Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Here's to an odd and old year.....

The rain is falling softly outside as I sit here at my computer sipping tea and reflecting on our time here in Portland.
We have lived here for well over a year now. Though it has happened in stages, our lives have changed dramatically. As usual, I have learned that there is so very much for me to learn! It has been like lying down in your cozy bed, in your lazy town only to wake up and find yourself in Wonderland. I have become increasingly suspicious that my Master's hand has had a much greater influence in the mundane realities of our lives than we could expect or imagine.

Before we moved here, we were warned by many of the well intentioned that this, Portland, was a physically and spiritually dark place. My point in this post is not to refute that claim as I have found it at times to be those things indeed. It is not so dark however, as to overshadow the Father of lights! (James 1:17) 
 Have you ever noticed how very noticeable one little light is in an otherwise utterly dark space? The light of Christ is like that. It is brilliantly beautiful and people are drawn to it. They are drawn to Him. I have to believe that even Christmas lights are a testimony to this. They glitter and shine and we are in awe of them against the backdrop of darkness. We all need and want illumination not just in the natural but the spiritual as well.
So this basic longing we have for light is simply testimony to our great need for Christ. The human heart aches for Him. It's true whether you think it is or not.

I am feeling bolder these days. I am feeling unapologetic about it. Our lives are supposed to be spent in some way that matters in the big scheme of things. Why, oh why, do we sweat the small stuff?
This has been a very interesting year. I've made some very interesting friends, each one challenging me in some new way. I have seen, firsthand, God working in ways that you usually only read about, but never get to see. I am watching Him melt hearts all around me, including my own. I am weak in the knees and I am stunned.

Hope deferred has become realized. I want to keep living this way.

As this year wraps up I await the new one with anticipation. As I celebrate Christ's birth this year I am thinking about how God did a new thing. This world has been forever changed because of what He did in Christ. In 2008, I couldn't have imagined all He would do in 2009. He's still doing new things. His creative way of loving us is astounding. Seriously, I can't make this stuff up!

Thank You Lord for this wonderfully strange, old year.

And this from our Lord:
"See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" Isaiah 43:19a

So what are you hoping for in 2010? I wanna hear about it!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Samuel turns 9!

Shortly after our move, we started preparing for our yearly getaway to Gatlinburg, TN. On the front end of this trip we planned to celebrate Samuel's 9th birthday at Dale and Kirsten's house in Charlotte. We flew into Charlotte on July 3rd and were able to spend a morning with Dale, Kirsten and the kids before they headed off to Florida and left us in charge of their house and pool for the weekend. Greg's mom, dad and grandmother joined us there and helped us plan and execute a great party on the 4th to celebrate Samuel's 9 years. Samuel had been bursting with the anticipation of seeing his Charlotte friends again. Getting to spend the day with them was truly the greatest present he could have gotten.

The weather was beautiful and almost everyone on our guest list was able to make it. The kids needed no more than the pool and each other to have a great time. It was great getting to spend some time with old friends. Because of Kirsten and Dale's hospitality we had everything we needed and all the comforts of home.

We are very proud of our boy. It is such a joy to watch him grow physically as well as spiritually. Since I am writing this well after his birthday occurred....yes, I am attempting to catch-up on some blogging...I will share with you what I am sure will become a favorite 'Samuel story' for us.

A bit of background:

Samuel received a wallet from his dear friend Hudson in Matthews this past birthday. Hudson put a bit of cash in the wallet. That added to the other money friends and family had given him for his birthday made quite a healthy stash for a boy of nine! While we were in Gatlinburg, Samuel tried to pay our trolley fares. He got to the front of the line of our family and as he approached the trolley driver, with his back to the rest of us, proceeded to whip out his wallet, turn his head to the side with his left hand raised and announced, “I got it.”.

My little man.

Samuel is an extraordinarily generous person. I can't even tell you how many times he has offered to pay for something his sister wanted...even offering up his whole allowance on at least two known occasions. He is incredibly sensitive to the needs and wants of others. He isn't just generous with his money. Before he takes a bite of whatever delectable treat he might get his hands on from time to time, his first concern is whether or not I can have it (if it's gluten-free). He wants to be able to share his treats with me. He's not stingy either....if I asked for his whole ice-cream cone I know he'd give it to me. (I have no plans to test this theory but feel sure of it nonetheless).

A couple of weeks ago, when Elaine and Julianna were visiting, we took a trip downtown to the Chinese Gardens. Afterwards we got dinner at Baja Fresh just around the corner from the famous Powell's Book Store. There was a weary and worn looking homeless girl with her dog sitting outside Powell's with a sign in hand explaining her worldly troubles. Her dog was really cute.....scruffy but totally cute. Elaine, Julianna and Sarah Grace stopped to admire the dog. Greg and I were just trying to usher everyone towards the restaurant. I looked back to see that the others were finally on their way, but one lingered. I saw the unmistakable profile of my son in his beloved FBI baseball cap standing over the girl. I watched him pull his wallet from his pocket and hand her a dollar from it. It was just a dollar and yet it's significance trumped anything the rest of us had thought to do for her. When he joined us we naturally praised him for his generosity. He simply explained that he had read her sign and she had troubles. She was hungry.

She came into the Baja Fresh we were eating at and bought a drink (they had 99 cent drinks) after washing her hair in the restaurant's bathroom. Samuel was overjoyed to think that he had been able to pay for her drink. We passed her again as we walked back to the van past Powell's. She thanked us and spoke of how kind and generous our children are.

I left that scene reflecting on yet another lesson that one of my kids was teaching me.



Tuesday, July 14, 2009

We have moved!

We ended up living at Maple Street for almost 9 months. Our temporary accommodations were cozy and comfortable, but we were eager to receive our household goods and establish a greater sense of normalcy in a more “permanent” home. Most of you know that our situation remains uncertain, so we were fortunate to find a wonderful home in Lake Oswego that we are renting for now. The United van pulled up to our new house on June 15th. I started to feel quite overwhelmed when the movers started bringing all the furniture and boxes into the house. It was chaos. I was so grateful that I had help!

Tobitha, Aislyn and Benjamin arrived the night before on the 14th. They came all the way from Orlando, Florida for the express purpose of getting us settled in the new house! Now that's a true-blue friend. Those of you that have the pleasure of knowing Tobitha, know that she doesn't mess around. Anything she starts, she finishes. She doesn't get emotionally attached to “stuff”, and she does not get easily side-tracked. She was exactly who we needed to help us get the job done. You would have been amazed to see all that we accomplished by the time she and the kids left on Saturday. Within two-weeks time, we were basically settled. You will have to trust me on how impressive that is based on the enormity of the task we faced.

I am so incredibly thankful for the time I got to spend with my sweet Tobitha. I had been longing to see her face to face for some time. As it is with so many that I love, the distance can be so hard. We worked diligently during the days and tried to find some time for relaxing in the evenings. I regret that we didn't show her and the kids any of Portland (we stayed very focused), but I enjoyed every minute with them nonetheless. Samuel and Sarah Grace had oodles of fun with their “cousins”, Aislyn and Benjamin. Despite hanging around the house for most of the week, they never lacked for things to do and enjoyed simply just being together.

One of my new and dear Portland friends, Lorri, spent moving day with us as well. She busily helped us unpack the kitchen, among other things, while her four children just naturally blended into the mix with the other kids. The kids were all great and got along famously. It was a beautiful day and they were able to all play outside for the most part. I had to chuckle later when one of our new neighbors commented on how we were the talk of the street with all those children running around. I'm sure they were thinking their quiet street would never be the same! :)

A lot more has happened since then, so I will follow this blog post with another one shortly. I am currently on a plane headed from Charlotte to San Francisco, so I actually have some time to write!



Monday, April 27, 2009

My baby turned 7!

This past week we celebrated Sarah Grace's 7th birthday!  I have to say that as her mother, it is bitter-sweet to watch her grow up.  She has done a lot of that sort of thing over the past year.

When she was six, and we still lived in Matthews, she accepted Christ.  She was so young that Greg and I almost tried to talk her out of it.  That probably sounds absurd, but we really wanted it to be a true acceptance of Jesus and not something she felt pushed or compelled to do by anyone other than the Holy Spirit Himself.  She is quite spiritually sensitive.  She loves her God openly and without apology.  She loves to go into her room and turn up the praise music and sing along.  One could learn  a lot about the joy of worship from this little child.  Her sunday school teacher describes her as an "old soul".

A lot of maturing has happened for Sarah Grace this past year.  She endured a move across the country from the only home she has ever remembered to a place that was new to all of us.  She released her dearest friends and embraced the adventure.   She has spent the past 7 months living apart from most of her earthly treasures.  She has but a few toys we were able to bring with us in the van.   Her clothes are piled into a crate-like shelving structure in her closet as she has no real furniture in her room other than a bed.  Making friends has happened slowly, and she has been patient.  She has gone to various churches that we have tried out and has made the best out of each experience.  She has been open to all of the new, while at times deeply missing the old.  She goes to bed happy and wakes up happy.  She never claims hardship and she never complains.

In the past several months and weeks she has learned to play basketball, read English and music, do scales on her violin, ski (sort of), be a caring, generous, and selfless playmate to a 3 year old, countless scriptures, and how to cook with her mama.  She stopped sucking her thumb one day because her Daddy told her it was time and she agreed, so she just stopped.  She got stuck on top of Mt. Hood skiing with Aunt Kirsten.  It took them an hour and a half to get down with no help from anyone.  She never cried, complained or gave up.  She even ended up being an encouragement to Aunt Kirsten during their exhausting and at times harrowing descent.  She and Samuel had to get blood drawn at the doctor's office during a check-up.  Sarah Grace volunteered to go first.  She held out her relaxed arm, turned her head and pressed her lips together as tears welled a bit in her lower eyelids, but never fell.  I really can't think of many people I know that show greater determination and will power than this little girl.  

She gleefully skipped into the hairdresser's salon to get 14" of her hair wacked off so she could send it to Lock's of Love.   When the hair came off, she instantly looked so much older.  It occured to me that her new physical appearance matches up with the growing person she is on the inside.  
Sarah Grace is a joy to all of us.  Samuel loves her so much, I think he would give her his right arm if she asked for or needed it.   They are the best of friends.  Her Daddy is truly her prince.  He showers her with affection and tender guidance.  He encourages her in all her endeavors.  He protects her from those things in this world that would steal her innocence and mar her sweet childhood.  He shows her what it means to be honored and cherished.   
We are very blessed indeed.

So as much as Greg and I would like to repeat "6", we must move on with "7".  

Happy birthday Peach!
Mama and Daddy love you!

p.s.  The pics are from her birthday party where we planted pansies in tins and then painted the tins and then went to our neighbor Holly's house who is a sculptor.  The girls got to see Holly's studio and her work and hear about how she does her work.  We then came back for a tea party!  And the music selected for this blog are some of SG's favorites.  :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My Rant About Rush

Limbaugh that is.  
I have made no secret out of the fact that I fail to get warm fuzzies at the mention of his name or the sound of his voice.   My Mom and Dad love him (God Bless them!).   During my teenage years  I was forced (not really) to listen to his railing rancor from our kitchen radio every day.   Even then, I agreed with a lot of what he would say, but I bristled at the way he would say it.  I just knew there had to be a better way.  Twenty years later, I still believe there is a better way.

Today, certain powerful Democrats are working to paint Limbaugh as the mascot for the Republican party.  The fact of the matter is, he does speak the mind of many die-hard Republicans.  I do think he is a very smart man.  And I think that any and all attention he has garnered for himself....has been very good for him.  I do not think he is doing the Republican party any favors.  The fact that he is smart enough to know this, leads me to be suspicious of his motives.  Or maybe the ego trip is just too much, and he simply can no longer see the forest through the trees.  Who knows!?  At any rate, the combination of Limbaugh, apologetic conservatives, angry conservatives and some scoundrel Democrats are making a mockery of the Republican Party.

Why is this a problem?  It's a problem because the Republicans must be able to show themselves as relevant.  The future of the Party depends on it's ability to reach out to young people and be inclusive of diversity.  Conservatives must learn to speak the language of the younger generations or face extinction.   I don't think young people today even know what true Conservativism is.  I think Rush Limbaugh would like to tell them, but he talks so loud, you  can't hear what he is saying.  That's the problem....his personality is bigger than his message.    Not good.  Not helpful.

What's worse is this notion that he cannot be crossed by others in his own party. (Think The Godfather, for cryin' out loud).  I could rant about that for a long time, so I will wrap it up with one word.....ridiculous.

I cannot fail to point a finger at some Democrats here.  In the interest of us "all getting along", it is clear there are some top Democrats who are not at all interested.  With squinty eyes and wringing hands, Democrats such as James Carville, David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs, Rahm Emanuel and more have schemed  in portraying the  GOP  beholden to Rush Limbaugh.  And so it boils down to a game for these people.  Real tragedy is striking America.  Real dialogue needs to be happening across the political fence, and these people just want to play games.  Shame on them.

Well, it's a free country!  Let ever' one of em say what they will.....but just because somebody is  sellin'  something, doesn't mean you have to buy it.

Kara Liechty

Friday, February 20, 2009

Looking back......

is hard not to do.
  A few days ago Sarah Grace and I went to North Carolina for a quick weekend trip.  This trip was a bit more relaxed than the one Samuel and I took about a month earlier.  The weather was wonderful.  The air was crisp and the skies were sunny for the most part.  It felt warmer than Oregon has been feeling.  
I woke up the first morning we were there to find my little girl asleep in her bed with her scrapbook opened above her head.  She had pulled out little cards and pictures from her former life and the sun was pouring through her windows upon the whole scene and yet she slept soundly for lack of anything louder than a bird chirping outside her window.  

I made my way downstairs into my bright, happy kitchen noticing how the little plant clipping Monica had given us had finally formed roots inside the little vase that had become its home months ago.   I wondered how we will ever get it to Portland.  I remembered how there had been so many beautiful flowers on that kitchen table and so many precious friends gathered around it.  There were Lincoln Logs scattered all over the family room floor as SG had pulled them out the night before to build one of her creations like she used to love to do.   I used to get frustrated sometimes at the mess those Lincoln Logs would make.   The street was quiet outside.  I knew Sarah Grace would want to ride her bike in the cul-de-sac when she woke up.  She had been talking about it. 
 When Samuel and I came a month ago, all his neighborhood friends came over and they tromped through the woods all day, sliding down the "cliff", disciphering "indian" writings on trees, and collecting precious "crystals".  They came back all muddy, full of the smell of little boys playing.  I fussed at them for tracking dirt into the house.  Samuel entertained them with his piano playing and they all wanted to come with him to Mrs. Abercrombie's house (his old piano teacher), so he could show her all he has learned in Portland.  ( These were his friends who loved him and admired him and left posters on our door for him and made special arrangements to be around that weekend so they could play with him. ) They wanted to see him play for Mrs. Abercrombie.
This past trip, when Sarah Grace and I went to church, we were greeted with the love of people who knew us.  A few knew we would be there, and others were surprised to see us but either way they all made room for us.  In the church service SG sat next to Makenzie at the other end of the pew from where I was sitting.  You can do that there, let your kid sit a few people away and know the grown ups she is sitting next to will watch out for her.  She stood up on the pew during praise and worship time and belted out her songs to God.  She loves to praise Him that way.  She clapped during a more upbeat song.  It made me smile.  She and Makenzie had a great time singing and drawing together during the service, but at the closing song, SG reached her hand out in back of her to grab the hand of her friend Anabelle, who was sitting directly behind her.  All three girls held hands and sang together.  It was sweet and it was sad.  I wished SG could grow up with those girls.  I looked around at the other children of my friends and felt a tinge of resentment that I would not be able to watch them grow up, but would just become some strange lady that randomly appears in their lives from time to time commenting about how big and grown they have become.  
That Sunday afternoon, back at the house, the doorbell rang.  It was Mark.  He is the owner of Hershey.  Hershey is the toy poodle the kids used to play with and Mark and Tracy (who have no kids) would let Samuel and Sarah Grace walk him.  Mark and Tracy would hang out and chat with me or Greg or both of us while the kids would play with Hershey.  After we moved, Hershey would pull at his leash to come to our door.  I think he liked the kids as much as they liked him.  When I opened the door, Mark handed me a framed picture of Hershey to give to the kids.  He told me to call him later and he would bring Hershey over to play with Sarah Grace.  
Kirsten was hanging out with us at the house and when I closed the door she commented about how it was no wonder this was such a hard place to leave...with so many people caring for us...even a dog. 
Julianna and SG were pretty much inseparable the whole weekend.  We pulled Julianna out of school early Monday and the girls rode bikes and played until it was time to go to the airport.  The tears came after I bid farewell to Elaine (Julianna's mom, and my friend).  I had to get going at that point...we had a plane to catch and all.  I kept running around the house from room to room making sure everything was just so, making a check-list for Greg for the next month when he would be there to meet the movers.  I think it was really just an excuse to be in the house longer.  In each of its rooms.  Allowing the memories to fill my senses.  I knew the exercise had become fruitless and it was time to go.

The house is sold.  I will not be going back.  A month ago, I dedicated it to the Lord as a memorial stone....like the stones the Israelites would erect as memorials to God's faithfulness.  The reason it is so hard to leave is because of how good life was there.  It is sad to leave it, but it is also cause to be thankful to the One who made it so good.  I will not forget what He did for us there.
I prayed for the new family that would live there.  I asked that He would bless their home.  I decided to leave the same scripture on the chalk board (which will be staying with the house...the buyers asked for it) that I wrote on it as we began on this strange journey so many months ago:

"Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup; You have made my lot secure."
Psalm 16:5

Today, the sun is shining in Portland.  Not wimpy sunshine that comes and goes, but full-on sun, unwavering and undisturbed by any cloud of any sort.  It's a perfect day to take a run through the evergreens.  The kids and I will be lacing up our shoes and heading out shortly.

The Lord is faithful.



Thursday, February 5, 2009

Book Reviews Two for One!


Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore:

My sister-in-love (and law) Kayla emailed me this book recommendation several weeks ago.  She was pretty insistent I read it.  I am so glad I did.  It is a truly inspiring story of how two men from completely different worlds break into each other's lives.

The main characters are the authors themselves.  This is a true story.  Denver Moore grew up a poor black boy in Louisiana sharecropping. The reader gets an open-eyed look at what amounted to nothing more than modern-day slavery.  You are plunged into his world and you will not quickly forget what you learn there.  How this impacts and molds his future is for you to find out. Read the book.
Ron Hall shares his rags-to-riches recollections.  Born into a lower middle-class family, Hall eventually becomes a world-class art dealer with some hard work and a lot of good fortune.  In contrast to Denver's plank lumber shotgun shack in Louisiana, Ron Hall hobnobs with some of the world's wealthiest while abiding among the opulent elite of Fort Worth, Texas. How these two characters' lives become forever intwined?  You'll need to read the book.

So there is hardship, sadness, faith and doubt for two men from either side of the track, a heroine that rescues them both, and a God Whose love endures..."forever".

I really don't want to say much more about it.  It was one of those that I laughed and I cried.  I learned more than I wanted to know, but that's a good thing.  I am too often content to pretend like I have enough problems of my own, so that I can easily convince myself I have no time or energy to deal with "other" people's problems.  Especially people who have problems I cannot at all relate to.  In fact, if I am honest, I usually pass judgement on those "other" kinds of people and their problems.  After reading this book, I found out I am the type of person that needs to know "how" a person got into whatever mess they are in.  That interest trumps my desire to show unconditional love and grace.  I think I've been getting those things backwards.  

So how did I get all of that from this book?  You'll have to read it to find out!

When You Rise Up:  A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling by R.C. Sproul Jr.:

This was another book that was recommended to me....with some reservations.  I have read a few books on homeschooling and this was, by far, not my favorite.  I have not read anything else by R.C. Sproul Jr., so I will try not to make any sweeping judgments.  

So let's get down to the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The good:  
This is a great book for people that are already homeschooling their children, but just need a heavy dose of extra encouragement.  The author reminds of us our spiritual duties to our kids and how that relates to their at-home education.  We are reminded that as Christian parents our first goal is not to produce little Einsteins but rather disciples of Christ.   We can never allow ourselves to flip-flop in our priorities where our children's spiritual nurture is concerned.  This is a great reminder.  If you don't homeschool, you may not realize how incredibly tempting it is to feel that we (homeschoolers) must produce the best and the brightest AND the most spiritual children in our communities.  We have eschewed the help of the state and insisted on doing the whole thing ourselves.  It can, at times, feel like....pressure.   Mr. Sproul Jr. reminds us that it is our God-given right, privilege, and duty to raise our kids in this way and that for whatever God calls, He equips.

The bad:  There were a lot of words in this book.  It's actually not a long book at all, but at times, it felt the author was going on tangents.    If you do not subscribe to the notion that homeschooling is an incontrovertible duty for all Christian parents, then you will have some trouble with this book.  As a homeschooler, I do not believe this is the only way to raise godly kids.  There are probably some kids that go to school at public or private school who would do much better at home.  There are some homeschooled kids that would do better in a 'school' setting.  Mr. Sproul Jr. would not agree with me on this.

The ugly:  Yes, there is some ugly.  In this book, Mr. Sproul Jr. does quite a bit of condescending.  He certainly condescends to parents who have not chosen to homeschool, but even those that do are pretty much painted as....idiots.  In some parts, he ends up coming across as just another mean Calvinist.  Now, there are many, many reformed values I hold dear to my heart.  I am not trying to pick on Calvinists......BUT, there is this weird thing going on in the reformed camp (at least in a lot of the literature).  If you don't fully agree with them, you are somehow stupid and in grave theological error.  There is no room for differences.  Wow, I hesitate to even write this, as there are many reformed writers that I have been so blessed by.  This is just a generalization to be sure, but it seems for many of these writers that so emphatically embrace the "doctrines of grace", they have not been so transformed by grace that it just oozes out of them.  Tangent:  When I first learned about grace, I thought the more you knew about it, the more you studied it, the more God's grace would ooze out of you.  That's not true!  Some of the most humble, grace-aware, transformed, Spirit-filled people I know have never even heard of the "doctrines of grace".

That being said, if you have a problem with Calvinists, this book won't help you like them any better. 

If you are not yet a homeschooler but you saw this book listed on my blog and decided to purchase it to explore homeschooling as a possibility (sorry Doug), just read it with a grain of salt.  He really does say some good things, but you just have to have a bit of a thick skin while reading it.  :)