Saturday, November 27, 2010

eurotour

This fall of 2010 marks the 5 year anniversary of our sabbatical trip to Europe, something we have dubbed our "Eurotour". Christian and I were childless, jobless, and dreaming (not a recommended combination for maintaining stability in your life.) We took 3 months to travel to various places in Europe, starting in Norway and ending up in Spain. It sounds so romantic. Parts of it really were, but other parts of it were awfully not romantic, like getting kicked out of the train station at 2am into the below 0 night and sleeping on a bench that looked as if it had been cleaned 20 years ago.


More than any other reason, we went as an escape from Christian's crazy difficult, all-consuming job. He quit, we flew to Europe. The intent was to rejuvenate, but there is something not-so-relaxing about staying in a different hotel every night, if you can classify the places we stayed as "hotels", that is. We would never trade in the experience, but we don't exactly plan to repeat it any time soon either. It was a character-building season for us as we sorted through the past frenzied year, and worried about our future in the life we left at home. In remembrance of that adventurous, dirty, growing, teachable, tragic, spectacular time in our lives, here are a few of the take-home lessons:

- If you want to take it with you, you have to be able to carry it.


- Eat as many pastries as possible.


- Mooch off of European family members while in the right countries.


- Thanksgiving is best celebrated with family, but if that is not an option, then celebrating in a pristine castle with American military families will work. I guarantee you have never been so cold at Thanksgiving on American soil.



- One can only absorb so many museums.


- Spain has the best coffee and chocolate pastries, and the dirtiest places to eat them. At 9am bars were filled with smoke and the floor was littered with trash. Apparently it is acceptable to throw your trash on the floor in a restaurant.



- Find the beauty in something old...


... and something relatively new.


- Whenever possible, take the path least traveled.


Despite the adventures we had while traveling, the greatest lesson learned was that it doesn't matter how many places you have visited in life, if you don't have anyone to share them with, life is empty. More than anything else, we missed our community of friends and family. It is impossible to replace the history we have with those who know and understand us. Traveling can be fun, but in the end, life is only about relationships.

Friday, November 26, 2010

thanksgiving


Is it generic to post on thankfulness around Thanksgiving? As I was pondering this question, the thought occurred to me that being thankful is never generic. We have far more negative thoughts, criticisms, complaints, and aggravations to incorporate into our conversation than we do items springing from a grateful heart.

So, in the spirit of actually being quite unique, creative, and counter-cultural, I am going to share just a few of the overwhelming number of things in my life that I have to be thankful for. Besides an adorable daughter and a handsome hubby, we have two wonderful families and got to celebrate Thanksgiving twice because of it! Talk about gluttony! We not only enjoyed good food, but good company too. I am thankful for the icy weather outside that reminds me Christmas is around the corner, and the hot fire in our potbelly stove that keeps our living room toasty. I am thankful for the last of the apples on our trees, and the apple pie sitting on the counter top. I am grateful for the dear friends we have who invest in our daughter, and are great examples for us in how they raise their own children. I am glad that we have a church home that has a heart for the town of Santa Cruz, and that we get to be a part of that outreach in our own way. And right now, I am especially thankful that God provides readily, regularly, and regardless of the condition of my heart.

Thanksgiving #1 at Christian's parents house...

(Annike and Opa were making funny faces at each other!)


Thanksgiving #2 at Ashley's parents house.






Let's let the habit of thanksgiving follow us through the holiday season. The actual day of Thanksgiving is just one needed reminder for the majority of us self-centered pessimists to put a little thought into being thankful.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

princess

It is a mystery to me how Annike first figured out what a princess is. She somehow took note of the fact that a lady wearing a glittering crown in a beautiful puffy dress is someone she wants to look like one day. It doesn't help that the Disney princesses are everywhere, or that everyone tells her she looks cute when she wears her "Cimbrella dress". Despite the influences of fairy tales, I am doing my darndest to teach her that a princess is more than a girl in a pretty dress.

One of the greatest crises the women of our current generation face is basing our self-image on our external beauty. Beauty is something we should strive for, but not the kind found in magazines. It is internal beauty that is lasting. We are born into the Royal Kingdom of Heaven when we are born again, making us daughters of the King, and therefore princesses with beauty that never fades.

This past weekend we were invited to our first "Princess Party", and as an attending mom I decided to dress the part (in my sister's prom dress... hope that was okay, Jilly!)



Even little princesses like to jump on the trampoline!

Here is the birthday girl and her mother, Rapunzel.


These little girls may not have it all figured out, but they take their cues from us. We are armed with the fashion statements of truth and righteousness, patience and hope. Perhaps if Paul had written a letter to the women of this age, it would have sounded like this:
Therefore put on the gown appropriate for wearing in the Kingdom of Heaven, so that when your identity as royalty is challenged, you may be able to stand confident, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand beautiful then, with the sash of truth tied around your waist, with the corset of righteousness in place,
and with your glass slippers perfectly fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up the wand of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the tiara of salvation and the dagger of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Adaptation of Ephesians 6:13-18
Annike has been on a princess-dress kick, meaning that she never wants to take her dress off. After someone commented on how cute she looked in it, I turned to her and said, "You know that you are beautiful without that dress too, Honey. What makes you beautiful is when you are..." I paused, weighing my words so that she could understand them. But she filled in the blanks for me.
"Kind, Patient," she said.
Yep. She understands a lot more than I give her credit for.

Note: The God-breathed wording of the Ephesians verses according to the NIV translation is
"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."
Ephesians 6:13-18

Saturday, November 13, 2010

finishing touches

Many of you have asked me for the latest pictures of our project, I mean, our house. I admit that lately I have been seeing a lot more of what we haven't done than what we have done - classic empty glass syndrome. But yesterday I unpacked the last of the boxes. Yes, that's right, there has been a box in my living room for the last 9 months that I have stealthily avoided opening because it contained our pictures. Pictures need hanging, and hanging them involves putting holes in the freshly painted walls, and putting holes in the walls feels very permanent. Yesterday, I finally felt ready to open that box.

Pictures are the finishing touches in a house that transform it from a generic structure into a place where we live. Not just any ole' family, but us. Gradually we have been adding memories to the house, making it a place that I view more and more like our permanent home. Adding those finishing touches yesterday was fun, and made me feel like our family belongs here more than ever.

Here is a glimpse of a few of the finishing touches we were working on this summer. Projects that may not be dire, but make the farm feel more like our place. Finishing touches like planting flowers in the rusty fountain out back.


We had the house painted country yellow... it seemed fitting.


Christian has been maintaining and upgrading the landscaping. He gets especially excited about rocks.


We added a porch to the cottage,


and replaced our front door.


Curtains are bringing life to some rooms,


we finally have enough furniture to fill our living room,
and yes, now there are pictures on the walls.


We still have plenty of work left to do on the house, and big projects continue to pop up unexpectedly (Surprise! We have to redo the Master Bathroom shower due to a big leak rotting out the floor!) But at the very least, maybe taking small steps of improvement is a pace we can keep up. Unlike the exhausting hours of work we put into the place a year ago, we are now tackling manageable projects one at a time. Those finishing touches are turning this house into a home.

I, too, am an unfinished work. It is a good thing that God does not just reveal to me everything that is wrong all at once, and then tell me to go fix it. He chips away at me, one issue at a time. Gradually, with a lot of patience on His part, some of those finishing touches begin to make me look more like Him. Maybe the majority of my structural stuff is finished, but oh boy does God have a few more unfinished projects to tackle! I am glad He sees those finishing touches as a worthwhile endeavor. I may never be a fully completed work, but I am in the process of becoming a woman more like the one He intended me to be each and every day.

Friday, November 5, 2010

embrace change

There are times when I am simply tired of the old routines, the old conversations, the old dreams, the old me. I want something new!... and I don't mean new "stuff". In the spirit of embracing change in my life, I am updating this blog layout! It might be considered more of a neutral kind of change in my life, but still, it is representative of me hoping to never get stuck in my old ways, but instead to embrace change.

Perhaps God put this desire for change in our hearts for a purpose. We were created with a vague understanding about when our lives begin to feel stale because without it, we would never feel motivated to move forward in life. Who would want to bother with the energy it takes to cast off the old things? Who would search out change? And we all know that there are things in our lives that God would like to be different.

Some of us fear change more than others, getting attached to familiarity. But God designed the entire world that we live in as a morphing, dynamic place where there is newness around every corner. Each day is a new beginning, each season a chance to experience something different, each new conversation a chance to be more Christlike than we were in the past one. We never have to be stuck in unhealthy patterns because God truly put the ability for new life in each one of us. Embrace change - it is a gift from above!

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

costumes

If you are not the mother of a Sesame-Street-watching toddler, you may be unfamiliar with Abby Cadabby, but that is who Annike played the part of this Halloween.

Abby is one of Elmo's newer friends who was probably added to create a stronger female monster presence for the preschoolers to look up to (did you ever notice they were all male when we were growing up?) She is actually a pink and purple fairy who does magic, and I am still trying to figure out what educational value she adds to Sesame Street. None-the-less, Annike is quite a fan, and her costume was relatively easy to put together.

While Annike is very attached to her tutus, for some reason she was resistant to putting on her Abby Cadabby costume until the very last minute, when I resorted to bribery (something I DO try to avoid with her.) This may tell you how girly she is, but the bribe was that if she put her costume on, then I would put make-up on her. She held so still for the mascara, and the lip stick, and the eye shadow, and the glitter. And when we were all done, she looked in the mirror and declared "I'm BEAOOOTIFUL!"

This is a word I have never heard her use before, and it came out with such oomf! "BEAUUUUTIFUL!" Of course it made me laugh and agree with her. But afterwards I contemplated where she picked up the idea that we are only beautiful when we put make up on. She sees me do it every day, but I make a big effort to tell her that it helps me look "awake" instead of using the word "pretty". I mean, there is no way I would go out without mascara on because no one would recognize me... but there I go again, unintentionally sending the message that it is the external applications that make us beautiful.

It is going to be a battle over the next 20 years fighting the impression our culture's image of beauty as seen in magazines, television, and even the Disney princesses will make on Annike. But the truth is that the messages she gets begin and end with me, at least for a little while they do. I have potential to be the best example of the difference between internal beauty and external beauty that she has. That means I have to wrap my own head around the way that God created ME to be beautiful first. Not with name brand jeans and just the right shade of lipstick. My true beauty stems from understanding all of the ways that God created me unique, and using those uniquities to glorify Him. I have to somehow show her that we are most beautiful when we are displaying fruit in our lives, showing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control to those around us. Yep, I have a lot of work to do! Maybe with Annike's help, we can embrace God's form of beauty in our lives together!

"What matters is not your outer appearance — the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes — but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. The holy women of old were beautiful before God that way..." 1 Peter 3:3-4 (The Message)


We had a kid's Halloween party to attend, and we gave trick-or-treating a go for the first time. We only visited about 8 different homes, but from the look of the picture below, clearly that was plenty.
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