Monday, April 30, 2012

Hiding Beans

I'm a bean hider.  Beware!  My older son is incredibly picky and texture sensitive, which means that I am that mom who hides vegetables and protein in her family's food.

Before you run away from my house in horror or get scared of eating anything I bring to a potluck, let me just say that the food I hide my secret ingredients in is some of the most-requested food I make.  My chocolate chip cookies vanish off my counters, and the most repeated comment is: "I can't believe there are garbanzo beans in these!"  Yes, I hide chickpeas in my chocolate chip cookies.  A great source of protein and fiber, garbanzo beans have also been reported to satisfy hunger and reduce overall food consumption.  They also help to control blood sugar.  This benefit may be negated by the amazingly wonderful amount of chocolate and brown sugar in my cookies, and I am totally okay with that!

This cookie has been approved by Benjamin.

Here is the super secret recipe should you choose to do some bean-hiding baking this afternoon.

1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened (Hello!)
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla

Mix these ingredients together.

1 bag (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
1 can (15 oz.) garbanzo beans, DRAIN AND RINSE, people!  This is key!

Add these and mix.

2 cups whole wheat fine ground flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

Add these and mix again.

Drop rounded tablespoons of this dough onto a greased cookie sheet.  Make for 11-13 minutes at 350 degrees.  Try to restrain yourself from eating them directly from the pan.  Cool on wire racks.

Devour as many as you can before your husband gets home and eats a bunch.  Eat more every day since they only last 3 days in an airtight container before the garbanzo beans get kind of chewy.  If you need help with self-control, these do freeze well.

Ours rarely make it to the freezer, but if they do then no one but me gets them.  Have I mentioned that I have a weakness for frozen cookies?  And for hiding food from my children?  Please don't judge.  I'm a work in progress... or maybe just a piece of work.  Either way I'm a little bummed.  The pictures above are of Ben eating the last cookie in the batch.  Glad he enjoyed them.  Sad for my freezer cookie addiction.

Hope your family enjoys them as much as we do.  Blessings, friends!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

In just one month...

It is unfathomable how much can change in just one month.  I look around my house and can barely believe it.

A piano that fills my house with music.  Sometimes I can hear Caleb humming along as I play Chopin.  Unbelievable.

A little boy who is reading everything in sight.  The code has been unlocked, and his brain is deciphering everything it sees.

A toddler who walks.  After months of therapy, chiropractor visits, and exercises; my sweet Benjamin is romping around the house on his own two feet.  Words cannot express my joy to see him walk to his room by himself.

Words also cannot express the relief in my lower back.  The kid is 27 lb. 11 oz.  It's like hefting a giant sack of flour around all. day.  Until now!

I don't remember if I've mentioned this in a previous post, but this month we invested in a project that we have been saving for since we moved into this house.  A wooden privacy fence has enclosed the yard so my little men can explore to their hearts' content without any fear of them running onto one of the three streets surrounding our property.  This investment has revolutionized my life.  I can give Caleb the freedom to excavate and play while I watch from the kitchen window.  Glorious independence!  The sandbox is going in next week, and I look forward to many mornings of happy, messy, dirty play this summer.

Most of these changes have happened because of years of planning, saving, and working.  It's just phenomenal to me that they are all happening at once.  KABOOM!!!  And life will never be the same.

So from our ever-changing home to yours, happy spring!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Too easy.

Caleb is three going on thirty, Ben is walking around the house like a big boy, and I'm becoming very aware that we no longer have a baby.  Just a preschooler and a toddler.  For those of you who think I'm getting empty arms syndrome, I'm not sure I agree.

This is the longest stretch of time in my marriage that I have not been pregnant or nursing.  I can leave the boys with a friend for hours, and they can eat whatever is offered to them. (Ben will eat it even if you don't offer.)  Often, these little guys are spoiling me rotten and letting me sleep in later than I have in three and a half years.  It's heavenly.  

I get to play my new piano after they go to bed, blog and read my favorite bloggers, pore over all the books that I have been longing to read, and actually talk to my husband rather than just seeing him as I throw the baby at him so I can go to sleep.  I get to start projects... and finish them.  My house is clean.  Seriously.  I don't think it's been this clean in, oh, let's say, eighteen months.  

Today I loaded both kids in the car, and in two hours we had returned the library books and done all the grocery shopping for two weeks.  When I got home, I had helpers unpacking the groceries and helping me put them away; and I actually thought to myself, "Hey, look at me.  I can do this mom thing all by myself."  

This was the point where I felt God pricking my heart and saying, "It's too easy."

"What?!?!  Easy?" I protest. Mentally, I then listed for God all the monumental obstacles I had overcome to get to this point of mothering.  All the nights of screaming children, all the mornings of cleaning up dirty sheets, all the meals where more food was worn than eaten.  I made mental note of all the mountains we are still climbing.  One son in physical (and soon to be speech) therapy, another with OCD tendencies that make me want to tear my hair out, Teacher Man in the midst of an incredibly challenging school year, a summer of ministry that will take our family's focus soon.

And I sensed the Lord saying, "If you can do it all by yourself, it's too easy.  There's something missing."  

He right.  He always is.  It's those trials, those challenges, that bring me closer to Him.  It's those days of craving His Word that make our moments together so much sweeter.  It's the struggle that makes me reach out to the Body of Christ for strength and encouragement.  It's the failures that humble me and remind me that I'm still in such great need of my Savior.

"This is for a season," He reminds me.  It's a season of rest right now, interspersed with days that my strong-willed three year old chooses to make nerve-wracking.  This is the first summer that Teacher Man's job hasn't been in question, that we haven't been adjusting to a new baby or pregnancy, that there hasn't been a major crisis in our family.  I'm not fearing the future, but I know that this too shall pass.  Rather than dread the inevitable fact that our life in this fallen world is going to have a good share of mishaps and change, I'm choosing to delight and dwell in this moment.

I'm working on finishing the apron I started because goodness knows I need something to keep the flying food away from my church clothes.  I'm playing the piano often with my children.  Whether it's Chopin or "The Alphabet Song," we are having a blast just savoring the sounds of the moment.  I'm reading about grace, about learning, about art, about organizing, about loving well.  I'm feeding my mind now so I can remember these lessons when there is no time to sit with a book.  I'm playing endless games of Memory and Go Fish with my three year old because I can tell how loved he feels when we spend time just us.  I'm reading countless books to my little toddler who hauls giant volumes across the room, throws them on my lap, and demands, "Book. Up." before plopping his little bottom in my lap.  I'm savoring the friendships and family relationships that I have right now because this is the day that I've been given. I will rejoice and be glad in it.  I'm resting because I know that this is just a season.  A deep breath before another long climb, and I'm okay with that.

Someone told me last week that no where in Scripture does it say that God only gives us what we can handle.  We are not tempted beyond what we are able, but we are given tasks that are far beyond our strength and wisdom to remind us that we are finite, in need of an infinite God to work in and through us so the glory will go to Him... and only to Him.  

So tonight, I'm grateful for the deep breath before the next climb.  Grateful that the dishes are done.  Grateful for the men in my life.  And oh so grateful that my God is not going to let me rest here forever.  He's going to mold me, heal me, change me for His glory.  There will be mountains ahead, but I rest knowing I won't be climbing alone.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Oh Brother.

I'm in for it.  Seriously in for it.  For those of you who don't know my history, I grew up as the younger of two sisters. We obviously didn't have brothers in the picture to teach us about the world of boys, and it wasn't until later in life that I really had many boys that were friends.  All of this laughing about your bodily functions and wrestling each other to the ground to show affection is new to me.  While I first saw the world of male bonding between my cautious, thoughtful older son and my husband,;now it is becoming violently real with my throw-caution-to-the-wind, totally physical second born.

As far as I can be certain, these photos are completely sequential.  And hilarious.  Proceed with caution.  Excessive cuteness ahead.

 Brothers decide to sit together on the couch to read a book.  Older brother instructs younger brother to keep his filthy little paws off of this beloved Thomas Treasury. (I may be paraphrasing a bit here.)
 Older brother nicely reads stories to younger brother while carefully guarding said Holy Grail of Sodor with legs.
 Older brother raises leg to restate the boundary between younger brother and prized possession.
 Younger brother tests boundaries by showing casual interest in pictures.  (Nice move, young one.)
 Discovering a flaw in older brother's defenses, younger brother takes the opportunity to crawl on top of the most honored Thomas book.
 Epic fail.  Younger brother is pushed back to his place by good-natured older brother
 but will not be dissuaded by such a slight defensive move
 and opts for a full-on frontal attack.
 with his eye on the prize.
 Older brother chooses brains over brawn by pulling out blankie, younger brother's prized possession, and offering it to him at a reasonable distance from the biggest book of Thomas stories known to man.
 He continues to loudly instruct younger brother on proper Thomas Story Hour etiquette,
 which younger brother flat out ignores.

 Other times younger brother lures older brother into a false sense of security.
by making him think that younger brother will treat the book in question with the respect it deserves.

But more sinister intentions are lurking under that sweet, blond exterior.

He goes for a side assault!

using blankie as a weapon.

Which leads to a serious man-to-man conversation with older brother about who is still in charge of this couch.

Older brother's position as boy-in-charge is underscored by some friendly shoving,

some hand to hand combat,

and a very serious eye-to-eye conversation. (Any other mothers fearing for my younger son's vision?  No worries.  He's fine.)

And as usual, they decide to bond with some good, old fashioned screaming, thus, reuniting in their common plot to drive me out of my mind... before kindergarten.  

With younger brother well in hand, older brother can now resume his important task of imparting Thomas-related wisdom.

But make no mistake, younger brother is not finished... not by a long shot, especially since conflict resolution is so stinkin' fun.

Lesson learned: Boys can have conflict; but once they've gotten their physical aggression out, they move on.  

Wow.  I am so. glad. I have boys.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Adventures of...

Thorton Burgess.  I had no idea who he was until I picked up a chapter book called The Adventures of Peter Cottontail that was sitting out at the library.  The cover was old-fashioned, and there weren't many pictures (maybe one per chapter... maybe.).  Honestly, I think my son's love for assigning personalities to wild creatures made me think he would love it, and he did.

We finished over 180 pages of Peter Cottontail in under 24 hours.  No lie.  He kept picking it up and asking me to read it to him during the day, during lunch, before naptime, and before dinner. We had to go to the library the next day to get another one of Thorton Burgess's wildlife tales so we could tag along for more of their adventures.  Right now, we're deep into The Adventures of Old Granny Fox. 

If you're looking for epic adventure, look elsewhere.  These books follow about twenty animals and their adventures at a fairly slow pace.  What I love is the language!  Big scrumptious words.  Well-developed characters.  Fictional stories that are teaching real-life natural history.  Best of all, they are just the right pace to pick up and read a few chapters right before bed.  I'm noticing that the nights we do read them, Caleb settles down to sleep much faster.  It's definitely worth the extra fifteen minutes of my time to give him the extra sleep, the nature study, and the experience using his imagination without the help of illustrations.

So here's the new tradition.  We read baby books with Ben and tuck him into bed; then Caleb gets ready for bed.  After a book with Teacher Man and some serious tooth brushing, Caleb and I curl up in his bed and read together.  It's delightful!  I love hearing, "Another chapter, Mommy!  Please?"

Yes, our local library does have several of these, but we may have to pick up a collection to have for our very own.  My son already talks about the animal characters as if he knows them.  Love that!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Our Story: Part 5

The fussing has stopped so I think that means everyone is asleep.  I'll give this a try...

After my spring break was over, Teacher Man came to my townhouse for a visit.  Apparently some mutual friends of ours who were dating (and had been for several years) saw each other less than Teacher Man and I were seeing each other.  They wanted to know what was up.  At this point, so did I.  Teacher Man and I were making pancakes in my townhouse as we talked about all this, but we were not watching the clock.  My resident advisor came in promptly at midnight to let us know that Teacher Man would have to get out... immediately.  Grrr...  Is it just me or do they always come in at the worst moments?  I do know it was her job...

We had no choice.  We moved our conversation out to his little white Honda Accord in the parking lot.  I was freezing!  It was a cold March, and I HATE cold; but there was no way I was letting this guy walk away without figuring all this out in person.  After we were in the car, Teacher Man said that he could definitely see God working through us as a couple in the future, but he asked that I pray with him about our future as long as I needed to in order to know whether God would have us change our friendship into something more.

So we prayed.  Two weeks later, he could wait no longer.  I think we both had a peace about our relationship from the beginning, but God had confirmed in our hearts that we had a future together, each making the other stronger for the Kingdom.  Teacher Man went home for his spring break with a smile on his face. All I have to say is, "Thank goodness for cell phones!"  We talked for hours while he was at home about everything and absolutely nothing and made plans for our first "date."

Here's the romantic in my husband for you: he decided to take me to Chicago for our first date, but this was not just any trip.  Oh no.  Friday night we would picnic at my university before a concert and then head up to his mom's house for the night before leaving for Chicago the next morning to help build a house for the director of the private school where Teacher Man felt called to teach.  Talk about quality time!  After a picnic at the park ruined by rain and a concert at my university where the band was just NOT as good in person, we went back to my townhouse and drank Jarritos (Mexican pop) and talked.  He handed me a copy of My Utmost for His Highest and asked me to read it with him in the year to come.  So far nothing in the evening had gone according to plan.  Then when we arrived late to his mom's house, he informed me that we would be getting up at 4:45 a.m.  WHAT!?!?!  Yep.  Our ride was leaving at 5:30 a.m.  We'd need to be up early.  On a Saturday.  Yeah... I wasn't informed of that detail ahead of time.

But I got up.  I had a bigger smile on my face that he did, and we had an amazing day, talking with the director about his vision as we moved wood trim into his home and installed door handles.  Teacher Man told me at the end of the day that my willingness to scrape plaster off the floor of this man's home was one of the moments that confirmed his choice of bride.  On my side, I watched him and the director talking about the vision for the school, the lives it would change; and I knew within my heart that I wanted to serve the Kingdom alongside this man of vision and compassion.

We rode home in the back of the van with two other volunteers in the front seat and spent most of the time laughing,  probably from exhaustion.  Stopping at a Culver's, I heard a song on the radio for the first time and blushed because I felt like it was reading my mind.  Ever hear Chris Rice's When Did You Fall in Love with Me?

You’re all smiles and silly conversation
As if this sunny day came just for you
You twist your hair, you smile, and you turn your eyes away
C’mon, tell me what’s right with you
Now it dawns on me probably everybody’s talkin’
And there’s something here I’m supposed to realize
‘Cause your secret’s out, and the universe laughs at its joke on me
I just caught it in your eyes, it’s a beautiful surprise

When did you fall in love with me?
Was it out of the blue
‘Cause I swear I never knew it
When did you let your heart run free?
Have you been waiting long?
When did you fall in love with me?
When did you fall in love?

Teacher Man and I held hands for the first time on the last few miles of that trip, and I knew my life would never been the same.  A mentor in Argentina had once advised me to look for three things in the man I would marry.

1. Can you see your life calling fitting with his?
2. Does he draw you closer to Christ?
3. Are you physically attracted to him?  

And in the first date, I saw Teacher Man holding me accountable for spiritual growth, encouraging me to serve the Body, and driving me to distraction by holding my hand.  Plus, let me remind you that he was (and is!) my best friend.  My confidant.  In fact, on several occasions, I would try to tell him something that I wasn't sure how he would take, only to have him say, "Krista, you told me that months ago when you lived in Argentina.  I've known that from Day 1!"  He'd accepted things about me that I didn't even remember telling him.

I'll also tell you that three weeks after our first date, I asked Teacher Man if he had a timeline for our relationship in his mind.  Girls, don't do this unless you're ready for it.  He flat out told me, "Well, I was thinking I would ask your dad for permission to marry you in August, propose between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we'd get married next June after you graduate."  To which, I romantically answered, "I'm leaving the country to student teach in the spring.  I'll need a little more time to plan a wedding.  Could you move up the proposal?"To which, he calmly replied, "Okay."

And that was that. Thus concludes my five-part story.  Someday, perhaps I'll get around to blogging more, but this is really where it all started.  Thanks for reading.  It's been fun to write this in the spring when everything around me reminds me of those precious days when the Lord was bringing us together
.  Teacher Man proposed Labor Day weekend after talking to my parents in August, and we married the following June, completely according to plan.  Only seven months into our marriage while Teacher Man was still a junior in college, we found out we were expecting our first little blessing (not in our plan), but that is another story..


Our Story: Part 4

Sorry for the extended pause.  We were rejoicing this weekend that our Savior LIVES!

Here we go...

The next morning I was so nervous.  I  wasn't quite sure what Teacher Man wanted to talk to me about.  Why did he want to drive all the way over to my school?  Why did he seem so serious about it?  I made it through my classes that day, but I have no idea how.  Finally, Teacher Man and I got chai and sat in the Student Center to talk.  I was trying to act casual, but he was dead serious.  Teacher Man does not do small talk.  He says what he is thinking.  So he shared...

He shared several areas where he felt like I was compromising on what God wanted for me by continuing my relationship with this other guy.  Doctrines that this young man and I did not share.  A life calling to ministry that we did not share.  And Teacher Man was right.  After months of ministry as a single woman in another culture, the safety of a "normal" family life in the States looked so good.  The friendship and encouragement of another who wanted to share the journey with me was absolutely welcome, but Teacher Man was right.  I was putting a lot of energy into this long-distance relationship if this was not going to end in marriage.  And at that moment, I knew that it couldn't.

When I agreed with him on his observations, Teacher Man asked a question that I hadn't seen coming.  He said, "I want to ask you something, but I need you to promise not to read anything into it."  Uh, yeah right.  I'm pretty sure I crossed my fingers when I said, "Okay."  And here comes the magic question: "Krista, could you see yourself working in downtown Chicago?"

Doesn't mean much to you, does it?  But in my mind, he might as well have asked me for a serious relationship.  Yep, I read into the question.  You see, Teacher Man felt called to a specific private school in the inner city of Chicago that was committed to mentoring and discipleship.  If a young woman was going to walk alongside him, she needed to accept his calling first.  

My mind was reeling.  So many pieces of my life puzzle were shifting with this one conversation.  I knew the other young man in my life was not the man for me.  I knew Teacher Man had become my best friend.  I knew my answer to this Chicago question was not just giving acceptance to any work that God might have for me in the future.  Teacher Man was asking if I would follow him. to Chicago.  I hesitated for a moment and then said, "Yeah.  I could see myself in Chicago."  Never have I seen such a huge smile on this man's face.  He beamed.  We chatted quickly about a couple of other things and then said goodbye, but something in me knew this was anything but an end.  

The next few weeks of my life were incredibly stressful.  I made the difficult phone call to the other godly young man who had invested so much in me; but when I shared my calling to ministry, he graciously understood.  Plus, in the midst of all this, I was readjusting to North American culture... and not doing a very good job of it.  All of my old comfort zones weren't so comfortable, and my heart ached when I thought about spending spring break at home when I didn't feel at home anywhere really.

Teacher Man saw my struggles and immediately sprang to my rescue.  His plan: I should go stay with his mother for the week.  They had an extra room.  And loved having missionaries stay with them.  His mom even called me to make sure I knew I was welcome.  Would I like to spend my spring break with them?  Now since our little (or, I guess, big) conversation, Teacher Man had said nothing about "us" or wanting to change our platonic relationship. I knew he was interested (because he was always around my school even though his college was several miles away), but he was giving me a little space and time.  I needed to process all that I had been through over the last two months (yes, this all happened in the two months after I arrived back on U.S. soil) before starting yet another journey.  So I accepted his mother's offer of a week-long getaway, knowing that Teacher Man would be back at his university (different spring breaks).

Teacher Man went to his home with me for the first weekend of my break.  I watched him reconnect with friends from church, speak respectfully to his mother, and love on his sister.  While they worked during the day, I read, prayed, journaled, ran, and met friends who lived in town.  In the evenings, his mother and I spent hours talking about transition, Argentina, theology, missions, and... Teacher Man.  I left at the end of the week, having found two new friends.  Come to find out, my mother- and sister-in-law thought I was still in another relationship.  Years later, they shared that they were a bit bummed about that fact since they wanted Teacher Man and I to get together.  Be careful what you wish for!

In retrospect, I realize that God was giving me the opportunity to become friends with my mother- and sister-in-law completely apart from my relationship with Teacher Man.  What a gift!  To this day, I value these women and will never forget the kindness of their hospitality.

Wow.  Blogger posted this somehow without my hitting "publish."  Oh well.  That's a disjointed account of where God took us next.  We're still not together though...  Maybe my schedule will cooperate better this week.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Our Story: Part 3

Alright, the kids are still sleeping so here goes...

I arrived in the States while college was still in session.  The funny thing was, I didn't have that much in common with my old friends.  They had all become disconnected by thousands of miles of distance... all except one who had been talking to me for months.  Teacher Man had asked if we could get together before he left his university (not far from my parents' home) for Christmas break.  He wanted to pass on a book that we'd talked about over the months of instant messaging, and we were honestly just good friends wanting to chat over ice cream.  Why not?  He shared about his most recent outing with the young woman he was interested in.  I shared about plans I had made with the other young man.  Teacher man ate a cookie dough shake; I drank coffee.  (Okay, maybe we haven't changed as much as I'd like to think we have.)  It was just fun.  And no pressure.  We had other people in the picture.

One thing that did come out of that meeting was our decision to "church shop" together.  Both of the people we were interested in were far away, but both of us knew we needed to get grounded in the local church.  And, of course, we knew we agreed on doctrine after four months of debating and discussing theology via instant messanger.  So when January came around, I picked him up from his university on Sunday morning, and off we went.  After church we always ended up at one of our dining halls.  We'd eat, discuss what we liked or disliked about the church we had attended, and talk about life.

There was a lot going on in my world.  I liked Teacher Man, but I didn't like most Americans.  They seemed too cold, too materialistic, and completely out of touch with global issues.  I struggled to fit back into a family after living abroad by myself.  I didn't want to complain about college with everyone else because I knew I needed the training after over a year and a half of teaching on the field.  And on top of this, the other young man was getting very serious very quickly.  Teacher Man was a patient listener, a good sounding board.  He purposed to give me a hug when he saw me and when we said goodbye because he knew how physical all my Argentine friend had been.  He laughed with me when I used hand gestures from Argentina that mean wildly inappropriate things here in the States.  He was the friend I could talk to about anything because we'd already agreed on the important things.

One of my most vivid memories from this period is Teacher Man coming over to my townhouse on campus after church service and talking (again!) about how much he love the movie Equilibrium.  I casually commented that we'd have to watch that some afternoon after church, and he (NO LIE!) pulled a copy of the movie from the jacket of his Bible.  "Oh, what a coincidence.  I just happen to have a copy of it with me today."  Thus began a tradition that lasted for months.  Church, Lunch, Movie (with a little mindless homework).

All this time, I was still thinking of Teacher Man as only a friend.  A good friend, but completely and totally just a friend.  I was even excited for Teacher Man when he brought another girl to my university for a comedy night.  All three of us went together, and I kept thinking that she was such a great girl.  (I love you, Abi!)  However, the other young man in my life did not share my views.  He could see how much time Teacher Man and I were sharing on Sundays, and he felt threatened in a way that I didn't understand.  As the months went on though, I began realizing that this young man was not called into full-time ministry like I was, and questions began springing into my mind.

Are you ready for the most awkward Sunday of my life?  This young man came down for a weekend visit, and I sat in church with Teacher Man on one side and him on the other.  I had a thousand things to tell Teacher Man and a jittery nervousness about the other guy.  The weird thing: they were kind of scoping one another out, but I could NOT figure out why. We all went out to lunch together after the service and parted ways pleasantly.  Friends would tell me the next part of my story.

Teacher Man went for a run that night.  Late.  And he wept.  Friends said that they saw him and were really concerned.  That night after the run, he messaged me and said he wanted to get together the next afternoon.  Did I have time?  What about track?  He would skip.  What about your coach?  He'd already gotten permission to work out ahead of time.  Wow.  Something was obviously amiss; so, of course, I said "yes."  I called the other young man to keep everything above board, and I went to sleep... kind of.

Caleb wants some cinnamon toast and orange juice.  Hope this gets you through until Part 4 can be written.  Don't be offended, but as I read through this story of God's working in our lives I'm realizing more and more that I'm not writing it for you.  I'm writing it for my sons, for their children, as one more testimony of God's grace in our family's life; and I'm honored that you're joining us as well!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Our Story: Part 2

So where were we?  Oh, yes.  The summer of 2004 changed my life forever.  I was inspired as I watched so many children making the choice to follow Jesus Christ.  Life was overwhelmingly rich, running on low-sleep and hard work; but each night I dropped into bed knowing that I had given my all for the Kingdom.  Then came my sophomore year.  Too many general education classes where no one cared a lick about what they were supposed to be learning.  Too many pointless things to worry about.  So many requirements from the education department.  And the Kingdom kept calling... I found myself questioning everything about what I had accepted as my reality. Should I really be at college for the next two years?  Should I really be in education?  Wasn't there a world out there that needed to hear about Jesus?  Could I really wait two more years to join the mission field?

No, I couldn't wait.  Yes, I wanted to teach.  No, I didn't have to stay at college for the next two years.  Yes, the world did (and does) desperately need to know Christ.  So I left.  The opportunity came up to be an education coordinator for the children of a missionary family in Argentina.  I would only be gone a semester.  I would even graduate on time.  I would take a couple classes by correspondence while I was there.  After weeks of pleading and badgering my parents, I was on a plane bound for Argentina.

The plan was to stay for three months.  I stayed for nine.  The plan was then to return to college in the fall of 2005, but my heart was pulled in another direction.  Another missionary was needing a maternity leave.  Would I go home for the summer of 2005 to raise support so I could return in the fall to take up her work in Cordoba?  God completely answered my prayers with a "yes."  After nine months of supervising homeschool in Mendoza, I boarded a plane bound for Indiana, excited to be serving once again at Camp Good News for all the weeks of camp that I could in the midst of raising support.

Teacher Man couldn't be there for the first week.  He was at Word of Life Camp in New York, but as soon as he was back from his camp, he started work at ours.  This was honestly the first summer I really noticed him.  I was on staff as the resident missionary, talking to the children about missions and serving wherever there was a gap; and we finally had enough staff so that Teacher Man could just be the full-time lifeguard instead of serving as both the lifeguard and a senior counselor.  We both had time on our hands so we sat out in front of the dining hall many afternoons just talking about what God was teaching us and where we saw Him leading.

We broke one very important camp rule... a lot.  The rule of threes.  If a boy and a girl are together, there need to be three people there.  The fact that we were breaking this rule never bothered me because there was no way anything was going to happen between this boy and me.  He was headed to his freshman year of college in the fall at a school down the road from the college I attended.  I was getting ready to board a plane to return to Argentina.  We were two and a half years apart (still are for that matter!).  No danger there.

One night, as we were cleaning up from a huge all-camp game (Gold Rush, anyone?) and getting ready to open up the pool for a night swim, I remember sitting side by side with this grounded, kind young man, eating peanut butter dessert and talking about how God had called him to be a teacher so that he could reach out to the fatherless.  I was (and still am) amazed by the vision he had for his life.  A life of ministry.  A life of sacrifice.  A life that most people do not choose when they are eighteen years old.

At the end of our weeks of camp, I handed him a copy of my support letter along with a prayer card.  He wrote his AIM screen name (remember AIM?) for me on a scrap of paper, and we parted ways with a hug.  I didn't think a thing about him for weeks.  In August of 2005, I got back on a plane to Argentina, ready for my next adventure; but as with most things in Latin American, I had a lot of waiting ahead of me.  The classes I was to teach did not start as soon as I arrived.  The woman who would be mentoring me into the position was a huge help, but life just moved at a slower pace down there.

If you know me personally, you know that I like to stay busy.  Waiting is grueling to me, but wait I did.  I spent a lot of time reading, studying Spanish, and getting know several university students from the church; but I still had a lot of time on my hands.  So did Teacher Man.  He was a freshman in college, who was way too good at school for that to take much of his time.  What were we to do but talk for hours on AIM?

Another man was interested in me and corresponded frequently, so I would ask Teacher Man questions to get a man's perspective.  Teacher Man was interested in another young lady so I would give him a woman's opinion.  On top of that, we ended up talking about music, theology, travel, education, and important qualities in a future spouse.  All of this done with absolutely no interest in one another.  I was still guarding my emotional purity; and I was honestly happy for Teacher Man to have a special young lady in his life.  That took all the pressure off of our relationship.  He was safe.  He was wise beyond his years.  And he became one of my best friends over those months of instant messaging across the globe.

God called me back to the United States of America to finish my degree, starting spring semester 2006.  In December of 2005, I said goodbye to everything that had become normal to me in Argentina.  As much as I was looking forward to being back in my homeland, I had a rough transition ahead of me.  Same country.  Same family.  Same college.  Different me.  And on top of all these challenges was the excitement that the other man who had been corresponding with me was wanting to become a bigger part of my life.  

Want to know what happens next?  Too bad!  The children are racing around the house and we have a full evening ahead.  Hope that satisfies those of you who were clamoring for Part 2.  Blessings!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Our Story: Part 1

So this picture
has brought up some interesting conversations.

Teacher Man and I are... well... different from the people that we were when this picture was taken.  So much has changed, but the ironies of our story are even funnier now that we sit here two graduations, six jobs, four moves, and two children later.  
I guess the story started in June of 2001.  I was sitting at my parent's computer at the all-knowing age of 17.  
A friend had sent an email, pleading for teens to serve as counselors at Camp Good News in North Webster, Indiana.  With no specific plans for a couple weeks of my summer, I volunteered to be a counselor.  I was picturing well-cleaned cabins in green fields.  Ha!  When I arrived, there were mouse droppings on the bunks, which were actually cots hanging from the ceiling by chains.  To this day, Teacher Man swears those are the most comfortable beds he has ever slept in; but this city girl almost died when she arrived for staff training.  The camp, though so beautiful, was surrounded by duckweed-infested water, and it was raining outside.  I literally made my mom take me into town so I could walk around and decide if I could really stay overnight at this wilderness called Camp Good News.  It all boiled down to this.  I wanted to make a difference in kids' lives.  I wanted my time to count.  And I loved the people that we had already met.  So she drove me back, and I stayed for the weekend of training and then returned for 2 weeks of camp.

Now we know for a fact that Teacher Man was there.  The records show it to be true.  However, neither of us has any memory of the other one being at camp.  You see, the camp kept boys and girls completely separate.  We sat on separate sides of the chapel and separate sides of the dining hall.  Our cabins were on opposite sides of the camp.  Our activities were at different times.  And we never EVER were allowed to swim at the same times so I didn't know he existed.  I was totally focused on my girls, determined in my perfectionist way to be uber-counselor...and I loved it.  Kids came to know Christ as their Savior.  I made relationships with peers and adults that to this day bless my life.  Counseling humbled me and made me hunger for more of the Word.

Needless to say I was totally on board for another summer of counseling.  In 2002, for whatever reason, I came to acknowledge Teacher Man's existence at a distance.  However, I have only one memory of him from that summer.  My mom came to camp to pick me up at the end of the summer when we were all having a water fight.  Armed with super soakers, fire hoses, buckets, and a few ordinary garden hoses; we  were having a blast when my mom and sister came to pick me up.  To this day, I remember my mom saying, "Who is that guy over there?  He's really good looking."  I. was. mortified.  "Mom!  That's .  No. way."  

Are you catching where the irony works into my story here.  Seriously.  And the "no way" even made sense, I was off to college in the fall and David would be starting his sophomore year of high school.  Ahem... yes.  I married a younger man.  For the record though, he's more mature than I am so it all works out.

So this brings us to 2003, a year of huge changes for the camp.  The camp no longer had a full-time director.  I was asked to be the program director for the camp, planning all the activities, organizing the staff, and leading the overall schedule of camp.  That staff just happened to include Teacher Man, who by this time was an almost 16 year old hunk... I mean... senior counselor.  It was also at this time that God was doing amazing things in my heart and mind.  I had read the book Emotional Purity by Heather Paulsen (and whoever has my copy, I want it back!), and she had pointed out the dangerous mental patterns that young girls get into that get them into so much trouble.  We see a guy, and we start imagining how wonderful life would be if we were together.  What our house would look like.  Where we would live.  In this book, Ms. Paulsen challenged me to save myself, all of myself, for my future husband.  This "all" included the emotional purity of not mentally chasing after every guy I met and wondering if he would be my husband.

I honestly can't remember if it was 2003 or 2004 (because we both worked the same jobs both years), but I vividly remember Teacher Man coming into the dining hall to ask me a question... and my mind started to go "there"... and I stopped it.  I remember making the choice to honor my future husband and Teacher Man's future wife.  It takes my breath away when I remember this.  Because I am that wife.

Just in case you're too drawn into the romance of that moment, I need to point out that Teacher Man also spent those two summers tormenting me with the help of another counselor whose name begins with an A and ends with a J.  One night specifically I remember them pushing me to tears and I went running to the chapel to pound on the piano for a while in an effort to calm down.  To their credit, both boys came to the chapel to apologize; but these young men were anything but romantic.

One morning, Teacher Man also organized all the boy campers to attack me with pillows at the morning flag raising.  I should've made him clean the toilets with his toothbrush.  What a bum.  You see what I mean about torment?

But this is all build-up to the summer of 2005...

Unfortunately, I'm too tired to write more for posterity or even for you, dear reader.  Part 2 shall follow when I have another 22 minutes to myself.  At least you know it ends happily, right?

Some Good, Old-fashioned (free) Springtime Fun

Our family is inspired by the outdoors.  My husband and I often reminisce of our camp working days when we spent 99.9% of our lives outdoors, soaking up the sun and getting bitten to death by mosquitoes.  Regardless of the incredible drain of camping ministry, there is something invigorating about waking up and walking out into the cool of the morning and spending your entire day in the great outdoors.  To this day, our family relaxes best when we are outside.
(Yep. That's Teacher Man.  I got the studly counselor.)

Thanks to the warm-up in the weather, we've been outside a lot and have rediscovered so many good things through the eyes of our three year old, Caleb.  Here are some of his favorite activities:

Hide and Seek
Though we've been playing this game indoors for months, it's no where near as fun as it is when you can hide behind bushes and rocks,

Bird Watching
I'm not the girl to ask if you want to know what the name of every bird is.  That would be my mother.  Through her, Caleb has discovered the world of birds and now points out every bird he sees, what he thinks they are doing, and what he thinks they are saying.  I love his imagination.  I'm pretty sure the world of Beatrix Potter has something to do with his assigning a personality to every creature.

Bike Rides
We love to throw the kids into their seats on the backs of our bikes and ride around the local college or park.  Ben smiles incessantly as long as we are going, and sometimes these bike rides are the best uninterrupted conversations I have with Teacher Man.

Tricycle Rides
Nothing like a good walk with the little listening ears a few paces ahead.  Caleb loves the independence of pedaling around the college.  We love the privacy of an adult conversation while we push Ben around after his brother.

Flower Hunts
I know I have boys... tough, dirty boys; but I see nothing wrong with teaching our men to appreciate beauty in nature.  Caleb right now looks for wildflowers along the road and then gives his little brother a lesson on colors by picking a few blooms to let Ben sniff and telling little brother all about them.

No clue what the fascination is, but my boys (to make up for their Ferdinand-like tendencies) have spent hours in the last couple of weeks digging in the gravel of our driveway and getting hopelessly dirty.  Sometimes they have shovels; other times they're hard at work with their own two hands.  This always ends in a royal, muddy mess; but I love it.

Library Trips
Just because it's sunny does NOT mean we've abandoned our local library.  We try to make weekly or biweekly trips to the library for the whole family's sake.  Right now the library is displaying books about gardening and plant growth.  What a great way to dig deeper into the knowledge the boys are already absorbing from our hours spent outside!  Today I picked up a book called i love dirt!.  I loved the title at first sight and enjoyed the author's 52 ideas (divided by season for convenience) for helping your children appreciate creation.

I'm pretty sure that future library trips will include checking out a few field guides as my big boy must know the name of  every plant, tree, and bird that he sees.

Park Dates
If you have small children, you've probably been to your local park several times this year.  Some days I feel like we live at our local park, which also has a great petting zoo.  In a world of screens and technology, it is priceless to watch my boys stare at the animals with fascination and climb all over the playground.  The park has also saved me a lot of lunch clean-up lately.  Picnic at the park. Brush the crumbs on the ground for the birds. Don't worry about cleaning your dining room and kitchen.  This is my kind of plan.

The Swing
By the end of the summer, I'm convinced that this swing is going to teach my children (at least my oldest) to take turns.  The boys run outside whenever we're willing to let them ride in the swing, and I do mean ride.  That thing flies!

Well, that's enough time spent inside for now.  My littlest is awake.  Maybe I'll give him a break from taking turns and just give him a swing date by himself.  Enjoy the sunshine!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring Break (the reason I haven't blogged)

I know. I know!  I'm way behind.  I have a good excuse.  I always do.  Teacher Man has been home on spring break!  We did a little stay-cationing.  This included a Family Room Campout (because doesn't a tent make just about anything better?,

some serious work on our schoolhouse outside (pictures to follow!), a visit from my wonderful mother-in-law now that she's home from Spain

and a new addition to our home.

A piano!  (Not a baby.  I know there was someone out there thinking that. You know who you are.)  And if you're wondering where I am, I'm probably sitting on the piano bench and soothing my soul.
 So there's my story, and I'm sticking to it.  I've got lots of links to share with you soon!  Have a blessed day!