.  He called him Christ, distinguishing him as their deliverer.  He called him the Lord, identifying him as divine.
     The shepherds might have wondered why the angel chose to reveal this to them.  This sort of news seemed to belong to people of influence or nobility.  It was hardly the kind of report they ever imagined would be exclusively for men of their vocation, let alone reputation.  But then the angel used one more expression that brought overwhelming clarity to this moment.  He told them Christ the Lord had been born "unto you."  The divine Savior and Messiah had been born unto them.
     Though they lived most of their lives on the outside looking in, they would not be outsiders to this gift.  They were the recipients of it... But as soon as he announced Jesus' birth, "suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God" saying, "Unto you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!"
     For the poor, helplessly earthbound shepherds, this was a lot to take in...  But why had the glory of all glories appeared to the lowest of the lows?  Why had the angel chosen to reveal this message to mere shepherds, unclean as they were?
   Because poverty is relative.  Could it be that from the perspective of heaven, the poor shepherds outside Bethlehem were no more or less poor than the rest of the world sleeping under its watch?  Could it be that the poor of the earth were in fact all the people of the earth -- poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness?  Could it be that the Savior's coming was for them as much as it was for anyone, and for anyone as much as it was for them?

     The angels gave the shepherds a sign that left them speechless.  Their Messiah and Savior could be found where the young lambs were kept.  He would be the one not covered in wool, but wrapped in swaddling clothes.
     Where the lambs are kept?  This they needed to see.     When they found Jesus in the manger as the angel said, the very location of his birth was drenched in significance.  The Savior had been born into their unclean world in the same manner as a lamb.  The symbolism was not lost on them.  When the shepherds saw Jesus there, they not only saw that he had come, but they also got a hint as to why.  He came to be the perfect lamb, the ultimate, lasting sacrifice.
     This baby's coming was to accomplish and establish peace between the God of all creation and his image-bearers who habitually rejected him.
     And so it would be all his days.  From the manger in Bethlehem to the cross on Calvary, Jesus moved among the people, came into their homes, touched their blind eyes, and permitted their unfaithful hands to touch him.  He taught them profound lessons from ordinary events.  He defended the defenseless and opposed the self-righteous.  He ate at their tables, laughed with their children, and wept over their grief.  Never did he abandon his purpose for coming, which was to die for a world of spirit-poor outsiders as the Lamb of God who takes their sin away.  Jesus was born poor.  He lived poor.  And he died poor for the sake of his people.
           -Behold the Lamb of God:  An Advent Narrative by Russ Ramsey

From our family to yours, merry Christmas and blessings in the new year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Music, Mourning and Hope

I typed this out yesterday on Jason's iPhone but in the middle of starting to post realized we were lost and I had the map on the phone. So, our update from yesterday now that we found our way to Myrtle Beach and then to our Georgia family...

Perhaps it's rotten timing to share this but playing in our car as we drive and I type is perhaps the best Christmas music on the planet. It's obviously a biased opinion but it was one solidified after waiting a year and a half to hear it live. Friday night we beheld the wonder of Christmas through an exquisite mixture of vocals, strings and percussion. The only thing that disappointed was it being over. But, the good news here is that it's an album crescendoing from the beginning stories of Genesis to the Gospels that totally works to play year round. Good, good news for all, friends.

The extraordinary Jill Phillips and Andrew Peterson
Today we're traveling with a friend down to Myrtle Beach to mourn the passing of a friend and fellow school grad who gave his life for the Gospel overseas.


We grieve deeply for his passing but are incredibly thankful for hope intermingled in the sadness.

Glory to Jesus, ancient and strong
Giver of love and the theme of my song

Glory to Jesus, ancient and strong
Come to your people, carry us home

Behold our broken hearts
And gather us beneath your wings tonight
Son of God, Son of Man

-Andrew Peterson

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Finger, a Firefighter and an Indian Baby Shower

Good evening!  There are a few things to share this Friday as our lobby has gone from a perpetual ping pong tournament to a deserted playing field.  Yesterday was graduation and now (for the most part), silence.  With an insanely full few weeks, the break is coming at the perfect time.

This time last week we were gearing up for a weekend storm of activities that included Jason racing up a mountain for his half marathon.  He comes alive running.  I try to stay alive if I run.

While we sent to sleep late after campus Christmas celebrations and up early for the mountain run, there were exciting things to keep us up on Saturday including a friend returning from China, our RA Christmas party and, as if Jason's body hadn't endured enough, Jason's finger getting slammed in the van door.  Just today, almost a week later, the pain is finally subsiding.
It's looking better!
Then, Sunday.  The story I've wanted to share.  Not including ruining banana bread for firemen or the huge study party and feast we threw in our lobby (sadly, no pictures to share because our camera had not been replaced yet), Sunday was filled with excitement because I attended a monumental baby shower.

For a year I've hoped for an Indian friend and decided the clerk in Walmart would do nicely.  I've gone through her line too many times to count, struck up conversation and time and time again invited her to lunch.  But I had resigned myself to the fact that she was only an "inside the walls of Walmart" friend.  So on Black Friday while shopping for a few groceries, you can imagine my elation when she invited me to her baby shower.  I agreed and tried to pick out the perfect gift for a baby whose gender is still a mystery.  My friend, we'll call her Shanta, is due in March and is seeing the same OB/GYN I did with Levi!  This past Sunday was the shower and to my shock was not an American baby shower given by Walmart employees.

I pulled into the full parking lot to see Indian men, women and children dressed in traditional clothing entering the building.  And I made my first observation:  Indians drive mini-vans and SUVs.  So I fit in quite nicely with my MPV.

Entering the building to loud Hindi music, over 100 Indians sat at tables watching kids play musical chairs up front.  My friend greeted me looking like an Indian princess and welcomed me to a front row seat of all things India for the afternoon.  I was a mixture of overwhelmed and awed.  Only one other non-Indian was there and we became quick friends taking everything in and asking the constant question, "What is happening right now?"  We mostly never had answers for that question.
Taken from my phone.  Wow, pardon my hair.
Then, the other non-Indian left and...

I panicked.  Not wanting to commit any cultural blunders, I slid across the seat to an older Indian woman and began asking for answers to all the questions I had.  She and her husband were incredibly precious even explaining the god statue that sat at the front of the room.

And then, my new non-Indian friend walked in with four other Walmart employees and a huge cake which led to an incredible wedding-like cake ceremony.  This was followed by more wondering of what  exactly was happening and then, dancing.

Dancing could easily give way to cultural blunders or worse, free amusement.  But thankfully my new friend schooled me on the footwork and soon I was dancing around the room with about forty Indian women and four Walmart employees.  Shanta watched with a big smile.  

After the joy of dancing came my next Indian observation:  Indian food is dang spicy.  As I ate the chicken bite by flaming bite, I swirled water around and opened my mouth slightly as if eating a red hot and trying to find relief from the burn.  And with the chicken came the two and a half hour mark and my time to depart for our Stu-B Study party.  The party wouldn't end for five more hours.  Some kind of baby shower, I'd say!  And a precious gift from sweet Jesus to have my first experience with Indian culture.  How I loved every minute (with the exception of the panic after new Walmart friend left)!

_ _ _

And before I go, I'd love to share two more quick, totally unrelated things.

Thing 1:  Jason and I have been thinking a lot about Christmas traditions and how to live in America but focus on Christmas.  This morning I skimmed an incredibly challenging post with practical ideas for a Jesus-focused Christmas.  We're planning to look over it together and take some ideas for our own purposeful festivities.  I love that she took the time to write it all out and challenge so many of us to look closer at our celebrating.

Thing 2:  When our camera broke we sent it off only to find out it couldn't be fixed and were given a large store credit to replace it.  So, now that we have a new, working camera there are so many pictures and videos to come of our little 20 month old.  He's doing SO much...and we're in love.  Hoping to share in the coming week.

Thanks for reading this long one.  Hope your weekend is wonderfully intentional being loved on by your creator and pouring it back out to others.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Oh, Christmas Tree

Those who get Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day will appreciate this post. With our camera currently out of commission and a borrowed camera/iPhone to make do, we've tossed in Webster's words from the week for an interesting, partially fictitious story of the search for this year's lobby Christmas tree. Hope you enjoy the mayhem.


One by one the RA family jumped from their multi-purpose vehicle ready to find the perfect tree fit for a lobby. There were sapphires and pines and firs but mostly questions of where to start.  Plans formed with the tallest taking the scouting lead.  And scout he did with all his might.



The search took the team over hills and valleys to the darkest corner of the lot.  The tallest had not found the gargantuan, perfect tree they so eagerly sought. 

One clever gent decided the measuring compass might offer direction and much needed distraction.  Soon everyone took their turn.  That illusive tree stood somewhere waiting for discovery and each person secretly hoped they would be credited with finding it even if just for the satisfaction of others


genuflecting before them in awe. While some stood bemused by compass shenanigans, a small posse determined they would find the perfect tree before all the others.  And the little one would lead them. He was, after all, always glad to wander where he pleased.

Levi's hand-picked Charlie Brown.
His scouting expertise indeed led him to a tree just his size with branches more artistically arranged.  The adults termed it a Charlie Brown.  But to him it was perfect.  While some scratched their heads, Daniel the non-Wise (as opposed to Daniel Wise) spotted a beauty he thought the group would be sure to pick over the meager Charlie Brown.  In the blink of an eye he had the tree wrapped and loaded before the team could top the hill.  


But instead of coming empty handed and awestruck, the team came into view with multiple midget trees in tow.  Because Daniel the non-Wise, the little one, and multiple other RAs had all found "the perfect tree" this year.

- - -

And so, the two trees and many more Charlie Browns made it back to school where their perfection is currently on display.  One for the lobby, one for the little one's room and one for each RAs room.  Each one perfect in the eye of their beholder.   

The beauty Levi's beholding complete with homemade baked shape ornaments.
And some decorated ratherly perfectly if we do say so ourselves.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful in Our Walk of Faith



Before Jason and I married we spent some time considering a very important question, "Could God use our lives more effectively together than separately?"  We often challenge dating couples to consider that question.  While we knew the significance of marriage we never fully understood the multilevel powerhouse that the union of a man and woman under God represents.  When Levi joined us our hearts ached for children not nurtured and protected by both Mom and Dad as we've seen Levi thrive under God's family structure.  I was reminded in a post by the CEO from "our agency" of many waiting for that protection and encouraged thinking about those now thriving in it:
This Thanksgiving season, I’m thankful for the adoptive families that are waiting eagerly and expectantly during a process that is taking much longer than it should.  I’m thankful for the families who have saved and sacrificed for an adoption process when money is tight and our nation’s economy is stagnant.  I’m thankful for the families who faithfully and obediently follow God’s call to adoption, even though it doesn’t logically make sense.  And even though thousands of orphans remain homeless, I’m thankful that the 9,320 children who found families through intercountry adoption this past year will have a Thanksgiving in which their brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, moms and dads will look at them and say, “I’m thankful for you this year.”
We long to bring children into our home but now we are in a holding pattern.  Our hearts are thankful for this season even though we look forward to the time it will come to an end allowing us to proceed forward.  But in the waiting, God has been giving incredible gifts.  


I was in chapel just over a month ago when God opened a door.  Over and over I had the thought of taking a girls' trip to India this May, but there were no obvious avenues to get there.  So I told God about it.  Every time the thought came.  


The avenue appeared in chapel one day and as the director talked to me afterward asking me to lead the team to India (he had no idea what I'd been thinking), I was encouraged that I was to take this team.  Soon the door closed with the first organization but I was sure this trip was supposed to happen and certain another option would emerge.  There were other possibilities but one night huddled around the computer screen watching videos with a student, one Youtube video led to another and unexpectedly an organization made it's way to the screen with the residual effect of my heart pounding inside me.  I emailed to ask if teams could come to visit and to my surprise they only had one opening in May, which so happened to be the only week we could come.  Additionally, the director wrote me with a sweet message inviting us to come for that week even though others were requesting the same time.  This was God-ordained.


The organization works throughout the country and we simply requested to use our education degrees/training to love on orphans and vulnerable children.  Slowly a team of girls began to form and we got our assignment:  two centers serving children in neighboring states.  We were going to India!!


Team India
One of the centers teaches seventy-five children from the lowest caste system.  Children from Hindu backgrounds who would never have an education otherwise.  And the other I discovered is a vocational center reaching out to one hundred children coming from various backgrounds. And this incredible vocational center, as it turns out, is located in Kolkata, India!! 


So in May, the girls and I {while Levi stays with Jason} will travel for a week and a half stay in India teaching, playing and loving on kids with a portion of that time spent in the heart of Kolkata serving orphaned children.  


It's a most unexpected surprise worthy of great thanks to God!  Here's the video of the precious lady we'll get to work alongside and of the children we'll teach.   You can view it here.


Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family as you give thanks for God's many blessings!  We're enjoying time with both families and with an abundance of friends and sweets {hooray}.  Thankful certainly sums up our hearts today.  We hope you find yourself in that same place.   

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chapters



Recently I came upon a book that I rushed out to buy and couldn't put down.  Each chapter left indentions on my heart because God was molding me through the words.  And then I did what anyone who finds a good book does.  I talked about it a whole lot and bought a crazy amount of copies to hand out.


Sick students waiting to see a doctor and Levi's new hideout.
Last week and this one have been a blur of activity.  All-night trips to the emergency room with students, bats in the stairwell, crazy haircutting sprees, Homecoming, incredible moments with God, callings to obedience (and I say amen to this post), Levi's new toddler room, working through student issues, football on the lawn.  The list goes on.

An intimidation haircut for Saturday's Cross Country race.
This year has really been one that stands out.  We predicted it, didn't we?  All because God did some incredible heart work in me this summer and has both Jason and myself at a place of being totally present in the here and now.  It could be likened to reading a really challenging book with rich, shaping chapters. And taking in every single word before moving on to the next one.  We are so thankful for the current chapter God's writing this year.  Just plum thankful.



And since we're talking about chapters, might we recommend a really amazing book?  =]

You can one order by clicking here.
Looking forward to sharing a sweet surprise from our current chapter soon...and a few more awesome book recommendations!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

India, Part II



While making Kolkata clear to me, he had simultaneously spoken to my friend.  She was sure he had spoken but uncertain of what he meant.  When I asked what he'd said to her I was astounded.

"He said, 'She's there.'"  And then she added, "But I don't know what he means.  What did he say to you?"

I blurted it out, chill bumps and all.  "He said Kolkata, India."  Then she repeated reverently, "And God said, 'She's there.' "  It was surreal finishing our talk sensing God was so near.

Days later when Jason and I went out for extended time to pray and process, I was already convinced we'd be signing papers that day to begin the adoption process.  But when we came away with confusion and a growing sense to wait, I was crushed.  How could all this happen and it not be time?

It was a rough few weeks in August and September.  But with October came clarity.  Our current house does not and cannot have enough bedrooms.  {Believe me, we've tried to finagle a third bedroom.}  And secondly, India has announced a temporary hold on new applications until the end of December.  God knew.  We didn't.  We simply had to trust his leading and specifically his leading of a very attentive, listening husband.  A precious husband who hated to tell me he sensed we were to wait and was heartbroken holding me as I cried myself to sleep some nights.

But I am realizing something so critical in this journey.  It's so obvious but has the deepest meaning when we have personally learned it.

This story belongs to him.

He has never existed to accomplish my purposes.  Adoption is not about me.  Repeat, it's not about me.  It is about his heart for belonging.  I exist to belong to him and obey his voice.  And as he blesses our family with children, it is for the purpose of wrapping them in our arms so we can then point them to his.

So now in November we hold our hands open before the giver of all good things refusing to clench our fists around things he has not yet given.  We pray for our daughter who will join our family and we absolutely believe God will open the next doors when he is ready to entrust us with his daughter.  It is hard to wait but so good to learn to truly trust and lose control.  This is, after all, his story.  A story of him asking his children to walk by faith.


May 6, 2011 
It's been two years and four months since God began to speak about India and a little less than that when I saw you in a dream.  I often wish I could speed up this process but a God-ordained story has to continually belong to him and stay in his timeline.  That's hard.  I wish I could find you now.  You are already a part of our family.  When I think of family pictures, I think of you.  When I go to family events, I miss you.  I am eager to teach you all the things a mom teaches a daughter and let you unpack the aching your heart has been through to let us help you carry the load.   
We will love you and cherish you.  And you will be safe here by God's protection.  We will give you all that we can and faithfully share with you the most valuable treasure we possess:  our relationship with God as a compassionate Father, loving Son and life-giving Spirit.  He is our hope, our purpose, our everything.  And we will share all about how we have come to know that he is the one, true God among all the world's others.  He is indeed wonderful and we want you to know of his deep, deep love for you. 
Tonight I have looked at adoption agencies, thought about how to expand our two bedroom apartment and added agency fees.  Right now it seems impossible.  But I have discovered the secret that with the one true God ALL things are possible.  Granted, sometimes there is waiting involved. 
I love you sweetheart.  Tonight I cannot listen to you or put my hands on you and pray or tuck you into bed so I have to settle for writing in this journal that you've never touched and praying prayers without knowing where you are or how to get to you.  I am praying tonight that the God who sees will tell you these things and begin to build anticipation and hope for you. 
We will keep listening for God's leading and we will follow him to you.  We are coming in his time and loving you more with each day.  How I am aching to bring you home and have a complete family picture.  Sweet girl, you have been set apart by God for our family and we believe, ultimately, his. 
Tonight, I am praying you home. 
Mom


  

Friday, November 4, 2011

Walking by Faith: Part 8



For many I've had the conversation across a phone line, in our school lobby, or across a table.  But the problem with this level of communication is that I cannot look across from where I sit or even make out one feature of your face.  So I request, we request, that you'd introduce yourself.  So we know as we share deep things from our heart with whom we've shared and who stands beside us in this faith walk waiting for our daughter of promise.


Since discovering the open door of India's new age requirement, God has graciously opened other doors too.  But in the midst of open doors, He continues to teach us the discipline always involved in adoption: waiting.  It's a process of aching, writhing, pouting, repenting and trusting.  Maybe we will learn in this process to skip the writhing and pouting and instead move immediately to trusting.  But these are lessons for us, and for me especially with my mother's heart.  We know God is good, all the time.  Belonging to him has taught us that we can always trust his heart.  The hard part is thriving in the present with him without begging for the promised future.


In May he told us to wait three more months.  So we waited, wrote, talked and decided to begin pursuing foster care.  But when we discovered our new eligibility in August everything stopped as we prayed.  We were uncertain of an agency to contact to ask questions.  But since God had revealed a specific child, we figured he would have to lead us to an agency.  A day after declaring that, He led.  The dream I had of our daughter included a long hallway unique with windows lining the right side and a door on the left.  Not until that day in August did I realize that a hallway at an orphan conference we attended looked just like the one from my dream.  God brought it to my mind and I immediately looked up the agencies from that conference, that were displayed in that very hall.  There among the list was an agency that had opened an India program during the summer while we were waiting.  And I sensed this was indeed the agency.  But Jason would surely be a harder one to convince.


I approached him late at night.  He was tired.  There was no way he'd want to hear about it this night.  But his eyes widened when I told him I had news and he too was impressed with the agency.  And then God showed us both special, personal things to sweetly confirm:  THIS IS THE ONE!


I could hardly contain my excitement.  The doors were opening.  This was happening!


When I sat to tell a friend about these new open doors, God completely interrupted my thoughts.  {He's most welcome to do that, for the record.}  But what he said perplexed me.  It was clear and almost visible:  Kolkata, India.  I stopped talking to my friend and sat silently to let the words sink in.  When she questioned why I'd stopped talking, I told her the truth.  "God just spoke to me."  I was shocked by her response.


To be continued tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Catching Up

We load pictures on our computer often and they sit there.  Not in books, not printed and not shared. Because when we get behind it's sometimes hard to figure out where to start to catch up.  Add a little one who loves to get into everything, lots of college students who stop by and one disorganized mama.  The results are good but undocumented times.

Today in an effort to catch up and stay there, here are some favorite photos from the last few weeks.
Michelle and Levi having an afternoon chat.
Learning about the adventures that await him when he's older
Grammy and Grampy
One of our few smiling pictures
Sheer joy
Jason's 28th birthday bash

An overnight trip to the mountains
Enjoying leaves with friends Daniel and Amanda.  (And Phil and Kath who aren't pictured.)
Our ride until it sells for a good price.  :)  We also still have our multi-purpose vehicle (i.e. van). ;)
Our little bear
Happy catching up to you too as you welcome the new month.  During November we'll also catch you up on something we've been quiet about for some time:  India.  We hope to start sharing this week!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Note from Georgia

We're in GA for the weekend on a spontaneous trip to see family.  Until we can get back and upload pictures of perfectly coated candied apples, southern "snow", and Levi exploring down South, I'll share a positive moment from our tiny kitchen recently.

Over a pile of dishes a week or so ago, I grumbled to the Lord about the bad attitudes I carry sometimes and questioned verbally where impatience comes from.  "Why would You have allowed for selfishness and impatience to have a place in humans?  {And I literally said this to Him...}  I know the Sunday school answer with satan and the fall but that's not cutting it.  Where does it come from in Your children?" 

I then heard the voice of God because the answer shocked me with it's brilliance. 

"It comes from My absence." And just like the incredible Jesus answers we read about, here was an answer containing both the problem and the solution.  It's an answer I've shared with many people in the last two weeks and wanted to share with you.

As I've remembered this and come to God with many deep things lately, His answers have been sweet medication for my needy soul even to the point of being the most healing words in scripture that He could have set before me at the time I needed them most.  He is good and wise and better to us than we could ever deserve.

I pray your seeking Him leads you, too, to sweet answers your soul has been needing to hear.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Weekends

It's 5 am and I've been up for some time on the couch with Levi who has ceased full night slumbers. We're blaming two traumatizing shots from a week ago since they directly coincide with his regression.  But I am happy to report that he has been sleeping for hours beside me complete with leg slung over my belly and hand clasping my arm.  Sweet moments hours.

Before my eyes become any blurrier and my chances of overcoming the Saturday nap urge disappear, just wanted to share a few pictures of our weekends.  In some form or another, the last four weekends have been wrapped around retreats.  Some were getaways and others had specific purpose.  Last Saturday we were up early for Jason to saw down a tree before starting a day of festivals and outdoor excursions with extended family.  And for many of the latter pictures, we thank Cousin Alicia who joined us with her family hiking to waterfalls, attending a pumpkin festival and driving down winding roads to an incredible overlook.


Now for a bit of sleep before this weekend officially kicks off with a Coats for Kids Auction and some afternoon apple picking.  In all of the travels and searching the past few weekends, we've noticed the sad reality of the increasingly endangered candied apple.  And hopefully after tomorrow's harvest, we'll do our part to bring these precious Fall treats back from the brink of extinction.  Photos of that blessed event to come!  :)

Happy weekending!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kitchen Tales

Once upon a time (a time not so long ago) in a town located equally between two large cities, a girl was enjoying a new full-sized, glass top stove purchased as a surprise from a darling, thoughtful, incredible (are you reading this, husband?) boy.  It was the first full-sized stove she'd ever had in six years of marital bliss.  And today this stove would perfectly cook homemade dinner rolls and a delectable chocolate cake for dinner with some friends.  But cocoa and milk and butter boil quickly and during the process started spilling on the glass top.  Somehow the girl was surprisingly quick removing the pot, turning off the burner and using water to stop any burning.

And all was well.

Until.

Lurking just behind her shoulder high up on the wall, a plastic bloodhound barked out the cry and soon the message traveled to EVERY bloodhound in EVERY room of the whole five story building.  "Trying to cook?" their ear-piercing "bonk, bonk, bonk" mocked with flashing lights to seal the discovery.  And soon, voices yelled from the stairwells as students filed like ants.  And because the cocoa-induced fire drill with students on the lawn was not enough, the voice of the bloodhounds traveled all the way into town.  And minutes later, with maintenance men running to and fro, the Mac Daddy bloodhound cried out with loud bellows all the way from the fire station to the, now empty, five-story building with sirens and lights blaring the whole way.  And the boy in the story, remember the darling, dashing, super wise, ever-compassionate boy, discovered that men riding in Mac Daddy bloodhounds do not like false alarms nor do they sympathize that milk and cocoa and butter boil quickly.

And with that, the girl hid in her kitchen while the brave boy took care of the chaos outside.  And she did not let the stove top leave her sight until the chocolate cake was delectable and the homemade, pull apart rolls were perfect.

And that they were!  Perhaps even more-so after the almost thwarted effort by a gang of plastic bloodhounds hovering eager to sound the cry of something gone awry.       

Photo Courtesy of Country Living


And, if you'd like to thwart the plans of your own bloodhounds, 
try the cake for your family and friends here

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Milestones: 14 to 17 Months

He's walking, babbling with intonation and showing lots of personality. Like these recent screen shots at Nana and Grandpas.




We've been capturing developmental milestones over the past few months and are happy to share a self-feeding, high-fiving little toddler.  But the latest milestone may just be the greatest of Levi's accomplishments.



While we treasure every milestone, sleeping through the night is HUGE and just after we'd concluded prayers for children to sleep were on the "no" answer list. At almost eighteen months Levi had slept about ten nights ever through the night and never more than two consecutively. Last Friday night on a retreat in a one-room cabin with our RAs Levi slept so horribly that Jason drove over two hours just to take him to the grandparents. But Sunday night as we returned, gave him his bath and tucked him in bed beside his mini zoo of bears, he slept. All night. And every night since.  Thank you to the grandparents for pulling out the magic sleep dust.  The world is a brighter place at 7 am after a full night's sleep and life is better for everyone at Tegen Central these days.

Also, we wanted to thank everyone who voted for our new night sleeper!  While it doesn't look like we won, some really cute kids did!  We'll look forward to seeing the official winners later this month.

For tonight, we're sprinkling some dust on our own pillows as we'll be up early heading to the mountains {it's Fall break} to enjoy some cooler weather, mountain thickets and plush hotel rooms.

Hope your week goes well!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Voting for Shoes

Calling all obliging friends. The photo of a little blonde-headed boy is up on a kids' footwear site. There are thousands of other cute faces there too. We entered a contest to win a $700 gift certificate for shoes from the company. While visions of Levi walking in-style float through my head, we know of other cute faces down the road from us who wear misfitting, ratty shoes every day. But, by our estimates, a $700 gift certificate could allow at least thirteen kids to wear the highest quality shoes for their developing feet.
Here's where the obliging comes in. We'd love to at least share the opportunity with you for Levi and twelve others to get a pair of shoes for winter. Voting starts tonight and goes through October 2nd. You can vote once per day.

Visit the website here, search for Levi and keep clicking through October 2nd.


{Thank you sweet Laurin McDowell for your pic of our boy.}

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Diary of a Week

Because a smorgasbord of things filled last week, we'll share our "diary" of sorts to catalog them for you.

Friday.
While most days are filled with people floating in and out of our house, lunch dates in the cafeteria and nap times in the afternoon, this day looked a lot more like running full speed in all directions. First up was breakfast and pictures by our sweet friend Sarah. Love this incredibly talented girl! Check out her website here.

Next came preparations for Levi to stay with Nana and Grandpa and for us to pull an all-nighter. Forty people would join us and twelve would make it all the way to sunrise. We prayed through the night and didn't even get sleepy. It was Jason's first time ever staying awake that long. (He's not a night person and that is an understatement.)

It truly was an awesome under-the-stars, around-the-campfire, huddled-in-prayer-cabins night of prayer!


Saturday.
To be wide-eyed all night, we crashed hard. Bodies were not meant to be up all day and all night. It will probably take ours a few days to recalibrate.

Sunday.
Cartwheels and Spiritual Emphasis, a perfect combination. Maybe next time we'll be doing the cartwheels after spiritual emphasis though I think many could have after the awesome sense of God's presence among us. Here we're trying to teach a few girls the lost art of cartwheeling.


Monday.
Farewell visit to Levi's great-grandparents soon departing for Florida then Spiritual Emphasis today with a family date to Chick-fil-a just before.

Tuesday. Major soreness. Entering the second week of P90X with college girls has my quads yelling at me with every move. An hour of plyometrics will do that to a never-been-in-shape-in-my-life body. This stuff is INTENSE and ever so bonding as you lay covered in sweat dying alongside other girls.

Wednesday.
Homemade scones and back-to-back-to-back meetings with friends and students. It's one-on-one week with resident assistants and that means meeting with eight different students in one week besides other planned and mandatory meetings. And don't forget Wednesday night Bible and prayer at our place. Add mozzarella sticks with marinara for dipping and it's a good, good night.

Thursday.
Levi is doing so much these days. We have a milestone video coming sometime next week but besides communicating like crazy, today he learned to make soup. The toilet was his pot and his hand the spoon. : (
(Sorry Misty and Jacob. I didn't know how to throughly clean a plush toy. Peanut man met trash man.)


Friday.
Every night this week we were in bed at midnight or after with lots of other things we didn't even record here. But this night was for more good reasons such as a late night talk hearing someone's story and final preparations for a prayer retreat for women from our church. So glad to finally have finished the video for the event and have all speaking notes down. One day you just might read my obituary with cause of death, procrastination.


Now for the weekend. The prayer retreat, Grammy and Grandpa Harrell arriving from Georgia, and of course, the Clemson game. Happy weekending!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bekah Boom

Two states away a girl is unpacking a car and a trailer full of boxes. Three years ago she packed them in brokenness and fear wondering what a job far away from family might hold. It was far from easy. And during the darkest time just months ago, God's promises were still true.

On Sunday I strapped on my special occasion shoes. The ones from downtown Jerusalem for my twenty-seventh birthday. I drove two hours and arrived just in time to celebrate the ending and beginning of a season. After ten years working with a company, being demoted and much injustice, her career was in shambles. And the breaking seemed too much. But God had promised. Never will I leave you. And out of the blue she received a call of apology and a vote of confidence. Manager. The word she'd been longing to hear but knew she never would. Pack your bags. It's a new season. You will be a manager.


So today I celebrate the mile high boxes and new season of hope for my "Bekah Boom". Few things are better than celebrating with the one who's wept with you, believed with you and held on with you through the storms. Today the sun is breaking through, and I am filled with joy for God's promises made visible.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Starving Dragons*

In our home we live with a hundred students and, despite our no pet policy, an equal number of dragons. Specifically in our home there are three. One in a tiny cave with blonde hair, one in a puny sort of structure and the other in a manly, bear-skinned rug sort of space.

Most days I meet and greet others and from all appearances assume their small dragons are fast asleep deep in the recesses of the darkness. But on days like yesterday and the one before and the one before that, I secretly find solace in knowing that everyone has a dragon of some size lurking inside. This thinking comforts me when my dragon is very much awake and ready to breath fire in exchange for breakfast.

It happens quickly most times. All is well. Thoughts in check. And then someone hurts me or annoys me or threatens to deny me of what I think I deserve, and before I even realize it the dragon rouses, hungry. Very little stops a hungry dragon. And like so many times before, the fire starts bellowing. It escapes sometimes through gossip or evil glares or blow-ups. And then I've done it. I've thrown meat to the ravenous animal and appeased him yet again. But worse still, sometimes it doesn't escape and self-hatred or bitterness sets in as a sort of vitamin-fortified beef jerky to sustain and grow the beast bigger still.

The effects of a hungry dragon can for a while go undetected. We learn and we hide them. Often on any given Sunday among the polished and seemingly perfect, I sit convinced that they never have bad attitudes, days filled with crying and sleeping, and surely not days where they blame their Maker. Because I never see in them the rawness of a dragon fully enraged. Maybe they've starved them to extinction? Or maybe they've designed some clever canisters to encase their smoke screens?

Yesterday I had a lesson on the dragons in our home. I laughed at the ridiculous behaviors they induce when Levi began spinning in a circle with his head throw back to the ceiling until he collapsed in the floor in an utter leg-kicking fit. All because he couldn't have chewing gum. Those dragons.

But in our house we have a manual about taking care of them. In my manual readings, I find two types of instructions. Surrender oneself to The Dragon Tamer and follow the Tamer's lessons in creature starvation. Those dragons can shrink you know.

Even on days when the smoke fills our eyeballs or causes us to spin in circles, we have faith that denying them meat and most certainly jerky will lead to shrinking. And someday, hopefully, to a glorious extinction.

So we're hopeful. Smoke will billow sometimes. Things will wake the creatures. But we can be incredible pet owners. And having hired our very own Dragon Tamer, we're in the midst of lessons in starvation.



*A popular dragon name we hear often is Sin Nature.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The School of Men



I grew up an only child with girl cousins as sibling surrogates. Rarely did I ever have a peek into the heart and perspective of a man. Granted, now I've had six years of intense man schooling and a few elective courses on mini men through nannying and now mommying. But to this day, guys still perplex me.


I spent the weekend with three minis and one fully grown. I watched about forty half-dressed collegiate men run from the bushes with sticks and war paint at a recent soccer game, and I spent some time with four guys, a sword and a daggar. What makes guys come alive can be so much different that girls. And, sometimes, I've noticed, it can be the same.






Tonight while typing I can hear voices through the closed door to our living room. A group of men are meeting to study and pray. They pray to be stronger leaders and better men.

I've been scrambling to take down notes this week. Being married and a mom means there are pop quizzes all the time. While I don't have the subject even close to mastered, I'm doing my homework. And this week class has been all but boring.