The song I've been singing in my head all day...

OK...so I heard this song driving into church this morning...it hasn't left my head all day. Not in that annoying kinda way songs can do, but in the way that I have rested in the One True God that I know... Oh to know Him more... Oh to rest in Him... The quality of this audio isn't necessarily the best...but you'll get the point...and probably hear it on the radio soon. It's simple...I like it. I hope you do too.

One True God, by Mark Harris

You can following this link to hear the song...here are the lyrics...

I don't have a God I can put on a stand
Or a God I hold in the palm of my hand
I have a God that's holding me
And I don't have a God that I can create
In the place I live with the money I make
I have a God, He made everything
So I don't need a temporary man made deity
When I got the real thing
I got the real thing

He's the Lord of all the earth
The maker of all things
He alone is the one true God
Kingdoms rise and fall
But even through it all
He remains
The one true God

I don't have a thing that I got on my own
I don't have a care that I carry alone
But I have a God who's carrying me
I don't have sin that He doesn't forgive
And I don't have a heart that is worthy of His
But I have a God who still loves me
So I don't need a temporary man made deity
When I got the real thing
I got the real thing

Who is this King of Glory
The Lord strong and mighty
Who is this King of Glory
The Lord strong and mighty
Who is this King of Glory
Who is this King of Glory

So I didn't know it was Mark Harris while I was driving down the road...or until about 30 minutes ago when I looked it up. This made me smile. Back in the day when I was with Youth for Christ I got to travel a bit to conferences and retreats...and part of being part of the "crew" was being backstage to meet and hang with artists. One such trip I got to sit and get to know the guys from 4Him. Yes, I know...they aren't together anymore. It's old school. But here's what I loved about it...these were just real guys who love the Lord and loved to sing and were friends. It was a great thing to see and witness. And so...it just reminded me of a little time I sat in a Perdido Key, Florida talking with them while we waited for the program to begin... Wow...that was a flashback...ok...sorry --- get back to listening...and singing to our One True God.


A little Christmas cheer...

Clark Griswold would be so proud...


OK...so I just wrote about 2/3 of a blog...and then, deleted it. Why? I don't know that it really made sense to me - not the words (ok, some of them), but the thoughts I was trying to process in writing. I think. Or was I just afraid to post it? I don't think so. Was I wondering what people would think when they read it? Nah... I don't usually think so hard about what I'm writing. Maybe I'm just wrestling...thinking too hard. Reading too much into absolutlely nothing. Or maybe, I'm seeing part of me that I haven't really paid attention to before. Eeeeeek. That could be it. I'm not a super introspective kinda girl. I'm not a big processor. I'm kinda one of those here it is, figure it out, move on kinda people (I think). That's why I think I deleted it. I'm processing. I don't typically work this way. So...who knows, maybe I'll put it in writing a little better for next time. For now...I guess I can just say, hmmmm... next time I'll try not to delete...like now.


If I wrote the rules...

I know I don't get to write the rules of life. I know it doesn't go my way. But, after spending a few hours out in the hustle bustle and chaos of early morning Black Friday shopping it reminded me of my days working retail in the shoe department at JC Penneys. And reminded me of a life-rule I thought of waaaaaaaay back then... I honestly believe that everyone, every person who ever purchases a holiday gift (or intends to enter a retail establishment around Christmas or the holidays) MUST work retail, and MUST work at least one Black Friday and one day after Christmas. You just have no clue about how those days really run until you see it from the company side.

When you look at the consumer side, you get tunnel-visioned (or at least you can). I decided to go out shopping for the 2nd time in my life at the break of day, before the sun rises (which you know is a gigantic stretch for me...). The kids have their "wish" lists...and the major things on the list were mostly 50% or more off...so...for me it was worth it to get my backside out of bed @ 4 am (YIKES!) to head to Wal-Mart. I left knowing that if I didn't get everything I wanted, it was ok. I'm not going to lose Christmas spirit over a sale.

Flashback about 4 years to when I visited Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving to get a dual screen DVD player. I had no clue that year that people have created an art of the after Thanksgiving sale. They have lists, maps, plans, agendas, partners & co-conspirators. I pulled in the parking lot just before they opened (I don't remember if it was 4 or 5 am) and was SHOCKED to find the parking lot overloaded and people already in the store. I parked in the last row of parking spaces in one of the furthest out spots (not even really in their parking lot). Walked in, and went to where the dvd players were. I was done. I could have been out of the store in 10 minutes. But decided just to check out the rest of the story. It was a frenzy - especially in electronics & toys. And that location still had layaway - and there were people waiting in line with 2 carts while their co-horts raced around the store to grab items and stick them in the carts and head out again. Hysterical to this 1st timer.

This year wasn't much different. Since the store is open 24 hours, people were already inside. I arrived about 4:45 (sales started @ 5 am). And the store was NUTS! I mean NUTS! There were people everywhere - carts everywhere - I heard all kinds of plans brewing. And while I waited patiently to get my items I was pleasantly surprised to find people who were like me - just waiting patiently to get their "deal" - wanting to do something nice for a loved one or friend - showing generosity by sharing carts or letting people in close to them to get the item right @ 5 am. And man, you knew when it was 5 am. items were flying off displays faster than lightning. One woman, Norma, was very sweet - she and her husband had driven an hour and a half to be in Salem for Black Friday sales. Another woman talked about how she had already been to Kohl's and planned to be out of Wal-mart in 25 minutes to head off to Fred Meyer to buy socks (OHHHHHH...we gotta talk about that...)

OH...the sock thing. So...one store we like to frequent here is Fred Meyer - it is the "brother" store to Kroger where we shopped for groceries in Atlanta. On Thanksgiving I see an ad on tv for Fred Meyer - 50% off socks, showing dancing feet for the entire commercial. That's it. SOCKS! I turned to Steve and said that it was pretty ridiculous to have a sale where the only thing you can advertise is 50% off socks. What kind of sale is that? Well, come to find out apparently that's "the" thing here for day after Thanksgiving. Fred Meyers sock sale. Are you kidding me? Socks! Socks! Socks! That's it. Yep. Well, I've heard people talking about it (even in Wal-mart while waiting for their sale to begin)...but I still don't get it. Then again, I don't even like shoes either, remember. Either way - if you've never worked in retail...I dare you to get a retail job for the Christmas season. I triple-dog dare you. You'll NEVER look at shopping the same...and you'll appreciate those behind the counters, or trying to organize check-out lines, and those that are re-stocking the socks as fast as possible. But in the midst of it all, I say...don't let the preparation for the season keep you from celebrating the season...

OK...anyway - while there were the kind-hearted people, we were clearly outnumbered by the selfish, focused, unbelieveably focused and determined. They were every where. This was no more truly visible than the incredibly unfortunate incident at the Wal-Mart in Long Island where a worker lost their life just by trying to open the doors.

I don't get it. Honestly. I don't. Life is sooooo much more precious than stuff. People are sooooooo much more important than a deal. Lord, forgive us.


I believe...but I have so much to learn & so many ways to grow...

The last couple of weeks have been a drain. I admit - I'm not front lines on this. I'm not sitting in a hospital ICU waiting room. I'm not walking in to see the man I love, or my dad, in a physical condition that is unexplained and critical. But, this is all about someone who I admire - a family I adore - and my heart not being willing to surrender.

Our lead pastor, John Stumbo, has been in ICU at OHSU for almost 2 weeks. He's been in critical condition. You'll have to check the church website for all the updates (http://www.salemalliance.org/) - I say that not because I don't want to explain the story, but I know that I'll get the series of reports out of order, or I'll forget to paint the whole story, and I don't want to do that. John and his family deserve to have the story told correctly. I will say that John's been in critical condition - spent much time on a ventilator - has had excessive weakness and swelling - and while we know he's had a rare blood infection, we don't really know a good diagnosis of what's going on. We knew it was critical, but on 11/20 when they gathered us as a church staff at 9:45 in the am, we knew things were not good. We prayed fervently - approaching the throne of grace begging, pleading, petitioning for God, Jehovah-Raphe, our healer, to touch John in a miraculous way. And believing then (and still believing now) He can do it.

The decision was made to cancel all our Wednesday night activities (including Crash and kids activities) to have a prayer/praise service for the whole church family that night @ 7 pm. To say the worship center was packed out is an understatement. It was soooooooo amazing to see the "family" come together to sit at God's feet and pray for healing for John. I admit it. I haven't gotten to know him (or others) at church as well as I'd like to. But John has this way of getting right to the core of how you feel. A way of reaching in and knowing exactly where you are, and gently acknowledging it. I remember last Christmas at our Pastor/Elder Christmas gathering while sharing with everyone he looked in my eyes and says he knows some of us have sacrificed a lot to be sitting in the room - a simple statement that even now as I type cuts to my heart. He is annointed by God to do a mighty work. I truly believe it. I am grateful he is my pastor. I am grateful to learn and grow through his words and the words of the other teaching pastors on our team. I really like his wife Joanna. She is a kindred spirit of sorts. While our interractions have been too short and sweet...I really like her...plus, she loves Diet Coke as much as I love Coke. Whew! And Drew, their son, is a good friend - I've had a great time serving alongside him with the middle school ministry at SAC. He's such a blast... And it was not a stretch by any means to join with 1000+ others to beg God to heal John and to strengthen him & his family.

Now in that I admit - I'm selfish. God can choose to heal however he sees fit. (This is where the I believe but I have so much to learn comes in)... That night we had an amazing night of worship - I honestly felt lifted to heaven, being in God's presence and just singing to Him and resting in His presence. Then we start singing I Surrender All. I admit it. I couldn't sing it. (OK, brutal honesty coming here...) I couldn't sing it. I couldn't say I surrender all. I'm not willing to surrender John's physical healing. There - I've said it. I believe God can and will heal him. Even now as he is back on a ventilator. I believe God can heal him. I think I see surrender here (as I'm letting my pea-sized brain process it) as physical defeat. I'm not willing to surrender that. In that moment I felt like to say "I surrender" was saying I can stop praying. I can't. I can't stop. I can't stop begging God to heal John. I can't stop trusting God to heal John. I can't stop believing God can heal John. I won't. I know there is a bigger surrender here. Yet there was still part of me that couldn't utter the words. Call it whatever you want - but I know I have a lot to learn. I know I need to grow. But there's just something about admitting that you don't have it all together that is vulnerable - that is scary - that is frightening. There's also something selfish about thinking, God there is no other way that you can take care of this - or that I can't wait for the day when John is standing before the congregation to preach next, personally or corporately. I want to see him standing before us. I want to hear what God has to say to us through him. Is it selfish? Is it faith? Is it naive? No...I just think it's my heart. I'm not surrendering to the enemy who wants me to forget to pray. I'm not surrendering to the enemy who wants me to believe that God can't heal John. I'm not surrendering to the enemy who wants me to surrender hope. And I'm not surrendering the belief that John will be healed. And so...I hold on to these verses...

Isaiah 40:28-31 - Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Hebrews 4:16 - Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Romans 15:13 - May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 10:23 - Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

And so...I hope. My hope alone is in Him. I don't get it. I don't understand it. I'd like some answers. I'd like healing to have happened 5 weeks ago, before the first hospital visit. But I hope. I believe. I trust. And God...Teach me to surrender. Thanks for grace when I hold on tightly to my dreams, and for gently prying my hands open and holding on to me as I let go of what I was holding on to. OK God - I surrender my selfishness to you. (ugh...that was hard to write...

All to Jesus, I surrender. All to Him I freely give.
I will ever love and trust Him - In His presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all;
All to thee, my blessed Savior,I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender, humbly at His feet I bow
Wordly pleasures, all forsaken, take me Jesus, take me now.
I surrender all, I surrender all;
All to thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.


My take on the "shoes"...

IF you haven't read Steve's "Death by Fashion" blog post, the do that first and come back to here...(it's such a good read - he's an amazing writer...I'd read his blog any day...)

OK...So...I think it's time for a little "girl details" on this post. I love my hubby dearly - but there are some things he doesn't quite give you a clear enough picture about.

Steve working for this company has had it's benefits. Shoes has definitely been one of them. We've gotten way too many shoes. Not complaining mind you. We haven't had to purchase casual shoes for the kids hardly at all, Steve's been able to ask for things other than running shoes for the last year and a half, I actually own a couple of pairs of shoes. (I once went about 8 years before buying another pair of shoes - I'm a flip-flop girl or barefoot girl - shoes are NOT a necessity for me...yep, you heard, well "read" it here...I don't like shoes. They are annoying. They don't let my feet breathe. Flips are the way to go. However, living in the PNW has given me a new appreciation for these luxuries. Anyway - we've received so many that we've given away more than we've kept. There's just no possible way we could keep them all.

Last year, Steve was able to choose 3 pairs of Cole Haan's. I thought he was going to suffocate under the pressure at the time. He did pretty well. Remember - I'm not a shoe girl, so my excitement is not a true measurement of his success. So, when he came home telling me that he'd be receiving 16 pairs of womens shoes from Cole Haan...my first reaction was to laugh. Out loud. For a while. I knew this was torture. I could read it in his tone, his face, let alone his words. He was suffocating once more under the pressure. So what did I do? I called a few girls around church to ask them their shoe sizes. Steve was tortured that much more - feeling that he not only had to impress me, but now these girls who actually really like shoes. The pressure was unsurmountable for him.

so he mentions fashion boot camp, or shoe boot camp or something of the like. Please...what a crock! I had him spend about 5-10 minutes (which probably did seem like hours of torture) looking at the Cole Haan web site. I just kept saying - "Honey, just stick with simple heels. Basic. You can't go wrong. It's shoes. Girls love them. It'll be great. You'll do great." That's right - I didn't pull a Hitler dictatorship of shoe anarchy saying, "you will get this or you are a loser." No way - my man is more than capable (as the pics on his blog clearly show). Sitting at the Cole Haan site I pointed out a couple of pairs, maybe on 2 pages, and then had him look at the next couple and say which would be good or not good. (There were several that were clearly the wrong choice...but it was obvious even to him...).

When he came home, yes, I didn't bound and tear into the boxes when he brought them in the door. What he fails to mention is that I was making dinner. Kaylee was helping me cook. Plus I think (although I may be wrong though) I was talking Noah through homework, trying to find things around the house that started with the letter "S". I was NOT and I repeat NOT attempting to further torture my beloved. I was just trying to cook dinner.

So, the box comes in - he's tortured and I dig into the box. He was amazing! He succeeded! He picked fabulously! I knew the girls would go nuts! I picked up the phone and called Chele to come pick up the shoes of her choice. When she put them on, Steve was totally freaked out because Chele was actually normal height. I wish I had a picture of us together. I didn't get the camera out. Oops. Anyway - Steve kept telling her to take the shoes off because it was too freaky. Not her wearing the shoes, but the height it gave her. She was only about 3-4 inches shorter than me (with me wearing no shoes). Anyway - she loved them. Duh! Of course she did. My man did an amazing job.

The next day I carted off to work with shoes in a giant box. I posted an email to the staff. This is where I should really let Brian Condello put his two cents worth in. It wasn't long before my office was filled with girls oooh-ing and aaaaahhh-ing over shoes - it was so stereotypical of what you'd expect to hear - gasps of joy and excitement - oh those look great - you've got to take those - I don't have anything to wear with them, so I guess I need to go shopping - seriously, I can have these? - they aren't exactly my size, but I'll make them work - those are amazing - and on and on and on and on... I sat proud. My man had made all these girls smile (and on that day we needed a little bit of a pick me up...you can see that post next, I think, about John Stumbo...).

So babe...you have a gift! A gift to choose women's shoes. I know you don't want to admit it. I know you just took a hit to your manly-ness...but you're good. And you did just as well with the handbags the next day...way to go babe! Regardless, you, my lobster, always make me smile, always make me proud - even if you are carrying 16 pairs of heels... I love ya!! (and, that's the rest of the story...)



So...we've waited for a year. Last year was the first..and this year will not be the last. It is our biggest student ministries event of the year - 2 hours completely focused on missions. This year we had an Africa focus - we're sending our 2nd team to Burkina Faso to partner with CM&A missionaries there. But this is bigger than Africa. This is bigger than a 2 hour event. This is about being used by God and being a part of His story to love and call His creation, His people, those created by His hand, to His name.

This event is NOT about numbers...it's about the cool-ness of having a front-row seat to see God at work in the lives of those around you. I am still processing this on so many levels. As a youth pastor - seeing students catch a vision of a mission-al life - looking out for others more than yourselves; mercy, compassion and sacrifice so that people may catch a glimpse of Jesus; providing for the physical needs of people out a heart of Christ-like compassion. Watching students commit their lives to foreign missions as God allows...watching an artist with a love for God and a love for the people of Africa share his gift of creativity and his heart through message...seeing and hearing students embody 3 amazing missionaries (David Livingstone, Mary Slessor, Betty Greene)...hearing fabulous worship from musicians who love Jesus and love to sing to Him...seeing the people I get to serve alongside shine in so many ways...having conversations with students talking now about visions of foreign missions they already have...it's clearly a highlight of the year...almost as exciting as seeing students come to know Christ... I get to see things full circle - from students asking questions about who Jesus is, to accepting Him as their Lord and Savior...all the way to going wherever He calls them to go. I love it!

Then...processing all this as a friend. I look at so many people that were sitting in this room as friends. There are many who are no longer middle school or high school students who are on the fast-track to serving God overseas. There is a high desire on their heart to be where He wants them to be...but sometimes the waiting for His timing can be so hard... in the meantime, I love watching them grow, see their passions and desires for service increase...and at the same time, as hard as it is, seeing their faith in Him increase as well...

Then...processing as a mom. It was amazing to watch my kids in the room - singing along, wearing their Africa t-shirts, and have them witness middle school, high school and college students worship, pray, commit, and give --- all with a focus on foreign missions. There's only so much that I as a mom can instill in them, and model for them. That day, they had 300 Christ-like models to watch. My kids always inspire me. To watch them get excited about the offering we took for a youth center in Burkina (including making their own contribution), to repeating stories they heard while attending, to asking questions about things they saw & heard...I know that even in my 5 & 8 year old are being impacted by these students....and they haven't left the country.

That's the bottom-line. I can't wait to see many of these students boldly go to other nations to share Christ with them, in word & deed. I can't wait to see many of these students send other people to other nations - with the support and backing so desperately needed. I can't wait to see God work in the lives of people in all the nations....and to one day see them in heaven as we worship as we are all fully intended to...wow what a day REACH was...what a day it will be when we see Jesus face to face...

(Oh, if you want to see "this" day...check out this link where you can watch all of REACH for yourself...)


Today was a good day, because of how it started...

Today was full and busy. We were at church today for about 6 hours getting ready for REACH --- which is awesome and great! I'm sooooooo stoked for tomorrow morning (I'll wait and blog about that tomorrow). The decorations are up, the giveaways and commitment cards are ready, everything (except the kitchen) looks really clean and neat, and we have new lights and tech which always add to the excitement and feel (thanks Jared, Josh & Michael for working endlessly on that...). I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow. And with how great it was to be a part of getting ready for REACH...this morning was my favorite part of the day.

I woke up at 7:45, and a few moments later Steve walks in. The kids have commandered the tv downstairs, so he comes up to check out the news and football on the tv in our room...what started as a few moments to just wake up and chat turned into 2 hours of just having family fun time...the kids came up too and we just hung out...then we flipped channels watching news, football, Salem Alliance sermon on CCTV...and just laughed and talked together. We just chilled. I love my family. It was the perfect start to the day...

(I needed it before Noah & Kaylee called up saying, emergency, emergency...ANTS! Yep - those pesky Oregon black ants have found our kitchen...sigh...) Oh well...I'm trying not to be fanatically freaked out...but that wasn't the big part of the day. It was just being with my fam...

(P.S. Regardless of what did or didn't happen at the party...or what we did or didn't get...it was all worth it to have a night out with my hubby...he's the bestest!!)

Christmas party recap...

So...Steve's company is in the midst of moving its location to Tennessee...and the bigger facility he's been working in is closing in about 2-3 weeks. He's working at a smaller location now, a couple of blocks away, and it's a much smaller crew. Anyway - in order to spread the holiday cheer his company hosted it's Christmas party last night!! Woo!Hoo! Date night!!

I love getting to go out with Steve (and it doesn't happen near often enough)...but, while we love our kids, it's nice to have a meal or even a conversation without interruptions and just to hang out together...

Anyway - I must say we have been the recipients of many nice perks from this place (I'm purposefully not using their name...most of you know their name...but I'm getting ready to dis them, so I don't want some corporate big wig to turn around and fire Steve for my ungrateful attitude...you'll see in a second how nuts this is...).

OK, back to teh story - so...good dinner, fun sitting with and getting to know a few of the people that Steve works with. I was clearly the odd one out in one department though. For the guys that we were sitting with they are blessed with wives who get up and cook them breakfast every morning. Now, at face value that might not look like a big deal, but remember...these guys have to be AT WORK READY AND ON THE FLOOR AT 5:00 AM!!! 5:00 AM!!!! Steve usually leaves a little after 4 am, so that would mean I have to be up and cooking my man a full breakfast for him to eat at 3:30-3:45! Are you kidding me?? THEN...they pack a lunch for them every day, and these guys are disappointed if the wife just gives them $5 to go out to eat...and we're not just talking a PB&J sandwich, we're talking a full-on lunch that would be big enough for 3 people (all the guys were drooling over this one guys lunch...). Um...no. Sorry dear. That morning hour is just way to early (especially if you look at the fact that I get to bed at 1:00 am on average...). I suppose I could cook my man bacon & eggs before I go to bed and keep it warm in the oven for him until 3:30--- Nah....

OK...so, I'm out of the loop there, and grateful when the casino night portion opens up. Texas Hold em, blackjack, roullette, etc. We all get $500 in chips to start with --- and at the end of the 2 hours, we cash in our chips for fake money to use in an auction for door prizes. Long story short, we didn't stay at texas hold em for very long... so blackjack took the most of our evening. With 15 minutes left we were down to $50. oh well...then...the tables turned and luck turned our way...and we left the table with $1500 of fake money. Off to the auction. Of course many others had more money than us. Steve took it upon himself to start the bidding on almost every item - which was soooooo fun....item after item comes and goes. Then a golf club, a driver of some sort, with a retail value of $320 comes up for bid. It's the 4th golf item...and by this time the golfers are basically bid out and Steve gets it for $300 I think. He goes over to claim his club, brings it back. Smiling and proud of his take!! Congrats honey, can I see it??

As I take the club in my hands I see sticker goo all over the handle - kinda like someone had tried to remove a big price tag or label. Not that big of a deal, kinda tacky, but with a little effort it'll come off. I go to check out the club and suddenly I start to laugh. The club head is covered with knicks and scratches. This is a USED GOLF CLUB!! USED!! Are you kidding me?? I mean thanks...but seriously?? A used club!??? You're giving away (or "auctioning" off...) 2 Wii's, 2 iPod nanos, tons of gift certificates for dinner/movie or spa or a store, full sets of irons (2 sets) and a used golf club. Congrats honey.

Now that in and of itself might not have been so bad...but add on top of that one of the "goodies" in our welcome gift goodie bag. A blue glass coffee mug that says "celebrating 15 years - 1987-2002" --- notice the date. 2002. It's 2008. OK...now this is bordering on ridiculous. So...here I go. You've just seen the ugly, cynical, frustrated side of me.

Moral of the story --- it's not that "re-using" is a bad thing; nor is "re-cycling"...but if you are doing that for a door prize, or gift, unless it's a ga...could you please make sure it's not "really" used...


Oh...and CRASH...

CRASH is tomorrow night. Normally we land on a series and it's fairly easy to pull ideas from the team and finalize a plan. I don't know why this month has been hard to focus on...but it's almost done...finally. (To all the leaders who read this...sorry --- I needed a little brain break before reviewing it and sending it to you...I'll send it out before I go to sleep...promise...). For the next two weeks we're gonna be talking through the lyrics of songs...at first the plan was to talk through the lyrics of songs the students listen to on the radio all the time...but there never seemed to be a consensus or clear direction on what songs to do...so instead we are breaking down lyrics of songs we typically sing at Crash. So...this week..."Salvation is Here" by Hillsong United... Here are the words...in light of my post yesterday and just life in general these days, I'm loving it...

God above all the world in motion
God above all my hopes and fears
I don't care what the world throws at me now
It's gonna be alright

Hear the sound of the generations
Making loud our freedom song
All in all that the world would know Your name
It's gonna be alright

'Cause I know my God saved the day
And I know His word never fails
And I know my God made a way for me
Salvation is here

Salvation is here
Salvation is here and He lives in me
Salvation is here
Salvation that died just to set me free
Salvation is here
Salvation is here and He lives in me
Salvation is here

Cause You are alive and You live in me
Salvation is here
salvation is here and it lives in me
Salvation is here
Salvation is here that died just to set me free
Salvation is here
Salvation is here and it lives in me

'Cause I know my God saved the day
And I know His word never fails
And I know my God made a way for me
Salvation is here

I pray that regardless of where you are in life, that today you know salvation is here for you. The God saves every day. That His word never fails. That He has made a way for you...

Another day...

So...a few random thoughts from the day...

***Kaylee and Noah are so cute...they were having a talk (I love it when they do that) and Kaylee asked Noah if he knew what was made first (not like a chicken and the egg thing, but basically she was asking what did God make first...). Noah pulled his classic "I don't know" (which he likes as a first response for most questions before he pours out his ideas). Kaylee was like "Noah...you know it was light don't you?" Noah thought for a second and said..."actually dark came first, so don't you think God made that first." My son - taking after his daddy being the deep critical thinker. I love it!

***Well, Steve's potential of a new job in the immediate future has passed. Interesting turn of events in the last two days pretty much made it clear from both sides that this wasn't the best fit after all. That stinks. But in the midst of the disappointment about relief for Steve from his current situation - we're trusting that God is protecting him from something that wouldn't have been good...or His best. (Not that we understand how his current place can be "best"...but we accept it...and make the best of it --- hmmmmm...) So...back to waiting, and more resumes being sent out and trusting Him for something different.

***REACH is fast approaching! I can't wait. Last year's event was sooooo amazing - I can't wait to see how He moves in the lives of everyone in the room this year too. Chele & I we were talking to all our kids about coming to REACH on Sunday morning and they got soooo excited, especially when we talked about taking up an offering to build a youth center in Burkina Faso, Africa. (check out the REACH widget for video, and more REACH info...) Anyway - they are so excited about coming and I'm so excited about them being there. They immediately jumped into "make sign" mode! They love making signs. Hannah jumped up and said something like "just give us your wallets and all the money in it! Help Africa!" And in about 8-10 minutes they made about 30 signs encouraging everyone to bring $20 to help Africa. They are soooooo amazing! So - I'm thinking we'll have 400 middle school, high school & college students...plus 20-30 adult leaders...plus 6 amazing elementary students who challenge me to have more compassion for others every single day. "Let the little children come to me..." Thanks for praying with and for us...pray that He will raise up these students to serve Him with their lives... and...check out the quotes on Becca's blog - they really raise the excitement level for me too...

Highs and Lows...and landing in the middle...

So...today was a day of highs and lows. It's Monday (well, it was 24 some odd minutes ago). That means my day off of work (for the most part). I love Mondays - getting to spend some time with the kids just being mom - not rushed off to church. I've enjoyed volunteering in their classes this year (I missed that last year) - then there's all that other house stuff that piles up. I might be seeing the bottom of the laundry pile. That's a good thing. Today was extra great from a "mom" standpoint - the kids were off of school...and they were just fun today! Woke up to them playing and laughing together as they built a fort in the family room with furniture and pretty much every blanket they could reach. It was sooooo cute to see and hear! I love how well they get along and bring each other along. They are such a blessing. We laughed and tickled and giggled and drew and built and crawled and laughed some more. Then we made homemade play-doh and made all kinds of fun sculptures. Then a quick lunch - Noah a jelly sandwich and Kaylee a peanut butter sandwich - they go together!! Then a batch of Grandma Unwin's outrageous chocolate chip cookies (they are so yummy!) The kids love to cook - it was fun to hear them talking about what they want to do when they grow up - cook, teacher, scientist, and oh stink...what was Noah's other one. It was so random amidst the cook & teacher.

Now...before I was even really awake I got a call from mom to tell me that my uncle was taken to the hospital with chest pains. Uncle Al is the oldest of the siblings on mom's side. (One of my favorite Al memories is sitting in his house doing homework and listening to Stryper and hearing him tell mom that I shouldn't listen to that kind of music and I couldn't resist but ask him if I could play Battle Hymn of the Republic on his stereo - because gospel is the only real music --- he was thrilled at my suggestion - so I plugged in my cassette tape (I know...what is a cassette tape) and cranked it...and Stryper belts out their rendition.) Anyway - the day was to hold tests galore for him. He has Parkinson's and dementia and who knows how he would handle all that. All we can do is pray (more about him later).

I hang up the phone with mom...and now a little more awake, I remember it's the day for a memorial service celebrating the life of a mom of two of our middle school students. Going to a service for someone who is at a similar age and stage in life is just hard...4 kids (12, 11, 8 & 5) - the 8 & 5 year olds get to me, of course, because I have an 8 & 5 year old (remember those gems I got to play with all day...yeah). After all the fun with the kids, the tone changes as I run up to change clothes and know I'm going to try to comfort two students who have lost their mom for a while and my friends who have lost a friend. They will be reunited with her in eternity, but for today, and for who knows how many more days, they are not together. So you trust the Lord who is the God of comfort, who grants peace that surpasses all understanding, to hold up this dad and their kids, and their family and friends... Please pray for the Shepherd's. I was struck by just how serving Tammy was. The church was packed out with people she impacted. What a glorious tribute to one of God's servants - story after story of how she gave, was dedicated beyond measure and loved her family and her Lord. Oh that it may be said of me someday...

So, I come home and give my hubby a hug that lasts longer than normal and I smile and am grateful for the day I've had. Then to comfort my hubby...as he is trusting God for a new job - something completely different than what he is doing now. He's in the midst of negotiating with a new place (oh that he may be away from his current employment) but today there were just questions raised as to whether this is really where he needs to go. Last night - we were gung ho - watching Extreme Home Makeover and thinking - yep...another confirmation of the direction we're heading...only to have today be just weird for this process. So...a fairly direct email about concerns, wondering about what's in store...we'll see. Please pray...that Steve will be exactly where God wants him, job-wise that is...I know that together is exactly where we need to be and there is no better place. But he's sacrificed so much for the cause and call of the God here in Oregon --- it's been the hardest part of this move for me... I just love him so much and want him to have joy in what he does...

So...as the email is sending Steve and I are talking about how we haven't heard anything new about Uncle Al...- no news is good news right? No sooner do the words leave my lips that the phone rings. Not good news. Al did have a heart attack last night. He has 3 blocked arteries - 2 almost completely blocked - 1 heavily blocked. With his physical & mental condition - he's not a candidate for bypass and the doctors and specialists are not convinced that even a stint would help. Oh what a kick in the chest. What a day of ups and downs...

And then there were the calls, emails, messages with friends who are in the midst of big life decisions - how to decide, how to be bold, how to trust Him, how to move forward...wishing it could be black and white...and it just isn't. One of my favorite word pictures for these times is wishing I could see the billboard that says "turn this way" - "go do this" - "you'll end up here" ...while I wish it happened that way, it doesn't. So we say - it's ok, you are sooo courageous (which they all are), you have so much to offer (which they do), and...if I see your billboard I'll give ya a call. (smile) It's not that I canned this conversation or message chat - but just interesting to see multiple people having different but similar struggles...whether a life direction or a physical condition or a heartbreak... sigh...

The joys of just being together and having fun...to the depths of reality of the fraility of life...to making big life decisions...all the while trusting my life (and everyone elses) into the hands of a loving God, who is the creator of all things. Even sitting here now I'm glad our church is currently doing a series on the Names of God. I rest in His name, His character.

So, I hang up the phone. I've sent the emails. It's time to put the kids to bed. And I get to smile and giggle again. Say I love being your mom and have Noah say "I love being your son". Whew...I needed that. Hugs and kisses to get my fam to sleep - then downstairs to do some "regular" things. In a day of highs and lows I needed to land in the middle...



One week from tomorrow...or since it's midnight I should say...one week from today we are trusting to see God move in amazing ways... won't you please join us for REACH?? Check it out...and I hope to see you all next Sunday morning 10 am - 12 noon in the Salem Alliance Youth Center... You don't want to miss it... And don't forget...the offering...be part of building a youth center in Burkina Faso. Two students have taken this to heart and are going to have a craft sale...and then go to all their classmates to have them participate...God has the hold of hearts of students...watch out...through them He is going to change the world...and bring all nations to Himself...

I feel a little blogging coming on...

OK...I'm so way overdue. So much so that the library of bloggers probably will charge me by the letter vs. by the day since I last blogged. It's pitiful. I admit it. I was starting to get into the swing of it I guess --- then...the sun came out - and all of a sudden I stopped blogging. Weird huh?? Here and now I vow not to talk about the weather every time I post. (I did a lot of that last year)...

Lately I've been thinking about not blogging...and balancing life (it's been one crazy month - reatreats, Crash kick-off, ms fundraiser, Kaylee's birthday, just to name a few)...and I muttered a word to myself that I haven't muttered --- maybe ever. Structure. Have I lost my ever-lovin' mind!?? Probably. I know lots of amazing people who have structure in their world - they have certain days they clean, do laundry, a regular time reading their Bible, times of the day they check email or facebook, do homework/study, watch tv, play... Me? I don't think I have structure. Sure - are there things that are a regular part of my day - absolutely! But I don't think through on a regular basis things I should do Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday... Should I?? I don't know that I can...but I'm just wanting to be the best I can be in the time God gives me (I don't think He's gonna add any hours to my day)...so...how am I gonna do that? Structure? I don't know...I might give it a shot... Any other suggestions?? I'm looking for any excuse I can get...



A day when I could sit outside in my capris, rest in a chair, play with the fam, and enjoy the sunshine...and get a little bit of a sunburn...and that was ok by me...I admit - I felt a bit stressed when I came in after a day of rest - feeling like I couldn't rest inside until the laundry was going, and the kitchen cleaned up, etc... but...yes, it was a day of rest!! And...looks like tomorrow will be more of the same!!! (and their was a great relaxing sigh heard all around...)


Fun...but cold...

So...yeah - it's April 30th - almost May. Which means FIELD TRIP TIME!!! Yep - Kaylee will probably have a couple more, but today was the first of the field trip craze. She desperately wanted me to go...and how could I say no. The last couple of weeks have been crazy, this week is SWEAT (our middle school church fundraiser)...so, yep - I'm a mom and wife first - so off to the Willamette Art Center I go this morning. It's the art center. It's a field trip involving clay, clothes you can get dirty, and 75 1st graders!! I was SO excited. I have to admit - my excitement dwindled a bit to find that we would be outside. Now, in Atlanta (I know...here I go again) it's a delightful time to be outside - the pollen is winding down and its warm. Today - oh my...we (not just me, but everyone) were freezing. Parents were hiding in their cars to keep warm. It was a bit nutsy...

BUT...it was worth it! Carl, the "instructor" for the morning, was FABULOUS! He did such a great job keeping the attention of the students, and walking them step by step through the process of making their very own turtles - that will rattle w/ skittle sized pellets inside. I don't want to call them turtle rattles, because that makes it sound like a baby toy. These were 75 individual works of art - complete with body, head, tail, feet and markings uniquely made by the students. They did such a good job. I was so excited to be there, despite the biting wind and cold. I can't wait to see them after they are placed in the kiln and fired up...big fun!!

We enjoyed a picnic style lunch - Kaylee sat in my lap for a good bit of it, trying to keep warm, but then said she wanted the chair for herself so she could eat...(smile). As we were finishing lunch, dark clouds appeared...and yep, it started to pour and I mean pour. Gratefully it held off that long, but as I left I had to walk to my van parked a bit away, and when I climbed in - I was a freezing cold wet mop. Dripping wet - I mean dripping! I kinda wish I had a camera...then again, maybe not...then again - I would have gotten pictures from the art projects to show you...oh well.


We're going to have a visitor or two...or three...or...

Can I just say...I'm excited!! Time is creeping ever closer when we will be having the friends and family begin to file through...I don't mean file, like oh, drop it in there and think about it some day - I mean file through - maybe file by is better. Like a parade. You can't wait for it to come - you want it to last for forever - you just enjoy what's in front of you, but then again, can't wait to see what's coming and you talk to everyone around you about what you've seen, what you are seeing and what you are about to see. Yep - that's me!! Starting in just 16 days our first guest of the "season" arrives! Melissa is coming! Oh how amazing frequent flyer miles are! On how amazing friends like family are!! I can't wait to see her - hug her around the neck - play rummikub until all hours - eat warm chocolate chip cookies with whipped cream on top - laugh so hard we cry, or snort or whatever ... YIPPEE!!! And then...about 5 weeks later, Steve's parents are coming for a week!!! Then...Jennifer is coming at the beginning of July (not sure of dates yet...oh...be praying for Jennifer...she had ACL surgery...yuck! I wish we could be in ATL with her to take care of her...). Anyway - YEAH!!! Jennifer is coming!! Maybe she will bring her Rimbaldi box along!! Oh- a friend and an Alias fix all at the same time!! (smile...) Then...my parents are coming sometime later in July...yippee again! whew!! That takes us to the end of July...and I know it's just the beginning... Hmmmmmmmm. We need to figure out some new "spots" to visit...any suggestions?? Thanks!


A few "little" questions from middle schoolers

Last week at Crash (yeah, the one I didn't go to) we asked the students to write down the questions they have for God or about God. These questions will be the basis for our topics over the last 4 weeks of Crash this year. We always refer to Crash as the front door - the lobby. A place where we hope students will be willing to step out of their comfort zone - and visitors will be willing to step out of their comfort zone - into a place where we have a blast learning about who Jesus is and just how madly in love with you He is... So...will you pray for and with us as we hope to finish this part of the race strong --- here are the questions the students submitted. They are real. They are honest. They are searching. They are wanting to understand the God who created them and loves them like no other...even if they don't know it yet...

  • What does it mean to be born again?
  • Why did God create humans?
  • If you don’t want to be “born again” like reincarnated…will we be anyways?
  • What the heck is “born again”?
  • How was God made?Why did He flood the Earth?How can I work through with my mom and me fighting?
  • What can I do to get to know the Lord more?
  • How did people go to heaven before Jesus died on the cross?
  • Why was I made?
  • What is my purpose?
  • Why didn’t you help my sister when she needed it most?
  • Why are some parents so protective and some aren’t?
  • How long has god been there?
  • Will there be another world after we die? And if there is will it only be for Christians?
  • How are God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit the same and different?
  • Why is most of my family straight up, but like my cousin and his dad are choosing to do the wrong things?
  • Every once in a while I wil start to think about why I am here and what’s it like when we go away from this life. After this I feel like I forget who I am and my heart begins to race then it turns into a panic attack. I think of this feeling as a wave – it comes and goes. Why does this happen?
  • If God created everything then why did He have us name them?
  • If we are exactly like a mammal, which we are, are we animals?
  • Why did God make me?
  • If God already knew the world would be messed up and people would go to hell, why did He make Earth?Why does God allow pain?Why does God love me?
  • Can God prevent people from going to hell?
  • What does God look like?
  • I wonder why there are signs in the world.
  • Why is there sin in the world?
  • Why does God let sad things happen? Why can’t He just stop and help them?
  • If God made everything why would He ever make sin?Why aren’t there miracles done today?
  • Do you really forgive people for lying and doing the wrong thing, or just make life worse for them?
  • Who is God?
  • Is my mom gonna get better?Am I gonna be a good leader when I’m older?
  • If God loves us so much, why does He allow us to get hurt?
  • Why is it when my mom is angry she takes it out on me and my brother?
  • Why is it when somebody is alone they are prone to suicide?
  • Why is it when people are insecure they take it out on other people for their faults?
  • Why do people shout when they get angry?
  • If God is so powerful, then why did He let me be so hurt all my life?
  • When satan was first an angel, where did he get his evilness from?
  • Relationships with friends, God and guys. Like what does God want us to do? How do we stay pure?
  • Why do people put Christians down?
  • Why are there so many different versions of the Bible?
  • Hell/Heaven??
  • Unchristian friends – I wonder what happens when they die.
  • Why do Christians judge people so much more than non-Christians?
  • Why is saying I love you so much more hard than it sounds?
  • How can we tell things that are on my heart instead of keeping it in? How can we tell God these things cause He already knows?
  • How do you help someone if they want to kill themselves? How do I tell them that just because bad stuff has happened that god is real and He loves them?
  • How do you tell someone about God without preaching to them?
  • Does God have loyalty for everyone?
  • How can You prove You are real?
  • What’s hell like?
  • Am I choosing the right friends?
  • Why did you make us?
  • If we were perfect, then why did Adam make that mistake?
  • If you don’t know God how do you trust Him?
  • How do we know that God is what we should believe in?
  • If we haven’t seen God how can we trust Him?
  • Why isn’t life perfect?
  • Why didn’t God make things easier?
  • Did Adam and Eve have belly-buttons?
  • Why did David not take vengeance in others like Saul and Ish-Bosheth, but then killed those who took vengeance for him?
  • Why does God let us make huge mistakes?Why is it so hard to forgive and forget?
  • Why do people hate other people for no reason?
  • Why is it “not okay” for young people to say ‘I love you’ to their significant other if they mean it?
  • Will you help me and my family with our problems?
Wow...they are amazing. They are honest...may we be worthy of their trust and glorify Him as we serve them & Him.


Feeling ick...

So...Wednesday I went to work for about an hour...and felt miserable. I decided to just come home, to rest and feel better before Crash. But better never came. No fever. Just an ache unlike I've had in a long time. I don't think it was being tired. This was much much more than that. I've been tired. I've had to recover from many an all-nighter. This was different. I ached all over. From head to toe. And there was nothing I could do to shake it. Tylenol didn't help. Caffeine didn't help. I came home and slept for 3 and a half hours...that's unheard of in Michelle circles. I just don't do that. My body is not well. So...for two days I just sat and laid down and rested and slept and ached and tried not to complain. And I missed Crash. That was not fun. I just like it. I just like to be there. I like having a front row seat to how God is at work in the lives of middle school students...but not this week. I was home. I was a prayer warrior - that was about all my mind could wrap itself around. I'm trusting He worked in the midst of the chaos and excitement (the girls called in the middle of what should have been discussion groups to tell me there was a bit of a cake fight going on...oops...) I hope this passes soon...I'm thinking tomorrow I just need to get back at it. I hate just sitting...oh wait...didn't I just say, um yesterday, that I wanted to just...be. Well...I don't want be just sick...that's not exactly what I meant. But...it did give me a little more time with the fam...but I don't know that I was that much fun to be with...although Noah enjoyed movie time with mommy curled up in the green chair. He took good care of me - bringing me a healthy snack (a stick person made of baby carrots and a cup of water)...what a sweet boy I have...


PNW District Conference

I attended my first district conference with the Christian & Missionary Alliance. It some ways it was like an old glove - just being with those who love Jesus and desire nothing more in their existence that to serve Him wholeheartedly. To see people who have been faithfully following and serving Him for 50 years, those who are in the midst of losing a loved one who they have faithfully served alongside, those who have been faithfully serving for just a month or two...those who serve in churches that are just 2-3 people on staff to those who are larger that have 50 people on staff...those who serve in a place where the name of Jesus can be boldly proclaimed unashamedly...those who serve in a place where while words must be chosen carefully, the heart and proclamation of Christian love and service is undoubtedly the same. That's just a taste of what the last week held. It was odd to be in a place where I knew so few people, and at times it was evident that I didn't really know many people. Then...there were times that I felt so a part of what was happening - that I was overwhelmed by the fact that I was sitting in the room. Amazing how you can feel so in awe, excited, scared, frightened, overwhelmed, and encouraged all at the same time.

Highlights - taking Paula's pics with all the "somebody's" at the conference, laughing hysterically with the rest of our church team @ Shari's and hearing story after story after story that was living proof of what I already know - that people are real, and it's an honor to serve arm-in-arm with them; going to Wunderland with about 25 other youth pastors and winning some and losing some (shush Josh...I'll catch up to you on DDR someday...) and playing one game that was SOOOOO addicting - and I don't even know the name of it - but it was one where we drew a crowd, which has never happened to me before @ an arcade; hearing the amazing stories of those serving overseas and the victories God is displaying in these areas; listening to Kelving and being reminded of Ichabod's and Ebenezer's...and so much more.

And...hearing the names of those who have completed the licensing & ordination/consecration process...that's another blog for another day...but...I've started my application for licensing with the C&MA. Man, that's a huge step for me. (OK...I could go off on that one for a while...remind me to come back to it later.)

Now, I'll admit - in the midst of it I missed my family - up and back to Portland for two days...late nights, seeing the kids for about an hour on Tuesday was hard - and I didn't even see Steve that day...that really stunk. I'm ready for things to slow a bit so I can just be...with them.


Yes...there is hope...

OK...for as much as I've complained about the weather...I did today see glimpses of things to come. Blue sky is a thing of beauty! (And yes, in the link to music below, I have country music...Brad Paisley's Behind the Clouds (from the CARS soundtrack)...it's a great reminder to me...) Thanks Lord for blue sky...

I just like it...and I'm grateful.

I really love the teaching and preaching at Salem Alliance. We're in the midst of a series called "Leaving the Land of Grey," a study of the Book of John. There have been a couple of messages lately that have just really struck a chord with me. I'm so grateful for the privilege of hearing God's Word preached. I've heard 2 different stories this week of people who are in areas where they don't have that kind of freedom, or at least it doesn't seem so.

One definitely not...this week at our staff coffee, a couple came in to share about their experience on the mission field. They are serving in an area where they can't even tell us where they are or what they are doing. They choose their words carefully, for where they serve they cannot say missionary. What? You can't say missionary? Nope. They carefully have to think of whether or not they can safely speak of what they do. They are in a church, at a staff meeting of people who lovingly pray and support them...and still, they are carefully choosing words. I mean these faithful people (who's real name I don't even know) are truly on the front lines of a spiritual battle that brings them into an area of the world so void of people who know Christ that they are bold with the love of Christ, trusting Him for opportunities to boldly share the Words of Christ with them. It's relationship. It's love for Him. It's love for people.

In another situation we heard of a persecuted pastor in an area in the middle east, who literally was warned of a death threat and attack on him and his family, to later find out that it was the assassins in his home scouting out the lay of the land to fulfill this "threat." He was also literally covered on the floorboard of a back seat of a vehicle to be whisked to the airport, as he and his family had to flee from this country. A man, a family, who clearly and wholeheartedly love the Lord. A clear example in current time of someone persecuted for his faith...and protected by the Lord for a plan that has yet to be revealed to them.

Me - I sit in a church pew and listen to amazing truths being unfolded before me. I stand on a platform and bring those truths to middle school students. I sit in my home, or office, or car and read my very own personal copy of the Bible and listen to music that boldly proclaims Jesus as the Christ. I have no clue what these other people face day in and day out. I've got it easy. We've got it easy. Comparatively. Do we face struggles? Sure, sometimes it can be hard. But there are others who are so much more persecuted.

And we (I'll include all of us) regularly take for granted the privileges and opportunities before us to hear, teach, preach, boldly proclaim Jesus as Christ. Yet, these who are under scrutiny and in areas that are in spiritually dark areas of the world...they are so much bolder, more confident (even in their choice words)...Lord forgive me.

So...here's are links to where you can listen to the podcasts of recent messages that have been a great encouragement & challenge to me. Today's was extra cool. I'll post that link as well when it shows up...Listen. Breathe it in. Ask God to reveal Himself to you in a new and amazing way. May your life be changed and transformed into His likeness. May my life be changed and transformed to His likeness.

Steve Fowler - Talking Taxi
John Stumbo - Kingdom Confusion
Barbara Fletcher - What Does Jesus Think of Doubters?

Another kick in the rear...

OK...as if yesterday wasn't enough...more snow today. I did my best to be of good spirits. I must say the cotton ball like snowflakes were pretty - they were BIG! I mean BIG! But again...it's April! I did CHOOSE to be excited with the kids...and they spent a good half hour or so outside together running, catching snowflakes on their tongues...and posing for pics for mom. Yes, I captured it. I'm reminded again I'm not in control. It's strange to almost find myself begging for rain instead. That's truly crazy.

So...here it looks more like they are playing in the rain, right?

Well, before long...

Check out the difference 10 minutes makes...see the snow line under the trees? We ended up with about 1/2 inch in about 30 minutes...

Yes, that's a giant snowflake in front of the lens...and a blooming azalea...

Oh well...here's to the hope of spring.


Bah Humbug!

So...7:12 am - I hear Noah and Kaylee tromping through the house - well, running through the house. They come flying into our room (where I am asleep). "Mom - it's snowing, it's snowing, it's snowing!" The exhuberant cries of a 5 & 7 year old - sheer joy in their voices. Me...a moan. I tell them to open the blinds to I can see. I admit - it was beautiful - cottonball like snowflakes. Then - I moan again. 1) It's Saturday morning. My one morning to "sleep in". Now, Steve told me to just remember the blessing of having kids who just want to be with me. OK...I'll remember. 2) It's April - APRIL! A.P.R.I.L.!! Not December, or November, or January or February! It's April! That's spring folks. That's flowers - that's sunshine - that's not snow! Period. It's just not. 3) It's morning - in general, not my best part of the day. Now...add all those components together --- and you already have a picture in your mind of what I did. I moaned again and covered my head with my covers to try to go back to sleep. No such luck. But it was nice to try to hide for a few more minutes... But...a few snuggles from my kids (along with really cold feet), a few kisses, and a few get up lazy bones...and I was awake.

Fast forward almost 12 hours. I'm at church hearing something hitting the windows or cars or something. It's a hail/slush/sleet combination. A few moments later, Brian tells us it's definitely sleet. My windshield is covered with this frozen precipitation. It's thunderstorm dark outside and just plain ol' gross. As I head to the "Kiz"...the sun breaks through. The sky is blue. In my rear view mirror I see the muck and yuck and ick of this bizarre storm...in front of me...blue sky and sunshine.

Now...that's the picture I hope I have for the months to come. The ick is behind, and the beauty of what I've heard I can experience in an Oregon spring and summer is just ahead!! Hold your breath...ok, maybe not. But I'll wait...and believe me...I'll tell you when it's amazing!

For a different perspective on the snowy morning, check out Erik's blog.


A bumper sticker...

So...I was following today behind a car that had a bumper sticker I didn't really like. I started another blog going off about that bumper sticker and basically a "how dare they" kind of attitude. I was about half way done when I stopped, and just looked at it. I thought why is this so frustrating to me. I didn't understand the "sentiment" or why someone would want to brag about it. I didn't understand why someone would put that on their car. I could never imagine putting that on my car. And I remember sitting in my car thinking maybe it's a sarcastic message. Maybe it's not what they really mean, how could it be? And it's been bugging me all day. Then while I was venting it...I started to think..but what about the person who put that message on their car. What is their perspective? What's happened in their world that made them put that on their car? Maybe it honestly was just funny to them. Maybe it's a true statement in their life. Maybe it's ... well, it could be anything. Without literally getting out of my car and going to the window of that vehicle and asking the driver...I have no clue. I don't know their circumstances. I don't know what they are thinking or what they are dealing with. I don't know why that bumper sticker seemed to make sense to them and be something they needed to put on their car for others to see. And me? What happens to me as I begin to think about it? My hardened judgmental heart switches gears...from frustration and judgement...to compassion and wishing I understood. I've had a couple of situations come up this week that I don't completely understand. I can't wrap my head around them. And in those situations, I hope at least, I've been a little more understanding that then blast I've been putting towards this car and driver this afternoon. Why was I so quick to condemn? Do I do that at other times too? Do I just jump to conclusions? Do I react vs. think? Sometimes. This isn't meant to be a I'm kicking myself kind of thing... just a wake up call and reminder to myself that I'm so in need of being transformed into the likeness of Christ. I soooo want to have His mind. His vision and compassion for others. It may seem like a "little" thing, a bumper sticker...but it was just something God has used in this last hour to remind me how much I need Him.

Check out the team...

I just like having pictures of my friends...and co-workers. So today, as we began our team meeting, I "just happened" to have my camera with me. Asked a friend from the office to take pics, not knowing he would really do a great job posing us (which met a little opposition from some of the guys...)...but I'm SO glad I got this pic. Take a look at the team God has blessed me to be a part of...they are amazing people who I learn from every day...they challenge and encourage me. I'm SO grateful to be in a place where I get to be part of a student ministries team. It's such a blast to do this serving Jesus thing together...Oh Lord may we be what and who you designed us to be. Thanks for my co-workers...my friends. Honestly, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could go to any of them with something, significant or seemingly significant, and that they would be there for me. What a gift that is to have friendships run that deep. So...here you go...in order Left to right... Brian Condello, Patrick Kelley, Paula Smith, Linda Byeman, Michelle Unwin, Steve Dangaran & Josh Mann. Thanks for praying with and for us...that we will be effective with our lives in such a way that others would be drawn to Him...may be we patient, may we be focused, may we be purposeful, may we be encouraging, may we be...all He designed us to be...


For my friends in the ATL, this may seem silly - for a new "small town" girl, today was HUGE! One of our beloved favorite drive-thru's opened today! SONIC! It was grand opening day --- we had to drive 11 miles to get there (point of reference - our last house in Atlanta had 1 less than a mile away...). It took about 20 minutes to arrive where literally cars were backed up in line! Sonic had 4 employees just directing traffic weaving through the adjacent parking lot, around the side & back of the shopping plaza there, to pull into the back part of the Sonic parking lot, to meet another attendant asking if you want to drive thru or drive in. Kaylee & Noah were SO excited. After waiting in line 18 minutes, we get to talk to the gentleman with the walkie talkie. We'd prefer to drive in, but if we need to drive thru it's fine. The voice on the other end of the walkie talkie squaks through and says they just had a drive in open up...a spot for us! It was fun to hear the kids squeal excitedly as they saw the menu, remembered they had tater tots & onion rings, hear Noah debate himself about the type of slushie to get. Kaylee - she knew hands down what she wanted - Noah...he always takes a little while to decide (ok, sometimes it can be a lot of while). Me? Yeah, I knew what I wanted...and no...it didn't include a Coke. I got a cherry limeade...YUM! Sometimes it's just those simple things that make you feel good...and today, that included just being with my kiddos, eating some of our favorite food, and enjoying the sunshine (even though there was a cold wind). Hmmmmmm...how long do I have to wait to go to Happy Hour (1/2 price drinks @ Sonic every day 2-4 pm) - to get another cherry limeade?? Hmmmmmm......


Now...that was amazing!

So...I'm home after our biggest outreach event of the year. The Price is Right! It was CRAZY FUN and just plain ol' CRAZY! We had 24 contestants, 6 pricing games, 2 great hosts, amazing leaders and a total of 275 wild and crazy middle schoolers all in the same room! Add 4 unbelievable "commercials" which were testimonies from students who have accepted Christ this year at Crash. These students were clear about the decision they made, honest about how their lives were changed as a result of Him. I even turned to Josh earlier today when we were watching the footage and said they were going to take our jobs. And that's ok by me. These students get it. They own it. The longing of their lives and hearts is to be all God created them to be...and to live their lives loving Him. Man...that was fun. Let's do it again.

If I'm most honest, I just didn't know what to expect.
I totally believe in our students, but you just don't know as time approaches what is going to happen. You give it your best effort regardless...but these students amaze me time and time again. At an average Crash we see about 120 students. There were SOOOOOO many new faces and friends to meet. Our students did a great job bringing friends, and starting conversations to introduce them to CRASH and a place to meet Jesus.

Highlights included seeing Trent's reaction to getting a Starbucks gift card - and jumping up into Erik's arms; great t-shirts from the students saying "Bob Rocks My Socks Off"; hearing a student say how much they love Neil Diamond; Hailey & Celeste's great hats; Kailia playing Plinko; cheers as Cliffhanger was brought onto the stage; Connor winning the remote control car; Jerry driving in the Harley; hearing students scream for their friends and their schools; seeing 2 visitors in the final showcase...to sit back and smile watching students listen intently to students talk about how God has revealed Himself to them this year... And that's just the tip of the iceberg!

Now the real fun begins! Getting to really meet and talk and live with these students. I've been thinking a bunch about the fact that each of these students have a name and a story. That God had a specific reason for bringing each of them in the doors tonight. And I don't take lightly the fact that He has entrusted them to us...He wants our team to play a role in the lives of these students. Yeah, the fun is just beginning...can't wait to see how He works in them...I can't wait to hear the stories... Keep praying for them and for us...as we turn the pages of this new story and see what He reveals to each of us... To copy the words of Brandon & Riley, I just have to thank you Lord.


OK...that's depressing...

I admit it. I'm still a Southern girl at heart. I still long for flip-flop weather - for sunshine - for warmth - for being on the beach and being able to sit in the water, or actually get warmed from the sun and sand. I admit it. I was even talking earlier today about having to do Christmas in Florida or Hawaii or something. Overall I think I've handled my first Oregon winter pretty well...until...I hear people share statistics. Like when back in December/January, someone told me that there was 6 inches above normal of rain for the month of December. I was ok until I heard that. Then today --- "someone" (Brian) had to go and tell me that this past weekend we'd hit the warmest temperature (78 - which was amazing) since September 11, 2007. OK - do you realize that's 7 months since it was 78 degrees. Hello!?? Um, that does not compute for me. It's April, and I'm sitting here with cold feet - literal cold feet - not the I'm not sure that I should be here kind of cold feet, but actually cold feet. YIKES!! All I can say is that I'm trusting that this summer better be amazing...or I'm going on a cruise next winter...for a month! (How's that for selfish, self-absorbed...but honest...) (ok...and now they are saying the low tonight is 33...and that if we really stayed up all night we'd at least see a little snow in the midst of rain! ugh...)

You've got to read this...

OK...Steve started his blog tonight. I'm still hurting from laughing so hard. I'm not worthy of this man! And I have seriously been outdone in the blog department! Check Steve's blog out now.


Price is Right...Part 1...WOO!HOO!!!

OK...now that was fun! Tonight was our first round of The Price is Right - our big event for the spring, where students are encouraged to bring friends that haven't typically been a part of Flipside or Link or Crash before... Tonight the high school group had their shot at $1000 in prizes and giveaways. I really believe it was definitely a success! Lots of fun! Lots of new friends! Lots of fun games! Lots and lots and lots of laughs - thanks to Kevbo's unbelieveable descriptions and commentary, and Erik's new hair-do and skin-do and students who were crazy and fun and nutsy, and longed to be married to Bob (Barker that is...). It really was so much fun! I'd love to give you lots of specific details, but since we are doing round 2 with the middle school students, and many of the pricing games & prizes are the same, I have to wait, just in case...But...you can check out Erik's blog and Becca's blog for some glimpses of the fun...and their stories. Middle schoolers watch out - if tonight was any indication, we're gonna have an absolute blast! We saw lots of new students, and laughed so hard our sides hurt. So...get ready...we're gonna do it again...and I can't wait!!!


Every Knee Shall Bow...and every tongue confess...

So...I got home a little late tonight from Crash. The phone rings on the way home and it's Chele - calling asking me if I saw "it". Ok, I'll bite - what IT are we talking about here. She wanted to know if I was watching American Idol, which I wasn't obviously since I was on my way home. Then...my jaw dropped to the floor as she tells me that they closed "Idol Gives Back" with SHOUT TO THE LORD. Not that I didn't believe Chele (I did), but part of me couldn't believe that they would close with this song...it's a favorite. And it reminds me every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Watch it for yourself here. God, I trust that Your word will not return void, and thank you that Your ways are not my ways. You amaze me. Thank you that millions of people tonight were praising You. I'm sorry they took your name out (Jesus)...but Lord, nothing compares to the promise we have in You!!!


So...yeah...could it be true???

So...last year, shortly after I arrived in Salem, the church staff participated in a friendly round of March Madness Bracket-Mania. I like doing brackets and trying to figure it all out. I confess - I don't watch a ton of basketball, but CLEARLY like college ball over pro ball any day. (Don't get me started...) I typically start paying attention close to the regional tournaments...yeah, right before the brackets come out. But I really do like March Madness a lot. We've watched much less since the kids have come along, but I do LOVE watching college ball (I mentioned that already). OK - Long story short - last year it came down to the final game. The top two spots had chosen different teams to win. Yep, I was one of the final two, and my team, Florida, pulled it out and won...and I won March Madness Bracket-Mania 2007. Fast forward a year. Again, we enter into the land of Bracket-Mania. Another frenzy to complete the bracket - oh who will win?? I just don't know...so flip through, make my choices and wait. Going into Final Four Weekend I was #5 out of 15. Not a terrible spot, but not great. The ONLY chance I had was for...UNC and UCLA to lose...and for KANSAS to win! WOO!HOO!! I couldn't believe it! What was the likelihood...I mean, yeah, I chose it to happen...but...at sweet 16, I just didn't know...I was hoping really hard... Man, it was a good final game. I honestly thought Memphis was gonna do it...but, leave it to an amazing steal, and a momentum change (and the foul out of a key Memphis player just before overtime), and missed free throws, and a key 3, and the pieces fell into place for a repeat. Thanks Kansas!! I'm feeling the pressure of a 3-peat now...hmmmmmmmmmm.....


Make Your Mark...

This weekend was great! Well, from a middle school perspective. Friday night and Saturday morning we had "Make Your Mark" - a leadership development weekend for middle school students. Friday night we did something I've never done before. (One of the cool things of working with middle schoolers is having these moments of watching them experience things for the first time!). Anyway - we had 2 guys from the area there to teach them how to do...GRAFFITI! Yep, spray paint & 17 middle schoolers. You have the mental picture! How do you feel about that idea right this moment? Picture it --- 17 middle school students each with at least one can of spray paint! WOW! Now...imagine training up 17 middle schoolers to be leaders. Which is scarier? Spray paint in their hands...or the future in their hands? It is important to train middle schoolers, and others, in leadership...and graffiti. Done in the right way, with the right focus and motivation, it's amazing! Watch out! Done in the wrong way, with the wrong focus and motivation. It's detrimental! Watch out!

So we didn't take lightly the task of training up these students for 6 hours this weekend. Matthew 20 was our focus text vs. 26-28: "But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Serve. Serve others. Think about others. Yesterday morning at The Link, the middle school time @ church on the weekends, I was running Media Shout in the back and just kinda looking the room over...when I see one of the students who attended Make Your Mark get up from her seat next to two friends. I wondered where she was going, and smiled so big as I watched her go and sit on the other side of the room next to a girl who was sitting by herself. She introduced herself, and although it was clear to me she was a little nervous - I was SO excited to see a student MAKE HER MARK and reach out to another middle schooler... We talked about (in a break-out session), how sometimes we feel like we have to make this HUGE change to make a difference, to be a leader...but in the little things we do, they are HUGE to the person we are doing them for...and for this girl, it was huge that someone came to sit with her. She stood up a little taller, and you could just see her smile. She was serving someone else, and willing to give up sitting with her friends and being comfortable. She IS a leader! Way to go girl - I'll give ya' a can of spray paint any day...


I saw Horton...twice...

So...the first time I saw Horton Hears a Who, was with my family! Family day out! What could be better than all being together, hanging out, laughing, eating popcorn...just being together, wait I mentioned that... We laughed big and loud. (Until the last 10 minutes or so, when dear KJ lost it because of the dramatic trauma Horton endures getting tied up and the Who's endure getting almost dropped into...oh wait - maybe some of you haven't seen it. I won't give it away). KJ left the theater in absolute tears - screaming really. Enough to where those around us outside the theater were looking at each other wondering if they should go in. We got her calmed down, but she still is saying she didn't like the movie.

The second time I saw the movie was sitting in the front row with a group from church. (See the post below - the part that says A Day trip to Bridgeport...). It was an absolute blast! I was able to re-hear and remember a couple of favorite key lines, like "a.s.a.p. - act swiftly awesome pachyderm!" or Katie's line saying that everyone in her world would be ponies, and that they would eat rainbows and poop butterflies (ok that one I remembered from the 1st time)... (P.S. You can check Josh's blog for pics and another point of view...GO GIRLS!!!

Bottom line - I love this movie! I love this story! I love the animation! I love the creativity! I love the messages - and there were lots! I love that there was a movie released that was clean, fun, without all the innuendo, well made, made me laugh out loud for real several times...good flick! Go see it! It's so worth it...

(P.S. Check out Josh's blog for pics of the Bridgeport trip...

©2009 Until... | by TNB