Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Flights and Fire

Hannah arrived safely in the Dominican Republic (DR from here on out) after a rough flight from Miami.  Several of the students were sick in the air from all of the turbulence, but once they hit land, they felt better.  No word on whether or not Hannah was one of those who became ill, but all's well that ends well, right?!  I probably won't hear anything again until the team meets back up to head home.

On a sad note, the Telegraph fire outside of Mariposa has taken the land that my family has owned for close to forty years.  Well, I guess that's not entirely correct; the land is still there, it's the trees, structures, and trailers that are gone.  It's a sentimental loss, and all of our family is safe, so we must keep things in perspective.  I've had many wonderful times at that property and I believe our property is one of the reasons that my extended family has stayed close all of these years.  

My grandfather and grandmother, together with her brother and his wife, bought forty acres in the middle of the Stanislaus National Forest.  Their dream was that both of their families would have a place that they could go to so that it might keep the families close to one another.  Their plan worked, and I am blessed to have regular contact with my extended family.   I come from a big family and we've shared some great times sitting around the camp fire, visiting long into the evening.  The one time of year that ALL of the family makes it up to the mountains is Thanksgiving, and it's a blast.   Usually around 11:00 AM a big ride is organized and most everyone gets on their motorcycles and quads to travel off to Black Mountain, Soap Stone Ridge, the old mine, or other interesting locales. 

You can get to my family's mountain property by going through Greeley Hill or through Mariposa which means it is smack-dab in the middle of the Telegraph fire.  The only way in to our property is on dirt roads through the Stanislaus National Forest.  Pine and oak trees cover the hills and line the roads.  Manzanita bushes fill in the mountainsides, and at certain times of the year, poison oak is my number one enemy.  On the news reports, you'll hear frequent references to the "rugged terrain."  That terrain is what is hindering the efforts to contain the fire.

I don't know what we'll find when we are able to get back in to our property.  Our mountaintop camp will be black and barren, I'm sure, but I will want to see what, if anything, survived from our trailer.  There is nothing of true monetary value that was in there, but there were many items that belonged to my grandmother that were of sentimental value to me.  There was the wooden shoe that we kept the matches in; my uncle brought it home from Germany as a gift for his mom (my grandma).  The etched mirror on the wall, although spotted with age, made me smile when I saw it.  My grandma would mount the pictures that we drew for her on that mirror.  There were still a couple of my grandma's over-shirts and jackets in the closet because every once in a while they came in handy.  There were some tin measuring cups that were nothing special, really, but they were old and dented around the bottom edge, and I felt close to my grandmother when I used them.   

None of those things would mean anything to anyone else, but they brought me comfort when I saw or used them.  Those are the things I will miss.  I know of people who have lost everything in their homes to a fire, and this doesn't even compare.  But it is a loss and a grief, nonetheless, for me.  The latest report that I saw said that they now have the fire 40 % contained.  If that is true, that's a marked improvement over last night when it was only 15% contained.

Anyway, I hope to get back to my bullet points on being easily offended one of these days.  I've already started another post on that, but kids, activities, open houses, and family have pretty much taken all of my time.  It takes a while to get a post written, especially because I'm not a natural writer and I have to really work at it.  Let's just see how long it takes me to get back to that!

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Fun Slideshow

In case you've wondered how you might be able to use Uppercase Living products to make your house a home, check THIS out!  Too many fun ideas to do all at once, but it is fun to dream.  :-)

Please Pray

We dropped my daughter off at the S.F. airport last night because she and her missions group were flying out at 8:50 PM.  They were headed to Miami, and then to the Dominican Republic.  She is in the air as I type this, somewhere over the Atlantic.  Just asking all of you to pray for her and her missions team while they are there.  It is a great chance for each of them to share God's love through serving, and to experience a heart renewal as they see His purposes for them.  Thanks for standing with us in prayer.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I Missed Church Today

Well, not really.   What I really mean is that I missed church at New Life Christian Center today. 

Dave, our two younger kids, and I went to Yosemite Church in Merced this morning.  Our two older kids wanted to be at New Life, so they went on their own.  (I must say, I am so grateful that our children LOVE being at church.  I think it's a good thing when your teenagers don't want to miss a Sunday morning or a youth event.  I can't give enough thanks to Jake and Jennah, Vince and Cheri, and the entire youth staff team.  We, as a church, are blessed more than we realize.  If you see or interact with anyone involved with our youth leadership, please be sure to let them know how valuable they are and how much they are appreciated.)

Anyway, back to my story.   We visited Yosemite Church, which is located, ironically enough, on Yosemite Road in Merced.  They are at a fairly new campus, and there were some things I loved about what I saw/experienced this morning.  

First of all, I loved sitting with my husband in the back row for a whole service.  (We didn't choose the back row, folks; it was the only place in the auditorium where the four of us could sit together!) 

It was the Sunday service after their VBS (Vacation Bible School) week, so the stage was set as a pirate ship and all the kids were there, sitting on the floor at the front of the church.  We saw a video of their week, and we heard them sing two of their special pirate songs.  I could tell that they had had a great week.

Dave and I met the pastor, Jeff Leis, and his wife YEARS ago at a conference in Southern California.  We haven't kept in touch, but Dave and I have always wanted to visit their church, so since Dave had the day off, we decided to go. 

They have a cool outdoor baptism pool sort of thing by a big, rough-hewn cross.  Very neat!  They were having baptisms out there today after the second service.  They must keep it drained when they are not using it because otherwise it would be a BIG liability issue as there is not fence around it.

Pastor Leis spoke about becoming a "Lie Detector."  Good stuff about discovering the lies that we believe and the process to overcome those lies (that often become strongholds) in our lives.   I loved his points:  
1) Deception Detection - figuring out what the lie is and why we are vulnerable to it.  
2) Deception Confession - We must agree (confess) that we have bought into a lie.  We have to face the fact that we are owning wrong thoughts.
3)  Deception Correction - We must seek the truth of God's word in relation to the lie we find ourselves believing, and we must commit to those truths.

The church has a cool outdoor amphitheater, much like CSUS, but obviously on a smaller scale. They also have an outdoor stage built at the base of the amphitheater, so it makes it easy for them to do outdoor services or concerts.  

By sitting in the back of the church today, Dave got to experience the noise that came in from the lobby.  He didn't realize how distracting it can be sitting in the back hearing the doors open and close, hearing the people laugh and talk in the lobby, and hearing the chairs being brought out and moved.  One of my pet peeves (I'm just being honest here) is when people at our church talk loudly during services in the back hallway.  Do they not realize that they might be disrupting someone from hearing what God has for them that day?  I've been known to "hush" people a time or two, and you know me, I do try to do it in the nicest way possible.  It's much easier to hush the teens than to try to hush the adults.  It just seems like a respect issue to me.  I want people to visit, don't get me wrong, but please do it where it won't interrupt others who are longing to worship.   Okay, I'll come down off my soap box now.  :-)

I love, LOVE being with other believers, and I thank God for all of our differences.  I loved how multi-ethnic the church body was.  A prayer of mine (since before we came to New Life) has been that the church we would serve at would reflect, ethnically, the body of Christ.  We miss so much richness when we are so homogeneous. 

Yosemite Church has a big boulder outside of their sanctuary (Half Dome Worship Center) that is engraved with a likeness of Half Dome and says, "Meeting people where they are and loving them to where Christ wants them to be."  

All in all, it was a great day, but I'll look forward to being back at New Life next weekend!  :-)

FYI: on July 29th at 7:00 PM, Yosemite Church is the site of a free Listener Appreciation Concert featuring Building 429.  If you are free, you might want to travel down for that.  The doors open at 6:00 PM and it is first come, first served.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Continued Bullet Points on Offenses

  • It's time to get back to our bullet points on the subject of being offended and offenses.  If you missed the first two posts, you can go here first and then here.
  • When we are offended, we have two choices.  We can hold on to it and cherish it, or we can surrender it up to Jesus.
  • We humans have a great ability to hold on to our hurt feelings.  Again, when we've been offended, our human response is to cry, "What about me?!"  "I can't believe they did that!"  "They'll pay for that!"  Remember, those are our human nature responses; through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can choose different responses.  These will be discussed in a future post.
  • When offended, our human nature wants to either have the person who offended us apologize or pay for what they did.  
  • Often times, a person doesn't even realize that something they did was offensive to us, so it never enters their mind to apologize.  They probably won't realize we were offended until the next time they see us and we decide to make them pay.  Then, they are oblivious as to why we are treating them with such disdain, anger, rudeness, or coldness.
  • Sometimes, when people feel someone is treating them in the above manner (coldness, with disdain, etc...)  they may even say, "Have I done something to offend you?"  Many times, we (the easily offended party) will not use this opportunity to speak the truth in a loving way so that the air can be cleared.  Instead, we often say, "No."  And then....we get mad when they can't read our minds and apologize for the situation/words/actions that caused our hurt feelings.
  • We often walk around keeping an offense ever before us.....waiting for the other person to pay.  If they don't know they've offended us, they are oblivious to the torture we are putting ourselves through.  Don't you see?  They are free, and we, who are offended, are bound to the offensive situation and person.  We let the offense grow in our minds and in our hearts by continuing to feed those thoughts.  Those thoughts then grow to bitterness, anger, and hatred, and pretty soon, we feel that we have so much invested in the situation that we can't seem to get over it.
  • The above are what happens when we are offended and choose to hold on to that offense. However, there is another option (surrendering it to Jesus), and we'll have some more bullet points on that later.
  • Having our feelings hurt all the time should be an indicator to us that we are not spiritually mature.  God wants us to grow up in the areas that we are immature in.  Remember that saying, "God accepts us where we are, but He loves us too much to leave us there."  There is a better way!

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Few Days Away and Backyard Movie Night

We were able to get away for a couple of days to the Pinecrest Lake area.  I guess most of Turlock thought Pinecrest sounded like a good idea also because we saw two of our close neighbors who went there to camp and there were about six families from the church who had headed to the lake for a little vacation (although we didn't see all of them personally).  Fun times!
We headed home this afternoon to get ready for "Backyard Movie Night."   My youngest daughter and her friend planned the entire evening and all the kids on the block joined us.

Here's my daughter welcoming our next door neighbors.  She had them sign a ticket when they arrived for the raffle that would take place just before the movie.  She had four different movie candies that the winners could choose from.
My daughter and her friend thought of everything.  Although you can' t read these signs, they point the way to the food and drinks, and more importantly, the bathroom.
Don't let the older kids tell you that they don't like movie night!  :-)
With popcorn and lemonade in hand, we're almost ready for the movie.   These are just some of the children who run from house to house all day (and evening) long now that it is summer.
And what movie, you may ask, did we show?  Well, Alvin and the Chipmunks, of course, because kids just love to sing in their chipmunk voices.
It was refill time for some of the girls.  I have pictures of all of these girls from the time they were small.  I love that they are growing up together through the years.
As the movie was winding down, the kids were still glued to the screen.  Within a few minutes of the movie ending, they were all in the pool for one quick dip before heading home.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Abusive Use of Power

I have a confession to make.  I sometimes (okay, maybe often) abuse my power as a mother.  Yes, I do.  

I do such abusive things as require my children to make their beds; GASP!  I assign morning and evening chores to each of my children; now you see why having four children is a blessing to me.  :-)   I ask my children to help with things like bringing in and putting away the groceries.  I make my children apologize to one another when they have wronged another family member by their attitude or actions.  I've been known to lock my children outside the back door (twice) until they can settle their squabble because I didn't think I should be in the middle of it and I had no patience for it (this not only saved me, but probably them as well!).  I've abused my power by asking one of my children to get me something (the newspaper, a drink, a pencil, etc...) after just sitting down and finding myself too tired to get back up to obtain said item myself.  Shocking, I know!   

However, in the last couple of weeks, I've really outdone myself.  Brace yourselves; the confession is coming..........I've made my children watch episodes of the first season of "The Waltons!"  

I can just hear the murmurs now, "Psssst.....did you hear what Pastor Dave's wife did?"  "Oh, yes she did!"  "Can you believe it?"

Yes, I did ask my children to watch The Waltons with me, and although they won't tell you this....they liked it.  Well, they did give me the obligatory, "Do we have to?"  but they do that about a lot of things.  Anyway, when I saw the "The Waltons" on Netflix, I thought, "Hey, that would be a good summertime program to watch as a family."  

I have fond memories of watching "The Waltons," and I realize that dates me, but I'm not hiding my age from anyone anyway.  I loved that it was set during the depression era; I empathized with not having any money.  I loved that the family worked through things together.  I loved that John Walton (not to be confused with John Boy) stood up for his family.  I loved the way the grandpa and grandma "quarreled" with one another.  I loved the lessons taught by each episode.

I began to think that those things would be great for my children to experience this summer instead of using their TV time to watch shows which I often think run high on "entertainment" and low on "life lessons."  So, I added "The Waltons" to my queue on Netflix and secretly waited for the disc to arrive.  

When the familiar, red Netflix envelope appeared in the mail, the children excitedly open it only to ask the following questions:  "Hey, who ordered this?"  "What is this?"   "Do we have to watch this?"  "Can we send it back?"  

Yes, I have delightful and passive children who always lovingly oblige to what I request of them.  NOT!

Anyway, we began with the first episode while having our "pizza picnic" on the living room floor.  Yes, the opening of the show is WAAAAYYY longer than the opening of today's TV shows.  Yes, the show does seem to move slowly at times (which is part of why I like it).  Yes, the special effects are often corny by today's standards.  And yes, (are you ready?)  my children have slowly been captured by the characters and the story lines.  DON'T TELL THEIR FRIENDS!  :-)

So, I imagine we will slowly work our way through the rest of season one only to move on to season two.  It will take a while and I don't want to overdose my children (because that would REALLY qualify as abuse), but I simply love the values and lessons that are taught through the lives of this large family that lived on a mountain during the depression.  

Yes, I've abused my power as a mother, but I do believe my children will thank me for it later (or at least they will have one more thing to make fun of me about when they are with their friends).

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Continuing Thoughts

Okay, just for the record, it's just not fun being sick in the summer. I've had a headache and felt nauseated and lethargic for a couple of days; I think it might be this awful valley air, but.......enough whining already! We're headed out to a swim meet invitational today, so I thought I'd post another few bullet points on the subject of being easily offended before I leave.
  • The Webster's Collegiate Dictionary says that to offend means "to cause hurt feelings or deep resentment. Offend need not imply an intentional hurting, but it may indicate merely a violation of the victim's sense of what is proper or fitting."
  • Most of the time when we say we are offended, we mean that someone has done or said something that has hurt or annoyed us and that has caused us to feel angry.
  • Many times people who are easily offended want to hold a grudge against the person they feel offended them, whether or not the offense was intentional. Do you see where this can get tricky? Someone may genuinely not know that he/she has done something that as offended you, and yet you may hold something in your heart against that person.
  • I don't know about you, but if I am around someone who is easily offended and who always seems to have something going on with this or that person, it does a couple of things in me. First, it makes me feel that I should be careful around that person, therefore, inhibiting trust in that relationship. Secondly, it makes me wonder what is it in that person causes them to always be offended. Also, a relationship with a person who is easily offended begins to feel like it takes too much work because you always have to be careful of everything you do or say because that person may take it the wrong way. These are relationships in which people feel they have to walk on eggshells, so to speak, and those types of relationships aren't real because too much time is spent on being careful not to say or do the wrong thing.
  • Being offended and being "easily" offended are two separate things. 
  • When basing our lives on the truth of God's word, there are things that will (and should) offend us, but being "easily" offended usually results from our sense of selfishness, insecurity, shame, low self-esteem, believing the worst about another (making negative assumptions), and being negative in general. 
  • Easily offended people are usually critical people.
  • When we allow ourselves to be easily offended, we are really saying, "What about me? What about ME?"
  • Years ago, when hurt by someone very close to me, I wrote this in all capital letters in my journal: "BUT WHAT ABOUT ME?!!!" After venting my anger writing that screaming phrase, in my spirit I heard this gentle rebuke and wrote it down: "Gena, when you gave yourself to me, you gave up all rights to yourself." Yes, God called me up short on that one! What my feelings had really been saying was, "IT'S ALL ABOUT ME!" God allowed that hurt so that I would begin to grow up in that area.
That's all I've got time for this morning. I hope it makes sense; I'm not usually up and typing this early in the morning!  I have some more thoughts on being easily offended to come.  Have a great one!  :-)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bullet Points

I don't have much time, so I'm trying out a new format: 
Quick thoughts in bullet points.  Here goes:
  • It's HOT! Have you noticed? I thought not.
  • Blessed to have my nieces spending the night with us tonight; we laughed throughout the ridiculously dangerous "Wipeout" TV show.
  • Received some good medical news today.
  • Met a friend in Modesto for lunch today.  It was nice to catch up with her so I know how to pray.
And on to a new topic -
  • Some questions for you:  Do you find that you are offended easily?  Do you get your feelings hurt often?
  • I've been mulling over the concept of being offended for the last little while after speaking with someone who has a friend that seems to be offended frequently.
  • Some thoughts on being offended to come in the next few posts, but I wanted us to have a chance to think through how we respond to situations/people who anger, irritate, annoy, or hurt us.
  • I feel like I'll be stepping out of my comfort zone to share my thoughts on this subject, but I also feel perhaps we need to grow up in the area of having our feelings hurt, so I'm willing to take the risk.
Stay Cool!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Block Party

I received a couple of comments this morning at church about my more-than-inconsistent blog posting lately.  I even had one person volunteer to ghost-write posts for me until I can get it together to post more!  (Thanks, friend!)  There are a couple of reasons that I haven't posted, and I am sorry if anyone has been disappointed checking in here and finding nothing new.  I find it very funny that it is even possible that people would be disappointed by my lack of posting because I really have nothing to share most of the time. :-)

We hosted our annual block party last Thursday evening, and we had a great time.  The weather cooperated; the desserts were delicious (especially the peach pie!); the bounce house was busy all night; the fireworks were fun; and the visiting was treasured.  We all said, as we do every year, "We really need to trim that branch before we do the fireworks next time," and yet we never think about it until we're lighting fireworks the next year.  :-)  This was the first year that we have music to accompany the fireworks show that neighbor Chris puts on for us.  Eric and Ben had worked at putting some great theme music on a CD, so we watched the fireworks to the Indiana Jones, Rocky, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Star Wars soundtracks.  It added so much, and at the end, we all cheered!

Quite a few of our neighbors had already left town for their long holiday weekend, but we had some new folks join us this year.  We were also blessed to have our friend, Tom Lombardo (who is freshly back in the good ol' U.S. of A from the Philippines), stop by for a little visit.

Here are a couple of pictures of our time together:

On the fourth, we loaded up our portion of the day's potluck:  the homemade ice cream (Dave makes the BEST citrus ice cream and mocha Heath bar crunch ice cream!) , bean soup (a family favorite), black bean salad, and chips and dip to head out to my aunt and uncle's home outside of Empire.  They live on 20 acres and all of our families congregate there each fourth of July.  There's lots of visiting, quad riding, bike riding, "Outback" golfing, swimming, basketball, and of course, yummy food.  The day caps off with the brothers-in-law performing their comedy/fireworks show.  Great times celebrating our great country and our independence!  God Bless America!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Play Day in Monterey

Although we won't be taking a big vacation this year, we are planning a couple of day trips for our family.  Our first day away was Monday when Dave took a vacation day and we loaded up our bikes and went to Monterey.  My sister, brother-in-law, and two nieces went with us, and the ten of us had a blast!  We parked at the beach in Seaside, and proceeded to ride our bikes into Monterey.  We stopped at the wharf, ate lunch at Archie's, visited the aquarium, continued our ride down to Lover's Point for rock-jumping, and then headed back to Seaside to load up the bikes and travel to San Juan Bautista for dinner.  It was a simple, peaceful day filled with laughter and joy.  We are blessed.