Thursday, June 30, 2011

Both Hands

Our friends Guy and Christine Pinkman are preparing to meet their 6th child (3rd from China) sometime this summer. Ameilia (Meia) is 11 years old and has been writing the sweetest letters to her new family. They recently participated in the "Both Hands" project to 1.) help a widow in need, and 2.) raise some of the funds needed to complete their adoption.

Please take a moment to look at the video of their workday last weekend. If you feel led, please consider contributing to their fundraising attempts, or at least commit to praying for them as they complete this adoption.

Click for video.


Why Do I Care So Much?

I've been invited by a friend at church to participate in Shaunti Feldhahn's study of the "Life Ready Woman" this summer. It's been a lot of fun getting to know some new ladies from church, and generally fellowship with other women in a way that I can't during the school year.

This study is refreshing, because it speaks to women wherever they are in their lives: stay-at-home moms, homeschooling, working outside the home, single, childless, widowed, name it. Sometimes I feel like there are a lot of black holes in an Evangelical church setting for women who don't fit a typical mold.

The very first night of the group, I felt so empowered as a full-time working mom that I am EXACTLY where God wants me to be, even though I may not want to be there myself. We got to talking about expectations...what the world expects of us, what the church expects of us, even what our families expect of us. When we don't meet those expectations, there can be a lot of grief, anxiety and loneliness.

My friend Julie shared one of those simple, yet profound statements that I have really been digesting lately: "We have conversations with other people in our minds that never actually happened."

Do you do that? I know I do...I get myself so worked up about an encounter with someone I *think* is disappointed in me, or I *think* may disagree and therefore encounter conflict. I hate conflict. But...I wonder how many of my struggles with others come from this whole area of expectation, or even imaginary conversations.

And even if a certain person really is ticked at me, or disappointed, or angry and spreading rumors. Why do I care so much? Why are their opinions more important that God's?


This is one of those rare, God-given seasons where I find myself genuinely at peace, happy, and contented with where I am. I know that a storm may be brewing around the corner, and God may be shoring up my reserves right during this season. But for now, I'm enjoying this lot.

*insert contented sigh*

Kids Bowl Free

My friend Kari is the queen of finding things to do in the summer. She introduced me to Kids Bowl Free this summer. It's not too late if you're interested. In a nutshell, Dayna gets 2 free games EVERY DAY this summer. All we pay is her shoe rental (about $2.00 each time.) Dan and I decided to add the family pass for about $25, which gives us 2 free games per day, including our shoe rental. We were also able to add my parents to the family pass. The first time we went as a family, we would have spent $23 just for Dan and I. This has been a great way to use those hot summer days and spend some time together with friends and family. Enjoy the pictures of Dayna with her buddy Eli.

Hero Training Camp

This summer at church, we're doing a new kind of VBS. It's called "Hero Training Camp." On Sunday mornings, while the kiddos are learning how to be superheroes for God, the parents are learning how to raise superheroes.

Since we've started this program, I've noticed Dayna is much more eager to lend a hand and help out without being asked. For example, a few weeks ago, we were having a tough morning getting started (okay...I was having a tough morning getting started) and there was a lot of nagging going on about getting Dayna's bed made. After the umpteenth time, I went upstairs to check on her, only to notice that she had made my bed as well. When she is asked to do something, it is the rule, not the exception that she does so with a cheerful attitude. On the rare occasion (now) that she doesn't respond cheerfully, she catches herself and fixes the attitude on her own.

It's been wonderful watching Dayna desire and learn to be a hero. She's learning how to praise God through her work and bless others. I've seen her be less selfish and more thoughtful.

I don't know that I've become much more of a superhero's mom, but I'm sure hoping that these positive changes will begin to impact my parenting as well.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Blue Like Jazz - My Take, Part 2

Another issue with society in general and this book in particular, was the attitude toward people who don't agree with the author. I see it on Facebook, on other internet forums, in online news seems to be everywhere: the attitude of superiority and sometimes downright hatefulness to those who disagree. And while I see it on both sides of politics, it seems that the left side seems to paint the right with a broader brush than the other way around. It is for this reason that I really try to leave my politics off of Facebook; I would rather focus on what my friends and I have in common than to become divisive. Having said that, I sometimes wonder if some of my friends would still be my friends if they knew how I really felt about some of the issues on the table. We live in an age where agreeing to disagree agreeably seems to be a thing of the past.

Having said that, here are some quotes that I felt were divisive and close-minded toward others who take a different view than the author:

p. 132 I felt like, by going to this particular church, (although he really paints all Evangelical churches in this light throughout the book) I was a pawn for the Republicans. Meanwhile, the Republicans did not give a crap about the causes of Christ.

p. 188 There's not a lot of work in the Christian market if you won't write self-righteous, conservative propaganda.

(I have read many, many, many books through the years from the "Christian market"...and if they were full of self-righteous, conservative propaganda, they would have been promptly returned to the store. I don't read for propaganda...I read to consider new things and hopefully become a better person from the experience.)

The book was laced with other remarks that were less than open to the opinions or beliefs of those who consider themselves conservative, Republican, or Evangelical. And when the attitude pervades that "I'm right, and they're wrong", and yet I find great irony and hypocrisy when the author repeatedly calls those who disagree with him "self-righteous."

Now, do I think Conservatives have all the answers? No. Do I think Liberals have it all together? Absolutely not. There is only One person who has the answers and who will never let us down. I choose to let Him reveal Himself to me through His Word, while the author of this book draws his conclusions about God from his own fickle experiences.

p. 226 My friend Julie from Seattle says the key to everything rests in the ability to receive love, and what she says is right because my personal experience tells me so.

Despite the theology that just didn't match Scripture, I had a hard time reading the book. While some love the "honest", "fresh", "transparent" tone of his writing, I found it self-indulgent and short-sighted. It really read more like the rambling journal of one adolescent male trying to apply universal truths to his own personal experiences. And much of his writing smacked of self-pride (i.e. p. 213 "She had probably never met anyone fascinating like me before.") and condescension (i.e. p. 211 "They were cute, these little Christian people.")

One last episode that just left me scratching my head: on page 208, Miller recounts a time in his life when he was living "in the wild" and befriended some hippie friends (his term) who were working at a resort. He thought it was cool that these friends were like Robin Hood...stealing food from the rich resort owners and giving it to the poor (himself.) Did he not catch that by eating the stolen food that he was stealing himself? He was hardly starving and destitute...and I got the impression that this was an ongoing thing...not a one-time meal.

I have a lot more underlined and written in the book, but these are the main thoughts that have stuck with me since finishing the book a few weeks ago.

Anyway...these are some of my thoughts. Take them or leave them. I do appreciate that Miller was able to make me rethink what I believe about church and Christianity. I believe my own convictions are stronger, and I hope I have become a little more like the woman Christ wants me to be as a result of wrestling with some of these things. We are all, after all, a work in progress. At the end of the day, though, I want to know that my worldview and beliefs about God and Christianity come from the Bible and not exclusively from personal experience. I want to know that I serve and worship a God who created me in His image, and not a god I have created in mine.

If you've read this far, thanks for indulging me. I don't often write book reviews, but I felt I really needed to express my thoughts on this one.

And if you disagree...I hope we can disagree agreeably!

Blue Like Jazz - My Take, Part 1

The book "Blue Like Jazz" was recommended to me many years ago by a friend, then later by a former pastor. Dan was quite interested in the book, and I saw it on the dollar table at a bookstore several years ago and picked it up. There it sat for a few years until recently...

I've been fascinated about the whole emerging/emergent/postmodern church movement lately and why some things about it concern me. A lot of this came after reading "The Shack" (which is a lengthy review for another time that I may or may not get around to doing.) I've been concerned about some trends in the church recently where, in a nutshell, people are picking and choosing what they want to believe about God, and in essence, creating God in their own image.

Now...I am human, I am imperfect, and my opinions can be wrong. My intention is in no way to slander or attack Donald Miller (a man I do not know), but rather to share some concerns and hopefully back them with Scripture.

So, that brings me back to "Blue Like Jazz"...I get where the author is trying to go, but I'm just not so sure about how he gets there or the conclusions he makes along the way. The subtitle of the book is "Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality." Okay, okay...I get that if we are going to reach the world, we need to be able to relate to the way others view God, Christianity, etc. However, while society and culture are always changing, GOD NEVER WILL (Malachi 3:6, among others). Having said that, I have huge red flags waving at me when someone writes a book about Christianity and never quotes (as far as I recall) from the words of the living, unchanging God (that is, the Bible.) are some notes I wrote along the way and my thoughts (which I pray align with Scripture).

p. 5 "I started to sin about the time I turned ten."

Okay...I have a six-year-old; I was once a child myself. Maybe he became aware of his sin when he turned ten, but we are ALL sinners (Romans 3:23); every one alive has a sin nature with the exception of Christ (1 Peter 2:22.) I think a volume on Christianity should have a Biblical view of sin.

p. 51 "The goofy thing about Christian faith is that you believe it and don't believe it at the same time. It isn't unlike having an imaginary friend."

That's the thing about faith...the more I read and hear from others, the more I realize that those who don't know Christ very much view Him as imaginary; and to those who do know Him and have a vibrant relationship with Him, He is very, very real. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18. It frightens me that a man writing a book about Christianity would compare Jesus to an imaginary friend. Maybe this wasn't the point Miller was trying to make, but a statement like that at the beginning of the chapter was very difficult to get past as I continued reading.

Another concern I have from the book is the flippancy that Miller seems to give to things of God. Something that I see as having changed for the worse in recent years is a very casual attitude toward approaching God. Yes, He is here with us (Emmanuel) and He calls us His friend (John 15:15) and we can come as we are. But I also believe that we are called to come before Him with an appropriate reverence (Hebrews 12:28). One such example of flippancy is on p. 88: "Powells is another church to me, a paperback sort of heaven." Now, I LOVE Powells Books in Portland, and I am an avid reader. I think reading is a wonderful gift that God has given us. I also believe that you can worship God anywhere. But Miller's statement here, seems to me more like he's worshiping books and smacks to me of idolatry.

Miller also seems to be content being "in the world, but not of it," but that contentment seemed a bit like complacency when it comes to sharing his faith. On page 115, he recounts a conversation where he is asked to defend his Christianity and refuses. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." I'm the first to confess that many Christians today aren't doing this with gentleness and respect, and I need to search my own heart as I share my faith with others. But, when God opens a door and someone is flat-out asking why you believe, why would you refuse? here's the one that really got under my skin. In fact, I got so angry after reading this, I almost put down the book for good.

In the churches I used to go to, I felt like I didn't fit in. I always felt like the adopted kid, as if there was "room at the table for me." Do you know what I mean? I was accepted but not understood. There was room at the table for me, but I wasn't in the family. p. 130

What a horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE picture of adoption. And definitely not the picture that God gives us in Ephesians 1:5 where He says that He has adopted us as sons. Does God really look at me, His child by adoption, and say, "She's not really in the family"?

He could have made the point that today's church could do a better job accepting everyone with a different analogy. But when you bring such a wrong picture of adoption to the table as your analogy...well, my blood is boiling again, so I'll move on...

Actually, I think I'll set this aside and finish my thoughts in the next blog post.

Stay tuned...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Surgery, Sutures, and a Very Silly Girl

Dayna had her third surgery last week. This one was pretty minor compared to the others. She had her ear tubes removed and a little bit of scar tissue removed from her lip.

The week before surgery, I was praying very hard for Dayna...praying that she would not fear, but trust God; praying that she would be comfortable; praying that she would heal quickly; praying that she would not be frustrated by her dietary restrictions after the procedure. There were some prayers thrown out there for me as well...

The weekend before surgery, we went grocery shopping and bought all sorts of soft foods that Dayna might like: instant grits, flavored oatmeal, cottage cheese, yogurt, mashed potato flakes, pudding, jello, bomb pops, macaroni and get the picture. Dayna was pretty excited about her "special" foods.

Two days before surgery (Monday), I took Dayna shopping for some special pajamas. Really, this was a practicality issue, as all of her pajamas pull over her head...not a good thing after facial surgery. While we were shopping, Dayna turned to me and said, "I wish we didn't have a Tuesday this week...then it would be WEDNESDAY!!!" I asked why she was so excited about Wednesday, and she replied, "I'll get to have SURGERY!!!!!" (She's pretty excited when she talks to you.) I asked why she was excited for surgery, and she gave me that look (the one like "don't you know anything, Mom?") and said in a slightly exasperated tone, "It's not like I get to do this everyday."

So...I no longer had to worry about her fear. The morning of surgery, we made it to the hospital bright and early. The plastic surgeon is the same one who did her lip and palate repair. We absolutely LOVE Dr. Hollins. The ENT is the father of 3 of my former (and dare I say favorite) students. Only the anesthesiologist was an unknown. When we got there, I was thrilled to find out that Dr. Kolb would be the anesthesiologist. He is the head of our craniofacial team, as well as the director of our local international adoption clinic. Dr. Kolb is also the father of 10, 8 of whom are adopted internationally. I couldn't have asked for a better trio to be working on my little girl.

Well, her procedure went very well. She was a little dazed and dozy for most of the morning; we dealt with headaches for quite awhile. Finally, we were able to get Dayna up and about, which helped her headaches. She really just wanted to lay in the hospital bed all day and watch movies (I guess "it's not like she gets to do this everyday"). In fact, we had a very hard time getting Dayna to agree to come home. She wanted to stay overnight!

The next day, we went up to Dan's folks'. We figured it's always more fun to recover at Grandma and Grandpa's house than to sit at home.

Well, we're one week post-op. Dr. Hollins removed the last of her sutures yesterday. Dayna has been cleared to eat regular foods again. And what did she ask to eat this morning for breakfast?


Silly girl!

Squishy Face

Coloring before the surgery

Before - notice the happy grin; the little bump in her top lip is about to disappear

She will take any reason to snuggle - so will I

After - she had a remarkably small amount of swelling

I notice that Dan took her blankie AND her stuffed starfish

Sleeping it off

Awake, but still dazed

Finally up and about - going to the playroom

Resting at home, watching "Kung Fu Panda"

3 days post-op

7 days post-op

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Crock Pot Pie

Okay, I was skeptical at first when a friend posted this link. Then I was intrigued...

So I made my own crock pot rhubarb pie today.

I made my own crust (I just really, really, really have an aversion to frozen pie crusts). I placed that on the bottom of my crock pot, with the edges going up at least one inch on all sides. I let that cook for 1 1/2 hours on high.

It was surprisingly golden brown. Not soggy like I expected.

Then I found the rhubarb pie recipe in my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook. I mixed 6 cups of rhubarb, 2 cups of sugar and 2/3 cups of flour. I poured the filling into the cooked pie crust and allowed it to continue cooking for another 1 1/2 hours on low.

It worked! Really well. The crust was flaky, the filling was a bit runny (but not soupy; you win some and lose some with fruit pies.) Scoop some vanilla ice cream on top, and it was absolutely perfect.

I've had 2 pieces today already!

So...the next time it's just too hot to crank up the oven and make a pie, this might just be a winner for you as well.

Monday, June 13, 2011

True Confessions: Housework

I'm not a good housekeeper. At all. I detest housekeeping. I have no motivation.

I like a clean house; I just don't like putting in the effort to get it that way. Keeping it that way is a challenge as well.

So, last month, we had out of town guests. My guest room and my sewing room are one and the same. (2 halves to one large room.) We let them have our room, because the guest room wasn't habitable. Before Easter, I had to pull out a card table and extra sewing machine to make Dayna's dress because I couldn't get to my sewing room.

So...the logical thing would be to roll up my sleeves and just dig in.

I've never been accused of being logical.

But, we will be having overnight guests next week. I don't want to have to go through this again. So, after some brainstorming and hard work (thanks, Dan), I now have a habitable guest room. The sewing room...that's another story.