Friday, December 23, 2016

2016. Raw and Unedited.

Since I have semi-given up on Christmas cards, my new favorite holiday tradition is cleaning all the crap photos off of my phone to create a visual story of our year.  These aren't the framers, and probably aren't the ones that have already been plastered on Facebook.  These are the daily details of 2016.   Because, as we all know, as fabulous as that Hawaiian sunset family photo is, that is just one moment in time.  Reality happens every day, and is sometimes even more interesting than the photo-shopped version.  Here's a random selection of our moments in 2106...

We introduced our little people to bowling.  As you can see by this photo, they thought it was ok.  Turns out 2 hours of bowling and a pizza are still good family entertainment, even in 2016.  Bonus: Bowling alleys are now non-smoking, the computer keeps score for you and the lane bumpers go up and down automatically depending on which player is bowling.  Modern technology continues to deliver the awesome.

We did a little adventuring.  This is the Hedge Creek Falls trail, where we realized we probably should invest in a selfie stick if we want to squeeze five people into a photo.

In March, we had the opportunity to host two members of the Watoto Children's Choir from Uganda. They taught us how to peel a banana upside down and we taught them how to play Hullabaloo.

Also in March, we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary with a wonderful weekend in Mendocino.  Here we are visiting the Point Cabrillo light house....again making it painfully obvious that we need a selfie stick.

We did our civic duty and replaced our front lawn with bark chips and drought-tolerant landscaping.  Our August 2016 water bill was exactly $1.06 less than August 2015, so I can't really say it was the financial savings that motivated us.  Mostly I think Nick just wanted an excuse to rent an excavator for the weekend.

I continue my part time job with the Shasta Early Literacy Partnership.  We do a lot of good work helping parents and teachers raise proficient readers.  We give away a lot of books and occasionally I recruit my mom to help with my sweat shop book sorting and distribution.  My most fun day at work was our giant book drive where we collected over 6,000 books in one day.

I love this view, directly across the street from my daughter's school.  I love the McConnell Foundation.  I love the fact that they preserve open space for walking trails. And I love taking walks with my kids to see the cows that visit in the spring to graze and "fertilize" the land.

These kids.  They got my light brown hair, my pasty white skin, and my blue eyes.  Pretty much everything about their appearance points to me. But their heart for speed comes straight from daddy.  They both love fast cars, the louder the better (as long as they have their ear muffs handy).  We hit the drag races, a few car shows and the monster trucks this year.  Motor head heaven.

Hubby started getting crafty!  He's been dabbling in metal art and woodworking, and even opened a little Etsy shop.  He is the dreamer/creator and I am the photographer/copy writer/shipping department. If you need any welding or wood work, he's your guy.

This. Is there anything better than the magic of your baby learning how to read?  Nope.

Friends.  If you haven't been to the Sandwichery in Redding, please do yourself a favor and check it out.  I went for the first time this year, and it did not disappoint.  It's kind of a hole in the wall, and they don't take credit cards but what they lack in modern conveniences they make up for with awesome sandwiches.  This is HALF of the sandwich I ordered.  And it was so good I had to stop, snap a photo and send it to my husband.  Because, you know....who doesn't love to see a picture of his wife's lunch?   

We did a little weekend road trip to Virginia City, NV.  If you haven't been...I highly recommend.  Especially if you have kids and/or are a history buff.  Lots to see and do.

Oh yeah!!  Hawaii!  We loved every minute of our week in Hawaii...ziplines, snorkeling, hiking, shopping, luau, boogie boarding, sand castles, fish tacos, and spam sushi.  Best.  Vacation.  Ever.....

...except this.  Hey Hawaii, how about let's just charge $2 for the $2 jar of spaghetti sauce, OK?  Thanks.

My baby started kindergarten!!  And I love a lot of things about this photo. 1. His first field trip was a float trip down the Sacramento River.  2. Me and his daddy both got to come along for the ride. 3. He's still wearing the pink life jacket without complaint.

Somebody turned 8 and got her own room.  Which means that somebody else also scored his own room!

I promised you raw and unedited, so here it is.  THIS is how my daughter and I feel about birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese.

This is from a hike in Lassen.  Can someone please identify the source of this giant excrement?  It's been bugging me.  And I don't want to delete the photo off of my phone until the mystery is solved.

We got a kitty.  Her name is Nia and she is perfection. She told me so herself.

We hosted our very first Art Show at our house!  Our young artist in residence decided she wanted to make some money so she made a bunch of art (and I mean a BUNCH), put together some snacks and drinks and invited her friends and relatives over to purchase her art.  She pulled in $58 in less than 2 hours.

And Christmas cousin sleep overs with matching PJ's for the win!

So there you have it.  That's my collection of random from 2016.  We wish all of our friends and family many blessings for a wonderful new year!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Mary Said "Yes." Do You?

Today I led the adult devotion at our church, focused on the topic of Mary and the World Changers.  Here is an abbreviated version of the devotion, mostly omitting the copyrighted materials from the Candles in the Dark discussion guide that we have been following during the season of Advent.

I was a little hesitant when Fr. Paul asked me to lead a session of the Adult Forum during the season of Advent.  I’ll be up front and let you know that nobody has ever described me as a “Biblical Scholar”.  Ever.  But when I realized that the topic for Week 4 is Mary, the mother of Jesus, I began to relax a bit.  I’m certainly no holy sainted mother.  But I am a mom.  I can relate to a very personal part of Mary’s life experience because although childbirth and motherhood has evolved over the years, ultimately much has stayed the same.  

When I found out I was pregnant for the first time, it was during the season of Advent in 2007.  During this quiet season of preparation, my body, my marriage, my family and my career prepared to take a detour into uncharted waters.  The joy of knowing we were bringing new life into our family was accompanied by a bit of fear and trepidation…realizing that the only way for this baby to come into the world was for it to exit my body.  And let’s face it.  There’s no easy way for that to happen. 

At the ripe old age of 36, I pondered the best way to bring this baby into the world.  I planned.  I researched.  I drug my husband to the childbirth classes.  I considered all the options that modern medicine provides for birthing babies.  And I opted for an old fashioned, tried and true, drug-free childbirth.  At the end of the day it wasn’t so much a scientific journal or evidence-based research that solidified my decision.  It was my fascination and respect for every other mother that had come before me.  My logic went something like this….If the ancient cave dwellers could bite on a stick and bring their babies into the world by the light of a campfire, certainly I could do the same with the help of a yoga ball in the comfort of a modern hospital.  If the farm workers in the Cambodian rice paddies could squat, birth a baby, and go on to finish their shift, certainly I could birth a baby without drugs.  And if the mother of Jesus could travel on a donkey in her final days of pregnancy and have her baby in a barn (for goodness sake!!), surely I could forego pain medications and bring a baby into the world.  Surely.  

Well, I did it.  After hours of laboring and pushing and a little assistance from the baby vacuum, I delivered a beautiful, healthy baby.  And immediately after my daughter was born, a slight panic set in.  I always knew I wanted to have at least one more kid.  But after birthing that baby, I KNEW there was no way I would ever endure another round of childbirth.   

Well….we all know how that story ended.  Two and a half years later, I actually did birth another baby and I lived to tell the tale.  

When I think about my birth story and try to relate it to Mary’s experience, it seems difficult to draw comparisons.  We both went the natural childbirth route, but the similarities end there.  My babies were carefully monitored and cared for throughout my pregnancy.  The delivery was planned in a clean, comfortable environment that could safely receive my baby and deal with any complications that might arise.  The hospital provided heat, running water, food at any hour of the day and a skilled nursing staff.  

Mary birthed her baby during her teenage years, in a barn surrounded by animals, miles away from her family or any comforts of home.   

And yet.  

And yet her response to this calling is not, “Why me?” or “This seems like a lot of responsibility.” or “Could we maybe wait until after I get back from my honeymoon?”  Mary’s response is, "Yes. Let's do this!"  Well, that's not a direct quote, but you get the picture.  (If you want a beautiful, musical interpretation of Mary's actual here.)

No excuses.  No pre-planning. No ifs, ands, or buts.  She was on board.  And grateful for the opportunity.  

How many of us respond to God’s call with such a calm and selfless display of faithfulness? 
When I first found out I was pregnant I was so thankful that the timing worked out so I would be finished with my master’s degree by the time the baby was born.  I was happy with the miracle, because it fit into my schedule.  So, that shows you what kind of type-A follower of Jesus I am.

Clearly, there are some lessons for me to learn from Mary.  Perhaps there are lessons for you, too. 

Mary's story reminds me that we need to spend less time getting “ready” and more time listening and opening our hearts to God’s will in our lives.  Our greatest calling isn’t the one that fits neatly into our schedule.  Again, I’m no Biblical scholar but I don’t recall any place in the Bible where Jesus said, “When you’re ready, and you’ve got all your ducks in a row, come follow me."  He said simply, “Follow me." 

He didn’t say “Love one another as long as you all agree on politics, share the same sense of humor and nobody smells funny.”  He said, “Love one another."  

The world will not know we are followers of Jesus by our fancy church building, which hymnal we use, our patriotism, our red Starbucks cup, our Jesus bumper sticker, or the cross we wear around our neck. They will know we are Christians by our love.  Period.  End of sentence.  

How will you bring the love of God to the world this Advent season?  How will you share this love with your family, your church, your community or the world?  I invite you to think of one thing you can do this Advent season to show God’s love.  One thing.  It doesn’t need to be a grand gesture, but something that is rooted in love.  It might be something that makes you a little uncomfortable.  It could be something easy or challenging.  It could involve money or food or prayer or action, or all of the above.  The only requirement is that it is rooted in love and will show love to a fellow human being.   

What one act of love can you commit to doing before December 25? 

If you're moved to share about your act of love in the comments, I would love to hear it!