Sunday, September 30, 2007

We had to laugh as we got together this weekend with Jamey and Cara. We were reflecting on all the crazy trips we have taken to see each other...and as thankful as we are for each time...we have to wonder what our kids will grow up thinking about this time where our driving time almost surpassed the actual time we had to be together. I guess it says a lot for commitment and loyalty that is possible with long distance friendships. Tom was teaching in Akron this weekend so we were able to tag along for no extra charge and added an extra night to meet Jamey, Cara & kids in a wonderful fully equipped cabin on the OH/PA border. Fall is just starting there so it was a beautiful time to camp. The boys were the only ones disappointed to not get to stay in a tent...the rest of us thought that modern conveniences + 2 babies = rest and enjoyment for all.

Sleepovers are grand!

Don't these 2 look like they have a promising future?
The kiddos all enjoyed a dip in our hotel pool before we had to part ways.
Exploring the ledges at Nelson Ledges State Park

Two long time compadres who love God, inspire each other in their walks with Him, and always, always make each other laugh. You can't help but laugh just listening in on their laughter, reminiscing, and "proverbial wisdom".

I think my favorite memory of this visit was on Friday night. Although Tom had to go teach, Jamey and Cara had driven back with us to the hotel, the kids got to go swimming, and we ordered in pizza so we could eat dinner easily all together. Well, long story short our room had only one double we had 8 kiddos (yep, count that out loud), 3 adults and one rousing game of WVU college football game on. Jamey and Cara don't have T.V. and there kids are major sports enthusiasts so you can picture the scene. But that's not the funny part...Maddie and Kelcie, our two girlie-girls, were prancing all over the room the entire evening talking up a storm and for the most part entertaining each other so well that no one gave them a lick of attention. Well, as everybody was getting ready to leave I happened to walk over behind a large overstuffed chair (where Jamey had been sitting) and noticed there were Ritz cracker crumbs EVERYWHERE. When I pointed it out, Jamey said, ah, yes, the girls were I believe making "baby cakes." This just cracked Cara and I up to no end. I know it was late and maybe you just had to be there but those two are just too funny with their imaginations. Cracker crumbs clean up easily, but memories last a long time these days in our children's minds. What a joy to watch a 2nd generation friendship blooming!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sara Groves,

Hometown friends & happenings

It takes a long while for a town to feel like home. Not everyone reading this will get this...and not every town is like this. We knew from the day we moved that this town was where we were supposed to be but it took a long while for it to become home. I think Tom still can't believe this is where we are settling (not that he doesn't want to be here, but if you had told him 10 years ago this is where God would call him, he'd have laughed in your face). So it brought great joy to both of our hearts to watch Cole and Josiah entertain their friends at the rockclimbing wall at the Y yesterday afternoon. It was Cole's first friends b-day party (I know parties have gotten out of hand in our society, but we've decided to keep it simple and do the same thing we remember our parents doing, we will allow each child 2 parties while they are at home; other than that, b-days will be family affairs for us). I must confess Tom and I both enjoyed this time with our kids and their friends a lot! Cole has such a sweet spirit and truly made the day feel like it was a time of celebrating his friendships and some of the little people that make up his community.

Earlier in the morning I was able to meet up with our biking/running Sat. morning crew. Thanks to Sharon for sending this picture. These women are so helpful to me in my fitness journey. I enjoy getting up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday, knowing they will be waiting for me. And yes, I am a "socializer" (that's what the 16 mph bike club calls can guess what our mileage is, I won't say) and a "queen" and I'm thankful for those people in the group who tease, admonish, challenge, support and keep me on this path, even on a week the scales aren't kind. They are a big part of what makes me try and they have me doing things I never would have attempted. And most of's just plain fun! I feel like I can do anything when I am on the last 1/4 of the way running in, and correspondingly I feel like I can do nothing when I am starting out on the first 1/4 of the way...but the feeling of finishing has me addicted to trying!

We finished the day with my dear sis Amy and her husband Steve taking us out to eat at Red Robin. What a treat as I really didn't want to cook at that point, and felt like at least I had exercised off the calories earlier that morning (and that my friends IS the true crux of my problem!). Then Grandma (who we saw one last time after she had spent a few days at my sister's) decided to treat the grandkids to icecream at Ben & Jerry's. And guess who didn't get left out...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Bye-bye to Grandma..thanks for the sweet memories!

This week has been pretty hectic...what with getting robbed (not me, "just" my van while I was in the store), removing the kitchen wallpaper (it's all gone!), and trying to soak up every minute of Grandma's was a full week. We squeezed in a few fun trips, most notably, a trip up to have lunch with my two aunts on my Dad's side. Here is a picture of my Mom & Maddie, Aunt Char & Uncle Tom, and Aunt Jane & Uncle Howard (Isaac was there but somehow didn't make the photo shoot).

Then, Maddie had a VERY special day with Grandma and Mom when we were able to go to a really neat tea shop for a formal tea luncheon. I think these pictures say it all in regards to her delight on this afternoon.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

On reading and thinking

I'm attempting to do something I haven't tried in post something thoughtful. I love blogging (way more than I'd ever have thought) but confess it's mostly about connection for me and instantaneous picture sharing. But I love reading others thoughts and although these are not my own thoughts I am attempting tonight to engage with the thoughts of two authors I've been reading of late.

I finished To Own a Dragon, Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father by Donald Miller recently. I am very thankful for this read because it helped me engage my culture (so many are growing up fatherless and in stark contrast to our own home) and put me in touch with a growing movement called the emergent church. Miller is well known for being a part of this movement that prides itself on engaging a postmodern culture. This boy can write. Reading this book, to me, felt like it took seconds. But just because something goes down easy, does that mean it's good for you? I can easily wile away 15 minutes at the doctor's office reading People magazine but I hope we'd all agree that that kind of cultural relevancy is probably not doing a whole lot for my spiritual growth. Actually, I thought Miller had lots to say in this book that was worthwhile...the main emphasis of the book is upon having a personal relationship with God, our Father and he even had good Trinitarian emphasis here. The parts of the book that I question are his crudity at points. He's also clearly got some authority and irresponsibility issues going on, but it's his honesty on these points that finds him endearing and God sends along a father figure (John McMurray) who mentors him in these areas. The book is written to other men and is definitely trying to help them heal from their "father wounds," own up to their own issues, and mentor others. Here's a sample of quotes I particularly liked:

On belonging, Ch. 4: "If a kid grows up feeling he is burdening the people around him, he is going to operate as though the world doesn't want him."

From Girls: The Thing Tony Said, Ch. 9 "I think we can use other people, romantic stuff, to validate ourselves. It has nothing to do with love. And when you find love, or when you are mature enough to understand it, the feeling you get is gratitude. I'm not saying I am mature by any means, but when I wake up in the morning and look at my wife sleeping next to me, I am sometimes overcome that another human being would want to share her life with me."--Tony (married friend) speaking to Don who is single

On education, Ch. 13: "The latest statistic is that the average American watches 1,456 hours of television a year but only reads three books. So if it's true that readers are leaders, and the more you read the further you advance. then there isn't a lot of competition."

On faith, Ch. 14: "...that will grow. You're young, with a lot of life ahead. I think the important thing to remember is what you already know, and that is to trust Him, to believe Him, to give Him...the benefit of the doubt, or as I would say, to have faith. The doubt will decrease." --John McMurray to Don

On the love of God our Father, Ch. 4: "He (John) told me that when Terri (John's wife) gave birth to Chris, and he held his son in his arms for the first time, it was the closest he had ever been to understanding the love of God. He said that though he had never met this little person, this tiny baby, he felt incredible love for him, as though he would lie down in front of a train if he had to, that he would give up his life without so much as thinking about it, just because this child existed. John set this love beside other relationships, but they didn't compare. In other relationships, the person he knew had to earn his love. Even with his own father, John learned to love him; and with his wife, they had fallen in love over several years, becoming closer and closer friends. But it wasn't that way with his children. His love for them was instantaneous, from the moment of their birth. They had performed nothing to earn his love other than be born. It was the truest most undconditional love he had known. John said if his love for Chris was the tiniest inkling of how God loves us then he had all the security in the world in dealing with God, because he knew, firsthand, what God's love toward him felt like, that it was complete."

I am now reading Searching For God Knows What and read a brief excerpt of Blue Like Jazz and must confess I've been rather disappointed. I guess it's been helpful to me to realize why I am not that into the emergent line of thinking but it is good to know how to dialogue with this thought. More specifics on this if anyone's interested...

I thought the following quotes by Will Willimon help shed light on problems with the so called emergent thinking and reminded me in a poignant manner why I am a traditional Wesleyan:

"A bestselling book of the past year says it all: Leaving Church. Our God dis-incarnate determines that we all must disembody our faith and leave church in order to follow the governmentally approved ordo salutus - saving ourselves by descending ever deeper into our subjectivity. Because of our limp theology, our anthropology becomes too stable, and the purpose of our preaching is adjustment, confirmation rather than conversion. Preaching thus becomes another means of self-cultivation as well as a well reasoned defense against true transformation."

"For Wesley, grace was the constant, moment-by-moment active working of God in us that gives us a different life, indeed a different world, than we would have had if God had left us alone. Without God we wretched sinners can do nothing, thought Wesley, with God we being-sanctified saints can to all things. Wesley took the Moravian one-time experience of spiritual enlightenment and made it a lifetime process of daily awakening to what grace can do among us."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Birthday Thank-you's

Hopefully this is the last b-day picture taken in the ivy wallpaper...we're finally taking it down this week..hip, hip, huzzah!!

Just wanted to share a few pics with a few of you that I know would have loved to be with us for Cole's b-day. We always make a cake together off of Family Fun because the cakes are fun and easy to do. They never require a special mold or cake decorating tips. This year, Cole picked a pirate treasure chest. It was fun to do together even if the kitchen looked like a cake had exploded in our kitchen after we were done (I had a lot of little helpers eager to decorate and of course dip their fingers in the frosting)!

It is so fun to celebrate birthdays when the only thing on the agenda is to be home together. We were thrilled to have Grandma drive in this morning but she refused to be in pictures as she was having a "bad hair day." Today was the first day it has started to feel like fall. The wind was blowing and the temps were probably in the mid 60s. Well, Grandma picked Cole up from school and they did a little shopping for his birthday. Upon getting out of the car, her hair was blowing and she said to Cole, "Oh, I must look like a witch." To which he responded like only a child can with complete honesty, "Well, you may look like one but you're really not one, Grandma!"

Thanks to Nana & Gramps for the fishing rod. It was one of Cole's favorite gifts. He was so excited to see all the fancy lures that came with it. He just kept saying, "This is so cool, Dad!" and is anxious to get a chance to use it (no more having to share Si's rod).

Thanks to Aunt Beth for the National Park books. When the box opened, you can see Cole's expression at left as Josiah loudly exclaimed "Oh, my word!" It warmed my heart to see them so excited about books.

I hope you can see Isaac's look in this last picture, it is so intensely zeroed in on those presents and how he can get a piece of the action.

It was a day of blessings...remembering what a privilege these last 7 years have been, and a prayer for many more.

P.S. My dear sister, Amy, you blew us away by making a web comment. We know how very much that cost you but it did impress your nephew!! Now we are waiting for The World of Steve & Amy (blog) to hit eblogger...

Happy Birthday Cole! 7 years today

Words can't begin to say how much we love you. One thing we know for are a gift to us from God and we hope you always know how incredibly grateful we are to be the recipients of such a special gift. Growing up, all my birthday cards were always signed "Love & Prayers, Mom & Dad." As I got older, we girls would tease my Mom about her "originality" in signing cards that she had obviously labored over to find one with just the right message. Now that I have been a mom for a few years I totally get it--there are some things you try and try to articulate but in the end you just hope your kids know from the way you have lived your life for them. There are no words just love to describe that bond.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Happy Grandparents Day!

My kids are doubly blessed. They have such special grandparents on both sides of the family. We were just with Nana and Gramps (sometimes referred to as "Pop" because Cole called him that early on when he was struggling to articulate his speech).

Nana has taught us the value of true cooking, and more importantly how bringing family to the table creates close bonds (my best "catching up" time with her is when we work together in her kitchen)! She loves to celebrate special days and she has a way of turning ordinary days into special days by the way she celebrates life in general. She is a wonderful friend and teaches this to our children by the way she models a listening ear and gives endless quality time with anyone who needs it!

Gramps has taught us the value of a Dad who spends time with his boy--it produces a great man. Now it is so special to see him take time with each of his grandchildren one by one, investing in each of their lives and praying for each by name, daily. He was saved as a young boy through a church that reached out to him through their children's ministry. Eventually because of his tender heart the rest of his family came to church and also met Christ's transforming message. As he raised his own family he laid down such a careful foundation of unconditional love, careful discipline and always a relentless pursuit after the heart of God. It is that same foundation that inspires us now as young parents.

Lastly, we are so excited to have Grandma come to our house this week to help celebrate Cole's b-day. I remember all too well the day Cole came into the world and that memory is forever special as my Dad was there in the waiting room to greet his namesake. My parents were the proudest grandparents ever!!! It was their first grandchild and as my Dad had been raised with three sisters, three daughters, he was almost awestruck by the idea that I had brought a son into this world. In the year we saw my Dad slip away from us my kids became more than special grandkids, they became light in the midst of immense darkness. It's been four years now, and still my Mom lights up at the mere mention of their name. I am so sorry we don't live closer but am so thankful she makes it possible for us to be together as often as we are. She is an absolutely incredible Grandma (and former "Mama"). Her patience and interest in each of them as unique individuals always inspires me when we are together.

To all the grandparents in my kids life, thank you for loving us so selflessly, completely and joyfully! Your touch on our lives is so felt even though we are so far apart.

To show a child what has once delighted you, to find the child's delight added to your own, so that there is now a double delight seen in the glow of trust and affection, this is happiness.

-- J.B. Priestley

No Pain, No Gain....If only it were so

I am hurting. Last week I was elated to find my weight had dropped 3 pounds during our 2 week trek west. So this week I planned my fall exercise regime and got to it. A local friend and I run early in the morning before we wake the kiddos and we started up again this week-we planned a smaller route (2.5 miles as opposed to 3.5 miles) because I hadn't run for several weeks. I did some step aerobics yesterday along with some abdominal crunches (my body has completely forgot I even have abdominal muscles) and then this morning met the "crew" to do a 12 mile bike course followed by a 2.3 mile run. I can hardly move I am so, so, so out of shape. It is amazing to me how quickly your body loses any shape you've worked so hard to get! And this is the worse part, and why I share this boring post, I am up 4 pounds this morning. Please don't respond saying I'm building muscle!!! I am just annoyed as all get out...and oh, yes, did I mention hurting??!!

Well, I say all that in the hopes that sharing this information in some form of public fashion will make me actually quit eating this next week (that couldn't be the issue, right?). I've got so far to go and it truly is discouraging to feel like you are "backsliding" before making any new ground.

Well, I close with a link to a provocative read my husband pointed out to me called "What if Wesley Was Right?" The author is writing from the UMC tradition and I definitely related to what he was saying. There were a lot of theological terms I felt like I needed a dictionary for but He was speaking at Oxford so one would expect a certain level of academic excellence. You need a minute to read this one. And then you need another minute to think about it. I'm actually still digesting it myself so hopefully will add more to this post later.
What If Welsey Was Right? by William Willimon

It's interesting because I am currently reading a book by Donald Miller called To Own a Dragon (thanks to Cara for making me pick him up). It is about the role of fathers in our society and how growing up without one affected him. He is calling for men to step up and become mentors to boys who are fatherless and has even started the Bellmont Foundation to aid in that effort. Miller is largely stereotyped as part of the emergent church movement of which I haven't been terribly impressed with but own I really don't know much about either. Well, I can't put this book down. He is an incredibly gifted writer and I found out he is coming to Wisconsin in October so maybe I will share more about him later, too. I'd imagine these two writers are in different "camps" of thought so to speak but I am intrigued by both at the moment.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

B-days, 1st-days, and Prayer Updates

Happy Birthday to Aunt B-B
and to cousin Becca!

Two very special people to us happen to share the same special day. We love you and wish we could celebrate you in person but in the meantime know you are loved a lot (across a lot of miles)!!!

Today was also the first day of school for Cole (first grade) and Josiah (kindergarten). They both seemed to really enjoy their days. It was a really bittersweet day for me because I missed them so much. But I am thankful for the peace God gives as we walk each day trying to live in His presence. He is enough. That is the phrase that keeps coming to my mind. He is with us wherever we go and we can't possibly leave His presence if we tried (Psalm 139). Our boys attend our local neighborhood public school and that provides a lot of advantages but also some disadvantages and we pray God uses every situation He brings to us to mold our boys and our family into who He wants us to be.

Maddie was a hoot today (and everyday)! Immediately upon leaving the school this morning she asked if we could go shopping. Tom said I had trained her well--ditch the boys and head for the stores! She told grandma on the phone that the boys had moved away. When questioned about this, she calmly replied, "Yeah... they did move to school!" You have to remember it's been quite a traumatic summer of moves for her as her long lost love, Benny, moved away. So I guess she is still processing the word "move." She has finally learned to say the "L" sound--so there is no more "I yuv you, I yike you," no more "Yucky Charms," and she no longer resembles a reptile (with tongue darting out of mouth) when she says "blue." She did coin a new term at our house this summer, "bugito," referring to mosquito.

Thank you to those of you who are praying for my friend. Please continue to do so. She has finished her first 3 week treatment of chemo, had 1 week off and is starting her second go round this week. Actually tomorrow (Wed.) is her treatment day so if you are reading this please do pray for Jenny, her husband Sam and their 1 year old daughter Renee. Jenny is battling breast cancer which has moved into her bones. We as believers are uplifting her to the Healer of all diseases and praying our faith would be enlarged even as we pray.

Mark 9:24 "I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!"