Friday, January 25, 2008

happy (belated!) birthday to my best friend

You're my Best Friend by Don Williams

You placed gold on my finger
You brought love like I've never known
You gave life to our children
And to me, a reason to go on.

Chorus: You're my bread when I'm hungry
You're my shelter from troubled winds
You're my anchor in life's ocean
But most of all, you're my best friend

When I need hope and inspiration
You're always strong when I'm tired and weak
I could search this whole world over
You'd still be everything that I need.

This post only makes sense if you know Don Williams and if you know Tom. When we first married I was a mild Don Williams fan but over the years of getting into vehicles and finding these very old cassettes (remember those?) playing after Tom was driving them, they have come to mean so much more to me. Just a few weeks back, I got into the van for a late night run to the store and found this song playing. It's so simple--but that's the beauty of the old country ballads--and I couldn't imagine a more fitting song to sing right now. So, I drove to the store with tears in my eyes and a renewed love and respect for the "Rev. Williams".

Celebrating at Red Robin with Dad after he got home.

Go here to register for a free burger there on your b-day!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Carl (our former pastor, friend) from India

Date: Jan 24, 2008 7:33 AM
Today we had the Pastors Conference all day again. We heard two more testimonies of the pators from Orissa. It is difficult to comprehend these viscious attacks. The attackers came from outside the villages. There were about 3000 of them. It was clearly a planned attack on Christmas eve and Christmas day. The pastor who still has not seen his wife shared his story. His wife was ill and they could not get her out in time to escape to the jungle. At the last minute the children helped the mother out of the house, but somehow the children got separated from the mother. The pastor could not escape so he hid behind a rock near his home. He feels that the Lord blinded the attackers from seeing him, because they were all around him but they never found him. He had to lie still behind the rock all night. Twice he had to go to the bathroom, but could do nothing - he had to soil himself. It was about 40 degrees - all he had was the clothes on his back. He is still visibly in shock and there is fear in his eyes. The police watched the attack and did nothing. After their testimony the four of us each took a turn washing the feet of the four pastors from Orissa. It was incredibly humbling and moving. They wept as we honored them in this way. You have to understand that these are Dalits who would never imagine someone washing their feet. It is so clear that God ordained that we are here at this time. You should see these beautiful orphan children. I have some video of the girls singing in worship before their dinner. They are so sweet. Today they presented a sewing machine to a 17 year old girl who has been in the orpanage since she was eleven. She has developed great skill in sewing and this will be her opportunity to make a living. A beautiful girl. What an amazing thing to watch. There is so much to say - so difficult to process. The ministries that Bishop Joab oversees are miraculously profound. Much prayer and financial help is needed. I don't know how we can get the word out, but we must try. David Goodnight has such a tender heart for these people. God has raised him up for such a time as this. Tomorrow we go to see the distribution of food to the lepers. Then on Saturday we will go out to a village to participate in the dedication of one of the recently built churches. Pray for safety in our travels. It will be about 3 hours each way... a whole different perspective on life in India. I love you all! Carl

Date: Jan. 27
Yesterday we had day one of the Pastors' Conference. We are it. We are doing all the messages. It is so humbling. How do you speak to uneducated village pastors who don't have a clue about U.S. culture - and who put us to shame with their courage and strength. We met and heard stories of the pastors who were in the persecution. Horrific stories. They look so shell-shocked. By the end of the day, they were smiling a bit. God definitely had a plan for us to be here now. Don't have time to tell the stories in detail. One pastor who is here - had 3 children missing for 5 days. The were alone in the jungle - found under a tree - no food or water all that time. Terrified. They are 12, 10, and 8. I thought about Anna, JJ and Josh. He still has not seen his wife for 1 month today. Just before he arrived here he heard that she might be in a village about 50 miles from him. When he returns to the state of Orissa he will walk 50 miles to see if he can find his wife. So So humbling. Pray that we might bless those we encounter.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Not an endorsement...but a good read

Between Two Worlds: McCain: The Best Pro-Life Choice?

Be sure to scroll up to read the article...but the comments were enlightening.

I loved the wording of this paragraph (but wonder how that really dovetails with his exceptions in extreme cases):

I believe that there is a profound lesson here about what it means to be pro-life, a lesson which goes beyond the important (but obvious) fact that the McCains live by the same principles which lie behind John’s voting record. “Little Bridget” was not sought out by the McCains. She was not expected or planned for. She was an unanticipated gift whom the McCains welcomed, not because she was antecedently “wanted” by them, but because she was a baby, a unique and unrepeatable human being with a right to life because she is a human being and not because some other people’s plans include her — or don’t.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

24 helicopters, that's all...

Just received an e-mail this morning asking for help petitioning the president for helicopters to back up the peacekeepers recently deployed (and attacked, although they have no way to defend themselves or the innocent refugees they are trying to help). The main fault here lies with the Sudanese government that is repeatedly dragging their feet on addressing the problem. However, in my opinion, as a country that is a world leader we definitely need to reach an arm of defense out to help our African neighbors. Consider sending an e-mail here.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Happy Birthday Aunt Amy!

This picture is such a good memory...Aunt Amy took us all to the Chicago planetarium one Saturday in May while Tom was teaching out of town. My first memory of this day is the fact that our boys were more interested in jumping off the steps than they were in all the exhibits....don't get me wrong, they loved learning....but they had overdosed just a bit on all there is to know about the universe (and isn't that the truth) and quite simply just had more fun working out a bit of energy. And that's the thing about Aunt Amy...she isn't always driven by the destination, she just enjoys the journey. Now to get her to convert that same mindset she has on Saturdays with her "bubbies" to workdays at the office!
Sisters are the best friends in all the world...they know most of my weaknesses, they've seen me at my worst, yet choose to love me and always believe in the best they see in me. Amy, thank you for always being there for me. I am so thankful for your place in all our lives!

Labor of Love


Today has been a beautiful day of reflecting for me. The tree (upstairs at least) is down...almost all signs of Christmas are packed away or on their way to being organized again. And honestly there was a huge sigh of relief to see the bare walls and open space in the living room. As I packed things away this week I began to wonder, what will happen between now and next Christmas....what stage will each of the kids be in next year....did we truly make things meaningful enough? To me, the obvious answer to that last question is no....and probably always will be....because none of my strivings will ever fully communicate the gospel, the incarnation, the miracle of it all to my kids....only the Holy Spirit can do that. Doesn't mean He won't use me in His grand plan. And I am already tucking away ideas for next year. But today I was convicted by the incredible story of the gospel. That conviction came through listening to Behold the Lamb: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ by Andrew Peterson. Thank-you Laura for sharing it with me! So, today on January 11....Christmas, New Year's, Epiphany all past us....decorations packed a quiet (well as quiet as it gets) house in everyday clothes in the midst of everyday heart worshiped perhaps more fervently than it did all Advent. It's not that I would redo anything about how we celebrated this just convicted me that sometimes it is when we are trying least to create a moment that God steps in and creates one for us.

Recently, Tom and Cole were able to attend a play about the nativity story that they really enjoyed. We were all planning to go...but that was before the epidemic hit. Later, Tom was highlighting parts of the performance to me and reflected that at times it seemed so "happily" crafted....for instance Mary's response to Joseph finding the manger "Oh it's perfect! Joseph you just think of everything!" Tom shared that with me as a husband and father who has been my rock through the deliveries of our four children. From my human perspective I think it is pretty safe to assume that is probably NOT what Mary was thinking at the prospect of having her baby that night. The following words are from Andrew Peterson's Labor of Love, just one of the songs from the cd I mentioned above. The music that accompanies it is just gorgeous.

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph at her side
Callused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
In the streets of David's town
In the middle of the night

So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

For little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
It was a labor of love

Monday, January 7, 2008

Who knew?

I highly recommend this fun! and so surprising...would have loved to have been Lizzie but I really do like Anne as well. What do you think? Do you agree with my characterization? Who are you?
You are Anne Elliot of Persuasion! Let's face it, you're easily persuaded, especially when faced with choices that are or aren't 'the Elliot way.' But this doesn't mean that you don't have conviction. Actually, your sense of duty is overwhelming. And though you won't stick your neck out too often, you have learned to speak up when it counts. To boot, you know how to handle sticky situations. You love deeply and constantly.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Christmas with Nana & Gramps (at Krys' in PA)

It was so, so special to see Nana & Gramps in Pennsylania this year. Nana went to so much effort, and through so much pain (traveling is really painful for her due to a hipbone that is deteriorating) to be with her beloved family. It was also extremely bittersweet for me as I had to leave early to try to quarantine our sick kids (that we thought had gotten better) from their young little cousins. When all is said and done a lot of people now have colds so it may have been noneffective since everyone was exposed from the start. But I tell you what, we had a grand Christmas celebration together. I have apologized profusely...but as I reflect back on it now a week later I am just so thankful for the memories I was able to share in. Tom and Cole got to be there the entire week and I was able to rejoin them in time for church on Sunday and the special dedication of my little nephews. It does seem like our time together was way too short and as we our home again I find myself lonesome for our very wonderful family. If you live near your family, please do not take them for granted and love on them regularly!!

Jeffrey & Krystal, so, so in love with each other and their beautiful kiddos. They always make me want to model Christ more after being around them. So faithful, so loving, so open armed at reaching out and embracing others with Christ's love...and they do so with four small children/babies.

When Deb & Rod are mentioned, Maddie always says, "Uncle Wad is so funny!" She loves the little games he plays with all the kids. They both always have ready hands to help hold babies, help pack sick kids up, cook, clean, you name it and they are ready to serve. Their son, Tyler, and our Cole enjoyed spending the week together. Uncle Tom still feels bad about shutting the car door on Tyer's hand...when you only see each other twice a year those are not the kind of memories you are aiming for!!

Now that is one hunky guy...holding one chunky little guy!

Christmas festivities at the cabin...huge thanks to Jeff's parents for their gracious hospitality. It is really fun getting to know the extended Yount family more and more on each of our visits.

Here are two little girls who really enjoy each other's company. They are SO into the same things and they pick up where they left off last visit so easily. They are holding their new dollies from Nana...they loved them so much! I was so excited to hear that I am still "Aunt Jerry" to Becca.

They both have a fascination with watching Sound of Music...who would of thought it at 3 years old? Here they are dancing to "16 going on 17!"

I love this shot of Aunt Krys with Maddie...snapped moments before we left and Krys was talking to her and saying goodbye. Such a relational auntie!

Cole had a outstanding week...because he and Dad were there without us they got to jump in the car and go sightseeing with Deb, Rod and Tyler. They spent a day in Washington D.C., included a visit to Hershey park, and they got to see a live dramatization of the nativity story in Lancaster, PA.

I love this picture of Cole in front of the Capitol.

And, of course, one of Cole's all-time highlights was (and always is) 4-wheeling. Pictured are Uncle Rod with Tyler; Cole with Dad, and Gramps beside them.

Even though our family circle is growing, it felt very incomplete without Robb & Julie and their kids there to complete us. I am really thankful for all my in-laws and feel very lucky and at times undeserving to have married into such a clan...but one thing I am for sure...grateful.

Christmas at Mama's house

Mama was so excited to let the grandkids eat at the "good table" this year. She has always loved setting a special table. I love having people over but the fascination with china and settings has not worn off on me yet (maybe a little...special days are definitely worthy of such effort). I still have vivid memories of walking around months before getting married with my mother amazed that I could not choose a pattern. I just felt like if I didn't know what I wanted, why make a choice you later wouldn't use. 10 years later, I am happy to say I have inherited my Mom's china from when she first got married (which I love that sentimental connection but don't actually use much for fear of the kids breaking it) and she got new china--now we are both very happy. Here is a picture of Christmas Uncle Todd and Aunt Judy walked in just before we sat down so we were happy to pull up a few more chairs. I love that about my Mom's side of the family--they are an informal but fiercely loyal and fiercely loving kind of family. I would like to think I have inherited some of those genes.
Isaac on Christmas morning...we definitely do the jammy thing so excuse our messy hair (actually, though, he has issues with that at all times of the day so no excuses necessary).
Cole drew this picture of Mama's house. It was from an aerial perspective which I thought was quite cool. The black lines are the roof shingles...if you see it up close underneath them is a detailed drawing of the tree and presents. Most of the picture is concerned with the layout of her yard. He is such a little cartographer.
Maddie loved helping set the plates. You can definitely tell who is the mom and who is the grandma by who was worried about breaking how time changes things!
Aunt Bebe spoiled everybody way too much and more importantly helped nurse us through some high fevers. Her loving touch...curling up with the sick one for hours on end...was definitely a healing touch!
Cole and Dad got to go hiking in the woods...had to try out his new hiking boots. I was so proud of Tom for taking the camera and taking this picture. Now, who's rubbing off on who?
Flaming fever boy would not be kept from Christmas festivities. He is enthralled with his new books/dvd's called "Natural Killers" put out by National Geographic (and given to him by his Aunt Bebe). I always have to help explain his answer to friends when he tells them his favorite books/movies are natural killers.
Maddie loves her doll and was excited to get some cooking things this Christmas.

Now, I'm sure you all really cared what our kids got for Christmas...aren't you glad I shared? But I really did want to share these with the family and friends I know would care and especially for my sis Amy and bro-n-law Steve who couldn't be with us due to some really scary health issues (which thank the Lord are getting a little better). We missed seeing them but were glad we got a few moments to see them on our way out of town.

Look out Annie...Maddie's got her gun!