Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is pretty much me in the kitchen. You think I'm joking, but I pretty much did exactly this to a pot roast last week. At least I turned it into a good beef and vegetable soup the next day, so my cooking skills are improving a little. Needless to say, I will be enjoying the cooking of others this week.

I probably won't be posting much in the next few days as I prep for travel and drive around the state a couple times, but I hope everyone has a fantastic Thanksgiving and that we all have a chance to slow down and thank God for the amazing ways he blesses us!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Meet Phoebe and Uno

I didn't have any "real" pets growing up. We begged and begged for a dog and got....a hamster. Well, a series of several hamsters. None of them lasted too long, but we had a lot of fun putting them in my mom's china tea pot and making them drive around in Barbie cars. I also had a fish that my cousin won at the fair and was forced to give to me because I, of course, did NOT win a fish and threw a fit. I loved it so much that when it got sick and accidentally went down the drain while my mom was cleaning the poor sickly fish's bowl...I didn't notice it was gone for about a month. There was also the time that my sister bought a mouse without telling my parents. Yes, we had a stellar record as pet owners.

So what was the first thing I did when I graduated from college and was officially on my own? Why, I got two kittens, of course! In fact, I got them a little early and had to hide them in my dorm room for three days before I could move into my apartment. And ever since then, we have had a strange assortment of dogs and cats(mostly cats) who think I am their mother. For awhile, I got in a little over my head with cats. But right now, we are down to being a modest one dog, one cat family.

Our dog, Phoebe, came to us somewhat as an orphan. She first belonged to my husband's grandmother who got her as a companion when she was in remission from breast cancer. Very sadly, grandma passed away from other complications just a few months later. Phoebe next resided with Frank's uncle for awhile. Then when he went on vacation, Frank's mom took Phoebe in, and ended up keeping her. She finally made her home with us after a dog trade. We traded our big, not-so-child friendly dog for Phoebe who digs kids and couldn't hurt anyone even if she wanted to.

Ahhh Phoebe. She's a cutie of a doggie. She's a full blooded Maltese, although we don't have any papers for her. She's little and white and makes you want to do silly things like put rhinestone collars and doggie sweaters on her. She also has a very little brain. She ran away from home last summer while I had the door open to put away groceries. We looked all around the neighborhood, but no sign of a little lost doggie. I had pretty much given up finding her after a week or so, but I ran a lost dog ad in our town newspaper and the very first day they printed it, I had a phone call. It ends up she was across the street and three houses down. And couldn't find her way home. Poor doggie. Maybe she'll end up on David Letterman doing stupid pet tricks. With the emphasis on the stupid pet instead of the stupid trick. Her only trick is that she can stand on her hind legs and beg for food. And she can scratch the door for hours if she wants to come in. But will she scratch at the door when she needs to go OUT? Absolutely not. I still love her, though. She keeps my feet warm at night. She gets in happy crazy moods and starts running frantic circles around the house and makes the kids laugh. She burps like a grown man. She prefers cat food to dog food. The little click click click of her toenails follow me wherever I go. Ahhh Phoebe. My fourth child.

Then we have Uno. Frank has always loved cats. He was my co-conspirator in hiding the kittens in my dorm room. Uno filled a cat void for us when our beloved cat Yoda met an untimely end on our busy street. We thought about being kitty free for awhile, but after a couple weeks Frank came home and said he had seen a cat that needed to be rescued from PetSmart. So we adopted Uno, who was the only kitty left in his litter of Uno, Dos, and Tres. The name was so cute we decided to keep it. Uno is a fairly affectionate kitty even though he has the trademark independent cat spirit. The best and worst thing about Uno is that you never know where you'll find him next. I have found him in the baby bassinet(sans baby, fortunately!), in my closet, in the corner of the shower, and in the clothes dryer. You think he would be snuggled in some clothes I had forgotten, but no. Just him. In the dryer. Giving me a sleepy glare because I had the audacity to wake him up.

Phoebe and Uno are best appreciated together. They are about the same size. One white and curly. One dark and striped. One ditsy and cute. One crafty and sly. They are family to each other. Sometimes they play, sometimes they fight. But in the end they will curl up next to each other on the couch, a picture of peace amidst a world of dog and cat wars. If fact, both are curled up next to me now.

Click Here to see Phoebe.

Meet Baby Jay

Name: Jakob Franklin (Yeah, we spelled it differently on purpose. Yeah, I know he will have to spell it for everyone his whole life.)

AKA: Baby Jay, or Jay Jay by his siblings

Age: 4 months!

Future occupation: sumo wrestler or linebacker

How we met: When he was born, I was amazed how much he resembled his sister! With two exceptions. One, he was a boy. Two, he was MUCH bigger! From the start we got along famously. I can't decide if that's because he's more laid back or because I am more laid back. Probably a little of both.

Personality: He is a super snugly little big guy. And big he is. I haven't weighed him recently, but at Halloween he was over 17 pounds and he's just gotten chubbier since! He tries very hard to communicate with us. You can just see his little brain working and thinking, "If only I could get my voice and body to do what I want it to do!" He clearly lets us know when he is happy, and when he is not. He is not happy when he is alone. He likes company and lots of it!

Talents: He recently accomplished turning from his tummy to his back. He also is perfecting the arts of blowing raspberries and chewing on his fingers. He likes to poo for the nursery worker at church. Good baby!

Likes: To eat most of all! He likes hanging with Mommy when she's on the computer. He likes hanging with Mommy while she watches football. He likes pretty much anything that has to do with being held by Mommy. He is also a big fan of his bouncy seat, watching his sister and brother play, and being tickled by daddy. Bright lights and the ceiling fan rank pretty high on the list, too.

Dislikes: Being alone, being hungry, taking baths

What I admire most about him: The ability to sleep anywhere at anytime. Wouldn't that be great if you could do that as an adult?

*Disclaimer* By the way, the "professional looking" photos of my kids were NOT taken by me. Most of my picture taking ends up with me yelling nasty words at the camera. They were taken by my very talented friend Jan who has a home photography business. She is fabulous! If you ever need pictures for a special occasion and you're in the Terre Haute area, I will hook you up!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Meet Joey

Name: Joseph Zavier

AKA: Joe Bug

Age: getting close to 3

Future Occupation: He wants "to plant watermelons, carrots, and plants!"

How We Met: Joey was due on January 3. Since his sister came early, I had high hopes that he would be the first baby born on New Year's Day and I would get a bunch of free stuff! Nope. He was a little late. He was born January 8, 2006. We went to the hospital in the middle of the night and by the time Joey arrived Frank had drunk about a gallon of coffee and Mountain Dew. I remember pain. I remember the doctor saying it would only be a couple more pushes. I remember the doctor looking and Frank and asking, "Do you need to sit down?" I remember Frank rushing to the bathroom. I remember the cries of my beautiful new baby boy. I remember Frank coming back into the room and saying....
"Did I miss anything?"

Personality: Joey is a one of a kind little boy. He is full of imagination. Most of his days are filled with magical creatures and games and stories that only he can see. Joey is independent. While Annabelle is star of the show at the playground, Joey is perfectly happy to play on his own, usually with rocks and dirt. Joey is a sponge. He drinks in anything he can when it comes to songs and letters and numbers and pictures and words. I am constantly surprised by the things he already knows. Joey does not want to miss a thing. No WAY will he be content going to sleep if there is something interesting going on. Joey is fascinated with organization. There is nothing he likes better than having a bunch of things he can arrange into a big straight line. Video tapes, pull-ups, blocks, cars, crayons, pillows, potatoes, walnuts, rocks- you name it. I come across "Joey sculptures" on a regular basis. Everything perfectly placed exactly how he wants it. I think I need to start taking pictures of them and selling them online as highly sophisticated post-modern art.

Talents: He can make the biggest mess out of the smallest amount of food. He is fabulous at making up voices for the different characters he's in imagination land with. He also sings perfectly on key. Will he do it if he knows anyone is watching? Nope.

Likes: spaghetti, sticks, dirt, candy canes, Dora the Explorer, playing outside, Blue Blankey, jumping on furniture, cooking pretend meals for his family, knock knock jokes, blue berries

Dislikes: wearing socks, using the potty, taking naps, eating meat(with the exception of hot dogs), scary monsters

What I admire most about him: He marches to the beat of his own imaginary drum and doesn't care a bit what others are doing and saying around him. Sometimes I wish I had this kind of confidence in pursuing the things that give me joy without worrying so much about what others might think of me.

Intermission: I Have Picture Capabilities, People!

Okay. Meet Frank II.

Now that I borrowed my husband's laptop and actually read the help files at blogger...I can do pictures!!! So here's Frank at work yesterday. Every time Travis, his co-worker and pal, sends me a picture, I know I will laugh uncontrollably and then save the picture in a secret file for future blackmail use. Just kidding. I would never do that. Or would I....?

The other picture is our wedding day. *GASP!* I know, a picture with me in it. Keep in mind that this was over 7 years ago. I prefer everyone to see me in a beautiful dress with makeup on at 22 on pretty much a perfect day where I got lots of presents. Instead of in my baby puke-stained pajamas without makeup on at 29 on pretty much a normal day in November...so far no presents, but here's to hoping!! :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Meet Annabelle

Name: Annabelle Kate

AKA: Anna (by me), Annie (by Frank)

Age: Just turned 4 1/2, which is so much better than "regular 4"

Future Occupation: Firefighter. When I asked her why, she said that some girls are firefighters. Then she said she thinks it would be hard but fun.

How we met: Annabelle was born on my sister's birthday in 2004. She came a week early! I was nervous about being a parent because I liked kids, but I had not spent a whole lot of time with tiny babies before. She wasn't what you call an "easy" baby and I was pretty overwhelmed at first...but we eventually figured each other out.

Personality: Annabelle is FULL of personality. She's quite the entertainer and drama queen. She is living for the Christmas musical at church this year where she gets to perform songs and dances ON STAGE with the big kids. Annabelle has a dry sense of humor like her father. It's so funny to hear sarcastic remarks coming from a little girl voice! Annabelle is inquisitive. She asks at least 834 questions a day. There is a new show on PBS called Sid the Science Kid. In the intro he says, "Did you hear the one about the kid who wanted to know everything about everything?" Every day I answer, "Yes, and I live with her!" Annabelle is super social. If we go to the playground, she will learn the names of every kid there in the first 10 minutes and then proceed to introduce herself and her entire family to the children and their caretakers. Annabelle is caring and very sensitive to others. Frank's mom works with women who are severely mentally handicapped and we went to visit her at work once. I explained to Annabelle that the women have bodies like adults but their minds were kind of like a baby's. Annabelle wasn't scared or timid around these women at all. She chose to talk to them and eat dinner with them instead of play outside!

Talents: Annabelle makes up some pretty awesome songs. They tend to be epic, have catchy rhythms and have big finishes. Annabelle is good at creatively naming her toys. My favorite is the little horse she named Santabua. She's good at skipping and hopping on one leg. She's also very good at bossing around her little brothers.

Likes: Old Disney movies, playing games on the computer, drawing and coloring, reading books, talking, riding in daddy's truck, Silky (her security slip...yeah, a slip and not a blanket) and corn bread

Dislikes: Waking up early, mushrooms, brushing her hair

What I Admire Most About Her: Sometimes her questions drive me a little batty. But I do love that she is always sincere in wanting to know the hows and whys of life, and I hope she never stops questioning. Her questions about God and Jesus sometimes teach ME. See my post Deep Thoughts By Annabelle for an example.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Meet Frank

Name: Franklin Neil

AKA: Frank or Frankie

Age: 29 (almost 30! Tee hee!)

Occupation: Network Administrator for the City of Terre Haute (I think that's his title. I tried to look it up on the city website, but it's not working. That's ironic. It means a bad day at work for Frank...)

Unofficial Occupations: Worship Leader and elder at HealingPointe Community Church, part time online seminary student at Liberty University

How we met: Frank transferred to Indiana State University(ISU) in the fall of 1999. I was studying in Spain the fall of 1999. When I got back to ISU in January 2000, there was this new cute guy at our Campus Crusade meeting. Our mutual friend Amy introduced us. It went something like this.
Amy: "Beth, this is Frank."
Beth (not hearing the name right): "Hi Craig, nice to meet you!"
Frank: "No. It's FRANK."
Beth: "Oh. Frank?"
Frank: "Yes. Frank. Like your 40 year old uncle. FRANK."
Beth (thinks this guy will never speak to her again): "Oh."
We didn't start dating until 4 months later. That's another fun story for another time. But I still remember what he wore that day and what I wore. Odd how the mind works.

Personality: He's got an extremely dry sense of humor. Most people cannot tell when he is joking until they know him for awhile and he comes off looking very serious or just odd. But once you get to know him, you find he is very funny, fun, caring, adventurous, creative, a hard worker, and smart. He's pretty laid back about things, which helps tone down a hyper-sensitive person such as myself. Well, he's laid back until it comes to game of backyard wiffle ball or croquet. Then he's out for blood.

Talents: He can play almost any musical instrument. And if he can't, he'll at least learn how to play a scale or two if you give him a couple hours. He leads with a guitar at church, but drums are his bigger passion. He can also sing. He majored in voice at ISU and can sing opera quite well. But that's not the style he prefers. He can fix almost anything and do it for less money than anyone else. Some of our friends call him McGyver. No challenge is too big or small. Cars? Furnaces? Computers? Leaky faucets? He'll get them working. He is a good cook. He makes a mean apple pie from scratch. He is an excellent father. He is the best bedtime book reader. He does projects with the kids like making puppets and making bird houses and such. He changes diapers with the best of them!

Likes: He likes learning! About everything! He likes finding "sweet deals." Sweet deals are basically finding the most unique thing that will fit his particular need at low low prices. Why get the car that everyone else drives when you can get a "sweet deal" on a Mazda RX-7 rotary engine car he found on Ebay that's 2 states away? He likes Campbell's chicken noodle soup with lots of crackers. He likes R.E.M. He likes being with family and good friends.

Dislikes: Reading fiction. Black olives. Being in big crowds of people. He probably dislikes his wife dedicating an entire post about him, but he will continue to love me anyway.

What I admire and respect most about him: He has a very strong faith in Jesus. He is a very authentic person and lives out his faith in all contexts of life.

I recieved this picture from Frank's co-worker one day. During their lunch break, they went on a junkyard adventure to find a part to fix my minivan. You really can't get more "Frank" than this:

Frank at the junkyard.

I promise to put the actual photo here as soon as I figure out how to do it...bleh. I don't know if those without a facebook account will be able to go to this link. This is why Frank does the computing around here.

A Series of Posts: Meet My Family

Since all 7 of you who read my blog may not know me in person, I thought I would write a little in the next week about my family. Even those of you who DO know me may live far away or haven't had the chance to get to know us as much as you'd like to across the miles. Plus, it's always nice to remind myself of what a blessing my little family is and how they have a big part in who I am. It puts things into perspective, and I'm sure when I look back at what I wrote ten years from now, I will get all blubbery about how little the kids were... Yeah, I enjoy being sentimental like that. Hope you don't mind!

I think this is how it will go:

Meet Frank- my husband
Meet Annabelle- my daughter, the oldest
Meet Joey- my first son, the middle kid
Meet Baby Jay- the baby boy
Meet Phoebe and Uno- the dog and cat, respectively

I think the order is heaviest to lightest. I didn't mean to do that, but it works.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Love Me Some Raisins

These lovely songs were a part of a Christmas special in 1987. I don't know quite why I loved them so much. Now they are a little creepy. Have fun!

Procrastination Post or I'd Rather Blog Than Clean

I generally don't like surveys. But I like these questions. And I like Katdish who sent it my way. Plus, if I don't comply I might be picked up by the Scrooge Police and we can't have that happening now, can we?

Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends. Okay, here's what you're supposed to do, and try not to be a SCROOGE!!! Just Copy this entire blogpost and paste into a new blogpost that you can post to your own blog. Change all the answers so that they apply to you.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
I love to use wrapping paper. I have more fun wrapping than shopping. But sometimes time dictates an occasional use of the gift bag.

2. Real tree or Artificial?
Artificial. Bought at Wal-Mart the first year we were married for $13.97. I've come to have a lot of sentimental attachment to this little ugly fake tree. Somehow it seems to defy the torture we put it through each year and we still have all the pieces. If you knew how unorganized I am, you would be impressed by this. I hope to have a real tree sometime soon. We had a real tree every year growing up and I miss them!

3. When do you put up the tree?
Whenever I get to it.

4. When do you take the tree down?
Whenever I get to it.

5. Do you like eggnog?
Not really. Kinda makes me gaggy. I would much rather have hot chocolate, hot cider, hot tea, or a good cup of "holiday flavored" coffee to celebrate the season. Cold weather equals hot beverages.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
I was seventeen, but I think that counts as a child. I got a guitar. My dad picked it out for me. I named it Gunther. I still have him.

7. Hardest person to buy for?
My dad.

8. Easiest person to buy for?
My sister. But I get to shop for a nephew and a niece this year, and that will be lots of fun!

9. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes. A little glass one my mom got for me in college. And a fabric finger puppet one for the kids!

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
It's one of those things I'd LIKE to do...but never seems to happen...I'm going to go hide now...

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
One year the fan in the furnace broke. Our pipes froze and burst. We bought parts to fix everything. Merry Christmas to us.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
White Christmas. Love it.

13. When do you start shopping?
Whenever I get to it.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Yup. But I'm not telling which ones.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Anything I didn't cook.

16. Lights on the tree?
Would it be a Christmas tree without them? I think not!

17. Favorite Christmas song?
I can't pick just one!! O Come All Ye Faithful, We Three Kings, O Come O Come Emanuel, Mary Did You Know, Breath of Heaven, Welcome to Our World and more top the list. Least favorite Christmas song: Christmas Shoes.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Travel most of the time. I call it the Tour of Indiana.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's?
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
A star made of styrofoam and aluminum foil my husband made one year because he was mad we didn't have one. It's perfect atop the $13.97 tree. :)

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Christmas morning! No cheating!!

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?
The time with my family always seems to go way too fast.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
One year we got weird and put old high school senior pictures of everyone on our tree. I don't even remember how it started. But it made me laugh almost every day they were on there. Everyone in their 90's high school glory peering at me from a Christmas tree. I hope we didn't have many visitors to the house that year...

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?
My mother-in-law is a turkey cooking genius. It's so good. But my mom started making this sweet potato cassarole stuff that also to die for. And then there's the homemade bread. And my grandma always brings pies...HELP!

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
I never know the answer to that question. I wouldn't be surprised if I am the person who is hard to buy for on other people's lists.

26. Who is most likely to respond to this?
Kathy already named them on hers, but Lisa or Amy might respond!

27. Who is least likely to respond to this?
Um, Barak Obama?

28. What was your most memorable magical memory from your adulthood?
The year my mom's whole family got together in Oregon for Christmas and my grandparents' 50th anniversary. We were staying in a perfectly victorian bed and breakfast and it snowed. Better than a Thomas Kinkade painting.

29. Have you ever been involved in a Christmas gift prank?
Don't think so.

30. Favorite Christmas Cartoon?
Garfield! "It's a good old fashioned Christmas, down on the farm..."
Followed closely by the California Raisins Christmas Special where they rock out to We Three Kings. But it was clay-mation, so I'm not sure that counts anyway.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

If You Love Reading for a Long Time, You'll Love This Post

I came to the conclusion today that I am NOT normal. Yeah, I know, it probably shouldn't have taken me almost 30 years to realize this, but there it is. I said it, and I'm not taking it back. So there. Nanny nanny boo boo.

What preceded this realization was the dreaded talk of Christmas (or if you're PC, "holiday") parties. I don't dread the parties. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy getting together with people and eating waaaaay too many calories. What I dread are the gift exchanges. The first mention was at my monthly women's group. We're 20 and 30 somethings that belong to various churches in the area. We officially gather together to find ways to raise a little moolah, and we give it to those in need in our relatively poor and rural county. With a lack of resources and overwhelming needs in our neck of the woods, we figure every little bit helps. So we do yard sales and sell cheeseballs and do other odd things we deem worthy. I'll have to dedicate a post to the time we did concessions at the gun show.... Anyway, it's a super fun group and we all share the ups and downs of life in the process. And of course, where 2 or more women are gathered, there must be a Christmas party. So we're headed to the Mexican restaurant on the second Monday in December. And there's a gift exchange. Bring a gift that is valued at $20 or so. You don't HAVE to participate. But usually everyone does. Gift exchange decision number one. I am on the fence at the moment, but I don't have to decide until the day of the party.

Then I get to the preschool office this morning. The HOLIDAY PARTY SIGN UP SHEET is posted next to the mailboxes. "Please respond whether this date and time works for you and whether or not you will be participating in the gift exchange." You mean I have to make the decision NOW? Well, I only know these women from seeing them one morning a week for a little over a year, so it was a little easier this time. Gift exchange decision number two. Even though EVERY single person had put "YES" under gift exchange, I scrawled a little "NO." What an outcast I am. I used to get the same feelings when I worked for Girl Scouts and the staff Holiday Gift Exchange reared its ugly head. Gifts stress me out.

Do I hate gift giving for some theological reason? Do I hate other women? Do I have some undiagnosed disorder that renders me unable to wrap presents? No. No. And no. I like giving gifts. I like other women. I like picking out things that will make somebody say "Awwwwww," or "How did you KNOW?" And I REALLY like wrapping presents. It's an art form to me. A lot of the time, I'm not particularly great at giving gifts, but not horrible either. My husband is very sweet about putting up with my average gifts. My repugnance of the Gift Exchange comes from something deeper....

The real reason I don't like them is because 99% of the time I don't have the extra cash to spend on people who aren't nearest and dearest to my heart of hearts. It upsets me a lot that I would end up spending more on a co-worker than I would my dad or mom. I feel like each year we scrape together as much as we can, and we offer silly little gifts to family and friends who deserve so much more. (This is hugely embarrassing and I try not to talk about it much, but I'm going somewhere, so stick with me.) I wish I could buy the figurine or candle that's all the rage for that gift exchange, but I can't. I wish I could buy my mom and dad an island in the tropics for that matter, but I can't. Instead I pout on the inside and try not to feel like I'm wearing a giant sign that says "I'M BROKE, SO NO GIFT FOR YOU!" at parties when everyone else exchanges gifts.

When this happens every year, a part of me really wishes that I had more money. LOTS more money. Then I wouldn't have to be embarrassed so often. Things would be so much easier. I wouldn't be embarrassed about the house I live in. I wouldn't be embarrassed about the rusty van I drive. I could just blend in and be normal.

Part of this angst probably stems from guilt over bad decisions with money. If we had just done x, y, and z, we would be so much better off. Think and rethink. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. But you can only beat yourself up so many times over a mistake made. You can't go back and change things. You just have to sigh and admit that you made a dumb mistake and do the best you can with the circumstances at hand. Ask God for forgiveness and wisdom and move on I say! So, moving on!

The other chunk o' angst comes from the lifestyle I have chosen. I could have gone after a career path with bigger paychecks I suppose. Non-profit jobs don't exactly lead to big tanks of gold coins a la Scrooge McDuck. I could have put off having a husband or a family for awhile. I could have kept working a full time job after Baby Jay was born. And none of those things are wrong. Financial security is not wrong. But those things were wrong for ME. That is not the path that God had for ME. God specifically put me into jobs where I could use my gifts to help others and at the same time learn the things He wanted me to learn. He's done the same for Frank. I am very grateful for that. We have never been hungry. We have never had a financial disaster of epic proportions despite our dumb decisions, although some seasons have been tougher than others. And I now I choose to stay home and try my hand at instilling God's truth into my own children before they jump into the wide, wide world...which has been my hardest (and least paying!)job to date by far. I'm trying to live out God's will for my life, and many times that's amounted to having less material wealth compared to those around me.

I am reminded of Romans 12:2 "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." If I'm following God's will for me, will I be normal? Uh....no. I might stick out like a goth at a Kenny Chesney concert. Or like salt in a bland meal. Or like a light on a hill. Wait...two of those similes sound familiar. The other one is just weird.

If I'm a little embarrassed about my economic status at a gift exchange, that's a small price to pay for learning my ultimate worth comes from who I am in Christ, not from my bank account. That's the bigger picture that God has to remind me of pretty much every day. So I am trying to have a better attitude this year. I proclaim 2008 the Christmas of Contentment and Thankfulness! Besides, Jesus coming to this earth was the best gift ever. There's no way I'm going to try and compete with that!

P.S. I just realized why I love Thanksgiving so much. All of the family, friends, and calories. None of the gift exchanges! :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Coffee, Anyone?

This is a test of putting a video on my blog. This is only a test. If this would have been an actual emergency, I wouldn't be blogging right now.

I think it works! A funny video for those of you who follow SCL. What if Starbucks marketed like the church? It makes me a little uneasy to think about "marketing" Jesus. He is so much more than a "culturally relevent" product! But it is very good to remember how those unfamiliar with the church may see us...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Where's the Easy Button?


When I hear that word, it kind of grosses me out. I think of rotting deer carcasses. I don't know why, I just do. If I think too long, I start feeling a little wobbly in the knees and the blood drains from my head and I get a little dizzy.... My husband makes fun of me for things like this. If people near me are talking about anything remotely gross or gory, I have to leave the premises or politely remind them that they will soon need to find the smelling salts. And when they ignore me and keep talking about whatever was leaking from Aunt June's cyst, I implore, "Please! I am not joking! Can we change the subject?" At this point they notice I am a nice shade of grey green and they listen. Usually. Now give me a real life drama filled with blood or vomit or other bodily nasties, and I'm better at handling it. I may yell, "Ack! Bleh, bleh, BLEHHHHHH!" the whole time, but chances are I'll get through it with flying colors.

So when the Bible talks about being in the flesh, I am physically repulsed. My pastor (Shout out to Eric! Woot!) uses this term a lot, so I hope he knows that when I make squinchy faces while he's talking, it's directly proportional to the number of times he uses the word "flesh" while teaching. Because of my aversion to "flesh," I try not to think about it too much. But today Romans chapter 8 felt like it was leaping from the screen this morning (www.bible.com) when I read it, so I am forced deal with the icky-ness.

"So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."
-Romans 8:12-17 English Standard Version

Wow. There's just so much here. Have you ever read the Bible time and time again, but it's just words? And then BOOM! You read the same thing later and it feels like every single word was meant just for you. It's so ironic, because when that happens I understand why it's called the LIVING Word. Living things change and grow. Spiritually, I must grow and change or I become...dead. I must constantly be fed by the living Word and the Holy Spirit or I spiritually starve and die. When I start living under my own power and living just for me, me, me, I am living according to the flesh, and being in the flesh equals DEATH. I wasn't too far off about the rotting deer...

Notice God doesn't promise us that living by the Spirit leads to easy circumstances, though. It may include times that we will suffer and need to cry, "Abba! Father!" Paul knew this first hand. No one else had been a missionary before for Christ. No one around him got thrown out of cities, beaten, and put in prison more than he did. He had companions on his journeys, but no one who went on every single journey with him. And he certainly didn't die old, warm and comfy in his bed.

What God does promise is peace. "For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace." (Romans 8:6) So many times we Christians think that God provides this big red Easy Button or a get-out-of-jail free card. Go to God, and instantly everything will be flowers and rainbows and care bears! Not always so. When I think about it, the common denominator among those I've met who are Christ-like is peace. Peace when they are healthy. Peace when they are sick. Peace when they are rich. Peace when they are poor. Peace when they are surrounded by those who love them. Peace when they are alone.

So here I am, many times filled instead with fear or pride. Sometimes I'm full of both! I'm terrified of the things I think I might called to because I know I don't have the ability to accomplish them under my own power. Yet at the same time, I pretend that I can handle everything! When people compliment me on a song, a good deed or whatever, I still think, "Yeah....look how cool I am," instead of giving God credit. Then I worry that the next time I won't measure up and I'll fail. So today I pray God breaks the cycle of fear and pride I am prone to. I pray that I learn to submit to his Word and His Spirit and live within his will for my life. I pray that peace will be the norm instead of the exception. When I lose peace, it is a red flag signaling that I again need to turn to God and seek his will for me. When I follow that will, I will not say, "That was easy." Nope. I will say, "That was God."

Monday, November 3, 2008

In Stereo on the Radio

Christian Radio. Christian Music. Worship Music. Do you like it? Do you hate it? There are a lot of opinions floating around out there, most of them very strong in nature.

Here are some of my personal thoughts, whatever they are worth. Being a worship leader (although I prefer the term lead worshipper) and a musician of some sort, I have a LOT of thoughts here. Of course they are shaped by my past, so I should fill you in a little on my Personal Music History. Cool. I like that term. When Beth and Frank's School of Worship Music comes into existence, that's one of the classes I'll teach.

I grew up listening to CCM (Christian Contemporary Music). While my friends were jammin' to Tiffany and Debbie Gibson, I liked Amy Grant. No NKOTB for me, please, I loved Michael W. Smith. I appreciated the bible stories sung by Michael Card and deep spiritual essence of Rich Mullins. My parents never put a hard and fast ban on "secular" radio stations or music. I listened to some of it while at friend's houses. How else would I secretly come to love Poison? But I genuinely liked CCM as a kid. Even as a teenager, I gravitated to Christian bands like DC Talk, Guardian, PFR, All Star United, The Waiting and the like. I usually felt a little ignorant when my friends knew all the words to MC Hammer songs at dances, but other than that, I was OK and knew enough of the stuff on the radio(and liked it) to keep from being a total social outcast. I have always liked a wide variety of music. Even Country.

On the worship music side of things, our church sang hymns and worship choruses from the good ol' 70's and 80's. I really liked it. I loved music and to sing in general, so any chance to sing to God was a good thing. I sang solos to "trax" for special music, played piano for the offering, and sang in the choir. My mom led the choir and was the "Worship Coordinator" for a good chunk of my childhood/teenagehood, and she did awesome things in the context of the traditional music the church wanted to do. But I felt like I truly worshipped through music for the first time at a Jr. High winter retreat with my youth group. There was this guy with a guitar...I had never sung to God to a GUITAR before! This pretty much blew my little 7th grade mind. I still vividly remember singing "Step By Step" by Rich Mullins and realizing for the first time how much God loved ME, how he wanted to lead ME, and that I desperately wanted to follow Him. Especially if it meant I could sing to a guitar.

So through the bumps and painful bruises of being an older teenager and college student, where you hate everything you ever loved, I went through periods of disliking CCM for it's "uncoolness" in sound, it's "overproduced fluff," and developed a slight disdain for the Christian music "industry." Yada yada. My sister, who has incredible taste in music, also introduced me to some really great obscure bands inside and outside Christian music, and I did the usual young adult thing of exploring music that I'd previously never had heard much of. I went to concerts and festivals like Cornerstone that made me realize how broad Christian culture was outside of small town Indiana.

I also got the chance to be in worship "bands" for the first time in college. One summer I decided to learn to play guitar because the guy who led worship in one college ministry graduated, and no one else knew how. So for a year, this group of students had to endure my first forays into leading worship accompanied by bad guitar strumming. Never mind that I had years and years of piano under my belt. I HAD to lead with guitar. Most everything was in the key of G, which is an easy key to play guitar in, but a horrible key for me to sing in. I sincerely apologize to anyone in that group. I also started playing with the Campus Crusade band. We were a campus without full time Crusade staff, so we were left to our own devices on how to do worship. We ended up with a mix of some pretty cool new choruses and favorite hymns accompanied by three badly strummed guitars and a couple singers. After a couple years some new and better talent emerged, and we had a real band-like experience. I went back to playing keyboard after realizing I would not be the next great gift to guitar. God gave us BJ, who was an international student from Korea who had a hipper sense of music than the rest of us combined. He brought us all kinds of great new worship music. He had the heart of a true worship leader. I learned so much from him about having an attitude of worship. God also gave us my future husband, Frank. He was an actual music student who had played in actual bands before. He could fill in where ever there was a need-drums, bass, guitar, keys, vocals, clarinet, kazoo- and do it with humility and pretty much kick the rest of our butts musically.

So where was I going with this post? I got way too into Beth's Personal Music History. Anyway, fast forward time. Frank and Beth get married. They enter the real world of work. They enter Crossroads Community Church in Sullivan, Indiana. They realize instantly this is the church for them because they've never been to a church where they have screaming guitar solos in worship. They start playing for Crossroads. They learn a LOT about the limitlessness of worship music- worship can pretty much come in any style and any tempo. They learn a lot about being the best you can as a part of a whole band and dying to self. Frank and Beth form their own Christian band of sorts, Behind Four Walls. They have a lot of fun playing at gigs attended by less than 40 people. They record some of their own music and still have delusions of "making it big" someday. They open for Barlow Girl once. They have a kid and disband. They join the worship band Thirsty. They have a lot of fun playing at gigs with less than 100 people. They play on the same stage on the same day as Sonic Flood. They have another kid and have to leave Thirsty. They think maybe they're supposed to be worship leaders and not rock stars but never seem to find the right position at the right church. Then this couple from Louisiana comes to visit Crossroads and tells them about how they want to plant a church in Terre Haute...

So all of these experiences came to prepare us to be the leaders in worship at HealingPointe Community Church. And to begin with, we were pretty good at doing cool God songs and worship songs. We had the stage act down pat. I would say we were decent entertainers and sometimes pretty good at worship, too. But that's just it. The production of it all still was held above the worship aspect. I would care more about getting the notes and the words right rather than making sure I worshipped. But as we've gone through the ups and downs of starting this church, and as we've grown a lot as Christians, I think both Frank and I have discovered that worshipping God comes first. We both did some extensive study in the Bible about it. We both had to put the entertainer persona on the back burner and realize that no one in our church was going to worship unless we did. And sometimes that means doing uncomfortable things for me like raising my hands when the Holy Spirit prompts me to. I will look goofy in front of others if that's what God wants. I'm there to please Him, not others or myself, and that usually means getting out of my comfort zone. It means not showing off all the time and being simple so that others can sing along with us. Yeah...things like that.

So with all that in mind, when Christian people go bashing Christian music and Christian radio and how worship music all sounds the same and is so trite and horrible, I don't quite understand it. I love a lot of it, but not all of it. With any music, some of it is good, some of it is not, but that's only my opinion. But I figure even the songs I can't stand and the songs I hear played again and again and again and get sick of...those songs may speak to someone about God and draw them closer to Him in some way. So why be a hater? Who am I to say that God's not going to use something just because I don't happen to like the sound or the radio station it's played on? God can use a song or an artist whose intentions are far from Godly. God can use a song with the cheesiest of lyrics and three chords if the heart of the person is to worship Him. God can use a song even if the artist is faking Christianity, cheated on his wife and did drugs the day he wrote it, and makes a billion dollars off of the song anyway. I'm not going to limit God. It all has to do with attitude of the listener. If your intention is to worship and draw close to God, the style of song has absolutely nothing to do with worship. That is still a hard thing to get through MY head, but it's true. If the lyrics honor God and hold fast to what's presented in the Bible, I say, bring it on! Let's worship!