Saturday, April 25, 2009

So that's why the battery died

I just knew you needed the follow up to our week of things going wrong. Well after the craziness on Monday and Tuesday the rest of week seemed to be getting back to normal, then Friday came. It was a busy day with morning playgroup and then going to church to drop off our donations to the sale and assess what had been dropped off so far and fielding several phone calls about the sale. Because we were having friends over for dinner I finally had to end my fun with the church sale to get some food and get home to do at least a little cleaning before they arrived. As I was walking into Whole Foods around 3:30 my cell rings (I had it with me, yeah me). It is John. Just wanted to let me know that on his way to pick up a couch from someone for the sale, on the other side of town, his work van caught on fire. No need to worry. He put the fire out with a cup of Mountain Dew and then the fire department came and shook a bottle of Aquafina on it to make sure he didn't miss anything. Now he was on the side of the freeway trying to figure out who could give him a tow and just wanted to keep me in the loop. Well I told him I would buy some food and call him when I was done to see how that was going. The rest of you might have just called a tow company but my husband is cheap and knows people and felt he could get a friend to help him. Well it turns out his friends are at work at 3:30 in the afternoon and the police didn't want his van there more than an hour. Finally, worrying more about my dinner with friends than anything else, I told him to suck it up and get a tow. He made it home an hour before our guests arrived and the dinner party was saved.

Apparently the alternator in his van was going bad and finally decided to go out in a literal blaze of glory. For those of you who aren't the expert that I am with all my experience watching John work on cars, an alternator's purpose is to continually recharge the battery. Thus why John's battery died, not getting properly recharged. Once he got it out he discovered that during its long slow death march it was impeding his air conditioners ability to spin and therefore work and is optimistic that he will actually have cool air this summer making all our lives so much better.

Thought you needed a picture of it all tuned up and ready for another work week. It rocks, I know. You all wish you owned a $500 1990 GMC Vandura.

The fun thing is that Jake decided to help him with the repair. This has been something that has saddened me over the years, I haven't felt John has taken Jake under his wing for car repair. Yet John will remind me that Jake has not wanted to be taken under his wing and he doesn't find joy in forcing him to sit out there and work on the car. So you can imagine my thrill to go out there and see my son under the vehicle putting in the new spark plugs and John giving him direction. There is hope for those men yet.

So cell phone firmly in hand, work van running like never before, this is sure to be a smooth and carefree week.

The Journey to Kenya

We are down to just over 3 months til Africa! Today as we met with our team and were talking about logistical items (fundraising letters) John suggested we have a blog to chronicle the adventure which we could reference in our letters so that all our wonderful supporters can keep up with us as we follow God to Africa and look to see what amazing opportunities He has for us and how we will be used by Him to further His kingdom.

I will let you all know when it is set up so you can bookmark it and follow it but until then I thought I would chronicle my own journey to Africa so far. Some of this may be repeat from previous posts but I like to hear myself talk about myself so you will just have to be patient with me.

It all started when Jake was about 5 years old, at the time we didn't think we would be having more children and we were asking ourselves what plans God had for us as a family of 3. One night as John and I were out on a date we got to talking about long term goals and dreams specifically as related to Jake. As we thought about him, what he loved, who he was and who we are we started dreaming of a trip to Africa someday before he graduated. Although we did not go home and start an Africa fund as would have been the smart thing to do, it was the beginning of a dream. I often thought about that dream and what we would do on our trip. The more I thought about it the more I realized I didn't see us on a vacation but working with the people, getting to know them, experiencing the culture, sharing our lives. This was going to be a mission trip. I began to take note of missionaries from Africa that would come speak at our church thinking that when the time came we could call one of them and ask if we could come and do some work with them.

Then 5 years ago God started refining the vision when we helped start an Anglican mission church out of Rwanda. Maybe someday we would go to Rwanda and work with the mission organization that gives oversight to our church. Then a couple from Kenya began attending our church and we (the church) began to work with organizations through her father, the Arch Bishop of Kenya, and it really started coming together. Then finally last year our mission team started talking about a mission trip and it REALLY started coming together.

Of course we need to revisit the fact that we did not start that Africa fund when Jake was 5 or a few years later when we decided to make it a mission trip. And now it isn't 3 of us it is 4 with the addition of Isabelle. And while it isn't too expensive to BE in Kenya, it is quite expensive to actually GET to Kenya. It only took me a few minutes to realize that if we were going to achieve this goal, realize this dream, then we were going to have to look at our finances differently and I was going to need to get a job. While we feel very strongly God's leading in this trip, very much that he has been preparing us and we are confident He will provide the means for us to go on this trip, we know that doesn't mean sitting back and waiting for it to come together. It means action. God led action. I was able to almost immediately find a perfect job in which I can bring Isabelle along. It isn't the job I would have wanted to do or the money I would have wanted to make but the experience has been wonderful in preparing me mentally and spiritually for the trip as much as financially. God knew what I should do. There have been other plans we have come up with for the trip that didn't quite pan out and there have been other goals we have had to set aside in order to pay for this trip. God has patiently led us through the process of following His plan for us.

Just to get you all on our financial page...

The trip is going to cost approximately $2700/person. That is $10,800 for the 4 of us. Also, John is self-employed and therefore doesn't get vacation pay so we need to raise money for our expenses as well. Since we will be gone almost all month we don't need our full budget but still it costs almost $3000/month just to pay our mortgage, utilities, cell phones, insurance, etc and eat a little something that last week of August when we return. So we are at $13,800. As it stands we will have about half of that in our savings account by August, $6000. You would think saving since last summer would have made us more but we had a rough fall financially and have really only been able to get serious about savings since January.

Because I knew we would need to raise more money than most of the other members of the team (although we aren't the only family going) I decided to volunteer to organize the fundraisers for the trip. The money we make from these events will go to lower the cost of everyones trip. There are approximately 17 people going on the trip and we have raised around $3000 so far which means that we can lower the $13,800 by around $700 so far. Hurray! This next week I will be spending every waking moment at the church preparing for and the working at our very first Church Rummage Sale. The people of Church of the Cross have been incredibly generous with their donations and I feel confident we will raise at least another $2000 but likely closer to $5000. That would take another $1175 off our total taking us to a much more reasonable $11,925. The sale will be the largest fundraiser but there are a few others going as well that will also make money so lets call it $11,000. I believe we will have around $6000 ourselves which leaves $5000 left to raise. Great news because I have been telling people and praying that we would raise $5000 in support through the fundraising letters we talked about writing at the team meeting today. See, God had it all worked out from the beginning.

OK you might not care about the financial aspect of this trip and think that was just a little TMI (too much information). Instead maybe you are wondering what we are going to be doing in Africa. Well I am starting to form the answer to that question. Today they gave us a tentative schedule of our week spent in the village of Kitui:

We leave MN August 5th (my mom's birthday) and arrive August 6th. After some recovery time and travel to the village.

August 9th we will worship at a church called "St. Paul's Syongila" where Christian, our pastor, will preach and a small group of musically inclined members of our church will sing. (John and I will not be participating in this but I think Jake will.) While we won't have any specific mission tasks that day ministry is very relational and we will be taking time to meet people and learn about them and share why we have come.

August 10th will be a market day where we will again have an opportunity to meet people and share with them in very informal ways while experiencing the culture. Also on the agenda for that day is climbing Nzambani rock. Don't know what that is but I suspect I should definitely not give up my work outs.

August 11 we will be doing construction projects. Rather than start a new project we are going to be completing some partially done projects. Other teams have come and built structures but they are in need of roofs so we will be doing that. Well John will be on that detail. I will likely be painting buildings that need freshening. That evening we will be doing a program for the children.

August 12th will be some door to door evangelism. More traditional mission work. And I would imagine finishing the construction projects. We have a great team but can they put a roof on in one day?

After that we will be spending a week in Nairobi where I believe we will be doing similar work, children's programs, visiting orphanages and experiencing worship at Arch Bishop Nzimbi's church. The third week will be spent on safari, a little bit of the vacation aspect of this trip we dreamt of 10 years ago.

And finally, we are working through writing our testimonies as a team so we are prepared to share with others as we meet people in Kenya. One of the big questions we have been encouraged to answer is, "why are we going on this trip?" While I could easily answer with the above story of the dream we have dreamt since Jake was 5, I think there might be a deeper answer to it. I think I am going to Africa because I want to experience another culture, I want to see a larger view of the world God has created and the people who live in it. I want to help those in need, make new friends and share God's love with them. And I want to return home changed, more aware of those around me and less consumed by the world of Melanie. I would love to tell you my primary motivation was for others but the truth is I am going to Africa for ME. My prayer is that God can use me despite myself and that I experience a greater understanding of who God is and come home a person more able to be used by God here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spring Picnic

It is supposed to be sunny and 80 today. Not sure it is going to be either but still it is definitely 70's and partly sunny so a picnic is in order. Adding to the need is the fact that my mom found a cute antique picnic basket at a thrift store which she thought I would love and gave me. She was right. I am delirious over it.

I have friends who say they feel they were born in the wrong era because they so love the nostalgia of the past, the chivalry, dress, formality of the past. While I also love those things, every time they say that all I can think is of the practicality of that thought. No indoor plumbing, no blow dryer, no daily (Ok semi-weekly) showers, no modern conveniences in the kitchen or laundry room and as a woman no rights and likely a life lived in poverty. We all want to think we would have maids but the fact is we would probably all be maids. So I am very glad to be born in this era and instead collect and enjoy pieces that elicit the ideas and feelings of those days in which life revolved more around family and friends and the pace was a little slower.

I thought about that as I packed a lunch. Actually I think of Carolyn Ingells, I think those of us who grew up with "Little House on the Prairie" all see her as the epitome of the perfect mother and homemaker of the past. As I packed I thought of all she had to do in a day. Certainly if she didn't "feel" like making dinner her husband couldn't pick up take out on the way home. She had to plan and prepare and she worked hard. Yet I imagine she did have time to pack a picnic on a lovely spring afternoon. What I was struck by was that likely as she went off to picnic in the meadow down the road she was present with her children during that time. She probably didn't take her cell phone and a magazine to chat with friends or flip through pictures while her children went off. That was likely a time she was interacting with her children and letting the business of home responsibilities fall aside for a little while.

I spend alot of the day pushing Isabelle aside to get my "work" done. Sometimes actual homemaking, laundry, food prep, cleaning, bill paying,etc. but sometimes facebook, blog writing, emailing, magazine reading and just plain hiding from the responsibilities of my life. While I can't avoid the fact that tasks do need to be done I can occasionally step out of the business of my life and be present with my daughter for a picnic at the park.

Now in all honesty, despite these deep thoughts as I was making lunch I still brought my cell phone with and even answered a call from my SIL. However, if I hadn't taken it there would be no pictures to post and share with all of you. Further evidence that I really cannot live without a cell phone in my life anymore and just another reason I am glad to live in this era.

OK if any of you are antique experts, it might be an old sewing basket but it worked perfectly for our picnic.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How did we live before cell phones?

I was enjoying my sister's post about her vacation in Florida and the things that went wrong. I was thinking about her comments regarding her tendency to freak out quickly when things go wrong. We have always been opposites in this area and I was particularly thinking about it yesterday when something went wrong, day 2, in our life and I was just sitting back relaxing. I wonder what will go wrong today.

Monday evening I had planned to meet 3 girlfriends for coffee at a Barnes and Noble at 6:30. These are dear wonderful girlfriends but not exactly prompt, on time girlfriends. I arrived at Barnes and Noble around 6:40 and was the first one there. I usually call the next most prompt friend to determine her arrival but discovered I didn't have my cell phone. After a brief moment of panic I decided it wasn't a big deal not to know the exact moment she would walk in the door and I could just relax and check out the books while I waited. After all I didn't have a cell phone for years as a child and early adult and yet somehow managed to meet friends and navigate through my life. Around 7pm I decided to order a drink and flip through a magazine while I waited. At this point I thought it was a bit strange that I was still the only one there and started wondering if I had gone to the wrong Barnes and Noble. At 7:30 I finally asked someone to call the other store and see if my friends were in the cafe there. Initially the woman said there was someone looking for a friend but then she couldn't find anyone looking for me. I decided that an hour was long enough to wait and it was time to go home. John, Jake and Isabelle were all at scouts so I would have the house to myself for a little while. I got home and walked directly to my phone where there were multiple messages from all 3 girlfriends. Turns out they probably were the ones looking for me at Barnes and Noble but had decided to drive across the street to Cheesecake factory instead and were all panicked about what had happened to me. Well since the location I was supposed to meet at was 2 miles from my home rather than the 7 miles I decided to drive, I hopped back in the car to arrive 1-1/2 hours late for our night out. When I arrived I told the hostess, "there are 3 women here who probably think I am dead on the side of the road.". We laughed about my mistake and stayed til closing. Apparently I can no longer navigate my life without a cell phone. Also, apparently I don't listen very closely when people tell me where to meet them.

Well that was an adventure, they happen, now back to regular life. So yesterday I am reading the very blog post from my sister that I mentioned at the top when my husband calls. After asking me what I am doing and making some brief chit chat he says, "well since you aren't doing anything can you come get my van started?" Apparently he had left something charging in his work van all day and killed the battery. I left Isabelle home with Jake and hopped in the car for a drive through early rush hour traffic to find him at the home of his client and give him a jump. I pull up, he opens the hood of my van and I say, "so you have the cables right?" He looks at me and says he was going to use the pair in my van. Interesting, I don't have any in my van. I had briefly looked around our garage but didn't see them so assumed he had them already. Turns out they are in our car. So we each make a few phone calls to people we know living in that area and find nobody home to loan us cables. So into my van John goes and we drive off in a strange part of town in search of jumper cables. We find a $10 pair at a Superamerica about a mile away and back we go. Now since I likely have a mainly female readership and since you all are unlikely jumper cable experts I will tell you that a $10 pair of jumper cables are not of the highest quality. After getting back to the car John spent about 30 minutes connecting and unconnecting, wiggling and banging the cables while I reved up my van trying to get them to make a good enough connection so that the juice from my van could push through small and weak wiring to give John's van and little spark. I did get to go in and check out the bathroom remodel he is working on while we waited and since it was nice and sunny I relaxed with my foot out the window soaking up that vitamin D that is so lacking here in the winter. Finally John unhooks the whole thing and tosses the cables on the ground. I suggested he jump up and down on them but he just picked them up and put them in the back of his van. I then pull my van out of the driveway and watch him roll his van out of their driveway and then push it over to the side of the road. I watched as he huffed and puffed and drove the van over his foot. I asked him if he needed any help but he said he was fine. It turns out that we really can't get along without cell phones any more as John was able to look up the location of a car parts store on his phone and then get turn by turn directions with the built in navigation system on his phone. I managed to hit every red light on the drive there. We finally arrive back at the house with a brand new battery and John was able to install it while I continued to relax and listen to the radio. Finally 2 hours after I left the house John started up his van and was able to finish up his final work errand of the day. Of course I now have just over an hour until a meeting at church and absolutely no dinner happening so off I went to pick up Chinese

I think the reason I found the experience to be so relaxing is because it was a throw back to our poor and childless days when I would spend hours sitting around watching John work on our vehicles trying to keep them running yet another day. We quickly found our rhythm again as I was able to rev the engine on his hand signals and I think he has mellowed over the years as his frustration was kept in check and we kept a sense of humor about the whole thing.

So what will happen today? Well at the moment I think it might be related to me being late for work if I don't finish up this post and get dressed! I am off to discover the days great unknown.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This is what happens when I get sick

I got sick right before Easter and now here it is almost 2 weeks without a post. I think about someone like MckMama, who posts sometimes more than once a day and wonder how she does it even in the midst of a life crisis. SO I am a little behind and thought I would toss out a few updates from the past few weeks. At least the parts I have photographed...

Jake's Face:

Jake didn't shave for a few weeks and was really getting some facial hair growing. I found out I have a macro setting on my camera to take close up pictures and got some of the fuzz on his face which I thought I would share:

I really don't like that fuzz on young boys but I know he feels cool to have some so I try not to say anything. He did get it shaved off and is my fresh faced boy once again.


While others may find the time they spend coloring eggs with their children to be special, I just don't want to be bothered. However, I want Isabelle to experience it. SO... I delegated it to Jake while we went on date night. John helped Jake set it up while I got ready and then I snapped a quick shot before running out the door. I love Isabelle's expression in this picture. She never stops talking.

We had John's family for Easter and had a lovely time. I was working toward the peak of my sickness and was glad we chose a simple, make ahead menu that we just popped in the oven when we got home from church. As soon as they left I literally just fell over on the couch where I was sitting and slept for 2 hours, something I NEVER do. My wonderful husband cleaned up the whole meal and even washed the china and crystal by hand. He thought the buffet with a few pre-meal appetizers, which he made, looked so good he photographed it. With being sick it was really one of the few pictures we took on Easter. I really wanted someone to nab a family picture since we all looked nice but that never happened. Oh well.

Como Zoo:

There is a wonderful little free zoo in St. Paul that I love to go to. Jake used to go to school about a mile from there and Isabelle and I made many trips last spring before picking him up. Now I drive there and wonder what I was thinking sending him to a school SO FAR AWAY! Still it is worth the drive (the school and the zoo) so on a beautiful spring day we packed a lunch and drove over with the cousins to see the animals. I was particularly struck to catch a picture of Isabelle checking out the giraffes, who are still inside until it gets a little warmer here, as I thought about seeing them this summer in Africa and what a great contrast in photos I will have of seeing them in the zoo and seeing it in a nature preserve or the wild. So exciting!

With the cousins checking out the seals. My SIL also blogged about the visit at her site.


Jake performed in the play "Oklahoma" last weekend. It was a great performance all around and he was wonderful in particular. I love watching him perform. According to Jake his role was "generic young man ensemble number 1". He said it sound better than "chorus". Although he didn't have a named part he put alot of acting and enthusiasm into his background role. And he did have 3 or 4 lines during some group conversations. I saw the play a couple times and only ever caught one of the lines. We were exhausted by the end of the weekend from the 4 performances, 2 I helped out during and 1 we attended. We also had a group of his friends over for lunch/dinner during the 1 free hour between the matinee and evening performance on Saturday. And then there was dessert at Perkins after the Friday night show and the cast party after the Saturday show, which John chaperoned. We were up til 1 am 2 nights in a row. Too late for us old fogies. We went to bed early on Sunday night.

The cousins came to the Friday night performance with Grandma and Grandpa.

OK I think you are all caught up on my life. Last night I couldn't get to sleep and laid in bed thinking up a post but now in the light of day I have no idea what it was about. Hopefully it will come to me and I can impart some great philosphical thought from the wee hours of night. For now, this is all I know.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Real reason for Easter.

Tonight after Isabelle had prayed for us for dinner I thought it might be a good opportunity to talk with her a little about Easter and what it meant. Here is how it went:

Me: Isabelle do you know what Easter is about.

Isabelle: Yes!

Me: You do? What is it about?

Isabelle: ME!

Well I guess as long as we have that clear. She certainly is learning the lessons of the secular world. This Easter maybe she can begin the process of thinking beyond herself and moving toward a relationship with the One Easter is really all about. Jesus.

Then again maybe Easter really is all about Isabelle. Maybe it is about all of us. Without my sin there would have been no reason for Jesus to have made the sacrifice he made, no reason for him to have died, no need for him to have risen. I would not have needed to be forgiven. I would not have needed a Savior. But I did sin, I do sin, and I do need a savior. So Jesus did need to suffer, he did need to die and he did need to rise again. For me. So maybe Easter really is about Isabelle And me and you.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Search for the Perfect Scripture

Since last fall my son has been attending a class on Sunday nights (at the church he attends on Wednesday nights)called AUG (Approved Unto God). It is sort of a confirmation class and Seminary Theology class all rolled into one and then tailored for the 9th grader. He has been learning about various aspects of the Christian faith, memorizing scripture and being tested on all of it each week. Very similar to the confirmation class he took at our church. The graduation banquet is coming up in May and we, the parents, are supposed to come up with a scripture verse to share as part of the graduation. Incidentally John and I both took this class in 9th grade and officially met on the missions trip that follows the class. But that is another story...

Here is a little trivia about me. I am a very good at delegating. My skill in life is not that I have alot of skills but that I find people to make me look good. And so I immediately emailed a friend of mine and asked her if she could think of a good verse for my son. I know my limitations and I do not have the spiritual gift of knowledge, I cannot pull a verse out of the air that is the prefect answer to any question. Yet I want the perfect verse and I knew my friend had that gift. So she sends me 2 wonderful verses and I immediately love the first one, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at, man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart." I Sam 16:7. My friend shared that she felt a connection between Jake and David and that is what led her to that verse. It really is perfect in so many ways as I have so often shared with her how I desire to raise and nurture my children's hearts rather than focus on specific behaviors or appearances. So I shared it with Jake to see what he thought. He wondered what it had to do with him. I realized as he spoke that it really wasn't about him, it was about me and my parenting. So now I had the theme verse of my parenting but still no verse for Jake. Jake and I talked about my friend's idea of a connection to David and we decided we saw more of a connection to Paul as Jake is desiring to go into ministry. So now feeling a little more competent with a little direction I went in search of a verse from Paul's writings. I soon found myself in Timothy thinking about Paul's mentoring of Timothy and passing on his ministry to him. Then I found Paul's charge to Timothy and what I thought was the perfect verse, "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." 2 Timothy 3:14. My friend also went to work with the Paul direction and found a great one actually related to Paul, Jake..."He anointed you, set his seal of ownership on you, and put his Spirit in your heart as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 2 Cor 1:21-22

I feel like Jake is at a turning point in his life, has been for a while but this banquet sort of becomes the concrete turn. He is going from being my little boy who follows me and my guidance in his faith development to taking responsibility for his own relationship with Christ and continuing his growth without my direct influence. Yes I will still be there making suggestions, sending him to church, buying him devotional books, asking him to pray about things, etc. But I am past the stage of being able to make him think what I say, I am not reading a devotion book to him each night anymore and kneeling by his bed to pray. I miss those days but it has been so rewarding to see the fruit of that labor as Jake has begun to develop his own sense of his faith, has made many godly choices and is feeling the call to ministry at this stage of his life. I am excited to see how it plays out in the coming years before he leaves high school and what God does with him as he launches into the world.

So I like the first verse because I feel like it comes from that sense of starting my letting go of responsibility for his spiritual development but encouraging him to continue on the path he is on because he knows the people who have set him on that path (not just me but many people who have had a godly influence on his life), the foundation of scripture in his life and how all of that is making him wise for his future.

I like the second one because of the sense of God calling him (anointing, seal) and preparing him for the plans He has for Jake. And how God, not me, has been preparing him for that future (His Spirit in his heart as a deposit). And I think of my prayer for him since he was a baby that he would grow to serve God in whatever he does and how God knows and has always known what that will be (guaranteeing what is to come).

Sometimes I wonder if I make it too complicated. I believe for his infant dedication we chose Proverbs 3:5-6 as his verse. (This was before I mastered delgating.) I always thought it was "lame" to choose such a common and obvious verse and felt like it didn't make us seem very "spiritual". (You understand it is all about us, right?). But what is wrong with that verse? It is brilliant really. If we all just lived out that verse, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path.", wouldn't we all end up in God's perfect will for our lives? And isn't that ultimately what I want for my son?

However, I want to appear more intellectual and spiritual so I will be choosing one of the 2 more complex verses. :) Your thoughts? Since this is my "year of Prayer" I guess I will be spending some time in prayer over the next week or 2 before I have to turn in my decision.

I am also supposed to send in a few pictures of my darling for this banquet and was planning to post the baby picture of him I have chosen but it hasn't been scanned in yet by my husband and I like to pretend I don't know how to do these things to avoid the frustration of having to actually do them myself. So check back later and I will post it when I get it. Update...apparently we need a new scanner...possibly a better quality picture if I can find someone with a better scanner...but wasn't he cute...

Side note: Lest you think my husband doesn't do the projects I ask him to do after seeing the still broken door knob in my last post and reading in the comments that my sister thought my post about fixing things was funny, you will be happy to know that my door knob is fixed, I can open my front door with ease and it cost us no money. :)