Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Four Months Old

Here's our sweetie, four months old!  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Few More Thoughts

Forgive me if I seem to be a little self-indulgent by continuing this, but it's all been swirling in my head for a long time and it is cathartic to get it out here.  And, hey, it's my blog!

I do let some optimism re-assert itself here, though, so read on.

I think I pretty well hinted at this in my last blog post, but I'll say it flat out: I like my friends and am sad to leave them.

And, I flatter myself, they like me and are sad to see me go.

We have known for quite some time, now, that a parting is coming, but to dwell on it and discuss it every moment we're together seems like not a lot of fun.

I have tried not to say things like "Well, this is the last time..." or "This time next year..." or "You'll be doing this without me next time..."  I have tried not to burst into tears every time I see a friend and mope all over her.  I did that when we told people we were leaving, but I've held it together since then.

But I have wanted to.  Oh, have I wanted to!

Everything feels tainted by the knowledge that soon things will change.  I hate change.  Ask my family and they'll tell you, I hate change.  I'm okay with little changes like haircuts and new glasses, but changes like this?  No, thank you.

But, of course, things must change.  One way or another, things will change.

And we can see already that some of the changes will be good.

One very good change will be living closer to family.  We'll be about 5 hours from my family and 8-ish from John's.  Close enough to get together for holidays and special occasions, far enough that no one drops in unexpectedly and finds my house a wreck.

(It's bad enough when I know they're coming.  Just think if I didn't know they were coming!)

After we visited a couple of churches and toured the Christian school in Philly when we were there in March, we all felt like perhaps there were some good things for us in this wild, uncharted territory.

I tell the kids - and try to convince myself - that God is already there ahead of us and has good things planned for us.

And sometimes I even believe it.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Weeping and Joy

“Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt, work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.”
– Betty Scott Stam

For nearly a year now I've been walking around with a gaping chest wound.  

Well, not really.  But its emotional equivalent.  

A year ago, John was in discussion with the OPC's Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension (CHMCE), planning future interviews for the job of General Secretary, and I began to think of what this job change would mean for our family.  The enormity of it frankly overwhelmed me and, like Scarlet O'Hara, I pushed it off until another day.  

We knew when he started this interview process that he was uniquely qualified for this job (General Secretary of CHMCE), but we also knew that he was uniquely qualified to be the pastor of Mission OPC.  And we were quite comfortable in Minnesota, thank you very much.  We had put down roots, carved a place for ourselves, developed friendships of mutual liking and reliance.  We had no reason to leave.  

Except that God seemed to be calling John to this new position.  I won't go into all the reasons, but it was clear to both of us that God had been preparing him in some out-of-the-ordinary ways all his life for a job like this.  

So, when he received the official call from the committee, he accepted.  With my full knowledge and blessing, knowing that God was up to something for our good and His glory.  

But my heart was kicking and screaming.  

I like it here.  I am content here.  I have friends here.  I have a life here.   My kids like it here.  They have friends and a life here.  We have some of the most wonderful adopted grandmothers a family could ask for.  Why should we leave?  

I have spontaneously burst into tears countless times over the last year, most especially when I think of taking Sam (and the rest of us!) away from Pat and Katie (those adopted grandmothers).  

God provided Pat and Katie when I didn't even know enough to pray for Him to send them to me.  The first year we moved here, I had a baby, a pre-schooler, a first grader and a third grader; I was homeschooling (or trying to); I had no friends or support close by; my husband was completely distracted with learning how to be a pastor to a young church plant; and I was miserable.  

Enter Pat and Katie.  Along about January of that first year, they offered to take the kids for a few hours once a week.  That time was a life-saver.  Literally!  And since then, they have taken whatever kids are around for a few hours every week.  They have stood in as grandparents on Grandparents Day at school; Pat helped me paint Johanna's bedroom and helped John organize the garage; Katie baked a number of birthday cakes for Sam; and both have done countless things to help, support and encourage us.  

And we're going to walk away from them?

This happens to many pastors and their families, but because we were far away from biological family as well as involved in just about every aspect of the church, Mission OPC has been our family.  We are part of the ins and outs of each others' lives.  We celebrate together; we mourn together; and what's more, we live our ordinary lives together.  

And we're going to walk away from them?

After that year of homeschooling, we found a classical, Christian school for Will to attend.  He has attended ever since, and Micah and Johanna have attended there, as well.  This is also the school where I taught for a year and where John coached several sports teams.  We have friendships with many of the parents and any number of mutual happy memories with these folks.

And we're going to walk away from them?

Hence, the feeling of living with a gaping emotional wound these days.  This has felt, at times, something close to panic.  I have mourned this move like the loss of a limb.  

But, last week, I was reminded of a prayer I discovered in high school and loved so much that I wrote it in the front cover of my Bible.  It was that prayer above by Betty Scott Stam.  

It was only later I found out the extent to which that prayer was answered for the Stams.  And, of course, being asked to go to Philadelphia is hardly akin to going to Communist China or Uganda or even inner city Detroit.

(See, I still have a sense of humor about it all.)

And yet it is a call from the Lord and it's asking me to give up what I value more than I ought: comfort.  

I don't mean to be overly dramatic, but this move is decidedly uncomfortable in a number of ways, physically, mentally, spiritually, and definitely emotionally.  

And yet I am reminded that it is the Lord's call and I said, long ago, that I would go where He called me.  Presumably, that means I'd even go to Uganda, although I rather hope He finds plenty for me to do in Philadlephia!  

But He has called and I must go.  And this reminder has comforted me.  If I'm doing what He has called me to do, then I'm right where I should be.  Weeping may endure for the night - and I have the feeling there are more tears in our near future - but joy comes in the morning.  

Particularly the joy of following where He leads.  Even if He leads me away from a place I love.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Felicitous Natal Day

I started this post way back at the beginning of the day and here it is, 10:38 p.m. and I'm just getting back to it.  *sigh*  Such is life right now.

Anyway, today is the day we assume was Shakespeare's birthday.  It is also, by coincidence, or Providence as I prefer to say, the day he died.

So, in his honour (British spelling), I give you some of my favorite Shakespeare and Globe Theatre pictures.

John and I also celebrated by going out for dinner to a pub.  It didn't have the classic British pub atmosphere, but it was as close as we could get.  

John had fish and chips with an amber ale and I had sausage (aka bangers) and mash with a hard cider.  

We should celebrate Shakey's birthday more often!

On second thought, once a year is probably good.  My waistline has enough trouble without my eating sausage and mashed potatoes every day!  

Monday, April 22, 2013


Seems to me like weekends have a reputation for being laid back; providing time to relax, kick back, and refresh.

In that case, then, this last weekend was not a weekend!  

It was a busy, tiring, wonderful time, though!

Starting back into last week, Wednesday John's parents arrived from Ohio.  Thursday we had a snow storm.  Friday night, a number of "dignitaries" from the presbytery and beyond were here for John's installation as General Secretary for Home Missions and Church Extension.  

Here's the only picture I have of the event, so far.  John, with his parents behind him.  This photo shows a moment in time, but also represents a lifetime of moments.  John is who and where he is because of these two and their commitment to the Lord and to church planting. 

Saturday morning, we had breakfast at church where Tony Curto spoke on foreign missions and Dick Gerber spoke on home missions.

Saturday evening, we went with Will to his spring formal.  

Yes, parents were invited.  No, he didn't particularly want us along.

But we know deep down he really wanted us there.  Right?  Fifteen-year-olds just aren't very good at expressing those things.  They're buried way down deep.  W-a-a-a-y down.

Here are the old folks.  Ma and Pa.  All gussied up for a night out.

The formal was on a paddle boat on the St. Croix River and quite lovely.  It included dinner and an impromptu dance for the kids and some younger faculty members.  A good night to celebrate and have fun.

The Lord's Day included the usual things, except for a nap!  I rely on my Sunday afternoon nap!  

I guess I'll have to take my Sunday afternoon nap today!  

John's parents left this morning, headed into Wisconsin to visit other family.  They left just before the next snow storm is supposed to hit us.

Yes, snow storm.  In April.  The end of April.  

Now I really need that nap.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Sam's Birthday

Sam's birthday?  Again?  Already?

Yup.  My boy's growing up.  Seven years old yesterday.  

This year, for the first time, he had a friend party.  Three of his bestest friends from church came over for two hours of crafts, cake, ice cream, and presents.  Sadly, neither of my cameras was in working order (stupid batteries!) so Johanna took a few pics on my pathetic camera phone.


For supper, we had Pat and Katie over.  Again, no camera.  Pat took some pictures but I can't get them onto my computer for some reason.  

The most important part of both parties, though, was the cake.  Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.

That's my boy!

Here's an image from Sam's first birthday!  Awwwww!  What a sweetie!  

He's a blessing, for sure!  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Easter 2013

 Easter "baskets" were in boxes this year since we are currently over-run with them!
 This is Will's way of trying to get me to not take his picture. Outta luck, buddy!

The "girls" in their Easter finery.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Does the Bible Need a Facelift?

I leafed through a few pages of the newest CBD catalog today and for some reason, stopped to read the blurb about A Reluctant Queen: The Love Story of Esther by Joan Wolf.

This is, of course, a re-telling of the Biblical story of Esther.

I tend to have a knee-jerk reaction against this sort of thing, so I thought I'd read more and see if it really was as offensive as I thought it might be.  

To be fair, I should read the book for myself, but I'm not certain this is worth reading.  Let's see what others say about it.

The CBD catalog proclaims that in Wolf's story: "...Esther captures the heart of King Xerxes with her beauty and spirit."  

Hmmm.  So, it sounds as though Wolf has gutted the original story and made it about a human romance.


And terribly sad.  

We (humans) are experts at looking at anything and reshaping it into our own image.  We can look at a story which clearly demonstrates God's hand of Providence and the incredible way He uses people for His good purposes, and yawn.  Then "fix it up" so it's about something interesting.  A woman, destitute but brave and beautiful, who makes a man, lonely and aimless until she comes along, fall in love with her.  And they live happily ever after.

Please don't think I'm some sort of literature snob, either.  I love a good romance as much as the next!  I love when the H/H get their HEA.  I cheer when Elizabeth and Darcy come to an understanding, when Jane and Rochester are finally reunited, when Han and Leia kiss among the Ewoks (guess what characters are on Sam's lunch box beside me?).  

So, why does this bother me so much?

I looked it up on Amazon where reviews clearly state that Wolf has changed the original story for her own story-telling purposes.  No bait and switch; all clear and above-board.  This is the same thing many - if not most - historical fiction writers do.  I love Sharon Kay Penman and she has a disclaimer in the back of her books to say which facts were rearranged or ignored in order to tell her story, and that doesn't bother me in the least.  She uses most but not all of the truth as she finds it in extensive research through the archives of England, Wales, and Scotland, and I don't mind.  She is telling a story, after all, and real life doesn't always work the way a novel does.  

So then why am I bothered by Wolf's doing the same thing with Esther?

From Publisher's Weekly: "Wolf has succeeded in tidying up the biblical account, reconstructing its people and events while preserving its essential elements and producing an attractive love story." 

"...tidying up the biblical account..."  

Okay.  There it is.  Let's not forget that this is the Bible, the inerrant Word of God.  The archives of medieval Europe are valuable and fascinating and truly important, but they are not the Word of God.  Playing fast and loose with history is one thing.  Playing fast and loose with God's Word is another thing entirely.

Or is it?

If we take the Word at all seriously, shouldn't this bother us?  "Tidying up" the Bible?  "Producing an attractive love story?"  I do believe that God wrote that story the way it is supposed to be and I'm pretty uncomfortable with thinking we can improve upon that.  

But am I being too rigid?  Too much of a stickler?  Should I loosen up?  Should I read the book?  Would you?

I'm really wondering.  What do you think?