Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas letter 2008

Here are a few highlights and funny moments from our family in the past year…

Blaze (7 yrs old) made two Valentine’s Day cards for B. and I – when I asked her why B.’s card was so much bigger than mine, she said it’s because he is taller than me!

My stepdaughter (13 yrs) came up with a new game for the twins: she pinned Serious’ binky on Starlet’s pants so when Starlet was crawling or toddling around, Serious would chase her to get her binky.
Dreamer (4 yrs) calls Grandma and Grandpa’s dog “Butt” instead of “Buck” – she couldn’t say “k’s” until just recently. We took care of Buck for a couple months while my parents were in Hilton Head, and I admit we kind of worried what the neighbors thought when Dreamer was outside calling “Butt! Here Butt!”

B. took an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) course last fall. The girls loved playing with his stethoscope, listening to each other’s heartbeats with it. Blaze says Serious’ heart sounds like a giant in her tummy.

Stars comes up with a new name for my job – Geographic Information Designer. I like that a lot better than GIS Analyst. One of my daughters might be taking after my love of all things map-related: Dreamer made a “map” of the neighborhood and when went for a walk she would tell me where we were on the map.

One of our friends call Serious and Starlet“Twin and Twinner.” Other nicknames “Thing 1 and Thing 2” and “Pete and Repeat”

Stars rides one of our calves, Larry – afterwards B. says Larry will need to go to a “cow counselor” to recover from the traumatic experience.

Spring Break in Hilton Head, SC – thanks Mom & Dad for hosting all seven of us! Highlights of our trip: riding bikes in the surf… Blaze and Stars becoming expert lizard catchers… Blaze digging up a crab when she thought she was digging up a pretty shell and getting pinched!

We had a bit of an adventure in May when a tornado hit parts of Laramie. My stepdaughter and the rest of the kids at the junior high sat in the halls for a couple hours – the tornado passed right by her school! It also passed near our house – a couple of our neighbors lost their garage and barn roofs. All we lost was our wheelbarrow and our electricity for a couple days.

B. has gotten so good at roping that cows aren’t good enough for him anymore – he is roping elephants, now. Well, sort of. He has taken to practicing his roping in the house, using Blaze and Dreamer’s rocking elephant.

Serious crawls out of her crib, gets a cup from the bathroom, fills it from water from the toilet, and tries to dump it on Starlet in her crib!

Our summer vacation is the B.'s father's family reunion in Long Prairie, Minnesota. Blaze and Dreamer can’t wait to be old enough to ride the tube behind Grandma and Grandpa B’s boat. I stay busy trying to keep the twins from falling in. Dreamer tells Grandpa B “Look, there’s a rainbow!” Grandpa says – “have you been up there painting in the sky?”

Stars wins Grand Champion in the halter class at Fair and gets to go to State Fair in Puyallup, Washington (near Tacoma).

B. was pounding nails to hang a picture, when Dreamer told him “Daddy don’t spank the wall, the spiders will come out!”

Stars and I share “Twilight” frenzy in anticipation of the fourth book arriving in August, and then waiting for the movie in November! (It was worth the wait)

Dreamer asks me who our King is. I say we don’t have a king, we have a President. “No”, she insists. “We do have a king! God is our king!” (Yes, anyone who knows us fairly well knows that we are Jesus freaks. Amen!)

We are thankful for another year of many little blessings running around our home, many messes to clean up, and few frustrations and trials to keep us appreciating the important things. Not money, not the economy. But family, and friends. We love you all and look forward to hearing from you all! 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Followers of Jesus

If you ask 10 different people to give a definition of Christianity, they'll give you 10 different answers. Rather than calling myself a Christian, to be more specific I prefer to call myself a follower of Jesus.

Like Jesus, I reject many things about “organized religion” (man-made attempts to reach God through rules and rituals)*. Like the folks at at, I believe religion has kept more people from the Truth than anything in history.

I started out "religious" - and became disillusioned with it. I felt church-goers were mostly hypocrites; and besides, there is no proof of God, or proof of really anything else in the Bible - other than some of these people did exist historically. It all happened so long ago, how can you trust that the Bible is an accurate historical record, and not biased by the different perceptions and interpretations of many men? And for that matter, if there is a God and if he's supposed to be good and wise and all-powerful, how come there is so much suffering in the world? These are all questions that turned me into a skeptic during my high school and college years.

But at some point, people generally face one or more the following:
  • you realize just how difficult and complicated life is
  • you start to quesiton the meaning and purpose of your life
  • you're faced with your mortality and wonder where do I go when I die?
In my case, it was the first two that caused me to begin the transition from "skeptic" to "seeker".

There isn't any proof out there, for the skeptic/seeker. Many of the arguments that believers use are flawed. It comes down to a matter of faith. There's lots of different faiths to choose from. Why should Jesus be the answer?

He's the answer because he's the only one who loved us so much, even the most wretched of us, even those of us who hate him, that he gave up his life for us. And then he conquered death by rising again, so that we might have hope of eternal life, too. Every other belief system in the world says you must achieve a certain level of goodness or holiness, or meditate long enough, or give enough of your time and money or go on some pilgrimage to earn enlightment or eternal life. Jesus is the only one that said, "no, it's a gift. I freely give it to you." No works at all, just faith, and a repentant heart.

What does it mean, to be a follower of Jesus? Matthew 16:24-25: Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."

Following Jesus means surrendering your will to Him, and thereby gaining assurance of eternal life. Why is Jesus worthy of being the lord of our lives? Wasn't he just a good man, or a wise prophet and kind healer? Actually, he didn't claim to be a "good man", he claimed to be the Son of God. Here's how one my friends put it, loosely quoting from C.S. Lewis: "I think that one of the most quintessential questions that one must ask is this: Is Jesus who he said he was? There’s no gray area---either he was telling the truth--he died for our sins, was resurrected, appeared to many witnesses, and is the only way to heaven….or, he was the most egomaniacal, self-deluded liar that ever existed."

Matthew 9:11-13: While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees [the self-righteous] saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

If you don't think there is anything wrong with you, that you are basically a good person, then you're healthy. You don't need a doctor.

But remember this: when the Jews were about ready to stone a woman for adultery, Jesus said, "he who has no sin, throw the first stone." And one by one, they all dropped their stones, and walked away.

Some of my blogs related to following Jesus:

Worldviews, or, what is truth? (April, 2009)

Thinking about how hard the Truth is (February, 2009)

Whip lashes (October, 2008)

Speeding tickets (October, 2008)

My testimony (March, 2008)

Teenage trauma (February, 2008)

*You might ask that if I "reject many things about organized religion (man-made attempts to reach God through rules and rituals)" - then why do you go to church? Well, the short answer is that's what followers of Jesus are asked to do, in the New Testament. The long answer is.... forthcoming in another blog, someday!

Monday, December 15, 2008

musings on Narnia

Like many other Narnia fans, last Tuesday as soon as the Prince Caspian DVD was available I trotted right off to buy it, and watched it again that same night (I saw it twice last May, but that wasn't enough!)

I loved the movie, and I could write pages and pages comparing and contrasting it to the original book which I love even more. Basically, the movie is an adventure: the book was that, but oh so much more. Where it falls short is very subtle. Here is just one example: in the film, Aslan tells Lucy, "Every year you grow, so shall I." In the book, Aslan says, "Every year you grow, you will find me bigger." There is a totally different meaning in these two phrases. A Believer understands that one of the major realizations we make as we grow spiritually is that God becomes ever bigger, greater, holier, awesome... the way the film says it, it's just not the same.

Still, I am eager for the next movie, the Voyage of the Dawn Treader - even though it's not due out until May, 2010. So eager in fact that I re-read the book this weekend. The very best part was Eustace turning into a dragon, and then Aslan turning him back again - a beautiful picture of what Christ does for us not just when we are saved, but each time we realize we are hopelessly lost when we try to do things on our own, instead of through God.

At first I was kind of Hoping that "The Horse and His Boy" would be the next Narnia movie out, since it's my favorite, and also since it's the only other movie where Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are all present (if briefly). But after re-reading Dawn Treader, I am just as excited to see this one brought to screen. "your complete source for Narnia movie news" confirmed that Dawn Treader is indeed the next movie in the making and I also found this interesting article In what order should the Narnia books be read? which also relates to the order in which the movies are being produced.

Back to Prince Caspian again for a moment: here is an excerpt from a Christianity Today article comparing the movie to the original themes in the book. The whole article is worth reading but this was the point that I thought was so important because it relates to another classic fantasy that I think the film makers meddled too much with:

Because Aslan is so remote from them, the Pevensies are forced to figure things out for themselves, with varying results. Peter's hunger for power and glory leads him to act just as rashly in Narnia as he had been acting in England—but since he is leading armies into battle now, his rashness has lethal, devastating consequences. What's more, he is strongly, strongly tempted to make a deal with the devil, as it were, to achieve his goals. (This may be the biggest, most potentially controversial change to a once-noble character since Faramir felt the lure of the Ring in Peter Jackson's version of The Two Towers.) However, some important and powerful themes do emerge, as Lucy reminds Peter that they need to actually look for Aslan and be faithful to what they already know of him, if they are ever to actually see him.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dealing with distraction

This was just soooo appropriate for how I am feeling these days: grumpy, burnt-out, too much to do, angry at myself because I am so far from having the "spirit of Christmas" with thankfulness and joy and peace...


Are you distracted this holiday season?

Martha--sister of Mary, friend of Jesus--is famous for being frantic about all she had to do. It says in Luke 10:38 that “Martha was distracted with much serving” (emphasis mine).
You remember what our Lord said to Martha, don’t you? His gentle rebuke is directed at you and me today.

“Martha, Martha,” (Sometimes you have to say a distracted woman’s name twice to get her attention.) “You are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

What is the “good portion” Mary chose, and that we must choose this Christmas season? She “sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his teaching” (Luke 10:39).

I know, I know, you have a lot to do and no one to help you. But so did Martha. You may have a crowd for Christmas, but she had the incarnate God in her home. And Jesus told her not to worry about all that. Only one thing is necessary, He said: sit and listen to me.

This doesn’t mean we are to leave the Christmas shopping unfinished and forget about cooking the big meal. We are still called to serve. But, as Charles Spurgeon suggests, “We ought to be Martha and Mary in one: we should do much service, and have much communion at the same time. For this we need great grace. It is easier to serve than to commune.”
Let’s ask God for great grace this holiday season. Let’s take time to sit and listen to Him.

After reading this yesterday, my spirits lifted a little. And I finally, FINALLY, worked up the courage to hand out my church's cards (like a business card, but for a church, with verses) to three of my fellow writers at Writer's Group last night.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

fist deep in cake

I was looking at how many entries appear for each of my categories. Apparently books are most important in my life because they have the most entries; then writing; somewhere way down the list appear family events, twins, and marriage. Well, to be honest, my family does rank more important than books and writing but perhaps I feel my family, in particular, is of less interest to the larger world than topics about books and writing.

However, it is highly suspect that the larger world is aware of my little blog, (which I'm perfectly happy with... no expectations! I can write drivel and no one will cruelly comment!) So I am pledging to myself to start writing a little more about my family.

So the twins are two years old now, and still pretty much clueless about birthdays: when presented with gifts, they grabbed the bows off the presents and stalked off to play (perhaps they had intuition that it was just clothes in the boxes anyway, not toys!) However, they weren't clueless about the cake. After dinner we decided to relax for a bit in front of the TV, with the intention of presenting the birthday cake with candles a little later in the evening.

Well after a while I notice that the twins aren't down in the living room with us. There is a suspicious lack of noise. I head to the kitchen and discover Serious and Starlet (their nicknames) up on the kitchen counter, fist deep in their chocolate cake, chocolate smeared everywhere, neither one of them looking one bit guilty. I took a deep breath and managed to restrain my initial horror! I ended up just giggling and letting them go at it for a few more minutes before cleaning up. It was their birthday, after all. (I managed to salvage two pieces of cake to put the candles in)

Apparently it is impossible for me write a blog focused entirely on my family. I can't resist sticking in a link about writing... some advice about using/not using emotional exposition in writing.

Writing progress: 541 words last week, so far this week 0

Monday, December 1, 2008


Last night at 9:30 pm I pushed past the 50,000 word goal for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that I'm severely sleep deprived, my poor family had to suffer through several extremely grumpy episodes in the past two weeks, and I think I'm probably only just barely half-way through my novel: it's gonna be another long one.

My next challenge: to see if, now that November is over, I will continue to keep writing on a regular basis. I would like to write a minimum of 300 words each day (should be a piece of cake after averaging 1667 words a day for November!). Another really good reason for continuing to write every day (other than the fact that it means I'll actually get Novel #2 finished within a year) is that I am holding true to my promise to always read the Bible and pray before writing - something I need in order to keep my life together (in other words, only through God's strength can I possibly keep my life together!)