Friday, December 01, 2006


Recently, I heard someone make the following statement:
"I'm pro-life personally, but I don't think it's right to force my belief onto others. I mean, we all have free will so we should be able to make our own decisions, right?"
This is essentially the same position that I've heard other people take by saying,
"I would never have an abortion myself, because I think it's wrong, but who am I to tell other people what they should do?"
Let's be honest here. If that is what you believe, you are either a coward or you are by definition pro-choice, NOT pro-life.

A coward: if you truly do believe that abortion is wrong, but are unwilling to stand up for that belief by stating that it's wrong for other people too, not just yourself.

Pro-choice: if you really think it's best that people make their own decision about what to do with an unplanned pregnancy, and you consider abortion a valid option to consider. If you believe abortion is a choice best left to the individual to decide, then you are pro-choice, plain and simple. Claiming to be pro-life with this opinion is a complete fallacy.

I understand that there is a place of wrestling in between these two points, where
you really don't quite know for sure where you stand on the issue. There may be a sense of dissonance between what resonates as true (life is precious) and your lack of ability to articulate why you believe that. That kind of wrestling is not what I'm calling cowardice or lying.

I'm just saying - be honest with yourself. If you think it would be wrong to kill a baby in your womb, then abortion is wrong for other people, too. If you like to call yourself pro-life, but say that people should be able to make their own decisions, then you are saying that people should make the choice.......which means you're making a pro-choice argument. If you are uncomfortable with claiming the pro-choice "label" for yourself - why? Since that is inherently what you say that you believe, why do you want to identify yourself otherwise? Is it possible that you really don't think that people should choose to have abortions, but you just don't feel like you can tell them that? If that's the case, you're back to cowardice.

I am Pro-Life. Abortion is wrong. And I am not afraid to say so.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Giving Thanks

This Thanksgiving Proclamation by George Washington is quite amazing. I heartily recommend that you read it carefully. This is what our Founding Fathers had in mind when a national holiday was set aside for giving thanks to Alimghty God. May we all have such reverence and gratitude in our hearts - today and always.

WHEREAS, It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor;

WHEREAS, Both the houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
--George Washington - October 3, 1789

Friday, November 10, 2006

Strange but true

I tagged myself by reading Everyday Mommy's "9 weird things" meme (which she lifted from discovered at GiBee's). I am sure I have plenty of weirdness to go's my nine:
  1. My left kidney was injured in a freak long-jumping accident when I was in high school and ceased to function thereafter. I now have one teensy-tiny kidney that doesn't work, and one super-size kidney that makes up the slack.
  2. I was born in California, then moved to Oregon, then to Washington state. I always joked that I was either going to move to Alaska or become Canadian next, in keeping with the northward trend. But somehow I ended up in Missouri instead.
  3. We do not own a television.
  4. I lived in a geodesic dome until I graduated from high school.
  5. I wear flip-flops basically year-round. I have worn flip-flops in the snow on numerous occasions.
  6. I was a Campus Safety Supervisor in college. (Campus police, minus the weaponry. We had big flashlights and a hefty can of pepper spray - no guns. I never had to use my weapons, but sometims I got close.) Once, as the ranking officer on duty, I had to catch a bat that was flying around the all-girls dorm in the middle of the night, terrorizing the poor freshmen.
  7. I can correctly spell antidisestablishmentarianism and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious without using spell check or looking at a dictionary. But sometimes I space out on how to spell friend or weird (which one is "ie", which is "ei"?).
  8. I once cut a nerve in my finger and had to go to the emergency room and have surgery to repair it - all while I was dressed in a Pippi Longstocking costume, complete with huge shoes and braids sticking straight out the sides of my head.
  9. I wear swim goggles when I cut onions to help reduce the burning-stinging-painful-crying ouch-factor.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Go and preach the Gospel

BooMama (in Because I'm Wrestling) asked:
"is global mission work a non-negotiable for a believer? Is it something we should do because we're obligated to share the Gospel, or is it something we should do because we have been prompted by the Holy Spirit to serve in a specific part of the world? Is being "salt and light" in our day-to-day lives enough?"

My response:
I believe it is a biblical mandate that all Christians share the gospel, but not necessarily that each individual Christian must travel geographically to do so.

One of the scriptures that you quoted sums it up well..."Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ."

We should be always proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom - everyday, wherever we are. In the store, at the daycare, at the bank, to our neighbors, to our friends, in joy, in sorrow, and of course, in our own homes. Yes, this is the essence of "being salt and light". But we (exhorting myself, here, too) need to be reminded that this inherently means that we actually tell people about Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Yes, we proclaim something of God's love in the way we act, how we speak to people, how we treat them...but that alone is not enough.

I do not believe that as moms we are exempt from the biblical call to "go", just because we are primarily focused on raising our own children. YES, they are our focus and first mission field, and we should not neglect our families for the sake of building up a ministry. But if we are paying any attention to the people around us as we go about our day, we will find plenty of opportunities to lift high the name of Jesus.

I think that often we interpret the call to "go and preach the Gospel" as referring exclusively or primarily to international missions because we are uncomfortable with the idea of sharing the Gospel in our own daily context. Walking as a witness for Christ daily requires that we live a life that is radically different from those who do not love God. It will require us to sometimes say things that offend people. Our nation is full of people who hate God and do not believe that they are sinful (or even that “sin” is a valid concept). The very essence of the Gospel is offensive to many. In some ways it is easier to consider the call to “go” as referring to missions trip type situations, because that would require only a limited temporal sacrifice, as opposed to a fundamental change in the way we live.

So, YES - you are mandated to preach the gospel, and to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send laborers to the field. But no, I don't think you are inherently called to travel across the world to do so.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I seem to be incapable of putting an independent thought into writing lately. I have much rumbling around my heart and brain, but no outflow at the moment. When all else fails, quote someone else...

More from Von Balthasar's Prayer:

[God's] love is no mere diffused, all-pervading medium, dissolving everything in vague sentiment; on the contrary, it becomes present in the exact features of one very particular, historical Person [Jesus Christ] attains visibility in his very precise words, actions, sufferings and miracles. So all the world's inchoate love which feels its way toward God must allow itself to be transformed and integrated into the drama of this one, particular Person, in order, through him, to "enter heaven itself" (Heb. 9:24) (p. 57)

Of course, this would be impossible if Christ were a mere man: however perfect, he would always be simply one of us and nothing more. But since he is both the Son and the Word of God, he has the power to integrate us into himself as his "members", to integrate our finite persons - without destroying or endangering them in the slightest - into the life of his infinite Person. It follows that being "in" the Son as a member of his mystical body is much more than being granted access to God on the basis of any "merit", however infinite. It is this very access..." (p. 58)

The question "How can we hear God's word?" is answered thus: we can, because we are in the Word. Because the Word who became flesh takes us into himself giving his own self as our mode of existence. Grace has not imparted some general, vague, "supernatural elevation" to us, but a participation in the personal existence of the eternal Word of God, who became "flesh" like us so that we should become "spirit" in him, and who therefore "is able to help" us toward our "heavenly call", since he was "made like his brethren in every respect" (Heb 2:17 - 3:1) The grace which the Father gives us is christoform: it assimilates us to the Son without violating us as human beings - for the Son himself became a human being. (p. 58)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Chew on this...

A bit of what I've been reading lately:

Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Prayer:
"In the life of the Church, contemplation is surrounded by an atmosphere of despondency and pusillanimity. We would like to pray, but we cannot manage it. Our time of prayer passes leaving us distracted, and since it does not seem to yield any tangible fruit, we are not loath to give it up. From time to time we take up a book of "meditations" which presents us, ready-made, with the contemplation we ought to produce for ourselves. We observe someone else eating, but it does nothing to fill our stomachs. We may have read his "meditations", but what we have done is spiritual reading - not contemplation. We have seen how someone else had encountered the word of God, we have even profited by his encounter, but all the same it was his and not ours - and we ourselves have achieved nothing. Often becuase we are too comfortable, which is something that can be overcome. And often out of a fearfulness which robs us of the confidence to take steps on our own." (p. 7)

Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer

Normal people would tend to suppose that if a person basically loves God, is living in the state of grace and is therefore free from a serious alienation from God, his Origin and Destiny, he would be strongly committed to avoiding small offenses against this most magnificent of all loves. But the rude fact is that such consistency in the human race is rather rare." (p. 47)

There is a great gap for most people between prayer and performance. At our devotions we can say sublime things about loving God with our whole heart, and then ten minutes later divide that heart with selfish overeating - or any one of a dozen other petty clingings. (p. 49)

The gospel definition of love goes something like this: a self-sacrificing, willed concern for and giving to another, even if attraction and feeling are diminished or absent, and even if little or nothing is received in return - and all with divine motivation. (p. 68)

The gospel is not simply an improvement on secular-minded ethics. It is a revolution. (p. 69)

This new love is immersed in a prior love for God from whom all lovableness in creation and in persons flows. This is why when we love our neighbor as we ought we are loving God himself. He is always endlessly lovable even when the neighbor is ugly, hurtful, or an enemy. (p. 69)

We are born into this world utterly self-centered, and it is only after long struggling that some of us manage to get rid of it, partially or wholly. (p. 79)

When Saint Paul addresses the members of the early Church in Rome, he calls them "God's beloved" (Rom. 1:7). Since we are to love one another as the Lord loves us (Jn. 13:34-35), we conclude that other people are to be our beloved - in the most genuine sense of the word! (p. 87)

How does it happen that people who have given up deadly sins and basically do love God at least in some minimal way can yet continue to cling to petty selfishnesses even if only in three or four areas? Why do they cling especially in matters that concern interpersonal relations and the pleasures of a comfortable lifestyle?...I should like to think that this type of person usually does not positively decide "I do not intend to improve...I want my mediocrity...I don't want to get better."...but the fact remains that frequently in these people willed and habitual venial sins continue on in their lives. (p. 91)

"With divine aid, always offered but never forced, we can and should aspire to saintlinesss. This aspiration is called the virtue of magnanimity: aiming at doing great things for God and for those he loves so much - which means for everyone. (p. 92)

God pays us the compliment of calling us to live that life fully, perfectly, to be transformed from one glory to another (Mt. 5:48; 2 Cor. 3:18). We are meant to be filled with the utter fullness of endless Beauty...(Eph 3:19; 1 Cor 2:9) Willingly to be lagging on the way, knowingly to snuff out sparks of grace is an enormous reason for concern. (p. 93)

If husbands and wives really love each other and their children, the best and most effective proof that their love is not mere words is to get rid of their major and minor selfishnesses and to deepen their prayer lives...Outsiders can do us harm, but far greater damage is usually brought about by spouses who refuse to get rid of their sins. (p. 98, 99)

...humility offers practical know-how in solving wisely the thousands of nitty-gritty problems that come up in anyone's life, and espeically in one who is trying to avoid even small selfishnesses. (p. 100)

Psalm 45
You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips; Therefore God has blessed You forever.
Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One, In Your splendor and Your majesty! And in Your majesty ride on victoriously, For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
Let Your right hand teach You awesome things. Your arrows are sharp; The peoples fall under You; Your arrows are in the heart of the King's enemies.
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows. (v. 2-7)
Listen, O daughter, give attention and incline your ear: Forget your people and your father's house; Then the King will desire your beauty. Because He is your Lord, bow down to Him. (v. 10-11)

Matthew 4
...Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And AFTER He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He THEN became hungry. (4:1-2, emphasis mine)

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. (4:4)

Matthew 5, 6, 7

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

So I can look back at this post and remind myself later...

I recently filled out an application to join the Prayer Room Staff at IHOP (committing to 6 sets (12 hours)/week in the prayer room, and weekly attendance at FCF services). This is how I answered the first question: "Why are you interested in serving as Prayer Room Staff at IHOP-KC?"

I want to join the Prayer Room Staff as a formalization of my commitment to take my place on the wall of intercession here at IHOP-KC. One of the reasons I want to serve in this capacity is to make a public statement about the importance and relevance of non-full-time intercessors. Sometimes in our community where full-time intercessors are the “norm”, those of us who are primarily committed (in a practical/vocational sense) to the marketplace or raising our children can feel like second-class citizens when it comes to spiritual matters. Somehow, our presence in the prayer room tends to feel less necessary, because we are not able to give of ourselves in the same way as those who have been called to be full-time Anna’s in the House. Deep down, we know that our prayers still matter, they still stir the heart of God, they still fill up the bowls…but it’s too easy to feel that we are disqualified to truly carry the weight and burden of intercession. I know that raising my daughter absolutely does not disqualify me from having a vibrant life in God, or from having power upon my prayers to shift things in the heavens. But sometimes when I’ve spent all day changing diapers and scraping food off the floor, it’s hard not to feel like I am eons away from actually taking a vital role in walking out the promises God has laid before our community. Joining the Prayer Room Staff is a way for me to say to other moms or those in the marketplace: You are not disqualified! Pray where you are, give yourself wholly to God, and cultivate a spirit of prayer in the midst of your circumstances. And to myself: My prayers do matter, and my commitment to this House is not insignificant.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cel-e-brate Good Times, C'mon!

Last night I got blisters on my feet from this:

IHOP just celebrated its 7-year anniversary yesterday, and three days of festivities culminated last night with a massive Hebrew circle dancing session. What an honor and a privilege to be here celebrating, reminiscing, and re-committing with some of the most inspiring people I have ever known.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


I finally did it - I changed the name of my blog. Somehow "Sarah's Other Blog" just didn't quite cut it for me anymore. I had never intended for that to be the permanent name for my blog, but just slapped it on there because I had to have some title. I have finally wearied of it enough to make a change. Henceforth, this little bloggy o' mine will be called:

Love Well
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind; Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commands. (Matthew 22:37-39)

The name is both a statment of who I am/want to be; and what I want to do. If someone were to ask me to explain the meaning of life in one sentence, I would answer this: To love well. The ultimate goal and purpose of my life is to grow in my capacity to give and receive love. I do not mean that as simply a trite statement. As I seek to live my life out of that reality, I am learning that loving well is hard. It does not happen on accident. It doesn't happen apart from the movement of God upon my heart. God IS love, so no amount of benevolent pleasantries on my part can actually manufacture love coming out of my heart. I cannot create God by the sheer force of my will. I can only love God because of the grace He has given me, enabling me to say "yes" to Him. I can only love my husband, my children, my neighbor, my enemies, if the love of God is filling me up and making me like Him.

I desire to be a person who is like a well of cool, refreshing water in the midst of a dry land. The only worthwhile water drawn out of the well of my life is the love of God. If I have not His love, I am empty, dry, and have nothing to give. When His love fills me until I overflow, only then do I have something to offer. I am a well of God's love, or I am nothing.

So whaddaya think of the new name?

On Alcohol and Money

Heard on NPR on Thursday: This commentary, about a new study that asks - Does social drinking make you richer? Full text of the study here

Near the end of the piece, the commentator says:

"...this new study...should make us rethink all sorts of policies that cast a gimlet eye on drinking...If we want to follow as straight a path as possible to prosperity, we should think about ways to increase moderate social drinking." [emphasis mine]
Lord have mercy on any whose desire is "to follow as straight a path as possible to prosperity."

Hearing this piece and reading the study has helped me to see how self-seeking men can take moral issues and completely reframe them according to economic principles, thereby making their case for "liberty" with complete disregard for the fear of God. Their data does not prove their hypothesis (correlation does not imply causation), but even if it did, does that mean we should change social/moral policies in pursuit of cold, hard cash?
9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Tim. 6:9-10)

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also...24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:19-21; 24)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Levi Matthew, and thoughts on babies and fertility

Our dear, dear friends Matt and Song had their first baby - a boy - on Sunday afternoon. Aaron and I met Matt when we were attending PLU. Since that time, we got married, moved to Kansas City, and had a baby. Then Matt and Song got married, moved to Kansas City, and now have a baby. It has been such a joy having dear friends from "home" here with us, walking a similar path and sharing in the journey. We are all far away from "home" and our families. We have shared history (oh, the history!) - with Matt in particular. Back in the day, Aaron and I led a young adults group that met in our home, and Matt was part of our "leadership team". (That sounds way too formal, but I don't know what else to call it.) His heart was so aligned with ours when it came to the passions of our lives - intimacy with God, prayer, and growing in the Word. He also had (and still has) a great sense of humor. When we announced that we were pregnant with Abigail, Matt sent us a prediction of what he thought our baby would look like. Recognize that face over there on the right? That would be Aaron, plastered onto a baby's body. The first time I saw that, I laughed so hard I cried

When we heard that Matt and Song were expecting a baby boy, I knew I needed to reciprocate the favor of Matt's photographic prediction. My creation is to the left.
I am happy to report that Levi Matthew was born Sept. 10, at 4:07pm, and my prediction did him no justice. He weighed in at 8lbs. 0oz., 21.5 inches (almost the exact same as Abigail). He is healthy (although he does have a little bit of jaundice. Pray that it is resolved quickly). Dark hair, dimples, long fingers, and absolutely A.DOR.A.BLE.

In fact, he sounds an awful lot like the description of Abigail at a few days old. We are sure they will be fast friends, as soon as he is old enough to defend himself when Abigail gets a little overzealous with her affection. We got to go visit him tonight, and Abigail was quite intrigued by this tiny, 2-day-old human. We didn't get a picture of it, but she kept trying to give him kisses. Abigail kisses involve a wide open mouth and lots of slobber, so needless to say, we did NOT let her kiss the newborn!

If you could read my thoughts in the picture above, I would be saying "Oh, I want another baby! Please, God, please, please, please. I'm ready. Let's go!" That's not quite a direct quote, but the yearning is definitely there. Do you know what happens when a woman who wants a baby holds a newborn? Oh, the longing!

(Warning: If you are male, or don't like reading about women discussing their fertility, stop reading here. You're likely to be uncomfortable, or just bored out of your mind.) I am one of those "lucky" women who doesn't seem to ovulate while nursing. At least, most of my friends say I'm "lucky" when I mention that I haven't had a period in over 2 years. I must admit, there is an element of convenience that I'm getting used to. But when you're ready for a baby, and your body shows NO SIGNS of being in baby-making mode, it can be a little disconcerting.

I always knew I wanted to breastfeed Abigail for at least a year, and I wanted to take my time weaning her. I guess I never thought about the fact that maybe I would want to get pregnant again before we finished that process, and that nursing could interfere with that. It seems even most women who exclusively breastfeed their babies still get on a regular cycle a few months after birth. Not so for me. I am operating on the assumption that it is the nursing that is preventing ovulation; primarily because I know it's possible, and because I don't really want to think about the other possibility - that my body just isn't operating the way it's supposed to.

Ultimately, we are fully trusting in God. We know He is the best leader over our lives, and we trust Him to guide us. He will release a child to us in His time. But I'd like that time to be sooner, rather than later, pretty please?

So for now our plan of action is to wean Abigail as soon as possible, while keeping with my "slow enough to not traumatize Mommy" pace. I'm such a softie. When she looks at me with that sad face and signs "Milk, milk, milk" I just melt. We're knocking out one feeding at a time because that's all I can handle! We only have the nighttime feeding left, and that's going to be a tough one to stop. We'll probably start working on it in the next few days/weeks. This was her second full week without her morning feeding, and she's still having a hard time with that.

So - my request: If any of you have any brilliant weaning tips to share with me, please do tell. What worked for you? What didn't?

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Tribute: Jeff Mladenik

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 Jeff Mladenik, along with co-worker Andrew Curry Green, boarded American Airlines Flight 11 and took his seat in Business Class row 11. The night before, as he spoke with his wife Suzanne by phone from a hotel in Boston, he said he was exhausted, had a headache, and was not looking forward to the cross-country flight.

Jeff had departed from his home in Hinsdale, Illinois (near Chicago) on Monday to attend a business meeting in Boston before flying to Los Angeles on Tuesday to fulfill his duties as interim CEO of eLogic, an internet publishing company. When he was selected for the executive position a few months before, he and Sue were not interested in relocating their children to California. At that time they had two daughters, Kelly, 21, and Grace, 4, two sons, Joshua, 18, and Daniel, 17, and a baby in China named Hannah, whose exact age is unknown. (Her adoption was under way when Mr. Mladenik boarded the plane on Sept. 11.) Instead of moving the whole family because of his promotion, Jeff regularly commuted to Los Angeles on Monday mornings, and returned home on Friday evening. Sue said he loved his family, did not like traveling, and was anxious for the weekly traveling to LA to end.

Jeff is described by friends and family as a man of strong Christian faith, godly character and strong integrity, who used the time on his frequent, lengthy air commutes to read his Bible. Beyond his roles as a husband, father, and businessman, Sue says "he would like to be remembered as a Christian who walked his faith every day and in every way". It was this Christian faith that prompted him to pursue his Masters degree in Theology, which he earned from Wheaton College in 1996. He joined the staff at Christ Church of Oak Brook on a part-time basis, where he taught a weekly young couples bible study class, and started the "Faith at Work" group. He was ordained in 1999 by the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, and served as the Pastor of Workplace Ministries at Christ Church, leading discussions about faith in the workplace.

Sadly, the flight Jeff boarded on September 11 would not return him home safely to his family. When terrorists forcibly took control of the plane, Jeff was seated one row behind the last terrorist. A passenger two rows ahead of him was killed in flight - some speculate that he tried to stop the hijackers. At 8:46am, just over 30 minutes after the hijacking began, American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. All on board, including Jeff Mladenik, were killed instantly.

In the midst of the chaos and turmoil, and even in the face of death, Sue is confident that Jeff's Christian faith sustained him. "I am absolutely certain that Jeff was calming the other passengers. He is the hero. He traveled with a bible and would have been praying with and for everyone."

Jeff's friend's echo her sentiments.

"You couldn't be around him without being affected by his enthusiasm for God," said Bill Cirignani, a friend from church. "I had been a Christian for six years, and had gotten stale, a little bit awry," but Mr. Mladenik, an ordained minister, reignited him, he said.
"He used his airplane time as his Bible time," said Cirignani, "And I'm sure Jeff would have had that Bible open when the plane was being hijacked and he would have been talking to those other passengers and praying with them."

Sue quoted another of Jeff's friends, who said "There is no doubt in my mind that right then, right there, Jeff had the presence of mind and took a plane load of people to Christ"

Writing a tribute to a man I have never met was an intimidating prospect when I first signed up for the 2,996 project. But if Jeff lived his life the way his friends described, it would have been an honor to know him. It has been an honor to learn about him and remember him today, on the 5th anniversary of this national tragedy. As you remember those who lost loved ones on September 11, please keep the Mladenik family in your prayers. I rejoice that as Christians, the Mladeniks have the ultimate consolation, Jesus Christ, as their source of peace and comfort. May they know His nearness to them today, and always.

Memorials for Jeff Mladenik can be made to:
Altrusa Foundation
attn: Peggy Gurrad
P.O. Box 1354
Longview, WA 98632

Altrusa, a not-for-profit agency, promotes orphanage assistance programs in China. One of their projects helps to sponsor children in Chinese orphanages, allowing them to study, gain access to medical care, and live with foster families. Over the years, Altrusa has helped thousands of children in China. Three of the Mladenik’s daughters, Grace, Hannah (whose adoption was in-process at the time of Jeff's death), and Bethany (adopted in 2004) were adopted from an orphanage in China. For more information about Altrusa, see their website at:

Resources used and quoted in this tribute, and links to other tributes to Jeff Mladenik:

The Mladenik family web site

Dateline newscast: Interview with members of Jeff's class at church

Tribute from June2001 DTC (Dossier to China) group

New York Times Legacy Page

Another 2,996 blogger tribute to Mr. Mladenik

9/11 Commission Official Report

click here to read more tributes to the victims of the terror attacks of Sept 11

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Man

While driving on Saturday afternoon, I noticed a van parked in a driveway on the right side of the road. The van's rear driver's side door was ajar, and next to the van was a person lying on the ground. It looked like a man, and he was not moving. I slowed down and tried to assess his condition with a quick glance. I wasn't exactly able to do an extensive visual triage while zooming past at 40-some MPH, so I basically had no more information than I did upon my first glimpse. He was making no signal of distress, but I couldn't imagine why he would be there by choice.

Questions started pouring into my mind - Is he hurt? Is he conscious? Is he alive? How long has he been there? Hasn't anyone else noticed him? Why hasn't anyone stopped to help him?

I looked for a place to turn around, and decided that if he was still on the ground when I got back to him, I was going to stop and help.

The questions kept coming - Maybe someone did stop, and he told them to leave because...I don't know...because he likes lying on the ground on rough asphalt? It sure didn't look like he was working on his car. He must be hurt. Why else would he be there? Could he be some psycho trying to trap someone by looking injured? I don't think so - Why would he do that on such a busy street? I can't just leave him there.

I turned the car around, and saw that the man had not moved. I pulled onto a side-street walked over to the man. As I approached, I could see that he was, indeed, hurt. His head was bleeding. He was frail, and the appearance of his face and body indicated that he had some sort of physical disability. As I came to his side I asked if he was alright, and what I could do to help him. My heart broke for him - lying alone on the ground, unable to get up, bleeding.

I touched his shoulder gently and said "I'm so sorry. You look hurt. How can I help you? What do you need? Do you need me to call an ambulance?" I could not tell how badly he was injured, but he was responsive.

He spoke softly, so I had to ask him to repeat himself. He said "The house. Please get someone from the house."

I asked him if he would be all right if I left him there while I ran to the door. He responded with a weak "Yes."

As I ran to the door, I prayed silent, urgent prayers. I was obviously concerned for this man's physical well-being; but even more than the physical injuries he sustained, I was wounded by the pain and loneliness that I saw as I looked deep into his eyes. I longed to just pray with him and tell him of the hope of the Cross. But in the moment, I knew he was probably more immediately concerned with getting up off the pavement and into the arms of people he knew and loved.

I knocked and called "Hello?"

I heard rustling inside. "Who is it?" (Were they were asking me, or talking to each other while looking out the open window?)

I spoke through the door - "There's a man in your driveway..."

I heard a female voice respond, "Oh, yes, I know," as the door opened to reveal a young woman, maybe in her late teens or early twenties. Her attire was... Middle Eastern? Indian? She appeared to be either Muslim or Hindu, based on her flowing garments and modest headscarf. My ignorance prevented me from a more accurate assessment, and the tension of the situation precluded any extraneous conversation.

They knew he was there in the driveway, but surely they didn't know...

"...he's hurt," I continued. "He fell and hit his head..."

A look of concern clouded her countenance as she began to make her exit through the doorway. "What? Are you kidding me?"

"No, he's bleeding. He needs help. He asked me to come get someone..."

She gasped a little as she bounded out the door and passed me in her haste.

Two young boys followed behind me as quickly we made our way down the path, toward the driveway.

The young woman reached the man's side just before me, and called to the boys, as she knelt beside him. "Get the wheelchair from inside!"

The man raised up a little and began to weep softly as she drew close. They spoke to each other rapidly, in a language I did not understand. As he leaned his torso against her, I could see blood on the ground from his side, as well as his head.

I was searching for words. "I'm so sorry. What can I do? I wish I could do more to help. I'm so sorry."

The young woman said apologetically "No, it's fine. Thank you so much. We'll get my mother. It'll be fine. Thank you."

I stood awkwardly for a moment as the boys rushed back with the wheelchair. The woman said again "It's ok. Thank you." In a tone that felt like she was asking me to leave. Not out of ungratefulness or anger, but...something else. A sense of responsibility for the accident, perhaps? Embarrassment that they didn't know he was lying there injured? In any case, I could feel that they no longer considered my presence helpful. I reluctantly made my way toward my car as they gingerly began to help the man get up.

That is the moment when my heart was torn in two. OH, how I wanted to stay. When I stopped, what I wanted to do the most was to pray for the man. Not just to pray a private prayer between myself and God, but to communicate something of God's love to him in a clear, tangible way. I wanted him to know that God loved him. That is why I turned around my car and came back. Yes, I wanted him up off the ground. But the deepest ache in my heart was that he would feel a touch from the Savior. I wanted to speak the words of Jesus over him. But in that moment, with their hurried voices in the background, I felt like an intrusion into a private moment of family crisis.

Should I have stayed? Should I have asked to pray silently beside them until the man was in the house? Should I have spoken and prayed boldly about the healing power of Jesus, even if such words would have been offensive and jarring in the midst of their pain? These are the questions that I carried as I began to drive away, and that linger still.

Look At Me! I'm a Human Pincushion!

Abigail had a well-baby checkup and immunizations today. It was a little rough. She missed her 12 month immunizations (thanks to Yours Truly) - so today we had to do some catch-up. She had 6 (yes, six!) shots AND she had blood drawn for testing. The poor girl really was getting poked like a pincushion.

The sucker that she got in the lab helped her to forget about the pain. She really hasn't had much candy yet, and never a sucker, so this was quite the treat. As we walked to the car, I realized that I didn't want her alone in the back seat with the sucker. (Can you say choking hazard?) I pondered how to take the sucker away with as little trauma as possible, but I had no ideas.

Fortunately, when I put her in the carseat she became quite enamored by her band-aids, which were now in plain view and easily accessible. She actually dropped the sucker to investigate.

I snatched up the sucker and attempted to play it cool, but Abigail was on to my sly moves. She cried for a bit, but didn't get the sucker back until later in the day. She calmed down after not too long, and was soon zonked out in the back seat. She napped for a couple hours after we got home. A day like that is enough to tire a girl out!

Oh, for those who like details: Abigail is now 33 inches tall (98th %ile), and weighs 26lbs (84th %ile). Everything else checked out well.

The doctor made no mention of the heart murmur she heard at our last visit, nor did she say/ask anything about the testing she sent us to subsequently. She's not a bad doctor, but she hasn't exactly earned any brownie points with me, either. I can only remember one appointment when she actually asked "Do you have any questions?" Anyone in the KC Metro area know of a good pediatrician?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

We're Back!

We've actually been back home for almost a week, but I still feel like I'm recovering from all the travels. The inside of our car has yet to recover. I don't know if it ever will.

2 Parents + 1 Toddler + nearly 50 hours in the car in 10 days = dirty, dirty upholstery

For a photographic synopsis of the trip, with occasional commentary, see my posts over at Abigail's blog:
The Trip: Me Gusta Familia
The Trip: The Journey
The Trip: Starring...Abigail
The Trip: Love Me Some Cousins
The Trip: Who Needs Old Faithful When You've Got Cute Kids?

While we were enjoying the splendors of nature, I did take a short break to check email when we found a free wi-fi spot. I started to write a blog post, but was cut short before I had time to complete it. I started with this:

I’m sitting in the Jackson Lake Lodge, looking out the window at this:

(No, I did not take the photo. Click photo for source.)

Yes, it really is that beautiful. I LOVE MOUNTAINS! Did I mention that yet?

Many wondrous things have been created by the hands of men, but none of them compare to the masterpieces of The Creator Himself! It is wonderful to be back in the midst of such incredible natural beauty. Not that I'm knockin' on my hometown, KC. But it's not exactly the Miss America of states when it comes to the natural beauty realm. I mean, there's a reason why there are no National Parks in the state. I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Is Your God Too Nice?

For her Tuesday Tossup yesterday, GiBee asked the question "Many Christians worship a friendly, gift-giving God, one who never challenges or requires anything of them. Is this the God we find in the Bible? Do you think the images we have and share of God are too nice? Have we "niced God up" so that others will be more willing to accept Him?" The responses I've read so far have been in pretty unanimous agreement that the "god who never challenges us and requires nothing of us" is NOT the God of the Bible. Here are my thoughts.

I do believe that God is friendly toward his friends (those who obey His commands, Jn. 15:14) and He is a gift-giver above and beyond anything we can ask or imagine. But, as has been stated here already, He is also, unequivocally, a God who challenges us and requires everything of us. (Remember that whole thing about "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me"? Yeah, methinks we have often forgotten about that, and the "loving not our lives, even unto death" part.)

GiBee asks "Have we 'niced up' God so that others will be more willing to accept Him?"

I believe the western church is greatly lacking a biblical understanding of God's judgment, and we (we=including me) need a revelation of the true complexity of God's character so that we walk in the fear of the Lord. Often, we treat God like He's an embarassing uncle. One that you know loves you deeply, but you don't really want to introduce your friends to him because he's not so good with "people skills". You know -the one who says things that we think are inappropriate because his opinion is so strong. We try to shove Him off in a corner so that He doesn't have a chance to say or do anything that might embarrass us, or offend our friends. If we do invite our friends over while he's visiting, we try to stick really close to the conversation so that we can quickly try to justify what he's saying when he starts offending people.

We think that we are kinder and gentler than God - as though we think that people are responsive to warm, fuzzy, easy Christianity - so we try to cover up the parts of His Word that seem too mean, too demanding, or just simply unreasonable. This is not only unbiblical, but it is also ineffective for truly making disciples of Christ. If this is what we are doing, it is counterproductive. People do not want to follow a God who is unjust. If God has no wrath against sin, if he is not grieved by the rampant wickedness in the world, then how can we trust Him? Although God's hatred of sin is offensive to those who desire to remain in their sin, it is life and freedom to those who put their trust in Him and walk in the grace He gives so that we are no longer enslaved to sin. People who do not walk with God are just as offended by the idea of a God who does not care about pain and suffering as they are by the accusation that they are wicked and unable to atone for their own sin.

Even knowing this, there are parts of God's character with which we simply don't know what to do. God's justice requires judgment on wickedness, and sometimes this judgment makes us uncomfortable. When was the last time you read an Old Testament passage like the story of Sodom & Gomorrah, or the sons of Korah, and thought to yourself (at least subconsciously) "I'm so glad that's not the God we serve anymore. I'm glad God doesn't deal with us so harshly." Well, guess what? The God of the Old Testament is the same God who we serve today!

By his mercy and longsuffering, we stand by grace through faith before His throne, because of the shed blood of Christ. But this very same God who loves us and accepts us as blameless because of the cross still has a controversy with the wickedness that rages in the earth. When the world is shaken prior to Jesus' second coming, we will see His judgment manifest on the earth in a way like it never has before. Are we ready? NO.

He will return as a righteous Bridegroom, King, and Judge, to set His King (Jesus) on the throne, decimating the wicked kings of the earth who have declared that they have no need of God. He will gather His beloved ones to Himself (those who have walked according to His ways and who loved His appearing) and He will give them the crown of righteousness and reward them according to their works. But to those who denied Him, those who lived lives of self-absorbed, sinful living, given over to the lusts of the flesh and idolatrous spirituality, to those He will give eternal fire and torment.

None of this negates the amazing, bountiful mercy of God. God desires to give mercy, even in the midst of judgment. We often think that we are comfortable with the mercy of God. But if we preach a "gospel" that does not contain a biblical understanding of God's judgment, then we are not truly preaching the Good News of God's mercy, either. Understanding the depth of God's mercy requires that we understand the depth of our sin, the height of God's holiness, and the lengths to which He went to bring us near to Himself. This mercy is available to all who would come to Him to receive it, and it does not run out, nor is it His "plan B" for when we blow it. I want to write more on that, so maybe my next post will focus on the mercy of God. Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A comment worth reading (I hope)

I was planning to write something else here tonight (I mean, this morning, 'cause it's now 3am darnit) but I just used up all my allotted blogging time (and then some) leaving a comment over at kpjara's, on a post that is a week old. I had been thinking about the post ever since I read it, and I finally just made myself write the comment that had been stewing in my brain all week. I decided to share it here as well.
When you were discussing bearing fruit, you said "He wants me to get off my butt, recognize His purpose, and GO FULFILL IT!" I don't want to totally dissect that comment, so please forgive me if I am off-base with my understanding of your thinking. That statement sounded to me like primarily an exhortation to do the work of the kingdom in external ministry, and that understanding of the text is what I wanted to address. It's not wrong to look at this passage as a call to participate in practical ministry (that's probably the most common way that I hear the text preached). But, I don't believe that it really does justice to the context and full heart of the passage.

Now don't get me wrong – God is thrilled to have you on His team, and I think He does want your life to bring forth fruit of leading the lost to the Lord, ministering to the needy, etc. That being said, I think we do ourselves a disservice if a call to external service is all we take away from this exhortation.

I know (as I believe you also know) that the Lord has something more intimate in store for you than simply putting you to work in His kingdom. He desires to capture the affections of your heart and draw you into an intimate relationship with Him. One where your entire being is given over to Him in such a way that your life begins to look like His - not because you have beaten yourself into submission, but because you have found a lover who is better than any other, and His ways have captured your heart. In other words, that you would be filled with the Spirit of God, living a life displays the fruits of the Spirit in abundance.

It is the internal fruit of your heart that I believe is the heart of this passage. You were made to love God, and be loved by Him. This is both His primary purpose for your life, and His primary method of transforming you into His image.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

On Responding in Meekness with Thankful Hearts

I started writing a comment over at Susanne's post "A Matter of Perspective", but it was getting pretty long, so I thought it was more appropriate as a post of its own. Read her post first for the context of my thoughts.

Isn't it ironic how we often feel that as Christians we are "entitled" to material comforts, but we don't want to embrace the suffering and testing that the scriptures directly tell us to expect?

We are told "Do not be surprised if the world hates you." (1 Jn. 3:13, see also 1 Peter 4:12-19), yet we are surprised, and easily offended, and we get all bent out of shape when we are mistreated. We react strongly even when someone just cuts in front of us on the highway, or shortchanges us at the store, or overcharges us for services rendered.

These minor, random offenses are not even close to the kind of persecution for which the Bible tells us to be prepared. Regardless of whether we personally experience that kind of direct assault against us because of our faith, we are called to live lives of meekness, humility, and love even when faced with hatred. We should live our lives in such a way that we can look in the face of our accuser (even our exocutioner) and say in true love "Father, forgive them." If such an accuser never comes against us, Praise be to God. But if he does come, how can we be prepared to respond in the love of Christ?

Do I respond in bitterness and indignation at today's minor annoyance, but expect to be filled with humility, meekness, and longsuffering when it "Really Matters"? If so, I am deceived. I cooperate with the Holy Spirit's work in me by responding in obedience. If I have strengthened through practice the propensity of my flesh to respond in anger, then anger and resentment will fester and grow within me. The next time I am provoked, that is what will come out.

But if I seek to go low and let the Lord work humility within me now (by practicing walking in humility, meekness, forgiveness, thankfulness), then when greater offenses come, I will have the way of Christ established in my heart in preparation for that day.

Responding in meekness, with a thankful heart in the midst of all circumstances, is not only important to my present state of mind, but also for establishing a habit of obedience that will affect my future responses as well.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I Say To You...Watch!

This morning the message at my church was titled "Understanding What Is Happening In The Middle East". The scripture was Zechariah 12-14, and it was an awesome message summing up some critical themes for understanding what God's Word says about Israel, the End Times, and the plan of God for the end of this Age and the transition to the Millenial Reign of Christ.

Much of the Western Church has long ignored this topic, but we can no longer afford to do so. If we desire to understand the heart of God toward humanity, we must receive a revelation from the Word about God's plan for the future. God's ultimate goal in the events which unfold on the earth is to fill the earth with voluntary lovers of Jesus. This seems like a very logical goal. But without an understanding of the scriptures, even believers who are passionately in love with Christ now may have a hard time understanding the events that God uses to lead the whole earth back to God when they begin to unfold.

You may ask - Why would this be confusing to a believer if they love Jesus? Hint: His plan involves A LOT of horrific things happening, and many, many people dying. (One-Half of the world population to be exact.) If we do not understand his purposes, we will easily be offended by His means.

If you are interested in learning more about these topics, I encourage you to watch the webcast of tonight's service. You can access it by clicking here. The web stream starts tonight at 6pm, and the message starts sometime between 6:30-7:00. Also, the notes are available by clicking here.

You may also want to check out one of these resources:

Your People Shall By My People (great book about Israel)

I will have more to say about Israel, the End Times, and the Lord's return in future posts, but I just wanted to put up a quick post to point you toward these resources.

Please prayerfully seek the Lord about this - ask the Lord to give you a revelation of His end-time plan through His Word, and then read the Word to see what he has to say. A great place to start is Matthew 24. The books of Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah (chapters 12-14 are where we focused this morning), and Isaiah are also great places to dig deeper.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Skinny on Body Image

Speaking of teen conversations that proved my lack of coolness: A couple nights ago the girls were discussing the attack of American culture against their self-image, and they cited Hollister as an example. Being that I am completely out of touch with what is cool (hip? phat? What do teenagers say nowadays anyway?) I had to interrupt the conversation to ask "Who or what is this Hollister of whom you speak?"

Apparently Hollister is a clothing company whose sizes run extremely small, resulting in hordes of regularly-sized teenage girls feeling like they are being told: "You are too fat, and therefore uncool. We wouldn't let you wear our clothes even if you were willing to pay our exorbitant prices. We are for skinny, cool people only, so take your money and find somewhere else to shop, loser."

Maybe those aren't the exact words they used, but it's basically the sentiment they expressed. They felt like the standard to which they were being held in terms of body image was that of a waif. They said that they felt like the company doesn't want "bigger people" to be able to wear their clothes. Not being able to fit in the largest pair of jeans in the store made them feel unwanted, like they weren't good enough and something was wrong with them.

These girls are healthy and beautiful. They are not overweight (not that it would be ok to make them feel bad about it even if they were.) They should NOT be made to feel that they are somehow falling short, or not good enough, or that something is wrong with them, just because they are not a size 2.

Two of the girls specifically expressed a history of struggling with eating disorders directly precipitated by their low feeling of self-worth. One of the girls said that her dad used to chide her for eating too much, and warned her from an early age not to "get fat" because it would make life harder for her in the long run. Yeeeah, and you telling your daughter that "being skinny makes life easier" is really going to help things run smoothly for her in the body-image department? Not so much. (Sorry, I'm a little fired up.)

I am grieved by the pressure these girls are under, the images and messages they are surrounded by that say "You must be skinny, you must be pretty, you must strive to become attractive to guys." It's not just the issue of weight/thinness that is the problem - the whole realm of striving after physical beauty is just out of control. I'm not saying that we need to be walking around in burkhas so that we don't get caught up in our looks. It's not just about "accepting our bodies" or being comfortable in our own skin.

What grieves me the most about the situation is not just the expectations and attitudes that the culture is feeding to these beautiful girls. That alone is awful, but what do we expect from the unsanctified world, which has given itself over to the one who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy? We are fooling ourselves if we think that we can solve this problem by reasoning with its perpetuators (or its victims).

What weighs so heavily on my heart is that these girls were not just talking about not feeling pretty. They were talking about not feeling valuable.

This is a spiritual issue. It gets down to the very core of who we believe ourselves to be. I believe God has given us a desire for beauty - a longing to behold beauty, and to be beautiful. This is a godly desire, but one that is so often defined and 'fulfilled' unrighteously. We, as the church in America, are failing our youth if they are not anchored in the hope of their value and worth in Christ. Their hearts (and our hearts) need to be aligned rightly with the Word of God, and what He says about beauty. If they do not know that they are beautiful to God, and desired by Him, then we are abandoning them to the transient affections of this world.

It's not ultimately about whether my body looks the way I want. It's about whether I am someone who possesses beauty. It's not really about whether my skin is clear and smooth. It's about whether I am worth anything. It's not really about whether I can attract the attention of the opposite sex. It's about whether anyone who matters to me sees me as worthy of affection.

Lest any of you wonder: You are beautiful, you are desired, and you are worth it. God poured out the most extravagant display of affection in the world, when he poured out himself on our behalf on the cross. He did it all for love - because He loves you, and He desires your love in return. There is no greater consolation in life than knowing that the God of Creation is passionately in love with me. His heart is overwhelmed with love by even the slightest inclination of my heart towards Him.

If the truth of the love of God is alive in our hearts, only then an we understand the true beauty we possess.

You have ravished my heart with one look of your eye (Song of Solomon 4:9)

You are altogether beautiful, my darling. (Song of Solomon 4:7a)

The King greatly desires your beauty (Psalm 45:11)

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing; But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. (Prov. 31:30)

As a ring of gold in a swine's snout, So is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion. (Proverbs 11:22)

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Tastes Like Jesus

One of the teens who is living with us for three weeks gave me the grandest compliment I've ever received about something I cooked. As she ate some of my peach cobbler, she said

"Mmmmm...this tastes like Jesus. If Jesus had a taste, I think he'd be just like this."
How can you get any better than tasting like Jesus!?

Since I know you're all dying for the recipe now, what with it being so divine and all... Here is the original recipe from Bon Appetit magazine, (with my alterations/substitutions).

Fresh Peach-Vanilla Cobbler
2 ¼ cups sugar, divided
½ vanilla bean, cut into 1-inch pieces (I substitute with vanilla extract to taste)
5 pounds peaches, peeled, cut into ½ to ¾ inch thick slices (I don't peel them)
2 Tbl. plus 1½ cups flour

2¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
4 large eggs
¼ cup whole milk
3 Tbl. triple sec or orange juice (OJ for me)
¼ tsp vanilla extract
¾ tsp almond extract (I hate almond extract. I use a little orange extract, or sub. with more vanilla)
6 Tbl. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325*. Blend ¾ cup sugar and vanilla bean in processor until vanilla is finely ground. (If substituting with vanilla extract, process for a few seconds, until vanilla is well blended throughout the sugar). Sift vanilla sugar into large bowl. Add peaches and 2 Tbl. Flour; toss to coat. Transfer mixture to 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Bake until bubbling, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk remaining 1 ½ cups sugar and 1 ½ cups flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in large bowl. Whisk eggs and next 4 ingredients in medium bowl. Add to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Fold in melted butter.

Pour batter over hot peach mixture. Continue baking until topping is brown and tester inserted into center of topping comes out clean, about 45 minutes longer. Cool slightly and serve with vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

WFMW: Teething Pain Relief

As I have recently mentioned, Abigial is teething. If you have a baby/toddler like mine, you understand the daily trauma we endure - bite marks on everything (and everyone, but we're working on that), disrupted sleep, and sudden, intense crying followed by a swirl of activity in an attempt to remedy the situation. I used to find myself holding Abigail and attempting to console her while trying to encourage her to chew on a teething ring until the tylenol kicked in. I often felt that my attempts were futile, as nothing seemed to really kick the pain while it was peaking. But now, after some trial and error, I have found our "Holy Grail" of teething pain relief.


Oh, what joy I had the first time Abigail started gnawing on a chunk on frozen banana, and her face went from grimacing in pain to not-quite-smiling but really enjoying this yummy, soothing treat. The taste keeps her interested, and the cold helps soothe her gums. (Also a great thing if your child has trouble eating because of the pain - the coldness really helps.)
Now that Abigail has somewhat advanced eating skills, I just cut up the grapes or bananas into small pieces most of the time. But thanks to this awesome invention, I don't even have to do that. We always keep a "food feeder" in the freezer with a couple grapes or a chunk of nanner inside. (Click on the photo for more info. I usually buy mine at Baby Depot, but they can be found at many stored that sell baby supplies.) The mesh holder makes it safe for her to eat without fear of choking. She started using this as soon as she was able to hold it and chew solid foods. (The picture at the top is an old one, taken when she was about 6 months old.)

That works for me! Go see Shannon over at Rocks in my Dryer for the all-new and improved Works For Me Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Walmart With Toddler, in Pictures

I knew it was going to be a rough day when Abigail got ahold of my shopping list and immediately stuck it into her mouth, tore off a piece, chewed it up, and spit it onto the floor. All this happened in a matter of moments while I grabbed a bag of bagels for the four (yes, 4!) teenage girls that will be staying with us for the next three weeks.
Since when are her arms long enough to grab things out of the cart while she's strapped into her seat?

So, I'm walking by the candy aisle when I start thinking I'm smelling puke. No, wait, that's not quite it, but it's bringing up olfactory memories of having the flu. I literally stop and look all around me, trying to figure out what it is. I pinpoint the scent-reference: It's Pepto-Bismol. But there is none of the pink stuff in the candy aisle. It's really bugging me that I can't figure this out, so I literally walk slowly down the aisle smelling for the culprit. (If anyone was watching me leaning into the shelves to sniff the packages, I'm sure they thought I was nuts.)
Lo and behold, I found the impostor: Wint-o-green Life Savers. I will never be able to eat them again. (Not that I ever did in the first place, but NOW - ugh, queasy just thinking about it.) Don't believe me? Go get some and smell for yourself. I'm tellin' ya Pepto smell = Wint-o-green smell.

Obviously, the shopping list was not the only victim of Abigail's rampant teething tirade. Poor box-o-Eggos got snagged while I was reaching into the freezer for some juice concentrate.

When baby gets fussy, I start acting like the cart is some kind of carnival ride. Wheeeeee! We're driving like a race car! Wheeeeee! Mommy's standing on the bottom rack and rolling with you! Wheeeee! (Yeah, strangers are really starting to look at me now - but at least it keeps Abigail from screaming like a banshee because She. Wants. OUT. NOW! Notice that in this picture there are no hands on the handle of the cart. Abigail is rolling freely down the aisle, with physical control of the cart completely relinquished to the forces of gravity, momentum, and the crazy wheel that won't go straight. This is the height of fun, people. She could cruise like that for hours. Her big smile is so cute, it almost made me forget that shopping with a toddler is work. Almost... But alas, we must go check out. And just when we were having so much fun.

Checking out is pretty much always a nightmare, because Abigail despises being still for more than two seconds at a time. Sitting still is bad enough. But sitting still in a cart that's not moving - torture! Being the genius mother that I am, I decide to let her play with the first item that I scan - give her something to keep her busy while I scan and bag the week's rations, you know?

(Yes, I'm a self-checkout junkie. Nobody packs my groceries the way I like them except for ME. I pack those babies full. Why is it that every time a cashier bags my stuff I end up with, like, 6 bags for 5 products. C'mon people - A plastic bag can hold more than three cans of juice! Anyway, back to the saga...)

So I scan a 64 oz. bottle of juice and set it in the cart next to her. I'm thinking - it's plastic, she can chew on it but can't get it open, it's perfect. Silly Mommy obviously didn't think that one through. Plastic bottles don't break like glass when they hit the floor, but they still bust open. That's about 20-some ounces of Welch's White Grape Cherry juice all over the floor. Oh joy!

We survive the check-out, but Abigail hasn't had enough fun yet. We have to stop and say hello to Barney. I don't feed the monster quarters, I just let her climb up on the seat. She has no idea that this thing moves if you put money in it - she just likes to sit there and turn the steering wheel. If I have anything to say about it, she'll never see Barney in action, and therefore I will never have to hear her beg me for a quarter to ride.

We make it to the car and I'm putting groceries in the trunk when I realize that when the juice-incident took place, I never found the lid for the bottle. Now I have an opened, 2/3-full bottle of juice with a busted spout. But by golly, I bought the juice so I'm taking it home. Improvisation is a required skill for motherhood. I managed to get the juice home without spilling a drop or staining my pants (or should I say, without staining my pants more...there's that nice peanut butter spot on my thigh.) Back home in the driveway, I did manage to spill the juice onto the roof of the car when I set it there to get Abigail out of her carseat. But it was a little spill, and it only dripped onto the seat a couple times.

Tomorrow, we tackle Costco.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Christina, Part 1

Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.

Meet Christina. She is my one of my bestestest friends in the whole wide world.

Lovely Miss Christina and I met 8 years ago. We got thrown together when we both joined a women's bible study on our college campus. I was newly saved, and highly un-sanctified. Christina had little patience for my tales of woe regarding the trivial, worldly concerns with which I was consumed at the time. Christina was bubbly and energetic in her faith. I found her to be infuriatingly cheerful and a little too eager to please.

Needless to say, it was not love at first sight.

Don't get me wrong, we never had any intent of malice toward one another. We saw each other as sisters in Christ and did our best to encourage and edify one another. But in the midst of that, it was also pretty clear that we often rubbed each other the wrong way. The. Wrong. Way.

I talked too much. About unimportant things. And cared too much about boys.

Christina was too loud. She sang to herself. And talked to herself. Loudly. In Public.

Despite our differences, we continued to try our hand at building a friendship. The road was bumpy, with the occasional head-on-collision.

Case in point: Christina was understandably frustrated by what appeared to be my utter disregard for the virtue of modesty during the early months of our accidental companionship friendship. Prior to encountering the Lord during the middle of my freshman year of college, I was rather preoccupied with garnering and keeping the attention and affections of the male gender. I was not promiscuous, but I liked to feel wanted. Despite my desire for subtlety, certain pieces in my wardrobe reflected that desire a leeeeeeetle too much. So, one day as we were leaving to go to dinner, Christina looked at my outfit and said “You look trashy – I’m not going to dinner with you dressed like that!”

Oh, no, wait. That’s not what she said.

She was genuinely appalled at my choice of attire, but showing appropriate restraint she probably said gently, “Are you sure that shirt isn’t too tight/too revealing/too (enter immodest adjective here)?” I tried not to be offended, but my worldly mind wanted to scream – “EXCUSE ME? You dare to question my judgment?” After a moment of internal debate, I knew that she was completely right. I acquiesced and changed my clothes before heading to dinner, and a short while later I threw away the offending shirt.

So began the next chapter of our friendship. For some reason, God made us vulnerable to one another. We were aware of each others’ weaknesses and needs, and we didn’t always like what we found in each other, or in ourselves. As I spoke, I could practically feel her picking up on what was happening under the surface my heart, and as we spent time together, I got pretty good at reading her heart too. The amazing part was this: Although we were uncomfortable when the capacity for sinfulness found lurking in our hearts was revealed, the Lord was teaching us to speak the Truth in Love, and receive godly correction in humility. We cared for one another deeply, even when we were annoyed up to our eyebrows.

Soon, we were unfolding the deep places of our hearts to each other, and finding not only weakness and need therein, but also beauty, joy, and love. Somehow, through the rocky beginnings of our friendship, we had each become lodged deep within the others’ heart. We were bound in a friendship like none other I had known.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Prov. 27:17

Christina is now serving our country as an officer in the U.S. Army. She is stationed in Iraq. Please see Part Two>>>> to join me in prayer for her.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

On Adoption

Kelsey Bohlender of Stuff I Think 2 gave a powerful teaching about the spirit of adoption. Please click here to listen to the audio verson online. This message is timely, powerful, moving, and convicting. Here are some of the points that stuck with me:

Abortion advocates argue that if abortion was not a legal choice in America, then thousands of babies would be unwanted and go into abusive situations… What would happen if a million families in the church in this nation adopted one child? The accusation would be stopped. They could no longer say that children would be born into unwanted situations.

The adoption service the Bohlenders are working with said there are many, many babies available for adoption in the US right now. They said “If you have a home study done, I can place you within two weeks if you’re open to race.” Are we ready to welcome all babies who need a home – including those who don't look like our biological families, or the crack babies, or the ones with health problems?

The system is sick – it costs a lot of money to save a baby. But one has to wonder if God is allowing that because he’s asking us: Will you put your money where your prayers are? Are you willing to do something that costs something?

Adoption is an active, tangible means of spiritual warfare.
Kelsey and her husband Randy (of stuff I think) are currently pursuing adoption of a baby. They have stood in the place of contending through intercession for the ending of abortion in America for years, and now they are "putting their money where their prayers are". They are raising funds to pay for the (expensive) adoption process. Please consider joining me in supporting them through their adoption benefit dinner.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Meme Me

My friend LammyAnn tagged me with my first meme ever. She asked three questions (kinda random, but I like 'em) so here's my answers:

1. Do you think anyone with a desire to create is an artist of sorts?
There is the desire within all of us to create. In some way, deep down inside, everyone wants to create something beautiful, meaningful, and significant. For some, that desire may be expressed through a tangible medium like paint, clay, music, or words. Others work to craft and mold their relationships into works of art, caring for the people around them with tenderness and wonder. There are as many expressions of this desire as there are people on the earth. I believe that this is for one reason - because we are made in the image of THE Create-or. As God has crafted and molded each one of us out of His desire, so we too have desire residing within each of us that longs to create something beautiful, something that will linger in our wake.
So, does this common desire make every one of us an artist? No. I believe that we all have the capacity for art if we dig deep enough into our soul, but this capacity is not always realized. According to Visual Thesaurus an artist is "a person whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination". When our desire is fleshed out in creative, sensitive, imaginative work - any type of work (physical, intellectual, relational, whatever) - that is when we become an artist.

2. What frightens you the most about getting older?
The capacity for sin within my heart. Wrinkles. Boys getting crushes on my little Abigail. Aaron dying before me. My parents dying. Seeing people that I know die without finding salvation in Christ, especially if I feel like I neglected to share the Truth in love with them at every opportunity. Not in that order! =)

3. When was the first time you travelled by air? Where did you go?
My uncle Tom (who has recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer - please pray for him.) was a pilot who probably took us on a short flight in a little plane at some point in time. But I don't really remember that, so I'll tell you about my first real flight.

When I was a freshman in high school I qualified to compete at the National FBLA conference. The conference was in Anaheim, CA. The week before the conference I was on a mission trip in Tijuana, Mexico building houses for Habitat for Humanity with my church youth group. On our way back from Mexico, the church van dropped me off at the Anaheim Hilton and I spent the next week there for the conference. (Nothing like going from the slums of Tijuana to the lobby of the Hilton for a reality check about American affluence and apathy toward the poor. Unfortunately, I was too excited about the sweeeeet swimming pool to fully appreciate the lesson at the time.) So, anyway, to get back home after the conference, I took a commercial flight, by myself. From LA to Portland (Oregon). The next flight I remember taking was also by myself, from Oregon to Iowa. I got lost and almost missed my connection in the Minneapolis airport. Not that you asked or anything, I'm just reminiscing here...

**Edited to add: I forgot to tag anyone, so here goes...I'm tagging kpjara (who I met at the KC Bloggers luncheon and is sometimes mistaken for the Great Kazoo, I mean Gazoo) and her sister - do you use your real name online? - (who I also met at the lunch, and who has an awesome testimony of being healed of terminal cancer. Read about it here and here.) Play along if you want to! **

Monday, July 03, 2006

You Say It's Your Birthday?

Saturday can be summed up in just a few words: I slept. I puked. I slept more. Baby puke. In my bed. GROSS! Thank you Jesus for my wonderful husband. That's all I have to say about that.
Sunday we were all feeling much better. A little rough around the edges, but well enough to go feed the fish at the lake. (Read all about it over at Abigail's blog.)
Tonight, I got my best birthday present at the Sunday evening FCF service. Derek Loux was sharing about how we can be prepared to stand in the Day of the Lord's return. When turmoil breaks out upon the earth and the majority of humanity considers Christianity dangerous, a threat, an enemy of the state; when martyrdom is not just something that happens in China, or Indonesia, or Iran, or "somewhere else"; when saying "Yes" to Jesus may mean literally giving up our life; How will we stand as the great and terrible Day approaches? I was gripped by the Lord with renewed sobriety about the hour in which we live. I was humbled and brought to tears knowing that Abigail's preparation for the Lord's appearing will be determined in large part by how Aaron and I raise her now. Will she be rooted in the Word? Will she have a life of prayer? Will she be unoffended toward God and love Him through the worst this world has to offer? Nothing makes me more resolute in my determination to seek Him wholeheartedly than the knowledge that my diligence to pursue Him is vital for my children's future. I suppose some would see it as a weakness, that I need this external motivation to prod me to run after God. But I, I see it as a gift. He has given me the gift of renewed passion, a heart stirred with longing for my Beloved. I see my weakness, my utter frailty apart from Him. And I am once again set in place, with my eyes fixed upon Him, knowing that He is my hope and my salvation. He is the One for whom my heart yearns. And that, my friends, is a gift.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

When It's All Coming Down

These two women have some great thoughts to share about the relevance of eschatology (the study of End Times...aka. when Jesus returns). This is not a subject that we can afford to neglect in the education of our children, or in our own life!

Kristi talks about her first eschatology lesson with her two-year-old daughter.
It was in the fear of the Lord that I proceeded to tell her that she very well might be alive and see Jesus return to the earth with her own eyes. I then told her that Jesus will come back to the earth and be a king. Her response? "That will be fun!" Yes, my dear little one, it sure will be fun. If you're reigning with Him, that is. Out of the mouth of babes......

Kelsey has some great comments about the importance and relevance of the book of Revelation
Intimacy with God is cultivated when we read the judgments of God devotionally...this was the Lord's intention all along. ...They are not separate messages, but one whole package. When John was given all the details in the book of Revelation, it did not produce confusion or conflict - it produced a cry.

Monday, June 26, 2006

For the Want of a Shower

There are three 16-year-old girls sleeping in my living room. They will be here for three weeks. We already have the three adults and one baby in the household. We have one shower. You do the math. (Good thing I usually shower at the gym.)

Speaking of showering at the gym, I would like to publicly acknowledge my immense indebtedness to Miss Karen who runs the "Tot Drop" at our local community center. For a mere $2/day (that's less than a cup o' java, yo'!) I can enjoy up to 2 hours of Mommy time while Abigail tries to steal toys from other children learns valuable social skills. If it wasn't for Abigail's affection for Miss Karen, I don't know if I'd ever get a shower, much less any other time for myself.
As long as Abigail cooperates, I have a pretty good system figured out. While Abigail is playing, I go ride the stationary bike. Why the bike, you ask? I know, I know, the elliptical machine is much better for my knees, and I could get a full-body workout. BUT, if I'm riding the bike I can actually read my Bible and pray during my workout without falling off the machine. Any other time of day, if I try to sit down to read, Abigail tries desperately to grab my Bible from my hands. I mean, I'm glad she loves the Word and all, but she's already ripped out Acts 5&6. I don't really want her to "love" my Bible in such a physically destructive manner, so I tend to keep it out of her arm's reach. The spiritual/physical workout combo is not only practical for the safety of my favorite book, but it also has the catalytic effect of keeping me engaged and consistent. Having my blood pumping from working out helps me to stay alert and really absorb what I'm reading. And, if I am getting really excited about what the Lord is saying to me, I end up getting the workout of a lifetime, because I don't even think about how hard I'm pedaling - I just go for it! Yay for multi-tasking!
So, after my workout, I wander back by the Tot Drop to make sure Abigail is doing ok. (I don't let her see me, of course. If she catches a glimpse of me at that point it's game over. Time to go home.) So long as everything is peachy, then I'm off to the shower. I sometimes even have enough time to do my hair, put on my makeup, and look generally presentable before leaving. Hurray!