Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

May you find many things to be thankful for today!

And if you've never read it before, check out Abraham Lincoln's original proclamation, declaring the 4th Thursday in November to be a day of national Thanksgiving:

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thankful November: Opportunities to serve

I have been running at full hilt this week, even though classes aren't in session. And my to do list is still really long--I don't even have a lecture ready for Monday OR a lab written for Tuesday afternoon (that needs to be passed out during Monday class). Not to mention two lab manuals to write, a huge stack of grading and a bunch of other stuff that's coming with me to Thanksgiving.

So I was REALLY tempted this afternoon to bail on a commitment to serve a colleague.

But I didn't. And I was blessed.

One of the retired members of our department (yes, it's the same guy as this story) had back surgery almost two weeks ago. His wife died last spring, and he has no family. So while he's very independent minded, he's relying on friends and colleagues to help him do the things he can't--like drive, carry the laundry basket downstairs, etc. He's working on being able to walk the mile into and home from the office so he can have a little more interaction with people, so walking him to the track is also on the list.

I've been organizing people to help him, but have had a fairly dismal response. So I had agreed to cover today. One of the other retired professors who has been doing a lot of caretaking stopped by my office late this morning...and I almost begged least the walking. John agreed to meet us at the track and he would deliver his paper to him and walk, and I'd work. But as I worked through lunch, things came together on that project fairly nicely, and I was convicted of my need to do what I said I would.

We had agreed on 1 pm, so I worked through lunch and arrived promptly. We walked 10 laps at the gym, turned in some recycling, picked up some groceries, unloaded the groceries, helped with laundry, and chatted with him the whole while.

He's lonely. He doesn't know God, and is resistant to the idea of God even existing. But somewhere in him is a God sized hole. And if he can see something different in me, even if it's just a willingess to give up two hours of my day, and wonder why I do's worth it.

Then tonight after dinner, I took the kids to help set up for the Community Thanksgiving. That was fun too!

So today I'm thankful for opportunities to serve.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thankful Thursday: Jen

Tonight I dug some hot dogs out of the freezer for the kids, because I knew they didn't like what I had planned for dinner (and I already made them eat it the first time we had it this week).

Not unusual, right?

Except that the freezer wasn't mine--it's my friend Jen's. She's letting us use a shelf in her freezer

Generous doesn't begin to describe Jen and her family. When we were all sick with the flu, she brought us food (mmm, homemade applesauce!) and prayed for us. They've housesat, traded meals, had cookie and meal exchanges, hosted playdates, gone out on girl nights/guy nights...they're our "family" here in town.

I'm very thankful Jen prays with and for us. We have lots of Christian friends, but few that we pray with, beyond saying grace (and since the kids picked up on my parent's memorized grace, it's often not much of a prayer). Especially without a small group, I need that.

So today I'm thankful for friendship. Specifically Christian friendship...and my friend Jen.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thankful November--digital photo albums!

Tonight I finished Harmony's "Toddler Years" photo album--a gift that I know will be a hit. It seems trite, but I'm so thankful for digital photography--we've saved so much on developing costs, even factoring in the price of the camera. And I love being able to crop, rotate, and do fun stuff electronically.

Henry's baby book is a Creative Memories photo album, but I realized soon after Harmony was born that I wouldn't be able to have the time to do that kind of cropping and journalling.

Snapfish, Shutterfly, and Kodak to the rescue! The prices are reasonable (when you consider that they're hard bound and include all the picture costs), and it takes me about as much time as it takes to do a single page "the old way". We can also print two books--one for us to save and treasure, one for the recipient to love to pieces. When we went on our trip last week, Harmony brought her baby book. It's definitely well loved!

I'm also thankful to be able to take a walk down memory lane while looking at those pictures. It's amazing to think of Harmony as that toddler, and how she's grown and blossomed since then. It's also amazing to think of all the ways God has worked in our lives, both during that time period and since then.

What are you thankful for today?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thankful November--Home!

Aah, somehow there is nothing better than Home sweet Home!

I'm thankful that we are able to own a home...and the end is in sight for the mortgage.
I'm thankful that it's big enough to host large groups for dinner--we've definitely been blessed with great friends and love having them over for dinner.
I'm thankful that we have an apartment upstairs...and that this year's renters are incredibly quiet :)
I'm thankful for this exercise in thankfulness--every time I don't know what to write, the list is very encouraging.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thankful November--Weekend getaway

We left late last night for a weekend getaway to Southern Indiana! I'm thankful that we have both the time and resources for quick jaunts like this. I know my mom thinks my kids have seen too much (good stuff in my opinion--the beach, NYC, been on trains, airplanes, subways, cabs, etc), but it's fun and builds memories. I'm also thankful for:
--beautiful creations like we saw at the Falls of the Ohio and in Marengo Cave
--talented and funny singers, like Moosebutter
--Patrick's friend, Barb, who watched Hope so we could go to the Moosebutter concert :)
--CHOCOLATE! Especially Schimpff's and their yummy creations. We got to see them make Red hots, and of course, buy more than a few :)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thankful November--a week of NO CLASS!

That's right, we have the full week off of class for Thanksgiving! That's cause enough for much thanks giving--it gives us time to get organized for next semester (like writing lab manuals, which requires having syllabi planned, which means having a text selected, etc...)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thankful November: Esperanza

Ms. Esperanza is one of Hope's caregivers. I love that they share a name, albeit in two different languages! Esperanza only speaks Spanish to the babies, and they understand her. In fact, when Hope does something good, she claps and says "Baabo!" (Bravo!) which Esperanza taught her.

Ms. Esperanza is moving to South Carolina to be closer to family. We are happy for her, but will miss her (and her girls and husband, who works at our favorite restaurant) very much!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thankful November: our stockroom assistant

Today I'm thankful for our stockroom assistant. He takes care of ordering and set up for our teaching labs, which frees up HOURS of time for all of us. He's got a even disposition, and does a good job with the student assistants. He greets me with a cheerful "Howdy" whenever I show up 15 minutes before class, trying to pull together a demo. Our jobs would definitely be much harder without him!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thankful November: sleep

Today I'm thankful for uninterrupted nights of sleep. And praying that I get one :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thankful November: Hope!

Hope is one today! She is such a wonderful toddler. She's so happy just walking around, and is definitely loved by her big bro and sis. Maybe her second year of life will bring some sleep!

Happy Birthday, Sweet girl!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thankful November: Sabbath at Seven

Yup, it's been almost a year and we're still church homeless. But we have found couches to perch on--so it's more like we're sub-optimally housed than on the streets.

One of our "regulars" is "Sabbath at Seven", an evening service. It's lower key than the morning service, and somehow I get more out of the sermon when there are accompanying pictures. The Holy Spirit is present, and the Word is preached.

So I'm thankful for this service, and that they've recently gone from monthly to biweekly!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thankful Thursday: school

Henry and Harmony brought home report cards yesterday, and both are doing very well. I've already done a thankfulness about Henry's teacher--today I'm thankful for the entire school setup. I thankful that when I drop them off, they're greeted by name and with a smile by the dropoff aids--and that Henry would rather rush in the morning to say hi to the bus monitor (who provides books for them to look at and plays fun kid-appropriate music if they are quiet). I'm thankful that the teachers try to help each child succeed, no matter where they're starting from. They're also really positive and reinforce the good. I'm thankful that the playground is fun and safe, and got new equipment last week. It's cool enough that Harmony won't wear skirts because it's hard to play in a dress.

And I'm thankful that it's Saturday and they don't have school today!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thankful November: cleaning person

Aah, today I came home to a sparkling house that I didn't clean. I don't know how Matilde does it, but she always gets our house cleaner than I can. I appreciate her diligent work and cheerfulness--she obviously loves children and is so kind to our kids.

So today I'm thankful for Matilde!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thankful November: Parenting

Today one of my colleagues, who is fairly outspokenly atheist, restated his position, with the justification that his wife's battle with cancer confirmed his opposition to God: how could a loving, good God allow bad things to happen?

It was hard to have an answer for him. I had shared my chapel message with him, and he basically was saying he disagreed. He sees suffering as proof that God doesn't exist. That's a pretty hard position to change.

As I went for a run over lunch, God pointed out to me things I've learned from parenting.

Sometimes my kids suffer because of their decisions. Negative behaviors have negative consequences...even if it means that sometimes I have to create negative consequences so the behavior isn't repeated.

Sometimes they suffer because of someone else's decisions. A sad part of life is someone else's bad decision leads to lost privileges.

Sometimes they suffer because that's the way the world works. If you're playing a game and there is a winner, there is probably also a loser...and you're not going to win every time.

Sometimes they suffer because it's part of how they learn. Many times I've JUST finished a warning of a consequence to an action, and the consequence happens.

I could rescue my from their suffering, and often I do. I don't let Hope eat the legos, because it would be potentially deadly. But if I want them to learn and develop character, I have to let it happen.

It doesn't mean that I don't care. If anything, the opposite--my heart breaks as much or more than theirs. When bad things happen, I want to gather them into my arms and comfort them. And when you see them succeed, it's better than succeeding themselves.

So while I'm incredibly grateful for my three wonderful children, I'm also thankful for the opportunity to be a parent. My colleague never had children, so I'm not sure he'd get the analogies, but I sure do.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thankful November: Grandma Holm

Today would have been my Grandma Holm's birthday. It's funny, Harmony was 4 when she passed away, but she often comments about how she misses her. She was a wonderful woman of faith, and definitely had a heart for serving the homeless. I'm thankful not only for her generosity and witness, but also that Henry and Harmony got to know her, though not as well as I would have liked.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thankful November: Hope

Yipee--Hope slept through the night last night! That's a task she's completed a grand total of 5 nights out of the 359 she's been alive. Too bad I didn't sleep through :)

Tomorrow I'm giving a message at our school's very brief religious chapel. I've posted variations on this topic before, but here's what I plan to say:

Hope came after two miscarriages, several failed attempts at hiring a replacement for me at work, three unproductive trips to the hospital, and five days after my due date. She was born in the midst of a painful decision to leave the church we had been involved in planting.

I think one reason I went into labor multiple times before having Hope was that I was pretty much convinced that she would be stillborn. Maybe it was the previous miscarriages, maybe it was the turmoil at church, but for whatever reason, I was pretty much expecting that Hope would be dead—with all the suffering we were going through, it would have fit right in.

But Hope wasn’t dead. She completely lives up to her name, and daily reminds me of the passage she was named from, Romans 5:2-5:

we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Every night at prayer time, Henry says something to the effect of “Thank you for today, and help tomorrow to be a better day.” Henry’s definition of a “better day” is generallly one where he gets to watch lots of TV, play on the internet, buy a new toy at the store, eat all his favorite junk...and do it all his way.

Even though I’m no longer 7 like Henry, sometimes my prayers sound like his too—-I want what I want, on my terms and in my timing. I still find myself special ordering my life, especially with timing. I definitely had my plans for additions to our family– “wouldn’t the fall of 2007 be nice? I’ll be on leave!” was cancelled via a late, missed miscarriage. My plan for Hope to be born today, on my grandmother’s birthday, didn’t work either, despite my attempts to “walk” the baby out.

So why don’t we get our way? Why do we need suffering anyway? Personally, God needed me to be broken so I could fully appreciate the gift I was getting. I don’t think I would have treasured the third (or my first or second) child had I not had the miscarriages. I wouldn’t have gotten the “pre-requisites” for hope—perseverance and character—had I not had all the prior labor. And her birth in the midst of turmoil and stress over church drama reminds me that really, God IS in all of the messiness of life. His timing IS perfect, even when it’s not mine.

And suffering does have purpose. Whoever said “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” hasn’t read the Bible carefully. God routinely gives people MORE than they can handle on their own—just look at Moses, Gideon, David. God gives us more than we can handle to turn us to Him.

OK. So suffering produces good things in our lives—it draws us to God, and produces endurance, character and hope. I can accept that. But what I find challenging is the line that comes before that. My first instinct is to pray against suffering, or that it be short. This passage definitely challenges that prayer life—We’re supposed to REJOICE!
Yippee! I lost my job!
Yippee! Someone I’m close to is very ill!
Yippee! I’m worried about the future!
That doesn’t seem like a natural response…maybe it’s just Paul talking again. But no, Jesus said it too, in Matthew 5:11-13:
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

I don’t know about you, but I find that challenging. I find it hard to bring up topics when I know it will open me up for attack, to willingly put myself in the line of fire, even when it's for a good cause.

But what I do know is what God has promised in these verses. He promises that suffering will refine us, developing us into the people He wants us to be. He promises His presence through the Holy Spirit. And he promises hope—hope that will not disappoint us.

So Hope was born a year ago, both literally and figuratively. And she continues to grow and bring joy daily, if not moment by moment. May you too have hope in your heart today—a hope not built on circumstances or possessions, but on God’s promises of his refinement, presence and glory.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Appropriate immune systems

Today I'm thankful for appropriate immune systems. While our family fights its share of germs, our immune systems are doing the right thing.

Two things make me particularly grateful for well behaved immune systems today. One of my student's sisters have a disorder that prevents their bodies from "doing the right thing" when they encounter germs, so they suffer from massive infections. On the other extreme, I used to suffer from ulcerative colitis--basically, my immune system was inappropriately attacking me. I am extremely thankful thatI was healed of this, and haven't had an attack since 2006.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Thankful November: Students

I'm blessed to have some great students. Friday was our big fall semester recruiting weekend, and several of them did an excellent job interacting with prospective students. Here's hopping we succeed in bringing in another great group of students!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Thankful November: Poppies

Poppies, poppies, poppies...

No, not from the Wizard of Oz.

Rather, the VFW was selling them at Walmart. They reminded me of my grandparents, and it brought back a wave of memories.

So though it's not veteran's day yet, I'm thankful for our veterans, especially my grandfather.

Friday, November 6, 2009

November Thankfulness: Harmony's birthday buddy

Harmony shares a birthday with another little girl--they were the only two born at our local hospital that day. Harmony spent the evening at her house tonight--our house was quiet without her.

I'm thankful that Harmony is color blind in her friendships--Emi is Hispanic, and other than noting that they look like the two girls in the Diamond Castle, I don't think she notices.

I'm thankful that Harmony has been praying that Emi decides to follow Jesus. She prays for Emi almost every night about this.

I'm thankful for the laughter and fun that fills our house when they're playing together on Mondays before dance.

Thanks for friends, Lord. Especially Emi. Thanks for Harmony's prayers for her friend. Let Harmony see you work in Emi's life.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thankful November: Mrs. F

Five days into my daily thank you note adventure, and my list of people to say "thanks" to seems to be growing instead of shrinking!

Today was Mrs. F's birthday. Mrs. F is Henry's first grade teacher. Every time we tell someone that she's Henry's teacher, they gush, "She was the best teacher my child ever had!"

Mrs. F promotes working individually and doing your personal best. They have done research reports on dinosaurs and fish so far...this is first grade! One of the projects the class is working on for Christmas integrates entropeneurial-ship and compassion--they're designing and making packs of Christmas cards with their art teacher and selling them to parents. They'll calculate the expenses of making the cards, then use the profit to buy books and backpacks for Christmas presents for the Head Start kids.

So thanks, Mrs. F, for encouraging our kids to do their learn that learning is fun, and to develop compassion for others.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Thankful November: The church across the street

While we're "free range" Christians right now, we've settled into some patterns. One of those patterns is that the kids are participating in a Wednesday afternoon Bible program at the church across the street, and I'm teaching the 3rd grade girls. I'm very thankful that this congregation has welcomed us in this capacity, and that they allow neighborhood children to use their playground. On Halloween Evening, I saw the Pastor and his wife walking down the "main drag" where >1000 Trick or Treaters show up, just to support the kids and families.

So church across the street, thank you for your witness to your neighbors.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thankful November: Henry's cub scout leaders

Henry LOVES Cub Scouts. And while the pack (or is it den? whichever is the big group) is a pretty crazy bunch of over 50 boys, the leaders do a great job funneling their energy. They make learning fun, and promote character in only a way a Cub Scout leader can. The logistics can't be easy--especially the popcorn sale that is finishing right now.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Nov 2 thankfulness: benefactors

Today I'm thankful for a benefactor at my college that had the foresight to endow my area of specialty. The endowment has allowed the college to support work in an area it otherwise might not be able to do.

It makes me think about how I can make a difference with my donations. We sponsor a Compassion Child and regularly give to Samaritan's Purse. I also made calls to start a similar fund at my own alma mater.

So thanks, Mr. H, for all you've done for the institution I teach at!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thankful November

I've often done Thankful Thursdays at Grace Alone, but have fallen off the wagon. And somehow it's hard to focus on being Thankful on actual Thanksgiving I'm declaring November a month of thankfulness.

So today I'm thankful for my mom. She's been my laundry fairy, seamstress, childcare provider, cook, book reader, cookie baker...I'd say fairy godmother, but she's my fairy mom!

She willingly drove 700+ miles to our flu-infested house to take care of us.

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

This isn't something we can repay, and being sick, we probably weren't as appreciative as we should have been. But Thank you, Thank you, Thank you mom!