Monday, December 29, 2008

Our International Christmas

For Christmas, I got Los a new sound system for our house, a tattoo and a PUPPY!  More news on those changes to come...  But first, the food: for our first Christmas starting new traditions, we thought why not shoot for the moon?  We threw out any "traditional ham" idea.  We all assigned each other different countries to make dishes from- the only requirement being that you could not have ever made the dish before.  What could've been a risky disaster turned out amazingly!

Team Evans, 5 months away from expanding!

Team Y'all- 3 months away from becoming Team Yokers!
My food aversions include many proteins, luckily I was assigned India (an easy country for vegetarian dishes).  I made a veggie curry that was spicier than I'd hoped, but good and good for you.
Action shot from our kitchen
We had French Champagne, an amazing Brunello from Italy (thanks Bish!) and cheeses from Sweden, Spain, Switzerland and England...
Burly cleaned up on new treats from Santa...
Kiesha made a Russian Potato and Kielbasa recipe that we gobbled up, huge hit.  I also made a Kiwi Raita yogurt to assuage the spiciness of my dish.  Carlos made the main dish, a French chicken piperade- very good.  Dave made cranberries (we had to have them!) and an awesome Spanish Flan for dessert.  All in all, a great meal.  We had so much fun with team Y'all, who spent 4 nights at our house (although they only live at the beach, 25 minutes away!)  It was so fun to spend the days with them, exchange stockings and go to San Antonio the day after Christmas together.  Saturday we introduced them to Settlers, our fave game, finally we have people to play it with here!  And I made a Spanakopita and Tabbouleh for dinner, to continue our international theme.  Sunday they went to church with us and then they made us a great lunch.  Lots o food and fun and memories with our friends.  
Now we are sleepy, yet grateful for the mini-vacation in our own home.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Reflection on Mary

Funny how being pregnant makes me think about Jesus' mom at this Christmas-time than I ever have before... As a virgin, betrothed to Joseph, she must have been feeling like life was going pretty well, maybe just how she wanted it. Sure they might not have had much financial stability (as today's sage counselors advise us before getting married), but undoubtedly they had dreams and a plan for a future together.

Until an angel comes and 'ruins' everything. Besides scaring the crap out of her (presumably, as angels tended to do in Scripture), he also let her know that God had an agenda for her life that she didn't quite bargain for. It was going to include miracles and being a part of history unlike anyone else. A total honor, yet one that would also come with a lifetime of hardship. The immediate shame of being pregnant, when society may or may not believe that Joseph was the father, and all the rumors that would swirl around with that. Some people probably thinking she was crazy for trusting God was at the helm of her son's life, during the persecution and crucifixion he would later face. In all of this, she had to give up control, something hard for us to do. A pastor in Seattle calls raising children a 2-decade exercise in giving up control. True, but we at least hope they'll be safe. Mary couldn't even hope for that.

When she told the angel, "may it be as you've said," I have newfound respect for her, as she accepted all of the future joys and pains that awaited her for the rest of her lifetime.

But the part that really gets me is when it's time for her to go into labor. If I were birthing the savior of the world (which I'm not, but IF I was) I would AT LEAST expect to be put up in a 5-star hotel with room service for the few days surrounding the labor and delivery. I mean, it's the least God could do, right? I'm signing up for a lifetime of who knows what- can I at least be comfortable while giving birth?! Doesn't seem like to much to ask. They've traveled to Bethlehem, where Joseph's roots are. You would think that if the guy had family in the area, when there was no room "in the inn," some relative would've at least said, "come sleep on our pull-out couch" or something... Nothing. And what kind of town sees a massively pregnant woman, and doesn't offer to help her out?! What kind of people are these?

Mary must have felt really alone. And we are not meant to be alone. We are not designed to be alone. So the funny part of the story to me, is when these crazy-haired shepherds enter the picture. Totally random guys, who've been living with animals more than people, show up on the scene, not even sure what they're looking for; but trusting God will guide them. And they come to Mary, Joseph and Jesus. I'm gonna go on a wild hunch that they're not the community that Mary was hoping for to surround her after giving birth. When it is my turn, I want family and friends around me, not some weird dudes who've been herding cattle in West Texas. I'm just saying. Yet this is the community that God offers them. She could either feel alone, and sorry for herself, or embrace, yet again, the plan God has for her life, and the people God brings into her life.

I have been feeling alone some of the time I've been in TX. Especially today, on Christmas, even as a 29 year old, it is weird to be away from family for the first time. Things look different than I thought it should, or am used to. It would be easy to feel alone in this. But the truth is, we are not alone. We have good friends in Kiesha, Dave and the Richerson's nearby. We have a new church that has embraced us, and people from there who asked us to come over on Christmas. Life may look really different than what we have known, but like Mary, we are doing our best to receive what God has given us in this blessed season. I pray the same for all of you. God puts people in each of our lives; maybe not the people we expect or would choose ourselves, but we don't have to be alone. The human heart was meant to be in community, so embrace those around you, or reach out to someone who may feel alone today.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Serving up some Christmas Joy!!!

This is the best story ever. Ever. And it is so cool to have been a small part of it.

Towne Family

Sweet Little Ben

A week ago, Carin Towne wrote on their Caring Bridge blog about 3 year old Ben's desire to "serve (a tennis ball) just like Roger Federer." If you have not yet read their blog, do it right now. You will never forget it in your life.

So anyway, compelled by the desire to bring joy (albeit limited) to this family, I wrote Roger's mom and his US agent an email. I told them Ben's story and attached their blog. Why not, right?! Ben's body is ravished with cancer, and his days are limited. He has already suffered more than any human should have to, in his short life. Then my brilliant friend Shannon also cast her net wide and found a friend of a friend (of a friend, you know how that goes) who knew Tiger Woods, and another that had been on the tennis circuit as a pro years back and could call the head of Nike Tennis.

Long shot, right? NOPE!! Less than a week later, little Ben Towne got a couple surprises in the mail and on the phone today and yesterday... I can't tell you how happy that makes my heart. Read his mom's account to hear the story; it is so sweet in the midst of their pain which is anything but that. I am so grateful for all the strings that were pulled to reach Roger, James Blake and Andy Roddick within a week. Their willingness to reach out to Ben makes me even more of a tennis fan! I was partially disappointed, because I was literally praying that Roger would get on a plane in Switzerland, leave his vacation, to come to Seattle and visit Ben. Ben is MORE than worth it. And that hasn't happened (yet). But I'm still overjoyed in the joy that Ben felt being contacted by those 3 guys. Now I'm starting to pray for FREE 2009 US Open tickets for his parents. They want to go in honor of Ben. They have suffered the worst pain imaginable the past year, and are hanging in there by the grace of God. The most riveting sentence in their recent blog is his mom saying she wishes Ben's life could be saved by the love that has been shown to him this past year. So if you haven't been til this point, start praying: who's with me!!!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The "Spouses Club"

So there's this thing in the military called the Spouses Club. I'd heard frightening things before joining the military about how catty and gossipy these women could be, even though my rare encounters with wives in our first squadron were quite the contrary. Granted, I only did like two things with them in three years, but I'm a big fan of Shannon and Beth, so I imagine everyone else was as cool as you two! I never participated regularly in WA, since grad. school commitments and previous friends were readily available. But since I only have one official friend here (whom I had to import from WA, mind you), I decided to take the plunge, as it were.

Today I went to my first Spouses Club function, which included a cookie exchange, painting of an airplane ornament, making gift tags, etc. It feels awkward to interview 30 women to be potential friends, so I'm glad there were activities to keep my hands busy while I tested the waters with various unsuspecting victims. Little do they know that I've spent more time watching seasons of Alias on my computer than talking with actual human new friends:)

But I am pleased to report that there is hope for me, after all. Everyone I connected with was pretty nice and I even gave my phone number out twice. It feels awkward to say that, like I'm looking for a date or something:) But in some ways, the feeling is kind of the same. "Hey you're cool, I'm cool, let's hang out..." I talked to two gals who'd also just arrived this fall. It seems weird to interview women, but this is the thought that goes through my head often times, "you're neat, but oh you're leaving this spring? Then I'm not going to invest in you as much." The two gals I gave my number to will live here the same 3 years as us; and fortuitously, both live pretty close by. One is even in my neighborhood, she and her hubby just got back from Japan. The other is due a week before me, and is a Christian. That was encouraging to hear, since I have no clue what the heck I'll be doing as a mom. Apparently they have play dates for squadron babies through 4 year olds weekly, as well as a book club, bunko nights, and monthly events like today, or wine tasting nights.

So I'm encouraged that I won't be alone here, after all. Los and I have enjoyed how peaceful it is down here (e.g. not much to do, so lots of time to hang out); and I'm excited to start expanding our circle of friends and to get to know some of these women who've lived everywhere in the country and who've had similar experiences to us. It is nice for the human heart to know it is not alone.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mariage and Divorce: Holding on to Hope

There was some song in the 90s that had the lyrics "Joy and Pain, Sunshine and Rain" (I think they included a "pump it up, pump it up!" if you recall). That's where I am this week. Two special friends just got engaged and are glowing, couldn't be happier to spend their lives together. They asked us to stand up in their wedding with them, we could not be more honored to do that, and we're thrilled to walk alongside them, and they us, for this season of life in S. Texas and whatever future seasons we may have near them.

There's some scripture about sharing in the joys of some and the sorrows of others. Simultaneously, as one couple of friends is joining, another couple of our friends are contemplating ending their marriage, and for them my heart is wrenched. I wish I could say that this is the first time I've known people my age to get divorced, but that's far from the truth, even in my 20s. I'm a product of divorce too, so I know the damage it causes kids intimately. It devastates me that over half of today's marriages end in divorce. I'm not saying that in every circumstance it should be avoided, but how flippantly people can treat something so destructive is the dangerous part.

For Christians, marriage is a covenant relationship, not just a contract that you enter into for a time, to get out when the going gets tough; yet that's how we often treat it. We promise "for better and worse." God's covenant faithfulness to us never ends, yet our commitment to each other is all too often thrown out the window in favor of self-preservation, a natural (but not always Biblical) instinct. The problem with the promise we make in our weddings is, that when we say the words for better or worse, we never imagine that WORSE will come. All we can imagine is the BETTER. Maybe we theoretically believe that worse could come, but the form of it always takes us by surprise. Maybe we are devastated. Maybe we are betrayed. Some mix of pain and anger consumes us, and trust is lost; even worse, hope is lost. And that is deadly.

Comparison is never helpful, but I know that Los and I haven't had as easy of a marriage as some, nor as hard of a marriage as others, so I can't imagine the pain some of my friends have felt or currently feel, as they wade through the muck and mire that was once their hope and dreams. I don't know how their situation will end. All I know is that I watched their mouths utter the words for better or worse, and that makes me feel responsible to lift them up in their pain and fight for their marriage, for reconciliation. For redemption, for resurrection from death to life. We don't have to rest on our own strength, God's word promises to make us new creations, if we'll let God transform us (through God's word, yeah, but also through counseling, and good community.) I believe that if their hearts would be soft and repentant, and if they could extend the grace (that God extends to us first!!) they have received to their partner, who badly needs it; then hope is not lost. It is right to feel betrayed and wronged when you have been, absolutely, you deserve something/someone better, absolutely. But that doesn't mean that can't be with the spouse you have promised forever to. Maybe I am wrong not to validate the desire for divorce in this circumstance, but unless their pride and self-preservation proves me otherwise, I'm going to hold on to this hope, that God will do a new thing in their lives, and rebuild what has been shattered. Please join me from afar, in prayer, for my friends in Seattle.

I've been listening to a song by my favorite artist, David Crowder, a lot. The lyrics are a lot of my prayer, that God is with us from the beginning til the end and can meet us in the midst our pain/wounds and repair what has been destroyed in our hearts. May we all be made new. Enjoy.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

pain (Los' first blog)

If you are not familiar with ben towne and his cancer, case and i urge you to make some time and read about his life. the following is a link to his blog.. find it here.

For any parent who has ever loved their kid, or any person who has ever loved anyone for that matter, this story will wrench your heart.