Monday, September 24, 2007

Prayer for Today

Part of getting settled in Texas has brought me to a point of questioning my purpose and direction for my life in the near and long-term future. I found this passage this morning, and have rephrased it to be my prayer for myself. First the passage, then my prayer:

"We ask God to give you a complete understanding of what he wants to do in your lives, and we ask him to make you wise with spiritual wisdom. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and you will continually do good, kind things for others. All the while, you will learn to know God better and better." Colossians 1:9-10 (NLT)

Father in Heaven, please give me a complete understanding of what you want to do in my life. Make me wise with spiritual wisdom. Let the way I live honor you and please you, and let me do good and kind things for others. Through it all, teach me to know you better and better. Amen.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Timeline of my Becoming

I got caught up with an old hs friend recently, and found myself sharing the synopsis of my life since high school. Then I realized that while many of my friends and family know what they've lived through with me, not many people know the whole thread. So here it is in writing, my timeline. I tried to be brief, but it's not really in my nature...

I graduated from high school in North Canton, Ohio, and went to college at a little liberal arts college in Indiana. Met Justin there my last semester, married him a year after we graduated. Our honeymoon consisted of a 6 day cross country drive from Ohio to move me to Los Angeles to live with him. He was sick and missed most of the drive. Fortunately, that gave us a great starting point to improve from, and ten years later I can still say that being married to Justin is the coolest thing about my life.

Justin's dream was to work in the film industry, specifically visual effects. He did that in LA through the first year of our marriage, and then for two more years in the SF Bay Area. I ended up working at his company as an admin, since it paid pretty well. Our company made the effects in the first Matrix movie, that was a pretty fun ride. While we were there, his focus turned from animation toward computer system administration, and he has pretty much made that his career since then. After about two years of the relentless pace of the movie business, we picked a spot on the map that fit some agreed-upon parameters (proximity to parents, friends, church), packed up and in April of 2000 moved back across country to Troy, Michigan, north of Detroit.

We ended up being in the Detroit area four years, although for half of it we were making plans to move elsewhere. Maren Elizabeth was born in Jan of 2002; five months later our church announced it was starting a new church in Salt Lake City. We felt like we had been specifically prepared by our life experience to make the move and be part of that new church, and spent the next two years working out how to make that move happen.

Once we worked out selling our house, a job, and more moving snafus than it is worth my time to write about, we were involved in helping this new church get started. Justin helped launch the video production part of the services, and I gave input into the children's and women's ministries. Along the way Jesse James barreled his way into the world. At the tender age of 2 he has already earned himself the nickname "The Juggernaut," after a character from the last X-Men movie who, once he gets going, builds momentum until he is nearly impossible to stop.

By Spring of 2007, we felt the church had reached a point where it is past the beginning and in fact is starting to expand in new directions. We also felt we had done what we went to Salt Lake to do, so we made plans and moved one more time, this time to settle by Justin's parents in Texas. Lord Almighty, I seriously hope we are done with moving to new states.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Between One Thing and Another

So this morning, Jesse wanted to play outside. I thought, hey, that's a good idea, I'll go sit outside with him and read my Bible, write in my journal, and drink my coffee on this beautiful morning.

Well before I even sat down I heard the pool filter start up for the morning. I thought it would be a good time to go into the pool deck and check out the critters in the skimmer baskets before moving on with the reflective part of my morning. So I set down my books and my coffee and took JJ to check out the wildlife. But something was different this morning; the basket wasn't filling correctly and thus air was being filtered through the system and back in through the circulation pump. I realized that more water needed to be added to the pool, so started to figure out what that involved.

Then behind me I heard a crash and belatedly realized the dog had been drinking my coffee and thanked me by knocking my FAVORITE mug on the ground and breaking it into smithereens. Yuck and aaugh! I stopped to clean that up, then climbed tentatively into the vine patch behind the house to look for the faucet for the hose.

Found the hose, turned it on, went back into the pool deck to check that I had done it correctly. Got Jesse out of the pool deck, latched and padlocked the gate, and began to think about sitting down for that Bible moment.

Of course Jesse decided that now he wanted to go inside to play, and nothing I said could dissuade him from it. At the moment his hand turned the door knob, I looked to the side and realized I had also somehow turned on the soaker hoses that irrigate the flowerbeds. So I veered off to the side, back to the vine-covered area to figure out how to turn that off. Five minutes later I had success so went inside to find Jesse and get a refill on my coffee.

At this moment I found out what Jesse had been up to. While I was distracted, he had carried the orange cat into his tunnel and trapped him there, I am not sure why. After Grammy rescued the cat, he proceeded to chase it around the house with his little push truck, and that is when I walked in.

Yikes! I still haven't gotten to that quiet time. I think the moment has passed for now. I have to capitalize on this movie hour for hygeine and mental health purposes. Maybe later....

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Tooth Fairy

Maren has brought our family through a lot of firsts. This year's early notables included preschool, self-haircuts (read “Three Crazy Days”), and playing with neighbors. Since we got to Texas, she has also made us “parents of school-age children” and learned how to dive and swim at the bottom of the pool, not just on the surface. And back in July, in the middle of the moving craziness, she lost her first tooth.

It happened the morning Justin left for three days for the job interview that ultimately led to us moving to Texas. Of course. Other than being bummed that Dad wasn't around for the big moment, I was excited to get out the small ceramic tooth-shaped box that had been given at her birth. So we carefully put it in there and set it on her dresser to await the Tooth Fairy.

Later in the afternoon, I saw her taking the ceramic box outside to show her neighbor friend. We discussed how easy it would be to lose that tooth, and how careful she needed to be in showing it off. But sure enough, 10 minutes later, she came back in crying that the tooth was lost. I went out and verified that it was indeed gone. What a bummer for her, but even more for me because of how symbolic the whole event was, and because Daddy hadn't gotten to see it. And mostly because the Tooth Fairy now wasn't going to come.

I did try to work out a way to write a note to the Tooth Fairy telling her where the tooth was, or some such thing, but being in the middle of moving craziness as well as a three day single parenting stretch, we just never got around to it. Maren didn't understand what she was missing, so she moved on pretty well. After a few days sitting on the counter, the tooth box got dropped on the floor and broken, then repaired and put back in the dresser to await the next use.

In the last 10 weeks that new tooth has grown almost all the way in, but we have had no sign of any other teeth being loose until a few days ago. Then this past weekend we finally got another chance at bringing the Tooth Fairy to life.

The second tooth came out Friday night while I was out for girls night. Justin was on the scene, he helped her put the tooth in the box and leave it out. And it turned out that not only did the Tooth Fairy's sister-in-law (who works at a bank) have a brand new George Washington gold dollar handy, but it also fit just perfectly in the little box! Maren was ecstatic the next morning, and has vowed to treasure that coin forever. Now if we only knew what to do with the tooth....

It was such a relief to have it all go down perfectly this time. Feels like we've passed our own milestone as parents. It is hard work being not just a hero but also half a dozen mythical characters, but once in awhile you get a glimpse of how it is sooooo worth it!

Thursday, September 6, 2007


I love watching to see where God meets our needs. From that the difference becomes obvious between what I need and what I want. For example, we are confident that God opened the doors for us to come here. We know he will bring a buyer for our home at the proper time. But it hasn't happened yet. So obviously, God in his wisdom knows that we did not need to sell our house before we left. Or within the month after we left. I would tend to think of that as a need, but it releases so much tension to just rest in the knowledge that when the house needs to sell, it will. God will be faithful to finish the work he began in bringing us here.

Conversely, God obviously knew that while we are doing ok on the physical home front, we are in immediate need of a church home. We were not even looking for one, assuming we would attend with Justin's family while making the church tour of College Station. I found out later that Justin had been looking at the different churches online, trying to get a feel for what is here.

Then our third day in town, as we were eating lunch in a local fast food restaurant, we noticed a building that said Brazos Fellowship on it. That sounded to us like the name of a church, but it didn't really look like one. And in his searching, Justin had not found that church listed anywhere. So we looked up the website address that was on the side of a trailer in the parking lot, and sure enough not only is it a church but it happens to have a picture of the service on the front page that looks just like a picture of a K2 service!

We went inside and the entire staff happened to be there preparing for the weekend service, so we spent about an hour touring the building and talking with different members of the staff. We asked about the graphic logo we saw on all their signage, containing three circles, showing an up arrow, a road, and an asterisk. Turns out it stands for Reach Up (worship), Reach Out (evangelism), Reach In (discipleship). Funny, we saw a tremendous similarity between that and the saying of K2: Focused, Tight, Out There.

Well the more we learned the more we couldn't wait for Sunday, and it did not disappoint. This is a church plant about 2 years old, that has a blueprint very similar to that of K2. Their mission statement is “to reach seekers and challenge believers to become fully-devoted followers of Jesus Christ.” If you know K2 at all, you should find that familiar wording.

To us, half of what we are looking for in a church is shown in a weekend service: music style, leadership style, children's program, etc. The other half is the community of a church. This week we went to a family group meeting and met 8 other families. We felt an instant connection with several of them. At the end of the evening the group was actually split into three groups for the semester, so essentially we have already met members of three small groups at the church. We are really looking forward to knowing more people in the lobby on Sunday, and to getting involved in the ministries of the church. How unexpected, and how very wonderful, to have already begun making friends and getting plugged into a new church home.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Week of Firsts

Anyone who knows our family knows that we are not naturally early risers, as a rule. When the first day of kindergarten rolled around on August 27, we were collectively shocked by the experience of getting up at 6:15 am. I'm getting more used to it now, but it is a constant battle to get the kids and us to bed early enough to tolerate the early wake-up call. Conveniently, Justin's work start time calls for all of us to get up and get going at the same time.

The night before school started, I packed my first lunch as a mom of school age kids. It totally felt like a rite of passage, and I think it took me half an hour. On the big morning, we got off to a good start with getting up on time. Maren even had time to feed the dogs and cats, and ride her trike around in the driveway before we left. That has turned into her morning job, that she “gets” to do if she can get up and dressed, and have eaten and brushed teeth with enough time to spare.

Justin is normally the drop-off parent, and he shares that since that first day the kids have gotten into a real routine with getting out of their cars at the front door of the school. He jokes that he has had to teach her to “drop and roll” onto the curb as he drives up, and he just keeps on rolling! Seriously, parking is a big problem at this school, but the staff have trained the parents in proper drop-off and pick-up procedures, and less than two weeks into the school year it only takes 5 minutes for him to get through the queue in the morning and 10 minutes for me in the afternoon (compared with the hour I spent each of the first three days). Once Justin and Maren leave each morning, JJ and I are free to take a few more minutes to wake up all the way.

Maren loves school. I was worried that being away for seven hours each day would leave her completely exhausted on the couch, but not so. The first day, she asked if she could go back later. She was disappointed when I said no, but then excited when she learned she could back the next day. I think she still doesn't enjoy getting up in the morning, but the promise of getting to feed the dogs helps a lot.

Another thing we learned on the first day was that each child has a classroom job each day, and each week the jobs change. We felt it was a special bonus that Maren's first job of the year was to be the zookeeper, which means she gets to feed the fish right before the end of the day.

Justin started his new job the same day Maren started school. On that first day we dropped her off together, then went out to breakfast as he was starting a little later that day. The first week he mostly did paperwork and learned the lay of the land, and got used to going to work again! Seems like this company is one that values playing together when they aren't working together, so he is looking forward to playing on ball teams for the community league, as well as having hang out time with the guys, and maybe even a few family picnics.

Jesse has done his best to keep up with the early mornings, although of course mommy would prefer for him to roll over and keep sleeping! One morning on my way to wake Maren, I discovered him on the couch, sitting all alone in the dark. Another time he met me at the door to their room. This morning was the topper on the cake, as he roused himself at 4am to be sure not to miss anything! On Friday of the first week he just couldn't take it any more, though, and snoozed right through until almost 8am. I hope that happens more often in the future.

One benefit of his early rising is that he has gotten very easy to put down for a nap. He was always easy, but now he's also ready when it's time. In fact, I would say that about one day of every three, he has started disappearing right about that time, and I or someone has found him a little later sleeping in his room. He sleeps for hours and wakes up just in time to go with me to pick up Sissy after school. I'm starting to fear that any other children I might have would just be a disappointment—he is nearly the perfect child in so many ways!

The regular afternoon naps have been great for me, as well. I can look forward to at least two hours of quiet each afternoon to work on my computer, while still having lots of time in the morning to give him time, as well as do laundry, cleaning, weeding, and whatever else needs to be done around here. My favorite job so far has been to take over cleaning of the pool. I find the most amazing array of wildlife in the skimmer baskets each morning, and sometimes the frogs and whatnot are still alive!

So we are all surviving our firsts: Maren off to school, Justin starting his new job, me being a parent of school-age kids, and Jesse being an only child 35 hours a week. I am sure we will come up with a new project soon enough, but for now I feel like we have a workable routine.

Monday, September 3, 2007


We had our first visitors in Texas already! Last Saturday (August 31) was the day of the first A&M home game. They were playing Montana State, and our friends John (fmr player for the Montana team) and Chad from Salt Lake had decided to come get a taste of Aggie spirit. From what I understand, the Aggies are noted for their school spirit, and in fact have training camp (yell practice) before the first game so that freshmen, sophomores, junior and seniors can learn and practice their respective cheers (yells).

John is also the dad of Maren's friend Jonah, so it was awesome and a little hard to see him but not the rest of the family. They came out to the house in the country for a couple hours Saturday so we could show them a little bit of Texas hospitality. They said they had enjoyed the first Aggie yell practice the night before, and had even been invited to a tailgate party for all Bobcat fans at the home of the A&M Vice President later that afternoon!

We really enjoyed the opportunity to entertain out-of-town friends, even for a few hours. We really would love to see more of our friends if you are ever in the neighborhood!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Happy Birthday Dad/Jim/Poppi/Guppy

I finally downloaded pictures from my camera, including some taken on a Sunday in late August. This birthday party was a bit of an historic event.

First, the birthday boy hit a milestone this year. I'll let him tell you the number if you can't guess. Let's just say one of his gifts was a TV remote control the size of a laptop computer.

The local Burdines all went together to get this young-at-heart rock'n'roll studio band architect a computer-driven keyboard. I don't fully understand what it is, but he seemed pretty geeked about it. Maybe he was just glad to finally reach the end of a hunt that had him searching the fridge, the workshop, and his toilet for clues.

OK now, seriously, this is the face of someone who is really excited at what he is seeing. Don't you agree that you can see a bit of childlike glee?

Second, it was the day before his first grandchild started kindergarten. That was a momentous occasion for several of us. He accepted it as a birthday gift that she was here to start school down the street.

And third, it marked the first family celebration of the new mix of local Burdines. We didn't have to all come over, since we already live here, but it was still a special occasion. We grilled steaks and had a bunch of side dishes I don't remember; and we finished off with an ice cream cake.

Sounds like a totally awesome August birthday party to me!