Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

Today marks the end of 2006. When our kids were little, New Year's Eve was marked by banging pots and pans, sleepovers of giggly girls, video marathons, and phone calls at midnight from friends and family. Bruce & I will probably bang some pots tonight, make those phone calls, and maybe I can get him to watch six hours of A&E's Pride and Prejudice with me (he's never made it through the whole thing before).

We're Penn State fans, so tomorrow we'll watch the Nittany Lions take on Tennessee in the Outback Bowl. Our daughters got indoctrinated early on into the appreciation of football watching Penn State in its heyday, and being dragged through the shrine to JoePa at Happy Valley numerous times over the years. I hope they win.

The beginning of the new year is also a time to look forward to new adventures. My friend, Melodie, has challenged us to look to the Holy Spirit's direction to 'name' the upcoming year, representing what we believe God is speaking into our lives. I'm naming my new year 'breakthrough'. In Genesis 38, there is an account of twins being born, with 'twin number two' (Perez) breaking through and becoming 'twin number one', ...of something happening which would not have happened in the 'normal' course of events. That event became a blessing later bestowed on Boaz and Ruth "...may your family be like that of Perez" (Ruth 4:12). I'm looking for a Perez year for my family!

I hope that you, too, enjoy the final few hours of 2006 and that 2007 is your best yet!

Friday, December 29, 2006

You Can't Hurry Jello

Christmas 2006 is mostly behind us, and it was a great one. Our candlelight Christmas Eve service at church was one of the best yet, and Jeff Leake's message (Part 4 God Is Closer Than You Think) was a real encouragement to many of us.

I finally finished shopping Christmas Eve afternoon around 4:45 P.M.... the closest I've ever cut it :-#. We finished decorating the tree around 11 P.M. and then Leah and Samantha made what was supposed to be a pretzel strawberry jello salad for Christmas dinner. Note: never try this when you are tired and it is late, ... you can't hurry jello. It didn't taste as bad as it looked.

Everyone gave and got lots of thoughtful and fun gifts...

Samantha got a new hat.

Leah got some bookshelves for her office.

Ash & Nate got the gift we bought at The Sharper Image, tho' they are thinking about exchanging it for the robotic monkey head.

We had a lovely dinner on Christmas Day. Yia Yia brought 4 pies, and an Almond Torte, which we will likely be eating into the New Year (we're still trying to figure out why she brought so many???). Christmas night was karaoke, and lots of laughing.

In a few days, the New Year will begin, with parades, Bowl Games, and of course, ... pie. The advent of a new year is good time to look ahead, to embrace hope for the future, and to anticipate God's handiwork in our circumstances. In the words of Pastor Jeff Leake (from GICTYT), "Our perspective is often limited by time, space, present circumstances... We see what is right in front of us. We see the limitations of our current situations. We may miss out on the potential or the far reaching implications of a current happening. Sometimes God is birthing something new, something amazing, something that will transform your world in the midst of the most ordinary, painful, and unlikely moments of your life."

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Wellll... how 'bout dem Stillers?

Well, this year's playoff hopes for the Steelers are no more; but, they gave it a valiant attempt. The past few weeks have been hopeful, but Sunday's game was a disappointment. It was a long shot, anyway. Better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all, ... or something like that.

As a die-hard Steeler fan, I still look forward to this year's final game vs. the Bengals ...and to next year, ...and I'm still tempted to trash talk when remembering last year. The Super Bowl Champs gave Pittsburgh something to trash talk about. And, when the Steelers went to the White House this past summer to receive congratulations from President Bush, Ashley and Leah, along with their cousins and about 120 other fans, had the unforgettable opportunity to be there in the East Room to see it. Remarkably, they were only a few feet away from the President, but that was almost an afterthought with the team standing behind him.

So, as we kiss the hopes for a repeat this year goodbye, allow me to reminice with a few photos...

The President commends the Super Bowl Champion Steelers

The guys pose with the girls...

Troy Polamalu and James Farrior

Antwaan Randle El (OK, so he's a Redskin, now)

Joey Porter and Bill Cowher (sort of)

and five cousins having fun!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Have a Mary Christmas

It's Christmas Eve morning. I have lots to do today. I went to church last night with my daughter, Leah, at Northway Christian Community, because she's on staff there, and that was the only service she'd be able to 'sit' through. Tonight I'm looking forward to going to the candlelight service at Allison Park Church with Bruce and Samantha. So this morning, before the busy-ness begins, I took time to listen to a broadcast of Jack Hayford (The Church on the Way). He gave a message which he called "Have a Mary Christmas", in which he draws a parallel of her situation to any situation in which we need Him to do something beyond what we can do ourselves.

Hayford has written a small book called The Mary Miracle, which I recommend. This broadcast message sums up the message of the book. He speaks of the dynamic that occurs when God gives a word, a promise, to us, and we ask, 'How can this be?' In Luke 1:37 (For with God nothing is impossible), the full meaning of the word impossible is that 'no word of God is absent of the power needed to fulfill it'. Hayford says that when God gives you a word, it is conceived in you, it grows within you, and it is delivered through you. When you are pregnant with a promise, you will be stretched as the promise grows within you, ...and it will change the way you walk.

Here is the link to the broadcast which you can watch online (, Spirit Formed, Sat. Dec. 23, 2006). I'm sorry, but I couldn't find it as a podcast. I hope you get a chance to watch it (30 minutes), if not today, then sometime soon... and I, too, wish you a Mary Christmas.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Last Minute Gifts

I've been busy for the past few days, and for the most part, have been away from my computer. In checking my email, I found my Inbox filled with messages from retailers assuring me that they are the source for all of my 'last minute gifts'. I read these last night just before I went to bed, and it's said that what you fall asleep thinking about is what you wake up thinking about. AND I did wake up this morning, with a shot of terrifying panic... Christmas is just two days away, and I still had not taken care of those... 'last... minute... gifts'!

I think many of us are problably motivated by the desire to provide gifts which will please the recipients. I am one of those people who also thinks of contingency plans, and I try to have things to fall back on, or a few gifts in reserve for those unexpected needs. I will NEVER again be faced with the tear-filled puppy-dog eyes of a five year old who can't play with her Talking Mickey Mouse because I forgot to buy the batteries (these were the good ol' days when NOTHIING was open on Christmas Day)! I hate to deal with disappointment, so, I deal with even more self-imposed pressure these last days before Christmas to think of every possible thing that can go wrong, and be ready to 'save the day'.

I was often charged with the task of buying the gifts for my kids on behalf of grandparents/ aunts/uncles who wanted them to have 'things they'd love'. Therefore, I always knew what gifts they were getting, and at the various stages of gift-opening, I was known to say... "If you didn't get what you were hoping for, wait a little while, you still may get it." I knew what was in store for them, because I had prepared it for them; I had things coordinated and in place which I knew would ultimately delight them. They love surprises!

I have found that God gives us what we need, when we need it. Just in the nick of perfect time, He pulls out the last minute gifts. He tells us what we need to know, when we need to know it, and usually not before that. He's the author of our novel, and it's full of surprises and it has a happy ending for those commited to His purpose and called by His name. He says that if we delight in Him, He'll write His desires on our hearts, and fulfill them, and that those who hope in Him will not be disappointed. He's got all the contingency plans covered. So, if you didn't get what you were hoping for, wait a little while, you still may get it. But regardless, know that He's not thwarted by broken toys or depleted batteries.

I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

Jer. 29:11 The Message

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Big Baby

As Christmas approaches, I find myself wondering what it would have been like to hold the baby, Jesus, and to know that He was God. Mary and Joseph would have been familiar with the prophecies fortelling the coming Messiah, and Mary knew of the miraculous events surrounding His birth. But being as familiar with a baby as a mother can be, she still had to be in awe of Him, knowing Who He was. She saw Him as a baby, but knew He was much bigger than what she held in her arms.

I find myself speculating on what it would have been like to be one of His brothers or sisters, who apparently didn't know or believe He was God until after His death and resurrection. I wonder what went through their minds when they did finally realize it, and think... 'yeah, I always wondered why He was the best at Hide 'n Seek... He always KNEW where we were hiding!' I wonder if, looking back, they were ashamed at how they sometimes treated Him, or a little angry when He always forgave them when they took His things, instead of beating them up. I wonder if, while remembering things from their childhood, He seemed bigger in their eyes.

In the book, Prince Caspian, by C. S. Lewis (part of the Chronicles of Narnia, another one of my favorites), the four children return to Narnia, having grown up a little. While searching in the hills, Lucy sees Aslan (Jesus) once again, and she says to him, "Aslan, you're bigger!" And he answers her, "That is because you are older." Jack Hayford suggests that statement reflects the fact that the longer we know Him, and the more we learn of Him, the bigger He becomes in our eyes.

This goes contrary to what is normal... usually, things become smaller, less extraordinary in our eyes, the more familiar we become with them. But this isn't true of knowing God. The more I see Him at work in my life, and with each 'big' thing I see Him do, I feel smaller and He grows bigger, and bigger.

About a year ago, a woman in Brazil gave birth to a big baby ... a whopping 17 lbs. (ouch!), one of the biggest on record. Doctors believe that as he grows, he'll become more 'normal' in size, relative to his peers. Jesus was likely a normal size baby, and as He grew physically, He probably looked 'normal' relative to His peers. But as they learned more of Him, He became much bigger. When I think of Jesus as a baby, I think of my own spiritual state when I was 're-born'... I trusted Him for my salvation. As I have grown, my trust, faith and expectations of Him have grown. And, the more I know of Him, the bigger He becomes.

But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there. Aslan

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Joyful, Joyful

So, this past weekend, I finally went Christmas shopping. It's not that I'm so incredibly busy that I couldn't go sooner, or that I'm a scrooge; it's mostly because I am struggling to choose the right gifts for the people on my Christmas List. As I was walking through the various stores on Saturday at the Southside Works, I realized that the gifts I most want for the people on my list are gifts that are out of my power to give. In fact, at the risk of sounding cheesy, 95% of them are gifts that money can't buy, and the other 5% are things that are out of my price range.

My primary reaction to that realization was one of complacency. Yeah, whatever... just buy them something! We went into The Sharper Image store, which I'd never done before, and I was fascinated by some of their merchandise. They had every imaginable iPod accessory, something called a Men's Turbo Groomer (which I hope is just a fancy shaver tho' it didn't look like one), battery operated votive candles that flicker... just like the real thing (??), and an electronic chimpanzee head that moves and squawks and responds to touch... just like the real thing! We actually spent about 10 minutes playing with that one, and for about 3 seconds, I considered buying it because it was... different, and... on sale! Fortunately, my daughter dragged me away because we were, well, drawing a crowd. I really did have fun in that store, though, and even bought something there.

I know that we give gifts at Christmastime to celebrate the birthday of The Savior. And I'm not going to patronize you by trying to explain that. I know that I'll participate in the ritual, finish my shopping, and give the normal gifts. And, I will continue to ask my Father to fill in the gaps for the other gifts I'd give if I could... for the feeble minds and the fragile bodies, for the aching hearts and the hopes deferred, for the plans and the future. I'll do what I can do, and trust that He will do what's best. I was fascinated by a robotic monkey head; He made the real monkey! I choose to overcome my complacency, and rejoice in the fact that the Giver is the Gift. The joy of giving won't come from what I can give, but from what He has already given.

When the 3 Magi came to see Jesus, they brought Him gifts. The Bible says they were overjoyed... they saw the child, they bowed down, and worshiped him; then they opened their treasures. They fell down, worshipped and gave. Me, too.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Many families, our included, have some special Christmas traditions. A few of ours have been chopping down our Christmas tree and decorating it together, attending the candlelight service at church, getting new pj's on Christmas Eve, the infamous Christmas 'game', and of course, the family Christmas photo. Some of us have changed in appearance since this picture was taken, but we keep it around, because like most traditions, it makes us smile, remember fun times, and remember not to take ourselves too seriously (we made the Sears photo studio display with this one!).

Traditions solidify our sense of belonging, and of stability in a changing world. That's not to say that traditions can't change a bit or be replaced with newer ones, however. For example, this year, we look forward to incorporating Nate into some of our standing traditions, as well as making some new ones! As always, we'll look for ways to laugh at ourselves and to build memories I can blog about next year!

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Big Picture

About 13 years ago, I read the Bible from cover to cover for the first time. It revolutionized my spiritual understanding so much, that I've done it every year since. I don't mention this so that anyone will think, 'Wow, she's so holy!". But I share it because I believe that it's a dynamic that brings about a greater understanding of the 'big picture', and I truly believe it would be a benefit to everyone who reads Scripture.

I began doing this in conjunction with the Quick Study Life Lessons ministry (Ron & Rod Hembree), which provides a daily commentary and schedule for reading. I supplemented my reading with a Bible Commentary... it helped tremendously because it put what I was reading in context with the history of the world, as well as the rest of the Bible. The Bible commentary I started out with was actually one that I had purchased for my children and it was very concise and easy to underdstand (What the Bible is All About for Young Explorers). I eventually graduated to other, more extensive commentaries and other resources, but still refer back to the kid's book sometimes for timelines, etc. Once I understood certain connections between the books of the Bible, later references to events and characters I'd read earlier made so much more sense than just picking it up and reading it out of context. I'd been previously told by well-meaning Christians, that I didn't really need to read the Old Testament. Actually, the Old Testament books are my favorites, and I came to know God, The Father, as a compassionate, patient, loving and awesome God.

I had never known before, for example, that at one time (931 - 722 B.C.), the Jews comprised two separate nations who often opposed one another. I thought Judah and Israel were just two different names for the same group. They aren't, and it makes such a difference to know this when reading the writings of the prophets, for example. I was missing a lot. It also became clear to me that the book of the Revelation completes the promises begun in Genesis and things come full-circle.

One Bible commentator, Henrietta Mears, says that the Bible is not a history of mankind and the world, but it's a history of salvation, and God's relationship with man. Seen from that perspective, it made so much more sense to me.

Our church (Allison Park Church) always kicks the new year off by challenging us to be intentionally disciplined in seeking a deeper understanding of God, and a closer walk with Him. January would be a great time to begin reading the Bible from cover to cover, if you've never done that before. And if you have, try reading it again in a different translation. I intend to.

Some resources: Hayford's Bible Handbook, NIV Bible Commentary (F. F. Bruce, editor), Manners and Customs of the Bible (Packer & Tenny, editors),

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Big is Bigger Than I Think

I'm a sucker for romantic comedies. When Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan get together on screen, it's usually something I'll enjoy watching. One of their lesser known films, but really one of my favorites, is Joe vs.The Volcano. A memorable scene in the movie portrays Tom's character (Joe) adrift on a 'raft' (sort of) after their yacht explodes and sinks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Meg's character is there also, but she's unconscious, and things aren't looking too hopeful. As night falls, Joe looks to the horizon, as the moon rises, and it is beautiful, and breath-takingly huge. Joe very poignantly says in a soft, awestruck voice, "Dear God, I've forgotten... how big... You are."

Periodically, I like to go to the website that has photos from the Hubble Telescope. And while photographs can only give a limited perspective, based upon the limitations of the camera's 'eye', it totally amazes me to realize how small our planet is in the scope of the universe. Our sun, which is so, so big, is really comparatively small, and just a drop in the bucket of the cosmos. The cosmic photos on the website are really beautiful, and they represent billions and billions of unique celestial creations. Yet, even with the help of Hubble and other telescopes now scanning our universe from space, scientists admit to have no idea what makes up 99% of the universe.

And God made it all. And God knows it all. And most amazingly, Psalm 147:4 tells us that He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. And yet he knows the number of hairs on my head... and yours, too... and He cares for us.

When we look up into the sky at night and see so many stars, we are only seeing a feeble glimse of what is out there. One of the exciting records of the Hubble Telescope is called the Hubble Deep Field, produced when the telescope photographed a tiny patch of what seemed to be almost starless space for 10 days and subsequently showed an image full of galaxies. Even though they couldn't be 'seen', they were (and are) still there.

The reason this all stirs my soul... and it really does... is because my little brain is screaming, "Dear God, I've forgotten... how big... You are." I can get so wrapped up in my 'impossibilities', and focused upon what I think I know, that I forget that there's so much more going on than my 'eye' can see. I don't need a telescope to know that He's working in ways I can't perceive, because He says so.

And that's called faith... being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Just because I can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there.

If this piques your astronomical imagination, here's an amateur video online which talks about the Hubble Deep Field (tho' from a more secular perspective).

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tu deviens responsable...

I have found that since I began this 'blogging thing', that I see things through new eyes... everything becomes a potential subject for, ... the blog. So, around 3:00 A.M. this morning, I was thinking, 'how can I blog this?'
This is Maggie, our Old English Sheepdog. This is pretty much what she looked like at 3:00 A.M. this morning, too.

Maggie became a member of our family when she was 6 weeks old... that was over 11 years ago. So, in dog years, she's about 79. She's acting her age and doing some odd things she never did before. She's the only dog we've ever had, so I don't know if it's normal behavior, but then again, she's NEVER been normal. But I love her, nonetheless.

She's got arthritis in her back legs, so she doesn't do steps anymore. This is a challenge in a split entry home. Lately, she's also decided that she likes sleeping in the living room at night instead in our bedroom, AND she doesn't like to sleep there alone. So, around 1:00 A.M. for the past 4 nights, she's been in the living room, barking. Loudly. If one of us goes and sits with her, she'll lie down there and go to sleep. But if we get up and move back to the bedroom, she knows... and she starts barking and pacing again. So, for the past two nights, I've been up with her (and Bruce the two nights prior to that). And while Maggie CAN sleep in the living room, I CAN'T. I really can't reason with her, and she's too big to carry, so I sit with her, I have compassion on her. And, wide awake, I think, 'how can I blog this?'

I mentioned once before that one of my all time favorite books is Le Petite Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de St. Exupéry. I was thinking about a quote from that book, which says, "Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce qu tu as apprivoisé." In English, it translates, "You become forever responsible for that which you have tamed." I majored in French in college, so I've read it in it's original language, and the French word apprivoisé carries more meaning than the English counterpart, tamed. It is used here as domesticated, but it is describing a relationship which involves one party depending upon, trusting in, and expecting from the other. It is not like a lion tamer subduing a lion with a chair and a whip, but it implies a voluntary submission of one to the other based upon a lesson learned, a character known. I tamed Maggie; I feed her regularly, walk her, talk to her. She has come to trust that I'd never harm her, that I'll protect her, and our home is her refuge. She has become comfortable as my companion, and she seeks me out, and shows me her affection... often with a big sloppy tongue. She barks, I pay attention.

So, at 3:00 A.M. this morning, I got to thinking that I'm a lot like Maggie, and I have been apprivoisée by my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I've voluntarily submitted myself to Him, depend on Him and expect Him to do all He says He'll do. He's responsible for me, forever. I actually was struggling with some troubling thoughts of my own last night and wasn't resting anyway. I was praying about the situation, ...and I think I may have been barking and pacing. As I drew the parallel in my mind, He sat down with me. I was able to sort out my thoughts, and reject the ones that I know aren't in His Word, and which don't align with the charcter of God I've come to know. I chose to allow His peace to surpass my understanding. Though I was tired, I felt much better. I pondered this:
For everyone who asks [barks] receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matt. 7:7-11

Saturday, December 9, 2006

What's In a Name?

One of the most important roles of a parent, is to name their children. Our names help define us, and their meanings give us an identity; our self perceptions can be impacted by our names. In the Bible, meanings of names are very relevant. In Rwanda, names are given to exemplify character traits or significance... our friends there honored Bruce with the name, Mutabazi, which means rescuer, and our daughter Samantha with the name, Mutoni, meaning favored one.

And when we had our children, we took naming them very seriously. So seriously in fact, that none of them had a name till they were almost four days old, because my husband and I couldn't agree on their name. For days, the poor little things were lying there in the hospital nursery, with sorrowful tags on their bassinets dubbing them 'Baby Girl Edwards'. They told us we couldn't take them home until we named them (back in the old days, when they kept you in the hospital 3 or 4 days).

Not to be bullied by the pressure, we nonetheless took our responsibility seriously. Our youngest daughter, was pleasant and delightful, so we gave her the middle name of Eden. We would've chosen it as her first name but we were concerned that it was too unusual and she would resent having an unusual name. So we went with the feminine counterpart to Samuel, which means heard of God, and named her Samantha.

Our second born was a happy baby, and she made us happy... so we called her Ashley, which we sort of took from the Biblical name, Asher (means happy). Some baby books give the meaning, from the Ash tree meadow... but that is NOT what HER name means... it means happy! We gave her the middle name of Christina, which is the feminine counterpart to Christopher, or Christ follower. Pretty good so far.

When our first daughter was born, Emily was a popular name, and it means industrious, so we gave her that as a middle name. I had always loved the name, Leah, and thought it was such a beautiful name. Our baby was beautiful, and I really wanted to give her this beautiful name. We'd tell her that her name means industrious, and hard worker. She'd never have to know more, right?? And then... one day, when she was in high school, some big mouth was looking up baby names, and came across the name Leah, and told her that in Hebrew it means, ...wild cow. For days, she would look at me with glazed eyes and say "... wild cow?!?!? wild cow?!!?? " Fortunately, by that point in her life, she was confident with her identity. And, among other things, she is a hard worker.

Leah took that opportunity to start collecting cow paraphanalia. It was a good catharsis. On the other hand, Ashley started collecting monkeys. And Samantha collects lambs, and penguins. Go figure.

Friday, December 8, 2006

It's Beginning To Look

Last week, we had weather in the high 60's. Even Wednesday, it was a balmy 50+ degrees. BUT, yesterday, winter arrived! The temperature didn't get out of the 20's, the winds gusted to 30 mph, and we had snow! That's what we've been waiting for... you can't cut down a Christmas tree unless it's snowing, and windy, and it's so cold, you suffer. Makes it more like a pioneer experience.

While in years past, this event was a Norman Rockwellian family affair, with Christmas carols playing on the car CD player, hot chocolate, and lively conversation about who picked last year's tree, ...alas, the only one I could rally to go with me yesterday was my daughter, Leah. So, we headed north, armed with our buck saw and bungy cords, to brave the elements and find this year's tree... at Grupp's Christmas Tree Farm! Going to a tree farm is NOT cheating... you still have to walk miles of snowy hills, freeze, and suffer for your tree (and you don't risk arrest).

After hours of scrutiny, we found our tree. We chose it because it made us laugh, as good a reason as any. It isn't a Charlie Brown tree, but it has a funny thing on the top that makes it look like Alfalfa (think,The Little Rascals). Leah's into to this 'I am woman hear me roar' thing, so, she did the sawing. We didn't have a camera, because pioneers wouldn't have had a camera, I took a picture with her cell phone. It's a little fuzzy because my hands were so cold by then that I could hardly hold the phone still, and the wind was blowing so fiercely, it was hard to see. Then we (she) dragged the tree over the miles of snowy hills, back to the car. We paid the farm owner for the privilege of suffering for our tree, loaded it into the car, ...and drove to Starbucks! On the way home, we tried to think of some important life lesson we learned and could share about our experience. We couldn't think of any, but the Starbuck's Christmas Blend is really good.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Left To Tell

At our house, whenever we hear a news story about the nation of Rwanda, we are quick to give it our attention, because some of our very good friends are Rwandan.

I am sorry to admit that about seven years ago, I didn't even know where Rwanda was. Then, a group of Rwandan students from La Roche College began to attend our church. As we grew to know them, and to learn of their faith, their fortitude and their heritage, our lives were touched. And I learned where
Rwanda is.

That summer, my husband, Bruce, our pastor, Jeff Leake, and Mike Santistevan traveled to Rwanda for a ceremony marking the installation of the nation's first Critical Care Unit in a Kigali hospital, which our church financed. They met some of the extended family of the students, and they made new friends. Those relationships have developed and grown with a mutual affection and respect. Bruce has returned to Rwanda two more times with 20 others, including our youngest daughter, Samantha, this past summer. Another trip is in the works for this summer (more on that later).

Much publicity has abounded about the 1994 genocide and civil war in Rwanda, with movies, documentaries, and books. One of our friends was one of the people sheltered in Hotel des Milles Collines (Hotel Rwanda). Another is a granddaughter of Pastor Murinzi, the man featured in the remarkable and compelling story of Imaculée Ilibagiza in her book, Left To Tell. Imaculée's story was covered on this past Sunday's broadcast of 60 Minutes. If you didn't catch the original broadcast, you can watch it online at .

In Imaculée's words, "The love of a single heart can make a world of difference. I believe that we can heal Rwanda - and our world - by healing one heart at a time."

Friday, December 1, 2006

Deer Season

I see him just ahead... he's magnificent... an eight-point buck... we make eye contact... he's headed my way...


There's white smoke everywhere... my chest hurts... a lot. Have I been shot???

A flashing red light... I can hardly make it out with all this smoke...what does it say??
Air Bag Air Bag Air Bag

That crazy deer ran right into my car! And of course, the front end collision caused the air bag to explode. Air bags deploy at the speed of 180 mph, filling the car's interior with a haze of corn starch.

The glint of light flickering off the badge, ...the tapping on the window... "You OK, Ma'am? Boy, he got you good... you want him?? I had to shoot him because he wasn't killed in the collision, and he was running all over the highway! If you don't want him, I have a friend who will take him..."

Some people wait years to nail an eight-point buck. And I didn't even want one! And I was helpless to prevent it... he was cavorting down a four-lane highway... in my lane!

If you gasped a minute ago, fear not... this happened a few years ago, and the horrible air-bag-in-the-chest pain subsided after a few days. I made some man happy to eat venison for the next year. But I was scarred emotionally. And at this time of year, when the deer are roaming the streets looking for love, I'm particularly... paranoid. I tell my friends and family... 'watch out for the deer', as if that would stop a crazy eight-point buck from attacking. In spite of my warnings, two of my daughters were subsequently attacked, as deer valiantly bolted from the woods into the sides of their cars!

I know we're not alone in this; auto insurance companies even offer lower 'deductibles' on repair costs from deer attacks, as long as you provide them with some 'fur' as evidence (eeeuuuuuw!).

So why, am I sharing this??? It occurs to me that we daily live our lives as best we can. We're good people, not doing anything 'wrong', and BANG!, something runs into us and wreaks havoc, causes pain, blurs our vision. But it's important to remember we're not alone in this. Soon, a little gecko, or Charro, or Little Richard shows up to remind us about our good auto insurance. Or better yet, it's the words of author, Susan May Warren (from her newsletter), who reminds us of some good life insurance:

"1 Thessalonians 5:24 "He who called you is faithful to do it."
Yes, that verse is talking about perfecting our salvation. But I also think that when God asks us to do something, like be a mom, or run children’s church, or even write a book {or do whatever you do}, He’s already there, providing crayons or patience {or whatever you need}. I don’t know what God is asking of you today, but I pray that you see him providing in surprising, delightful ways that remind you that you are not alone in this. Because, God has your back."

High Wind Warning

It's been unusually warm here in the Pittsburgh area over the past 2 weeks. Today, a cold front is moving this way, and our weather prognosticators have issued... The High Wind Advisory! Every time we get an excessively windy day, I am reminded of a message by Jack Hayford I heard a few years ago, which greatly encouraged me, so I share it here. Hayford described a weather phenomenon called the Chinook wind. This is a warm, dry wind that descends the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, and the name means "snow eater'. As the warm, dry, gusty wind descends down the mountain slopes, temperatures can increase many degrees in minutes! The temperature usually goes well above 30 degrees F and snow melts, while spirits soar! As the Chinook effect increases, winds reach speeds between 25 and 50 mph, and gust up to 100 mph. A strong Chinook can make a foot of snow vanish in one day. The snow partially melts, and partially evaporates in the dry wind. As the Chinook rolls over the foothills, an arch of wispy, white clouds appears in the western sky paralleling the Rocky Mountains, and looks like celestial fingers dancing across the sky.

The reason Hayford's mention of this meteorological marvel encouraged me is because it describes a frozen, hard, and seemingly unalterable situation (i.e. a foot of snow in the Rocky Mountains in the winter) being changed in a somewhat unexpected, dramatic and sudden way. He went on to point out that God can, and often does, respond to our frozen, hard and seemingly unalterable situations the same way (i.e. a house that won't sell, a financial impossibility, a debilitating illness, a hope deferred). HE breathes, and things change.

As I sit here at my computer, the winds are howling outside my window... garbage cans (not ours, Bruce...), tree limbs, Elphaba (??), and someone's morning paper are blowing away, and the power has gone out four times. And I'm encouraged once again, ...because I've been reminded that God breathes and things change, suddenly!

He sends His commands to the earth; His Word runs swiftly. He sends His Word and melts them. He stirs up His breezes and the waters flow. (Psalm 147: 15,18)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"There's Something About Joseph"

I just read a wonderful article by John Ortberg, entitled There's Something About Joseph. It gives some insight into the man, Joseph (as in Jesus, Mary and...).

I appreciate the dilema Joseph faced. According to a law in Deuteronmy 22, Mary was in very real danger of being stoned to death. He was likely disappointed, probably angry, and and he was faced with some serious anxiety. I especially identify with the part in Ortberg's article that says,

""After he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream." Why did God make Joseph wait till after he had to think and struggle with all this stuff? Why couldn't an angel come to him ahead of time and explain everything and remove that anxiety? "

Read why at

Stranger Than Non-fiction

This past weekend, we went to see the movie Stranger Than Fiction, ...and we're still talking about it. It's one of those movies in which I think you're not supposed to sit there and figure out why it is not plausible, but instead try to determine the deeper message. Without giving away much of the plot, suffice it to say that it deals with free will, and the question of how much control we actually have over our own lives. The premise is posed that our lives are either a comedy or a tragedy, and the main character in the film sets out to determine in which category his life falls, because this will impact the ending. There is lots of litrary symbolism going on, including the fact that the character of the author in the story (portrayed by Emma Thompson) wears no make-up. I won't spoil the fictional movie by telling the ending, but I'm still pondering the deeper message.

Also this past weekend, my husband and I both read the book In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day, by Mark Batterson, ...and we're still talking about it. Interestingly, Batterson also touches on the issue of free will and control of our lives. In his final chapter, he says, "God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time... I have an unshakable sense of destiny because I know that as long as I pursue God's calling on my life, then God is ultimately responsible for getting me where He wants me to go." There's no ending to spoil, because with Him, the possibilities are endless. And I embrace that non-fictional message!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sink or Swim?

I was reading my Bible this morning and came to a passage at the end of the Gospel of John (21:7). It tells of Simon Peter jumping into the water from his fishing boat, and swimming ashore, because he sees Jesus there. John says that this is the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples after He was raised from the dead. What struck me about this passage, is that Peter recognized Jesus,and he wanted to be with Him, so he jumped in and swam. Earlier, while on another boat ride, Peter recognized Jesus and wanted to be with Him. But that time, Jesus wasn't on shore; He was walking on the water. Peter recognized Jesus, wanted to be with Him, and wanted to walk on the water. I could, of course, speculate on why he wanted to walk on the water... earlier that day, he witnessed the miraculous feeding of thousands and now Jesus is actually walking across a 'stormy sea'... it would've been easy to get caught up in the rush, and to want to do these cool things, too! Maybe Peter was feeling full of himself, maybe having a bit of spiritual pride, or maybe aspiring to great things. So what happened between those two boat rides, and how was Peter's behavior a reflection of that?

It seems to me that Peter had a chance to do some soul-searching. He'd lost his dear friend and teacher; his hopes were dashed; he feared for his own life; he betrayed his Lord; he was humbled. But, he also found forgiveness; he knew he was loved unconditionally; he was being given a second chance to be who Jesus said he could be... the Rock. Peter had been made new. But the new, and improved Rock, didn't sink. He swam.

John Ortberg wrote a great book, If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat, which I've read, and loved. I agree that some situations call for water-walking. I know it's imperative sometimes to take a step of faith, and to aspire to do the things Jesus did (because He told us we would). And I know that I'm simplifying a lot here, and there's more to the story. But somehow, I think I personally identify more with the latter Peter, rather than the former. When I recognize Jesus, I want to be with Him, I want to be who He says I can be, and with everything I've got, I want to swim like crazy!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Art as Life

One of my favorite books is The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupéry. The story starts off with a drawing...

The drawing is a picture of a boa constrictor eating an elephant (did you get that on the first guess??). Boa constrictors swallow their prey whole, without chewing it, after which they are not able to move, and they sleep for the next six months, which is what they need for digestion. This came to my mind the past few days during our family's Thanksgiving celebration. ...Not to minimize our sense of 'giving thanks', which we certainly did/do, but that boa would fit right in here the past two days.

Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, was very busy. We've had the family dinner here for the past fifteen years. We had a fairly large group and lots of delicious food to prepare (thankfully), and I had lots of help (thankfully).

Every year, someone comments with a thankful sigh, 'This is the best meal we've ever had!' . The hit of the meal this year was a new concoction called something like Pecanpretzelsweetpotato Casserole, which I can humbly brag about, because I didn't make it!

And it was wonderful to have our newest 'family' member (Nate), and a cousin from Spokane (Lauren) with us! So, for the family members who couldn't be here, here's a shot from the cousins cam...

Anyway, back to the parasympathetic boa... it's been said that leftovers are the best thing about holiday dinners (and all that digestion taking place).
The aftermath of the holiday has been fraught with football, and Keifer Sutherland, and the lowing of 'I think I need some moooooooore pie'... But that's OK, because everyone works hard, and when you get a few days off, you should rest, ...and digest.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sunrise, Sunset??

When she went to her first formal dance, we jokingly sang "Sunrise, Sunset" to our daughter, Ashley, to mark how quickly she had grown from a curley headed carrot-top to a beautiful and gifted young woman (gasp!). This month she celebrates her 25th birthday, and... her 4 month wedding anniversary! Ashley, the 'middle child'... was the one who grafted herself onto my leg when I tried to get her into the Kindergarten room (for a whole year), and yet, now, she's the first of our 3 daughters to jump ship and move four hours away. But that's OK, because one season following another, and all that...Here are the 3 'sisters' at her wedding rehearsal dinner:

Left to right: Leah, Ashley, Samantha

And to prove they follow the 2nd most important rule I've taught them , "Never take yourself too seriously"....

When did they get to be beauties, when did they grow to be so tall.... wasn't it yesterday when they were small?
I don't remember getting older, when did they?

Did I really hear that?

I'm one of those people who literally believe Jeremiah 33:3... that I can ask God things, and He'll tell me! And when the things that He tells me seem to be 'right', or actually happen, I take comfort in knowing I heard His voice. However, when I truly believe I've heard something from Him, and it doesn't happen, or something else happens to make it even appear that I was totally mistaken, I begin to have doubts that I really even heard from Him. Especially, when over a period of time, and from multiple trusted sources, the 'word' seems to have been 'confirmed'. I start to wonder... did I really hear that? Am I making all of this up? What's that about? I was so sure I heard from God, but... huh?

So, I got to digging through my Bible, looking for examples of when the same thing happened to some Biblical giant! I found many examples of faith being tested... of people hearing a word from God, and having to wait for it, believe in it, inspite of what they saw. But that still didn't fit what I was dealing with... I, too, waited, and believed, and trusted that my faith would become sight. Their faith did become sight, mine didn't, and yet I was so sure that I heard Him. I continued to ask God to show me. And I came to Samuel.

Samuel's name means 'heard of God'. And it's made clear that Samuel did hear from God. Time and again, the words he heard from God proved true. So, I believe when God told Samuel to annoint Saul as Israel's first king, He meant it. Looking back, we can see that Saul wasn't going to be all that he could've been, and that he would fall short of the plan. So, I wondered if Samuel ever thought... did I really hear that? Scripture doesn't seem to indicate that he had doubts, but only that he felt sad. When God later told Samuel that He was rejecting/replacing Saul because he chose to disobey Him, Samuel was so grieved that he cried out to the Lord all night long (1Sam 15:11). Then God told Samuel to annoint David, and he simply obeyed.

So, even tho' the initial 'word' to Samuel looks errant because of the way Saul turned out, it wasn't. Because Saul had free will, just like we all do, he chose to follow his own path, not God's. The initial plan was spoken to Samuel, by God, but God wouldn't override Saul's free will. He instead rerouted His plan through another man who did seek to follow Him whole-heartedly. God adapted the plan because He is sovereign. In the book of Esther, Mordecai kind of told Esther the same thing when she wasn't sold on going to the king with her agenda... Mordecai said, 'if not you, then God will use someone else, but you'll miss the boat'.

So, I reason that, tho' what I believe He said to me didn't happen, I believe I still heard God. He knew the outcome, because it involved free will and things beyond my control, and yet it still had to 'play out'. God didn't mislead me, He led me, knowing I would act and react to certain things out of obedience to what I believed He said. I know that Samuel annointing Saul was not a mistake. Samuel obeyed God based upon what he knew God told him to do; certain things had to play out. David had to learn some things, to come to certain places at certain times; to make some friends, and grow into the job of king. And Saul was not just a place-keeper... he had the chance to choose wisely, and missed the mark, but his life still had an important impact.

So, I trust that, metaphorically, God is grooming David to replace Saul. I can live with that.

No Limits

I've been listening much lately to a CD which has captured my heart and once again released my imagination. The cut is titled 'Take The Limits Off' (the CD is Israel & New Breed's ALIVE in South Africa. The words of the song depict God speaking... and He says

'I'm not a man, I cannot lie. I know the plans I have for your life..they're My design...I'm asking you to dream again, to believe again, hope again, and trust again... and take the limits off of Me. Release me to accomplish what I promised to do... take the limits off.'

I was struck by the realization, that my attitude of 'hope' had been tainted by an attitude of cynicism. Some promises that I believe God spoke to me have not panned out, at least as I initailly understood them, and tho' I fully believe in God's goodness, and sovereignty, I've been spiritually wounded. While listening to this song, I felt as if He were speaking right to me, and asking me to set aside my understanding and to trust what I know of His character.

In Matthew 13, there is an account of Jesus spending time in his hometown... where He was well known, but where, because the people there relied upon what they thought they knew about Him, they limited His ministry to them. And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.(Matt. 13:58). I don't think He was punishing them, or being haughty because of their attitude, but I think their attitude, and their own understanding, limited Him somehow from doing what He wanted to do on their behalf. While listening to this song, I realized I was doing the same thing.

And so I hope again, and I dream again. If it's His design, He'll do it. I purpose to not lean on my own understanding.. to not let my disappointments or my lack of imagination set boundaries to what I think He'll do. I ask and trust Him to enlarge my territory. I take the limits off.