Thursday, November 20, 2008

Girls Weekend

This weekend I got away for a fantastic girls weekend in L.A. My friend Teresa has been going through some significant health issues, so all of her best friends planned a secret surprise for her. A couple of her close friends are high-profile actresses, and they treated us to quite a program. Annie told me she'd have her assistant "arrange a ride" for me from the airport on Friday--I was picked up by a limo and taken through Beverly Hills to her beautiful house. All the girls gathered that evening, while another friend brought Teresa to Annie's house thinking she would be just having a quiet evening with a couple girlfriends. Well, it wasn't quiet! The eight of us gave her the shock of her life, especially the two of us that had flown in. The weekend was packed with fun: ordered-in brunch up in the outdoor cabana, a private yoga instructor who came to the house, a fantastic dinner out for which someone picked up the tab, getting to hear Teresa (a musician/songwriter) play a gig at a club, a big after party at Annie's house, and then a couple days of just chilling with Teresa, window shopping and lingering for hours over coffee. It was wonderful and I was spoiled to death, but at the same time, I was so ready to get home to my amazing husband and daughter and more sane lifestyle. While their life may be glamorous and exciting, it also felt chaotic and exhausting. I was so happy to be home to the peace and love and simplicity of my home and family.

The baby got lots of lovin'!

The eight of us.

With Annie.


With Teresa.

A must see...

Along the same theme as "Billy"...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Billy the Goat

Here's an e-mail David sent to our Tuesday night small group a couple days ago:

Hey all!

If you were not able to attend last week, you may be wondering why Jeremy has referred to a "goat." Therefore, I shall explain. Last week, the home group topic was "Give us our daily bread," and we began to recognize all the ways the Lord provides for our daily needs. For example, I shared one blessing Megan and I had just experienced. We needed a new floor lamp, but were hesitant to spend the money to buy a new one; therefore, we decided to pray about the decision. The next day, there was a floor lamp, free for the taking, standing by the door as we left Regent. Excitedly, we took the lamp home, but found that it had a burned-out bulb, and this was no ordinary bulb - it was a tube bulb that goes in lamps that gives a variable light. I was a little disappointed that God gave us a free lamp, but then required us to buy an expensive bulb; however, before I had the chance to go buy a new bulb, a worn-out lamp appeared by our dumpster, and inside that lamp was the exact bulb I needed, and it was still good! Seriously, only God does cool things like that! God has allowed us to keep our money and spend it on his kingdom.

So...enter the other aspect of "give us our daily bread." As believers united in one body with Christians around the world, God has chosen us as his agents to make sure our brothers and sisters do not go hungry, so when we pray "give us our daily bread" we are also entering into Jesus' commandment to take care of one another:

Matthew 25: 34-36: Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

Therefore, we have decided that as a small group, we should consider entering into radical discipleship for God's glory - the feeding of our sisters and brothers. This begins by both praying for our needs and thanking God for his provision. We often have a habit of praying before meals, but are we really expressing thankfulness to God for our meal? As we pray, we may be surprised in the way God supplies our needs. When God surprises us by meeting a need, we may wish to bring an offering for our jar at home group. I have placed $5 into the jar in thankfulness for our lamp.

Secondly, this may include intentionally doing without something so that we can provide for the needs of others. For example, I typically spend $1-2 for breakfast and $3-4 for lunch. If I were to fast for one (or both) of those meals, I would not only gain the spiritual blessing from Jesus, who promises "those who drink the water I give them will never thirst" John 4:14, but I will also be able to set aside the money I would have spent for my food, and put it into the small group jar.

Our end goal is to buy a goat (or something equivalent) for a village. Maimonedes (a Medieval Jew) defined the highest form of charity as this: "Money is given to prevent another from becoming poor, such as providing him with a job or by teaching him a trade or by setting him up in business [or providing a goat, trout pond, cow, etc.] and not be forced to the dreadful alternative of holding out his hand for charity. This is the highest step and the summit of charity's golden ladder."

This may sound ambitious, but all we can do is test what James means when he says, "You do not have, because you do not ask God" (4:2).

Blessings!
David

Dave mentioned our most recent little God-gift: the lamp. We had another huge God story just a couple months before that, which has spurred on our faith for this endeavor of living more trustfully and justly.

It was the beginning of September, and we were keeping and using some things for our old housemate, Alesha, while she was spending the summer in Africa. The main thing was a kitchen table (and a floor lamp!) We knew she was coming home soon and would need everything back, so we began looking on Craig's List to see if we could find something for a good price. I had in mind what I would really love: a round, dark wood table with a leaf we could add to extend it for more. For a month there was nothing like that for sale, all too big, too small, or Ikea tables that sell for about as much as you pay for them new. We were disappointed, especially realizing the amount we were hoping to spend would not be enough. So we began to pray about it. Novel idea. Then the call from Alesha came. She would come for a visit on Friday, and I knew it would be helpful for her if we could give it back even though she wouldn't ask. We were down to the wire. That week we e-mailed about a cheap table that would do but then it ended up being sold already anyway. Friday morning I went for a little playdate with Heather, our pastor's wife. We were outside with the kids playing, when we walked into the garage to get the bikes. And there was my table. It was exactly what we were looking for, exactly.
"What are you doing with this table?"
"Oh, we've been trying to get rid of that for months. Do you want it?"
Uh, yeah. And for free too.
It was perfect timing, and perfect that Craig's List had been so lacking, and perfect that our one option had already sold. It was such a testimony of provision, and we wondered why we don't pray about every little thing before buying it. Which made us decide to change that as much as possible. Here's our lovely table, empty and surrounded by friends, as well as a couple of our living room while I'm at it to give you a feel for our apartment, which seems cozier than the pictures capture:







Sunday, November 9, 2008

Church, Regent, and the Everyday




These shots are from after church this morning. Cora looked so cute in her little gray jumper dress and navy pea coat!

My wireless on my laptop has fizzled. I can either hook up by cord that limits me to one location at our house--on one side of our couch that's not my favorite--or use David's laptop when it's sitting around. The extra effort for e-mail, Facebook, blogging, etc. means not very much correspondence with friends, but much greater productivity in my work and household. Now when I go to the Regent library, I actually have to just work and can't get caught up in returning e-mails or checking friend's blogs. But it is also partly responsible for my own irregularity. Hopefully at Christmas time it will get fixed when we're home in the States.

Cora's Grammie, Dave's mom, is here visiting. She is here for two weeks altogether, and my life has so much more space, it's lovely! It's so fun to go to the library for the afternoon and come home to a hot chicken potpie and a happy Cora with her beautiful art projects and a clean house. We have friends here whose mother lives with them and cares for their toddler while they both study. We're thinking this is a really good situation. Whatever happened to multi-generational households, anyway? Compared to the hectic way our lives usually run, this feels so peaceful. Perhaps we just try to cram too much into life. I've been thinking a lot lately about our pace and what I might do to alleviate it a bit. The only thing that comes to mind is to quit studies and be a stay-at-home mom, especially with Baby Girl on the way. But then when I think about it and consider it, it just doesn't feel right. Studying alongside David does feel right. God is moving and changing us in great ways, and it just has to be a mutual thing right now. I can't imagine it any other way. I'm beginning to recognize that the guilt I put on myself for allowing the house to get dirty or serving thrown together meals or not giving Cora as much time as I'd like is really falling prey to other's expectations for the "good woman", not a Godly guilt over being misaligned with God's will.

Right now, our university lives are hitting the particularly busy time of the semester, which is why it's been AMAZING to have the extra hands. My big research paper for Christian Thought and Culture is due next week, so I've been trying to synthesize the very difficult subject of the early church Christological controversy over Monophysitism, or the idea that Christ has only one nature. The Council of Chalcedon determined the orthodox Christian view that Christ has two natures, human and divine, within his one divine person. By emphasizing Christ's divine nature over his human, this 5th and 6th century movement ended up with a false and unbalanced conception of Christ. For them, the predominance on the complete and perfect union of both natures into one within Christ in the incarnation was the basis for the deification of humanity. I'm loving it, because studying these Christological heresies of the early centuries is not just studying dead relics; an awareness and knowledge of them is crucial in order to be discerning of where they crop up today, which they do. You can see how an unbalanced emphasis on Christ's deity could lead to some theological errors: a dualistic view of the material and spiritual where the value of the world (beauty, practical everyday life, the physical welfare of humanity) is viewed negatively, whereas mysticism and ascetic monaticism is elevated; a misunderstanding of Christ's present humanity and his intercession for us in heaven; an obscuring of the extent of Christ's sufferings and how he can identify with us.

Anyway, I get a little excited about this stuff, but my original point was just to tell you a bit about what Dave and I are working on. My "Women's Faith and Development" class is moving along at a fast clip; it's like a bookclub, only one that meets every single week. So I have to read a book and write an interactive paper on it each week, and then we spend the classtime, 10 amazing women and a fantastic teacher, in lively discussion. Dave has one particularly intense class, Hermeneutics, which also is a paper-a-week class on the various ways of interpreting the Bible. His other ones are a bit more moderate: Everyday Spirituality bringing together the way we can find God in the ordinary of life; and Christian Education and Equipping, a course by one of our favorite professors, the well-known pastor and speaker Darryl Johnson. For that course he has to write his own Bible study course--he's working on one on John 14. He also just completed a huge group project critiquing and analyzing a study course. His group chose Christianity Explored. Dave was elected to the leadership role of the group, which also meant he carried the bulk of the weight. So that's our Regent life.

Dave is also doing his Supervised Ministry for his MDiv degree at our church, Dunbar Heights Baptist. He is predominantly involved with worship. He has put together what looks to be an amazing worship night next Sunday night, getting all kinds of people involved from the church to lead short creative segments which will help the congregation understand the way we can worship through our work, hobbies, and all of life. He has put a lot of energy into this, and it looks like it's going to be really exciting. He's also hugely involved in all of the Advent preparations, conducting a choir (in which I'm singing) and other special music, writing Advent liturgy, etc. Now he's also started up an after-service prayer ministry. He's really enjoying being a part of the church leadership team, feeling like this is really where God has given him passion and gifts.

Well, that's just a taste, perhaps more of a taste than you wanted, of what this semester is looking like for us right now.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Goodbye, October

October is my favoritest month of the year and I am loathe to see it go. Not only does November sound more dreary and usually look more dreary, but it also means the second half of the semester which is always much more stressful and exhausting and deflating than the first half: deadlines threaten and the subject material has lost its freshness. October is exciting and gorgeous and energizing. November is just a month to get through on the way to December, where things pick up again. This October was particularly full of wonder for me. The Vancouver weather was like never before (yes, we've only been here two years, but old Vancouverites were equally astounded by the beauty.) We had little rain and brilliant colors. Two days ago however the rain set in, splashing all the leaves to the soggy ground, and it promises to be a very rainy November to make up for the lull. The month included many lingering walks in the massive forest that flanks our street, trips to the market, sails, a spontaneous visit from my dear Teresa, and a long weekend on secluded Mayne Island with my parents in a tiny cottage on the water, surrounded by wildlife as well as tons of ripe blackberry bushes and apple trees, whose pickings found their way into lots of cobblers and morning oatmeal.











Last night, Halloween made an excellent farewell to the lively month. We went to the festival at our church. Cora dressed as a ballerina and looked beautiful. She had a blast running around with her friends, eating popcorn and the little bit of candy we allowed her, winning a cake on the cakewalk, and playing the games.


Winning the cakewalk


Working diligently to open up a box of candy.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Finally here...

Today was our anxiously-awaited ultrasound day. Long enough we've had people asking if we know what it is, what we think it is, if we want to know what it is, if we want to know what they think it is (actually they don't ask, they just tell us) and what we want it to be. Today we finally KNOW and those questions are put to rest! Hooray! Of course, now begin the questions of have we chosen a name. No, we haven't. We didn't finally decide on Cora's until delivery day. Believe me, we are no more decisive than we were two years ago.

So, you want to know what it is???

It's a....











girl!!!

We are so excited. I kept going back and forth about which I would prefer. Either one would have been wonderful and perfect. But Dave had no qualms about expressing he was hoping (or more realistically trying NOT to get his hopes up just in case) that it was a girl. Of course he wants a boy too. With the next one. We just both agree it will be so fun to have sisters close in age. So, as my sister-in-law Rebekah said, "Yeah! A house of princesses that camp and hike and mountain climb and read really big intellectual books." Sounds fun!

Today was not just ultrasound day, mind you. Today was: arrive half an hour early for Mommy and Me at church as usual so I can prepare coffee and treats for a dozen and a half ladies and snacks for 2 dozen children. Leave early from Mommy and Me (before Cora's favorite part--the singing) to rush to for Cora's appointment with the speech therapist. Spend an hour and a half "playing" with the therapist who confirms what we pretty much knew--Cora is doing fantastic and right on schedule with her speech development. Just a precautionary though due to the TS. Then rush home my exhausted, totally played out, whiny and hungry toddler for a quick bite of lunch (which wonderful Dave had on the table: leftover butternut squash soup and bread toasted and melted with mozzarella). Get Cora down for her nap just as Esther arrives to babysit. Dave and I rush to the ultrasound at the hospital. We quickly get in and out. I drop Dave off to do some errands "in town" at the bank, library, etc. from which he will take the bus back the quick ride to Regent for an afternoon of studying. I continue on home to relieve Esther, consider making phone calls to let people know the news, but instead promptly fall on the bed and sleep for the last half hour of Cora's nap. Cora wakes me up and I jump up to bake cookies and get ready for our dinner guests. Sage and her toddler Lucas arrive at 4:30 for some play time. The husbands walk over from Regent at 5:30 and the four of us sit around the table enjoying a relaxing meal for a couple hours discussing elections, classes, the myth of a "balanced life", and the details of preparing for life with two children, while Cora and Lucas destroy the house. Our friends leave, we do a massive overhaul of cleaning up the wrecked house that was just cleaned last night to perfect order for our small group Bible study and will just have to be cleaned again tomorrow before my parents arrive. The never-ending cycle. We get Cora to bed after lots of stories, water, singing, prayers, more books in bed, talking, crying, putting her pajamas back on, more crying, more prayers. Then Dave goes to have a short visit with a friend in need and I am left to FINALLY getting around to sharing my great news! This is my life. Only usually it involves studying/classes in there somewhere. Which, for today, is right now. Good night. I'm off to Jonathan Hill's A History of Christian Thought.

Tomorrow I'll start running again, first with a midwife appointment at 9:30, then picking up my parents at the train station after their journey from Seattle, then a quick lunch and off to class....

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Outdoor days

Camping was a success. We went east over the mountains to the Okanagan where it's drier and supposedly warmer, though it was plenty chilly enough considering it was only the first week of September. We were still visited with a short rain shower each day, too. But it was better than Vancouver (although this week to honor the start of the fall semester it's back to summer weather again). This car camping was a first for Dave and I: we always backpack in miles and live on the bare necessities. But this...this was luxury. And absolutely necessary. A toddler makes all things complicated and camping only more so. Having a car full of food and cooking supplies and dry clothes and books and even a laptop (only for Cora's videos on the carride!) made life leisurely, not to mention the blow-up mattress and port-a-crib in the tent. Cora, needless to say, outdoorsy girl that she is, thought camping was the best thing ever. She was the happiest girl the whole time. But you should have seen her scream and cry as David pulled the tent down on the fourth day. Every time we tried to put something in the car, she would scream and grab it and try to prevent us, particularly her pink papasan chair, which was her throne for consuming marshmallows and reading books.

Time slows down while camping. We sat on the lakeshore enjoying the quiet, played in the sand, took long naps, cooked simple meals, went to bed early after a couple hours of simply staring into the fire drinking decaf coffee and munching on smores or cereal. We took books that we barely cracked, and journals that remained neglected. We just spent time with each other. Which is rare. And lovely.






Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A tiny break

I'm sneaking away from my paper for a few minutes so I can write on a different subject for a few moments. Something perhaps a little more lighthearted than the theology of poverty. This week, like last, is push-through week. Dave and I have turned in what seems like a multitude of papers already this summer, but we're still trudging along. We're determined however to finish by Saturday so that Monday we can take off for a few much needed days camping...before the fall semester starts on September 8th. We take turns each day giving each other a few hours to work uninterrupted while the other takes care of Cora. Today for example, I had her in the morning, so I went with friends Dana and little Clay to the beach to build sandcastles and climb all over driftwood, and David took her in the afternoon sailing with friends Jonathon and Charlotte, which since the rainy season seems to have settled in, was a very wet trip for them. The result of our little arrangement is that I've written about 5,000 words in the past week and a half but still have another 3,000 to go before Saturday, as well as about 600 pages still to read. Dave, definitely a more consistent and productive worker than myself, has done much more and is a little closer to being finished. It's been a heck of a summer, as full to the brim as we could get it. We're tired, which is not a very good place to be before you start another semester. But we're also broadened, stretched, challenged, changed. And that is a very good place to be.

So, the summer has been full with far more than classes and theological musings, of course. This month saw David turning 28 and Cora turning 2. We had a joint-birthday party for them, though David did get a bit short-changed, as it was mostly for Cora. We had a picnic out on the beach, and Cora was SO cute. It was such a joy to see her excitement. Each time a new friend came (she had six come), she would run over to hug them and take their hand and lead them over to play in the sand. There were about 30 people in all, and I served huge bowls of mediteranean pasta salad, colorful cupcakes, hummus and veggies, and watermelon.







On Monday after the party, Dave and I took advantage of his parents being here for a visit to go off for a little getaway retreat. We went with our close friends Esther and Kevin to a little cottage on Bowen Island for two nights. It was an absolutely beautiful setting and very peaceful and relaxing. We just read our Bibles, C.S. Lewis for David and Nouwen for me (nothing for school!), took long walks in the woods around the lake, played Settlers, had dinner outside by the harbor, and had morning coffee out on the deck with the magnificent view of the ocean and mountains surrounding us. Also while his parents were here, we all rode bikes the 10 miles around the Vancouver seawall (Jim and Shelli on a tandem!), did some maternity and birthday shopping, and went swimming.

Well, I should get back to my work. The rain is pouring down, the classical music is drifting in, and my book is fantastic: Poverty in the Theology of John Calvin (really, it is!) I've got about 50 pages to go tonight to keep on schedule. Plus, David's bringing me my nightly bowl of cereal and making tea, so I need my hands free. Good night! We'll let you know if we finish and get to go camping!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Unexpectedly Expecting

As most out there know (but not all--sorry, Sallie! I've been wanting to call you!!!), Dave and I got a big surprise this Father's Day when we found out I'm pregnant. We had big plans to begin trying around November so we could hopefully have a summer baby during the university break. Now we get one at the beginning of the winter semester--a much more stressful time! But that's okay...we have two very loving and doting mothers who I believe won't have a problem coming out to give us a hand. It just means no classes for me (probably) during that semester. The baby is due around February 15th. Considering we have several friends who have been hoping and trying and praying for a baby for long periods of time, we count ourselves incredibly blessed, overly blessed, for the ease of this "accident".

Today we all three went to the midwife and got to hear the heartbeat for the first time. It was such a joy to finally know there's definitely, for sure, without a doubt, a little baby in there. Up until this point, which is pretty late--the 12 week mark, we hadn't had too much indication except the one little plus sign (and the obvious lack of a monthly visitor.) I have felt pretty normal, besides a few twinges of nausea, a craving for sausage gravy and biscuits which I still haven't given in to, and, oh yeah, that unusual seasickness in the sailboat yesterday (the waves were ridiculously choppy though and even Cora seemed to be looking green. She kept cuddling close and putting her face down into my arm.) My first visit to the midwife at 8 weeks was particularly uneventful. Just a relaxed little get-to-know you chat. No peeing in a cup or even touching my belly. They said it's better to just get to know each other first before they go poking and prodding. Just like the laid-back west coast. So I left still not having any confirmation that I was indeed pregnant. It may sound weird that I wanted this assurance, but if you had felt as surprised and shocked as I did by that little plus sign you would want an additional verification as well. So today I finally got it. Dave too was anxious to actually hear the proof and that sweet little heartbeat sound was music. I had hoped to record it and put it on the blog, but not surprisingly, I forgot the mini voice recorder. Maybe that's another of my pregnancy symptoms I didn't mention: forgetfulness. No, that's been here ever since Cora came along. And I think the toddler stage is just making it worse because it takes so much energy just to get us dressed and out of the house without remembering the fun optional extras. Anyway, it was beautiful and I wish I could share it. Though, okay, I guess it might have been a little dull to listen to a recorded thumping noise. We'll leave you alone until the ultrasound. Here we get one ultrasound at which, as long as it's after 20 weeks, they'll tell you what the sex is (some policy apparently in order to limit abortions due to gender--how horrible!) So I told them to schedule me for right at 20 weeks because we're dying to know if Cora will have a little brother or sister! And to know if some poor little boy is going to have to share a pink room with Cora for his first year and a half.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cora's Big Imagination

While the week before last was one of playdates and swimming and parties and all sorts of toddler craziness, this past week would definitely be better categorized as "just getting through." David had class in the morning, we met up for a quick lunch, and then I was off to class from 1:15-4:15. Not only is it intense being in class for 3 hours every single afternoon, but the subject matter was extremely intense and challenging as well: The Gospel and Human Poverty. I felt pretty beat up by the end. Not only that, but I had a few deadlines for papers which needed some finishing touches. Thus, for Cora, it was a week of "Let's color" (while mommy reads). "Let's watch Baby Einstein" (while mommy writes.) And the mother of all tricks that keeps Cora occupied for ages on end: "Let's play with Baby."

David's Aunt Chris gave Cora in May a little girl's dream of a gift: an American Girl Bitty Baby and TONS of accessories. A diaper bag with cloth diapers and wipes. An old-fashioned traveling case with clothes and blanket. A lunch bag with sippy cup and snacks. A pair of glasses. A bottle and rattle. A tiny bear and book. So she doesn't lose the assortment of adorable little things, I keep them put away until playtime. The Baby remains in her possession and must be in bed with her every night, but all the extras I save for just such a week as this. I pull it out and Cora can be occupied all morning. Certainly there is still a lot of interaction: she has to come show me what she's done, and needs me to help her take the clothes on and off. But she's amazingly quiet for long periods of time. It's lovely!



Cora's imaginary play is certainly not lacking in any way. I will walk past her room and see her rocking and singing to her baby. She shows Baby books and feeds her pretend food. Or, as was the case today, real food. At lunch, Baby was sitting on the table and Cora would put the spoon to Baby's mouth, then finish the bite herself, then ask Baby "More?", then proceed to nod her head dramatically (for the baby) and give her another bite, over and over until the food was gone. I absolutely look on in amazement at her creative games and interactions!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Playtime

This past week was a wonderful mixture of play and friends and outdoor sunshine, with only a little work thrown in for good measure. After the previous two weeks in which David and I both spent each morning at Regent and the afternoons/evenings struggling to keep up with homework, Cora did a lot of fending for herself. She spent the mornings at her friend Charlotte's house whose dad watched them both. In the afternoons we would try to get outside, but usually I was occupied at the park with my reading while she played by herself.

So this week I soothed my guilty mommy conscience with lots of time playing.

On Monday, we went to Serenity's house to play:


On Tuesday we went to the pool with Clay and his mom and dad, Dana and Justin:


On Wednesday, Dana and Clay and Cora and I walked to the beach and hunted for tiny crabs:


On Thurday, Charlotte and her parents came over and we ordered in Chinese food and then Charlotte spent the night:


video


On Friday, we went to the park and played Ultimate Frisbee with our friends. Usually I don't play but sit on the sidelines with Cora, but they were in need of another player so Cora simply ran around the field while we both played. Then we headed back home and quickly dressed for the Barefoot Ball, where everyone dressed up to the hilt...and went barefoot.

Cora hanging out at the food table...