Friday, August 29, 2008

South Cackalacky- gorgeous history in Charleston

We are ending our whirlwind tour of friends in the South (and more honestly, their kids!) this weekend. Today we went to the historic plantation Middleton Place. Absolutely stunning. Many details to come, but here's a quick pic.

New Shepherd for the Sheep

For those of you who may be interested, UPC finally found ournew head pastor George Hinman! I'm glad we'll get to meet him and hear him soon before we flock to Tejas!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Househunting Success- 48 houses 48 hours!

48 hours into our trip and 48 homes later... We have seen a lot of gorgeous homes and a lot of ghetto, and a lot of in-between. It is a bit hard to figure out where we want to live in TX, because we don't know what our priorities are yet. We know we don't want much of a yard to take care of, which we can avoid by being at the beach or on a golf course. Here is a visual tour of ourfavorite home so far at the golf course. Custom homes are amazingly cheap, but our problem is they're also huge (1000 sq. ft.+ bigger than our current house for less money than our house). We have no need for a 4 bedroom/3 bath, which most houses are; and we'd have half the house be empty, furniture-wise:)

So we'll see, but check this house out from the golf course and maybe I'll attach some more links soon...

Yeehaw, off to FL we go now!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Two weeks of blogs smashed into one entry

Here are a bunch of things running through my mind. I don't have long to blog the next couple of weeks, so in no particular order:

#1- When I was in LA last week for my LAST WEEK EVER of graduate school, there was a big buzz on campus that a fellow Fuller alum, Rick Warren (you may know him as the Purpose Driven Life guy) was hosting John McCain and Barack Obama at his church, Saddleback, for a discussion of faith, politics and all things election-related. I wish I could've gone, but my flight was for that morning. There are videos of this up on the internet and I'd encourage ya'll to check it out. I've heard critiques from the Right Wing "how dare you let Obama speak about abortion at a church!" and the Left Wing, "McCain had the upper hand listening to Obama and planning his rebuttal before his turn!" But whatever. I think it's an interesting and cool thing that Rick Warren did to invite both candidates to So Cal for this discussion. Check it out.

#2- Did you know that Louie Giglio of Passion is planting a church in Atlanta?! His worship leaders are none other than Matt Redman (moving here from England) and Chris Tomlin (leaving his church in Austin) and Christy Nockles (whom I love.) It's been something stirring around in Louie for a long time, and though it means leaving North Point and his good friend Andy Stanley, they are fired up about it. I've been thinking about it all day, wondering what it will be like, and how it will diverge from both Passion and NP. It's sure to be a mega-church mega-fast, that's the one thing I know. I look forward to visiting and hearing the podcasts. We can't wait to see Louie when the Passion World Tour comes to Vancouver in October!

#3- I am taking the biggest exams of my academic career on Friday and Saturday for 9 hours. They span the breadth of Scripture and historic apostolic Christianity (from Biblical times, to the early church, the Reformation, modern thought, etc.), and all Theology therein. As I answer, I must also be congruent with the Polity of the Presbyterian Church... I am just a little bit intimidated. So pray for me to pass. It's amazing/humbling how much I DON'T know after all these years studying this stuff!

#4- The night my exams end we are flying to TX. It's a red-eye, not ideal, but we wanted to max out the leave Los gets for free for house-hunting (9 days). We're only going to be in Corpus for 48 hours, but in that time, hopefully we'll find our dream home and I'll get hired at a church. Go big or go home, right? So pray for that too. (and for some sleep) When we leave TX, we're flying east, to spend a couple days in FL (Jax) and a couple of days in SC (Charleston), to see some sweet friends both places; we're hoping for maximum connection time with each party involved. 5 states, all in a week's time!! Are you stressed out listening to the agenda?

#5- Meanwhile, back at the ranch: the first weekend we're gone our realtor is going to have an Open House here. Pray for someone to fall in love with our house and put an offer in for it!

#6- My September should hypothetically be relaxed. I mean, I have to write 31 pages and read a few books to finish up summer quarter. But that's it. Then I am done and done. So if I don't blog for a while, you know why...

Carpe diem. Or something like that.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Why I love the South

Me: Do you want to have dinner next week?

Her: If the Good Lord's willin and the creek don't rise.

(I think that means yes)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Winds of Change are a Blowin'

I've cried two times this weekend. That's a lot. I can't even remember the last time I cried before this? The first one was when our house went up for sale:) I know it's silly, but I've moved 22 times since I was 18. (I'm shocked to tally this up for the first time!) Having a home (let alone a brand new, clean one with a garden and more space than I knew what to do with) for 3 whole years has been such a blessing. We have had so much fun making it our own, and it has been such a haven for me. It was finished being built right after our honeymoon, so our whole married life has been spent here, and saying goodbye to it will be strange and sad. I feel so connected to it, and want someone to appreciate it as much as we have.

The second time I cried was tonight, saying goodbye to Nick and Lindsay, our dear friends who are moving to Malawi, Africa in about 4 hours (leaving their house at 3am). I've already written a blog about HOW amazing they are, and it is weird to think about them leaving us behind. We're the military people, we're supposed to leave them! It is way harder to be left behind. Almost every memory I have of our life in the Skagit Valley has them in it. They have been our best friends here, ever since the night Nick invited himself over for dinner to tell us about Young Life in the valley. We had only been here maybe a week or two, and hadn't even unpacked all the way! Driving home that night, Nick and Linds said they felt like they had "just gone on a really good date." We became instant friends after that, sharing:
1. B-E high school sports games (both here and at the State Championships)
2. Sakuma Bros. Market
3. Seeds- our favorite restaurant in La Conner
Lots and lots of:
4. Settlers-favorite board game
5. Hand and Foot- favorite card game
6. Riverside Athletic Club (the RAC)
7. Young Life campaigners and a week at Malibu Club in Canada
8. 3 years worth of good meals (including about a billion batches of Lindsay's brownies) and great conversations
9. Shuffleboard at the Edison
10. watching Lost and playing the Wii at their house
11. horseback riding in the Cascades from Nick's dad's house
12. Tulip Festival
13. Berry Dairy Days
14. When we got Burly, he and Allie (their Golden Retriever) fell in love.
15. Painting 3 rooms in our house
16. Playing Scrabble and singing along with iTunes:)

The list could go on and on. We've shared birthdays (we hosted a surprise party for Nick one summer, and they took me to bday dinner this year while Los was in the Middle East), holidays, family (we LOVE Lindsay's parents and Nick's grandparents), and Linds was at my graduation this summer. So much life has been shared together. They are so unpretentious, selfless, fun and wonderful, the kind of people you never get sick of hanging out with. I will miss being neighbors with them. I am so excited for their new adventure in Africa, and of course we plan to visit them, but life will never be the same as this sweet season of 3 years. When we left their house, I cried all the way home, half in sorrow, half in gratitude for the gift their friendship has been to me. The first two years we lived here, when Los was gone 1/2 the time, it was they who cared for me, and invited me over so as to assuage my grief and loneliness. They are great examples to me of the kind of friend I want to be to others. So to Nick and Lindsay I raise my champagne (of course) glass- may your future be as amazing as you are. We love you.

Friday, August 15, 2008

It's official- our House is For Sale!

AHHHHHH!!! I can't believe our belovedHOUSE IS FOR SALE! I can't believe this day has come, I am so sad/in shock. Realtors are already bringing people over there and I'm not even home yet! Crazy... I pray someone will fall in love with it and appreciate it as much as we have. We're asking for $30K less than what we wanted, but time is of the essence, so we hope the low price will entice someone to make an offer in the next month. If you feel like praying for that too, I hereby pronounce you our new best friend.

Wrapping up the Gift of Time

Today is my last full day in sunny So Cal. It has been an intense, but blessed two weeks here. My last seminary class is now over, all I have left is 12 hours of exams (3 today, 9 next weekend) and to read 2 books and write 27 pages. But I have a month to do all that.

Seminary has been an amazing 5 year journey in so many ways, and I am truly grateful for the role Fuller has played in my spiritual and academic growth and vocational discernment. However, it's been somewhat of a lonely time too, so many days/nights with just books and a laptop to keep me company. When Los was overseas for all those months, I was grateful to have the distraction of books/laptop, but attending a satellite campus as I did, I have really missed the communal element of being at a main campus. Not just driving in, sitting, and leaving; but sharing life together. Part of my favorite memories of grad school will be the summer I lived in Canada, going to Regent; if solely because of the shared meals/conversations that arise out of being in proximity to one another. I love hearing people's stories and seeing where our passions connect and diverge. I think there is nothing more powerful a human can say to another than, "you too?" Loneliness is part of the human condition, and to bridge that gap by connecting with others is such a gift.

All that to say, I feel like I've been trying to cram years worth of fellowship into the past 2 weeks. There weren't many females in Seattle at school that I felt on the same page as, maybe only Lisa, whereas they are in abundance down here. I felt joy and solidarity in so many conversations, many of which would not have ended if not for the clock reminding us that "time flies when you're having fun." I had good connection time with:

KC- whom I've known 17 years now! It's special to have that history with people. She's who I stayed with, 1.5 mi. from campus.
Amie- same, bridesmaid, and my best friend from jr.high/high school years, she came down for a wedding in LA. I was so happy to see her, even if I never got to go to Magic Mountain:(
Diane- classmate
Denise- classmate
Libby- Fuller's ASB president and all-around awesome gal who makes me laugh!
Heidi- E's great friend who through FB has become my friend, she's who works for World Vision and is amazing.
Katie- I know her from FL, and we graduated together. Very like-minded and encouraging to be around! I could've have talked with her forever.
Hanna- she was in our wedding too, and I know her from Cal, she's now getting a Ph.D at UCLA and is so wonderful, I hate that I only see her every few years!

Tonight I get to see my mom and have some good hours with her too, which will be great. And then back up to my real life I go, cherishing this great gift of time with women.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pastor Casey?

The Job Situation
Okay, so I made myself walk to school today (1.5 miles in lovely Pasadena) so I could pray about some things regarding the future. I have been a student for 25, count them 25 YEARS. A quarter of a century. Unbelievable. So I have this ridiculous expectation that someone is going to hire me for $50-$100K right out of school and I’m going to have a dream job.
Except the problem is, we’re moving to South TX. So far, I’m not so sure that dream jobs exist there? And not being there myself, it is hard to get the feel for people and communities. God usually surprises me by bringing up something I never would have thought of, or designing life in a way I never would have expected life to work. So far so good, I have ZERO complaints about life thus far. So I should expect God’s covenant faithfulness to me to come through yet again. Why do I doubt? Oh yeah, it’s because my list of super sweet options for pastoral work so far are:

#1- solo pastor to a church of 50. Coming from a church of 3500, that’s hard to imagine.
#2- solo pastor to a small church of Filipinos! Even more awkward, as my Tagalog is less than sub-par☺
#3- Chaplain to an international boarding high school (cool, but a 45- minute drive each way)
#4- a substitute chaplain at the local hospital system (that already has 20 chaplains)
or today I found out about
#5- a 350 member church that wants a pastor part-time for youth/children. This may be my best prospect yet?

None of these are positions I fell in love with immediately, though some may be things I could get excited about when I actually meet the people/hearts involved. I am grateful for good counsel from pastor friends around the nation who I’m checking/balancing with (like a good Presbyterian). Here’s some of the advice I got today:
What does have your name all over it is being a pastor. The context in which you do it matters in terms of fit and personality. But the work of being a pastor is the same irrespective of where you do it. The thing to note in process with any church is the health of the congregation and what pathology you're willing to deal with (and what pathology you need to run away from). In your first job you don't want to go to a place that has a history of being abusive to pastors. But if it's just a small dying church and they need you to do Mother Theresa work, that's not necessarily a bad thing and in my mind better than a hospital chaplaincy. Let's talk more, but that's the short answer.
Here is what I can tell you from my experience:
Go to a place that you can buy into and support...
(1) the mission of the church- the explicit and implicit mission. (What do they say they want to be and do? What are they actually being and doing?)
(2) the model of ministry- their approach to programing/ structure/ philosophy (small groups vs sunday school? simple vs cafeteria approach? I would never go into a church to change or fix it as an associate, but to support and further what God is already doing.)
(3) the culture- the style, the vibe, the feel, the risk-taking/ adverseness, the friendliness, the age, uniformity/ diversity (this may be the most important thing in going to a church that no one ever talks about. Will you have to make apologies for what they do or how they do it? Is this the church you would chose to go to if you were just moving to town and you were going to pick a church to attend?)

Ask tons of questions of everybody. Ask them about their biggest change they've made in the last year. Ask the senior pastor what he is specifically and activity leading toward right now. Ask them about the last big disagreement and how they handled it. Ask about why staff has left. Get the names and numbers of previous staff and talk to them (don't skip this step).

Give Los total veto power. Don't ever go anywhere that Los isn't 100% called to.

Finally, don't settle. God is not a god of compromise. He hasn't called you to a mediocre place.
This advice seems to be good across the board, so maybe it will speak to some of you too?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

8/100 of a second. Au contraire mon amis!

4x100 Men's Freestyle Relay. France- you're gonna smash us, eh? Pretty sure we just smashed you. Anyone who hasn't seen this yet has gotta see it; best swim in history. I just tried to You Tube it, but all the videos have been removed for copyright issues. Unbelievable.

The Perfect So Cal Day

I am oh so sad that I didn't have a camera to capture today in photos, thus words will have to do. So far, most of my time in Southern California has not been very photogenic, if time can be photogenic.  I went to the hospital, was in school and study groups far too many hours, and have been grimier than normal due to the Pasadena heat/humidity.  I have had a few great meals/conversations with a few great girls, but other than that, not so picturesque until today.

TODAY WAS AMAZING. For a while now, I've wanted to go to the Rose Bowl Flea Market, which is only one Sunday a month. I love the Rose Bowl, it has been home to the Olympics and World Cup, Super Bowls and BCS Championships, lots of history has been made there the past 90 years. The flea market is apparently the biggest in the nation, maybe even world? Before I got Beth as a mother-in-law, I probably never would have had interest in going to a flea market, but it was really awesome. If we'd had more money to spend and a truck, I would've purchased multiple things. All I bought was a tea box, but I wanted some milk cans, a fancy mirror and chairs and 2-3 ft. tall wooden candlesticks. I stayed in the vintage section, but apparently the stuff goes all the way around the football stadium? Intense. The hard core buyers are allowed in at 5am, but normal people go in from 9-3. When I got there before 10, a steady stream of people were in line to enter and many people were already leaving with their bizarre array of goods. A highlight was seeing Anne Hathaway (and maybe Jason Bateman too) shopping. I heard Elijah Wood had been there too, apparently lots of stars go there. Very cool experience.

Then KC showed me some blocks of cute bungalows. Pasadena has great architecture in many neighborhoods, I have loved seeing the houses here. Some friends took me to the Father of the Bride house tonight and hopefully I'll see the 90210 house later this week. It is so weird to be around tv homes/stars, when that's not a part of my reality elsewhere in the country. KC said that Rory from the Gilmore Girls plays on the soccer team KC played against this morning too. I suppose US magazine is right- stars are real people too:)

This afternoon and evening was great as six of us Fuller students/grads spent time in Manhattan Beach. I had yummy blackened fish tacos and we had a good conversation about women in ministry and Reformed Theology, geeky topics I could enjoy talking about for hours- especially while walking in the ocean, as we were:) I love the beach. Not as much as mountains, probably, but I do love it.

Now I am sleepy from the sun and stimulation I got, but I am watching Olympic swimming before going to bed. It was a great day- one week left in So Cal and then home to my love and Puggybear I go!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

On College Football: Them Southerners Must'a Rubbed Off On Me...

5 years ago I never would have written this blog. 3 years ago this next week, I left Florida and during my time there, somehow, college football seeped into my being, and miraculously, I became a fan. The life-long soccer fan in me feels betrayed by this new part of myself, but it's true. Now I can't WAIT for college football season, which is upon us within weeks. However, I will never be an ardent fan of just one team, that's too limiting to me. Plus I never want our home to be a sports paraphernalia kind of home. No thank you. And since we move around, it is convenient for me to adopt teams at will. Maybe you true blue, bleed-whatever-your-home-team-color-is people will look at me with disdain; but remember, you're dealing with a girl who may or may not also pick my NCAA Basketball brackets by places I like and uniform colors. So there's that...

But here are my self-proclaimed teams that I'm rooting for in my own quiet, non-discriminatory, pan-conference kind of way:

Pac 10- California Bears, no question. If I ever see a Cal hat (in Australia, London, wherever) it is now instinctual to say, "Go Bears!" I am excited if Washington (Los' alumnus) wins too, but let's be honest, when does that happen?
WAC- Fresno State, hometown team. Plus I like saying wiggity Wac.
SEC- Florida, no question. I've been to 5 SEC stadiums, they are ginormous! These are the most zealous, football-is-life fans I've seen. They are an amusing breed. I've seen Gator wedding decorations, birthday cakes, etc. Awesome.
ACC- North Carolina (I have no affiliation, but heart their colors, state, and women's soccer program)
Big East- Syracuse and Connecticut (my mom got her undergrad and Master's there)
Big 12- Texas (our new home, plus I heart burnt orange) and Colorado (I have a thing for Buffaloes and Boulder)
Big 10 (they can't count, it's actually 11)- here's this for unity: Michigan AND Ohio State. What can I say? Great people are BOTH places. Yesterday I was driving with an OSU grad, and I mentioned Michigan in a sentence, as in, "turn left after Michigan," and the guy actually shuttered and said, "Please don't say that word in this car." Amazing. Even though they are sworn enemies, I endorse both:)

Lastly, which doesn't really fall into any particular conference, since my favorite colors are blue and orange, I always like teams that have those colors, such as: Florida, Syracuse, Illinois, Pepperdine, Auburn, who else?

Friday, August 8, 2008

China- Human Rights Watch

I had a great dinner last night in Pasadena with one of my self-proclaimed "blog-stalkers." She's not creepy, actually she's quite amazing, with a Master's in International Development and working at World Vision's International headquarters here. She's our age and has already been to 40 countries so far, double what I've done! Along with being substantive, she's gorgeous and was wearing high heels; quite the catch, but sorry guys, she's married. I got this link to some of the terrible things happening in China from her. Check it out if you are curious to be more informed about things that are going on there.

RANT: One state, Two state, Red state, Blue state

I am sick and tired of the liberal-conservative dialectic, stereotypes and polarization. When are we going to get it through our thick skulls that no political party encompasses the heart of God, nor deserves our allegiance if we subscribe to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? No human leader will ever deserve that reverence. Why is Nationalism and being Red or Blue more important to most people than bowing down before God and loving our neighbors near and far?

When I got to L.A. and entered into conversation with people, as soon as they heard I was from Seattle they jumped into how crazy liberal they’ve heard everyone is there. They called people “Demon-crats.” Seriously? I am your sister in Christ, actually; I’m not even affiliated with a party. We have far more in common than not, actually. But okay, go ahead and label, demoncrat it is. Unbelievable. There are Republicans in Seattle too, maybe they are kinder than the So Cal breed?
Continuing with my good times here, I also had an argument with a Baptist-esque woman at dinner tonight about seemingly everything we spoke about… It was all very civilized, but I was groaning within as she packed the world into the “going to hell in a handbasket” box while simultaneously packing America into the “awesome” box. Really?

Examples of her statements:
“Europe is full of heathens.” Actually, the Holy spirit is alive and moving there too.
“College will destroy teens’ faith.” Actually, I’ve been working with college students around the nation who have vibrant faith and are living out Kingdom ethics as God’s hands and feet of change and healing in the world around them.
“We are freeing Iraq from oppression.” Really? Seems like we’re also there for our own interests and attempting to impose western values.
“History books don’t show what men of God the Founding Fathers were.” Really? Seems like many of them were deists at best and worshipped manifest destiny more than God.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE America. I am passionate about my country. But I don’t want to romanticize it and as a Christian, I am equally passionate about all of God’s creation. Part of what I love about God is that rather than the “going to hell in a handbasket” (what does that even mean anyway?!) mentality, I feel like Scripture is full of hope for humanity and the earth. Our stewardship of our lives and our planet can have a direct impact on the Kingdom of God furthering it’s reach. I believe God blesses “the rest of the world too,” not just the USA; and when we arrogantly assume that the world revolves around us (as we consume the food and fossil fuels that the rest of earth could share), we are not making any great friends in the process. If we loved God with all that we are and loved others as we loved ourselves… that would be a novel concept.

Beijing Olympics

I have mixed feelings about China and these Olympics, but I've gotta say they put on one heck of an opening ceremony!  It was neat to hear all the underdog stories and see people (like the 14 year old British diver- so cute!) who are so excited just to be there (since they have no real chance of winning a medal.)  But the thing that stuck out most to me was the commentary on the lone Afghani woman who was supposed to be there.  Apparently because of death threats on her life from fundamentalists, she disappeared recently and is seeking asylum in Norway.  That makes me sad on multiple levels.
I don't know what else to say about that, so on a more superficial note, the second thing that sticks out to me is how many countries I've never heard of and how varied the fashion is in the world.  I liked the classic Brits, and French, quadrennial favorites (I'd say perennial but it's every four years) and the Kazakhs rocking the turquoise and orange, fave colors of mine.  Here's to great competition and drama over the next few weeks (and to clean air in China, and female Chinese babies, and stopping human traficking and media censorship, freeing Tibet, and saving Darfur, etc.)