Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hasta la Vista, Baby

This morning at 4 a.m. I dropped David and the boys off at the Portland airport. Right about now they should be landing in North Carolina. Without me. CIT begins this Wednesday, and the three of them will be there for the kick off. I will be fashionably late because I have a date with my sisters. Every year my sisters and I have a Sisters' Weekend where the rule is NO husbands, NO children, NO parents. We bend the rules for 18 year-old daughters--but only once. This year my niece, Sarah will be joining us.

I will spend time with family and friends today through Thursday, and then go to Sunriver on Friday for the big Estrogen Fest (sister weekend). I always enjoy time with my sisters, so I know we will have a blast, but I am a little lonely for my men.

Speaking of my man, as part of our preparation for CIT, David and I had to take the DISC personality profile. We have done those sort of things so many times that we could've taken the test for each other and answered all the questions accurately. The actual results were no surprise, but in the analysis section, where individual personality styles are described in depth, this testing tool gave examples of famous people with each possible personality type. According to the DISC test, a marriage between David and I would be like (are you ready for this?) a marriage between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mother Theresa...only I'm the Terminator and David is the Holy Mother. Gives you quite a picture doesn't it? A match made in heaven, no doubt!

One last note for those of you who have been dying of curiosity, sitting on pins and needles, waiting with baited breath--YES, I did finally clean out my pantry. I forgot to take pictures, so you'll just have to trust me. Or stop by and see for yourself...there is an Open House in Spangle today!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What is Cultural Integration Training?


Our family is about to depart for seven weeks at the Center for Intercultural Training in Union Mills, NC. This is a highly acclaimed program for pre-field missionaries, and a required step in our deputation process.

The following is a description of the CIT program:

Cross-cultural living, ministry, and language learning create unique stresses on the individual missionary and family in a variety of ways. We will address those issues and seek to prepare you to successfully navigate those critical areas.

  • Explore the unique stresses of moving overseas and provide tools to help in the transition.

  • Identify how expectations play a role in the cross-cultural adjustment.

  • Analyze the special needs of singles, married couples, families, TCKs (Third Culture Kids), and women's roles.

  • Explore the phenomenon of culture shock, its causes, its effects on relationships, and ways to cope.

  • Introduce the basic theoretical perspectives and research tools for cross-cultural study.

  • Learn skills in applying principles and data of social organization to formulating mission strategy.

  • Acquire at least 25 highly effective language-learning techniques, ideas, and projects.

  • Receive productive guidelines on how best to approach learning a language for the entire family.

  • Conflict resolution skills

  • Spiritual formation

Whew. Sounds like a lot to learn to me. They have a separate (but just as intense) program for our boys.

Once we complete CIT, we can go to France as soon as our support is in place. That's right, folks, we are down to the final phase, and it's going to be a race to the finish. Our heart's desire is to be in France in September--allowing the boys to begin school at the beginning of the school year; which is particularly significant since they will be in a school with an integration program for non-french speaking students.

The challenge is that for the next seven weeks we will be focusing on our pre-field training and not on fundraising. We are past the half-way point, but as the old song says, "We have a long way to go and a short time to get there!"

Will you join us in asking the Lord of the Harvest to bring in the final funding we need? Will you pray that we will trust Him for the timing of our launch? Will you thank Him for His amazing provision? He who began this good work will be faithful to complete it. We are confident of that.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Welcome to my Whirlwind

In the past week:

David lost his job.

My parents came to visit.

Chandler performed in three productions of a musical.

Graham and Chandler did major science projects.

I asked for a leave of absence from my job.

We signed up for a seven week Cultural Integration Training school that begins a week from today.

We bought airline tickets to North Carolina.

We put our house on the market.

We planted a garden.

David, Graham and Chandler departed for four days in Western WA.

Our dog had diarrhea. In the house. In the freshly cleaned, just-on-the-market house.

I wrote 17 thank-you notes to 17 amazing Bible Study leaders.

When I have a moment to sit still I make additions to the ever-growing to-do list, which includes things like ordering prescription drugs that I need in order to be gone for seven weeks, finding a friend to send us our mail while we are gone, figuring out what to do with our cats for the summer, procuring a car-top carrier, cancelling hair and dental appointments that we won't be around to keep, finishing a grant that I am in the midst of writing, and ordering a new stove burner (since one conveniently went out the day the house went on the market).

It seems there are a few loose ends that one must tie up before leaving home for seven weeks. Having to tie them all up in less than a week only adds to the fun.

Am I stressed? Oh, a little.
Am I worried? Not a bit.
Am I happy? Absolutely.
Am I tired? Pooped!

I am living in a whirlwind, going mach 10 with my hair on fire. THIS is the life!!! Bring it on!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sowing Seeds

Who in the world would plant a garden just days before putting her house on the market, and a mere week before leaving town for most of the summer? Me. I couldn't resist. Planting a garden is pure joy for me. Planting a garden with my Dad is downright sublime!

My Dad has had a garden in every yard he's ever had. He's grown veggies in the rocky Texas dirt, the mushy Oregon mud, and now in the clay-soil of his western Washington home. When I was a kid, I hated doing yard-work, and would never willingly help my Dad in the garden. Now, however, I find nothing more enjoyable than getting my hands in the dirt and working the ground.

Dad and I don't talk too much while we plant--since he taught me everything I know, we go about things the same way and can figure out what the other is doing without having to communicate. But every now and then, like a seedling bursting through the soil, a simple conversation will erupt:

"If you have a garden in France, you'll have to speak a different language to your plants," Dad said, staking out rows for sugar snap peas.

"I do talk to my garden," I mused, somewhat sheepishly as I placed corn seeds in the ground.

"Everyone talks to their garden," Dad said, in almost reverent tones.

I smiled, imagining speaking French to a garden one day. "You know, my kids think that I'm crazy because I talk to the plants in my garden. But I tell them that I'm not crazy until the plants start talking back."

Then, just as comfortably as the conversation began, it ended. And a warm silence took its place. Silence is the perfectest sound in a garden.


So, I sowed seed that I have a slim chance of reaping. Hopefully a new owner of my home will have the joy of the harvest. Actually, that's how it's supposed to work when we sow the seeds of the gospel. The Bible says that one man sows and another man reaps. Perhaps when this garden of veggies is ripe for the picking, I will be off to a harvest of souls. Reaping what I did not sow. In France.

"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, `Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying `One sows and another reaps' is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor." John 4:35-38

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Superstar!


Chandler played the role of Donald Harper in his school's production of the musical 45 Minutes from Broadway. The following video clip is the closing number, where Chan had a solo. He brought down the house at every performance. Yes. We're very proud.


video

Friday, May 15, 2009

Change is in the Air

What a difference a week makes. One week ago, we were thinking that it would be quite impossible to get to Cultural Integration Training (CIT) this summer. CIT is a required part of our preparation for serving as missionaries in France, and summer seemed like the best time to do it so as to not disrupt the boys schooling. We wanted to go this summer. We had been praying that God would make a way. But we couldn't see how it would work.

Then, on Monday David was asked to resign--which was a bit of a surprise to us. But all of the sudden a door was opened. Thursday we bought tickets to go to North Carolina for CIT. In two weeks, we will be there. And we now realize that without our knowledge, God has been preparing us for His unexpected answer to our prayer:

  • We had already met with a realtor and made plans to list our house. I can think of no better time to have a house on the market than while I (and my children and pets) are not living in it! No muss, no fuss.
  • We had, despite the odds, resisted making any plans that would have conflicted with our being in North Carolina for seven weeks this summer.
  • We (meaning David) had researched churches and people with whom we could meet should we be spending time on the east coast this summer.
  • We were mentally, emotionally, financially, and spiritually ready to go, even though we didn't think we were going.

What a good God we serve. He who knows all things--in His infinite wisdom--prepares us for the things that are surprises to us. He is not surprised. Never. We are resting in the palm of His very capable hands.

More about CIT, fundraising, and what all this means about our departure to France in a coming post.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Two Things

Two big things happened yesterday.

David was asked to resign from his job at UND, which he did.

Graham was dared to kiss a girl on the school bus, which he did.

Of the two, the latter is of far greater concern.

David's resignation feels like God's hand of grace, freeing him up to focus entirely on fundraising and getting us moved to France. He is at peace.

As for Graham--well so much for loosening my death grip. I'll be holding a little tighter now. And beating the girls away with a stick. No peace for him. Not if I can help it.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Growing Up

Last night Graham was privileged to attend an 8th Grade graduation party for his classmates. Graham is actually only a 7th grader this year, but because he goes to a very small school, he attends most of his classes with the 8th graders. They invited him along partly because he is moving to France and partly because there is only one 8th grade boy, and the party planners wanted that boy to have a buddy.

Yep, that's all of them. Five graduates and Graham. They were picked up at the school in a Hummer Limo. David and I (as well as other parents) got to ride along, which was cool because it was my first time in a limo. The kids sipped sparkling cider while cruising around town. The first stop was Manito Park, where we took the time to take some photos of this amazing group of young people. Aren't they wonderful?

Next we cruised to Luigi's, an Italian restaurant in downtown Spokane. We had a private room and ate piles of pasta. After dinner I headed home to Chandler, while David went with some other parents and the students to play Laser Tag. They topped the evening off with a trip to Baskin Robbins for ice cream.


We are pleased with our thirteen year old boy, who is growing up to be a man of God. Sniff sniff. Dab eyes. I am so thankful for the joy of being his mom, and honored to know him.

As I look at this picture I am struck by how I am clinging to Graham with a death grip. Oh Lord, help me to loosen that grip. (In my defense, I was surrounded by four beautiful young girls who were flirting with my son, and, well, I just wasn't quite ready for that.) I had to smile, though, because while the girls were totally into their photo session at the park, the boys were sword-fighting with sticks. Growing up, but not grown up...yet.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

SERENITY NOW!

Did you ever see the episode of Seinfeld where George's father tries to manage his anger by yelling "SERENITY NOW!" whenever he gets ticked off?

Well, I am mad right now, so I tried this technique.

It didn't work.

I am still mad.

I took deep breaths. I counted to ten. I visualized a peaceful valley: A sunny place, with wild flowers growing and birds chirping. It was nice until a tornado swept through my peaceful valley and ravaged the place. Hmmmm. Wonder where that came from.

Yep. Still mad.

I don't get mad very often. I am fairly mild tempered. Why the sudden tempest in my soul?

I am mad because a certain person with whom I live and to whom I am married (who shall remain nameless) made a mistake. A teeny tiny mistake. A minor oversight, really, that carried no evil intent and caused no pain. A mistake that will cost us nothing. Well, nothing except money.

And of all the currencies in life, money is the least valuable. Some mistakes cost hours of our time, others cost us physical suffering, or worst of all entire relationships. No, in the whole scheme of things, an expensive mistake is the best kind to make. Money is replaceable. Other things...not so much.

I make mistakes all of the time, many of which cost money, and never once has David gotten angry at me about them. He was slightly annoyed when I accidentally bid $2100.00 on a lego set on e-bay. Annoyed, but not mad.

He is, by far, a better person than I.

Funny. I'm not feeling quite so angry anyomore. In fact, I feel a little foolish for my fit. Silly me. Serenity now.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret--it leads only to evil. Psalm 37:8

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Would You Like Some Cheese with Your Whine?

On Sunday David and I set aside some time to re-connect. We have been going a million miles an hour in 47 different directions (and we could be on this ride for a while) so we have to be intentional about making time to sit across the table from each other to share our plans, thoughts, dreams, hopes, and fears.

We always seem to get off to a bumpy start, each of us having different needs and expectations for our time together. David wants to make to-do lists while I want to laugh and play games. We trip over each other's sentences, roll our eyes (okay, David doesn't do this one), and sometimes throw up our hands. It gets awkward and feels like we are going nowhere fast, but we stick with it. We persevere. We keep trying.

At one highly tense moment, we each took a notepad and went to "separate corners" of the house. David used the time to make a list of ten things he loves about me. (Only there were about 25 things on his list.) I used the time to make a list of the ten things that I hate the most about being in this pre-field missionary stage of life. Yeah, I was the whiner. When we came back together, we shared our lists. They were vastly different, but somehow, they built the bridge that we were so longing to find to each other.

From that point we found our bearings. We have big decisions ahead, challenging goals, and high hopes. And to get to the place that we are certain that God has called us, we need to be on the same team--rowing in the same direction. But this does not happen naturally. Not for us. It takes commitment, and effort, and sometimes frustration and disappointment.

I am so very thankful for a husband who is willing to stick through the messy parts of marriage and a God that make forgiveness, reconciliation, love, joy, and peace possible--despite my whiny moments.

I am finished whining--for a while--that list is history. I would, however, like to have David's list to hang on the fridge. Just so he doesn't forget how lovable I am!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Another Step in My Organization Process

I have been continuing my journey back to the organizational bandwagon. Instead of cleaning out the pantry (which still needs to be done), I spent my "at home" day yesterday revisiting a meal planning process that worked well for us in my ultra-organized days. Oh, the joy! For me, 75% of the challenge of dinner every night is deciding what to cook, 20% of the challenge is having all of the right ingredients, and only 5% of the challenge is the actual making of the meal...because I really do enjoy cooking. So I have returned to making menus.

The system that seems to work for our family is for me to plan about 10 meals for every two-week period. The remaining nights we either enjoy one of David's specialties, we eat left overs, or we go out. I find that if I plan more than 10 meals in a two-week period I end up wasting food, and if I plan fewer than 10 meals I run out of food.

I have also learned that my family needs a meal plan that is not too rigid. That is to say, I do not plug specific meals in to specific days. I just plan ten meals, and then decide each day which one of those ten meals I want to cook for dinner. For my sanity, I make sure that I have a combination of low-maintenance and high-maintenance meals. This means that when I have a busy day away from the house, I can throw something together in a jiffy; but, when I have the time, I can enjoy the cooking process and go gourmet. Because my family likes variety, I also try to incorporate a wide assortment of flavors, textures, and colors of foods. And finally, I always put at least one new recipe in the mix.

Once I choose the menus for ten home-cooked meals, I go through my recipes and make a shopping list. Then I go to both Costco and Safeway in one day, and I buy absolutely everything that I need to make the meals that I have planned. Of course, there are a few produce and/or seafood ingredients that I reserve to purchase on the day I want to use them (to ensure freshness), but I try to keep these items to a minimum.

Yesterday I planned my meals and did my shopping for the next two weeks! I feel energized and prepared for the weekend and for the weeks ahead. When I make meal plans, I am more able to stay within my food budget, I waste less food, and I serve healthier meals to my family. Can you tell I'm excited? So are my boys!

I'd love to hear your system. Do you have one? How does it work?
 
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