Monday, December 31, 2007

Dominion


I read a lot . . . what can I say? I like books! Anyways, I thought I'd post some quick notes and opinions on here when I finish a book - that way, if anyone is interested (probably not but I like to pretend) they can decide whether or not they want to read it themselves! First of all, let me say that if you haven't read The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne - you need to! :-) But that's not what this is about . . .

I just finished reading Dominion by Randy Alcorn. Overall, I'd summarize it by saying it was an interesting story that dragged on a little too long. Normally I'm not a good critic because I like most books and movies and I dont like to say anything "mean" about them . . . but I will chance to say that this book dragged - - In particular, there was too much repetitive "preaching" about racism and race issues.

Let me qualify that statement by saying that I was excited when I realized this book was about inner-city life and talked about racial issues (I originally picked it up because I had read and enjoyed the previous book in the "series"). I just felt like he repeated himself too much talking about how prevalent racism still is in the U.S. (something I am even prone to agree with!) It ended up taking away from the story rather than adding to it.

That said, the story itself was engaging and interesting, painting a vivid and fascinating picture of both inner-city life and life in heaven. Alcorn's writing is fluid, if a little wordy. Despite the dragging in the middle (it was hard for me to get through, which rarely happens to me with books), the twists at the end made up for it and left me with a good taste in my mouth about the book. Overall, I enjoyed reading Dominion and learned valuable lessons from it about racism. Alcorn also offers several interesting and profound insights into human nature and spiritual life.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Puzzles . . .


I realized today watching the kids try and put together puzzles at the preschool that it was a perfect picture of their typical attitude towards life in general (I know, it sounds like a stretch - but stick with me . . . )
When a group of five or six of them is given a puzzle to assemble, the first thing they do is grab as many pieces as possible and escape to work on it . . . the problem is, none of the pieces they grab and claim as theirs necessarily fit together, and it is clearly impossible to finish the puzzle without collaborating with the other puzzle-makers with THEIR stashes of pieces. . .

I've found it frustrating and next to impossible to try and help them work together on the puzzle. Their mentality is to grab as much as they can for themselves and then not let anyone near, because they might steal their pieces. I cant help but feel compassion for these kids who live in a world where they have to protect what little they have so it doesnt get stolen from them . . .

However, I think on some level we are all like this in our lives - hoarding and storing up treasures here on earth, failing to see how perfectly the pieces all fit together once we are willing to share and fit our pieces into other people's pieces. The Lord must feel a little bit like I do: tired of trying to constantly explain that we have to share, and frustrated with our tears every time one of our pieces gets taken away. The thing is: when we get "our" pieces taken away, it's often because the Lord has a much bigger picture (the whole puzzle) and we need to give up this piece to make the whole fit together!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Journey

Matt asked me to share at Canvas this week the journey that Christ has had me on as I've begun working and serving. Luckily, I lost my voice on Friday (conveniently since I hate speaking in front of people) so instead of speaking, I went through my blogs and journals and pulled out snippets that gave a good picture of the path I've been traveling down. It was a fascinating and humbling exercise to see how far my faith and life have come in the past couple months (it's all happened so fast!) since camp. I am thankful for where the Lord has brought me to and excited to see where He will take me next!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Puppy Power!

Being somewhat of a pushover, I've often wondered what I'll do if I ever have a "strong-willed child". . . Well maybe God is helping me practice, because our new puppy is definitely strong-willed (to say the least!) I know that Charli looks cute and innocent -- but she's not! Rather, she takes every opportunity to pounce on your face, hands, feet or whatever else is available. And she growls fiercely (more like a snarl really) sounding remarkably like a little gremlin or demon-dog . . .

After seriously pondering returning her (stamped "defective") to the breeder - we have enlisted the professional help of a dog trainer! Actually, we just had her check Charli out and make sure she wasnt overly aggressive (in that we wouldnt be able to train it out of her). Susie (the trainer) informed me that she is definitely a dominant and bossy little girl (she was the runt of 11 and somehow still ended up Alpha dog . . . ) but that under that she's super-smart, sweet and not aggressive at all. Great news right?! The only catch is that it means I have to be (gasp) STRICT and (big trouble for me here) firm and authoritative . . . I have to show her that I, in fact, am the alpha dog around here . . .

Indulge me for a minute while I make a little leap that I've been considering since my meeting with the trainer today. . . One thing I've been thinking a lot about lately is how important it is not to give up on kids. Those who have been abandoned to the foster system, who are hard to work with (that's an understatement!) and have been abused, are angry and aggressive and not in the least bit "easy to love" - if God is calling us to adopt kids like this someday, maybe He's using Charli to teach us the importance of patience and perseverance and not giving up when things get hard. As I think about my own personality, and how little my words are heeded by the kids at the preschool and at Metro Kidz (in other words, they dont do what I say or listen to me at all), I realize that maybe learning how to speak with authority and how to establish my dominance will not be a bad thing to learn as I continue down this journey that the Lord has me on . . .

Of course the #1 lesson we learned was to TAKE OUR TIME making decisions, stop being so impulsive and think things through! :-)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dream Center - Metro Kidz

Here's a video with some more info about what we do at Metro Kidz - and ways you can help!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday School This Morning

It's the kids like Junior that make everything I do downtown worthwhile . . . Junior is a precious five year old who lives in the housing project of Herndon Homes. He has a 3 year old brother and a 7 year old brother, both of whom seem very angry at life in general (and me in particular). In fact, this morning I was hit in the head and flipped the bird by Quadree (the 7 year old) . . . but dont worry, it only made me more determined to win him over (he's the one in the picture)

I was talking to Junior this morning about his younger brother (we'll call him JT because I have no idea how to spell the long version of his name). I was remembering our visit to Herndon Homes from last week because when I saw JT he emphatically yelled at me to leave him alone - and to leave his brothers alone. I was surprised to hear such anger and force from a barely three year old (most of them, even in the projects, just want me to hug them and carry them or watch them on the swings . . . ) Anyhow, curious about his behavior, I asked Junior "Your little brother doesn't like me very much does he?" Junior was quick to reassure me as he cuddled on my lap: "he tells everyone to leave him alone, he even told my mom 'leave me alone b**ch' . .. " Shocked, I asked Junior where he learned that word if he's only 3, Junior replied "from my dad . . . " I was heart broken to realize that Junior's mom heard that from both her "man" and her little baby son - and even more heartbroken to learn the extent to which JT's innocence has been stolen from him.

In a world where even three year olds are pushing everyone away, it's daunting to face the challenge of loving the teenagers who, by now, are experts at pushing away and hurting those around them (not that those of us in the suburbs aren't good at it too) But its also, for me, a confirmation that these are truly "the least of these" that Jesus talks about - I know, without a doubt, that loving these kids unconditionally is what I've been called to do - and if that means I have to endure being flicked-off and even hit occasionally, then I will consider it pure joy to suffer in serving Jesus! :-)

(Junior and Dialo - his cousin)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Especially thankful this year . . .

Well, thanksgiving is already almost here - and Adam and I are getting ready to leave for Florida with his family. I'm looking forward to some relaxing and fun times :-)
As usual, this time of year is making me think a little bit about all that I'm thankful for -- and this year, I find myself especially thankful. Maybe part of the reason the Lord has me working with at-risk kids is simply so I will realize (finally!) how deeply blessed I am in so many different ways. Being surrounded kids who dont always have enough to eat, clean clothes to wear or a family who loves them has made painfully aware of my generous parents and loving husband, my full fridge, big house and bursting closet full of clothes (yet somehow I never have anything to wear?! . . . )

On Sunday, we had the kids make thank-you cards for God. I was blessed and touched that several of the kids drew pictures of me! I am humbled by their sentiment because I have actually done and given so little. Their thankfulness for a simple hug and person who cares about them reminds me how many people I have who care about me, and how much I tend to take them for granted.

So this year I am thankful for more than usual, for all the little things that the Lord blesses me with, not the least of which is my new little friends downtown!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Garbage


In America, we like to keep our garbage, in every sense of the word, undercover and hidden. Think about it: we put our garbage in plastic bags, which are promptly tied up and thrown into big plastic bins, where someone hides it in a big truck before bringing it to some garbage dump, who knows where - I've never actually ran across one . . . Naturally we hide our garbage - think about what it would look like if we all just threw our garbage out our front door, or left it on the street corner, but no one picked it up . . . I imagine if this was the case, America might end up looking a lot like Vietnam, Bangkok or China.

In these cities and countries, old buildings are not pressure washed, re-painted, renovated, or torn down and rebuilt. Instead they stand, disintegrating and covered in garbage and grime, like scabs on the landscape. Every roomtop, even on many of the abandoned buildings, houses breathtakingly beautiful altars covered in gold, glittering beautifully in the sunlight. The juxtaposition of their brilliant colors and the perpetual brown and black of the rest of the building reminds me of a colorful bandage covering an ugly scab. It might take your mind off it, but it certainly wont fix the problem. . .

Here, garbage lines the streets, fills backyards and spills from garages. And neither are the poor hidden. Shanty towns are crammed into open spaces, pushed up against crumbling relics of buildings. Their haphazard construction of tin, cardboard and taps, combined with hole-riddled walls and ceilings makes it obvious that the people living inside dont have much to call their own. In America, we house our poor in antiseptic and innocuous looking "projects" where they can live for nearly free as long as they make no money (leading to illegal activity but that's another story for another day). . . now I'm not saying this is a bad thing - it's actually a very good thing because it offers many of the poorest people in our country four walls and a roof, which is a luxury not afforded to many of the impoverished in other countries. The problem is that it allows us as Americans "off the hook" so to speak - out of sight, out of mind. We dont see the poor, and when we do - all we see is the well maintained gates and exteriors of some of the projects -- making it easy for us to pass by without a second thought to the physical and emotional needs of those living inside.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dreaming . . .

So I'm getting ready to leave for China -- I actually should be packing right now -- and I can't stop thinking about a conversation I had with pastor Paul over lunch. Adam and I have been feeling quite sure we're called to some sort of ministry in the city .. . I'm just not exactly sure what that means for me (he knows he wants to teach - lucky him) Pastor Paul told me two things that I want to spend time thinking and praying about while I'm on my two week jaunt across the far east . . .
1- If it's a dream I can accomplish with my own strength, then it's not a "God dream" - In other words, I need to dream SO big that I'll fail without God . . .
2- Maybe I dont know exactly what I "want to do with my life" but I do know some things I would like to do (as far as serving downtown) - so what's stopping me?

So as I'm packing up and realizing that I'm about to spend 24 hours on a plane (fun stuff) I want to spend some of that time in prayer and seeking the Lord's dreams, and figuring out what He wants me to start doing NOW to serve Him in the mission field He's leading us to . . .

Monday, September 17, 2007

Adventures in Preschool

I had an interesting (and by "interesting" I mean "nightmare-ish") time volunteering at the preschool downtown this past week. So many moments came down to a battle between my flesh and my spirit . . . because, while I know that these kids need grace and love, my own anger and frustration with them kept getting in the way. Let me explain . . .

On Tuesday when I walked through the doors, I was greeted with loving choruses of surprised "you came back!" from the kids. This is my standard greeting from the 45 - three to five year-olds who go to school here. I keep wondering how many times I have to come back before they will cease to be surprised by my return. I am making my rounds: hugging the kids, wiping noses, and helping them eat their breakfast when Ms. Smith (one of the teachers) asked if I could watch the kids while they had a "quick meeting" I smile and answer (naturally) "of course"....

I gather the kids (all 45 of them)and we play a rousing game of "Simon Says", which the kids don't really understand (they do anything I say regardless of whether or not I tell them "simon says") and which lasts all of about 15 minutes, before disintegrating into mass chaos. Before I know what has happened, kids are running around with no regard for furniture, sound limits or boundaries of any sort, banging on the piano, literally throwing punches at each other. At all times at least 3 children are bawling and clinging to my legs and arms . . . my stern pleas to "sit down", "calm down" and "please be quiet" don't even phase them. My shirt is stretched out, I'm covered in tears and grime and my muscles ache from carrying at least 2 kids every moment - and my hair resembles a bird's nest because I let the kids "braid" my hair when i realized it was the only thing that seemed to entertain them and keep them quiet . . .

Two and a half HOURS later the teachers finish their meeting just in time for lunch and nap time . . . I left that day exhausted and more than a little frustrated.

Grudgingly (after a lot of sleep and a nice long shower), I decide to go back to the preschool on Thursday. Now, Thursday was actually a pretty good day - until one of the little boys decided to literally slap me across the face . . . I stare at the five-year old in shock: the hard set of his jaw contrasts sharply with his innocent gap-tooth grin - but it is the question in his eyes that betrays him. Suddenly, I realize that he's testing me, pushing me - wondering if I really meant it when I hugged him and told him I'm proud, wondering if I'll really come back yet again.

Like Peter, I am ready to throw up my hands in exasperation - forgiving SEVEN times is surely enough, I'm poised to run out the door straight back to suburbia, where no one will slap my face or bruise my ego. But the Lord gently reminds me "not seven times, but seventy-seven times" and I realize that I WILL come back . . . because I still have a lot of forgiving and loving to do.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Graffiti . . .

Adam and I have decided to get involved with the new Canvas ministry at FBC - Matt and Becky Miller (two of our favorite people!) have decided to expand it to become a 20s ministry rather than just a college ministry - and we're excited about a place to serve, experience community, and to make friends that we can seek the Lord alongside of . . .

Last night was the first meeting of the group. The meeting was held in the college house, which is on the edge of our church's property. When we walked into the house, we were shocked to find paint splattered literally all over everything in the kitchen. Matt explained the house had been broken into and vandalized - and we spent a little time walking around and praying for our ministry, the house, and the people who vandalized it. Paint splatters, obscenities (the f-word and the n-word) as well as several other phrases like "God is Dead" and "This is our house now" were painted on the ceilings, windows and floors all over the house.

There is one room in the house that we have designated as our "prayer room." The room is painted on every wall with the different names of God. I was most struck by the vandalism when I walked into the normally soothing blue room to see the Lord's name attacked with bright strokes of red paint. More than the shock of these actions, however, I was struck by the realization that it changed nothing. Regardless of whether the names were splattered with red paint or not, God is still our Redeemer, Comforter, Strength, the Alpha and Omega, our Rock . . . the vandals had changed nothing, despite their best efforts.

I realized standing there that the same thing is true about me and my faith. There have been so many times throughout my life when people write labels on me. They splatter with red paint and try to cover up all the things that God says are true about me. This past week in particular, I have felt like the enemy has been trying to dissuade me from going downtown and working with the kids - because it's hard, and I can't tell if I'm making a difference . . . but standing in a room streaked with red paint, I realized that no matter how hard the enemy tries to paint me, label me and vandalize me - it changes nothing about who I am or what God has called me to do. So when it gets hard and I am uncertain, I will cling to what is true - I will remember what is UNDER that red paint - the powerful and unchanging truth about who God is and who I am in Him.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Learning by Serving

Since we got back from Camp Grace, I've been going downtown a couple times a week and helping out with several of the ministries that brought kids up to camp. I'm sharing this fact not to "toot my own horn" so to speak, but to tell you a little bit about how blessed I've been through serving. The Lord continually teaches me, stretches me, and blesses me with overflowing joy each time I go serve in the projects and share love with some deserving kids.

I am struck each time I drive downtown by the poverty that surrounds me. Boarded-over windows, barbed wire, broken-down cars and trash litter and line the streets. When we pull up to Herndon Homes (the largest project in Atlanta) it looks nicer than I expected, it is not until Jeremy points out the drug dealers on the corner and the "dime bags" that once held crack all over the ground that I realize I've entered a whole different world, one I've never before experienced or imagined.

My heart breaks with fear and pain as I watch two year olds waddle around in nothing more than a diaper, drinking grape soda from a can, mindless of the minefield of broken glass that his little feet navigate fearlessly.

At children's church this Sunday, a beautiful young girl asks me to pray for her mom - when I ask for details she says she can't tell in front of so many people - when i ask if she wants to whisper in my ear, she nods vigorously before informing me that her mom's in jail and she has been separated from her brothers and sisters and is living with her aunt. Tears well in her eyes (and mine) as I do the only thing I know how to: pray earnestly that the Lord will show us a way out, and that he will rescue her from her circumstances.

Later, a polite and helpful young man who often helps us with our ministry reveals that he has been suspended for misbehaving in school. His mom adds that he has threatened to re-open a DFCS case on her, and he protests strongly when his mother says she's trying to get his father to pay child support (he argues that his father shouldn't be to blame)

I cannot help but wonder how any of these kids can be expected to rise above their circumstances . . .we are quick to label them lazy and "bad" from the comfort of our four bedroom homes with big yards and full fridges - but how will they know a different way to live unless WE show them. They desperately need to know that they're worth it, that they deserve more than they have been dealt, and that their heavenly Father cares infinitely more about them than their earthly fathers seem to . . .

I am excited every time I get to go downtown and spend time with these kids, knowing that in them I encounter the Lord, who became the poor and hurting as He died on the cross. . . Never before has my faith felt as vibrant and real as it does when i am serving these kids.

"The Lord of Hosts says this: "Render true justice. Show faithful love and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the stranger or the poor. . ." Zachariah 7:9-10a

Friday, August 24, 2007

What to do with my life . . .

I've come to the realization that I'm not going to be a writer.

I cannot see anything beyond a blank page every time I sit down to write. I have no characters or plots running through my mind, when i think of what I'm passionate about and what I know - there is literally just nothing. . .
I remember when I was little there were many nights that i couldn't fall asleep. My mind would tend to keep running around in circles and I wasn't sure how to get it to just STOP so I could sleep -- my mom would come in and rub my forehead and tell me to think about "nothing" - at which point, I would get even more upset and protest: "but mom, it's impossible to think about NOTHING!" Looking back, if she just would have told me to think about what i would want to write a book about . . . i would quickly have a blank mind, ready for sleep!

I remember the moment I stopped knowing how to write creatively - I was in 9th grade (fresh from Canada - where schools let you be creative) in Mrs. Hayes class. We were asked to write a book report, and I wrote mine from the perspective of one of the characters in the book telling a story to answer the essay question she had asked us. Mrs. Hayes gave me an A - but told me never to write an essay like that again. Instead, she taught me how to write a five paragraph essay including a tri-part thesis with three supporting paragraphs, an introduction and a conclusion. And of course, each paragraph should include quotes which carefully back up your thesis, and have beginning and ending sentences which flow out of one paragraph and into the next . . . now I can write a killer essay (I never got less than an A throughout my 8 years of school here in the U.S.) but in the process I stifled my creativity and forgot how to let my writing flow and my mind be free.

I think that's why even writing this blog has been so hard for me . . . I cant seem to sit down and just WRITE without worrying about exactly what I'm trying to say or what I need to prove . . . but I guess I'll keep trying - and keep looking for something different to do with my life! :-)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Camp Grace


I've been putting this post off for a while because I'm not sure where to begin and what to tell you about our time here at Camp Grace this summer.

It honestly has been a humbling and life-changing experience spending a month with these kids. First of all, let me give you a little background on what Camp Grace is. Four years ago, it began with a day camp which bussed inner city kids out of Atlanta each day -- now it's an overnight camp in Cleveland, GA where kids from the poorest areas of the city come for a week to play basketball, volleyball, swim, fish, hike, cook, do arts and crafts, play lots of fun games and learn a lot about the Lord. Basically, the goals of the camp are to love the kids, introduce them to the ideas of Christianity and the person of Christ, and to offer them a joyful and exciting break from the poverty, crime and other stresses they experience on a continual basis in their day-to-day life. Throughout the year, Vision Atlanta raises money so that the kids only pay $30 for a week of camp. Groups like Kellar Williams, and individuals from churches etc (like my parents) sponsor the other $360 dollars it takes to send them here for the week.

Most of the kids who come bring only one or two changes of clothes. Some dont have toothpaste, soap or bedding. Many of them exhibit a hardness when they first get there that tends to wear down over the course of the week. Those who fight the hardest and curse the most tend to be the ones most heartbroken to leave. I wish I could do a better job describing how precious it is to be a part of that moment when they grin and run into a hug, especially when earlier in the week they are determined to be tough and prove that they dont need anyone . . .

These kids have stories that will make you cringe, stories of ministry leaders shaking roaches off their clothing to pack them for camp, of entire cabins of girls not knowing who their fathers are, of gang activity and daily violence . . . their stories break my heart, and cause me to examine my faith. If I proclaim to be a Christian, yet do not serve and love the forgotten (the "least of these") then what will have to say for myself when i stand before my Savior one day? If I take what the Bible says seriously, than I cannot know about what these kids are facing and do nothing to help them . . .

So now I am back at home, in my three bedroom house with two cars, a puppy, lots of clothes and friends . . . and it becomes easier to ignore the poverty and violence than to make the effort to go serve - especially because serving now means getting out of my comfortable chair in my cozy home and going into a world that's dangerous and unknown . . . but I cannot allow myself not to go because I cannot help but think that the dangerous, unknown world of these kids is exactly where Jesus would be.

You can see the rest of my pictures from our time at Camp Grace
here
and here
and here

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

blogging . . .

Hey friends (and family!) :-) I saw this on a photography blog this morning and thought it was funny . . .

Friday, June 29, 2007

Sweet Sarah and her dad



I thought I'd post a few pictures of my beautiful friend Sarah and her wonderful dad that I took at her wedding this past April. He passed away this weekend and I just felt like I wanted to remember what a fabulous and loving father he was to my dear friend . . .

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Driving in Atlanta

Adam's sweet grandma sent this to me - enjoy! :-)

HOW TO DRIVE IN ATLANTA --

1. You must first learn to pronounce the city name, it is Etlanna

2. The morning rush hour is from 5:00am to noon. The evening rush hour is from noon to 7:00pm. Friday's rush hour starts on Thursday morning.

3. The minimum acceptable speed on most freeways is 85 mph. Anything less is considered "Wussy".

4. Forget the traffic rules you learned elsewhere. Atlanta has its own version of traffic rules For example, cars or trucks with the loudest muffler go first at a four-way stop; the trucks with the biggest tires go second. However, in Roswell & Alpharetta, SUV-driving, cell phone-talking moms ALWAYS have the right of way.

5. If you actually stop at a yellow light, you will be rear ended, cussed out, and possibly shot.

6. Never honk at anyone. Ever. Seriously. It's another offense that can get you shot.

7. Road construction is permanent and continuous in all of Atlanta and surrounding counties. Detour barrels are moved around for your entertainment pleasure during the middle of the night to make the next day's driving a bit more exciting.

8. Watch carefully for road hazards such as drunks, skunks, dogs, cats, barrels, cones, celebs, rubberneckers, shredded tires, cell phoners, deer and other road kill, and the buzzards feeding on any of these items.

9. MapQuest does not work here, none of the roads are where they say they are or go where they say they do and all the freeway off and on ramps are moved each night.

10. If someone actually has their turn signal on, wave them to the shoulder immediately to let them know it has been "accidentally activated."

11. If you are in the left lane and only driving 70 in a 55-65 mph zone, you are considered a road hazard and will be "flipped off" accordingly. If you return the flip, you'll be shot.

12. Do not try to estimate travel time, just leave Monday afternoon for Tuesday appointments, by noon Thursday for Friday and right after church on Sunday for anything on Monday morning.

13. Above all else, enjoy your driving experience, because if you actually get where you are going on time, everybody else will be late.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

what's up with us . . .

We've been traveling like fiends so far this summer . . . so it feels good to finally be in our house for more than a day at a time!

We spent a week in Puerto Vallarta Mexico to celebrate my parents' 25th wedding anniversary. We stayed in a beautiful resort complete with personal cabanas, sailboats, and swaying palm trees :-) The mountains in the distance dotted with relics of houses and towering churches bring an air of old-world charm and sophistication that many oceanside resorts seem to lack. It was fantastically relaxing, a whole week consisting of laying in the sun reading :-) perfect!

We did actually venture out from the resort for a couple outings - one of them, to a deserted (yet still decidedly tourist-aimed) section of beach where we enjoyed a dinner on an open air patio overlooking the water, surrounded by thousands of candles and no electricity. After stuffing ourselves, we spent another day lounging by the pool and strolling on the beach, before venturing out again for a tour of a town called San Sebastien.


As we bounced along on the nearly two hour drive through the mountains, we met a Mexican cowboy hawking cheese from a basket on the side of his horse, drove over a red-gated bridge that seemed far too skinny for two cars to safely pass on above a deep ravine, and finally pulled up to a time-worn building emitting faint whiffs of coffee and cinnamon. We spent the day touring the old town of San Sebastien, a town which felt like it never left its hey-day of over 50 years ago. The downtown shop (a converted bar) still featured original bullet-holes in the ceiling and walls. The abuela (grandmother) of the town let us tour her house/museum, where she showcases photos of her husband/uncle and their various in-laws and other incestuous relationships (maintaining pure Spanish blood was- and seems to still be here- a matter of great importance) All-in-all it was an interesting afternoon, which we finished off with some authentic Mexican food and a visit to a tiny tequila-distillery . . .

The next day, we flew home (where we spent a mere 8 hours) and then hopped in the car and drove to Daytona as "leaders" (whatever that means) for a senior high retreat with our church . . . it was a refreshing and tiring time (as oxymoronic as that sounds). I was refreshed and renewed by the lessons I learned from the speaker, my girls, and other leaders -- but my freshman girls didn't go to bed before 2:30am (and that is WAY past my bedtime these days) . . .

After a week in Daytona, we were home for a weekend before leaving for Dallas, TX to set up a showroom for work. The showroom looks great, but we returned home beat and are trying to recover and get our house in some semblance of cleanliness and order (considering there are still boxes in our garage and office)

Now we're home for a whole 2 weeks before heading up to Cleveland, GA to work at Camp Grace (but that's a story for another post!)

If you want to see more pictures from our Mexico trip - you can check them out here :-)
Photo Album

Thursday, May 10, 2007

more big news . . .

So Adam is officially graduated and got offered a job today! :-) yay!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Flowers


I love spring time and flowers!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Home Again . . .

Man does it feel good to be home again after two weeks hotel and country hopping (sounds glamorous doesn't it?) It's especially sweet to be in my brand new house.

Even sweeter? Stan just finished his LAST FINAL of his college career. Man does that take a load of stress off having him done (oh and I guess it's less stress for him too?!) So he graduates next week sometime (I think, because he's not walking so I'm not positive) Yay for Adam! :-) He even ended up with mostly all B's in his ridiculously hard chemistry classes (I mean, we're talking Quantitative Analytical Chemistry, Physics II, Polymer Chemistry, etc etc) I'm so proud!

We're getting our carpets cleaned right now and then tomorrow we will FINALLY move over all our stuff from our apartment to our house . . . it will be SO nice to no longer be in 2 places and driving back and forth 20 minutes each way :-)

I'll post pictures soon!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

China 2

Someone asked me where I was seeing Jesus over here . . .
That's (obviously) not always an easy question to answer - but for me, it is most certainly in the people


They are all just precious and sweet :-) and when I get back, I am certain I will be bowing my head slightly at everyone and telling them "shi shi" (which means thank-you)

We arrived at the Shantou airport about 2 hours early for our second flight of the day; this one to a different part of China (called Dongguan) For those of you who dont know (which is probably most of you) -Shantou is a middle-of-nowhere airport with a grand total of three check-in counters and one security screener . . .

Now middle-of-nowhere isn't exactly a desirable airport location in any part of the world, but it's particulary undesirable in China. Not to mention the fact that our flight was a little over an hour delayed - so we were there for three whole hours. I'm ashamed to admit it, but at one point I almost started to cry (I'm such a snob!) There were some strange bugs swarming around me while I tried to quietly read my book and ignore the various and potent smells wafting over to my dirty blue plastic chair from the small coffee shop across the hall. Finally, to escape the bugs - I decided I would go to the restroom - a big mistake, because all I found was a hole in the ground. Mortified, and certain I couldnt use it without falling into my own - umm "stuff," I hurried back to my dad, who simply laughed and teased me that I needed a "throne."

I gingerly sat back down on the edge of the bluish colored seat and sanitized my hands (and this from a decidedly non-germphobic person)when suddenly a very small little Chinese boy runs right up to me and yells "HU - LLLOOO" in a surprising loud voice, waving energetically the whole time. He's probably about 2 years old, and his sister (who looks like his twin) runs up behind him and also waves. I look up to see their mom smiling and dipping her head towards me :-) I grin back at the two little ones and offer them a wave in return. They immediately give me an excited thumbs up and wave again, all the while yelling "ByE BYE" loudly - and run back to the safety of their mom's legs. They repeat this process several times; their beauty and simple joy completely distracting me from the strange bugs buzzing around my head and the strange smells stuck in my nostrils . . .

The people in China who have to deal with us English-folk choose their own English name: names like Sunny,Cherry, and Lovely are especially popular. My favorite name by far has been "Tweet" (poor girl, I wonder what made her pick that name?) It was at a factory on this trip that we met Miss Candy (sounds like a stripper right?) Because they don't speak much English and I dont always know what to talk to them about, I tend to just smile a lot. When my dad left to use the restroom, Candy told me, in broken english, that she was "very glad to meet you today; you are very humorous." Perhaps seeing the question in my eyes when I smiled and thanked her, she continued "you always smile!" Her sweet words were an encouragement to me, because I continually hope that somehow I can have some sort of impact on the people I interact with over here.

Later on in our trip, we are riding the train from one Fair/Market building to another. From where I stand gripping tightly onto the red handlebar, I have a clear view of a young couple sitting with their baby. There is clearly something not quite right with their child; his head (which is proportionally far too small for his body) tilts towards the ceiling at an unnatural angle, and his wide open mouth and slightly distorted features expose some sort of physical deformities. Despite his lack of what the world would define as "beauty," the boy's parents are lavishing him with affection - their own faces just as open-mouthed in delight as their son's. They regale him with loud noises, cooing and clapping - both of them stealing the boy from each other's arms to hold him close and kiss his small head. . . Watching them, I have a big smile on my own face - because this is how I imagine God loving us: with shameless joy and delight that has absolutely nothing to do with what we look like or how we perform. Instead, He is desperate to hold us close, to love us with hugs and kisses, protecting us from the dark and dangerous world around us - the world that tells us we're not good enough, that we don't look right, or that we should act differently. I think if we look into the face of our Father and rest in His arms, we will notice that His songs and words of love and delight seem to drown out all the words of all the rest of the world.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

China

For those of you who are not yet sick of hearing about my travels . . .
:-)

I know I am China the moment I get off the plane. It's the smell, potent enough to invade even the normally sterile airport: a distinctive mixture of fried rice, bamboo, garbage, and B.O. (actually I'm not sure what it is, but I would imagine that it could come from these thing . . )

Dirty seems like the best word I can conjure up to describe China as a whole. I know it's not a great word, but it's the only thing that comes to mind as I stare out the window of our taxi. Everywhere I look, buildings are smeared with soot and grime drips from the windows even after a hard rain. Garbage piles litter every corner, line every wall and blanket the floor of any "yards" that might be found outside the shacks. Decomposing and rotting piles are topped with styrofoam and plastic and the occasional banana peel, which I'm more than certain would smell terrible (although I don't roll down my window to check; besides, I'm rather used to the smell by now) I wonder why they don't just leave it outside in big green cans like we do - surely someone else will take care of the problem for them . . .

Chickens run amok through houses and streets, and some of them hang by their necks in hastily established cafes, complete with brightly colored plastic chairs and makeshift tables. Outside one cafe, I watch as several guys play pool on an aged and disheveled looking pool table, and wonder how they can possible shoot straight on the sopping wet, slightly torn felt top; not to mention the way the table sags in the middle as the result of a giant crack . . .

Tarps and mis-matched sheets of metal and wood are propped up by crooked sticks and bamboo to serve as their homes. Something that looks suspiciously like black garbage bags are used in an attempt to cover the cracks and holes this haphazard construction inevitably leaves (they should really use their garbage bags for all the trash in their yards I think, before realizing that perhaps they would rather keep out the wind and rain from their semblance of home)


Life here seems built around the factories, gleaming fortresses surrounded by barbed wire fences and gaurded by serious looking men in heavily starched uniforms. The workers' housing lies directly next to the factories: grungy looking buildings with clothes lining every window pane. Outside the door to every factory we visit is a shrine of some sort. Filled with candles, statues and apples, it is usually made of beautifully carved and laquered wood which shines a brilliant red- in stark contrast to its grey and brown surroundings. Somehow it is this image which fills me with more sadness than anything else I've seen: People in terrible conditions putting their hope in something that can never rescue them. . . . I want to save them myself, tell them the Truth about Jesus and the mansion made of gold they could move into someday -- but instead I just smile widely at them with all the warmth and kindness I can muster. For some reason I am surprised when they smile back - I suppose I expected them to be resentful because they are making beautiful vases for me, vases which will probably never sit with fresh flowers in their own homes . . . But instead, they grin and giggle at me, before shyly ducking their head in welcome. Uncertain of my accent and pronounciation, I quietly tell them "ni ha" (which I am fairly sure means hello) - they giggle louder, and I hope it's with me rather than AT me :-)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is boring . . .

Actually that's not true - Hong Kong is one of the most active, far-from-boring places I've ever been. . . it's just so much more like home than anywhere else we've been so far. But even just looking out my hotel window, I know that boring doesn't describe this place accurately: the panorama of my windows reveals rolling mountains with bright pink and blue structures built directly into the side. Skyscraper after skyscraper dot the mountain side on the right half of my window, and more container ships than I can count fill the harbor on the left. Every high-rise window sports an airconditioning, dirty windowframes and clean clothes hung out to dry. Most windows also house dead or dying plants and other knick-knacks.

Hong Kong is actually, now that I think about it, a strange mixture of old and new. Gritty homes and streets mix with gleaming high-rises and colorful advertisements. Brand new buildings sparkle high above the harbor, boasting names on top like Bank of America, T-Mobile and AIG . . . Yet juxtaposed nearly on top of these brand new buildings are shorter, grittier, older buildings that could stand a good pressure washing.

Everything here is built nearly on top of each other, into the mountains such that a good snow would render the city incapacitated. The city streets consist not of flat grids like Atlanta, but of winding, hilly roads that snake in and out from roadside fruit stands selling frogs and snakes for dinner, to giant McDonalds and Starbucks.

Several times we drive past an immense graveyard, spellbinding in its enormity. Graves cover an entire side of a looming mountain. Like the apartments and other buildings, the graves are nearly stacked on top of each other to maximize space - providing an eerie blanket of gravestones as far as the eye can see.

In other news, I got a job offer today while we were visiting the Hong Kong fair -- Roberto (one of our vendors) asked me to do their website for them . . . in Tuscany, Italy! :-) I dont know how serious he was, but I spent all day dreaming about living in a 100 year old house in the Italian countryside . . . now I just have to convince some friends that it's the perfect place to start our community ;-)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Philippines


There is a hardness to the Philippines that is missing in Vietnam. Although both countries seem equally poor, there is an optimism and hope in Vietnam that has been long since eroded here.

No one here drives scooters, they all drive cars - but with the same disinterest in road signs, lanes, or any sort of traffic rules. Everywhere you look are shanty-towns, hastily and ill-constructed villages with rusty tin roofs and lopsided windows. Women stand outside in too-high heels and too-short skirts (not that Americans dont wear that too . . .) yelling for their children to come in from playing barefoot in the streets.

On the front dash of our taxi sit two small statues: one of Mary, and one of Barbie.

At every traffic light you are assailed by the poor, selling water and begging for money: a lady holding her baby presses her face against the window of our taxi, looking sad and motioning that she needs food. I cry, and my dad gives her a dollar.

I sigh in relief as we pull up to our hotel. A dog sniffs our car for bombs and they look underneath with a mirror tied to a stick. Strangely, I feel less, not more, safe. Once past security though, it's easy to forget what's outside our hotel. BMWs and jaguars are parked out front, they open our doors for us and we walk into the glittering lobby where we check into our rooms. My room is right next to the Imperial Suite, the very room where the wife of Ferdinand Marcos was discovered with her thousands of shoes. I feel a small pang of guilt about the fact that I can see Shanty towns from my balcony, but I assauge it by taking a nap in my feather-topped king size bed. . .

Our Lord was obsessed with the poor and marginalized -- how is it that I can feel so little for these people, assuming they are drug dealers and prostitutes (the very people Christ would be ministering to) and preferring to keep my distance out of fear. But what am I afraid of? That maybe it is in these very people that I will discover Christ? That maybe they will force me to change my perspective, to change my lifestyle, to take seriously the Bible's command to love and serve the poor?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Vietnam



We're getting ready to leave Vietnam after spending less than a full day here . . .It's a little sad because Vietnam is my favorite stop on our trip. I dont really know why - maybe it's just how utterly and completely unlike America it is. I'm fascinated by the chaos of this place; I'm in love with the people; and I DID like the food (although this time it made me slightly ill)

I wish I could describe perfectly what it's like here . . . you drive down roads lined by shacks, houses, old buildings, junkyards and barbed wire fences. Everything lies inches from the busy road. Scooters (the preferred mode of transportation) weave in and out with amazing precision, along with a decided lack of attention to road signs, white lines in the street and even the direction of traffic. Loud honks signal bikes to get out of way of cars, and even louder honks signal cars to move aside for trucks.



The shacks lining the streets house small shops hawking wares which I cannot even imagine anyone here needing: beautiful clocks next to brightly colored backpacks and Adidas t-shirts; gleaming wood furniture and sturdy safes (to hold what valuables I wonder?) Carts vaguely reminiscent of hotdog stands offer corn on the cobb and fresh fruit; women squat on street corners in traditional hats, unidentifiable smells wafting from their waffle makers and kettles. We pass an old man sewing with an antique sewing machine on one street corner. A surprising number of these stores (if that's what you can call them?) offer internet connection; likewise, a surprising number of unkept looking Vietnamese in tattered clothing carry cellphones. It is surprising to discover that the trappings of modern society reach even here . . .

We weave in and out of small roads which seem more like allys, with chairs set-up stadium style in cafes and large empty rooms filled with hammocks. I cannot imagine living such a life - sleeping in hammocks surrounded by 20 to 30 other people, in the 96 degree humid-heat, amidst the constant honking and distinctive scents of this place . .

Every so often we pass a guard in his communist uniform - his stiff clothing and rigid posture in stark contrast to the chaos of his surrounding citizens. Likewise, we will sometimes pass a lush, beautiful garden surrounding an even more lavish home - always flying a large Vietnamese flag on top. I am glad that communism is working so well for these people (sarcasm here). . . I am reminded of Shane Claiborne's words that if we as Christians took what Christ said seriously, then Capitalism wouldnt be possible and Communism wouldnt be necessary . . .

Despite the oppressive heat and squalid conditions, the Vietnamese people remaind irrespresible. On every street I see women carefully and proudly sweeping out their crowded "storefronts". Children walk hand-in-hand through the dust and swerving scooters - eating ice cream cones. And when I walk through the factory, nearly dying from heat stroke (or so I think), wearing a Vietnamese hat, the women working on the vases we are buying, they nudge each other and giggle loudly - before pointing to my hat and telling me they like it :-) I really do love this place!

if you want to see more pictures you can check them out here

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

lately

Lately the Lord's been taking the things I've always believed or always assumed, and He's been turning them on their head. But I suppose Christ has always been an upside-down sort of God - where the first are last, to save your life you must lose it, and where masters wash their servants' feet.

We live in this culture where it's all about getting to the top of the ladder, accumulating the most stuff, and being the best at everything (whether it's your job, having the most friends, being the most beautiful . . .) - not only is it exhausting, but it's dangerous! I've spent my whole life climbing the rungs, passing all those who told me I couldnt do it, or that I was too ugly or not "fun" or whatever . . . I just assumed that once I made it to the top of the ladder, then I'd be truly happy. But the truth, I'm discovering, is that Jesus is standing at the bottom of the ladder telling us that blessed are the poor, and the meek, and the last -- I want to be where Jesus is - and that means getting down to the bottom of the ladder.

But what does that look like in my life? What does it mean to start putting others before myself - to stop looking for ways to be prettier, more popular, or more well-liked - and start looking for ways to serve, to love and to care for others. I think my life would look drastically different than it does now if I really put all of the things I've been learning into practice. It's a little scary and disconcerting, actually, to think about making the changes that go against everything the World insists we should be doing . . . but I am desperate for Jesus and I know that I cannot live without Him. If to get to Him I need to climb back down the ladder, then I will start today by praying for the strength to do so!

Monday, April 16, 2007

World Travels . . .

Well who knew that I would be this WIDE awake after spending nearly 21 hours on a plane!?! and that doesnt even include all the customs, security and baggage claim time! Anyways, we arrived safe and sound in Hong Kong - where it is nearly midnight - but my body seems to think it's closer to noon . . . so we'll see how the whole sleep thing works out for me.

Everyone keeps telling me how exciting it is that I get to go to China - but to me it just seems tiring! Dont get me wrong, I love experiencing other cultures and seeing cool things -- but the more accurate description of it all is exhausting! We fly 9 times in just 2 weeks - not to mention a 12 hour time difference which takes 12 days to adjust to (just in time to go back and re-adjust all over again!) I am also sad to leave my hubby behind for so long, and Maverick, and our new house too. Luckily, Adam has a crazy next couple weeks to end his college career so it's good timing for him, as long as he can stay focused without me there to nag him (he's probably glad!)

Anyways, I've been thinking about some cool stuff that the Lord's been teaching me and laying on our hearts as a couple . . . but more on that later :-)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Here's a picture of the new Casa de Stanley! :-) yay! we're so excited about it!









and one from the cruise we took for our anniversary :-)

Leaving "stuff" behind

I listened to a Podcast this morning on my way to work (well it's a sermon, but "podcast" sounds cooler) by Rob Bell of Mars Hill Church . . . He talked about a bunch of really cool stuff, and it has all been resonating through me all day.

Posting to this blog has been harder than I thought it would be -- it's been so long since I've really written anything, and even longer since I connected to my own heart (something I'm just re-learning how to do). It's a lot like trying to dig a well: I know there's water there, I've drank from it before and it was refreshing and sweet. But it's hard work digging deep enough to tap into that "wellspring" of life. Sometimes I find myself getting close, knowing that I will hit water in the next few digs -- but I stop myself because it's painful and a little scary (what happens if it's too much water and it drowns me? or if it hurts my heart to keep digging at it like this?!)

Anyways, all this to say that I've been thinking about my future and where the Lord is leading me. I've always had all these grand plans for my life (because I'm "smart" - whatever that means) But lately I'm not so sure of my big plans -- I'm learning that God wants me to take it one step at a time - to trust Him that He knows exactly where I am and where I'm going. He even says He has plans for me - plans including prosper and not harm . . . so why is that so hard to believe? Why do I constantly want to work out my five-year plan (marriage, dog, house, kids . . . all wrapped up nicely with great friends and a fantastic job)?

I was reminded by Rob Bell this morning that God likes to provide for us TODAY. When the Isrealites were in the desert, they were only allowed to collect enough manna to last them for one day. And when the Lord was guiding them (for 40 years remember?) He went ahead of them as a pillar of fire. When He stopped, they stopped - and when He moved, they followed. I've heard this story hundreds (well close at least) of times, and I've always just wished that I could see God that clearly - see where He's going and where He's taking me. But when I stop and think about the implications of what life must have been like for the Isrealites following this pillar of fire, I am convicted that my own life seems sadly "faith-less" in comparison. Think about it: they had to be willing to follow God anywhere, to pack up and leave - even if they had already pitched a sweet tent and made it all "homey" What would it look like for me to follow God anywhere - no matter how comfortable I am where I'm at (even in my brand new house?!) What does it look like to follow a God who is unpredictable, scary-powerful, and who only shows you one step at a time? I want that kind of faith. . . and I think one of the keys is being completely unwilling to be where God's NOT. In other words, when the pillar moves - I'm going to follow, even if it goes somewhere I dont necessarily want to go - because I'm learning that it's better to be somewhere hard if God's presence is there, than to be somewhere comfortable without Him. . .

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Our Big News . . .

No we're not having a baby (yet) Our puppy should keep us sufficiently busy for a couple years! haha - Colleen was right when she said that babysitting is the best form of birth control, but I'd be willing to say that if that's not working - try getting a puppy :-) Especially one that has to pee every 30 minutes and has an endless supply of energy, playfulness and sharp teeth . . .

Anyways, back to our news: We bought a house! That's right, the Casa de Stanley will be officially ours one week from tomorrow - I can hardly believe it! We got a great deal on a cute little three bedroom house in a small neighborhood which is right in between my job and Adam's (hopefully) teaching position next year. The best part is there's a lake in our backyard -- and the previous owner is leaving Adam is fishing boat and fish-finder . . . i think Adam couldnt be happier! :-) We're both really excited about it and will post pictures as soon as we get a new cord to connect our digital camera (since Maverick chewed ours)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

welcome


hey eveyone :-)
Welcome to our brand-new blog!

Stan and I have been blown away by the things God's been teaching us lately, so this is probably going to be mostly a matter of us hashing that out, with some of our escapades thrown in.

Currently, I am still working for my parents as "product manager" (whatever that means!) Basically, I do a lot of stuff for the website, I place orders, and I travel a lot . . .which sounds cool, but really it's just tiring! haha -- It's really a pretty good job, the problem is that it's not a good fit for my passions and it's not where I feel led. So all of that combines to make me not a happy camper when I go to work every day. As a result, I've decided to apply for the Masters of Professional Writing program at Kennesaw University. Now I realize that this doesn't necessarily solve my problem of figuring 0ut what to do with my life; however, it does effectively delay it for 2 years. I'll keep you updated on the status of that as I learn more and hear back from them.

Adam is working very hard (really he is!) to finish up his undergraduate degree so he can be a bonafide chemistry teacher next year. And let me tell you, we are both definitely ready for it! haha. Unfortunately, to get to that point, he has to muddle through some ridiculous classes such as "quantitative analytical chemistry" and "bioinorganic chemistry" -- sounds fun right?

Anyways, we are both excited (and a little scared) because God's been using some really great friends to teach us some stuff about the Bible and community and what that means practically for our lives. So stay tuned for some potentially big changes around here :-)

Sorry this is so long-winded. Hopefully we'll keep it at least somewhat updated so we can post short blurbs rather than novellas :-)

*Maverick is cracking me up right now so I thought I'd post a picture of him!

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