Saturday, August 30, 2008

There's a Grandma in the House!

Lee's mom is here visiting from Georgia for a couple of weeks.  The kids counted down the days for about three weeks before she got here, making daily trips to the calendar to make sure. We've had so much fun just hanging out with her, and also enjoying the local treats.  Thank God for grandparents!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fancy That!

Look at that!  Hot Tub Lizzy gave me an award!  That was very sweet.  She loves me because she just moved away from our humble state after spending 31 years of her life here, and I know what pronto pups and lefse are.  And I say you guys.  Lucky me. Come by any day for your fix, Lizzy!

The rules of this award are:
1. The winner can put the logo on his/her blog.
2. Link the person you received your award from.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Put links of those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message on the blogs of the people you’ve nominated

I'm sure I could nominate a lot of people, but I'm just picking the first seven blogs I love that come to mind right away.  If I didn't live in a neighborhood I love, I would want my block to be lined with these people.  And of course, I would want Lizzy too.

Melissa@Mel's Musings  She is one of my real life friends who introduced me to the whole idea of blogging in the first place.  Thanks, Melissa!  I love you for more than your blog.

"Blessings Marlene"@Stitchin' By the Lake  Every neighborhood needs a grandma!  Marlene is such an encourager, and wherever she goes she signs her comments "Blessings, Marlene". Marlene, you ARE a blessing!

Givinya de Elba@Killing a Fly With a Ukulele... is Probably the Wrong Thing to Do Givinya is from Australia, and she makes me laugh 'til I snort.  She shares my love for all things Pooh, as I immediately recognized in the Post of Many Capitalized Words...

Caroline (a.k.a. Ms. Congeniality)@Pocket Change  Caroline is always up to something fun or silly, and she loves Jesus too.  I see her smiling face all over the place, and it always makes me smile right back at her. Caroline called my attention to the fact that my feed wasn't updating and told me how to fix it. That's the blog equivalent of telling someone they have food stuck between their two front teeth.  It's so important to know who your REAL friends are!

Debbie@This is the Life  OK, lots of people know and love Debbie, but when I "met" her I thought I was reading my own blog for a minute.  She's almost as old as me, with kids about the same ages as mine.  Her blog is beautiful, funny and encouraging.  She should seriously live next door to me.

Destini@A Glimpse of Destini I found Destini when we both visited a certain "Blogger's Blog of Note".  She left the kindest comment and offered her prayers.  She came back later and offered more encouragement and prayer.  She should live on the other side.  I need a neighbor who would see my kids doing what kids do outside and pray for me...and them!

Kelsie@Snazzy Cakes by Kelsie would top the neighborhood off perfectly as the ultimate babysitter.  Except that she loves to bake and I'm afraid she would feed my kids too much sugary goodness!  She makes gorgeous cakes AND Webkinz cookies and...well, I could say more, but why bother?  What a doll!

That's my Blogosphere Fantasy Neighborhood.  Blessings to all of you ladies who are lighting up your corners of the world.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday Snippets

It was a great day in church today.  Three reasons.

1.  The music.  Did I mention in my last post that I love to sing?  The gift of worship through music is such an amazing release.  I loved all the songs today, but the one that took me to long ago and far away came from Psalm 84 (this is just a part of it from verses 1-4):

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!  
My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord; 
my heart and flesh cry out for the living God.

Even the sparrow has found a home, 
and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young--
a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God.

Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.

I lived in the Philippines for a couple of years when I was young and single.  I was the only foreigner in my church, and although I loved my friends there, it could be a little lonely being the only native English speaker.  In fact, the worship services included three to four languages used intermittently.  I would joke to myself that at least the Lord was hearing and understanding my English in the middle of it all, because I was totally confused! (I did get better eventually.)

There were no screens on the windows, so the church was wide open, and frequently the birds would fly through taking no notice of all the people that had invaded "their" space. These verses reminded me that even these birds knew it was a good thing to find shelter at the Lord's altar, and being in church with other believers was such a blessing.

Today I thought how precious it was that I was praising the Lord with my own young, and what a refuge the church and the body of Christ provide for all of us. 

2.  The sermon was an awesome challenge from Amos 5 to not let our worship stop at singing. God wants our love for Him to be expressed through acts of justice and mercy.  Otherwise our lip service is unacceptable and appalling to him.  Whew.

3.  Benjamin took a bold step in his journey today.  More about that later!

I hope it was a happy Sunday in your world!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wow! Just wow.

Holy buckets!  What a big day I had yesterday!!  Many thanks to Debbie at Blog Around the World for taking us on this whirlwind tour. And, thanks to all the friends who stopped in from all over the world for your kind words! You guys are awesome. As my husband would say, it was sort of like drinking out of a fire hydrant.  (He's from Georgia, where there is a pithy little saying for everything!) Couldn't keep up with all the good stuff coming my way.  

While you were hanging out at the fair gawking at admiring the butter sculptures, I was traveling around the world trying to visit you back.  That was the really amazing part!  What a fine bunch of people you are, making a difference on your pieces of the globe.  I had visitors that came through BATW from 27 states, plus Alberta and British Columbia, Chile, Paraguay and Hungary.  How cool is that!  If you haven't signed up for the tour yet, go on and do it! (There's even still time to enter the welcome contest.)

One of the things I saw on a few of your blogs got me thinking.  I am not one to be very excited to write purely about myself on my blog, but in case you come back to see what I'm like on a normal day, this seems like a good way to introduce myself.  After all, I so enjoyed getting to know you.  So here goes:

I AM ... first and foremost a child of God.

I WANT... more people to know His love and the grace He extended through His Son, Jesus.

I HAVE ... lived overseas for four years of my life, and in doing so have actually travelled around the world, arriving at Bangkok, Thailand from both east and west.

I WISH I COULD ... follow through on every act of kindness that ever crossed my mind!

I HATE ... destruction of all kinds--physical, emotional, spiritual.

I FEAR ... being misunderstood.

I HEAR ... giggling from my kids and husband frequently, and find it pure ecstasy!

I SEARCH ... for ways to really make my life count, but then too often spin my wheels in the searching instead of just picking something and doing it.

I DON'T THINK ...God is worried about that. (Or anything else, for that matter.)

I REGRET ... the fact that when I witness the destruction I hate, I tend to react in anger and perpetuate the cycle.

I LOVE ... my family to pieces!

I ACHE FOR ... people to understand each other better and be respectful in the midst of disagreement.

I ALWAYS CRY ... when I hear kids sing about Jesus. (But I did amazingly well during THIS...)

I AM NOT ... graceful, or good at anything that requires hand-eye coordination.

I DANCE ...with my husband once a year. While we are decorating for Christmas, I put on Amy Grant's Christmas CD and make him dance to Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree with me. We laugh the whole time, and Bethany gets jealous.

I SING ... alto on the praise team at church. It's one of my very favorite things to do in the whole wide world.

I NEVER ... say never.

I RARELY ... turn on the TV.

I CRY WHEN I WATCH ... Olympians who cry through medal ceremonies, and those who are disappointed.

I AM NOT ALWAYS ... on top of my game.

I HATE THAT ... I am not always on top of my game.

I'M CONFUSED ABOUT ... why so many Christians seem to treat their citizenship in the kingdom of God and their citizenship in the United States as though they are the same thing.

I NEED ... to wrap this up.

I SHOULD ... clean my house. Right now! But there are about eight of you I haven't visited yet, so I've got a real dilemma on my hands.

Any questions?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Great Minnesota Get-Together

My friends from Blog Around the World are making a stop in Minnesota today. Welcome, you guys, and thanks, Debbie, for giving everyone directions!! It's the perfect day to get here for a sneak preview of our State Fair. I sure hope you've got your walking shoes on. And that you're HUNGRY!

There is SO much to do! Ride the rides at the midway,

visit the dairy barn to see the butter sculptures of "Princess Kay of the Milky Way" and her attendants,

visit the birthing barn to see the baby animals, watch the parade, and see the latest tractors on machinery hill (ya, you betcha!). You should stay into the evening to catch a concert at the grandstand--but better yet, this year Garrison Keillor is doing a Prairie Home Companion show. If you want to understand Minnesotans, you seriously shouldn't miss it. (But if you can't stay for that, you must read Lake Wobegon Days. You can get it on audio, probably with a MN accent, Lula!) 

If our fair is known for one thing, though, it's all of the foods you can buy on a stick.

I did a search and got 71 results of stands that sell them, and some of those sell more than one item. Including several varieties of cheesecake and deep fried candy bars. And how about spaghetti and meatballs on a stick? OK. Maybe not. But save room for my favorite, the Tom Thumb Donuts (sans the stick).  Just thinking about them is making my mouth water!  

Well there is really tons more to do, but let's just wrap it up with a trip down the giant slide. Grab a kid (or a grandpa), and let's go!

Hear this song playing in the background:

"Our state fair is a great state fair!
Don't miss it, don't even be late!
It's dollars to donuts at our state fair,
It's the best state fair in our state!"

That was for you, Hot Tub Lizzy, and I know you're singing along, even as you are playing one of my favorite Minnesotan games! (And I'm sure you're about ready to hop a plane to get here in time for the fair. I will pick you up at the airport this evening. The guest room is ready.  You can help me make some lefse while we are catching up.)

Now of course Minnesota has plenty to offer on any given day. We're the Land of 10,ooo Lakes, which, in true Minnesota fashion, is an understatement. We're home to the Mall of America, Lake Superior, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, as well as the Golden Gophers, and a team for your favorite sport, whatever that might be, including curling. Not to mention winters that never end.  So you can go ice fishing to your heart's content.

Well, I know you've got other stops to make, but I hate to see you go. I hope you'll come back when you can stay longer. Bring a sweater. On a stick.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cowboy Caviar

I have never posted a recipe before.  My husband loves the tried and true, which is fine with me. I prefer not to have to think that much about what's cooking.  My favorite recipes have 4-6 ingredients, and I know them all by heart.

THIS recipe is different.  It's like a party in your mouth--it will make your tongue dance! Seriously.  So I thought you should have it. 

(Just so you know, I don't speak "recipese", so you're getting it the way I wrote it on the back of my grocery list when I got it from my friend on the phone.  It will work.)

Here goes:

2 chopped avocados
1 chopped tomato
1 small chopped onion
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped finely (to taste)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 Mexican (or fiesta) corn, rinsed and drained
1/4 to 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped (to taste)

Mix the above ingredients together.

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 to 1/3 cup oil (I use olive oil--original recipe calls for 1 cup.  See what you think!)
1/2 t. salt
hot sauce to taste

Pour dressing over other mixture, stir together and chill.  Serve with the scoopy kind of tortilla or corn chips.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Thrill of Victory

Did you see it?  Tell me you didn't miss it.

Flashback to 1972.  Munich.  Jim McKay anchors from the press box as Mark Spitz does the unprecedented, the unfathomable.  Seven gold medals.  Impossible!  It was an Olympics to remember.  (Trust me, those of you who weren't born yet, it was.)

But aren't they all?  I just remember that one so well because I was a swimmer, and Mark Spitz was my greatest hero of all time.  The reality is, our family watched Jim McKay week in and week out on the ABC Wide World of Sports.  Can't you just picture that skiier wiping out big time during the intro, week after week?  (Yes, Dave, you can, can't you?)  We just couldn't get enough.  And I still can't.  I just love a hard-fought victory.

Athleticism.  Sportsmanship.  They both showed up in all their glory Sunday night in Beijing. So did you? Did you see Jason Lezak come from behind with a pretty much miracle performance to beat the French team who had promised to smash the Americans?  Michael Phelps may get his eight gold medals, but one of them belongs to the sheer determination of Jason Lezak, who overcame the agony of previous defeats to prevail.

And did you see our guys afterwards?  Yes, they were fueled by comments of the French, but they were so classy about it in the interviews.  I don't ever remember enjoying a race or a medal ceremony more.

Yes, I was a swimmer.  I know what it is to be totally committed to my sport.  (Oh wait, gotta go see Rebecca Soni swim the 200 breaststroke finals....I'm back--she won her first gold medal. World record!  Yea!!  Gives me goosebumps.)  It taught me the discipline and focus I needed to be a totally committed follower of Christ. (When the Olympics aren't on TV.)  The apostle Paul used athletic imagery several times in his writings. This is one of my favorites, from 1 Corinthians 9:24-25:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?
 Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. 
They do it to get a crown that will not last; 
but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

And there's this one, Hebrews 12:1:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, 
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

And finally, Lord please qualify me to make this declaration from 2 Timothy 4:7-8 my own as I reach the ultimate finish line:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, 
which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--
and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

"This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith."  1 John 5:4

Thursday, August 7, 2008


(I found this under Ben's door today.  Ben had neglected to comply with the arrow on the other side directing him to turn it over and read the message.)

Dear Bethany,

Is that you squealing at Ben again because he is in your space?  What is it this time? Sitting on top of you Snuggling with you on the couch while you watch TV?  Banging on the top keys Playing a part of his own while you play the piano?

I know, I know.  He makes me crazy crowds me sometimes too.  But I need to call this one thing to your attention. Yesterday when he did those things?  You laughed your head off.  Yup, couldn't get enough. So I'm not sure how you were thinking he should know that you didn't like it. Unless maybe you tried telling him you need a little space or you're not in the mood today instead of issuing a blood curdling scream when he made one little move in your direction.  I know it's really hard to believe, but these behaviors are pretty much his way of giving you some love.  

Breathe deeply, Girlie.  He's the only brother you've got, and you're his only sister.  If he's going to get a clue, you're going to have to give it to him.  And the sweeter the better.


P.S. By the way, God is the one who made Ben the way he is, so if you could kindly redirect your complaints to Him, that would be peachy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Lake Yellowstone

Out West Road Trip: There's no place like home!

Well, we're back in full swing at home. We've had a lot of fun recounting our favorite memories of the trip, but in the end, the kids' favorite things were swimming, mini-golf and ice cream. All available within five minutes of home. And, truly, good stuff.

I got to wondering one day when we were having battle royale getting the kids to leave the campground to go rock climbing (which they LOVED once they saw what we were talking about)... what familiar and comfortable and pleasant things do I hold so tightly that I am missing out on the unfamiliar but oh-so-amazing things God has in store for me?

Reminded me of an old favorite C.S. Lewis quote:

"It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

I pray that I would not be guilty of saying "no thank you" to the offer of adventure that is the life of real faith.

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

Monday, August 4, 2008

Out West Road Trip: Part 4, A Honey of a Deal

I'm so glad you came back today.  As I promised last time, I'm going to let you in on the best kept secret in the Black Hills.  Shhh...lean in close.  I don't want too many people to catch wind of this.  It could make it hard to get reservations next time.

Have you ever wished you could go to a really great resort, but never thought you could afford it?  I am here to tell you, you CAN! (Shhh!  Keep it down!)  No, no no, it's NOT a time share!  I promise!  Here's the deal. The name of this place is Palmer Gulch Lodge, Cabins and KOA Kampground.  It is just a few minutes from Mt. Rushmore, right smack in the middle of everything to do in the Black Hills.  It is gorgeous.  And they have everything from tent and RV sites to a lodge for accommodations.  Our digs of choice are a 2-room camping cabin--a room with two bunk beds for the kids (our two kids each get a top bunk, wuh hoo!), and a room with a double bed for us.  A roof over our heads to be thankful for when it storms at night, and a place to put our stuff.  PLUS a fire pit for making s'mores, and a front porch with a swing.  Just a little rustic, and OH SO cozy!  And for about $70 per night.  

But wait, there's more!  Stuff to DO!!  Holy buckets.  Included in the cost are two pools (plus hot tubs and wading pools), a splash pad and a water slide, and mini-golf course. (Ben played over 15 nine-hole rounds in the three days we were there.  Seriously.)  There's also a huge playground, a jumping pillow, and scheduled activities and entertainment.  (See Bethany WAY back on the stage singing karaoke?  She gradually inched forward little by little.) And did I mention hayrides?  With real horses?  I'm telling you, we had to bribe the kids with ice cream and promises of more swimming and mini-golf later to get them to go ANYWHERE with us. And because of that, we have yet to do half the stuff that there is to do in the Black Hills.  AND we have a little change jingling in our pockets.  So I suppose we'll probably have to go back some other time.  Oh bummer.  ;-) (There is much more, but you will have to check it out for yourself.)

Just one thing.  Before you jump in your minivan right this minute to head on over, you should know that every year during the second week in August, they hold the Sturgis Bike Rally (as in motorcycle) that brings like a million bikers to the area.  Not the quietest time to go. You might want to wait a couple of weeks.

Good grief.  I don't even work for these people, but they should pay me. I could be their poster girl.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Out West Road Trip: Part 3, Black Hills

Now we head back east to the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. This place has much of the wildlife, and many (but by no means all) of the stunning physical features that we found in Yellowstone, along with a lot of history and more recreational attractions. If I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit just one of the two areas, I would choose the Black Hills.

What do I love so much about the Black Hills? In a word (or two), Mt. Rushmore.

Who doesn't recognize this national landmark? They have a wonderful lighting ceremony each night, with a presentation and video about the carving of the monument and all it represents that has given me chills and tears each time I've seen it. We were trying to describe what the program would be like to the kids:

Me: It will make you want to stand up and wave your flag and sing "God Bless America"!
Bethany (TOTALLY serious): Oh no, I KNEW I should have packed my flag!

But then there is also the amazing Sylvan Lake that we hiked and climbed around,

and the hair raising awe inspiring Needles Highway.

I learned that our kids did not inherit my fear of heights when I went off on my own to get a good angle on the Needle's Eye. The kids and Lee had disappeared once I completed my mission, but I knew that my ears would soon reveal their whereabouts. Sure enough, a few minutes later I heard "Hi Mom!" It was Ben. And he was WAAAYY up there.

There was no telling how they got there. I decided Lee must have thought I needed to sharpen up my prayer life. "That's what dads are for," I kept telling myself. And seriously, they had so much fun, and lived to tell about it.

We also had a great time touring the Big Thunder Gold Mine and panning for gold afterwards. It was a very cool way to learn some of the history of the development of the area.

Next time I will tell you my best kept secret about the Black Hills. I know. You're on the edge of your seat.

For some other great vacation photo stories, click here:

If you came here from I Heart Faces and want to see the rest of the "Out West Road Trip" including Yellowstone, the links are below. Enjoy!