Time to be careful...

New Years is one of those times that I love...and one of those times, most honestly, that I can sit back and kick myself for a while. Steve & I were talking yesterday or the day before (I've lost track) about "goals" for next year - and when he asked me mine, he just about stopped himself mid-sentence and then said, "you aren't much of a goal person are you?" Honestly - that's true. And I don't know that I ever have been...

I've re-written this post a couple of times trying to figure out what my point is, without knocking myself hard - or crying too much - or expecting too much and... being true to me. I think one of the dangers about new years is that we start to create these phantom images of who we think we need to be. I'm not saying that there may not be things about ourselves that need reflection or change --- but I think there's wisdom in choosing and being happy with who you are and what you are doing, and letting that be ok. Yet - too -- we need to balance that with avoiding the status quo for safety's sake.

2007 was full of change for us. Honestly - there is a part of me that just wants to coast through 2008. I don't want to plan any more change. I don't want to stretch any more. I don't want to give up anything else. And yet - I know that I need to be purposeful - I need to move forward and put forth my best effort. I need to reflect. I need to stretch. I need to give things up. Why is that so hard? Because this year was hard - it was good, but it was hard. And I want an easy year. That's just honest.

Why is it that I don't like to set goals? Hmmmmmm... I don't know. I guess that's something to think about... I'm finding myself on that fine line of journaling and processing vs. just a simple blog --- what's the difference? Is there a difference?

OK...this is going to get really long if I'm not careful. I like those posts that are just a here's what I did today kinda thing - they are easier. Hmmmm...maybe I like the easy way out? I don't know. I'm finding myself stumbling over words and feeling like I'm not making sense. Maybe I just need to read over the Christmas Bell again and remember who I am and who He is...and let the rest just be...(and then I felt peace...and calm, instead of tense...) OK. I'm going to do that now...

Things don't always turn out like you planned...

So...yesterday on a last minute whim we tried to just go out with "the adults" - get a sitter for a few hours - and head out to see the new National Treasure II: Book of Secrets, with Nicolas Cage. So - the sitter comes and the 4 "grown-ups" head out the door. We get to the theater to find the movie sold-out. So...not seeing another movie on the marquis that looked interesting, or showing at a time that would work, we climb back into the car to figure out another plan. How pathetic were we that we couldn't think of anything else to do that really sounded good? It was a classic "I don't know - what do you want to do?" kind of moment. Not wanting to "waste" the time out we ended up sending the guys back to relieve the babysitter and to feed the kids dinner, while "we" the girls went to see the movie at another theater in shift 1 --- then 2 1/2 hours later, the guys loaded up the cars with the kids and came down and we did the "switch" so the guys could see the later show, and we could get the kids home to bed...so we all saw National Treasure, but it wasn't exactly as we planned. When I got home and the kids were in bed, I saw the original movie was on tv, so it was cool to look back at the first National Treasure and see the correlations and things I might not have appreciated as much if it were a longer time between the two. That was fun. And when Steve got home we talked through the movie as though we had just seen it together.

Now - we loved the movie! It's a definite must see! And it's worth seeing in the theaters and not waiting for the dvd to come out.

Moral of the story --- when you have a night planned - have a back-up plan just in case something happens that's unexpected.


Are you kidding me??

OK..honestly - I was out on Christmas Eve to pick up a thing or two and there was VALENTINE'S DAY stuff on the shelves!! You've got to be kidding! When are we going to slow down and just enjoy the moment vs. racing so fast to the next thing, and therefore missing that which is right in front of us. UGH!!! Seriously - do we want to spend our life looking through the front windshield...or through our rearview mirror? Which view is better? The rearview mirror - about a 2" x 6" reflection, seen only in a glimpse or two, and wondering hey, what was that thing on the left... or looking out the front windshield - clear views to every side, huge picture, the road before us with so much to see... Sorry - just had to vent! and sorry, I'm not buying those Valentine's M&M's until late in January!!


We did it!

We had an Unwin 4 Christmas. For the first time in our immediate family history it was only the 4 of us for Christmas morning. Honestly - there was a part of it that was hard - missing family and friends, and remembering moment by moment times from Christmas past. On the other hand - it was really nice to just be us, relax, keep the house a mess, hang out together with no agenda so to speak...and just let the kids dig in and grab one gift to the next. Besides, Steve was sick, so he was able to watch the present extravaganza and then go back to bed for a few hours.

So...the kids scored big - again. Steve and I of course got the amazing fix of our van - and I got a Nike warm-up suit, yeah! and Steve got Planet Earth! We can't wait to watch it (have you seen it? another blog for another day!) The kids had a blast - from beginning to end.

Back up a couple of days - we had the most fun last Thursday morning. The kids came in noticing another morning where the presents were not under the tree, and I told them they weren't wrapped yet, and they said, well, mom, you can do it now. And so I proceeded to go into the closet, close the door and wrap presents - then put them out the door one by one for the kids to come get and place under the tree. It was hysterical! They were so cute as they called out to the other to say there was a gift for them, or to hear them trying to figure out what it was. Noah even at one point said, mom we like shaking them to see which ones make a fun noise!

Fast forward to Christmas morning. They were under strict warning that there would be no present opening before 7-0-0 (that's 7:00 am). Kaylee was up @ 6, and Noah at about 6:30. Steve was up of course (his body clock had him up early, not to mention not feeling well), but he got into the shower around 6:45, when Kaylee then came in a crawled in bed with me, placing her delightfully freezing toes on me and saying, "Ah, a warm place for my feet." (She is my girl - my feet are icebergs too!) Long story short - 15 minutes later we were all in front of the tree as the kids opened their gifts. Kaylee's highlights - Razor Scooter, Daisy Meadows Fairy Books, Magic Tree House books, Tea Set, a couple of craft kits, a camera & a robe she has hardly taken off in 3 days. Noah's highlights - Solar System mobile, Super Spy DVD & book, Mars mission Legos, Pirate ship, Seahawks shirt, Leap Pad, Space Shuttle set, remote control cars, games, and puzzles. Then, they both got a WEBKINZ - the gift of the year. So cute!

Oh...I just remembered one of my favorite moments of Christmas. At church this weekend I got to go to the service with Kaylee. She normally attends children's church during the hour that we have our middle school program, so it's a HUGE treat for Steve & I to do church with her. Anyway - on the morning of the 23rd, Josh Mann, my middle school ministry partner, was a part of the preaching team with our pastor John Stumbo. Josh did a great job painting a picture about the concept of Messiah, from Genesis to Jesus' birth - and how Jesus was indeed THE Messiah - Kaylee leaned over about half-way through Josh's message and said, Mom, why is Josh calling Jesus 'Messiah'? Now - part of that brought a yikes for me - why doesn't she know that? should she? did I mess something up that she wouldn't know that? don't let me say something that is going to send her into a tizzy of "huh"? On the other hand - here's my 7 year old girl, sitting and listening to a guy she is getting to know as a friend and a pastor and a teacher, hearing what messiah means, and processing in her head Messiah = Jesus, and wanting to know more! Talk about a Christmas gift! WOW! It was a couple of years ago on December 23rd when she told me she wanted Jesus in her heart, and I had the thrill of praying with her - and I love seeing her grab her faith as her own, not a tradition or even something that is just accepted because mom and dad say so - to ask questions, to be a young critical thinker (which is so much her daddy, moreso than me), to honestly want to know what it is she believes and not just that she believes it. Oh Lord, may you nurture this girl and grow her into the woman of God you want her to be. May I be the mom she needs, to play my part in preparing her for the call you have for her. I pray the same for Noah, except that he be the man of God you want him to be.

OK, I'm a long cry from waking up early Christmas morning for the crazy opening of gifts...but then again, it's all about Him isn't it?

P.S. Oops...I didn't mention that we weren't alone the whole time...our extended family here was our friends, The Condello's - who we've known 9 years, and somehow, someway, in God's great scheme of things He's placed us just 3 houses apart on the same street in Salem, Oregon - a long way from where we met in Georgia. Our kids are the best of friends, as are we the adults...to share Christmas meals with them, and Christmas Eve service as well, was just the bonus of being able to call them friend...and family! Thanks Condello's...for everything.


Merry Christmas!!!

This is one of my favorite songs ever --- originally done by Billy Crockett - Portrait of Love --- lyrics are posted below this YouTube link... This Christmas I hope you remember how much He loves you...

by: billy crockett

He wouldn't sit still long enough
To have His portrait done
His heart was set to move His life
At twice the speed of love

Artists who tried to freeze His style
On canvas or in stone
Found that real life
Isn't still life
Even when that life's alone

A traveling artist known as Paul
Painted truth with words
The truth that he saw was burning love
That comforts and disturbs

Each year he grew until he knew
The portrait couldn't wait
Without a sound
The man sat down
And he began to paint

Love is patient, love is kind
Never jealous, free of pride
Love will never be confine
And love will abide
Love is hopeful, love's not blind
Love is faithful, every time
Love is Someone, and
If you'll open your eyes, you'll find
That love is alive

Now love's gonna stand the test of time
Gonna stand when time is spent
Just look at the portrait painted
It's the Son the Father sent

He is patient, He is kind
Never jealous, free of pride
He will never be confine
And He will abide
Love is hopeful, love's not blind
Love is faithful, every time
Love is Someone, and
If you look in His eyes, you'll find
That love is alive

Love is Someone, and
If you look in His eyes, you'll find
Love is alive


The Christmas Bell...


I am God's child (John 1:12)
I am Christ's friend (John 15:15 )
I am united with the Lord(1 Cor. 6:17 )
I am bought with a price(1 Cor. 6:19-20)
I am a saint (set apart for God). (Eph. 1:1)
I am a personal witness of Christ. (Acts 1:8)
I am the salt & light of the earth ( Matt.5:13-14)
I am a member of the body of Christ(1 Cor 12:27)
I am free forever from condemnation ( Rom. 8: 1-2)
I am a citizen of Heaven. I am significant ( Phil.3:20)
I am free from any charge against me (Rom. 8:31 -34)
I am a minister of reconciliation for God(2 Cor.5:17-21)
I have access to God through the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:18)
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6)
I cannot be separated from the love of God( Rom.8:35-39)
I am established, anointed, sealed by God (2 Cor.1:21-22)
I am assured all things work together for good (Rom. 8: 28)
I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16 )
I may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph. 3: 12 )
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13)
I am the branch of the true vine, a channel of His life (John 15: 1-5)
I am God's temple (1 Cor. 3: 16 ). I am complete in Christ (Col. 2: 10)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
I am God's co-worker (1 Cor.. 3:9; 2 Cor 6:1). I am God's workmanship(Eph. 2:10 )
I am confident that the good works God has begun in me will be perfected. (Phil 1: 5)
I have been redeemed and forgiven(Col.1:14).I have been adopted as God's child(Eph 1:5)
I belong to God
Do you know
who you are!?


17 years...

Today is our anniversary! If I had a scanner I'd put in a picture of us from our wedding day...and one from us now (well, that I can do). Steve and I have been married 17 years today! 17 years!! We were talking earlier about remembering when his sister was celebrating her 20th anniversary, and thinking about how that seemed forever...and here we are - actually next July 3 we will have known each other for 20 years. Whoa!

You know the cool thing - I love Steve more today than I did when I married him. He's the best best best best ever!! In so many ways this year has been a huge transition for us...and over and over we've compared it to starting over and being newly married again. We've started again from scratch, selling most everything before we moved, we did the long-distance thing (again) when the kids and I moved to Oregon before Steve did (that was awful to be without him), we lived in an apartment, that felt smaller than our first apartment, and probably was, we're in the midst of making new friendships, we're getting used to new schedules and new responsibilities...and we're 100% absolutely committed to each other, and totally excited about being together! There is no one else in the world I would rather be with than Steve!!

Now - anniversary tradition for us has almost always included picking a restaurant that is clearly having one of the worst service & cooking days possible, just giving us something else to laugh about. This year - was completely different. We went to Outback - a yummy "standard" vs. something off the beaten path - and the food was really good! I got nervous at first when the item I normally order wasn't on the menu...only to find that they had just changed the name. We had good, timely, friendly service! WOW! That's so rare for our anniversary... then... we went and saw the movie "Dan in Real Life." OK...this movie is a must see! I'm not a movie critic by any means, especially since this is only the 2nd movie I've seen in the theater since we've moved, but this movie is good! Steve Carell did a GREAT and very convincing job in this role - and we LOVED the soundtrack! It is primarily an artist named Sondra Lerche - and it was wonderful. I don't typically lean over to say I like a soundtrack - ok, Jack Johnston & Curious George, but this one was a definite...so much so that we downloaded it from iTunes when we got home. We loved the family in the story and their connection to one another...and laughed and missed family at the same time. It's definitely on my "buy it" list!!!

OK...but back to the main topic - my husband it the best! He's the greatest! He's amazing! I'm so blessed that we're The Unwins!! Happy Anniversary lobster! =)


Crash Video Academy Awards

I think I will be buzzing from our first annual Crash Video Academy Awards for a while. It was a blast to have each of our student grade levels (6th grade girls, 6th grade guys...and so on, plus our Oregon School of the Deaf group) each make "Christmas" videos and open themselves up to judging and the awarding of The Golden Rhino to the winners in each category. Now these weren't just videos - they were mini-movies - they were works of art. I was so excited for each of our groups as their videos were played - wait let's back up!

The night was complete with Golden Rhino awards, red carpet from the street to inside, where they were met by one of our leaders (they are all so amazing!) who interviewed them, asking them about their roles in their films, what designer they were wearing, what they expected from Christmas...In the main room we had tables set for 8, complete with centerpieces and snacks. Then as we got ready to start all of our amazing leaders came to pick up bottles of sparkling cider to pour for the students! Oh...did I mention the students were all dressed up too?? Ok, not all of them - but you know what...over half of the students were wearing award attire (black ties, formals...) and our leaders were completely sold out as well! OK...so after we showed all the videos it was on to the awards!

Golden Rhinos were given for Best Lead Performance, Best Supporting Performance, Best Duo/Group Performance, Best Comedic moment, Best Comedic performance, Best Costumes, Best Fight Scene, Best Leader Performance...and of course, Best Picture! The students voted on best picture...and the 8th Grade Boys are this year's winner! Congrats guys! I have to show you some pics to try to begin to grasp the night. We closed out by showing the "Linus" speech at the end of Charlie Brown's Christmas - you remember - "Can anyone tell me what Christmas is all about?" It was a great ending to 2007...and now...we wait for 2008 to see what Crash has in store for us...hmmmmmm???? Oh...you can check out everyone's videos on youtube @ www.youtube.com/joshpmann


O Come Let Us Adore Him...

OK...so each year I typically choose one person mentioned in the Christmas story and think about their perspective on the whole event. I try to put myself in their shoes, think about the ramifications of their actions or comments, how would I respond if it was today and now that God the Father decided to send Jesus the Son to the world. I so can't to meet Jesus face-to-face...but a lot of times I wonder if I had lived 2000+ years ago, would have been the skeptic, the doubter...would I have let them sleep at my house? Would I rejoice with the angels? Would I just stay out in the fields? Would I run without a second thought knowing that the God of all creation was now "with us"...in the form of a little baby who needed to be held and loved. (Oh, can you imagine - think about how cool it is to hold a new baby, just hours (or even minutes) old..and then for it to be Jesus, God in the flesh...whoa!

Anyway --- I started doing this a number of years ago, after hearing a sermon Christmas weekend on the character of Joseph. Until that point, still young in my Christian walk, I just kinda listened to the story, all the typical things you hear - angel talks to Mary, she and Joseph go to Bethlehem, Jesus is born, shepherds and wise men come - the end. But it's sooooo much more than that.

So...who am I thinking about this year? Actually I'm thinking about all those who didn't come to see him. Honestly - I can't imagine the volume of a multitude of heavenly hosts (a gazillion angels) singing "Glory to God in the Highest" not creating a little buzz as to something going on....and there was this huge star hanging out over where He was resting. Would I go running to see? Would I go, oh, it's just another baby? Would I find out He was sleeping in a feeding trough and say that's not good enough for My Savior - The Messiah for all mankind, and make something new? What was Herod thinking - or his warrior soldiers? What about Mary's family who wasn't near at the time Jesus was born? I know - The Bible doesn't specify so much about this story --- maybe we are just supposed to keep it simple...

Because, regardless of who else came...He came! That is amazing to me. He loves us and wants to be with us so He came to be "with us." Wow! I hope I really take the time to come and adore Him this year...


Lots of Family Fun...

We're all about having a few new traditions this year. We've kept some standards - cutting down a real tree, pierogies, setting up the nativity, reading the Christmas story, exchanging gifts...we still have to put handprints on the Christmas tree skirt, get our new Christmas pj's, listen to Christmas Shoes (just kidding)...anyway, I'll stop rambling. A new tradition which was so much fun was our introduction to the Christmas Festival at Silver Creek Falls State Park (is that the right name?).

Grace called a few days earlier and invited us to go, after we all came to their house for a little late morning breakfast. Then...we jumped into cars and headed towards Silver Creek. Somehow we ended up with the girls in our van which was fun as we sang Christmas carols together!! We had 4 vehicles full of people, young and old alike...and we had an absolute blast!! Volunteers set up the entire event, from hot chocolate and cookies, to a free Christmas tree (which we picked up for the youth center), to craft after craft after craft --- decorating Christmas bags, making birdhouses, constructing gingerbread houses, designing and making wreaths from pine clippings, making ornaments...and more I didn't even see. Noah wanted to go "see the mountain" with his Daddy, so after making his gingerbread house, he and Steve went to hike and see the waterfall - he's such a boy! And he loves his daddy (so do I). It was a bit cold, so I was grateful for those big heater lamps. Kaylee of course was into every craft she could try --- I'm not sure about her, but I think my favorite was the wreath making...although there was a lot of sap on our hands afterwards. But the best part of the day was just being with family and friends and celebrating the season together...listening to Christmas carols, laughing, enjoying the fun... We'll definitely go back next year.


Pierogie day!!

An Unwin tradition - Pierogies... while our Unwin family in Michigan had about 15 people to make 600, we had 4 to make 100, and we had a blast! For those of you who don't know - pierogies are wonderful potato and cheese filled delicacies originating from the Unwin Polish heritage. I've heard them best described as delicious, amazing, did I mention delicacies? Ok...to the pierogie novice, they can be described as kind of similar to ravioli - but the dough is yummier, and they are filled with (as I mentioned) mashed potatoes and cheese. There are just not enough good words to describe. So...the kids were ready to go. Steve, bless his heart, indulged my idea to go ahead and make them when he got home from work, even though he was truly exhausted...but as he agreed - these are pierogies we are talking about. Now, the effort put into these small edible bites of joy is quite intensive. The entire process took about 4 1/2 hours...not including clean up. But it's sooooo worth it... We did give the kids an early Christmas gift, which made the afternoon that much more fun - aprons and chef hats...now, it's on to the eating!!! YEAH!!!



One morning. 2 hours (well, 2 1/2). 360+ Middle school, high school and college students all in one room (ok, and some leaders and parents too). Why? To worship Christ, through our commitment to make disciples in this world. This was such a GREAT morning. We wanted to have an opportunity to really just focus on world missions with our students - to bring to the forefront that all of us are called to go - whether it's physically going to a foreign land or by supporting and sending with our finances, resources and prayers. It's clear that God's plan for some reason is using us, His children, to tell others about His amazing love...

So...2 1/2 hours - highlights included: the world geography song by the animaniacs (ok, Patrick introduced everyone to the world with this song - I miss wacko, yacko & dot!); worship led by Logan Martin (what a talent and a heart for Jesus - thanks to Him and the rest of the worship team! - on a side note - check out his cd on itunes!); inspiring drama by high school students with monologues they wrote based on the lives of 5 amazing Christian missionaries (C.T. Studd, Gladys Aylward, Jim Elliot, Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor); video testimonies from Kathy Fairley and Paul Newman, members of Salem Alliance who have extraordinary God stories from the mission field; interview with Mark Lynch the CM&A district contact for those interested in world missions; prayer time for the world and each other led by Steve Dangaran; strong challenge from our lead pastor, John Stumbo, about the names of the people groups who have yet to hear about Jesus, and the numbers of peoples who have yet to hear...and how we need to go!; and then a call for the students to say I am committed, as God allows, to give my life as a foreign missionary. 84 students walked forward that morning - WOW! 1/3 of the world hasn't heard...and these 84 are saying, Here I am Lord, send me! It was a humbling, exciting, thrilling, challenging, inspiring time... Each student got a book, most of which were copies of the missionary biographies of the lives they had already heard about that morning. I can't wait to see how God works in the lives of each of these people to confirm His call on their life, and how He'll use and provide through those just as committed to missions by giving of their resources to send those who are to go.

Reach - a student missions movement. We don't want this to be a one-time, one-morning thing. Our prayer is that God will instill in all of us a desire and passion to serve, and to go and make disciples of all nations...


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

OK...so on the way back from Atlanta we got to watch a little tv (planes are amazing things). Noah, he watched Man vs. Wild and Dirty Jobs (he' loves those, plus Myth Busters, Survivorman and How It's Made)... Kaylee watched Deal or No Deal...I flipped around quite a bit when my tv was working (it was out for about half the flight), but Steve and I both caught a bit of Christmas with the Kranks, which motivated us to get back and go ahead with Christmas decorations! So...Friday - up went the lights and wreaths...and Saturday we were off to find the Unwin family tree (cue angels singing). We went to a tree farm in Oregon (did you know they have trees here? actually it's the largest Christmas tree producing state, just in case you were wondering) - actually we passed about 30 tree farms on our way to "the" tree farm. We did the classic of looking at trees from every angle and scrutinizing every inch to make sure it wasn't dead, losing needles, had gaping holes - you know the drill. Now, I have a tendency to pick a tree that is too big, so I really wanted to be sure to get it right, so we didn't have to cut half the tree off and leave it outside in the recycle bin (ask Steve - we did that one year when I picked a tree that was so big, it literally looked square by the time we trimmed off the top and bottom to make it fit). But...low and behold we succeeded! A family tree that really is our favorite family tree yet. So...we still have physical preparations to make - finding more Christmas deocrations to unpack, pulling out Christmas dishes, make pierogies, bake, listen to Christmas music, watch Christmas movies...but then we get to my favorite parts of Christmas...setting out the nativity sets, reading the Christmas story over and over and over, thinking about characters in the story and trying to put myself in their shoes and thanking God over and over for the gift of Jesus. Are you ready yet? I've still got a ways to go...but I can't wait!

Our Trip to Atlanta...

So...we got to go back to the ATL!! WOO!HOO!!! The weather - beautiful...the people...more beautiful! Man, I really miss our family and friends in Atlanta. I can't even type the words without being teary eyed. What a gift those days were to be back with those who we have lived life with to the fullest. Honestly, when I climbed into my dad's car there was part of me that just felt like I had been on a long vacation. Instantly I knew exactly where I was (of course...I'd lived there for most of my life, so why wouldn't I, right?) But it was more than that. Just being with my parents was good for my soul - it's been hard on all of us to not be minutes away from each other, so just to be in the same room was such a gift...

We got to see many many friends. I was only at church for about 2-2 1/2 hours, but got more hugs with the fewest words spoken. You know that saying a picture is worth a thousand words...so is a hug. Each one said I love you, miss you, thanks for everything, and so much more (remember, 1000 words). And all of them obviously were different. You could tell who was doing well, who was having a rough time. You had those who you wish you could see and hug. Lilburn Alliance is clearly family to us. We started going to church there just before we got married...and last Saturday Steve and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary...so...basically we were there for 16 years. Many of the students in the youth group now were infants or born while we were there. We've literally seen them grow up. And the leaders in the youth ministry, many were former students from the group. I just listened to a seminar download, and it says that we'll never see the full extent of the work we do for Christ, which is true - but it's a blessing to see these friends walking with Christ and leading this next group and impacting them and the world for eternity. We also had the friends we got to spend some extra time with - those we had to apologize to for not getting to really say good-bye when we moved last March, those we share the love of hockey with and go to see a game (which the Thrashers won!!), those who we met with every week, those we finally got to mourn loss with, those we celebrated with, those we laughed and cried with, those who we've known and served with for years and years who are friends, confidants, family...the list goes on and on...I wish I could list them all by name...and spend time telling you really cool and amazing stories about each one. They all hold such a special place in my heart...they've made me who I am today, and I am truly grateful...

Then...came the time to leave...sigh... One of the most frequently asked questions is how is Oregon different from Georgia. Honestly, here it is in a nutshell - big city vs. smaller town, in need of a few more modern conveniences (a few more shops, a few more restaurants - like Chick-fil-a), but not totally out of touch - we just have to drive further to get them; cooler & rainy-er (wish we would send the rain to GA); beautiful scenery here vs. construction/traffic in GA; but...we just miss the people. The rest we can get through without too much feeling of loss...that's just "stuff"...but people are irreplaceable. They are unique, amazing, gifts. As are our new friends and family in Oregon. People keep telling us it will take a good 2 years to really feel like Oregon is home. I guess I'll let you know in another 15 months if that's true.

I've never doubted for a moment that moving to Oregon is what we were supposed to do. We are convinced of it, even moreso now. That doesn't mean it hasn't been hard - there have been some tough times...but...we are a family - those 4 Unwins - we're stuck like glue to one another that's not coming apart. I've got the best family ever! I've got the best friends ever! I've got the best life ever...because God for some reason has blessed me beyond my wildest imagination...and I have the hope of what He has for us...and for our new friends...as well as those friends we had to leave in Atlanta. It's so not about me...it's about Him... Do I miss Atlanta --- sure...but...I don't want to miss what He has for us either...so...


I'm so behind...

Man...Am I behind or what? It's been about 2 months since I've been here. Sorry for it taking so long to get back. Even now I can't come up with a good reason. Just the way it is...not a good reason huh?? I could say busy I suppose. Instead of making excuses, let's hit some highlights from the last 2 months:

Kaylee's 7th Birthday! WOO!HOO A chocolate party with her friends - a dual party with her dear friend Grace (who's birthday is 2 days earlier) - was SOOO much fun! The kids all had a blast, almost as much fun as the parents (Steve said it was the funnest kid party he'd ever been to...) From a chocolate fountain, to dancing Cha-Cha Slide or Chicken Dance, to Pin the Tissue on the Chocolate Kiss...to...did I mention the chocolate fountain!??

Noah & Little Gym - Noah is taking classes at Little Gym once a week. He hasn't gotten to do any "organized", well, anything. And so, with Hannah, he is going one morning a week and LOVES it. They do such a great job there. They have a theme each week - he loved Inside Out! and he is having a blast!!! The hardest part is that it takes place while Steve & I are both at work, so we don't get to see him flip, spin, balance, jump, dance, play...Chele gives great girl details, which we are grateful for...and Noah loves telling us when he gets home just what they did. He's growing up so fast...

Quest - Middle School Retreat! My 2nd venture to the state of Washington...with amazing middle school students. We had a great time talking about relationships - our "Fav 5" - God, parents, friends, enemies, and the world. It was a great time to build relationships with the students, to stay up super late, play Moose, laugh about Operation Big Brother, watch kids on the blob, learn how to do DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) and be truly amazed at how good the students were, have deep conversations, and...the cherry on top was getting to see a long-lost friend from Atlanta - Jason Bollback was the speaker for the weekend, and he used to be a youth pastor at an Alliance church not far from us, and we used to do retreats and special events together "back in the day." It was such a blast from the past to see him...and helped me remember just how small this world is...

Baptisms - ok...this was really cool to be a part of... All year I've been getting used to this whole being a youth pastor thing - something I never thought God would have as a part of my life - that I am humbled, awed, shocked, empowered, grateful for every day since I started. One of the perks (I'd say) is getting to baptize our students - to be there in the water with them as they make a stand before God and hundreds of others to say - Jesus is Lord and Savior of my life, and today I want everyone to know I am going to follow strong after Him the rest of the days of my life...and then...I get the honor of placing them in the water and pulling them up...and watching the smiles on their faces as they experience in a tangible way the presence of God on their hearts and lives. Whoa...it was truly an honor to do this...can't wait until February.

Jog-a-thon - Kaylee participated in the Jog-a-Thon at school and ran 13 laps in the tim allotted (I think it was 30 minutes)!! We were so proud of her! Daddy of course sees a runner in the future...she could really kick it too!!

Hayride 07 - Big events are always a blast...they always have their "opportunities"...but we always enjoy the ride! Hayride was no different. The first opportunity was that we determined fairly close to the event that the hayride wasn't going to be a possibility ... so we had to put on our creative caps and come up with a few new things. So...introducing shucking corn with your toes, jousting, and the favorite...giving away a new iPod Nano, and cleaning out pumpkins with your bare hands. Imagine 150 students all on the floor of a barn, cleaning out 80+ pumpkins of all the seeds and gunk. OK...you are probably smart like our parents, and see what is coming. Me --- just didn't even think about it... Yep - soon the gunk was flying through the air and was creating an orange hue throughout the barn. Everyone was covered. But wait there's more. We then dragged out the tarp that was covering the floor and created a slip'n'slide with the pumpkin guts at the end. I'd say the slide was about 30 yards long. It was freezing outside...but these students were diving head first and far and fast into the muck. It was great. Then we headed back into the barn to watch a Francis Chan video (you can see it at http://www.stopandthink.com/) with a very clear message of just how much God loves each and every one of us...enough to send Jesus so we can spend eternity with Him....it was a great night for all the students (and leaders) that were there...having a chance to make new friends and introduce some of them to church for the first time...and letting them have a chance to hear, some for the first time, about Christ was just the best!

A Trip to Atlanta - this was AMAZING!! I was heading back to attend the National Youth Workers Convention with the Student Ministries Team (5 others) from church, so of course got the thrill of spending time with family and friends... I'll have to write more about this one in a separate post...because it'll just be long...let's just say, I'm so grateful that I had the chance to be back in the ATL. I cherish the people there so much, and it did my soul well to be there.

Noah's 5th birthday - YIKES!! My little boy is 5!! I can't believe it! He's just so cute! Steve made the most amazing cake that was a rocket ship (the birthday had a space theme). This rocket ship, literally, was about as tall as Noah is. We actually have pictures of him on the ground next to his cake - oh, wait I can post that too...ok, let me see how to do that? That gets us through October & November. It was truly a whirlwind...and here we are in December. I'll make a separate post for some things that have happened already this month. We're only half way through, and yet, we've done SO much...but first...I promise I'll explain the trip to Atlanta.

OK...I'll get caught up...give me another day or two...but I will do it...


2nd day in a row...

OK...remember the laughing at yourself thing. So --- two more things that were just brainless on my part --- first...a little background. The door handle to one of the back doors to the van is broken off. One broke before we left Atlanta, and Kia replaced it under the warranty. Just after the warranty expired, the other one broke...and they wouldn't fix it. Long story short, we have no handle on one of our doors. I have been opening the door from the inside if I open that side at all. So last night, I go to open the door. Then I'm trying to reach back to help close it, and hit the child lock, then close the door. No big deal, right? WRONG! I've just locked the door from the inside - and I can't open the door from the outside. I've laughed at myself all day.

So, tonight I'm thinking about how I should update the blog to add another mindless thing I did - I stop @ the grocery store to pick up birthday treats for Kaylee's class tomorrow, and then get back in the van to come home. I'm kind of thinking in my head about how funny it is that I'm going to write about doing something "not so smart" again - 2nd day in a row - and laughing...when I realize I'm not heading home, and I'm heading back into town towards church. And I'm laughing that much harder.

I told a friend about it, and she told me I need to go to bed, and start all over the morning. I don't think it's sleep deprivation. I think I'm just losing my mind - HA!HA! It's a good thing I make myself laugh!!! I wonder what I'll do tomorrow...


Do you ever laugh at yourself?

OK...last night - I was literally laughing and in tears at the same time. I don't know even now how I did it. We were cleaning up the kitchen, and I went to close the pantry door. I was talking to Steve and turned to say something at the same time I was closing the door (are you starting to picture this...) Yep - I slammed that door right into the side of my nose as I turned. Even writing this I don't feel like I'm describing it right for you to picture it --- but I can tell you I heard a crack and saw stars, and had to stand leaning up against the wall for a little while. I didn't want to laugh because it hurt so bad (it still hurts today). Then I'd laugh because it was so ridiculous and hysterical.

I also came up with one of my infamous Michelle-isms (Steve loves making fun of me with these). I think what I said last night was "golly schmolly"! That is worth a laugh all by itself.

I did the same thing a couple of days ago when I was rearranging furniture and was pushing our sleeper sofa across the room. That was hysterical! Why did I think I could just move a sleeper sofa by myself? I kept laughing because I'd push the couch as hard as I could and it would move, oh, an inch or so. One time I pushed so hard but it didn't move and I fell over it onto the cushions. I was cracking up...all by myself.

I admit it - I can be a mess. I can be goofy. I can be, well, stupid. (I don't use that word very often, mostly because I have tried to get the kids not to say it...but sometimes, there's just not another word.) I mean really, who closes the door on their nose? And then talks about it on a blog? Do you ever do something like that? If nothing else, I hope you laugh at yourself sometimes. Whether you do something funny (or stupid), or someone makes fun of you (and it really is funny), or you just need to laugh - do it! Laugh out loud! I can tell you from experience it's a blast!!


I wonder...

Sometimes I wonder what other people think about me. Do they think I'm nuts? Do they think I'm selfish? Do they think I'm materialistic? Do they think I am scattered? Do they think I...it sounds like my life is based on what other people think - but that's not it. I guess more of what I wonder is...do people see on the outside what is the beating of my heart - the things that are most important to me - the things that I can't survive and live without - family, friends, Christ. Really - the rest is fluff. Icing on the cake. I wonder sometimes when I get caught up in just trying to get through a moment if people honestly see how much I really want to get to know them and be "all there" in that moment. I wonder at the end of the day how I could have done things differently to let Steve, the kids, my family & friends know how much they mean to me.

I was just watching tv, and thinking about all those who have to see their faces or hear their names on the news. How do they get through the day, knowing that their every move is under a microscope? That every thing they do or say is being watched and could be used as "entertainment" or "news" at the end of the day. God bless them for stepping into that. Sometimes it's willingly, and sometimes not so willingly. But think of all the different faces you see in the midst of a newscast. Whoa! And this is how we gauge how the "world" is doing? By those the news deem important enough to chronicle for us...and I supposed by those we deem important enough to google, or read about, or talk about. Then - we spend time talking about it - whether its sports, news stories, the latest hot topic - we jump right in as well. Why? Bottom line - all of our lives are being watched - by the people around us...and by Him.

I wonder if Jesus is proud of how I made it through the day. Because ultimately it's about Him - it's not about me. I just want Him to have accomplished in and through me what He wanted to...and many times I think I get in the way of that. Whether it's not making the most of my time, or getting caught up in making a moment vs. enjoying the moment, or just being busy --- I've been thinking about how much I miss in the midst of all there is to do. Reality is, there will always be things that need to get done. I just truly truly want to be able to sit down at the end of the day with no regrets about the time I spent with those I love most. I'm the only wife and mom of my family. They need me. And I'm the only me - and He created me with a plan in mind - one to give me hope and a future --- I hope I experience all of that. Lord - help me to see what You have for me today and everyday. Thanks for loving me - never giving up on me - and knowing that the desire of my heart is to know You more, be what You have designed me to be, and do what You want me to do.


Life is full of surprises...

Most of you who know me know I am rarely caught unable to find words. You've read them here. I write like I would talk - and sometimes I go on and on. I probably write what I would say if I could say all I wanted to...(whoa - tangent...). OK, back on track. Unable to find words. Being surprised to the point that literally you just sit with your mouth open, unable to speak.

That was me last Saturday - it was my birthday. I told Steve I just wanted a quiet day - time with family and our friends here. No big deal. That morning girlfriends from Atlanta called to say Happy Birthday to me - sweet things - calling me @ 8:30 am to wish me a good day. While we're on the phone I hear the doorbell ring - and am a bit confused (you know it's 8:30 am so I am not at my best). Looking at the door - in walk Amy, Jennifer & Melissa...the friends I was on the phone with...who were supposed to be in Atlanta, not walking in our front door in Oregon. I was so blown away I just sat on the floor mouth covered with one hand, the other still holding the phone to my left ear...and tears streaming down my face. I was SHOCKED! It blew me out of the water. Even sitting here most honestly I am tearing up again thinking that someone cared enough about me to fly out on my birthday. They've got to be nuts. (They are - that's part of why I love them!) Even now - I'm shocked. It almost doesn't seem real.

Tonight @ Crash (our Wednesday night middle school event) we talked about how much God loves us. How we listen to the insults, the putdowns, the "little voices" that tell us we're not worth it, or we're fat, or we're stupid, or we can't play tennis (another story for another day), or we won't amount to anything, or we'll regret decisions that we know are right...why do those things stick in our heads so strong?? Then...we talked about how God sees us. How He loves us. Our group spent a good bit of time talking about Zephaniah 3:17 which says "He rejoices over you with singing..." and the thought that God has a song just for you, about you and how much He loves you. Whoa! He loves me how much? I've caught a physical human glimpse of His love for me so many times this week... when my 3 dear friends walked in the door from Atlanta, when I heard about my husband and other friends here keeping it a secret and going to great lengths to surprise me, when the staff @ church today sang Happy Birthday in mosh pit style, when my friends and family called to say Happy Birthday, when my kids race into my room first thing in the morning to wake me up, when my friends were arguing over who would watch my kids while Steve & I were at Crash, when I looked up and saw a full moon tonight and thought about how we don't always see the whole moon, but it's there... See, God is full of surprises. And sometimes they are clear as day in front of our face, and we somehow miss it. Sometimes He's so obvious we can't. Sometimes we're too busy to see it...

I hope today you'll sit and just remember how much He loves you. He made you. He knows everything about you. He rejoices over you with singing. He knows the number of hairs on your head. Wow...we are loved so much.


Collapses...and hope.

So...here it is late at night on the anniversary of 9/11. I remember where I was, at home playing with Kaylee, when I got a phone call from my mom to turn on the tv. As I turned on the tv the second tower at the World Trade Center was hit. It's one of those surreal "did I just see that happen" moments. Even now as I flip channels on the tv, a station is playing footage from that day - and I'm drawn in. And the anxiety of that day starts to meet me all over again. Six years from it, my heart aches for a friend who lost her brother in one of the towers that day, for those who I know who have been, are in or are going back to Iraq or Afghanistan or other similar area, for those who live under the constant fear of attacks every day...

Today I had another one of those moments. I was out shopping, and one of my kids needed to go to the bathroom. I walk in to find a girl standing in the middle of the bathroom, mouth wide open in shock, holding a pregnancy test in her hand saying, "I can't believe it." She'd just found out she is pregnant. That's not what she expected today. The look on her face was like that of those walking away from the towers on 9/11. Her world was collapsing before her eyes. We talked a little, then, she gathered herself together to head out the door. She said, "I know I can do this." I don't know her name. I don't know how she is doing right now. All I can do is pray for her and the little baby growing inside...

Regardless of the circumstances, the consequences, or many other things, honestly, there are lots of days I don't get. There are lots of times I wish I could see the big picture and all the details. But I don't know it all. Then again, I don't know that I want to either. As I turn the tv off, I can breathe again. I have hope. There's only one I know who wants to steal hope - and I just can't give in to letting him try to take it away from me. he will use whatever means possible to steal hope - to steal joy - to steal life. No, I can't see all the details of the big picture, but I know how the story ends. I love Jesus. I trust Jesus. I need Jesus. I believe in Jesus. And He is all the hope I need.


Is it fall??

I can't believe the summer is over. Well, technically it's not, but there's something about everyone getting back to school that makes it feel like it's fall... Kaylee even asked me today if it was fall yet, because some of the leaves are starting to turn and fall off the trees. This southern girl is glad it is still going to be 90 degrees tomorrow, but I know that before long I'll be heading into my first Oregon fall & winter, and we'll see if the gray blues set in at all (I hear that they could - for those who don't know, that's when you get bummed because it's gray all day...for a long long time).

But...at least I'll be able to make it through in a new place to live. That's right - we're renting a house and should move in about a week! We're SO excited to have some elbow room (where's schoolhouse rock when you need it!) and Noah tonight said, Mom, I'm ready to have my own room. The kids have been such troopers while we've been in the apartment, and I know that we are all ready for a house. I've struggled a little with it most honestly, because I don't like that I'm wanting a house. Part of me is frustrated with myself for not being content in the apartment. There are days when I am, but such a part of me longs for more space. And that sounds so selfish! I admit it! I think of so many in the world who have so much less, and I feel junky for wanting more. I honestly can say I'm SO appreciative to have a roof over my head - an amazing, fabulous, unbelieveably great husband, and the best kids ever. We really don't NEED anything. We are SO blessed. And yet, I'm also truly grateful for the space coming our way.

And so...Kaylee is in first grade, Noah is @ Condello Pre-K 3 days a week, we've had all our visitors that we know we are going to have, we don't know when we will get to the coast again (we went 3 times in 3 weeks - sweet!), kick-off for The Link has past, and kick-off for Crash is Wednesday, pro and college football are underway - and hockey is coming! So...is it fall?

There's so much to do. But I need to rest. And that's what summer is supposed to be about. God's good at reminding me that rest is important. He's good at giving me rest. And always good at giving me better than I deserve. For today, I'll take sunshine, family, friends...and rest. And I'll remember, technically - it's still summer...


I wasn't nervous, this time...

OK...this past weekend my husband went skydiving. No, I'm not nuts, and he's not nuts. He's wanted to for years, and this was the year. I sent him with 2 other friends, Brian & Erik (it was actually a Father's Day gift for the 3 of them...). I say I "sent" - but the whole family went along of course. It actually turned out to be a 2 week event. The guys were supposed to "jump" last weekend, but the weather didn't cooperate, and the actual jump just had to wait. We thought we were in for the same this past Saturday, but we waited it out longer than the clouds (honestly, I didn't know if we would), but finally the 3 Amigos were called to suit up and get ready to jump.

They were literally giddy. It reminded me of girls at about 11:30 at night - they just get that giddy look and laugh that can't quit. Although at moments you would think the ongoing good-byes meant a pending doom, we were all so excited for them. Now, remember there were 3 families there - 3 wives, 6 kids, and the 3 hubbys up in the air. Once the clouds cleared, the sun was bright. And it just kept us from seeing the plane as it flew over head - we lost it in the sun. Pretty amazing - we're hearing it, but can't see it, and then...chutes begin to open, and the frantic call of "is that him?" begins. "There he is." "That's him." The frustration at not being able to see the plane turned to excitement as we knew they were falling towards the Earth starting at 160+ mph, and then as their chutes opened, they begain their descent with a little less speed, but the same thrill. They all asked for spins and adventure - and they got it. At times their parachutes were vertical as they spun in circles this way - and then they'd straighten out - then they would spin in the other direction. Once they were close enough to the ground you could hear them saying "WOO!HOO! YEAH!" and more. They were having the time of their lives. They deserve it.

I just wanted Steve to know that he is so important to me and that I love him so much. When he went bungy jumping about 14 years ago (I think), I wouldn't go with him. I told him I'd stay home and wait for the phone call from the emergency room after his head crashed to the ground. So why is it that I wasn't nervous at all about him jumping out of an airplane? 13000+ feet in the air. Honestly, the release form you sign is serious business...they all but say - you really don't want to do this, just turn around and go home. That was almost the hardest part for the guys, signing all the acknowledgement of the dangers involved. But you know what. It didn't but me. I wasn't nervous. Am I nuts? I don't know.

But seeing the smile on Steve's face - hearing him scream out of thrill as he came in for a landing - listening to him relive the moments over and over during the last couple of days - it was SO worth it... I am so glad he had the time of his life with some of our lifelong friends. He's still to this day, "the most incredible specimen of the male species on the entire face of the Earth" and I am SO glad I married him. I am blessed beyond belief.

"RANDOM" Acts of Kindness...

I got back a few days ago from Youthquake - an amazing, fun, exciting, challenging missions week for middle school students! There were 28 in our group, and we had a blast! Sure, there was hard work, little sleep, giant slugs, but...having the chance to serve arm in arm with these students and leaders was a blessing to me. People from our group did yard work, visited retirement homes, conducted vacation Bible school, washed wheelchairs, did car washes and much more... Another highlight was the day we did a "random act of kindness" - and made lunches for...well, we didn't know who we were making them for, but we were going to give them away. We thought we would be giving the majority of them to the homeless in Salem, but we didn't know. As we approached the Marion Bridge our lead van didn't see anyone to give lunches to, so we proceeded over to Riverfront Park. We ended up splitting into 2 groups - one heading into "town" to see who needed lunches there; the rest of us stayed in the park to do our "random" act of kindness, and just give away lunches to whomever we came in contact with. To our surprise, workers were setting up for "The Bite" - a weekend festival coming up. Little did we know that ALL those setting up the rides were day workers who were going to have to go find something to eat. Once we handed out one lunch, we were swarmed with others looking for a meal as well. It was really pretty amazing to see the need, appreciation, and surprise on the faces of the men, working SO hard, yet not knowing where their lunch was going to come from. God put us in just the right spot at the right time...but it got me thinking...

Why is it these days that kindness is considered random? Why is it that when someone does something nice that it is unexpected, brings surprise, and almost shocks the recipients? Isn't that sad? It reminded me of the news story a couple of weeks ago from Kansas where a woman was stabbed, and 5 people (yes 5) walked passed her and didn't offer to help - one of those people even took a picture with their cell phone as they walked over this woman, who would die a short time later. I was completely shocked. In this age of cell phones why did it take 2 minutes for someone to call 911?? I mean, you can pull it out of your pocket to take a picture, but you can't call the police? I'm not meaning to slam this person who made this choice, because most honestly, I think similarly we each pass up opportunities each day to just do the right thing - to serve someone because they have extraordinary worth, uniqueness, value...because God made them in His image, and He loves them. How could I help but love them back?

I don't want kindness in my life to be random. I don't want to have to consciously decide, ok, today I'm going to do something kind for someone else. I talked about this concept at The Link this weekend - one of the verses that struck me during my study was in Psalm 119:5 (NLT) - "Oh that my actions would CONSISTENTLY reflect your decrees." Oh that I would live my life in such a way that moment by moment, opportunity by opportunity, person by person I would honor Him with my choices to see them as He sees them, and treat them accordingly. I fall short. Day in and day out. I want to do better. Lord please help me...

So...I hope today you will choose for kindness not to be random - not to be an "act" - but to be a true reflection of your love for Him and for those He loves...


How Time Flies...

It's been nearly a month since I posted something on this blog. Man, it seems like yesterday. Time flies, doesn't it. Let's see...what's happened in the last month. Oh wait - I was doing my best to be "all present." That can really be a challenge, don't you think? "All Present" - what on earth am I talking about.

Shortly after my last post, my mom and dad came to visit from Atlanta. We kept them SO busy seeing many local sites, and just being together. The Oregon Coast, Salem Riverfront, Bauman's Farm, the Aviation Museum. But all in all...it was about being all present. Just being with them. Regardless of what we were doing - just being together was worth it.

The next week, we went to visit with my brother, sister-in-law & nephew in Lake Tahoe. A week away - busier I think that any of us expected - but...just being together - that was good enough for me. We did A LOT too...beach, boating/tubing, walking, sight-seeing, taking lots of pictures of the kids playing together...but it was the being together that I'll remember. Regardless of what all happened, I liked being with everyone.

It would have been easy to miss the blessings of those weeks. In the time leading up to them, I was ready for them to be here...and on the days they ended, I didn't want to separated again. And now, here we are, without them here... But there are more moments in the here and now. I cherish those moments we've had...deep in my heart they are important to my soul & well-being. And I can sit and reflect on them (like I am now) and have them bring a smile (and a tear). But I could get caught up in just wishing for yesterday, or dreaming about tomorrow...and not living in the now...and then I'd miss things like watching Noah dance on the back patio today while eating his popsicle, or reading 2 books with Kaylee while she sat miserably sick on the couch, or listening to Steve talk about his new job, or while at church listening to someone talk about their cousin's funeral that day. I could have just cleaned, done the laundry, raced around fixing some tech something, said "wait just a minute" again, and again, and again...

I've never been great at setting goals. That's not a strong-suit for me. I have things I want to get done, sure, but I'm not good at making and keeping track of goals. I can keep up with so many details in my head it freaks me out sometimes. At other times, I can't even remember why I left one room and what I went into the next room to get.

But I do know this --- God wants us to make the most of every opportunity. He wants us to be all present - and to cherish the moment we are having, and those we are experiencing it with. He wants us to give our absolute best in the moment we have. He wants us to be reminded of just how much He loves us, and how we should love others, because He first loved us. He wants us to care for others, in a way that shows His love for each of us. He wants us to tell anyone and everyone we can that He loves them, and longs to be their best friend. We can't do that if we're only thinking about weeks, months, years from now. Do we need to think about it? Absolutely. Planning is important on so many different levels...but if you miss out on the now, then what is all the planning for... Note to self... Carpe diem - seize the day! (That's for you Steve!!)



So...what is a blog anyway? I'm still VERY new at this - trying to figure out how - trying to figure out why... There is something about putting thoughts down on virtual paper vs. just leaving them in your head (remind you of the movie You've Got Mail?). There's something about feeling like you have something to say, and maybe, just maybe, someone would want to read it. Can it make a difference? Will it draw us closer? Will it help me celebrate or get through a moment? Kind of cool I guess...

Sometimes I wonder - will anyone even read what I write? I haven't even really told anyone that I've started a blog. Why? Do I want to keep doing this? Am I afraid to really let people hear, read, think through my thoughts and ideas? Am I ready to accept the responsibility of having these thoughts "out there"?

One of the things about being a Christian is hoping that God will somehow, for some reason, choose to use you. In many cases, I don't think you even realize that you are being utilized by Him. But I do believe you have to be available to Him. Really wanting to know Him, to be molded by Him, to be like Him, to be transformed and conformed by Him. No - you don't have to have it all together. I was surprised this week at a youth group event when we were asking questions about things relating to our faith - and the question was I am willing to die for what I believe in. I answered sometimes, not always. That sparked some interesting responses from the students & leaders - because I think they expected me to say always. Honestly, I wanted to say always - but I don't know that it would be, well, honest. I could honestly say I hope that I would always die for what I believe - or who I believe in. But I've never been in that situation, or been tested in that extreme of a manner. Have I had to stand up for what I believe in - absolutely! In my life, I hope that I wouldn't be Peter and deny Jesus 3 times before the morning comes - but let's face it. I probably do that every day. I'll expect more out of my kids than I do out of myself, and not set a good example for them. I dwell on things that are truly unimportant and let that take up too much of my time. I choose to watch tv vs. have a great conversation with Steve, or read my Bible or pray. I blow it.

I'm not typing this to beat myself up, make myself look bad or even evoke pity or "no Michelle, you're not that bad...". I'm just being honest. Life is a series of moment-by-moment decisions. (Wow - that was really deep, ha!) And as they stack up on top of each other, they make patterns, good or bad. They make a statement about you - good or bad. Yet I think that when people are looking at you from the outside, especially with trying to figure out your "Christian" lifestyle, I think they look at you not to say good or bad, but to say real or fake. Genuine or knock-off. Live or Memorex. Man, I want to be real. I want to be just me. Maybe I will keep up this "blog" thing. Just so I can just be me. Just be honest. Just see how God is working in my heart, and the things He brings across my plate - the significant and not so significant - the people who make a difference - the events, thoughts, conversations, interactions that He brings my way - all to make me into who He wants me to be...


All Night Party!!

OK...I'm new at this blogging thing...but bet that this is longer than usual...it's just such a crazy and long story...it has to be told...

Man - what an unforgettable evening it was...103 students - ready to go - loud, fun, crazy, nutsy, excited, thrilled, amazing, patient, tested, challenged, and more... These students and the 15 leaders along for the ride are a fascinating group I am honored to be a part of...

Our All Night Party is an annual middle school event - world-famous (ok, maybe not world famous, but super exciting throughout the area...). The "plan" was to start at our youth center, then head to Portland to the Lloyd Center Ice Rink for skating & broomball, then back to Salem to the YMCA for basketball, racquetball, swimming, and more...then off to the bonfire in West Salem...then to Northgate Bowl for some "early morning" bowling (about 4:30 am).

Notice, I said this was the "plan." You've heard the quote, the best laid plans of mice and men...well, that was one of the quotes of the evening. Back up a couple of hours to 2:00 in the afternoon on Friday when those of us sitting in "middle earth" (the area where the student/children's ministry offices are located) went pitch black. I mean it was DARK!! With a laptop in hand as a flashlight, I was able to find other staffers, and find that the power was out in the entire building, and then, shortly thereafter found the power was out for blocks...fast forward to 5 pm when there is still no power, the alarm problem siren is going off in the youth center, and we realize the need for plan B...so...we change to heading over to Grant Park a few blocks away. Fast forward to when we get to the park, to find a soccer game in progress on the fields. OK, so we don't get to use the fields, but we get to hang out, goof, blow bubbles, throw frisbees, play soccer, climb on playground equipment, make bubbles with spit (ok, just Zeke did that) and much more!! After about an hour we headed back over to church to board the bus and vans for PORTLAND!! (The big city...)

About 1/2 way to Portland - BAM - and here comes a blown tire flying past the vans...the tire came from the rear of the BUS...OUR BUS!! YIKES! We all pull off to the side of the road. After reaching our facilities team, we're given to ok to move forward (in the mean time the students are stopping to pray that God will protect us, that He'll provide the means to get where we need to go - students are stepping up in leading these spontaneous times of prayer, they are impressed by the depth of some of their friends that they haven't seen or heard before...God has an amazing way of orchestrating moments you wouldn't "plan").

So we head off to Portland, arrive about 30 minutes later than "planned" but that ends up to be a blessing as we got to see the Portland Rose Festival fireworks over the river as we drive on the bridge. This was pretty cool I must admit - the fireworks were literally going off right next to us...and this girl couldn't take pictures...UGH! Very fun. We get to the ice rink and it is a blast! Mostly minor scrapes and cuts...ok, except for Chaz who was attacked by the ice, and ended up with a "mere flesh wound" - instant swelling of the eye, 1 inch gash in his eyebrow - 30 minutes later he was back on the ice playing broomball. Unbelievable!! One of the fun things of middle school ministry is offering students opportunities to do things for the first time (overnight trips, owning their relationship with Jesus as their own, activities, experiences...)- and this night it included people skating for the first time...so cool to see! Friends helping friends around the ice - learning how to lace skates - doing the hokey pokey & chicken dance - polishing off 30 pizzas. And at 11:30, we're out the door to head back to Salem...when...

BAM - there goes the other left rear tire on the bus. Sigh. I have to say the students were patient, kind, thoughtful, and considerate while we figured out plan Q to get everyone back to Salem...the leaders were fantastic with entertaining, keeping the peace, providing diversion. I am so grateful for them...the unfortunate thing was about 1/2 of our group ended up at the Y, and the other 1/2 was on the side of the interstate waiting for the "plan" to unfold. The vans dropped off the students at the Y, and then headed back to pick us up (oh, did I mention that there was construction in progress on this part of the interstate, so the 3 lanes next to us were closed to traffic...another blessing.) Plus, Steve D. woke up from a sound sleep to drive the church shuttle bus out to our roadside stop to also help bring students/leaders back to Salem. So...we were punting so to speak to give the students the best night we could, given the transportation situation (the bus had to be left on the side of the road w/ 2 blown tires...). And the decision was made to take the students who had been sitting on the highway to the bonfire. The students who had the chance to be at the Y were taken to the Youth Center to goof, run, play hide-n-seek, and watch Pirates of the Carribean.

Joyfully, we all came together @ 4:30 to go bowling...some played games, some make bracelets, most bowled at least 2 games and had a blast enjoying these last few hours of the All Night Party... We saw great bowlers, adorable cats, crazy bowling styles...and more.

We returned to the Youth Center at about 6 am...the sun is already rising...and a couple of parents were also at the YC with a light breakfast ready for us as we return. Muffins, fruit...yum!! And then the traffic picks up as parents begin to arrive to pick up the students...by 7:30-7:45 am I was on my way home...and walk in to find my family awake and ready for the day!! WHEW!

I slept for about 3 1/2 hours...and it took a couple of days for me to start to feel better...and were their "glitches" that were unexpected...ABSOLUTELY!! But...it was still a great and memorable night for more than one reason. So what plans will we make for next year...?



OK...so I'm probably one of the last people to join this "blog" generation...I'll bring others along with me, and many will be SO surprised...but here it is. My first attempt. Thanks for travelling this road of blogging with me...together, I hope, we'll encourage, share, laugh and live this life we have to live in a manner honoring to God...and compassionate towards others. Who knows where we will go together?? Do you?? If you have any thoughts on what I should write about, let me know... I'm completely open to suggestions (remember I'm new to this? Are you bored already?? I hope not...)

Thought of the day: Regardless of the world around you and all it brings your way...know you are sitting in the palm of God's hand...rest there, and know He has everything under control...and whatever happens, He will ALWAYS be true to His word...and has your best interest at heart...

©2009 Until... | by TNB