Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sauerkraut and Hefeweizen

This past weekend we decided to kick-off our fall festivities of the year by heading downtown for Oktoberfest. The event itself wasn’t as great as I was hoping for. It was fairly small, and most of the merchant tents were just advertisements for things like Naked Juice or local credit unions. That, in addition to the giant SpongeBob bounce house, kind of ruined the atmosphere you would expect at Oktoberfest. However, there was plenty of bratwurst and beer of all kinds, so not all was lost. Plus a small stage at one end where some people put on a brief performance that was fun to watch.

The kids seemed to have a lot of fun, which was probably more due to the fact that we rode the light rail to and from the festival. They love riding the light rail (but really, who doesn’t?). At every stop and start they’d compete to see who could hold their balance longer. Contrary to what this picture depicts, Caleb did not lose either eye throughout the course of this trip.

Once we got home, we decided to dig out the Halloween decorations and spent the rest of the evening hanging cob webs and skeletons. Who says you have to wait for October to hang up your skeleton?

Finally, to finish off an overall amazing day, we turned off all the lights and watched Monster House while basking in the orange glow of all our newly hung d├ęcor.

And did I mention that all the leaves are changing!?!? I love fall. Maybe even more than the light rail.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mourning Toby

I am a sucker. There’s just no other way to put it. If a movie or TV show wants me to be sad, I will be sad. If they want me to get angry, I will get angry. If they want me to cry, I will likely cry… even when it’s something totally sappy and cheesy that I know does not deserve to be dignified by my emotional outpouring. I can’t help it. I’m every director’s dream audience: easily manipulated.

And I’m not ashamed to admit it, because I know that I am in good company.

I just finished catching up on The Office season 4. I am so sad to see Toby leave. Even though I knew it was coming due to a certain “someone” spoiling it for me (*cough* Meghan), I feel like I am still in mourning. I love Toby.

Similarly, I spent 1 ½ seasons rooting for Jim and Pam. I was elated when Jim kissed her, and heart broken when she turned him down. I had an underlying dislike for Karen, despite how likable they made her. And I think I shed a tear of joy when Jim interrupted Pam’s monologue to ask her out to dinner.

This sickness goes far beyond The Office. My heart swells a little every time I see Rachel kiss Ross after watching the famous prom video. I was utterly exhausted about 20 minutes into the Pursuit of Happyness, and may have said a real life prayer that Chris Gardner might catch a break. I gasped out loud when Tony Almeida was shot in the neck, and gasped even louder when Michelle’s car exploded. I feel motivated in all areas of living when Maximus reminds me that “what you do in life echoes in eternity”. And a small part of me thinks I would make a great Scottish warrior every time William Wallace talks about freedom.

No amount of reminding myself that these are not real people suffices in consoling me. Sure, Wallace was based on a real man… but the fact remains that the man raving about freedom is Mel, not William. Why in the world do our brains let us become so invested in fictional characters and fabrications?

This is not intended to be a profound post, nor a breakdown of the human dilemma of reason verses emotion. I just wanted everyone to know that I am caught up on The Office (by “caught up” I mean through season 4… I have not seen any of season 5, so thank you Abby for the little spoiler you posted on Facebook). And I am terribly sad to see Toby go. He will be sorely missed.

For anyone that has read this far (which is admirable, being that this has been my most pointless post yet… I apologize for those few minutes that I just stole from you), and claim that you cannot relate to the emotional instability described above, I leave you with this:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

One Touch

There were a lot of things this past weekend that really spoke to me, but the part I really find myself still thinking about days later is one of the songs that Nicole C. Mullen performed. This is actually a song that she did last year as well, and I was so glad she chose to share it again. It's called "One Touch", and it's based on one of my favorite storys from Jesus' ministry.

Mark 5: 25-34
Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?” But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’” And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”

There are so many reasons that this woman's account is dear to me. Have you ever read something in God's word and just felt like he put that part in there specifically for you? There is something about this woman's story that always seems to strike me that way, no matter what circumstance I'm in at the time.

I think it's interesting that the passage mentions that she had "spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse". How often we spend our everything trying to fix our own situation and get absolutely nowhere- sometimes even to point of sheer exhaustion and defeat. I love when God throws a little sentence in here and there just to show us that we are not the only ones fighting our fight.

I also love the disciples' response to Him when He asks "Who touched me?" Given the situation, that really is a funny question to ask. And, really, why would He ask that? He knew it was her, even before she touched him. I'm no scholar, but I have my own guess as to why. I think He wanted her to be a testimony to the crowd. Maybe he also wanted her to let go of her shame and boldly share what He had done for her.

And finally, my favorite part is when He calls her Daughter. I think I heard once that this is the only time in the Bible that He calls someone "daughter" directly, rather than "daughters of Jerusalem" or something similar. But again, I'm no scholar and may be wrong about that. Either way though, I love it. She came to Him with a desease that made her unclean and unacceptable in the eyes of the people around her, and He didn't stop at just healing her. He offered her acceptance and belonging in the deepest form.

I can't wait for the day that I am face to face with Him, hearing Him call me daughter. And until then, I can only pray that I find the faith to believe that one touch is all it takes to be made well.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Patsy and Lucy and Marilyn, Oh My!

Women of Faith! Tomorrow! Woohoo!

I LOVE Women of Faith. I’ve gone almost every year for the past 8 years, and some how I’m not sick of it yet. Sure, like every conference, there are parts I like more than others and parts I could do without. But overall, I LOVE Women of Faith. There are a lot of things to love about it. If you’ve never been, you’re missing out on some of the most incredible (and hilarious) speakers ever.

The first year I went I was a freshman in high school. I was pretty involved in youth group at the time, and the only conferences I had been to were things like Dare to Share or Acquire the Fire. You know, where you walk into the arena and the music is blasting so loud that you can feel your stomach vibrate; where the speakers are all young and relatable and have spiked hair and skater shoes; where the band members have more combined piercings than there are Nalgenes in the audience (but barely). When I walked into the Pepsi Center for Women of Faith my first year and saw this line-up of speakers…

(Ok, so some of them have spiked hair...but I'm willing to bet none of them have peircings.) I’m not going to lie, I thought I was in for a long weekend. Fortunately, I was proven utterly wrong. These women have such incredible hearts, and they share them with more energy than I could ever hope to have.

As great as all the messages are- and the skits, and the worship, and the fellowship- there’s one thing that always strikes me at Women of Faith more than anything else. It always struck me at Dare to Share and Acquire the Fire, too. I’m always in complete awe when I find myself in the middle of an arena that holds 20,000 people that is full to the capacity with followers of Christ. It leaves me speechless really. Women of Faith brings only a fraction of the Body of Christ to one place- this is only a handful of female believers in the Colorado area. But it’s enough to make me feel tiny sitting among them. Imagine just how staggering it would be to have the entire Body of Christ before you. There are so many of us, even though it doesn’t always feel like it.

This picture gives me chills for two reasons really. The first thing it usually brings to mind is the fact that this is how we will spend eternity. I’ve always read the verse and heard the idea of “all the saints” before Jesus on that day. But I never really wrapped my mind around what that would really be like. Obviously even in the middle of the Pepsi Center I have yet to wrap my mind around it, but it sure gets me one step closer to realizing the enormity of it. It will be mind-blowing, to say the least. I, for one, can’t wait.

The other shock that sets in each year is the thought of what this many people could accomplish together. What if each and every person there was constantly serving and giving of themselves? What if each one of us was jumping in with dangerous abandon and living a life of outward service and selflessness? I know that we are a broken people, and the thought of all of us being right on the mark at the same time is an unrealistic “what if”… but it’s a pretty amazing one to daydream about.

Anyway, with that said… I’m off! I’ll be back after I’ve had my much needed fill of Patsy Clairmont :)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Step-WhatNow: One Step Closer

A forewarning: The following post makes at least 8 references to vomit and vomit related things.

This weekend, I came one step closer to figuring out this new role that I’ve found myself in.

Jason and I took the boys to Toys-R-Us today to buy a present for a birthday party they would be going to. While we were there, Jacob started to mention that his head was hurting. We tried to pick up the pace so we could head home, but it was apparently not fast enough. After about 10 minutes, Jacob said his stomach was hurting too. He seemed noticeably miserable instantly, and we were sure he wasn’t exaggerating (I mean really, what kid fakes being sick in order to leave a toy store?).

We gathered what the kids had already picked out and hurried to the check-out line. When the cashier handed us our bags, I had a moment of genius. Knowing that I had recently cleaned my car out, and disposed of all bags, cups, or other possible vomit-catchers, I asked the cashier for an extra bag. At first, I flattered myself thinking about what a wise thing that was to do. Maybe my parental instincts were really starting to kick in. Then I decided it was probably more likely the fact that I myself get car sick very easily. Those weren’t parental instincts; those were just well-developed vomit preparation instincts.

We loaded into the car, setting the bag in an easily accessible and open position next to Jacob. It was about a 10 minute drive home, but he was looking greener by the minute. We drove about 8 minutes successfully, growing evermore hopeful that we may just make it home vomit-free. But alas, there was no such luck. We pulled up to the last stop light, with our apartment complex in sight, and it began. I think it must have been the stopping motion. Poor Jacob made every effort to grab that perfectly positioned bag. It’s all kind of a blur and I’m not sure exactly what went wrong, but when all was said and done, there was none in the bag. None.

Once we got home, Jason took him upstairs to clean him up and do all that other stuff parents do. Me? I spent the next hour cleaning vomit out of my car. Someone else’s vomit. I even learned how to dismantle a car seat and clean out all those little cracks and holes where the vomit inevitably seeps into. Yep, I’m now one giant leap closer to owning this role of step-mother.

It didn’t occur to me until later that night just how pivotal and iconic this moment actually was. When I was in second grade, I threw up in my step-dad’s glove box in a strikingly similar situation. I wonder if he spent the next hour cleaning it all up and thinking the very thoughts I thought this weekend. I feel like I’ve gone through some sort of step-parent initiation.

Saturday, September 6, 2008



That’s a really heavy word to me. Usually the first thing that comes to mind when you hear it is unrequited love, which Wikipedia defines as “love that is not openly reciprocated, even though reciprocation is usually deeply desired.” But the word unrequited by itself simply means “not reciprocated or returned in kind”.

Have you ever been on a house-building mission trip? You spend all week there laboring in the hot sun, giving your time and strength and sweat in servitude to someone else. Sure, this is sacrifice. This is honorable service. But this is not unrequited service. At the end of the week, you get to hand the key over to the family that will live there, and you receive more thanks and appreciation than you could possibly understand. At least in my experience, these people that you thought you were serving end up serving you immensely more in return. They will bask you in gratitude, hospitality, and love. They will teach you more about your Father through their actions and their hearts. You took the trip to make a change for someone else. You ride home knowing that you are the one that has been changed.

I had the opportunity to spend some time in Romania a few years ago, working in a hospital for abandoned babies. I wasn’t prepared for the sharp contrast this trip would bear to any previous mission work I had done. Our main job there was simply to love the children. There was a two-story hospital with about 10 rooms, and 5-6 babies in each room. Most had been left on the doorstep by desperate mothers – many of whom had grown up abandoned on the streets themselves. The cycle continues. Several of the babies had spent their entire lives within these walls. Several of these babies would end their short lives within these walls.

On any given day, there would be 1-2 nurses to care for these 50-60 ill children. The nurses seemed numb and devoid of emotion, carrying each child the way you might expect them to handle meat. I never could decide if I could blame them for this. Would I be the same way if I faced this world day in and day out, never given hope for improvement? Most of the babies displayed failure to thrive and sensory disorders. Several of them had aversions to human touch and felt only pain when held. Some of them had cigarette burns lining their arms. One little boy was hooked up to an IV the entire time we were there. The IV was constructed of a 2 liter soda bottle, a wire hanger, and an old tube colored with rust.

We showed up at this place day after day. We held the babies that could be held. We sang to the ones that couldn’t. We pulled some of them up to their feet for the first time in their lives. We waved at them. We talked to them. We rubbed their backs and wiggled their little arms. We rocked them. We held them. And at the end of each day, we’d lay them back down and walk away with heavy steps and breaking hearts.

For the greater part of this trip, I believed that this was unrequited service, and I struggled with the thought. The nurses did not like us and did not thank us. We seemed more a nuisance to them than anything else. The few mothers that we did see on occasion were cold and unresponsive. The children… did they even notice us? Would they remember us years from now? Would they even live to see years from now? Would our time with them make an impact beyond our short month together?

Though it was hard to feel it at the time, we learned the impact of our actions later. By the end of our trip, two little girls were walking for the first time. They were 4 and 6. By the end of our trip, babies who had spent their days staring up into stark ceilings had learned to pull themselves up on their crib sides. By the end of our trip, the bleak, broken little hospital had heard laughter.

Walking away from those children for the last time was heartbreaking, but we found comfort in knowing that God would not stop with us. We were part of a pretty amazing organization that already had another team of people to take our place. The end of our trip was the beginning of theirs. With continued love and attention, some of those babies grew into children, and many of those children moved on to loving foster homes-homes where they will be raised and taught to love others like them. I hope the cycle continues.

I’ve been told that in situations like this, it’s normal to have one or two children that grab your heart and won’t let go. Mine was Sebastian. His crib was tucked back in a corner by a glass window that faced the front door. By the end of our trip, he would pull himself up and greet me each day with a smile. It broke my heart to leave him there, and I still think of him often. I’ve been told that he was moved to a home sponsored by our contacts.

I don’t know if he will remember me when he is older. But there is one thing I am sure of. For a brief month in his life, God used my arms to hold him. And for a brief month in his life, God used his eyes to break me. I hope that we will meet each other one day, in this world or the next. And I hope that I can thank him for the difference he made in my life. I went on that trip thinking I could make a change for someone else. And I flew home knowing that I was the one that had been changed.

When God is our ultimate desire, there is no such thing as unrequited love or service