Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Earth is the Lord's, and all it Contains...

Okay, I've always had a bit of an environmentalist in me. Just enough of one. It comes from always recycling from the time my brother Don started our family on it when I was growing up--he was passionate about it then, and still is.
I've found to my own confusion that there are people I know who just don't see the value in it even today, when not recycling costs more in disposal fees. I think in some cases people are bucking against environmentalists, because of those who take extreme measures and who worship the creation rather than the Creator. But I have always felt that recycling fits just perfectly with the Christian faith. God calls us to be good stewards with what we have--our time, relationships, money, possessions, land...even if the land is not "ours" per say; God has put us here and provided it for us to live our lives. How can a person say that recycling and being energy-efficient doesn't tie in with what God intended? Deuteronomy 8:10 "When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you." And, Psalm 24:1-2 "The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters." God has given us the earth as a beautiful creative gift. Taking care of the land He has given us is not the same as worshiping the creation.
Today I found a useful website, Earth 911, that will help find places to dispose of things properly--electronics, paints, batteries, etc. You enter the thing you want to dispose of and your zip code and it shows where it can be done. I recently brought about 20 partial cans of paint I no longer wanted in to a place in Everett, nearby, and got more useful paint to use on current projects. It saved me the disposal costs for the old paint, plus the money it would have cost for the paint that I found would be more useful. That paint-exchange place in Everett is on this website, and a new discovery for me is Staples, which takes electronics and toner cartridges. Some things like computers cost to recycle, and some they actually pay you for, such as the toner cartridges, about $3 each.
I intend to get more organized, continuing to prioritize the things we keep in our (currently overstuffed) garage such as chemicals and electronics, and finding proper homes for those things we don't want. As I do, it will make space available, and as a result, I think it will get easier to establish holding areas for old batteries, for example, until I can bring them to their proper new home where they can be recycled into something that is useful again, rather than ending up in a landfill. It's a little matter of stewardship, and if all of us make little steps of that sort, it will make a big impact in the end.

Mighty Small! We Got the Power!

Our church is small, but it's mighty small! That showed up today when we had a shower for Stephanie, a woman who has had quite the year and a half or so: she accepted that Christ was her Lord and Savior; she got engaged, got married, and is now very much expecting their first child. So the church had a shower for her. Now, I've seen big churches have decent-sized showers, and I would assume that a little church would have a little shower. But this church is no doubt the exception if that is the rule. We had a barbecue and potluck and shower all rolled into one, in place of second service--see, our church knows how to celebrate!
So while she opened her gifts, the men were there, and one of the women encouraged them ahead of time to make sure to do their "oohs" and "aahs" right out loud, not to hold back in order to appear macho. So with every bib, diaper, binky, quilt, and onesie, we would hear the most macho "oohs" and "aahs"--reminiscent of a men's choir. I think we miss out when we make a shower for women only! (You would have thought the gifts were along the lines of fishing licenses and flourescent hats.)
And this little church--the women don't just make one quilt or homemade blanket for the mom--I think there were four. Along with fancy burp rags. It could make a person almost change their mind and want to have a baby--no...still! (And I can't take credit. All of our gift was storebought.)
And the food? Well, no little church can put on a potluck like our church does. Hamburgers, hotdogs, seven-layer salad, watermelon, beans, a huge cake, casseroles, salads--almost like feeding the 5,000. Some neighborhood kids came in and had some too, which made one woman a little nervous. I say, feed them! We have plenty to go around!
How nice, though. I was quite proud of our little church. They know how to put on a swingin' party!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Plans Can Change in a Snap--or a Whap

Not likely to express my wordy self at full length today. We were loading some stuff for the dump, and the heavy metal drawers of the desk piece slid fast and whacked my two fingers hard--nails turning blue in spots--and it throbs, so I have to hold them up, and type one-handed. Praise God that they don't seem to be broken. Pain is a funny thing--I put them under cold water, and the water hurt. I had to just stand with my forehead on the counter, couldn't say anything much or move for a few minutes. After that, though, I went upstairs to find a pain reliever. But my vain wits were about me--"Could you close the garage door?" Didn't want to show off our mess to our new neighbors! And while I was upstairs, I also looked for hem tape, since I'm not likely to go to the fabric store after all. Eureka! I found some in a shade that will work. While all the time holding my hand over my head so it wouldn't throb. So an injury saved me some money and time as well.
I had lots of potential plans for the day that are now not so likely to happen. You never really know what a day will bring forth. I was going to cook to bring some food to the neighbors who are moving in today, and some for a potluck tomorrow at church, and I also had another little project I've been chomping at the bit to get finished. Maybe later today it will stop throbbing and I could; who knows? At least I did catch up on some housekeeping yesterday, and this morning, panicked to wash some dishes. Katie's friend Haley stayed overnight as something of a surprise visit--which I loved--and they accidentally doubled the pancake batter, so she invited three of her siblings over to help finish them off after really making a mess of the kitchen. Which I loved, again--all except that Katie and Haley both showed no evidence of vanity in terms of getting things presentable before they all came. Didn't matter, it was pretty good by the time they got here, and they were all so much fun,sitting eating, talking, laughing, playing with Tim's Star Wars stuff. I'd feed them pancakes any day of the week! So it turned out to be a blessing even aside from all that, also, because while I'm a one-armed "invalid" I don't have to feel like we live in complete chaos, at least for the moment. God is merciful!
So Gary and Tim are off to the dump, and he'll also have to drive Katie to work, rather than me--I was also going to give her a driving lesson, too--funny how your plans can all be altered in a tiny moment and turn you from all busy-ness to a leisurely lounger. I'm glad it was really so minor. Better sore fingers than a heart attack or something!
Proverbs 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

Friday, June 27, 2008

My Style is Random and Unpredictable, but it's More Interesting That Way

I've been trying to get a good deal of housekeeping done today. It's kind of fallen behind, partly because of all the other things we've been doing lately, and so it doesn't take reaching very far to find something that needs to be put away or cleaned or whatever. And I realize how random I am in the doing of it. It makes me laugh! I think of the linear, orderly types who do things so differently from my way, and I don't know how in the world I could fit into their mold. Somehow, though, I think it's far more efficient to do it this way, with tasks all within reach of each other, and able to be combined as I go.
You know what those orderly, non-random people are like. They know what they're having for dinner each day of the week because that's what they have every week. So they only have to buy ingredients for seven types of meals, and they only need one little cupboard in their kitchen to hold it. Monday is wash day, Tuesday is dusting day, Wednesday is window-washing day, Thursday is vacuuming day, etc. They have those little embroidered dish cloths that remind them, and they use one per day with the right task on it. I don't know how they narrow their tasks down to six or seven. (When did you ever see a kitchen towel embroidered with "Clean the Garage Day"?) I knew a gal like that who came to my house and criticized the fact that I made a pork chop dish with tomatoes and onion and all that added--she felt I went to way too much trouble. I went to her house. She was serving fish sticks, because that's what she always served that day; I think the tartar sauce was her vegetable. Her family was all far thinner than ours. I didn't envy her, except the enjoyment of such simplicity freeing her up to do so much--except that she wouldn't do all the things she was free to do, because it wouldn't be scheduled into her day.
My day goes quite differently. The morning is probably my most predictable part, in that I try to make sure to include a quiet time there right after making coffee. I might pour some cereal, too. By then it's a 50/50 chance that I've gotten a shower and dressed, but I'll do that if it's not done. But after that--the rest of the day is up for grabs! It depends a great deal on what others are doing--when the kids get up, whether I have to drive someone somewhere; if we're having Tim's friends over, or a family over for dinner, or we need groceries. Still, if all that's open, I might go about doing dishes and laundry and taking out some garbage--this is where it might get interesting. Take the bins away from the curb and see a weed, and in pulling it, notice a frisbee hidden in the ground cover. Go to throw the weed out and put the frisbee away and notice the vegetable garden that I didn't plant is filling with weeds--pull some more weeds, need aspirin, go in to get some, the phone rings. I think the phone rings on scheduled times only, for people who are orderly. Or else they only answer it between 7 and 8 p.m. or something. And when I'm on the phone, I spill something, and notice the floor needs sweeping. On the way to the broom I pick up 5 things to put away. Putting them away brings 10 more to my notice. I think I pick up about a billion things by the time the kids are up. If I need to call a business, I think about it at 5:04 p.m. If I need to call a person, I think of it at 9:09 p.m. when they might be off to bed. I guess it saves me phone time.
I wonder how an orderly person would do my life? They'd probably have a heart attack the first day and get it over with. If I had theirs, I'd reform it. Pretty soon, with all that spare time, I'd start cooking some new recipes, but have to go to the store for some interesting ingredients. Then I'd decide to sew something, and have to go to the fabric store, too--both in the same trip, to save gas. So that would fill my time. Of course, then I couldn't wait till Thursday (vacuuming day) to vacuum, because sewing is messy. That would throw my whole week off, because on Thursday, what would I do, since I vacuumed on Monday? I'd have to make Thursday washing day, like Monday had been--but there's only a few days accumulation. I guess I'll mix it--half laundry, half vacuuming. There goes the order. And that would be the beginning of the end. Life would have its familiar and friendly chaos, and I'd be far more comfortable.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Popular Goals vs. Mine

There's a website called "43 Things." I'm not sure why it's called that. I'm not sure how I got it on my Favorites list, but there it is, and it's about things people want to do with their lives. (I know, I've been on this topic...whatever, it's my blog and my life.) They have a little helpful part that you can click and find what people usually want in those categories. The ten most popular are:

1. Lose weight
2. Stop procrastinating
3. Fall in love
4. Write a book
5. Be happy
6. Get a tattoo
7. Go on a road trip with no predetermined destination
8. Drink more water
9. Travel the world
10. Get married

Losing weight is significant in mine too, but it should be on a should list rather than a want-to list; those items should be separate; this after-thought didn't come to me until Item 8, though.
I think it's funny that people would list, "Stop procrastinating." Seems that if that will ever happen, we just have to do it, not put it on a list. I'm surprised they didn't put off putting it on their list.
Some of these are so much beyond our own control.
Fall in love? Now how does a person accomplish that if God doesn't provide the right person?
Write a book. I've tried something of the sort but my writing falls apart after a few pages at least; it doesn't carry a story line well, and I don't have enough smart stuff to put down page after page along any theme that I could ever put a book together. Sorry! You get my best, and it's not best-enough for a book.
Being happy is on the list after writing a book. In one way this makes sense; in another it doesn't. You write your book before you are happy, and it won't sell too well; your unhappiness will come through, and who will want to read it? How can a person sound happy if they haven't experienced it yet? Or if they aren't any more? The way it does make sense is that if I wrote a book and it sold some copies, I'd be happy about that! So first I should write a successful book, then on the tails of that write a book while I'm still happy, and then my success would just start snowballing. It's that first book that's the tricky one, before the happiness kicks in; kind of like it's making the first million that's the hardest.
Get a tattoo is a goal I never have related to, and never will. I'm glad of it too. Have you ever seen a person with an old tattoo? They get blurry and look like they got smudged. And what if you don't like the tattoo you got? What if you decide a few years later that you wish you hadn't paid to become someone's coloring book? We used to have some neighbors whose 20-year-old son had tattoos all over the place. He had a little girl, and the little girl would mark on her arm with a pen and say, "tattoo." Yeah, that's a good first word if ever there was one. There are bumper stickers that say, "Concrete is forever." Well, "Tattoos are forever," too.
Go on a road trip with no predetermined destination? What if it lands you at the dump? I think I want an idea of where I'm going before I get there. I understand the idea of being able to get distracted along the way and investigate side trips, and not have a schedule, and be able to stop and visit with people, but I want to get there and know I got there and be glad I did.
Drink more water. We can all use that! But alongside that are eat healthier, get more exercise, take better care of ourselves, seek God's truth, live biblically, love others, enjoy life, appreciate what you have, be content, live wisely...lots of shoulds that all lead to a reward of some sort. Drink more water should fall in a category of shoulds, and if the shoulds fit into the want tos, then they should just be in the do's. Why would we need to list them?
Travel the world is probably on everyone's list, more or less. But who's going to pay for everyone to travel the world? No one seems ready to pay my way, I tell you, and I can't blame them, since I can't reciprocate either. There are benefits to being content where you are, "blooming where you're planted." Then if the money comes for your trip, you can go, but if it doesn't, you don't spend your life wishing. Still, I did put some travel on a bucket list a few blog posts ago.
Get married. This is somewhere in the same realm, hopefully, as the item, "Fall in love." Thankfully, I can check this off my list. Wha-ha! At least I've accomplished something significant!

My Favorite Funny YouTube Videos

While we were at a dinner Tuesday for the family of our friend Lanae who just moved to Denver, the people there started sharing their favorite YouTube videos. Katie has a full arsenal of her own, having been at college where the students and professors eagerly share all the wisdom of the ages--don't they? Anyway, they do eagerly share YouTube videos, for starters. I wonder how they get the homework done...but that's another matter.
I was debating using each of these as individual blog entries, but it would take forever and I have other things to do. But since I want to participate in sharing the wisdom of the ages, or at least a little funny stuff, I will share the addresses for the funny ones that we've been shown rather than a separate blog for each. You might share yours with me, if you would, and we can all get nothing done while we watch these together...ha! "I'm a Man"--takeoff on Mac vs. IBM--done by some students at Katie's college. Short and cute. "Sneezing Panda"--very short, cute, and--not acted out--you could say this is real life! Dismality: "Miss Teen USA 2007 - South Carolina answers a question" "The Front Fell Off"--very funny! Some of Katie's fellow students choreographed this skit for the song "Uptown Girl." They did an amazing job! Gotta watch it to the end. This is "Charlie bit my finger...again" --cutest kid video I know of on YouTube. The BananaPhone song. Very catchy! The Banana Phone song takeoff from the college. Bon Qui Qui at King Burger..."I will cut you" is my new phrase to answer someone who is out of line. Tried it on my Gary while our neighbors were over. Dean our neighbor just about lost it. I just called his wife to make sure it only meant what I thought before I put this on my blog--not something crude but just the meanness you might expect in the context. Whew!

These are the best of the funny YouTubes I know of. I hope you like them!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I Have Good News! They've Solved one of the Mysteries of the Universe!

Well, I have good news! Not long ago I blogged that there were certain mysteries of the universe that bothered me (in fact it was called "Unexplained Mysteries of the Universe"--fancy that!). Today I have seen a news report that they have solved one of those very great mysteries of the universe of which I blogged.
Katie showed me tonight on YouTube one of the videos done by one of her school friends, Luke Neuman. This video shows what happens to socks in the dryer. I hope you enjoy it and find relief just like I did! What a relief! (Now if he'd just solve the others that I listed.)

God Has Blessed my Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

I try not to take my blessings for granted. Yet, I am blessed beyond what I can regularly realize! One of the best aspects of this is my being a stay-at-home mom. On our cul-de-sac of about 17 houses, I am one of two moms, I think, who continually stay at home with children and who don't work outside the home at all. The other one has tried to open a daycare at her house and not succeeded, and actually I'm not sure that she's at home all the time. I read sometimes about flack that stay-at-home moms get, and have to say that I have rarely received any of that sort of treatment from others.
When Katie was a baby, I remember hoping against hope that I would be able to stay home with her--but I went back to work when she was 6 weeks old, and left her with a lady from our church who did daycare in her house. She usually had ten kids there, and Katie would come home over-stimulated and over-exposed to every bug that came along. She was often sick, and usually irritable and exhausted--and so was I.
One of the women I worked with had two little boys, both in daycare. She earned less than it cost to have them there. I wondered at why she would do that, and she said that the daycare could raise her boys better than she could! That seemed tragic to me even then. Imagine thinking that daycare staff could raise your children better than you can. Most of them have no major qualifications for running a daycare; for that matter, the employees aren't bound to stay employed there any length of time; above all, they can't be expected to love your children as much as you would love them. It reminds me of the boy that used to live next door to us when I was a kid. He was raised more by the maid than by his mother. When the maid died, he grieved over her like a child would his mother, but in contrast he had very little respect for his own mother. He was socially inept and grew up getting in continual trouble with the law, on the premise that his lawyer father would continually bail him out. When I've helped in nurseries at churches, I have usually been able to tell which children are in daycare and which aren't; I see it in our neighborhood as well. The children I've seen who spend their weeks in daycare have a tendency to be more aggressive and less concerned about the other children. I have never seen that there is any optimum substitute for a parent raising a child.
While I was working at Boeing, Gary was trying to get into the sales field; he'd worked in an office for years and was getting nowhere. The sales field wasn't so easy to break into. A food broker would hire him full-time, then reduce him to part-time to avoid having to provide benefits. This happened with three jobs in a row! It didn't look like I would ever be at home with Katie. Gary's earnings were also at pretty much bare minimum to begin with. But I had recently come to accept Jesus as my Savior, and my life was in makeover mode in many ways.
I came home from work one day when Gary was on part-time. He had that day off, but still put Katie in daycare. I would have given my right arm to be at home with her, so it hit me hard that he'd pay to have someone take care of her while he was home. That day it became clear that my working wasn't very beneficial to the family; it was counter-productive. I was starting to add up all the costs of working, and comparing them with my minimal earnings. I figured I was taking home about $65-80 per month after all the expenses were taken out: daycare, gas, car insurance (higher the more you drive), convenience foods, dress clothes, higher tax bracket, office gift wasn't the most worthwhile venture for me to be at work. Add to those things the physical strain I was under at the time, being anemic and worn out, constantly coming down with all the bugs Katie brought home; also not having the time to clean house like I would if I were at home (theoretically, at least). Gary needed to be the primary breadwinner, it was obvious. It wasn't the best approach that day, but I remember clearly and calmly telling Gary (not asking him--that would be an issue now) that I was going to give my notice at work. It wasn't because he was earning enough to support us; he wasn't! It was what I consider a leap of faith. I was convinced that God was showing me that I must be at home with Katie. I didn't tell Gary that I would give a three-week notice instead of two so I would get another month of medical coverage. Still, wow. I remember I could hardly wait until the three weeks were over!
I realize that not everyone would consider this the right approach. In some ways it wasn't, but the way I saw it at the time, it appeared to me to be the only thing I could do. The first day of not rising early to go to work, I remember how I felt like an enormous weight had fallen off my shoulders. I remember thinking, "I finally know what I want to be 'when I grow up'--a stay-at-home mom!" There I was with my daughter, not having to rush her through the early morning and pack her in the car to get her to daycare so I could be at work at 7:15.
Katie's attitude completely and suddenly changed from the day I started staying at home. We had dinner with some friends, and they remarked, "What has happened to Katie?!" She was no longer constantly demanding my full attention and raising a ruckus throughout the meal time. And my health started improving as I became more rested. I had just been informed that I had been anemic, and the iron was a great boon to my energy level.
Our finances were not in great shape. We really didn't have a penny to spare; still, it wasn't that different from when I was working. My work had never provided so much that we had spare funds, it just occupied all my time and made a very slight difference in take-home pay. I had moments when I felt a bit guilty, and then when I considered the math, the benefit to being at home was real--and in the other ways as well.
Gary was trying to get into pharmaceutical sales, but I was tired of all of his job changes. He had just changed to another food broker when I got a phone call asking for him; he wasn't home. When I realized it was regarding another job, I just ignored it rather than tell him. I didn't want him changing all over again! The man called back another time when Gary was home. Right over the phone, he offered Gary a job that he had applied for 6 months previously; the other candidate who had gotten the job had gotten fired. The pay and benefits were like we'd never had before. Did I feel foolish! But I was so thankful for God's grace.
Since that time, Gary has had various job changes and times between jobs. At first I worked as an office temp from time to time, but that didn't continue for very long. I've been at home completely for about 20 years now. We have probably had about four years of joblessness, total, scattered in amongst those years, and his salary has gone up and down depending on what job he was working. It has never been an enormous salary, but God has been faithful to us throughout that time. He has taught me to be careful with my spending, and He has been gracious with various creative means of providing for us. We've never been a charity case! I truly believe that most women could stay at home with their children if they were determined to do so, trusting in God as their Provider. If God has provided such for us, He can provide for anybody who will rely on Him.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Whirlwinds Abound!

Well, I am about as exhausted as I get, right now. We've had a busy and wonderful weekend, seen a lot of people, and done a lot of stuff. The first memorable event that started it off on Friday was going to Leila's baby shower (I always have to think when I have a friend whose name starts with L: Leila, Lanae, LeeAnna, LeeAnn, Lila, Lori, Lois...what is this? Their moms sure have messed with my messy mind! I'm glad though. I wouldn't give up knowing even one of them.). Leila goes to our previous church. I was hesitant to go when we got the invite, for the awkwardness, but then I saw the hostess of the shower at WalMart and she greeted me before I even saw her, and assured me that I ought to go. Hot dog! It was great to see the ladies there. And of course, Leila's beautiful baby girl, Marian Marie! God is so good!
The next day, Saturday, there was a wedding reception for Kim, who was in Katie's first youth ministry small group--again, from our previous church. I got to know her mom from the Bible studies we attended and other events. She was so caught up in the impending engagement and all the hoopla that she didn't realize for months, I think, that we'd left the church. Ha! That was kind of amusing. And we saw a lot of the same ladies as I'd seen the day before.
Our next event after church yesterday, Sunday, was a good-bye potluck and bbq gathering for our friends Lanae and Scott and their three sons (who are Tim's closest friends)...alas! Scott's in the military and they are moving to Denver. So we attended that and again saw some of the same people we'd seen at the previous two events...which was again wonderful, if it didn't signify their leaving! (And one fellow who we saw for the first time in four years asked Gary what church we're attending now--turns out he's looking to change as well! We couldn't more highly recommend a church than where we're going. It may not be for everyone--which is a good thing, from my human perspective--but we love it!)
Last night, still Sunday, we were having our friend Jay over for dinner. Of course, that was a blast--I blogged about it just previous to this post. It was an upbeat intermission between Lanae and Scott's goodbye party and their sons coming over for a couple of days while they pack up.
Yes, and this morning, Monday, Lanae's three boys came over. We took them along with us to Mt. Vernon to get Katie's food handler's permit and then to Red Robin to document her ability to work there. Took Katie then to a babysitting job, and I've been home pretty much ever since. Yow. I'm tired! We were going to have Lanae and Scott over for dinner. No meal ideas were coming to mind, exactly. I always make homemade mac n' cheese when the boys come over, at least for lunch, and I'd cooked up some pot roast I had ready to go in the fridge, but it wasn't enough for all of our dinner--so I started on making some tuna-rice casserole. I started the rice, but couldn't find the tuna that I was convinced was in the pantry. (If you saw our pantry, you'd know why.) Gary brought some home. Meanwhile I made cornbread and a pumpkin dessert, but then also needed to make cupcakes, partially because it's my friend-neighbor Stacia's birthday (and our pastor's too, but he doesn't get our cupcakes today). Lanae called and cancelled--they're not done packing up. "Oh, that's quite alright. Just come tomorrow and eat whenever you want. I don't mind at all." And it's true. It was actually a relief, if she only knew!
A couple of times, I've had to sit in our recliner a few minutes, and let the blood go back up from my ankles. My friend Lanae is exhausted, but I'm wondering if it's possible for her to be more tired than her crazy friend who's going to miss her terribly.
I'm not done yet with this busy, people-filled weekend, either. The boys are staying overnight, complete with muddy shoes, socks and pants from a trip to the creek, mysterious puddles all over the kitchen floor that apparently aren't thanks to any of them, and lots of questions regarding "Where did so-and-so go?" (Over the river and through the woods, maybe..) "Have you seen the clone fighter that was just here?" (Oh, of course! Third pile of junk to the left...) "Where are my flip-flops?" (Well, I wasn't tracking you when you took them off, so retrace your steps...) And my questions to them, "Would you please close that door?" "Could you eat your cupcake over your plate?" I think I'll slip the boys a sedative, pile them up and rest my feet on them. Just kidding. I love those boys, who are all boy in the extreme, and we'll all miss them. They may conk out pretty fast thanks to their own level of busy-ness and excitement; at the moment, they have recruited Gary to be outside lighting firecrackers to finish off the day. I know they'll be awake around 7 a.m., too; they don't sleep in. Denver, be ready for these boys' arrival. We will all be wishing Denver weren't so far away!

Friendship, Fellowship and Gladness

For the last couple of months, our Pastor Ken and his wife Kit have been on an overdue, much-deserved and needed Sabbatical. They did not go far, only to Alki. It was just a time to get away and reflect and redirect their ministry back into line with what God's priorities are for them. I hope it is very restorative and refreshing.
One of the things that Kit mentioned that she would find encouraging was the hope that someone would draw their son Jay into mealtimes during their absence. This seemed just in line with the very things that we would want to do. Jay is a far quieter sort than we are. When a person is quiet, I tend to be mystified by them, intrigued to know what they are quietly thinking. I respect the person of fewer words; I can't imitate their quiet nature at length, because I become downcast if I am quiet too long. The Bible has great things to say about the quiet person, and not so great about the person of many words. I guess this should incline the talkative person to be careful in their choice of words, and as time goes on, I am improving in this, but I have a long way to go.
Anyway, Jay has been coming over here most Sundays. A couple of times we have had another person too, but most of the time it has just been him. It has been great to get to know him, to see him become more relaxed around us. I think he has become a bit readier to speak around us, to know what to say. We have all come to really enjoy his visits more every time.
Jay never declines to play games when he comes to visit. (For some reason this has surprised me; I'm not one to think of playing games, but we've done it more consistently when he's here than any time previous.) We've played Mexican train dominoes, Scattergories, Nerts and Dutch Blitz. Maybe some other games too, but I don't remember. It seems that games bring out the competitor in me, to my shame. I get pretty intense during the games; Katie does, too, making all sorts of snide sideways comments in my direction (I never make any in hers, do I?) and making all sorts of funny noises as she looks for an available outlet toward a winning hand. Jay quietly works at his game and just observes us with patient interest as we compete and ever more patience as we laugh hysterically, uncontrollably, if we win. (He says his father suffers that same tendency. Our pastor? Shocking!)
And we learn wonderful little things about the history of the church we're attending, about their family, about life in Granite Falls. Jay learns funny little things about our family, like how Tim looks like a little bear in his fleece pajamas, and how readily our meats go up in flames on the barbecue or our rice goes up in smoke on the stove, or our defenses flare during game time, or my Erma Bombeck style of housekeeping. We learn how patient he is with all our faults, how easygoing and kind; he learns how passionate we are about every little thing.
Though it appears we are opposites, I think we are getting along well together. I hope this pattern of visits will become a regular aspect of our lives, that there is no reason for it to stop just because his family will be back together. Pretty neat how a quiet single guy and a crazy family can come together in friendship and faith and fun, and it all works out for good. God has blessed this time of fellowship! And we are glad.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Looking to Learn from Outside the Christian Realm

For a long time I dismissed the idea that unbelievers might have things to teach me in a way that I couldn't learn better from believers. Perhaps this is true of many of us. To open oneself to learning from unbelievers, or even from those who call themselves believers but may hold to a questionable doctrine, a Christian will have to dedicate more thought to weeding through areas of ungodly or unconventional thinking and just plain licentiousness to discern where there might be truths that we don't find addressed in the believing realm. I am daring to explore more of these resources, knowing that they may be fraught with potential potholes, but that there are great things to be discovered whose benefits overarch the dangers. I feel that our Christian resources at times tend to be a little ingrown and not equipped to grapple with some of the more mundane, non-spiritual or even relational difficulties that are part of all of our lives.
Yesterday I happened upon's website. I am acquainted with their materials, but haven't read them for years. I was pleasantly surprised at their website these days. It seems a little less to the left than I remember it being years ago, and more on-center, more usable for everyman. I found an article on marriage that, though it doesn't apply Scripture to its principles, doesn't appear to me to be unscriptural and is actually rather insightful: Lasting Love: Five secrets to keeping a long-term relationship fresh and vibrant. Of course, since it isn't written from a specifically scriptural perspective, incorporating the elements of the article in a scriptural way will launch the success of their advice to a higher and more meaningful level.
Today Katie received some textbooks she had ordered in the mail for next term at college. I sat and looked at one, Disciplines of a Godly Woman, by Barbara Hughes. In the back it had a reading list of recommended Christian books; I recognized many of the authors' names. On this list was one by Watchman Nee, Sit, Walk, Stand, which discusses the book of Ephesians. Some months ago our Pastor Ken preached a sermon that he acknowledged was based on this book. Since I had in times before been told that Watchman Nee had some off-based theology, I was guarded in my response to the material, though I found nothing objectionable in the ideas our pastor gave in his sermon. Since that book was not only used by our pastor but recommended in a book required in one of Katie's courses, I surmise that Watchman Nee presented truth in writing that particular one. Maybe some of his books are off, but I know that there is not a person on earth who has a monopoly on truth, and who is immune to error. Psalm 118:9 says, It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. Psalm 146:3 says, Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. If you've ever put your trust fully in any human being on earth, you know that they will eventually disappoint you, let you down, break a promise, tell a lie, fail you, mislead you...not because they are so much more evil than other people, but because they are merely human; they are not perfect. It is not a reason to go around being suspicious of people in an overwhelming sense, but it is reason not to put your trust fully in any mere human.
No matter what material we are reading, no matter how much we trust the author, we have to beware of false ideas being presented. No one is perfect except Jesus Christ. Only Jesus Christ and His word will never fail you. So when the Bible says to "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good," in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, it is for that reason. God's word is the gold standard, that which can be fully trusted, and against which all lies and mis-statements will be shown for what they are. It frees the Christian who knows the Scriptures to be able to discern good from evil, to explore the world with a measuring stick that will expose error and allow useful truths to surface.

Friday, June 20, 2008

You Could Even Make a Biblical "Bucket List"--Or, How Many Bucket Lists Does a Person Need?

Okay, I think I have exasperated Katie. She's heard enough from me about bucket lists, I think--sort of like the frustration of hearing an old person talk continually about their impending death. So when I told her that you could base a "bucket list" entirely on Bible verses, she tried to accommodate but a slight roll of the eyes gave her away. (Just in case you wonder, I haven't been told I'm about to die, or anything like that...but I do know it is quite probable eventually, aside from the hope of being raptured instead! Maybe it's from my Brownie days back in the 3rd Grade...I'm just trying to "be prepared.")
It wasn't that I was looking for it. I was just doing my Bible reading, in the Psalms these days (which I tell you is quite easier reading than Jeremiah or Daniel, just try them and see the contrast!). The first verse that I noted that had a bucket list ring to it was Psalm 71:18, and when you read it I think you might understand why it hit me so: "And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come." Then there was 78:5-8: "For He established a testimony in Jacob And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers That they should teach them to their children, That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, That they should put their confidence in God And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments, And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart And whose spirit was not faithful to God."
Maybe it's also that I'm a homeschooling mom, in seeing that one of the great benefits of homeschooling is the time and increased inclination to study the Bible together regularly, and to not rely on someone else to do it--or to forsake it entirely. As long as I'm a parent, and once I'm a grandparent, part of my role and privilege is to direct my children, especially while they are young or in my house or otherwise under my influence, to learn God's word.
Still, I looked further. It's not a study you can necessarily do effectively by word search on a website--you kind of have to read through some Bible to find them, but I found a bunch--more than I would type here or it would overwhelm my readers. I'll list some choice verses, though, and I hope to add to them as time goes on, because there are many, I'm sure, that at this point I'm not encountering since I can't read hundreds of chapters in a day (alas!). Here goes:
Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom. (I will live my life aware of its brevity and make good and wise use of it. This is probably a good starting verse to such a list!)
Psalm 104:33-34 I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD. (I will keep the joyful habit of knowing God and thinking on Him and singing to Him.)
Psalm 108:3 I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the peoples... (I will let others know of my reasons to be thankful for the goodness of God in my life.)
Psalm 109:30 With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the LORD. (I will continually be vocally thankful to God.)
(Well, okay. I think I could put hundreds of verses about giving thanks to God. You know they're there!)
Psalm 119:11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You. (I will work to memorize and meditate on His word for its proper application in my life.)
Psalm 119:112 I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes Forever, even to the end. (I will live through the study of His word in obedience to Him.)
Psalm 119:93 I will never forget Your precepts, For by them You have revived me. (I will keep His word because I know it not only pleases Him but benefits me.)
Proverbs 11:25 The generous man will be prosperous, And he who waters will himself be watered. (I will help those in need, knowing that I too will need help someday.)
Proverbs 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise wins souls. (It is the good and natural thing for the Christian to bear spiritual fruit, and to try to help others to come to know Christ.)

Proverbs 16:20 He who gives attention to the word will find good, And blessed is he who trusts in the LORD. (I will read the Bible for my own benefit, and trust in God because that is inherently good.)
Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, That one may avoid the snares of death. (I will live obediently, knowing God holds my life in His hand, and not wanting to turn away from Him.)
Proverbs 15:31 He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof Will dwell among the wise. (I will listen to those who will give me true correction, because there is wisdom in it and foolishness in ignoring it.)
Proverbs 15:33 The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility. (May I never assume that I don't need to learn any more, that I have the knowledge or wisdom that I need. May I never be so prideful!)

Proverbs 16:24 Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (I will learn to ever-improvingly control my tongue so that my words are beneficial to those around me--what I say and the manner in which I say it.)
I hope to add to this. Glimmers of other verses come to mind, but I'll have to draw them out gradually as I read.
Of course this type of "Bucket List" is one that should make a person aware of his inability to do one good thing without God's help and guidance. In that I must say that any list I make, any intent I have to do good, is subject to my own insufficiency and God's sufficiency, my reliance on Him, and my own inability to independently control whether I can even draw my next breath. So I write it with intention, but with reliance not on self but on His help.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Idea of that "List"...Persists!

It seems that lately I've been finding various resources that have to do with changing things for the rest of my (or your?) life--I like to present them to you, thinking that you might find them interesting as well. It sort of goes back to that phrase, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." Yep. No time like the present to try to make good changes for the future. I know, a lot of the ideas will lie in forgotten corners and rumpled under couches in places, but some might take hold and I might actually improve as a result of having read them.
The bucket list idea has been hit a couple of times on my blog, once with the blog by that title and another time mentioning the book 101 Things to do Before You Go To Heaven...which I've been reading a little bit to even Tim, age 10, who presumably has plenty of time, but who knows? And if he can get started on the right foot at this age, so much the better. Something might actually stick. Ironically, the first item in their book is something like, "Dare to Look Stupid." Well, does a 10-year-old boy have a hard time with that? Maybe we should have a 10-year-old-boy's counterpart book, with the first item being, "Be Afraid to Look Stupid." or, "Dare to Look Smart." Hmm. Okay, I have dibs on book rights!
Anyway, today I went and found an article on Christianity Today's website, A Believer's To-Be List, by Philip Yancey. It has many redeeming features and by its light approach, it does sort of balance out some of the things that we can dutifully read and I present it to you for your review, if you like.
And all this got me thinking about the bucket list again. So rather than look up "bucket list" on google, because it's already "been there, done that," I googled, "things to do before you die." And got a different selection. It's funny, you can tell who's been looking at each other's lists, because they copy one another. And some of these people would have to be multi-millionaires to accomplish their lists. I'm not one, but I might as well be--don't have money in the bank that I would assign to most of the things on mine at this point. Still it's fun to have the list and...well...just have the list, I guess. And I can hardly judge them for copying one another, because I did get some ideas that I might add to mine--though I might change them in the process.
Does it mean something weird about me that I already do or have done some things on these people's lists and never thought of them as a "before you die" sort of thing? One listed singing in the car with the windows down. I do that, if the weather cooperates! If I'm stopped somewhere near other cars, I might roll up the windows or sing more quietly, but there's no guarantee. Sorry if I've ever bugged you by doing it, but I'm not sorry for the joy that makes me do it! I am careful in the neighborhood not to sing in such a way as to wake sleeping neighbors--I think. Some of these list-makers list learning to cook, or even to cook a particular food--what's so hard about reading a recipe and doing it? I don't know, I think these people may need to live it up a little more! Good thing that they have such lists and are working on them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

25 Years is a Long Stretch! So...What Has Changed?

Twenty-five years have passed since Gary and I got married on June 18, 1983. Things have changed...differently than the casual observer might think. I'm a bit (never mind how much a bit is) hands and face are more wrinkled and I have some gray hair...our wedding presents are now antiques. (That's scary!) There are two more people in the house. Where did they come from? Oh, yes, I remember now. They grew on us! Ha! And my ankle hurts, and it didn't do that back a bunch of years.
Other than that, what's the difference? Oh, yes, new life! I'm alive! I was dead then and didn't know it. I remember that feeling of inadequacy, that huge hole in my middle. I remember that so well, and never thought it would subside. For a while it got worse! And now it's gone.
I know how to fix up things around the house. And I don't think I'd be as afraid to try a new job if I had one; I don't worry about what people think of me; I don't feel alone; my life is no longer meaningless; now, though, work is not my life; my life revolves around important things, things that matter eternally, like family life, and faith.
Still, aside from all that? I still feel like that 23-year-old, basically. There are a lot of things, I think, that haven't changed. Well, maybe. Well, maybe not. It's better! It's really good. Life is really good. God is really great! Other than aches and weight, I'm not just like when I was 23, I'm happier, more confident, more joyful, at peace, and I didn't even have a clue what joy and peace were back then.
How has Gary changed? In many ways, he too is still the same person he was; yet, he's changed of course too. Well, he has a work history in sales,and he will tell you all about it if you ask! He loves his work. He's a dad who takes pride in his kids. He values family life big-time. The church where his dad pastored back then, he called a "social club." And he didn't attend church back then. I don't think he'd call the one we attend now anything like just a social club!
Back then we lived in Portland, and hadn't really become part of a community. Now, having lived in the Puget Sound area most of these years, we have a huge community of friends, of sisters and brothers in Christ, who we love and cherish. I can't imagine having been without them all these years--and with every year it's only gotten better!
We've gone through some tough times, but God has brought us through them, and through those times, we have learned things about God and ourselves, and about what other people go through, that we never would have learned otherwise. God is truly great. What more can I say? I can only praise God for His goodness in our lives, for what He has done, for all that He has done to help us through these 25 years!

Monday, June 16, 2008

25th Anniversary Weekend to Ourselves!

In celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary, Gary and I decided to go away overnight and leave the kids at home--the first time, yes, ever, since we had kids. That is the first time we went off by ourselves overnight in almost 21 years.
I became a bit out of sorts as the time approached. I had said to Gary various times, "You realize it's our 25th anniversary this year, don't you? What are we going to do?" And he'd just sort of say, "Yeah, we ought to do something." And that's where it stood. I finally ended up making arrangements, and by that time, most places worth a darn were already full. We found a place in Bellevue. Not exotic, not extreme, but it was a good out-of-the-ordinary and somewhat posh weekend. And that's saying a lot for this frugal type. Not that I wouldn't be willing to splurge at other times under the right circumstances, given the means and all.
Katie and Tim have an easier time getting along, it seems, when we do go out than when we're at home. We've left them alone together for dinners out about four times. Ever. Two of those involved Gary's work. The others, I think, were other anniversaries. We leave them with movies and fun foods, and it's good. So I loaded them up with all sorts of great food, some healthy, some totally foolish; we made arrangements for our friend Vonna to give them a ride to church, and we left.
We got out at about 2:00 and realized we hadn't had lunch. My first impulse would have been to go through a drive-thru because "we had to get there by" some certain time. But there was no certain time we had to get there by. And after all, it was our 25th anniversary trip, how do you go to Jack-in-the-Box? Kind of ridiculous, no? So we went to the PF Changs at Alderwood Mall and had a really nice lunch there, Almond Cashew Chicken bowls. Gary always seems to order the same things I do, and I always forget and order first, and then I regret it because we end up with the same thing. We talked about my blog entry, about the bucket list, and I told him what was on it and that maybe he should make one too. I think we could find intersections in our list that we could aim for doing--that would be neat. It's not likely that he'll actually do it, but I'll keep on with him and we'll see.
We went down to Seattle; there's a park there by the Arboretum that is called Foster Island. It's one of Gary's favorite places. We walk along the lake where people are paddling rented canoes and kayaks from the University, and then under the end of the 520 bridge (I think), and then to a park-y area where you can see the really big boats come by really close to the shore. It's fun to see them. Quite a lot of sights to see. We sat on a bench and just watched for a long time.
Then we went down to Pike Place Market. I am always struck by the signs that say, "Sanitary Pike Place Market" or something like that. Sanitary? They wish! I always feel immune to about 20 new diseases after I leave there. It looks grimy and the smells overwhelm me. But it's fun, in a way. Lots of interesting sights. I wish I'd had a camera; we remembered after we left but didn't want to go back and get it. I'm never sorry when it's time to go on to something else after the Market, and I always feel like a bad citizen because of it; you're supposed to love the place, aren't you? The rest of the family loves it. I don't.
After all that we headed east to Bellevue. We checked into our room. The front desk was stunning--they had a stone front to it, with lighting behind that accentuated its transparent yellowness and the patterns of different rivers of color that ran through it. No camera, no picture. Sorry.
Then we went to find a place to go for dinner. I had my teeth sort of set for steak. Gary wanted seafood. He thought Ruth's Chris would be too expensive and we went to McCormicks. I was intending to remind myself that this was a 25th wedding anniversary and not to worry about the price. Still, I couldn't bring myself to let go. The steak was too expensive and I chose salmon on a plank with raspberry sauce. Gary ordered the same thing. Darn it! I forgot again to wait until he ordered.
There was a table next to us with six people. Somehow Gary got across to them that it was our 25th, and at one point a few minutes later they all toasted us. All I had by then was an empty water glass and a nearly dry lemonade glass. (We had intended to get some champagne even though we never drink any more, but at $38--whether bottle or glass, I don't know, no difference, it still shocked me--I couldn't do it. I figure it was God's way of stopping us, maybe. I'm a little disappointed, I kind of thought it would be fun to have that heady feeling once again. Someday, maybe.)
By the time we were done we were too full for dessert. We'd pondered the possibility of Cheesecake Factory but didn't. Just as well.
Our room overlooked Wendy's and at 1:30 I was awake, couldn't sleep. It was amazing--throughout their open hours, any time I looked they had about 6 cars lined up there. Who goes to Wendy's in the middle of the night? I guess we're the only ones who don't.
This morning we headed out to go to church. We decided we wanted to check out the University Presbyterian Church. We know of a few people who've gone there and said it was a pretty neat one. We were out maybe an hour early for their last service of the morning. Gary wanted breakfast, and insisted that we stop at Denny's. There was a line up at the door. There was no time for Denny's if we wanted to get to church on time, so we went to Starbucks. Gary said, "But I don't drink coffee." I suggested he get hot chocolate and so he did--hot chocolate and a pastry. I got caramel frappucino. Yum!
The church was overwhelmingly big, but they had a nice service. They baptized about 5 or 6 babies--by sprinkling--and that was the only thing I'd differ with much. The sermon was good, on Colossians 1, and the pastor seemed sweet. It was fun to see something different, but I love our little church all the more.
So in two days we went out to three places for food. What fun! I guess that's not unheard-of when we're on a trip, but usually with the kids along, much of it is fast food. This was overall such a good time.
When we got home, I just about fell over dead. Tim was carrying out the garbage and had a smile on his face. Katie sounded like it was all a good time. They'd watched the Chipmunk movie and some other, and she told her friend Haley later that they'd eaten "trash." It is true, the trash was empty--but I think she meant unhealthy foods...I hope so!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Might as Well Make a Bucket List; I'll Kick it Sooner or Later

I started rather flippantly working to write out a "Bucket List" of things I want to do before I kick the bucket while I'm still alive, whatever. I don't mean to say that I wouldn't be content to die before this was done; I've lived already far longer than some, more than I deserve, and there's been a lot of good in it. God is great.
I googled "bucket list" on other websites, and didn't get as many ideas as I thought, but I did change my perspective about writing the list. Many of them were things I don't want to do, like skydive; there aren't material things that I would buy and feel fulfilled.
The significance of my list was greatly expanded upon by seeing what others had to say about pondering such things. There was one quote at a USA Today site that I liked: "'We are all encouraged to leave a small ecological footprint and a huge spiritual footprint,' Kerry Shook says." A huge spiritual footprint. Now that's a good general aim for my list! Then it's a list not only for the here and now trend-wise, not only for the future goal-wise, but for eternity, faith-wise. How much more significantly can you live than for eternity? And how better to build and live by that list before you get a terminal disease, while you still have vitality and clear mind and hopefully some significant time, and while you're living for joy and purpose itself, and not just under a threat that it all will end? At a website called bucketlistblog, there was a pertinent quote that I'd like to share here:

"Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again."
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

That is a great passage to keep in mind in the making of a bucket list. Keep in mind those who come after you, who recall your impact once you are gone. Will it direct and inspire them to better things than they would have had if they had not known you? That would be a significant aspect of a spiritual footprint that I would like to make.
I also went to an article, "How to Create and Manage Your Bucket List Before You Kick," that gave some rather good advice for creating a serious bucket list, one that might be useful for really trying and attending to; a real tool to make sure that you're living your life to live it rather than let it pass without conscious direction.
I'll live in the here and now as far as trends go, doing this "bucket list" trend while it's still a trend...after all, here and now may be all I've got, on this earth! (I think that's a funny thought, but only time will tell.) If it impacts the long-term and the eternal, that would be fantastic! Okay, enough intro. I have to get to the list! This is without regard to the reality of finances and other constraints that God in His wisdom put in place:
1. I have always wanted to take our kids around the country on a trip--like my family did when I was little. We moved to Indiana via a northern route, seeing the Rockies, Glacier, Waterton, etc., and came back via a southern route, seeing all sorts of red rock features and turquoise jewelry stands. I never saw Mt. Rushmore, and I want to see it if I can...along with the other national parks and the Statue of Liberty and other American landmarks (well, I'd say landmarks worldwide, but I'm trying to be somewhat specific and not too selfish!) I'd like our kids to see the Grand Canyon, too. Wow! God's creation is great! And to think that's just a little tiny crack in a tiny little pebble in a tiny little solar system in a great big's amazing!
2. It would be fun to see my kids get married (not to each other) and have kids.
3. If it were up to me, bring all our relatives to come to know Christ. And my neighbors, and while I'm wishing, people in authority, people not in authority...
4. I'd have my finances all in order, have my will up-to-date, have everything where the people who need to find it can find it. I actually was kind of there once, but that was a long time ago.
4. If I visit a country as a tourist, my first choice for beauty would be Italy because of a History of Art class I took in college. For faith and learning, it would be Israel, to stay there for a while and really know it. I'd also love to explore Mexico and South America. Never been to Hawaii, either, but I'd rather see these other places first.
5. I would like to go to China or Russia to do some English-as-a-Second-Language work. At least once.
6. I'd like to memorize much more of the Bible; especially the New Testament. If it weren't for obvious limitations, the Old Testament too. It would be fun to draw verses out of context all the time and pepper my conversation with them, and drive people crazy. No, that wouldn't be my main aim, but I've always thought it would be fun. Just a little crazy!
7. I'd really love to be able to say my whole house was clean and organized and honed down to the things I really want to keep; rid of the junk! And be telling the truth. And be moved to a smaller house besides, with less demands that distract from the important things.
8. It would be fun to have a party and invite all the friends we can remember having, that we can get back in touch with. At least, I think it would be fun. There'd be a lot of people, after 5 churches!
9. I'd love to be physically fit. Why this is this far down the list, I don't know. I'd want to get there before the trip to Italy. But more so that I can see my kids have kids, and not be a physical burden to them in the process.
10. I'd like to have my photos organized (of course this goes with #6), but also scanned into the computer so I can put them on disks, or on Flickr, or blog with them, or whatever. I did do some, a while back. It's amazing how much editing can improve them, and how pictures that you think are too dark can be lightened up and you find things you never thought were there. And I'd probably throw half away, because they really aren't all that good and life is too short to keep looking at them or storing them or sorting through to get to the good ones.
11. Take a dancing class--for dancing as a dance partner, and not as a tv performing dancer, and not as a jazz dancer, and nothing sleazy. Just fun, for at parties...just for fun!
12. Teach someone illiterate to read...though I don't know anyone illiterate to my knowledge. (Though I did teach our kids to read...and that is a thrill!)
13. Go river rafting--on a fairly mild river. And maybe rock climbing--on a fairly mild rock.
14. Learn to identify at least the fairly major constellations. I know the big dipper and the little dipper. In fact, I can see the entire big dipper, perfectly framed, through our bathroom skylight, for what--a few months of the year? It's neat.
15. Register to be a bone-marrow donor. I think I may have to lose some weight first. They have standards about this, after all. I went in once, but I couldn't get answers to some questions, so I didn't actually register.
LASTLY but Importantly: I'd like to continually live according to eternity and not just for the present day; yet live for the present day with contentment, and with eternity in mind. Keeping this list in mind, in view, and revised and added to as I think of improvements.
Okay, I'm using this as a tag for you. It's your turn. What's on your bucket list? Make it meaningful! Let me know when you've made one. I want to see it.

Friday, June 13, 2008


I've been enjoying facebook online since Katie went off to college. It's a great way to stay in touch with people with whom you might otherwise fall out of contact. Katie has re-established contact with various friends even from when she was in fifth grade. I, too, have enjoyed the benefit of this phenomenon, such as through contact with a sweet chum of mine who was in 4th grade when I last saw her, Grace. But I wasn't in 4th grade. I was the director of her Awana Chums club! She and her brothers were also involved in a homeschool music ministry along with Katie, a ministry which was attended by Tim for the first time this year. That music ministry has been run all along by Tina Riley, who now attends the Alliance Church in Granite Falls, the sweet tiny church we started attending last year. (We met Tina, and Grace, at our previous church.)
So Grace contacted me after all the four years since she moved away, befriended me on facebook, and invited me to a game of Scrabulous (a form of Scrabble) online, one of the many applications that are available on facebook. Scrabble is one of my favorite games! She almost hooked me right off the bat.
At first I didn't take her up on it, because of the time that it can take to complete a game, and the many other demands I might encounter in a day--but with this type of Scrabble, she told me that it can be finished later. (The nice thing with that, too, is that the game doesn't occupy the table until you can finish it.) She's really quite good at the game, too!
Now I can tell you, I am not too swift at how to IM and do other things at the same time; and then with the game, it has a feature where you can look up potential words you are hoping to use. They open up on another tab (or screen), and it gets a little perplexing if you get a few of these open--which I did. Well, I tried closing a few of those and accidentally closed the game too. So, since the Scrabulous feature doesn't yet show up on my facebook, I didn't know how to get back to it. By that time, my friend Grace had to go off to bed or something, and so we have an unfinished game. No matter. We can do it again at another time. I think I'll practice in the meantime and get all these little techniques down so I don't shut down my end of the game unintentionally again.
I ponder that, though. It isn't just the pleasure of Scrabble, but it's like drawing people residing in Tennessee and Washington together with only a table in between, covered with a game and a bunch of little square wooden letter pieces. It's like picking up from about four years ago, with a girl who's probably changed more than I have, but who is unusually able and willing to reach out from her world into that of an adult she knew what must seem so long ago to her. If our families hadn't attended the same church, or been involved in the same homeschool music ministry at the time, we wouldn't have known each other. Both things were functions of knowing Christ. So Christ is who drew us together to begin with, and He is our Sustainer; every good and perfect gift comes from above...including otherwise unlikely friendships that might have so easily unraveled but for His sustaining power and goodness.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Stewardship Comes Through Great Teachers

Tonight (while off to try to find a bike for Gary, and for some bike accessories--see, aren't we getting to be the bike-y people!) we drove past farmland...and the outstanding farm in our view was the Lavender Hills Farm, where Katie has worked in years past, either at their summer fairs or wrapping their homemade soap for their gift shop.
I was noting how they really don't have an enormous amount of acreage; maybe 10 acres maximum. But they know how to make the most of it! The farm is cute and orderly and scenic, let alone productive. They harvest an enormous amount of lavender from their little fields. From the lavender they make various things such as soap and boutique items and ice cream; they sell the flowers by the bundles; they have their summer fair and they run a gift shop. They really are good stewards. So the next question, in light of this, Gary asked, "Are they Christians?" Now I know that stewardship isn't exclusive to Christians, but it's a goal and a challenge that we may have more reason than others to implement, since God's word exhorts us to be good stewards with our time, our lives, our relationships, and the things we own. Still, it's thought-provoking to see an unbeliever so good at something that many of us find so challenging.
When talking to one of the owners of the farm one of the summers that Katie was working there, I found out that it had been in the family for generations. I think that this is one of the chief keys to stewardship and other exercises in wisdom. When parents are involved in the lives of their children, passing along to them everything they know to pass on, the children have a natural advantage, and the converse is true--when the relationship between parents and children is broken or hindered, when there is strife or death in the family, the children are at a disadvantage. They have to learn so much more for themselves, as if from scratch. It's a feeling of constantly being behind the 8-ball, needing to be a continual learner, a good observer, and having to do many things by trial and error. Perhaps the majority of children today are in some form of this situation--either their parents are divorced or children of divorce, or their parents are rarely at home because of work, or there are drug and alcohol problems, or other problems rock their lives. Many children are so used to neglect as a result of these things that they don't even know how to relate to adults; many dismiss what adults have to say as irrelevant to their lives.
From the biblical account, until the time of Noah's flood, the people of the earth were at a great advantage. Their lives were extremely long in comparison to today, and so there would have been many generations still alive when a child was born. Imagine the wisdom that could be passed through the generations if that were the case! And yet, still, by the time of Noah, only his family, 8 people, were inclined to live a life honoring to God. All the rest provoked God to the point where He decided to flood all the earth and destroy them. I can't imagine how this became the case; there had to have been an incredible disregard for the wisdom of the generations that came before. This whole scenario boggles my mind. I don't know what explanation can account for it except for the depravity of man, that such a seeming advantage could have so universally gone to waste.
I remember my grandmother, "Nana," used to come to visit for a month or more at a time. She considered herself a burden, from the things she said. I knew though that she was an enormous help to my mother. Nana showed me how to bake bread, various other things about cooking, little things such as how to sew a button on a garment. I know I didn't always appreciate her presence as I wish I could now (especially when she corrected me--I wasn't one to take it well), but she probably spent more time directly teaching me than anyone else in my childhood. She lived to be 92; she was born prematurely, and didn't have toenails because the hot water bottle that was used to keep that tiny baby warm leaked and burned her toes. She'd had a thyroid surgery--I remember pondering her scar at her throat when I would look at her--and at some time in her life had a wrong-type blood transfusion. I remember wondering, when I was 30 and anemic, how in the world someone could ever live to be as old as my Nana. She had lived through some tough things, and she was amazing, looking back. I'm thankful for the things she taught me, and yet I wonder whether I am ever as good at passing such things along to my children. At least I'm homeschooling; that's an advantage my mother and Nana never had. I'm endlessly thankful for that opportunity.
All of us have different ways that we can be good stewards with the things that God has given us. We can learn from our family, our friends, and even the other visible examples that we see in our lives, such as that lavender farm. We need to listen to the older people around us; as far as stewardship goes, I think they have much to share. Stewardship was a more universal ideal in previous generations. I wish I had listened better to Nana, and that I had a better memory for those things that she taught me.
Having come to Christ, I feel that God has launched my learning about stewardship, about passing things along to the next generation, about teaching and being teachable. I still have a great deal to learn, but God is the source of all true wisdom, so I know where to go for the learning I lack. Faith is the finishing school of life, taking any raw material that God has given a person and building on it, refining it, polishing it; taking out the impurities, and bringing out the shining elements. We're all in process; none of us is what we should be, but only God is able to bring us there. He is the ultimate Steward, and we can only be what we ought to be when we submit to His stewardship. I am so thankful to be under His teaching today and not where I was at 27, lost and confused until I accepted Christ as my Savior. He is my ultimate Teacher; He is my source of help and guidance, and I know that when I follow His leading I can't go wrong.

I Like to Bike!

Well, Tim's and my first bike ride on the Centennial Trail was a hit for both of us! He kept thanking me for bringing him out there for a bike ride, and yet, I was enjoying it too--especially if it weren't for the seat of my bike being awfully uncomfortable. We still went quite a bit farther than I thought we'd have gone.
It took us about an hour to get the bike rack on the van for the first time, and the bikes on the bike rack, and the little bike "fanny pack" type thing onto my bike. Meanwhile, our neighbor Kath came out and admired the bike rack. She said her husband and boys were considering making and attaching a homemade bike rack for their trailer, which would involve drilling into the trailer itself--which I can't imagine would be a great idea. I guess she'd never considered getting one that was commercially made. She also expressed amazement at my ability to attach it to the van--which caused me amazement, in turn. Her boys are the junior engineers of the neighborhood, who constantly have ropes and pulleys in various arrangements from their deck, or arranged them to prop up their snowman that almost fell over. Sometimes they've arranged odd trailers out of such things as dolleys or whatever, and used them to ride along behind someone's bike. It's rather remarkable that they don't end up in the hospital after so many of their creative shenanigans, but the only thing I've seen them suffer is a broken collarbone from playing hockey.
I was almost certain that this morning, I'd hardly be able to walk after biking yesterday for the first time in about 30 years. Yet somehow I felt almost unaffected. If it weren't for doing some other strenuous work today, I'd be biking again today (if I got a new seat!). I hope that it ends up being a regular habit for all our family. We could use the exercise, the fresh air, and just the sheer fun of it. Wha-ha! The anticipation adds to the fun of the reality of going!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

We'll be Whizzing by on the Centennial Trail

Well, we are nearly done getting the family some bikes--just have Gary left to get one. Tim has a red cruiser that looks like it's straight from the 50s. Katie and I just have basic mountain bikes. None of our bikes are in the least expensive...more like, they are the least expensive. But boy, it's fun to have a working bike again! The only one I've ever had was handed down to me by my sister when I was in third grade, and I rode it everywhere. We lived in a hilly neighborhood, too. I think I stopped riding it when I started driving, at age 18. Got a lot of exercise on that bike. We did have some bikes in the garage; one for Tim, but it had gotten really rusty. Guess it wasn't in the garage all the time. One for Katie, but it had gotten things piled on it for lack of use, I guess, and the handle bars were in line with the bike! Besides, it was now too small for her. One for Gary, which I'd found at a garage sale about 10 years ago, but it wasn't in good shape. One exchange student we'd hosted a few years ago. We'd found it at a rummage sale. I think she only used it for a few minutes; she thought she'd bike to school and back but didn't realize what the roads are like here, and that changed her mind. That bike was too big for me.
Yesterday Tim begged me to come out and ride my bike with him--we'd bought them and promptly put mine and Katie's in the garage; they needed the tires inflated and now they're ready to go. I went with him around the cul-de-sac, and it was just like they say, "It's like riding a bike--you never forget." No problem, except I get tired so fast! That will change! It was so much fun to have the feeling of riding a bike again.
Katie came out too. She isn't a bike rider yet; we bought her a bike but at the time we lived in a hilly, scary neighborhood on a busy street, and she just didn't have much chance to learn. So yesterday she tried. Tim and I both held the bike up hoping she'd get the idea of the balance. Tim had taught himself the first few days that we lived in this house, but it's easier to learn when you're four than when you're 20. She tried for a while, but people's garage doors were going up and she didn't want to continue under the eye of neighbors. We'll keep working on it when there's less activity out there.
We're hoping to become more physically fit and it will be good to have one more way to go enjoy the outdoors. It's already been a good thing--I worked hard this last couple of days on cleaning the garage to make room for the bikes, and made more headway in that overwhelming job than I have in a while--it's somewhat transformed out there, best it's been since we moved in! Lots of room for the bikes. We're all looking forward to the fun of riding. If you see a boy trying to look like he's straight out of the 50's, and two or three wobbly riders behind him, it's probably us. I hope we see you on the Centennial Trail!

Monday, June 09, 2008

She's Back Home; Now What?

Katie came home from college and got rested up for the first couple of weeks, applying for jobs and doing various little things adjusting back to life in Washington. Then she went down to California for a wedding, and I think she got a little shot of the peer-life that she's been enjoying in the college realm. On the way home from the airport, she started saying how quickly she connected not only at the wedding, but that Sunday with the congregation at the church down there (even her friend remarked on how quickly she connected with people there); and she described how lonely she is up here. Aaagh.
I understand how great it must be to be a young woman in a college environment; all the more for a girl who was homeschooled and dealt with some degree of loneliness or isolation much of the time growing up. A Christian college dorm can't help being an "in the salt-shaker" kind of habitat. She's made lots of Christian friends, all varying levels and varieties of wonderful. I know to an extent what that is like when I go to church, experiencing it maybe for a few hours, or maybe off at a women's retreat, but to live in it, I have just never experienced it--never knew to miss it! Never stayed in a dorm; the only time I shared an apartment with a girl friend, neither of us were Christians, and actually it didn't work out that well. Still, when I come home from a women's retreat, I'm actually relieved to get back to life as usual, back to the regular routine; the ongoing excitement of dorm life would probably kill me!
We changed churches a few months before Katie left for college, and between that change and then changing to a church near her college, then back again to our new church, it's short-circuited her connecting with either congregation all that well. That disconnect creates all the more adjustment back to everyday home life. We're just the same 3 other family members every morning, and no doubt we are so much different in our level of energy or affirmation or activity than what she's used to at college.
So I see what used to be our adult-oriented daughter becoming so much more peer-oriented. I would have balked at that during the years that we were homeschooling, for family strength and character-building reasons. Now, though, it's not entirely unhealthy. It's time for her to stretch her wings and start flying into her own world a bit, from the safety of her home environment. The peer influence in elementary to high-school years has a way of causing more of an emotional separation from parents that is premature, undermining authority and bringing the children to strive for an independence for which they aren't prepared, but she's 20 now, and those priorities have changed in importance, and will all the more as she ventures further into adulthood.
Still, the fact that she so struggles when she leaves the peer life and comes home to us is disheartening a bit, when we're not used to feeling so inadequate for her perceived needs. She's hooked on a level of social interaction that there's no way that we can provide or imitate; it's a sensory deprivation that is a relief during the short visits on holidays; but for the summer months, that relief turns into feelings of boredom and isolation. I know when she gets a job, that will help, but in the meantime, it's a struggle.
Knowing what she's experiencing now, would I regret her having gone and returning with this disenchantment? Never. I don't exactly know what to do with her now that she's home, but I'm glad she's gained the friends she has, the new perspective, the confidence, the input of someone other than her old mother...even if her impression of home life has become a bit faded and dull. When she needs the safety and support, we're here; when she doesn't so much, she's free to explore the many great possibilities that will be opening up to her. Maybe if being at home doesn't fully suit her, she'll be working harder to achieve her independence, and maybe that will be a healthy thing.